Nest cam installed atop a high shelf in a kitchen © Daniel FriedmanInstalling & Using a Nest Cam®
Nest Cam installation tips, usage tips, performance, reliability, support

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NewNest Cam installation & use:

This article describes first-hand experience in installing Nest Cams in buildings. To evaluate the ease of installation and use and to find out what can give you trouble (and how to get past it) we installed eight Nest Cams in buildings in the United States and in Mexico in 2015 and 2016.

This article series describes the Nest Cam installation procedure and includes advice on settings that can get you out of trouble if your camera installation does not go smoothly. To get the very best performance from your Nest Cam (or Dropcam) we give advice on camera location, use of lighting, and securing the cameras and their wiring.

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Practical Tips for Installing, Troubleshooting & Using a Nest Cam®

Home page for a Nest system showing Nest Cams and status of the Nest learning thermostat (C) Daniel Friedman

[Click to enlarge any image]

Above: the home page for one of our Nest Cam and Nest learning thermostat installations. With the building occupants away, at night, in cold weather, the Nest Cam images include a mix of scenes lit by lights left on in the building or where there are no external lighting sources, the scene is lit by the Nest Cam's own IR lighting. Clicking on any of the little round Nest Cam images will open a full page window showing what the camera is seeing right now. That page can also give access to a history of what the camera has seen.

Article Series Contents

Nest Cam Installation Requirements

You'll need just a few things to install your Nest Cam.

Nest Cam Installation Sequence

Nest cam display shown on an Android Samsung Galaxy 5S cellphone (C) Daniel Friedman

Above: the field of view of the Nest Cam shown on an Android cellphone display. To obtain this service you can follow the general Nest Cam installation procedure below.

Below: the nest cam installed in the kitchen of a home in Mexico is unobtrusive (red arrow) and would be more so if we chose to turn off the green light indicating that the camera is in operation. The photo at the top of this page provides a close-up image of the Nest Cam atop the blue spice shelf.

While you can install a Nest Cam anywhere that you have adequate internet access and speed, Nest Cams installed out of the United States may not include the Nest Aware service that records a history of activity detected by the camera.

Nest cam installed in a kitchen (C) Daniel Friedman

The view provided by the nest-cam shown above is illustrated below under night time conditions. Later this article shows this same view lit only by the Nest Cam's IR source.

Nest cam view across a long space (C) Daniel Friedman

What's in the Box With Your Nest Cam?

Nest cam installation kit: what's in the box (C) Daniel Friedman

What's in the box when you buy a Nest Cam?

  1. The instructions: these are really easy. Try reading them.
  2. The Nest Cam itself. Remember to pull off the little protective sticker over the Nest Cam lens or your images will be ugly.
  3. A magnetic base (as well as sticky pads and some really nice screws) used to secure the Nest Cam to a surface (wall, shelf, ceiling, whatever)
  4. A USB cable that can connect the Nest Cam to your computer for the first steps in installation and later you will connect this same cable directly from the Nest Cam to ...
  5. The Nest Cam power supply that plugs into a wall receptacle
  6. Assorted advertisements, brochures, and a sticker that warns intruders or visitors that Nest Cams are installed in the building

Usually you can install a Nest Cam in just minutes using your smartphone or computer and the Nest Cam installation app.

Nest cam ID codes (C) Daniel Friedman

In both procedures you'll need to select your Wi-fi name and enter the Wi-fi password.

Nest Cam Installation Technical Tips to Get Past Unusual Error Codes


Watch out: not all of the error codes that may show up during your Nest Cam installation are explained at the Nest error code web pages.

Nest Cam Status Indicator Light Color Codes

The Nest Cam light color and blinking vs. solid-on codes are described at NEST CAM STATUS LIGHT CODES

Nest Cam Displays: What Can You See


Nest Cam Infra Red Lighting Feature


Nest Cam Zoom Feature


Adjusting the Nest Cam's View

Please see NEST CAM VIEW ADJUSTMENT for instructions on flipping or rotating the Nest Cam's output display.

Lighting Advice for Working with the Nest Cam

See NEST CAM LIGHTING RECOMMENDATIONS to avoid partial loss of image when the Nest Cam is using its infra red for night vision.

Nest Cam reliability & Nest Aware

Your Nest Cam will notify you by email if it detects movement or sound. But what if you are traveling in the Costa Rica jungle on a seven day birding tour? Nest's Nest Aware service will record ten days or thirty days of activity detected by your Nest Cam, allowing you to later review what happened while you were searching for the Quetzal in Costa Rica.

Watch out: even with Nest Aware, Nest's video history recording service, you may completely miss or lose data if your cameras are turned off. That may seem obvious. But we found that from time to time one or all of our Nest Cam's "spontaneously" turned off.

We asked Nest Support why we lost a week of recording data. Our consultant posed two possible explanations, and we add a third.

  1. If a building's Nest Cam system was changed from "Away" to "Home" by a visitor or by the Nest Thermostats' sensing of someone in the home, then the cameras may be turned to "Home" and thus to "Off". As Nest explains, the Nest Cam can work with other Nest products such as the Nest Thermostat. If you link these products and then set your Nest Thermostat to "Away" the Nest Cams can automatically turn on. Or off. But we had not made that connection.
  2. Wi-Fi system interference or overloading can cause odd behavior of devices connected to the local Wi-Fi system and thus loss of connection to the Internet. In addition if other Wi-Fi uses in the building are very demanding (such as streaming internet movies) your cameras may give trouble. Nest suggests scheduling your Nest Cam to turn off during hours of frequent movie watching. Keep in mind that Nest's upload bandwith data numbers are per camera. So adding that third or fifth camera may find you running up against bandwith limitations.
  3. Loss of electrical power in the building will of course turn off the cameras during that time. In our test building in the U.S. a power loss resulted in temporary loss of Wi-Fi and Nest Cam operation. Our Nest Cams automagically re-booted and re-connected themselves when power was restored. Indeed without that feature the prospects of relying on your Nest Cam security system while traveling would dim considerably. And of course even if electrical power is maintained, if your Wi-Fi service goes down so do your cameras.

Deterrent effects of a Nest Cam

Should your Nest Cam be obvious or hidden? If you want the Nest Cam to be unobtrusive locate it on a surface above eye level and where it is surrounded by and/or backed by other dark objects: photographs, woodcarvings, or that stuffed panda you had when you were a kid.

But do you want the camera to be noticed or not?

Both independent research and security experts we've interviewed point out that often the most valuable effect of a security system is its action as a deterrent, discouraging people from poking around in your building uninvited. For a deterrent effect leave the camera light on and locate the camera where it can be seen but where it'll be hard to un-plug or simply steal. Nest includes a door sticker with some of its cameras to provider additional notice that cameras are installed on the premises.

Watch out: no web cam, Nest Cam, nor most home security systems will keep a determined intruder out of your home. To make your building into a secure fortress you would need a hardened and protected electrical supply, underground entry of telephone wires and electrical power to make them safe from being cut, an alarm system, a notification system that calls a command center, the police or fire department, and other measures. Such systems must comply with UL 1023, "Standard for Household Burglar-Alarm System Units". Where a combination alarm and fire warning system are installed they should also comply with the "Standard for Household Fire Warning Systems" UL 985. A list of alarm and intrusion detection system standards is given at REFERENCES.

However the presence of security cameras, as with good door locks, can deter amateurs and less serious intruders.

Research on the deterrent effects of security cameras


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