Lowe’s Iris Home Alarm ReviewBy - 11/06/2017
Pros: Affordable, contract-free, professional monitoring. DIY installed equipment. Home automation-ready.
Cons: History of changes that upset customer base.
Bottom Line: Lowe’s Iris is new to professional monitoring, but not new to providing security equipment. If you’re looking for a contract-free professionally monitored solution, Iris is an okay choice, but not the best.
Protection & Equipment
Lowe’s Iris, Lowe’s brand of smart home security, has been around for quite some time. But what started as a self-monitored security solution has evolved into a system that also provides contract-free professional monitoring.
Beyond service changes, they’ve also experienced hardware changes including the launch of their Next Generation Hub, a simplified app experience and an expansion of their security and automation products.
Currently, all Iris systems need the Next Gen Iris Smart Hub ($60). The hub works like a control panel, tying all your devices together into one security system. It’s compatible with Zigbee and Z-Wave for home automation control of over 80 compatible devices.
The hub features two USB ports, a battery backup, and an Ethernet port. Unfortunately, it also requires Ethernet, so you’ll have to use a cable to connect the hub to your router. If you want, you can purchase the Iris 4G modem ($110) and subscribe to Iris’ 4G Backup Cellular service for $7.99/month to give your hub cellular connectivity.
Packages and Device List
Instead of buying a hub and building your security system around it, you can choose from one of Iris’ packages. Your purchase of a package entitles you to a free Smart Hub. There are three kits available: the Security Pack ($100), the Automation Pack ($109), and the Lighting Pack ($90).
The Security Pack includes a remote keypad, a motion sensor, and two contact sensors.
The Automation Pack includes two contact sensors, a motion sensor, a smart plug, and a smart button.
And the Lighting Pack includes two smart plugs and one motion detector.
You can expand your system at any time by buying devices a la carte from Lowe’s online shop. Most of the products listed on their online shop are Iris-branded, but there are also compatible third-party options.
|Contact Sensor (New Model)||$22.99|
|Contact Sensor (Previous Model*)||$17.99|
|Motion Sensor (New Model)||$29.99|
|Motion Sensor (Previous Model*)||$24.99|
|Smart Button (New Model)||$14.99|
|Smart Button (Previous Model*)||$19.97|
|LeakSmart Leak Detector||$68.00|
|Utilitech Water Leak Detector||$29.99|
|Utilitech Glass Break Sensor||$39.97|
|Utilitech 85dB Indoor Siren||$34.99|
|First Alert Smoke & CO Detector||$44.97|
|First Alert Smoke Detector||$34.97|
|Halo Smoke/CO Detector (Hardwired)||$99.00|
|Halo+ Smoke/CO Detector and Weather Alert Radio (Hardwired)||$129.00|
*Previous Model equipment still work with the Next Gen Smart Hub.
Monitoring and Other Services
Finally, Iris offers professional monitoring via a third-party monitoring center. Their professional monitoring plan is contract-free, which means you can opt in and out any time you want.
Iris offers three service plans: Basic, Premium, and Professional. The Basic plan is free, but its features are limited. The Premium plan incurs a $9.99 per month charge, but it adds a lot of features. The Professional Monitoring Plan costs $14.95 per month, but it gives you additional features such as professional monitoring and cellular backup. Currently, Professional Monitoring is only available in select zip codes, but Lowe’s plans to roll out support for more areas soon.
|Price||FREE||$9.99/month (2 months free)||$14.99/month|
|Type of Monitoring||Self||Self||Professional|
|Smartphone Notification||Account Holder Only||Up to 6 People||Up to 6 People|
|Activity Log||Previous 24 Hours||Previous 14 Days||Previous 14 Days|
|Elderly Care Notifications|
|Video Cloud Storage||Yes, 2GB||Yes, 2GB|
|Cellular Backup||+$7.99/month (requires extra equipment)||+$7.99/month (requires extra equipment)||FREE (requires extra equipment)|
|Access to Alarm Tracker ™|
Basic vs. Premium vs. Professional
If you’re wondering whether to use Iris with the Basic plan or pay for an upgraded plan, comparing their features might help.
