Category Archives: Home Security

DIY Security Mailbox

The old and busted mailbox at the front of my driveway was leaning forward, rotting, and had paint peeling off of the black, then painted gold, then black again metal. None of the wood was pressure treated. This just would not do! I also wanted to continue fortifying the house with security cameras by wiring up some Automatic License Plate Recognition cameras (ALPR).

I found a few pictures of mailboxes I liked online but couldn’t find any plans for building something other than the de facto ones seen everywhere. I started with a 4″x6″ piece of treated lumber and wrapped it with cedar, known for it’s ability to withstand the elements Indiana could throw at it.

You might ask yourself “Matt, why is the backside of the mailbox so long?” Good question! I am planning on hanging a lot of flowers off of the back to keep it visually appealing during the spring and summer months!

We received a mailbox as a wedding present, an odd gift we actually asked for. It’s large enough to fit medium-sized Amazon packages, keeping my USPS mailman from having to run the packages to the door, and boy do I like ordering things from Amazon.

After I got the cedar affixed to the frame of the mailbox using triple coated deck screws I sealed up the nooks and crannies with silicone caulk. Silicone will last longer with the wood expanding and contracting under rain, run, and snow. As I was sealing up the sides of the frame I wired up the light at the top of the mailbox. It would eventually be powered by the dawn to dusk light sensor in the light post near the center of the yard. I placed a 2 gang waterproof outlet directly under where the mailbox sits on the frame, to be used for Christmas lights or powering electrical tools when I am in that part of the yard.

After two primer coats and two top coats the mailbox was ready to go outside. Unfortunately it was still January, way too cold for pouring concrete. As pictured, you can see the conduit I would use to run the 110v line and the network cables for the security cameras. I left the middle portion of the frame uncovered by cedar, to allow the cameras to be mounted directly to it. I hoped it would create a more professional final look.

In February there was a weekend where the weather cooperated with me. I dug out the old busted mailbox (which cracked in half when I was removing it), dug down another foot, and planted the new hotness in the hole. I wanted to go 3 feet into the ground, but the gas line actually went directly under the mailbox. Remember to call before you dig, especially in an easement where utilities are run. I used two bags of concrete to fix the mailbox in place. I accidentally used too much water mixing it in the hole and had to wait a while for it to cure.

On the backside of the mailbox I installed a simple weatherproof box to house the wire termination coming from the house, as well as a network patch panel to connect the cameras to. In it is also another 1 gang outlet (it came with the box, so why not use it?) that would be powered by the dawn-to-dusk sensor. The Hikvision Hikvision DS-2CD2T42WD-I5 camera was just laying on the box. It was too large to fit on the front and get the angle needed to see plates.

On the front side the cameras were mounted directly to the frame of the mailbox. I was still experimenting with different camera styles, IR illuminators, and focal lengths for gathering license plate numbers. Until I was finished I wasn’t worried about painting this section. The wires for everything ran through the center of the mailbox to the backside of the weatherproof box. Keeping all of the terminations and connectors in the box away from the weather would make them last longer. I ran two different holes 4″ apart, one for network wires, the other for high and low voltage. The cameras are powered via PoE, a most wonderful invention that meant each camera didn’t need a separate power supply at the mailbox.

In this picture I am trying out the Hikvision 6mm 4mp camera with an external illuminator that could output enough IR to illuminate license plates. After installation and looking at it for a few days I decided it stuck out too much and didn’t look very good inside the box. I thought that a turret style camera might work better, like Hikvision’s new low-light cameras that had just come out. I am still awaiting it’s arrival to try out.

I put a 60 watt LED bulb in the light, which matched the light post in the yard. This image was purposely overexposed, the light isn’t actually bright enough to keep anyone awake at night 😛

I grabbed a mailbox sign off of Etsy. I wasn’t too pleased with the finish quality, it scratched off when I accidentally scraped it with a screw. A quick touchup with a permanent marker made it look good from the street though. I still need to cover the screws to help them blend in also.

The beacon is lit, Gondor calls for aid!

Here is a quick video of a car passing by during the middle of the night. I have some focusing to do with the camera (the IR cut filter throws off the focus during the night). I think I will leave the camera constantly in night mode because it’s not a varifocal and I’d need to adjust

So I am currently waiting for a camera to arrive from AliExpress, I’ll update the post when I have more content to provide!

Products used in this post:

Hikvision NVR with PIR Enabled Recording

I was having issues getting the PIR sensor of my DS-2CD2432F-IW to trigger recording on my DS-7608NI-I2/8P NVR.

Enabling the PIR alarm on the camera and listening for the alarm on the NVR wasn’t working correctly. I could see the PIR alarm being captured in the log of the NVR, but it wasn’t recording video when the alarm was triggered. After a few hours of troubleshooting I found the following solution.

First, on the camera, disable Motion Detection and Enable Dynamic Analysis for Motion. Since we are going to use the PIR sensor to trigger recording, we don’t need these enabled.

Next, on the Alarm Output tab of the camera, set the Arming Schedule to be active 24/7 (or whenever you want the PIR alarm to be armed).

On the PIR Alarm tab, enable the PIR, and set the Arming Schedule for the same timeframe you set on the Alarm Output tab.

On the NVR, navigate to the Alarm Input tab, and select the appropriate Alarm Input choice. If your camera is set as “Camera 5”, the IP will be 192.168.254.6, “Camera 6” would be 192.168.254.7, etc. The Alarm Type is set to “NO” (Normally Open). Select Enable Alarm Input Handling.

On the Alarm Input tab click on the Linkage Method. Set the Trigger Channel to the camera we want to record when the alarm is triggered.

On the NVR, navigate to the Schedule Settings and select the camera we are enabling the PIR alarm for. Here’s the tricky part. Don’t select “Alarm | Motion” or “Alarm”. For whatever reason these do not get triggered for an alarm output. I selected “Event” and set the appropriate times I wanted it for fire.

The PIR sensor on the camera doesn’t trigger “Alarm” or “Motion” on the NVR. It does seem to trigger “Event”. My hypothesis is the “Alarm” choices only fire when the direct alarm connections on the back of the NVR are triggered. If the trigger is coming over the ethernet line from the camera it works differently. I have not tested this hypothesis yet, however. If you are not sure the PIR is working on the camera, enable Audible Warning on the linkage method on the camera.