How Many Security Cameras Do I Need? A Step-By-Step Guide

When piecing together a surveillance system for the first time, people often don’t really know where to start. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to picking out the right products. But the first question you should ask yourself is a relatively simple on that will set you up for success: how many security cameras do I need? Well, here’s the short answer.


For a home video surveillance system, most people need between 2 and 6 security cameras. If it’s for a business, you may need anywhere from 16 to 64 cameras, depending on the size of your property.

Clearly the answer to this question is going to depend on your personal needs and preferences. There is no “one size fits all” solution to this question. However, there are a few things to keep in mind that can help you narrow down how many security cameras you need for a complete system. Throughout the rest of this blog post, we’re going to help you brainstorm to come up with a good number of security cameras for your system.

How Many Security Cameras Do I Need: Why Ask This Question

When trying to build a surveillance system, many people skip this simple and crucial step, assuming they’ll figure out how many cameras they need as they go. This is the wrong approach, because knowing how many cameras you need up front can save you a ton of money in the long run.

For instance, let’s say you decide to start piecing your security system together. You purchase three cameras at the start, so you decide to save some money and go with a four channel recorder. The problem with this is you’ve now limited yourself to only four cameras. Let’s say later down the road you decide you actually need two more cameras to complete your surveillance system. If you really want to add those two more cameras, you’ll need to purchase a second recorder.

However, if you knew from the start how many cameras you would eventually need, you would have purchased an eight-channel recorder. Then later on when you go to purchase a couple more cameras, you can now effortlessly add them to your surveillance system.

If you know how many security cameras you need from the start, you’ll also have a better idea of which security cameras you need. For instance, if you know you need a camera for your driveway, you’ll be able to make more informed buying decisions, since you’ll know your purpose from the start.

If you go into the buying process blindly, you may not be purchasing security cameras optimized for your particular circumstances.

So, all that said, let’s figure out exactly how many security cameras you need. Go ahead and take out a sheet of paper or open up a Google Doc. This is an interactive blog post, so I’m going to invite you to follow along and actually complete the following steps as we go.

Step One: What’s Your Budget?

First, write down your budget. How much are you willing to spend right now on your video surveillance system?

Do you have the number? Good. Now forget about that number for just a minute. It may be counter-intuitive, but the next question I’m going to ask is not dependent upon your current budget. Don’t worry, we’ll return to this question at the end.

Step Two: How Many Areas Do You Need Covered In Your Surveillance?

Now, ignoring your ideal budget, start making a list of all the areas you’d like covered by your video surveillance system. Write them down right there on your paper. I’ll help you out with some lists, just to get your juices pumping.

Common areas for home security systems include...

  • Front porch
  • Driveway
  • Front yard
  • Back yard
  • Either sides of my house
  • Your garage or driveway
  • Living room
  • Hallway
  • Child's bedroom
  • Rooms with safes

Common areas for business security systems include...

  • Any main entrances
  • Secondary entrances and exits
  • Parking lots
  • Lobbies and other customer areas
  • Employee only areas
  • Cash registers
  • Seating areas
  • Restaurant kitchens

Since you’re not considering your budget for this section, the sky is the limit. Just write down whatever spaces in your home or business you can think of that you’d like to cover with your video surveillance system. I’ll wait.

Okay, do you have your list? Great! Now count up each item on your list. Congrats! You now know at most how many security cameras you need. The emphasis there is on the phrase at most. That’s probably not the actual number of security cameras we need. In the next section, we’re going to try to reduce that number as much as we can.

Try to Multi-task With Your Security Cameras

It’s likely that you wrote down a couple of areas on your list that are in the same general location. For instance, in my list above, I wrote down “front porch,” “driveway,” and “front yard.” That’s three different cameras positioned at the front of my house. I could probably reduce these three areas to just one doorbell camera.

Try to think about how you can cover multiple areas of your surveillance with one camera. Maybe you can use a PTZ or a fisheye lens camera to cover a wide, 360° area. Or maybe you can position cameras in such a way that they can keep an eye on multiple rooms or locations.

If it’s helpful to sketch out a simple map of your property, go ahead and do that. Take a look at each of your ideal areas and see if you can reduce those areas down to as few cameras as possible.

Start at the top of your list and begin numbering each area. When you get to a camera that will require a completely different camera, use a different number. For instance, my list above would look like this.

  • Front porch - 1
  • Driveway - 1
  • Front yard - 1
  • Back yard - 2
  • Either side of your house - 3
  • Living room - 4
  • Hallway - 4
  • Child’s bedroom - 5
  • Rooms with safes - 6

My front porch, driveway, and front yard can all be covered with one camera. My back yard and one side of my house can be covered with a fisheye lens camera, while the other side of my house will get its own camera. My living room and hallway can both be seen by one camera aimed just right. I’ve now reduced my number of needed security cameras from 9 to 6.

Whatever number you have at the end of your list is the final number of security cameras you need. Now that you know that number, let’s head back to the question about our budget.

Back to the Budget

You should now have two numbers written down on your paper: your budget and the final number of cameras you need. In some cases, the budget you wrote down may be large enough to go ahead and purchase each camera in your system. But often times, it will be too small. And that’s okay! Because now you have a plan.

See, if you had kept your budget in mind while making a list of cameras, you may have ended up with less cameras than you really needed. You probably would have been tempted to purchase a smaller recorder so you could purchase more cameras.

But when you’re just starting out building your surveillance system, it’s better for more of your budget to go to your recorder than your cameras.

Let me try to illustrate this.

Let’s say my budget for a new security system is $450. I know I want four cameras and a doorbell, so I go check out the 8 channel recorder. Yikes! $315. That’s almost all my budget.

Well, maybe I can get by with three cameras and a doorbell, I might say to myself. So I look up the 4 channel recorder and see that it’s just under $200. That leaves me with about $250 for at least two cameras.

Do you see the problem? I would end up purchasing a smaller recorder to get more cameras, but now I’ve limited myself to only four cameras total.

However, if I went through this exercise to determine the number of security cameras I need without keeping my budget in mind, I would have come to the conclusion that I needed six cameras total to complete my security system. In that case, the best move for me to make with my $450 is to go ahead and invest in the eight channel system but only get one security camera.

Then later, once I’ve saved up a bit more money, I can come back and get another two or three cameras until I’ve filled out my system.

Summing Up

So, to sum up, only you can decide how many security cameras you need. Most people do end up getting between 2 and 6 security cameras for their home security system and between 16 and 64 security cameras for their business security system. But the only way to decide how many cameras you need is to keep your ideal surveillance coverage and your property’s layout in mind.

If you need further help piecing together your video surveillance system, we have a playlist of videos to help you out on our YouTube channel. Click here to check it out! If you’re still not sure where to start, feel free to reach out to us anytime. We’re always happy to talk you through some things to consider and offer you some custom quotes.

Was this blog post helpful for you? Do you have any additional tips to share for piecing together a surveillance system? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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