Lowe’s Iris: DIY Home Security System With No Monthly Monitoring Fee?

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Home improvement chain Lowe’s just announced a new “smart home” system called Iris where you can monitor and control your home through your smartphone or computer. The DIY system can be installed with just an ethernet broadband connection and a screwdriver.

You can either buy everything a la carte or via three bundles. The “Safe & Secure” kit includes the central hub, a motion sensor, keypad, and two door/window sensors for $179. The “Comfort & Control” kit includes the hub, a smart plug, and smart thermostat for $179. You can get both kits for $299 (includes range extender but only one hub). However, if your going to outfit an entire home, you’ll probably want to add some extra sensors. The good part is that the basic service has no monthly fee, while the premium service costs a flat $9.99 a month. Available online now, or in 500 stores by August.

The ability to turn lights on/off and your thermostat up/down remotely has always seemed a little bit overhyped to me, more an amusing feature than money-saving necessity. I see commercials about it, but I guess I just don’t think about light switches when I’m not at home. Otherwise, a simple programmable thermostat works well enough for me. I do like the idea of real-time power usage reporting though (here it requires a $150 meter reader).

Cheap Home Security?

Mostly, I was interested in the home security aspect of Iris because of the lack of monthly fees. Such monitoring fees can add up to hundreds of dollars every year and quickly make up the bulk of the system’s overall cost. I recently installed a somewhat similar Simplisafe system (review) that is also based on using various wireless sensors with 5-year lithium batteries (and costs $15 a month for monitoring). Is my investment outdated already?

Internet-based Monitoring Only
From a security standpoint, the main weakness in this kit is that all monitoring is done via the internet. If you rely on cable/DSL and your cable/telephone line is down/cut or your power is out, you won’t get any alerts. Also, alerts are only sent to you via phone call, text, or e-mail through their automated computer system. The police is never directly notified, and there is no “central station” monitoring with real humans.

To help address this, one solution might be to get your internet from a wireless 4G or WiMax service. You’d also need a UPS battery backup system attached to your cable modem and router to protect against power outages. In comparison, my Simplisafe system uses a cellular GSM signal, 24/7 central station monitoring, and the hub includes a rechargeable backup battery. One thing that Iris does have that Simplisafe doesn’t is the option to add a wireless video camera ($129) that allows you to stream live video to your computer or smartphone – useful to check the house after a sensor is triggered.

Basic vs. Premium
The free basic plan appears to give enough features that I could probably live with them. Lowe’s smartly offers everyone a free 2 month trial of the $10/month premium service to get you used to the other stuff (alerts up to 6 people instead of 1, online video storage, scheduled times on/off instead of manual).

Many similar systems are being rolled out from providers like Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable, but most of these competitors involve an additional monthly fee.

Overall, I like the concept of this system and it can provide a certain amount of security for a reasonable price and no ongoing monthly fees. However, I wouldn’t consider it a full-fledge security system. Most burglars may not be smart enough to cut your phone lines or shut off the power before they break into your house, but I don’t feel comfortable relying on that.

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  1. For people who cannot live one second without their smartphone, this *might* work. But for those of us who put the phone away while we’re on vacation (like, while we’re relaxing in the pool), it doesn’t seem like a very good idea to not have an alarm company calling the police. Remember that unlike you, the police always answer their phone.

    • Yes Scott they always answer their phone, but last time they took 45 minutes to show up in my house. So, is it really worth paying these monthly bills?

    • You can change the settings to have it call, text or email anyone you desire.

      So… put your phone away on vacation and have a friend or neighbor earn a few bucks with an alert sent to them.

  2. Question: if you have a traditional security system monitored by, say, ADT, and someone cuts your power and/or phone line what happens? Do they have battery and/or cellular back-up?

    • If you have the traditional landline system {not cellular) then nothing happens. Until you get home that is and find you have had a break in

    • I have ADT, and it does have a battery back up. The battery is a little expensive, around $30. They last a long time. This will be the third time in 12 years.

  3. It depends what can be stolen from your house. The most valuable things may be the flat screen TV (worth $300), PS3 (worth $200), digital camera (worth $100)… and what else, really?

    I need to be protected while I’m sleeping, so a basic alarm from a wireless DIY security system is good enough for me. I can lock my room and call the cops.

    • If you only have $600 of valuables in your home then I would agree its not worth signing up with a monitoring service for $1500 over 3 years…

  4. Thanks for the heads up, I’ll look into this. This or Simplisafe may suit our needs. I’m thankful to be finally rid of an ADT contract.

    Comcast has been heavily advertising in my area. They have a ~$40 monthly fee and 3 year commitment.

  5. Anonymous says

    However, if your going to outfit an entire home, you’ll probably want to add some extra sensors.

    Check your grammar!! Is it “you’re”, not “your”.

    Shaking my head…

    • When correcting grammar it is mandatory that YOU use proper grammar. You too were using incorrect grammar when you wrote, and I cut and paste, ” Check your grammar!! Is it “you’re”, not “your”.” The CORRECT way of being pompous about grammar would have been to write, it is you’re, not your.