Schedules, Scenes, and Rules
Let’s start with the Control features. All three plans allow you to create schedules, scenes, and rules.
By creating schedules, you can tell the app when to turn on the lights, when to arm the system, or when to lock the doors. This might work if your life is always on schedule, but life is messy, and sometimes we don’t follow the schedules we set.
If your life is a bit messy, then scenes and rules are your friends. What are scenes? When you get home from work, you might turn on the lights, unlock the door, turn on the TV, and disarm your alarm system. Instead of doing all of these tasks individually, you can group them into one scene and trigger them all at once using your smartphone or a Smart Button ($14.99).
Creating rules, on the other hand, is a way of automating your home by setting up cause-effect commands. You’re essentially telling your Iris system what to do when a certain sensor or activity is triggered. The rule can control an individual device or a scene. Going back to the example earlier, you can eliminate the use of a smartphone to activate a scene by creating a rule, “If the door is unlocked, activate Welcome Home scene.” This way, the moment you unlock the door, it creates a chain reaction triggering all the devices you want to trigger.
Notifications and Activity Log
Another difference between the three plans is how notifications are handled. With the Basic plan, only the primary account holder will receive alerts. This might work if you live alone, but if you’re living with your family, they should be privy to notifications too. The Premium plan and Professional Monitoring plan let you add secondary accounts to your Iris system and customize which types of notifications each person receives. For example, you can set it so that only you and your spouse will receive notifications whenever someone unlocks the door. Both plans can accommodate up to six users.
Activity Log, on the other hand, is a history of all activity detected by your Iris system. With the Basic plan, you can view 24-hours of activity. This might work if you have enough time to check your log daily. If you don’t, the Premium and Professional plans let you store 14 days of history.
In addition, Premium and Professional users get access to Activity Tracker™, a special app feature that allows users to closely monitor their security, fire, CO, and panic alarm. For Professional Monitoring plan users, it even tracks the progress of an emergency response.
Iris also offers security cameras (more on that later) that are capable of recording videos to the cloud. However, only the Premium and Professional Monitoring plans give you cloud storage space. If you’re a plan subscriber, you can set your cameras to record whenever they or your sensors detect activity. For example, you can tell your cameras to record whenever the contact sensors are triggered.
Unfortunately, Iris’ cloud storage is limited to 2GB of storage space. Is this enough? To record a day’s worth of events, probably. But this means you’ll have to check your recordings more frequently so you don’t lose important video clips.
Finally, you can use Premium and Professional to improve your senior care experience via Iris Care. By creating rules, you can tell an Iris system installed at an aging loved one’s home to notify you if no activity is detected within a certain period of time. Iris Care can also monitor medicine cabinets and general activity.
Home automation is Iris’ expertise. Their hub supports more than 80 different devices, most of which are home automation related. The system connects using standard Zigbee and Z-Wave protocols. It can also connect locally using Bluetooth.
