Published on April 10th, 2013 | by Greg0
Monitor Your Home With Lowes IRIS, Schlage, And Blue Line Innovations
If you own your home- or even a small office or an apartment- you probably want to invest a little bit in keeping it safe and secure. Home automation technologies have been around quite a while- you’ve been able to remote control your lights for a long time. But many other functions have been beyond the reach of most home consumers, because of expense but also because of the difficulty in integrating the various systems. Incompatible protocols and devices made these sorts of solutions frequently painful, and installation and configuration could require as much work as getting a doctorate.
Enter Lowes. Their IRIS system is starting to gain some traction as a whole-home solution, capable of helping you with many things that you can think of, and some purposes that you might not have even imagined. We previously reviewed their excellent Smart Kit, the d0-everything solution that includes a thermostat, door and window sensors, a motion sensor, a keypad for system arming and disarming, as well as a hub and range extender to tie everything together. For under $300, it’s a great deal, and one of the best packages we’ve seen in this category.
But the kit itself is only the beginning. Lowes briefed us some of the other additions to their ecosystem, like an IP security camera and key fobs. But we were most excited to try out a pair of integrated accessories and extensions from other companies. We’ll start with an item perfect for people who forget their keys, have regular visitors, or want to offer their space on home-sharing sites like Airbnb.
The Schlage Universal Residential Electronic Door Keypad is available in three finishes- dark bronze, satin nickel, and the one we chose, the bright brass. It’s also available in two styles, a smaller deadbolt/knob and the larger and easier to turn Lever model. It might seem intimidating to change out hardware like this, but it’s really easy- seriously, it won’t take more than 20 minutes or so and requires only a screw driver and some light reading through the manual. You’ll need the rest of the system operational (an active IRIS hub), and to take note of the code that’s on the sticker inside of the lock (we recommend keeping a copy or emailing it to yourself just in case). There’s a handy video that outlines the steps and basics. With a little setup and use of their web interface, you can setup new PINs for every member of your family.
It’s important to note that such abilities will cost you extra- you can lock and unlock remotely for free under their basic plan, but the other nifty features require you to sign up and pay a $10 monthly fee, which we generally frown upon. We like the ability to create temporary “keys” and receive notifications when anyone opens the door- and the hardware is solid. And, as far as service plans go, it offers plenty of extras that make it worth it, provided you are using most of the system features (and not just the locks). You do get two months of free Premium service when you first register a kit though. If you already have IRIS hardware, then this is a no-brainer addition, at a very reasonable cost. Available now, for $200, and you can easily match across your doors since Schlage makes a wide variety of hardware for pretty much every purpose.
On a different note, the Blue Line Innovations PowerCost Monitor Optical Electricity Meter Reader for IRIS is a perfect extension for a monitoring solution. We checked out an earlier version a couple of years ago that comes with it’s own display, and despite the noise and news about “smart meters”, it still remains one of the better options out there if you’re trying to discover how and where your electricity goes. This one does away with the unnecessary extra display, and combines the information into the IRIS dashboard, and Lowes offers a video that helps explain it all. We suggest pairing first, then installing.
One important difference- you don’t need to even bother with the regular wifi connection if you’re using the IRIS system, though you will need to install the included wifi bridge. It makes setup and monitoring easier than ever. As before, you’ll need to attach the actual sensor-a ring clamp- to your meter and have it fairly near your IRIS Hub and the wireless bridge. This can be difficult or impossible with apartments and some offices though, since meters can be a long distance away or inaccessible. Once setup, you’ll be able to see near real-time energy usage (there’s about a fifteen second lag) and get an excellent estimate of your cost, based on your kWh rate. We previously found it fairly accurate when compared to our utility statements, and when you start checking out your usage, you’ll immediately get into a positive feedback loop of turning off unnecessary things. That coffee maker that you leave on all day- and your extra devices sucking vampire power- will quickly be identified, saving you money. Available now, online and in Lowes stores, for a $150.