Window-mount Security Cameras vs Outdoor Home Security Cameras

Just for grins, let’s say that you read about the best burglary deterrents to use for your home and saw that cameras are THE MOST EFFECTIVE deterrent when criminals are choosing a target.  A whopping 57% of surveyed, convicted burglars said that they would walk away from a house with cameras installed.  Done.  Threat eliminated.

Now it comes to finding the best security camera system to do the job, and you’re stressing over the extra cost and difficulty of installing an outdoor camera. Aside from popular wifi cameras, another option is to choose the best security cameras that don’t require wifi. Just don’t forget:

Outdoor cameras are an obvious, visible deterrent to burglars.

If you throw a window mounted camera inside, a burglar may not even notice it until he has already chosen your house as a target.  That, of course, assumes you haven’t plastered supplemental signage up outside your home (I know, tacky right?).

On top of an outdoor camera, you can even beef up your window security to prevent a quick smash in case you’re home during a break-in (read our article on window security film installation to get more ideas).

Barring all of that, if you’re still considering an indoor camera, please read on.

What’s wrong with using a window security camera

Or alternatively titled, “Just Don’t, Please Don’t“.

I’ve long since lost count of the number of times somebody has mentioned that they were shopping for cameras to cover their driveway or front yard and planned to buy indoor instead of wireless outdoor security cameras.  I had to stop slapping my forehead for fear that I might start to look like some of the heads on Easter Island.

Flat forehead, the bird poop is just bonus material

If you have a standard or night vision camera pointed through your window to see things outside at night and don’t have enough exterior lighting (it can visible or infrared) to make it look like its daytime, then you’re going to be disappointed with the results.  Go ahead and visit our page to help you compare surveillance cameras and use the filters to look for outdoor cameras to do the job correctly the first time.  They really aren’t that much more expensive! Or you can also read our honest review about the Reolink RLC-422W wireless camera to know if it’s worth it.

Here, I’ll hold your hand with a video. I promise, it’s really quick.

Don’t Learn How Prevent Glare Through Your Window with a Security Camera, Avoid it Altogether

If you plan on getting an indoor camera with night vision, then you better make sure that you can cover or disable the IR LEDs on the camera meant to provide night vision.  Or, you’ll get something like this (your mileage may vary):

Can you see me now?

The light from the infrared LEDs that provide night vision illumination for home security cameras is going to reflect off of the glass, and you’ll see a nasty reflection or glare. That makes it a little hard to make out faces and license plates, which you’ll need to give to the cops to have any hope of catching someone.

Heard someone with this idea before?

If you see someone asking about pointing their Dropcam out the front window on Facebook or reddit, feel free to use this post to deflate their balloon.  After all, it’s for their own good.

Fighting stupid one share at a time . . .

What about anti-glare window film to reduce glare from a security camera?


The problem is the windows reflect IR.  If you add a sheet of film on top of the window, it may ease the transition to the window so that less light reflects back into the camera.  But, you’re not really solving the problem.  If you insist on installing the camera inside, you COULD install special IR glass that is transparent to the light.  But, that’s going to be more expensive than just buying an outdoor camera.

Or, just disable the IR LEDs and purchase an external IR illuminator.

But what if I really want to point a security camera through a window

If you just can’t resist the temptation, the only good approach is to:

Install external infrared illuminators or visible lights with motion sensors.

The Exceptions: When you can use a window sill security camera

Some of you are trying to talk to the computer, “But, but, but . . . [waah waah wa wa waah waaah]!” (that’s from Charlie Brown in case you didn’t get it).

OK, I will readily admit that there are a few specialized situations when an indoor camera would be suitable looking outdoors.

“I Only Want to Film the Mail/UPS/Milk Man/Package Thieves”

If the ONLY thing that you’ll EVER want to see from the camera happens during the day, then go ahead and buy an indoor camera.  Just make sure you know how to be an educated security camera shopper and account for the other pitfalls that you can fall into when purchasing a home security camera.

And NEVER forget, that you can’t complain when you can’t make out the face of the guy that kicked your front door in at dusk after it happens.  After all, you assessed the risk and chose to save a few bucks and accept it.