Iris-compatible home automation devices deliver control, comfort, and energy savings. You can build out your system by buying devices individually or you can purchase the prearranged Automation Pack (discussed above), which costs $109. Here’s a list of smart home devices that work with Iris:
|GoControl Programmable Thermostat||$79.99|
|7-Day Programmable Thermostat||$79.99|
|Honeywell Programmable Wi-Fi Thermostat||$99.00|
|Honeywell 7-Day Touchscreen Programmable Thermostat||$159.99|
|Honeywell Touchscreen Programmable Thermostat (Full-Color)||$199.00|
|Duraflame Infrared Heater||$199.00|
|Sylvania LIGHTIFY LED Bulbs||Starts at $14.98|
|Osram LIGHTIFY LED Bulbs||Starts at $14.98|
|Iris Garage Door Controller||$79.99|
|Genie Aladdin Connect Garage Door Opener Controller||Starts at $119.00|
|NYCE Control Garage Door Tilt Sensor||$34.99|
|GE Z-Wave/Zigbee Outlet Module||Starts at $19.99|
|Schlage Smart Lock||Starts at $199.00|
|Kwikset Smart Lock||Starts at $199.00|
|NYCE Hinge Sensor||Starts at $37.99|
|Keen Smart Vents||Starts at $74.99|
|Nucleus Anywhere Intercom (Alexa-enabled)||$249.99|
|LeakSmart Water Shut-Off Valve||Starts at $159.00|
|Orbit Iris Hose Faucet Water Timer||$33.99|
|Whirlpool 46000-Grain Wi-Fi Enabled Water Softener||$797.00|
Iris’ app has a major role in the automation process. It allows you to remotely control (turn on/off) your devices, watch live video streams for up to 20 minutes, set your thermostat, view real-time data analysis of your energy consumption, and lock and unlock smart locks remotely. You can take further advantage of Iris’ home automation offers using rules and scenes.
Amazon Echo and Google Home
Using an Alexa device (Echo, Echo Dot, Show, Spot, Tap, etc.) or Google Assistant device (Home, Max, Mini, etc.), you can use your voice to turn lights on or off, adjust the thermostat, turn smart plugs on or off, and more. For a full list of commands you can use with Iris, you can refer to Iris’ customer support page for Alexa or Google Assistant.
Cameras and Video Monitoring
Iris offers three types of cameras: the indoor wireless camera, the outdoor wireless camera, and the indoor/outdoor camera.
The indoor wireless camera ($99) is a small camera equipped with a motion detector, IR LEDs for night vision, and up to a 720p resolution. It is designed for indoor use only.
The outdoor wireless camera is designed for outdoor use. It has the same features as the indoor camera, but it has a weatherproof casing, allowing it to withstand harsh outdoor environments.
Finally, the indoor/outdoor wireless camera. This camera is easy to install indoors but tough enough to brave the outdoors. It offers a 720p resolution, 2 IR LEDs, and operation in temperatures of -4°F to 104°F.
All of these cameras can detect motion and record based on events. Keep in mind, however, that a Premium subscription is required for storage.
Customer Care & Support
Lowe’s is known for providing a decent customer support experience. Specifically related to Iris, they offer blogs, videos, FAQ pages, and a support team that can help you out with your system. Iris products are also backed by a warranty.
One mark against Lowe’s customer experience is the way they handled their transition from the first gen to next gen Iris hub. It was anything but smooth. During the transition, Lowe’s gave their existing customers a lackluster path to transition. Basically, transition or you won’t be able to do anything. Lowe’s set a date and pulled the plug on all first gen hub users and they did so without offering existing customers an upgrade to the second gen hub. And worse? First gen hub users were less than thrilled by the new product and irritated at the loss of several key features including:
- Removal of the rechargeable battery pack and replacement by non-rechargeable AA batteries.
- Removal of the wall mount.
- Lack of browser app, making the hub fully reliant on the smartphone app.
But worst of all, the promised migration tool, which was supposed to smoothly transfer connected devices from the 1st gen hub to the next gen hub, failed many users. As a result, they had to manually disconnect each of their devices from the first hub to connect them to the new hub. Not only is this process tormenting, it also caused many users to lose their existing settings. As if that’s not enough, those who were able to migrate successfully experienced an unreliable connection between the devices and the hub.
Is this all reason enough to stay away from Iris? Maybe. On one hand, they could do it again. On the other, maybe they learned their lesson?
As for their professional monitoring service, Iris’ subscription plans are customer-friendly and contract-free. As Iris’ equipment is DIY installed, you can easily move it from one home to another without penalty.
Iris is a decent option if you’re looking for a self-monitored security solution that can offer professional monitoring when needed. However, we highly recommend that you maintain a Premium subscription when using Iris to enjoy all of the smart features.
11/6/2017 Updated with more information on Iris Care and Google Home compatibility
3/27/2017 Updated with latest device compatibilities and information.