Vivint Home Security
On the afternoon of May 22nd, 2011, Edith Lawellin was startled by an alarm from her hall: “Tornado warning. Evacuate immediately.” Like many residents of Joplin, Missouri, she had a storm closet (a reinforced room under the stairs). She ran for the closet, locked the door, and only minutes later, an airborne car tore through her house. Finally, only the closet was left standing. If not for her security system’s just-in-time warning, Edith is convinced she would have died that night.
Hear from some of the real Vivint customers and their experience with ordering, installation and upgrades. Learn about others claiming to bring you the best in home security, home automation and energy management and find out what sets Vivint apart from the rest. These are NOT paid actors, these people weren’t asked or paid to say these things – they use our product and love it. They wanted to share their Vivint experiences and let others know how it changed their lives.
This article walks you through a real Vivint installation experience and lets you know what to expect when you make the switch to Vivint.
Next-Generation Home Security
Many people are rightfully concerned about securing their homes, staying safe, and dabbing in home automation. Some of you have already set up IP cameras for remote surveillance and alerting, but such installations miss a lot of functionality and convenience. If you’re curious about how the pros do IP security and automation, check out this step-by-step walk-through with Vivint. You might learn a few things or, like Edith Lawellin, it could save your life.
Add one pan/tilt IP camera and swap the light/appliance switch with two newer model switches, and this is what Vivint installed in my home. The heart of the system is Vivint’s Go!Control panel, which retails for $700 bucks. We have an HVAC control panel, motion detector for the home office, Z-Wave light switch, IP camera, key fobs, door and window sensors, Kwikset Z-Wave door lock, glass breaks, and smoke detectors. Vivint has everything you need to save money and stay protected.
Available Panel Upgrades
You can see the home’s preinstalled heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) controller. Like a VCR, this device was so poorly designed that we never once (in six years) had it fully programmed. It would have been nice if Vivint had a two-in-one security panel/HVAC controller, but this isn’t in the product line-up yet. Only three screws are needed to mount the new control panel.
The Hardest Part
Strangely, the most difficult part of this process was getting power to the control panel. The installers used a device called a glow stick, which actually glows a little bit, and jammed it through the panel hole, down through the wall’s insulation, and to the power outlet located roughly four feet below it.
Pull My Chain
With a string from the panel snagged down at the outlet, installers tied a power wire to the end of it and pulled the wire back up through the wall and out to the panel plate. In this way, using a sort of strapped-down wall wart, power was drawn up through the wall to the panel. During a power outage, the panel fails over to six AA batteries. Interestingly, the 18 V Makita drill you see here died during installation. Kudos to Vivint for carrying spares of everything.
The black wire coming off the circuit board is an external antenna for the panel’s GSM cellular radio. Installers coordinate with a local GSM provider, eliminating the risk of being cut off from authorities by a snipped phone line. Vivint can hook into a land line, but it prefers wireless. The panel consumes roughly 12 W when it’s active and almost nothing in standby. It takes about an hour to fully program a panel, and the speaker outputs 85 dB at 10 feet on an alarm.
Ring The Alarm
Much like Bluetooth, Vivint’s panel wirelessly pairs with various compatible devices, including sensors and a couple of remote control key fobs. Holding down the top two fob buttons sends a panic signal. This skips the 30-second delay triggered by a normal alarm and immediately connects you with an operator able to call for emergency services. You communicate through the panel and are prompted for your password. One panel code disarms the system, but also sends a silent alarm to the police in case it’s coerced.
The Programming Process
Programming is fairly straightforward. You select the desired device type and indicate its device number. For example, we have two fobs, so we’d select either 0 or 1. After entering the a serial number, the panel waits to “hear” the device and learn its sensor ID. Our fob paired and registered a 345 MHz wireless connection. We then assigned the button that would trigger an emergency, and reviewed the finally configuration summary.
As you might expect, different sensors attach in different ways, and there can be multiple sensor types for a given task. For example, here, the installer is applying adhesive to the main sensor/transmitter unit in a sliding glass door sensor. The smaller piece of the sensor, which is just a magnet, uses a peel-back adhesive strip. When the two pieces become separated, the transmitter sends a signal to the panel which, in our case, reports a bell tone followed by a loud “Back door.”
In homes with little kids (or in cases where people may not be able to move around well), the audio cues are quite helpful. The panel can be programmed to emit different alert responses or none at all. If the panel is armed, an opened door generates a 30-second alarm (windows trigger instantly). As with most alarms, there are two arming modes. “Away” triggers based on an alert from any sensor. “Stay” onlys trigger from an external sensor, like a door or window.