“You Can See My House from Space at Night”

The other option to avoid glare when looking out of a window is to block or disable (electrical tape or some cameras have software disable settings) the IR lights that may be (probably are) on the camera.  Then, you will need to add equivalent or better lighting outside the window to illuminate the area of interest.

You can install flood lights or another type of visible light, but the neighbors may not like you shining a light across the street at their house just to illuminate the side walk.  Or, you can buy IR illuminators to mount outside.  These can also be a good supplement to your camera lighting even if you decide to buy an outdoor light.

Here is a review of an illuminator from a reputable site.

Or, if you want something from a bigger site with some other reviews, here’s a highly rated unit on Amazon:
infrared illuminators

The Wrap-Up

Hopefully, nobody’s crying after that tirade.  I tried to be clear about why you’ll likely expect more from your camera installation after you install it than just the 1 reason you’re getting it now.  So, it pays to think ahead and plan for an installation that you’ll be happy with (and will protect your family) for years to come and in all conditions.  After all, that kind of longevity is worth the extra $30-50 bucks you might pay for a good outdoor camera.

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33 thoughts on “Window-mount Security Cameras vs Outdoor Home Security Cameras”

  1. a basic Y Cam I use; [with the Infra Red turn off option] works well enough- its a few mm from the glass. Sun flair at some times of the day/year interfer, but mostly its fine. At Night its not as good- I get some light from a street lamp and you can enhance this with an outside security light. Not bad though. Ideally an outside Invisible Infra Red would be handy for me but I dont think there is a successful one on the market??

  2. From the inside of my house at night yes I see a bright light glare reflect on my window. I like to know if that’s noticeable from the outside? I always disconnect the camera before it starts to get dark outside. “I try to keep my camera from being noticeable”

    • Since the IR LEDs are not visible light, you shouldn’t have a problem with people from outside spotting your camera. It’s just that the camera sensor picks it up and then displays it in the recording in the visible spectrum. So, unless they are using a camera, they won’t see it.

      Although, some of the cheaper LEDs used in cameras do emit spurious light at the very top of the visible spectrum, giving off a slight red glow.

  3. My issue is we rent our house, so I can’t just drill holes and mount outside. It’s a property/landowner issue, not a ‘want to’. So have to window mount. I have a motion activated flood in the area I want to monitor, any suggestions on a camera model that has a shot and working for me?

    • If you have lighting outside, most cameras will have a way to disable the night vision LEDs. That way, you can really on the exterior light and not get the glare on the window. I’ve also heard of people using black electrical tape to cover the IR LEDs too. Either of those approaches should work given your motion-activated lights.

  4. Hiya,

    I need your advise, I need a CCTV Wireless camera facing outside from my inside large patio window( ground floor flat) to look directly outside facing my parking bay (literally 3 meters away ).

    Please can you advise me what best CCTV camera I can get preferably wireless.

    Thank you

    Kind regards

    • Hi Rashida, any camera will do that allows your to disable the onboard LEDs if you are using external illumination. The Blink cameras have been getting good reviews for a consumer grade camera and Hikvision is always highly recommended too.

  5. I live in an apartment and have to have indoor cameras. I also cant install infra red illumination outside. Lastly, my Amazon thefts are happening at night. last night the delivery was at 6pm, When I got home the package was taken the contests stolen and the box left between the buildings.
    Any suggestions for my situation?

    • How is the lighting at your door? Is it possible to leave an exterior light on so that you could get a good picture without the IR LEDs of the camera with the outside light on? If so, it’s just a matter of finding a camera where you can disable the infrared or applying electrical tape or something similar to cover the LEDs.

  6. I have a bit of a different problem. I have a neighbor who drilled a hole in his barn that is like 12ft or so away from my deck, and put in a camera that looks right onto the deck. Unfortunately, it ALSO looks right into my living room AND bedroom windows. I am trying to find a way to install IR illuminators from all of my windows so that his camera will be unable to pick up anything in my house, which is a HUGE violation of privacy. What would you recommend? I found some rather inexpensive ones on Amazon….but do I need to purchase cameras to get the IR illuminators to work? I’m not sure how to go about it to protect myself.

