Convergence Q&A: Ongoing Maintenance for Outdoor Security Cameras

Cleaning tips for dome and box cameras


For some years now, there has been an increasing trend of IT departments being given responsibility for electronic security system deployments. This question came from an IT manager, who for the first time was charged with defining the scope of an annual service contract for an outdoor video camera system.

 

Q: Is our Facilities Department kidding me when they ask how we’re going to keep birds from building nests in our outdoor camera housings?

 

A: Birds, rodents and insects can all detrimentally affect security video deployments. Small birds and rodents can find cable insulation to make good nest material, and spiders often like to build webs over the camera housing’s faceplate. Wasps and bees have also built small nests in fixed camera housings. In winter, cameras can be a nice place to get warm.

 

It would be a unlikely situation for an IT department to install computers on outside building walls or on parking lot poles — typical places where outdoor cameras go. So the scope of work involved in ongoing maintenance for outdoor cameras is not the kind of thing most IT departments have had to deal with before.

Not only do outdoor cameras and housings require inspection and cleaning, but target scene lighting levels must be checked, as well as the possible encroachment of greenery or other obstructions that block the camera’s field of view. This is best done by comparing saved images to the current images that the cameras provide. When saving or exporting camera images for the purpose of review, be sure to note the date and time the image was captured. Reviews should be done at about the same time of day that the original image was captured, to support the evaluation of scene lighting. Saving images once in each season provides a helpful image library.

 

Dome Camera Maintenance

Dirt or dust on a PTZ dome can cause the camera’s autofocus function to focus on the dome itself, which of course then blurs the image. Light from internal camera infrared illuminators (usually a ring of infrared LEDs) is reflected back into the camera’s sensor even by very light accumulations of dust or dirt on the camera’s dome or housing faceplate.

Thus, the dome of the camera must be cleaned inside and out, as dust or dirt on either side will reduce the clarity of the image. These cleaning tips also apply to indoor cameras, although they generally don’t get as dirty as outdoor cameras:

• If there is a significant amount of dry dirt or sand on the outside of the camera housing and/or dome, use a dry soft brush to gently brush it; or use a can of compressed air to blow the dust off, being careful not to be too close to the camera as too much air pressure can push the dirt into the dome, creating scratches.

• Remove the dome (or open the housing) to access the inside of the dome and use a micro-fiber cloth to remove any dirt or dust buildup.

• If there is a significant accumulation of dirt or grease on the dome, wash it in warm soapy water and dry it with a micro-fiber cloth (do not use paper towels which may scratch the dome).

• Clean the rest of the camera, inspecting closely for insect eggs or spider webs.

 

Box Camera Maintenance

Outdoor box cameras are typically installed in enclosures that often include a fan and/or a heater, depending on the geographic location. Fans and heaters should be tested at the same time that the camera and housing are cleaned.

Here are a few more tips:

• Clean the exterior of the enclosure using a soft brush, air can or damp cloth. For greasy accumulations, use warm soapy water and dry off the housing with a micro-fiber cloth.

• Open the enclosure and inspect it closely for insect eggs, spider webs or nest material. Clean the inside of the housing with a soft brush, air can, or damp cloth — taking care not to rub dirt onto the camera itself, especially the lens.

• Check the wiring in the enclosure to ensure its insulation is intact and has not deteriorated for any reason, correcting any problem found.

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