Where There’s Smoke…
Yes, it seems redundant to put a smoke detector next to another smoke detector. However, there are two kinds of smoke detection technology: ionization (which came with the house) and photoelectric (used by Vivint). Whereas ionization monitors whether smoke is disrupting current flow through an ionization chamber, photoelectric technology monitors to see whether smoke particles are scattering beamed light into a receptor. Photoelectric generally requires more smoke to trigger an alarm, so Vivint equips the unit with a heat detector for double protection.
Because several of our windows use hand cranks rather than sliding designs, we picked “glass break” sensors for two rooms. These devices listen for the sound frequencies typical of shattering glass. One glass break sensor is sufficient to cover our front room windows, as well as a side window. First-gen glass breaks would trigger if someone dropped a piece of silverware on tile. Modern units are much more accurate, and require a fair amount of actual glass breaking in order to cause an alarm.
Shave And A Wood Cut
Now the scary part. Watching anyone carve into the permanent wood of your home is disquieting, though here it was necessary. After removing the old deadbolt, we had to carve a recess into the door in order for the new bolt plate to fit and not obstruct the closing of the door. I noted that the installers were very conservative here, only shaving off as much as absolutely necessary in order to get a flush fit.
Drill, Baby, Drill!
More destruction. As with the sliding doors, Vivint relies on magnetic sensors for wooden doors, preferring to drill into the wood of both door and door frame into which “recessed door contacts” will snugly fit. The sensors, like most of Vivint’s hardware, are made by 2Gig. Today, these sensors are proprietary, but Vivint tells us that a move to industry standards is likely in the future. With no other real competitors in this market, there’s little need for Vivint to change.
As you can see, there’s not much to these contact sensors. The tube has a 2.5” length, and the lithium battery (rated for five years) takes up nearly half if its interior. The magnetic sensor must have at least 0.625” between itself and the magnet plug that fits into an opposing hole in the door. A 0.85” gap is typical. Naturally, this leaves quite a mess, but our installers were great about cleaning everything up.
A Major Lock Upgrade
Now for the other side of the door. The new deadbolt mechanism is motorized, and to lock it from the outside, you need only press the lock button in the center of the keypad. To unlock from the outside, you enter a four-digit PIN on the keypad and hit the lock button, or you can use a key in case the battery or lock motor fails. Note that higher-quality locks like these are less prone to increasingly common “bump key” break-ins.
Power And Motor
Inside, here’s how the door lock gets connected. The outside keypad wires in and connects to a circuit board which, in turn, connects to a motor that turns the deadbolt. After mounting to a plate that screws into the deadbolt’s circular frame, the whole apparatus is powered by four AA batteries. Note the DIP switches for controlling features and the program button for adding new PIN codes into the keypad. We added these same entry codes into the Go!Control panel to designate different users.
Our installer is holding down the pairing button on Vivint’s latest model lighting and small appliance control switch. With this, the Go!Control panel can issue on/off commands to lights or similar low-power devices, such as a coffee maker, via Z-Wave wireless communications. We’re able to use Vivint’s online scheduling capabilities to control these lights and simulate people being home when we’re away on vacation.
The only issue we had with Vivint’s hardware choices concerned its IP cameras. Shown here are the service’s only two options: one fixed and one able to pan/tilt. Both max out at 640×480 resolution, have 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, and 10/100 Ethernet connectivity, and record in MPEG-4. Their image quality is fair, but at these prices ($149 and $199, respectively), we expected better. If nothing else, we’d like to see infrared added for night surveillance.
Like most decent IP camera kits, though, you get the ability to establish monitoring zones within each camera view from within the Web-based management GUI. You drag with your mouse to create the monitoring area, then use the slider to indicate sensitivity. For example, within one field of view, you may wish to monitor the doorway, but not the scene outside of a window. You can also establish recording schedules, email alerts, view live video, and review saved 30-second clips.
Vivint’s Web portal is the one-stop location from which to monitor and manage most aspects of any installation. The Security tab, shown here, offers the summary view, detailing the presence of an active alarm, arming state, and the status of all sensors. In other views within this tab, you can monitor all sensors and change their names, create new users and manage their access rights, and establish arming reminders in case the system isn’t armed by an expected time.
For those who purchase the HVAC panel for their Go!Controller system, Vivint claims that its Energy Star-recommended HVAC templates save an average of $24 per month, though we don’t yet have enough data to confirm. There are four such templates. We opted for the second-most aggressive, then tweaked it to be more in line with our family’s schedule. The emPower tab also provides control over all connected lights and locks, as well as rule management for triggered events and automation schedules (such as the previously-described vacation lighting).
Power In Your Pocket
Our favorite aspect of Vivint’s system is its mobile apps for Android, iPhone/iPod touch, and BlackBerry. Actually, any Web-enabled phone will work, but the native apps are far more convenient. Live video looks decent over a 3G connection, although you can only view one camera at a time. On the iPhone, you can view saved video clips, but this feature isn’t currently present on the Android app. Unfortunately, Vivint omits from both its mobile and Web interfaces the ability to start recording manually.
