Lowe’s Iris Home Automation Pack – PC Magazine
If you’ve chosen the Lowe’s Iris Smart Hub as your smart home controller and want to begin adding components, the Iris By Lowes Automation Pack ($129) is a good place to start. It contains everything you need to add door/window sensors, motion detection, and smart plug automation to your hub, and it’s a bit less expensive than if you were to buy these components separately. Each component offers very fast response times, but installation be tricky and a monthly subscription is required for the components to interact with other devices on your Iris network.
Design and Features
The Automation Pack contains two contact sensors, a small motion sensor, a smart button, and a smart plug, all of which are ZigBee devices. To buy these components separately it’ll cost you $135.95, so the pack does offer a small savings. Similar components (minus the smart button) will cost you $175 if you’re using the Samsung SmartThings home automation platform.
Although some components in the Automation Pack offer similar functionality to what you’ll find in smart home security systems like SimpliSafe and Vivint Sky, it’s more of a starter kit than a dedicated security solution. Alternately, you can purchase the $99.99 Iris Security Pack; it doesn’t come with a smart button or a smart plug but it does offer a wireless keypad, two contact sensors, and a motion sensor.
The contact sensor consists of a 2.5-by-0.7-by-0.7-inch (HWD) transmitter and a smaller 1.7-by-0.3-by-0.6-inch magnet. It contains a temperature sensor and comes with double-back tape mounting strips for easy installation. The smart button also contains a temperature sensor and can trigger other devices such as connected lights or a smart plug, but you’ll need a subscription to do so. It can also be used as a panic button to send a push notification to your phone, but it doesn’t contact the police or a third party like some security sensors do. The button measures 1.7 by 1.7 by 0.6 inches and comes with wall mounting tape and a mounting plate with screws and wall anchors.
The motion sensor measures 1.6 by 1.6 by 0.9 inches and it too contains a temperature sensor. It is powered by a removable 3 volt CR2 battery. The smart plug has a three-prong outlet on the front, along with a manual on/off button and small blue power LED indicator. It contains a power meter that tells you how many watts the connected device is using and measures 2.6 by 2.4 by 1.6 inches.
Each component is controlled and monitored using the Iris Android or iOS app and will send a push notification when triggered. You can create rules to have the components interact with each other (and other Iris-compatible devices, like the Outdoor Security Camera) and set up on/off schedules, but that requires a $9.99 monthly Premium Plan subscription. The Iris Hub doesn’t support If This Then That (IFTTT) recipes, and neither do these components.
The Iris app opens to a Dashboard page where you can view the day’s history of events for each sensor, and below that are individual sections called Cards for each component category including Lights & Switches, Security Alarm, Climate, Doors & Locks, Cameras, and more. Each card displays a brief status for installed components in that category (temperature, opened, closed, armed, disarmed).
Tapping a card icon opens a page that displays each installed component and its current status. For example, if the contact sensor is open a double circle is displayed; if it’s closed it displays a single circle. Tapping a device brings up details such as last time opened, temperature, and battery level. Here you can also edit the sensor name and settings. Tap the Security Alarm icon to arm to disarm the system. The on setting is ideal for when nobody is home as it arms all sensors, while the Partial setting only arms the contact sensors and leaves the motion sensor disarmed so you can move about the house without setting off an alarm. The off setting completely disarms the system.
At the top right corner of the Dashboard is a plus sign icon for adding new devices and creating rules, and on the left is a triple bar icon that opens a page where you can create Scenes to control several devices at once, and Rules to connect and automate components. Here you can manage and control devices, add users, and update your account information.
Installation and Performance
Pairing the Automation Pack components was a mixed bag in testing. To install the sensors I tapped the plus icon in the upper right corner of the Dashboard page, chose Device, and selected the Iris brand. This produced a list of Iris devices. I selected contact sensor and followed the instructions to remove the battery tab. Within 10 seconds the hub beeped and the app said it was searching for the device but never found it. After a 10-minute wait I closed and restarted the app and the sensor was listed. The second sensor was immediately paired, however.
Installing the Smart Button was also problematic; I removed the battery tab according to the instructions and waited several minutes while the app searched, unsuccessfully, for the device. I tried this three times without success. On a whim, I flicked the small lever at the top of the device and the button was immediately paired on my fourth try. I was then asked to assign an action to the button (Trigger Panic Alarm, Play Chime, Activate a Rule), and was finished.
Next, I selected motion sensor from the list and was told to remove the battery door and the battery tab. Once the tab was removed the sensor was immediately paired. To pair the smart plug, I chose it from the list, plugged it into a wall outlet, and it too was paired within seconds.
All of the sensors were very responsive. Push notifications arrived within seconds when the contact and motion sensors were triggered, and the smart plug turned on and off instantly using the app. It also followed my daily timed schedule without missing a beat. I plugged a lamp into the smart plug and created a rule that had it turn on when a contact sensor was opened, and it too worked perfectly.
The Iris Home Automation Pack is a good choice for homeowners who own the Iris Hub and want to add a handful of security components and a smart plug to their home automation system, but it doesn’t replace a dedicated security system. Installing the various components isn’t difficult, but the app could be a bit more specific about the pairing process to avoid unnecessary wait times. Each component worked wonderfully, and response time to my phone was lighting fast. You’ll save a few bucks by purchasing the Automation Pack rather than buying these components separately, and the entire package is less expensive than the price of similar SmartThings components. Other than the installation glitches I experienced, my biggest gripe is that you have to pay extra to have the Automation Pack components interact with one another and other installed componentsâ€”but that’s an issue with the Iris Smart Hub in general.
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