A wireless nest box camera has a built in transmitter that transmits the pictures and sound to a receiver in your house or classroom. The receiver is plugged into your TV or video recorder or (using a special card) into your computer.
A wired nest box camera has a wire that runs back to the house or classroom from the nest box. The wire carries the sound and pictures, and it is plugged into your TV or video recorder or (using a special card) into your computer. At some point, the wire has to pass through a wall or open window into your house or classroom, and since there are plugs already fitted on most camera wires, it means that a substantial hole (typically 16mm or ¾” diameter) has to be drilled right through the wall. This, in turn, usually means using a 16mm tungsten carbide drill bit that is 400mm long. Drill bits of this size present no problems to an experienced DIYer or tradesman, but can appear intimidating to someone who is not used to banging holes through walls. In truth, they are easy to use and the job takes only a couple of minutes (provided you don’t hit any pipes or wires in the wall, of course!).
At first glance, a wireless system would appear to be the better choice – you don’t have unsightly wires draped through the garden, and you don’t have to drill through a wall or leave a window open to get the wire indoors.
Need for power
If only life was so simple. The problem is that, with a wireless camera nest box, the camera in the nest box (plus any lights or illuminators) and its transmitter need to be supplied with power – typically 9v to 12v DC – in order to work. You can use a 9v or 12v power supply plugged into the mains, or you can use batteries, but small batteries only last a few hours and even bigger rechargeable batteries typically last less than a day before they run out of power. It is obviously not possible to nip out to the nest box and put a fresh battery in it every time you want to watch (such a disturbance would simply frighten the birds away), so you need a few metres of wire from the battery into the nest box to give the birds privacy. Now you have a problem about where you put the battery – it has to be inside some weatherproof container, or else indoors. If you run the wire indoors (where it can be supplied by a power supply plugged into the mains), you are back to the problem of drilling through a wall (but at least the hole is smaller), so why not simply use a wired system in the first place?
There are plenty of weatherproof containers available (typically small plastic toolboxes or plastic storage boxes with clip on lids). But even with a weatherproof container, you are still faced with a dilemma. How do you switch it on when you want to watch. You can’t leave it on all the time – it will run the battery down in a few hours. So now you need a switch (preferably weatherproof) on the battery box, and you are faced with the inconvenience of going out and switching it on when you want to watch so that the transmitter can sent the pictures back to the house.
Of course, it is an easy matter to run a 9v or 12v wire from inside the house, out to the nest box, so that the camera and transmitter can be powered by a power supply plugged into the mains. It can stay on all the time or it is easy to switch on and off. But since you are running a wire out to the nest box, why not use a single wire that carries the power out and brings the signals back? This is why most people end up with wired systems rather than wireless systems
There is one case where a wireless system is easier – that is where you have power already available out in the garden, so you can plug in the power supply (for the nest box camera and transmitter) out there and leave it on all the time. The transmitter will then send the signals wirelessly back to the receiver attached to your TV set or video The obvious scenario is where you have a nest box attached to the wall of a garden shed and the garden shed has power laid on inside it. It becomes an easy matter to power a wireless nest box by drilling a hole in the shed wall, and you won’t have to drill a hole in wall of your house.
1.2GHz, 2.4GHz, 5.8GHz options
Most wireless systems transmit their signals on one or other of three general frequencies – either 1.2GHz (gigahertz), 2.4GHz, 5.8GHz. 1.2GHz systems tend to be quite a lot cheaper than 2.4GHz systems, for good reasons – in the UK, it is technically illegal to use the 1.2GHz band for private use. You may ask why people sell 1.2GHz systems and the reason is simple – they are cheaper and it is not illegal to sell or possess a 1.2 system, it is only illegal to use it to transmit! Now, it has to be said that the likelihood of a SWAT team from the Wireless Telegraphy Department bursting into your garden and assaulting your nest box is pretty remote, so zillions of 1.2 systems in wireless nest boxes and baby monitors (and, sadly, dodgy people spying on others) are in use, but they are all technically breaking the law. 5.8GHz is a nice frequency, but it does tend to lack in distance.
Analogue or digital
And finally, just to make your head explode, I feel I must mention the wireless systems type. There are two main types 2.4GHz analogue and digital. The analogue versions is a fixes frequency and the the digital signal is encoded and auto frequency hops. This means that the signal can be stronger, in fact it can transmit upto 200m+.
It is legal to use a low power 2.4 system because that is the frequency reserved for such uses in the UK. Everyone and his uncle is using this frequency for their baby monitors, wireless security cameras and a whole encyclopaedia full of other radio and wireless gadgets. In reality, most systems work well because they are all low powered and don’t transmit very far (so can’t interfere with each other), but be aware that a degree of radio interference can occur, breaking up your pictures.
So, to sum up, wireless nest box systems can work well in specific circumstances, but a lot of people who start with wireless nest box systems eventually come back to using wired systems because wired systems, although a bit of fun to install, tend to give years of simple, cheap, trouble-free service.