April 27, 2011

Vivint Service Review: Home Security, Home Automation, Energy Management

Vivint, formerly APX Alarm, provides monitored home security, home automation and energy management services and serves over 170,000 customers already

Vivint stands out by having one of the best websites in its industry. Vivint’s website is not only pleasing to look at and nicely done but it also openly lists the prices of its accessories, something that is hard to locate at the websites of other providers (the only caveat for the website – the light-grey font used makes it hard to read, a dark-grey font will make it better).

Vivint Packages
Vivint’s monitored service is offered in three packages – home, security, and energy.

All packages include the home monitoring service, a baseline feature, along with the GoControl panel, which allows controlling Z-wave devices at home.

Vivint GoControl Control Panel

The Security package is the least expensive and a little counter-intuitive – it has home monitoring but no video surveillance. Imagine that!  A security package with no video surveillance.

The Energy package has all the Security package features plus smart thermostat, lighting/small-appliance control, enabling controlling the home energy consumption remotely.

The Home package includes all features of the service, from home monitoring, automated door locks, smart thermostat, lighting and appliance controls to video surveillance.

Monitoring signals are sent over the GSM network (AT&T, T-Mobile or Rogers in Canada) and do not require phone lines or Internet.

Vivint Prices
All packages have a
  1. Activation fee
    • Home       $200
    • Energy     $150
    • Security    $100
  2. A monthly monitoring fee, with typical spend of $45 – 50 per month
  3. A 36-month or 42-month long monitoring contract
Items 2 and 3 are not listed on the website and may be negotiated with Vivint.

So, with a full-featured Home package, look at spending about $2,300 over the 42-month long contract. 

Vivint Accessories
The packages listed above only contain the bare minimum set of components suited for an apartment or small home. If you’d like to add additional sensors, video cameras, door locks etc, prepare to spend more (check Vivint component prices and details).

Accessories available include smart thermostat, fixed and pan-tilt IP camera, automated door locks, lighting and small appliance control, CO alarm, smoke alarm, key fob, motion detector, door and window sensors.

Vivint Z-wave thermostat

Vivint IP Cameras
Vivint provides older model IP cameras and at $150 for a fixed wireless, $200 for a pan-tilt wireless IP camera, they are expensive for what they do. With the IP cameras, you can watch your home remotely and record short video clips on detecting motion.

Vivint pan-tilt IP camera

The cameras require a fast Internet connection with good upload speeds and will need to be configured with your Internet router. Since the cameras are not tightly integrated with the rest of the service, you can get other IP cameras on your own with better price and features such as Panasonic BL-C121 or Panasonic BL-C230. These cameras have built-in motion-detectors and you could use them as well.

The Good
  • Nice website and blog – Vivint gets a +1
  • Smart thermostat is a big plus, you can remotely turn on heating/cooling for the home remotely
  • Additional (certified) z-wave devices can be added with Vivint’s cooperation
  • Home monitoring, home automation, video security all available from one provider

The Bad
  • Long monitoring contract
  • Older model IP cameras
  • Limited recording capability for IP cameras

The monthly price of $45-50 may seem high but considering you get home monitoring (over GSM), home automation and energy management for that price it seems reasonable. 

Should I Buy
If you are ok with the long contract and the monthly price, Vivint’s service is worth considering for your home. You’ll join the over 170,000 customers who already use Vivint. With Vivint, you get an integrated set of services for the home.

Vivint Alternatives
ADT Pulse is a home security, home automation service similar to Vivint that has a monthly fee of $50, a 2-year contract and iPhone/Android apps to manage your home remotely.

Or, if you like building your own system, consider MicasaVerde Vera, a DIY home automation solution. Vera is also a popular z-wave controller used to integrate z-wave devices at home.

If you want just basic home monitoring (using GSM), then Alarm Relay service (using Alarm.com) can meet the needs.

And, consider Logitech Alert if you want to better video security for the home.