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Iris by Lowe’s – Tips and Tricks

I have been a long time user of the Iris by Lowe’s home automation system

I began using the Iris by Lowe’s home automation system years ago when it was first released. Earlier this year when Lowe’s announced the addition of optional professional monitoring security services, I quickly jumped on board. This blog post is dedicated to what I have learned over the years as I built out my Iris by Lowe’s system. I will offer more tips and trips as I run across them.

I use a combination of Iris motion sensors, contact sensors, smart AC plugs, surveillance cameras, and sirens to secure and automate my home and three outbuildings. While I know of other Iris users who have hundreds of devices, I have kept my investment reasonable. My wife and I enjoy tailored automation these days whether we are home or away. My insurance company likes my system too — reduced premiums.

I have learned a few tricks to save money over the years. After all Iris devices aren’t bargain-basement cheap. For example, I use third-party D-Link security cameras — at one third the cost of Iris cameras. I also use KMC smart plugs in lieu of Lowe’s Iris smart plugs when my AC switching requirements are basic. A KMC costs $10. An Iris smart plug costs $40. I will address these specifics later in this post.

The Iris system is hub based. Think of the hub as the central nerve system of your home automation and security system. All devices communicate with the hub wirelessly and the hub is connected to the Internet.

Hub placement

It is critical to centrally locate the hub in your home. And the hub must be connected via an Ethernet cable to your home network which is connected to the Internet. Failure the locate the hub centrally will give you nothing but headaches in the future when some far-away devices can’t connect wirelessly to the hub. Or devices drop their connections intermittently. These are RANGE issues. Devices can only be ‘x’ feet away from the hub. How many feet, you ask? It depends on your particular home, but I have devices in outbuildings that are over 250 feet away from my hub and they solidly communicate with the hub. The hub must be connected to your network via an Ethernet cable. Run a cable to a central location — if you can’t do it yourself, an electrician should be able to do it for you easily at little cost.

Iris Contact Sensors

From Lowe’s, Amazon or Ebay you may find two different types, first and second generation contact sensors. Functionally they are the same. Though 1st gen costs less, a 2nd gen sensor can be mounted with a slightly wider gap between, for example, a door frame and the door itself. If that isn’t important to you, buy the 1st gen instead.

Iris Motion Sensors

The only false alarms I’ve ever had with Iris have come from motion sensors. Consequently I use motion sensors sparingly and keep them as close to the hub as possible. Iris tech support has told me quick temperature changes or other local environmental issues may be the cause (yes, quite vague)  I use contact sensors in lieu of motion sensors whenever possible.

Iris Smart Plugs

I have two AC switching applications for smart plugs throughout my home, advanced and basic

  • An example of an advanced application would be to use a contact or motion sensor to turn a smart plug off or on which controls a lamp or other  household device. Or schedule a lamp to go off and on throughout the night for security purposes. Or control other devices when I am away from home, e.g. turn on a space heater one hour before I get home.
  • An example of a basic application is to turn off or on a grow light lamp at scheduled times. The grow light is simply on for ‘x’ hours per day. It does not need to work in conjunction with any Iris system home automation or security parameters. Why spend $40 for an Iris smart plug, when a $10 KMC smart plug which connects wirelessly to my router (not through the Iris hub) works just as well?
  • Or stay within the Lowe’s Iris family and use an Iris Wi-Fi Smart Switch at half the cost of an Iris Smart Plug. There is an added advantage with this approach — you use the same Iris app on your phone to control/schedule these plugs as you do for the rest of your Iris devices.

Iris Security Cameras

Lowe’s sells indoor and outdoor security cameras for its Iris system. But my camera requirements are steep. I have (need) six outdoor cameras and four indoor cameras. At Iris camera pricing that would cost well over $1,000.

Instead I use inexpensive D-Link webcams (930L/932L models). These D-Links work perfectly and are reliable. I access the cameras with my desktop computer when I am home or by using free D-Link app on my iPhone when I am away. If you happen to be in Mac household, there is terrific a D-Link ++ Viewer program available for your iMac — watch multiple camera feeds on the same screen.

Another security camera approach I use is wireless motion and sound detection security cameras which automatically record video clips to the cloud. For $25 you can buy excellent WyzeCam security cameras which will record 12-second video clips and store in the cloud for you on a 14-day rotating basis for FREE. I use two per room or area to insure I get staggered footage. Setup is amazingly easy. Wyze Labs, the company behind WyzeCams, is an American company based in Seattle. I predict Wyze is going to shake up the security camera industry. You don’t have to pay over $100 for a good cam — then pay a monthly charge for cloud storage. I highly recommend WyzeCams.

What WyzeCam says about its cameras:

Our first product, the WyzeCam, is the solution to a problem that one of our cofounders faced. He had been looking for a smart home camera to stay connected and protect his family with while on the road. He found that better-recognized brands were ridiculously overpriced for their quality and cheaper ones were unreliable. We believe consumers deserve better than that.

And I couldn’t agree with them more…


…to be continued…