Much of what simplifies our lives has become effortless. The myriad of devices we rely upon automatically amplify control and spare us time, almost always without complication; unlike the perpetual noon signified by an old VCR, in today’s devices there is no effort or learning curve involved in change. Typing with our thumbs in swipes and stabs while our car parks itself in front of the restaurant that serves those Instagram-worthy dishes can be learned and perfected before the next status update hits our social media feeds. It truly is a brave new world — and it doesn’t have to begin outside your doorstep.
The same levels of remote control can now just as easily be had for your home. The Iris Home Management System ($179+) from Lowe’s combines World’s Fair levels of home automation with the ease of operation afforded by a single app. At a glance Iris lets you check to see who (if anyone) is home, make on-the-fly adjustments to heating and cooling, control an appliance or even set the alarm you forgot to hit when you ran out the door this morning, all from your smartphone, tablet or via Iris’s intuitive web-based software. The good news is that Iris is affordable. The better news is that installation is a cinch — we’re even going to walk you through it.
We used Iris’s top-of-the-line Smart Kit ($299), which gives users the ability to connect and control various security features of their home, as well as their furnace and some other toys. An alarm system, complete with sensors to monitor doors, windows and motion is included as well as a smart plug, range extender and a smart thermostat. While hooking up that last piece may sound daunting, it shouldn’t. With five boxes on the table and an hour to kill, we grabbed some rudimentary hand tools, booted up the ole laptop and set to work.
From the Iris homepage we set up our account and registered our Smart Hub — the heart of the system. This little black box is what handles all of the communication between users and connected devices and is the first step in what will amount to very little work. Simply connect it to your modem/router with the included Ethernet cable and then plug the unit in with the included power cord. A steady green LED light will come on when the Smart Hub is set up and ready. Ours immediately began updating itself with the latest firmware while we unboxed the rest of our goodies.
A good rule of thumb for all of the devices is to power them up as near to the hub as possible: it makes registration and activation on your network a speedy affair. The keypad and sensors were first on our list so we outfitted them with their included batteries and listened for Iris to beep its approval. Both of the door sensors and the motion detector are mounted using the included two-way tape, and can even be removed and adjusted more than once. Make sure to mount the door units with their black dots aligned and you’ll see a green light blink when your door opens and closes. For the keypad you’ll want to break out a drill to make some pilot holes in its rear panel. After that, simply mount that panel near your front door with the included drywall plugs and screws and slide the keypad onto it, securing it with a tiny screw that you will drop at least once — so remember to close that heat register first.
Both the smart plug and range extender install simply by plugging them in. Again, make sure to do this as near to the hub as possible. They can be moved wherever you like after they’ve been registered. To make sure we were on the right track with everything so far, we popped back over to the laptop and saw that all was good. We also took a couple seconds to play with the smart plug, turning the lamp we had it plugged into on and off from the other side of the house, and to set up individual alarm passcodes for everyone in the house. If you’re like us, you won’t share the codes with them right away — laughing at the panic of family members during an impromptu alarm can be fun.
The smart thermostat installation is only slightly more involved than anything else so far; wiring is involved, after all. Before setting out make sure to turn off your furnace at the switch — you don’t need to get zapped — and do yourself a favor by actually reading through the instructions first. It may go against your manly mindset but, unless you know your RH from your Y wire, you’ll want to have those references handy. It’s not a bad idea to take a quick photo of your existing wiring before swapping things around and, once you start disconnecting things, tape or rig a pencil to the wire cluster so it won’t disappear through the hole in the wall from whence it came.
Once it’s wired and hung on the wall and your furnace is running again, you need to mate the thermostat to the hub. Simply press the menu button on the thermostat and look for the “mate” button on the left side under the radio tower icon. Press it once to get into the network screen and again to prompt it to start talking with the hub. Like before, the hub will beep when everything is ready to go. That beep also means it’s quitting time, big guy, so grab a cold one, tweet your peeps, post a smug selfie and enjoy: you’ve just turned you home into an automated castle.