  6. Anonymous says

    the writer is missing a semicolon (or a period) in the last paragraph. looks like a run-on sentence to me.

    “Overall, I like the concept of this system and it can provide a certain amount of security for a reasonable price and no ongoing monthly fees. ”

    It should read:
    “Overall, I like the concept of this system; it can provide a certain amount of security for a reasonable price with no ongoing monthly fees.”

  7. Does anyone have any studies that show the efficacy of any particular alarm system, or alarms in general? I have never met someone whose alarm system stopped a burglary in process. I only ever hear people complain about costly fees and problems associated with tripping your own alarm accidentally. I’m just curious because the older I get the more paranoid I seem to get, and I find myself looking at alarm systems more often.

    With so many of these cheap alternatives coming to market, would it be better to let the market to work itself out driving down costs/see which ones have actual staying power (i.e. you will be able to get support/parts down the road?)

    • Yes, I know of people who have had a burglary stopped. In addition to that I know of quite a few accounts where the burglar was caught and arrested due to the alarm. Our family business is an alarm company and also part ownership in a monitoring station, so I hear of the calls that come in. I also hear from our customers thanking us when they had less taken or nothing taken at all. An alarm system is not a guarantee against any and all loss, but should limit loss that the worst and avoid loss all together at the best.

  8. Anonymous, your posts smell with arrogance rather than humbleness. It also looks like retribution for this arrogance came in before you even finished your post. Shouldn’t “Is it “you’re”, not “your”.” instead read “It is “you’re”, not “your”.”?

  9. Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says

    Interesting concept. Definitely something to consider in the future.

  10. @Andy – Some do, some don’t, as far as I know. For at least my house it seems rather easy to turn off the power or cut phone lines from the outside with at most a big set of bolt cutters.

    @aa – I also like the idea of prevention in order to avoid having to make a homeowner’s claim and possibly being dropped in the future. The loud panic alarm (which also automatically calls police) does make me feel better when I am away and my family is at home.

  11. I understand Lowes will offer mobile back up in October so the power problem is sorted. Also, I don’t just want an alarm – I think its a good idea to have automation and control the thermostat

  12. Alan Wild says

    I’ve been running a tcp/ip based alarm for a year and half now and my services includes full police and fire monitoring. In my case, my home was pre-wired at construction, then I bought a DCS-1832 from http://homesecuritystore.com and then got the “network card” (vm101 bat) and monitoring service from http://www.myvirtualmonitoring.com

    It hasn’t been totally flawless, but it’s generally worked as advertised and has definitely been way cheaper than service through companies like ADT.

  13. Andy – Some of the new systems include cellular or radio module for primary or back-up alarm communication. AlarmPath and NearNet make cellular and UHF radio communication devices for most systems without built in cellular or radio modules.

  14. Has anyone used a DIY home security?

  15. Maxim – I installed a basic DIY home security system after a bi-polar ex-wife kicked the front door of my home in. I purchased a Visonic system online. I have sensors on three access doors (garage access door, kitchen door and front door) and first floor windows. When triggered it emits an ungodly loud and irritating scream the makes you run as fast as you can to the keypad to disarm it. The system is not set to phone the police. Why? Because where I live they get very irritated if they have to respond to false alarms and they charge you $100 the first time and it increases for every false alarm after that.

    For Jon M – “I have never met someone whose alarm system stopped a burglary in process.” If your system didn’t stop the intrusion it was either off, broken, or set for silent alarm. Only the stupidest intruder would continue in the face of that screaming alarm and wondering how soon the police would be arriving. An alarm system is a deterent, not a fail safe. Like a dog. A barking dog will keep 99.9% of all intruders away. Remember, the intruder is looking for the easiest, quickest way in and out and not get caught.

    I installed this type of system on the advice of my friend who is a ranking police officer. He said just putting up fake signs and window stickers warning of a alarm system would be enough to make any but the most retarded of intruders move on to an easier mark. Again, they want to slip in – slip out.

    • I have 78 small retail stores and had have varying numbers of them over the past 30 years. I probably average 1 break in every 2 months. I have monitored security in each one. The stores are in different states, different cities. Never, in the last 30 years, has the monitoring stopped a break in. I have the monitoring done for the employees emotional security. I had one where the burglar climbed in through an open bay and spent the night rummaging through my store and breaking into the safe. When I complained to the security company about my cellular backup, they pointed to some small print item in the contract saying if the culprit cut a wire which connected the cellular line (which they had installed) to the security company, they were not liable. As far as I am concerned, they are worthless.
      My front door was kicked in and the burglars spent 2 minutes stealing 2 TV’s (and a few other items) worth about $6,000. The cop that responded told me that the security system was of no use. They burglars have their break ins down to a science. He recommended lots of cameras outside and a dog. Burglars do not like either.