    • Would it be possible to install a fence blocking the view from his barn? The illuminators are just like lights except they’re non-visible. But, they aren’t going to do much in daylight.

    • I’d point a simple laser pointer at his cam for a bit. That should overload it for a long time, if it doesn’t actually overload and burn out the sensor.

  7. I use Zmodo cameras. They use WiFi and are easily used – buy the camera and download the app for your phone. It has IR and cloud – you don’t have permanent cloud storage although just for 3 days is free. It works great I have 5 cameras. Then u can buy from internet stickers that say your home is protected by visual surveillance.

  8. I have problem neighbours next door (attached house). I have a few pictures and video footage (shot on an iPhone or basic camera) and we have caught them red handed many times but I don’t think I could use much as evidence. I need 2 cameras that I can put on my living room and bedroom sills to look out over the connecting part of the properties. I’m not sure this is even legal but I need to do something. There is no light out the back during the night but there is a bright street light on the opposite side of street to their house. I think most of what they do is during the daytime but just want to keep 24 hours covered. Any advice gratefully received.

    • The street light may do a decent job if it will illuminate faces, but I would also consider a motion-activated light bright enough for a good picture if not.

  9. I think if you just open your window a tiny bit you should be able to see through the screen which would eliminate all problems with reflection. Just screw in a window stop to keep anyone from opening the window any further. Just sayin!

  10. I received an indoor camera when I installed my new system from Can I use this camera in the upper corner of my patio? It would be very covered and away from all the elements except the Florida heat.

    • Hi Tom, my primary concern (especially in your humid environment) would be moisture ingress into the camera shortening its life. It will likely work fine for a while, but it may bite the dust early if it isn’t well-sealed.

  11. I am having issues with a neighbor, and am in the market for both a camera for my front door, as well as a camera for a window that can be pointed at our vehicle. The camera for the front can be visible, I want them to know we have one so they can stop doing what they are doing! I rent so I cant drill holes to mount an outside camera for the window. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Latasha, how is your lighting outside your window at night? If it’s good, you can likely get away with a camera inside the window as long as you can disable the internal LEDs. As far as the outdoor camera for the front door goes, unless you have a table that you want to just place a camera (and hope it isn’t stolen), then I think you’re stuck getting permission to mount one. If the situation with your neighbor warrants it, your property’s owner may be more accommodating than normal.

      • Hi Jody, thanks for responding. Lightning is is pretty good. There is a street light that is fairly bright. I got permission to mount one, as long as it isn’t really huge, or makes really big holes. I’ve been researching, but it’s so many to pick from, and it has become very overwhelming.

  12. I have a outlet that sits on my porch right by the door. My only concern is that my neighbor would most likely try and pull the plug out the socket coming up the steps. She has to pass my apartment to get to hers. Do you know if it moves when motion is detected, or does it have a view that can be seen like panoramic? I hope I am making sense, lol.

    • Most of the cameras like Blink and Arlo have a fixed field of view of about 130-140 degrees. A PTZ camera will rotate as you command it, but expect the cost to increase to motorized the camera.

  13. Help, just returned Arlo Pro because of lag time. Laid it between screen in window and worked great(Have very bright outdoor light). Can I use Nest in window between screen?

  14. I live in an apartment with sketchy neighbors. I want to place a camera in the window of my storage area (no power). I tried an Arlo Pro with the Night vision turned off but it won’t detect motion through glass. I have an outdoor light at night but motion was still not detected through the window. Suggestions?

    • If you go for a camera that uses image processing for motion detection instead of a PIR sensor to wake it up like the Arlo Pro does, you should be fine. Any camera that allows you to set zones for alarms on the image is a good clue that it’s doing image processing.

  15. Hi: I have ez viz mini indoor camera thst I placed at front window to see what’s going on when I am not home. It works so great that I bought 3 more to place at different window locations. They work great and have many features. Most important they cost only $69.00 each at Walmart. I believe home depot also sells it. Check out the reviews on Walmart and home depot. Some features are: pan/tilt, motion detection, etc. You can also set time you want it to surveil. You can also turn on/off infrared light to see outside at night. I am very pleased with the purchase. I had them a year ago. Bought them January of 2018.


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