The release of the second-generation Iris earlier this year prompted an uproar of disgruntled Iris users online. I thought it was a good time to dive into the affordable DIY home security and automation system by Lowe’s to see what all the fuss is about.
- Relatively affordable
- Mix-and-match equipment
- Simple automation
- ZigBee and Z-Wave compatible
- Smart Plug
- No monthly monitoring
- Clunky DIY installation (45 min.–1 hr.)
- Delayed email notifications
- App push notifications don’t work
- Poor customer service
- Alarm too quiet
- Only allows one user without $10/mo. subscription
- Busy app interface
What makes Iris unique?
Iris focuses more on home automation. Iris’s a la carte format allows you to choose and pay for your devices separately. While security and home automation frequently go hand in hand, they are not the same thing. Iris often competes against Simplisafe because they both offer DIY security solutions for a low price. However, Simplisafe delves more heavily into the security side, while Iris puts its emphasis on home automation. Check out our official Iris vs. Simplisafe review to see a side-by-side comparison.
How much does Iris cost?
Iris comes in two different starter packs: the Security Pack and the Automation Pack. Neither includes the required Iris Smart Hub, which is sold separately for $59.99. The Security Pack comes with a keypad to control your system, whereas the Automation Pack gives you a Smart Plug. See What’s in the Box? (anchor) for a detailed breakdown.
|Package Name||Security Pack||Automation Pack||Iris Hub (must have)|
|View Product||Visit Website||Visit Website||Visit Website|
|Real price w/Hub||$159.98||$189.98||N/A|
Iris monitoring options
Iris touts itself as a DIY security company. If you stick with the free Basic plan, only one user can access your system activity, and only for the previous 24 hours, so you really are flying solo. Meaning, if you want your spouse, children, or roommate to have access, you’ll have to upgrade to the Premium monitoring plan for $9.99 per month that increases both users allowed (up to six) and reviewable activity (14 days). In true DIY fashion, neither plan offers professional monitoring.
More Iris equipment sold separately
Because Iris wants to provide versatility, every piece of equipment outside the starter packs is sold separately, meaning you only pay for equipment that you’ll use. Keep in mind that piecing your system together this way raises your upfront cost.
Wireless outdoor camera
Wireless indoor camera
Carbon monoxide detector
Smoke & CO detector
Iris Care Pendant
What’s in the box?
My experience with Iris
Installation got off to a rocky start. Iris instructs you to download the app on either iTunes or Google Play, but Lowe’s has multiple Iris apps, and I ended up downloading the wrong one. Make sure to download “Iris by Lowe’s,” not “Iris from Lowe’s.” It’s a minor inconvenience, but it started my user experience off poorly. Through the lengthy install (45 minutes to one hour), it never fully recovered.
Once I installed the correct app and set up a user account, things were slightly smoother, despite the app’s busy user interface. Iris does not include a physical copy of instructions and instead relies solely on in-app tutorials and step-by-step sliders, which are relatively easy to follow if you have the patience to swipe through numerous screens.
As a user, I’d prefer a more streamlined setup process. Right now, each individual device has to walk through its own setup and pairing process, making installation repetitive and time consuming.
The Iris Smart Hub
The new Iris Smart Hub stands out for its compatibility with both ZigBee and Z-Wave technology. This versatility allows it to pair with over 70 devices from different security and home automation companies.*
The Hub needs to connect directly to your wireless router, which means location options are extremely limited. Normally, this wouldn’t be much of a problem; however, the alarm sounds from the Hub, so if your router isn’t centralized, you may have trouble hearing it from certain parts of your home.
Is Iris a good security system?
Iris falls short as a viable security option. I tested a combination of the Security and Automation packs, which come with surprisingly minimal security features and equipment. On the security side, I had two door/window sensors, a motion sensor, and a keypad to activate the alarm without the app.
Inconsistency limits the Iris door/window sensors’ ability to provide any peace of mind as a security solution. Closing or opening the door too quickly often went unnoticed by the system, even when the sensors aligned with each other perfectly. I don’t know if this is a sensitivity or proximity issue, but the inconsistency doesn’t bode well for my overall sense of security with the Iris system.
