Last Updated: August 5, 2016
Pros: Will work even if home network goes down, a unique "Care'" package that monitors a loved one
Cons: A rather expensive monthly subscription plan, only two, small starter kits
Like its competitors, Lowe's Iris uses its own proprietary wireless and control system, but is largely compatible with the more compatible ZigBee and Z-Wave wireless systems.
Lowe's sells more than 75 Iris-compatible devices, which include security cameras, smoke detectors, water leak detectors and more. The company just upgraded the whole system (v2.0) with a host of new modules, and the new hub is free to existing users. We're also told there's more to come in 2016. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, here are some basic pros and cons of the Iris system.
Iris' biggest plus is its lack of overall reliance on an Internet connection, a pro the system shares with Staples Connect. (Note: Staples has discontinued Staples Connect as of August. 2016) If your Internet goes down temporarily, Iris devices in the home will continue to function normally. For example, the alarm system will activate and sound, the thermostat will continue to operate on schedule, and pre-set rules will trigger.
However, not everything will work. You would be unable to view or record live video from your security camera, receive alerts if the alarm is triggered, control devices from your mobile device or computer or change pre-set rules or schedules.
Lowe's calls setting up multiple device functions triggered by different circumstances or conditions Iris Magic, which uses "if this/then that" logic. For instance, you can program Iris to flash your lights if the motion detector detects movement, or program the thermostat to make a adjustment if the temperature hits a specific point.
Most uniquely among the big box brands, Lowe's offers a "Care" package service for $4.99 a month, which lets you monitor an aging loved one. You can set alerts for when the system detects a change in your loved one's routine or get an emergency alert when they press the button on their Security Alarm Key Fob ($29.99).
Lowe's biggest drawback is its monthly Premium Plan subscription. You pay $9.99/month to enable advanced multi-device functionality, system rules and triggers based on different actions or situations such as At Home, Night, Away and Vacation. If you opt for the free version, only one person will be able to use it.
The problem is neither of Iris' two big retail brand competitors, Home Depot/Wink nor Staples Connect, require you to subscribe to get these features and functions. Both offer similar "Premium Plan" features as part of the systems' basic functionality.
Yes, Iris products can be used for free, sans subscription, but you have to submit a credit card during set-up, even if you have no intention of signing up for the premium service after the two-month trial period.
Like the Staples Connect hub, Iris' hub has to be jacked in with an Ethernet cable to your Wi-Fi router, while the Home Depot/Wink hub connects with your Wi-Fi network wirelessly. This isn't exactly a "con," but Wink's Wi-Fi hub connection affords some degree of placement flexibility; Iris' and Staples' hub have to sit where your router is located, which could limit their range and effectiveness. (You can learn more about Staples Connect and Wink by check out GearBrain's review of both devices: Staples Connect and Wink. Or you can check out Here's Six Cool, Smart Home System Alternatives to learn more about alternative smart home systems.)
Finally, Lowe's only offers only two remarkably similar Iris starter kits, Security ($99) and Automation ($129.99). Both include a motion detector and two door/window sensors, but the security/control keypad from the Security kit is replaced by a smart switch, Wi-Fi range extender and a panic button in the Automation kit.
The bad news: there are no smart lighting or security camera kits, and neither kit includes an Iris hub. If your initial smart home goal is smart lighting or camera surveillance, you'll have to buy the hub, bulbs and or camera a la carte.
If you need help installing Iris by Lowe's Smart Home System, you can visit HomeAdvisor.com to find a local trusted professional.
Don't forget to check out The GearBrain to see what other connected devices work with Google Home or Amazon Alexa enabled device.