Living With Iris: Home Automation That Works (Part 1)

Geek Culture

The Iris Home Automation System

Home automation is kind of a geeky dream. Not that we want insane AIs taking over our houses, locking us inside, and doing bad, Dean Koontz-style stuff to us (about .0001% of you will get that reference). However, being able to turn lights on or off, or check our home heating/cooling from our smartphones is really kind of cool. And not far off at all.

Indeed, we have a Nest thermostat, which is really quite cool. I can control every aspect of our home heating remotely. We are saving some significant monthly money because of the device.

But there’s more out there. For the last few weeks, we’ve had an Iris system, the new home automation package from Lowe’s, running on our house. And so far, it’s really pretty neat.

The Iris Smart Kit ($299 from Lowe’s) is the deluxe system, and covers both home security and power savings in one fell swoop. For a cost that’s not much more than the Nest, you get the base unit, the security keypad, a thermostat, two door/window sensors, a motion sensor, a remote outlet controller, and a wireless camera.

The base unit hooks up to your home network and communicates to all the modules using secure signals that are meant to be much less hackable than your silly old wifi. The door/window sensors and the motion sensor are easily set up to do pretty much what any home security system will do (and if you need more such sensors, you can purchase them online).

The thermostat, while not as elegant as the Nest, allows you the same kind of remote control and energy usage monitoring. The remote outlet controller gives you the same kind of feedback: you plug it into an outlet, and then anything plugged into it can be turned on or off remotely with the iPhone or Android app, and the power usage through it monitored via your online account.

The wireless camera is, in truth, a guilty pleasure. If the door alarm goes off (or it we turn it off remotely so our cleaners can come in the house), we can fire up the camera and check that they are the only ones who have entered the house. We also have the special Iris key fobs, so when our two boys leave for school in the morning, we get a text message that they’ve left the house, and similar messages when they get home in the afternoon. Plus, the fobs allow easy disengagement of the security system.

You can even purchase a device that hooks up to your power meter and feeds usage information to the Iris system, so you can track overall household usage. It’s quite possible that the Iris system and a few add-ons can pay for themselves in the first year of usage, by helping control overall power usage.

So, this is all quite positive. But we’re still in the early stages of using the system. We’re also looking at getting their integrated front door hardware, which will allow remote locking/unlocking of our front door via Iris app. I’ll talk more about the system then.

But, right now, if you are an averagely geeky parent, and can work through the technicalities of installing the Iris modules and then getting them hooked up to the base unit and registering on the online system, this is a pretty nifty product. Putting a bit of home security together with energy savings makes Iris a very attractive addition to any wired home. Check it out.

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