One of the most inexpensive home security camera systems

One of the most inexpensive home security camera systems

If you are a do-it-yourself’er that is looking for ways to increase the security of your home, I have found just the thing. This is one of the most inexpensive home security camera systems you can put together yourself.

Maybe you want to monitor your entryways? Or maybe you need to keep an eye on your backyard?

Alright. Go to your drawer and pull out one or more of those old smart phones. And let’s make this thing useful again. We are going to walk through process of setting up your security network together. (Don’t you remember how excited your were to have a camera on your phone?)

First things first

Decide what device you are going to use for monitoring. You are most likely going to choose a mobile one (phone or tablet) so that you can see what is going on when you are away from home.

After charging your old phone and connecting it to your Wi-Fi, you are going to need an app to set this new security monitoring network up. So, is this an I-phone or an Android device?

If you are an Apple user (I-phone) go to your App Store. There are plenty of apps such as Presence and Manything to choose from.

If you are an Android user you will go to Google Play. There you will find apps such as Warden Cam and IP Webcam.

The app with my favorite name is, “Make old smart phone as Free Home Security Camera.” There’s no mistaking that one, LOL.

There are even apps like Camio that work with both.

Android Apps on Google Play
Android Apps on Google Play

Before choosing an app, decide what you need the system to do

  • Are you only wanting to have eyes on a certain area?
  • Do you want motion detection and push notifications (alerts)?
  • Do you want video recording and cloud storage?
  • Does your phone have infrared detection?
  • Do you want to run more than one camera?

The answer to these and other such questions will determine which app is best suited for you. And the features you need may only be available in the paid version of some apps.

Now you can peruse the available apps, make your choice and download one (or even two).

Set up your monitoring deviceTablet

Up to this point, you have:

  • Decided which old phones to use.
  • Determined what exactly to use them for. (Inside front door, watching pets while away, etc.)
  • Downloaded an app or two to try.

Now that you have set up the app on the old phone(s), you are ready to visit the website of that app get your network running.

Here is where you will set up broadcasting and recording.

Positioning your phone camera

You know what you want to be able to see with your camera(s). Now you have to make some mounting decisions.

  • You need your phone to be close enough to an outlet to stay plugged in.
  • A smartphone tripod or suction car mount is something to consider when trying to get the perfect view.
  • If necessary, consider an inexpensive, wide angle lens for your phone in order to capture an entire room.
  • You may even consider partially hiding your phone on a busy bookshelf where it will go completely unnoticed.

(Each of these items mentioned above can be found online for under $10. I even found a pack of 3 Nylon braided 10 foot cables for less than $10.)

Now that you’re up and running

It is time to put the final touches on your homemade wireless security system. (A system that would have been very expensive a few years ago.)

You will want to turn the brightness on your screen down as far as possible. This will decrease the amount of heat generated by the phone.

Finally, you want to check that you’re:

  • Motion detection alert notification if you set that up.
  • Your online recording. Again, you just want to make sure everything is running smoothly so that when a real need Checklistarises, you are all set.
  • Camera phone after 10 or so minutes to make sure it has not timed out. If so, you will have to change that in your phone settings.
  • System 1 hour and 24 hours. You don’t want to be counting on it only to find out it glitched within the first day.

After that, it will be like any other monitoring system. You will want to do a quick check every month, and before going out of town just to be safe.

  • Check that your camera has not been bumped or moved.
  • Check to be sure you still have a clear line-of-sight.
  • Check your motion detection.
  • Check your system is recording properly (including time stamp).
  • Dust your lens. (Security and electronic companies often suggest you use a can of compressed air only.)

Addressing your strategy

Our strategy here is Defense, Deterrence, and Detection. Since detection can be very expensive, you have just saved yourself a good bit of money. And if you haven’t beefed up your Defenses, my suggestion is that you take that savings and spend it in that area.

I’m curious if I overlooked something in my article. Or maybe you have a smartphone system already in place and have some suggestions. Or maybe you have question in setting up you network, that you think I might be able to help with. Be sure and leave a comment below.

And remember, being prepared means living without regret.

27 Replies on “One of the most inexpensive home security camera systems

  1. How do you download an app to an old phone that no longer has connectivity. If the phone were in a ‘Wi-Fi’ network, will it still be able to access the internet even though the phone connectivity has been turned off by the phone provider?

    1. Yes Chris, you will still be able to use Wi-Fi. Obviously, as you are saying, you don’t have a working SIM card so you can’t make phone calls.
      Great question. Maybe you’re a baby-boomer like me, haha.

  2. Great article! It didn’t occur to me to use old phones but then again I usually give them to family members that are in desperate need of an upgrade. I’ll have to keep this in mind in the future. I have tested various cameras and settled on Reolink for my home. I like the PoE option and they seem to work well for outdoor use.

    One thing I’d love to see is your review of various phone camera security apps…You list several and i know this article wasn’t focused on that aspect but with so many options I’d love to see someone produce one. I would love to find one with specific features such as push notifications, streaming to a storage device or the cloud, motion detection, ability to network with other phones using the same app for a multi view, etc.

    Do you have a mailing list to notify your users of new posts?

    1. Thanks Scott. I am familiar with Reolink and like their equipment.
      And thanks for the idea on the security app review (as well as mailing list).

  3. Hi Christopher,

    Wow, I didn’t know my old smartphones can be so useful! I was thinking about installing security cameras in my living room to ensure my cats are truly getting along while i’m not present.

    I guess storing away those old smartphones had a use after all!

    Great article and very informative. I’ll keep you updated if I need any help haha.


      1. Hi Christopher,

        You’ll be surprised! My cats follow me around everywhere I go… even places that I don’t want them to follow such as the restroom -.-

        So far, my two cats are getting along just fine. In the early stages, the big cat would try to avoid the little one and the little one would always pounce on the big one, runs away, and hide haha.


  4. CT, you touched on something that I am really passionate about: using a camera device to monitor your pet. In my case, my beloved border terrier Indy. I always find it fascinating to peep on your dog when (s)he is left to their own devices – it’s amazing how clever they prove to be. But, in my very narrow wisdom, I never thought you could use an app with any good old smart phone. It’s such an economical way to run a recording, rather than having to invest money and time in choosing an actual camera recording device. That’s such a brilliant idea! Thanks for suggesting it, I shall definitely give it a go.

  5. This is such a great idea. I definitely would have never thought to use an old phone for a security camera. Its nice to know that getting a little extra security could be that simple, not to mention free up a bit a draw space. Your artical was informative and your break down of the steps easy to understand.

  6. Hi,
    I never thought that old smartphones can be so useful.
    Great article and very interesting info!

  7. Hey CT

    I just recently got a puppy and would like to know what she is doing when I am home. And of course i am going to use it for security. This is a great idea and I have an extra android. Thanks for the helpful article!

    1. Good deal with a brand new pup. If that husband of yours can’t help you out just let me know and I’ll help you get set up,

  8. Great use of those old cell phones that you thought had no value. Funny thing is, my wife and I were just discussing purchasing a nanny can so that she can keep an eye on the dog while she’s at work. I would definitely give this a try if I had kept my old cell phones.

  9. Great article I have like 4 phones in my junk drawer just waiting for a useful purpose haha. My wife and I are looking for an upgrade to our old (walkie talkie style) baby monitor… This is the perfect solution. Thanks for the idea! I wonder what else we could do with our discarded technology.

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