On the bright side, the motion sensor worked beautifully. It registered movement each time I walked, ran, or crawled by it in my front entryway. I sent my three-year-old in and out a few times to see if size would change anything, but the motion sensor detected her each time and alerted my phone accordingly. This may be one of the few bright spots on the security side of the Iris system.
An alarm you can’t hear throughout the house doesn’t do much to deter the burglar who trips it. The in-house alarm sounds directly from the Smart Hub device, but since the Hub needs to connect directly to your wireless router, it may be difficult to situate it in a central location. I had mine connected in my office, and when I triggered the alarm, I could not hear it from my bedroom on the opposite end of the house.
The alarm does ring directly to your smartphone, but triggering to your phone still does nothing to frighten off a burglar who can’t hear the alarm.
Is Iris a good home automation option?
On the automation side, Iris really needs to rethink its packs. The Automation Pack comes with basically the same components as the Security Pack but with one “home automation” device included: the Smart Plug. (The Automation Pack also includes a panic button, which is a security item, not an automation device.)
The Smart Plug allows you to plug your electronics into a small receiver box that connects to your AC outlet. You can control your lights, electronics, and small appliances using your smartphone.
The Smart Plug is the single best device in the hodgepodge of Iris security and automation equipment that I tested. Simple installation. Simple functionality. And it works as intended! I like the idea of switching a lamp on remotely, giving the appearance that I’m home to any would-be burglar. Iris’s Smart Plug makes that possible.
Panic button and care pendant
Care pendants are popular devices that allow independent seniors to alert an agency or loved one of a medical emergency. The Iris panic button and care pendant are virtually the same device—push the button and trigger the alarm. However, the care pendant takes it a step further and alerts the user’s designated contact when the pendant leaves the house, as well. Iris doesn’t list an official range, but I set off a proximity alert by going into my garage, so it can’t be much more than 100 feet.
Iris Mobile app and Notifications
The Iris app push notifications don’t work. I did receive email notifications each time the system triggered, but only after a two- to five-minute delay. That’s completely unacceptable for a security product. I called Iris’ customer service to straighten things out but got disconnected after waiting on hold for 25 minutes. No big deal—happens a lot. I called back and was disconnected once again after another 15 minutes.
At this point, I decided that even if I connected with the greatest troubleshooting representative alive, my issue really came down to the software, and there’s probably not a lot a customer service rep could do for me anyway. Even if I let the lack of push notifications slide, I should receive email notifications within 10–15 seconds of the system triggering, not several minutes later. The Iris system has potential, which is why it irks me that something as simple as alerts don’t work.
User Reviews for Iris Home Security
Most user reviews reflect our own observations with the Iris system: a few bright spots, but overall an ineffective attempt at smart home security.
“The motion sensors and nice and unobtrusive, perfect for a living room or some other high use space. The smart plug has a Z-wave repeater built in, and is also great. The button has a number of uses, I configured it as a panic button in the bedroom. The contact sensors however are worthless. The transmitters are weak and loose connection with the hub constantly. And it is not easy to reconnect them with the hub when they do loose connection. I managed to get everything to work with SmartThings v2, with custom IDE code found on the internet.” – GroovyGeek, Feb. 11, 2016, Lowes.com
“First generation Iris had it’s flaws, but it was usable. Fast forward seven months later, and I have basically been sent a new “hub” that destroyed my entire security system. None of my sensors will pair. I have looked at all of the Lowe’s support blogs and videos which are worthless. Two days wasted on the phone with tech support, and I have nothing but a credit card bill for this cheap plastic. Please go with another security system.” – chrisod2002, April 10, 2016, Lowes.com
“This Iris system worked great until they sent the upgraded hub. Now nothing works. Money down the drain. And customer service is non existent.” – aggiehusk, Feb. 15, 2016, Lowes.com
Do we recommend Iris Home Security?
That’s a negative, Ghost Rider. Far too many issues and negative user reviews prevent me from recommending Iris as a viable home security option. The Smart Plug stood out as a nice piece of home automation, but I just don’t have the heart to recommend buying an Iris Hub for $60, plus another $35 apiece for each Smart Plug just so you can turn the lights on from your phone. The whole thing makes me think of the old saying “You get what you pay for.” But with Iris, you don’t even get that.