  16. Donnetta B says

    Jon B. My husband’s family owns a good sized alarm company and I work for them. We have indeed had burglars caught due to the alarm going off and the police arriving. It doesn’t happen every day, but it’s not that rare either. Like Doc says, it is a deterent, not a guarantee of no loss.

  17. Bought iris home and secure having trouble with key fobs detecting you went you get home most of the time will not event detect you even though front door is 6 ft from iris hub. When you try to push button to disarm you need to keep it pressed 10 second in order for it finally disarms system which sometimes will work sometimes not causing many false triggered alarms.I have bought another key fob same problems like before. Range extenders losing connection intermittentally. Ge switches losing connection intermittentally weird because you can place smart plug next to it and that one function properly. If anybody is having same issures would like to hear from you. Have talked to tech support just answering questions for them but no solutions yet.

  18. recent attempted break-in was terminated as the door was breached by the alarm. Our system is ADT, but I am guessing it was the noise that drove them away. ADT has been good for many years, but being tied to the landline for $32+ dollars a month is annoying. Most or all of our false alarms over 10 years have been human error.

  19. Richard Suess says

    My G.E. detection system is considered more of a “target aquistion” guide.
    since NC considers the unlawful entry a crime of of intended violence, the infared laser on my
    my M-4 carbine will seal the deal.

  20. First I have a iRIS system and I love it. And yes. If the cable or phone is down the system is also down. There are ways around that to keep your protection going. There are also ways around it with big name alarm companies as well. But the cost or lack of monthly cost the basic free works pretty well. If your on vacation have it set to call a family member or neighbor. Anything can be picked to death. IMO this is a great system especially for the price. Beats my local cable provider and it’s basically the same thing. O one more thing. It cracks me up when people can get so wrapped up in a post that has a misspelled word. Honestly. Who gives a hoot. It’s called a typo get over it.

  21. I’m pretty interested in this system. The lack of “central station” monitoring for fire/CO alarms is upsetting, since you’re not (normally) going to get a “false positive” on a CO detection, unless it’s in a poor area.

    I like the wealth of features and ease of assembly…I’m just not quite sold on the protection and security aspect. For instance, a few prior posts mention audible alarms…but is the iris Smart Hub’s audible alarm loud enough to ward off an intruder? I haven’t heard mention…

    Also, in the event that someone is “coming for blood,” (eg. estranged ex) and you’ve barricaded yourself in a room like one poster suggested… the system has not automatically alerted the authorities, there may not be an audible alarm capable of alerting neighbors, and there is a wholehearted dependency on the user (ie. scared-to-death-of-intruder-and-hiding-in-closet) for threat response. Easy if you’re monitoring via iPhone from work, difficult in a real crisis.

    As for the power outage…the SmartHub does have batteries, and the internet dependency fear is solved with the GSM USB toggle available for $70. I don’t see real issue there.

    In actuality, my biggest concern is that Lowe’s doesn’t seem to be investing in the infrastructure of iris. THAT — the lack of customer support, the lack of dedicated associates, the lack of marketing, the lack, the lack, the lack…. is the real ALARM for me. The saving grace would be that this hardware seems to be appropriately compatible with other remote access systems, so if you “make a switch” you can keep your existing peripherals, outlets, cameras, etc. and just swap-a-hub.

    But is that what I want to do? Do I even want to “try it out” with a “lights only” setup while I wait for Lowes to decide if it’s worth their investment? Nope. I need a system I know will be around in 2014, and 2015. I need to read other reviewers talking about solutions instead of problems…. :\

    The sad part is that I really, really want to like this. I love the price and the monthly fees are infinitesimal compared to a Slomins/ADP system. Grrrrrr……..

  22. We had ADT before but felt trapped in a contract and it was pretty costly over the years. Internet connection is our area is not that ideal, we have internet down time on and off so we figured an alarm rely sole on internet connection is out of the question.
    Really like the idea of no binding contract, and no monitoring charge on a monthly basis. We did a lot of digging on the internet and purchased a wireless diy system from AAS Alarm. Robust system completely wireless with two very loud sirens you can plug in any outlet in the house. The package comes with 25 sensors for the entire house. The dialer kicks in and call us if a sensor breaker is ticked off. We are able to remotely listen through the system and control the alarm easily. Never have to worry about false alarm penalty fee involves our local law enforcement, and escalate charges for subsequent false alarm occurrences. Good value for the purchase. So far so good…..

  23. Jeff from A Secure Life says

    I have been following the home security industry for years and these new “ready to go out of the box” options from Lowe’s and SimpliSafe are very interesting. As long as the consumer understands what they are getting, I fully support them. I’m just not sure they make it clear enough that “monitoring” from Iris does not include a central monitoring station and relies on a broadband connection. If you want to use a cellular connection, by far the most secure, the consumer is going to have to spend $20+ per month for this. At that point, I think consumers should consider a system that is monitored via a Central Monitoring Station (and as a bonus, most large security companies don’t require an upfront charge).

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