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By the author of An Arm and a Leg and The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications
We’ve previously talked a little bit about building an off-grid early alert system using the Dakota Driveway Alarm. But what if you want to add a camera to the mix? What if you’re looking for an off-grid security system at your hunting cabin and don’t know where to turn?
Today, we’ll show you how I did so.
I’ll start off by saying that this method utilizes phone towers.
Perhaps that means this isn’t truly off-grid. In a grid-down situation, you’d be out of luck using the camera that we used here. There are other methods you would have to turn to for that. For day-to-day “normal” life, if you want to keep tabs on your hunting cabin that’s a 45-minute drive from where you live, this method will work just fine. You can still use the “format” of what we did here, though, to serve as the model for a true “off-grid” camera system.
For the camera, there’s a motion-activated Blink camera. You can easily pick these up for a little over $140 on Amazon. Once you get the entire rig setup, that camera will send your phone an alert and a picture anytime that it detects motion out in its field of view. You can even talk through the camera, so if anybody is fiddling around with your stuff, you can give them a verbal warning that the police are on the way.
We started off with a car battery that we had lying around. You can pick these up at just about any car store out there for $80-$120 (it depends on what type you buy). I know that Yago, in his book Lights On, gives a very good outline of the different types of 12V batteries there are out on the market and which ones he recommends (and doesn’t). I would recommend picking up that book for a more detailed analysis of this than what I can speak to. I’m not an electrical engineer – he is – and he knows more about all that than I could ever hope.
Perhaps there’s a better type of battery for this application than what you see here. If so, use it. I’m just showing you what I used so that you can get some ideas.
The car battery is hooked up via alligator clamps to another inverter from Harbor Freight (that place rocks). You can pick those up fairly cheaply there and walk away with a free Chinesium screwdriver to boot.
Plugged into that inverter are the router and the device that communicates with the camera. The router is what communicates with the cell tower.
To keep the battery juiced up, it’s connected to a solar panel that is mounted on the roof. From what I understand, you don’t ever really want to use a solar panel unless you also have a charge controller for that solar panel that keeps it from “overjuicing” things.
You can see that the panel is connected to one of those devices here. Again, you can pick up one of these little protective guys from Amazon fairly cheaply. If you detest Amazon with the burning intensity of a thousand suns, there are plenty of other solar venues out there (I bet there are two in your city) that will be more than happy to sell you what you need.
(Looking for more information on the various levels of disaster? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide.)
I was pretty happy with the end result here. Again, if there’s a grid-down situation, you likely aren’t going to have cell service, so this wouldn’t be the best option for that. However, you can use this same type of setup for a camera that doesn’t need to utilize cell towers but, instead, perhaps utilizes some type of radio frequency, or something like that, to alert you when something is happening.
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Do you have any advice on building an off-grid security system?
Again, when it comes to electrical work, I’m rather clueless. This is our system. I’m just showing you how we did things for informational purposes. There may be other steps that typically should be involved here that we didn’t include. If you know what they are, please let people know in the comment section below. If you know a thing or two about electrical work, you could potentially help a lot of other people that way. Do you have your own off-grid security system? Tell us about it. Let’s talk off-grid security in the comments. (If you can somehow include mention of wooly mammoths in your comment, you get extra credit.)
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, The Faithful Prepper, An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American on Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.