Can you replace your CCTV with Solar Powered Cameras?

Outdoor Solar Security lights are just like their mains powered counterparts, a bulb, casing, a sensor and that's pretty much it. The major difference being that I can attach to a wall / fence / post and let the sun take care of powering the device.

Article Photo of a CCTV Sign

In short yes, you can replace your CCTV with Solar Powered cameras, however during darker months it's always wise to a mains backup.

My Background Story

Ever since owning my first house I became quite security conscious, it was a lovely 2 bedroom end terrace property that was situated next to a playing field.  The area was not ideal, but it was my first house, and looking back was an absolute steal.

I never really experienced problems with security until around 6 months after living there.  It all started when I returned home from work late one evening and walking into my house felt a very odd cold draught.

I checked the radiator in the living room, no problems, looked at my TV and it was all a mess.  My heart sank, I saw that my PlayStation 2 was gone!  I started to panic (quite understandably), and rang the Police.  Whilst on the phone I went through the usual questions "what time did it happen?" "what did they steal?"..."how did they get in?" .... "are they still in the house?"

That's when I really started to worry...what if they were still here??  I had no idea how they got in - I never checked.  Looking around the room, I saw my kitchen blinds were bent, and the cold draught I felt earlier was in fact the window that had been forced open (and broken) by the intruders.

Quite a few more things happened whilst living in that house, which I feel has scarred me for life, and I take security incredibly seriously - and you should too.

Solar Powered Security Lights

Solar Powered Security Lights

I strongly believe that any form of deterrent is a good idea, but with Solar powered security products, it really has helped me feel less vulnerable without the need to hire an electrician when installing some sort of PIR Security Light.

Outdoor Solar Security lights are just like their mains powered counterparts, a bulb, casing, a sensor and that's pretty much it.  The major difference being that I can attach to a wall / fence / post and let the sun take care of powering the device.

Most Solar Powered Security Lights (like the one pictures above) have quite a lengthy cable connecting the solar panel to the main unit meaning you can easily position the outdoor security light where you want whilst ensuring the solar panel can be placed in an area that has lots of sun.

Can Solar Security Lights outdoor really help?

I often wonder this myself, and there are 2 schools of thought:

  1. Intruders will be startled by the motion activated light and are less likely to run the risk of identification.
  2. Illumination from the LED Solar security lights will aid their illegal activities - it's much easier to use tools when it's brighter. shrug

I prefer to stick with the rule that "anything" you can do to alter the intruders "plan of attack" is a good thing, so I always stick to and preach option 1.

Put yourself in the mind of a burglar, if you have planned to break into somebodies house, you run through the motions in your mind - anything that upsets those pre-conceived motions can potentially be a deterrent.

Motion activated Solar Lights could be the only thing that alerts you to movement on your property.

Solar Powered Outdoor Lights

I've gone into great detail about the security aspect of the little sun powered beasts, but there are other practical reasons why installing them can improve your quality of life.

I often leave taking the rubbish out to the garden bin until the evening time, it's dark and cold outside and I really don't fancy the smell of old kitchen waste being left to stink out downstairs.

Placing my solar security lights outdoors helps me find my way to the bin, without the worry that somebody is stood in the shadows looking to get access into my property.  I like to position in areas that I frequent the most and need that extra bit of illumination such as:

Having the motion solar lights dotted around my garden gives me peace of mind:

If my solar motion lights aren't on...nobody is there

Solar Powered CCTV System

My overall aim with all my security is to make it less dependant on mains power.  We've all seen the movies where thieves disable the incoming electricity to gain easier access without being spotted.

Is this an off the grid home security system actually feasible with Solar Energy?

If you're looking for an off the shelf product the answer is is "no"... but if your w bit of an obsessive nerd like myself, it is.

I won't go into too much detail what I've been working on because it's really not ready, and I have very little confidence that it would actually be a better solution than what's currently on the market.

I found it is completely possible to use a Raspberry Pi to record, store and even stream a live video.  It is also 100% possible power a Raspberry Pi with solar cells.   I have been playing with this concept for quite some time now, and although its quite convoluted - it works; and works fairly well.

I will most likely do a full writeup of my solar powered Raspberry Pi build at some stage in the future 😉

So lets go over why there aren't any ready-made Solar 24/7 recording CCTV cameras available.

  • ❌ Not enough Demand

    The cost of mains powered CCTV systems have plummeted over the past 3-5 years making it more cost effective for companies to mass produce full 4 or 8 camera systems for very little cost.
  • ❌ Mechanical Storage Power Consumption

    90% of all CCTV systems will use mechanical storage for capturing historic video feeds.  Mechanical storage is very cheap compared to flash, however it does require a significant amount of power to keep the hard drive platters spinning whilst constantly writing data.

Solar powered motion detector systems are available online, but like the name suggests - they do not continuously record - they only record when motion is detected, and upon checking reviews you can quite clearly see the issues outlined above are evident leaving customers disappointed with their purchase.

Integrate Solar Power into your existing CCTV System

All night vision cameras use Infra-red (IR for short) light to make the night seem like day.  IR lights are only activated once the ambient light levels drop below a certain level - and will remain activated until the light level increases.  You can test if your CCTV cameras have night vision by looking for the red lights around the lens of the camera.

IR lights usually have an average range for 15-30 metres, meaning dark areas in the distance will remain dark.  Whilst browsing solar products (which I find myself doing every day), I noticed that you can extend the viewing distance of CCTV night vision cameras by purchasing a solar powered IR unit!

B&W Image of a Solar Powered IR Light

From the image above (terrible quality, but we are experiencing heavy fog), you can clearly see where the additional Solar IR light was installed, giving a much greater viewing distance for my standard CCTV security camera.

Summary & Final thoughts

As mentioned a few times above, I would never purely rely "just" on solar energy to power the security of my home.  I do believe than in a few years once batteries last longer, or the efficiency of solar panels improve we will really start to see reliable Solar CCTV systems.

Generally speaking, you can get a 4 camera CCTV system, with hard drive, 80m (4 x 20m) of cable for less than £150.00 - and at least you know it will always be recording.