More Mobile Screens
Here’s a closer look at three screens within the iPhone app. The ability to set a dimmer switch amount within the lighting module is a great perk. The lock screen is self-explanatory. Vivint’s thermostat controls from the mobile UI are surprisingly strong, allowing you either to select a schedule or perform a manual override until the next scheduled setting kicks in. In general, we find that it takes about five seconds for a phone command execute, although HVAC commands are slower.
HVAC Panel Installation
For us, the HVAC panel was the last bit of hardware to be installed. As the old panel was removed, our technicians used label stickers to make moving to the new panel mistake-proof. This bit of wiring aside, there was little more to installing the HVAC panel than there was to installing any of the sensors. The Go!Control panel handles most of the programming intelligence, and yes—the panel can be remotely flashed with newer firmware.
Wired For Savings
Truth be told, we found that the hardest part of using the new HVAC system was breaking old habits of manually setting temperatures on its touch-sensitive screen. For several weeks, we didn’t take the time to fully configure the online heating and cooling templates, and we paid for it on our energy bills. Once we got an aggressive automated schedule in place, we started saving energy compared to prior year levels.
Vivint installed over $4000 of gear for us. Is the hardware worth the initial charge and ongoing service subscription? That depends. Most home security outfits still install CCTV systems without remote viewing capabilities, heating/cooling system integration, mobile control, and all the rest. As with any type of security, the more you have to lose, the better your protection technology should be. Vivint is state-of-the-art, and now the company is gearing up to integrate solar energy in its offerings. Yes, the margin Vivint charges on its hardware is high. But in many weeks of use, it’s all performed flawlessly. Vivint alarm response has been lightning quick, the company’s tech support is outstanding, and we even like how the Go!Control panel puts a next-day weather forecast in its interface…not to mention those tornado warnings. Perhaps that’s another good way to assess the value in this equipment: go ask Edith Lawellin in Joplin, Missouri if she thinks it’s worth it.
Vivint is more than just energy management solutions, home security and home automation – it’s the best energy management solutions, home security system and home automation on the market today.
Vivint Energy Management – $57.99/mo
Conserve Energy and Save Money
Control Your Lights and Appliances from Your Phone
Manage your Energy Consumption and Help Protect the Planet.
At Vivint, we want to help you live smarter. And what better way to do that than helping you save money while protecting our planet? That’s why we offer an Energy package.
With only a $149 activation fee,* plus the monthly monitoring charge, this package provides simple, affordable energy management. It comes standard with the products listed to the right. You can also add or subtract products to create a unique package that meets the needs of your home, your family, and your life. The prices at the bottom of the page reflect the value of each product.
- 1 smart thermostat
- 1 lamp/appliance control
- 12 energy efficient light bulbs
- Home Security
Vivint Home Security – $49.99/mo
Protect Your Home and Family
Live Smart, Feel Safe
Safeguard Your Home Against Theft, Fire, and Intrusion.
In a world where people can connect with each other in seconds from across the globe, it only makes sense that home security should be intelligent too.
That’s why when you choose the Home Security package from Vivint, you not only get premier protection—locks, alarms, motion detectors, and a variety of sensors—but you also get a centralized panel that enables your devices to talk to each other to ensure that every area of your home is safe.
With only a $99 activation fee,* plus the monthly monitoring charge, this package provides premier security.
- 1 Go!Control
- 3 door/window sensors
- 1 motion detector
- 1 key fob
- 1 yard sign
Vivint Home Automation – $68.99/mo
Control Your Home from Anywhere
control your home even if you’re not there
Lock your doors, turn off lights, arm your system, and much more.
When you’re looking for a comprehensive way to connect the technologies that run your home, the Vivint Home package is the answer. It features all the products in our Security and Energy packages, but also gives you a lot more.
It includes automatic door locks, video surveillance, and non-emergency alerts. With only a $199 activation fee,* plus the monthly monitoring charge, this package provides simple, affordable home automation.
From premier security, to heating and cooling, to access control and video surveillance, our Home package meets your needs today while helping you prepare for a smarter future. And you can manage the entire system through your computer or smart-phone, so you always know exactly what’s happening at your home—even when you’re not there.
- 1 video camera
- 1 automatic door lock
- 1 motion detector
- Home Security
- Energy Management
Order Vivint Today: (888) 481-5385
*$149 is the lowest possible activation fee for new customer activation and depends on an approved credit score.
*$99 is the lowest possible activation fee for new customer activation and depends on an approved credit score.
*$199 is the lowest possible activation fee for new customer activation and depends on an approved credit score.