The world of the smart home can be hard to parse if you're a newcomer. Which ecosystem do you jump into? Do you need a smart home hub? How do you figure out which devices you can install, and how do you install them? It can mount up to a lot of unwanted stress.
So much stress that you may just swear off smart homes entirely. Maybe you believe you're not tech savvy enough, or that it's too complicated to be worth it. If only there were some kind of service that did everything for you, so that you didn't have to lift a finger. Enter Vivint and its all-on-one smart home service.
Vivint not only aims to protect your house, but helps you automate it, with someone walking you through exactly how everything works as they install it.
So how does it all work? We've put together this handy guide that explains all.
Vivint: What is it?
Vivint started as a home security company back in 1999, gradually growing and attracting more customers as it introduced home monitoring and other security features. In 2014, it started to creep into the smart home market with the purchase of cloud storage company Space Monkey.
From there, it sealed partnerships with Amazon and Nest and started introducing its own smart home products. More recently, it announced a new partnership with Google, giving away two free Google Home Minis to Vivint customers so that they can use Google Assistant to command their smart home systems.
Vivint takes these devices, combines them with its customer and security support and puts them into smart home packages. Unlike other smart home companies, you can't really go on the website and easily select what products you want and what you don't.
You'll need to call Vivint and speak to a customer service rep, who will walk you through what your options are, but we'll get to that in a bit. First, you should know that Vivint's service is built on two pillars: home security and home automation.
Home security is in Vivint's DNA. It combines a number of sensors and monitors with 24/7 monitoring from staff. Those staff are on hand to respond should anything bad happen in your home. Thare isn't just burglaries either, but fire, floods and carbon monoxide.
Home automation is usually what you think of when you think of the smart home. Vivint pairs its own devices with that of partners, like Nest and Philips, to give you a bit more control. That means doing everything from opening and closing your garage to controlling your lights or setting the temperature.
Vivint: How to get it
The Vivint process is actually extremely intensive. You'll first have to give Vivint a call, and an employee will ask you a number of questions about your lifestyle and your home. They're doing this to get a sense of what you need and how they can customise their system to you.
Obviously, they'll push as many devices and sensors as they can on you ‚Äď but if it doesn't make sense for you to have a carbon monoxide sensor or door and window sensors, you don't need to add them. For instance, when we built our own package we refused Vivint's own smart lock and video doorbell because we couldn't install them.
Once this step is done, Vivint will typically send a 'Vivint Pro' to your home to check things out. This in-home consultation is free and Vivint Pros are actual employees of Vivint. For comparison, Nest works with third-party installers and certifies them as Nest Pros. While those professionals work with Nest, they don't actually work for Nest. Vivint does things differently.
The Vivint Pro will walk around your home with you and check to make sure that you can install the devices and services you discussed in your phone consultation. They'll take a look at windows and doors and plugs and whatever you need.
The installation process
Once they do that, they'll schedule an installation session with you. During this step, your Vivint Pro will first bring every device and unbox them in front of you. They may ask some final questions about device placement, and they will make sure you understand exactly what they're doing at all times.
For instance, our Vivint Pro continually let us know that certain sensors needed to be drilled into the wall, and asked permission before each installation. The Pros will typically do their best to avoid making life too complicated for you. Our Vivint Pro was worried he'd have to install a range extender for the hub to cover the garage, but found a way to make do without it.
Installation is an all-day affair, taking roughly six hours. It's a long, drawn out process as the Vivint Pros like to install every device together. Once installation is complete, you'll get a complete walkthrough of every feature available to you. Your Vivint Pro will break down each setting Vivint offers and how to find them in both the app and physical hub.
The Pros will also walk you through some commands for Google Home and Amazon Echo, depending on which device you choose to use with your system. By the way, this walkthrough is for both the companion and the hub. So you'll have a good understanding of how to use both before they leave.
Vivint: The features
Each Vivint smart home system is going to be different, catering to the needs of the home and the owner. But, for the sake of this guide, let's assume you get everything installed. What can you do?
It all starts at the hub, called the Vivint SkyControl Panel. This is your one-stop physical hub for controlling everything in your home. It uses the Z-Wave smart home protocol, so all of your Vivint-made smart home products will run on that too.
The panel allows you to quickly arm and disarm your system, and you'll have around a minute to get out of your home or to disarm the system when you arrive back home. There's also a silent alarm. So if you get held up in your home, you can activate a silent alarm that makes it look like you disarmed the system, but instead alerts Vivint, who will alert the authorities.
Vivint's panel can also contact emergency services for you, if you'd rather go direct. Also, the panel has two-way voice, so not only can you talk through it when asking for help, the person on the other end can respond to you.
The missing manuals
The panel will allow you to see feeds from your smart cameras, which include Vivint's indoor and outdoor cameras as well as its video doorbell. It comes with 30 days of storage for 24/7 recorded video. You'll also get to control both your garage and door locks with the panel, plus your thermostat and lights ‚Äď which can be done either with Philips Hue or Vivint's smart plugs.
All of this can also be commanded with both Google Home and Amazon Echo, though Home has turned into Vivint's preferred option thanks to its new partnership with Google. That, again, gives you two Google Home Minis to use with your Vivint smart home.
You can also build automations on the panel, and the companion app has all the same features as the actual smart panel. This ensures that everyone in your home has access to your smart home and its capabilities, rather than just one person with access to the main account. Speaking of, you can also create temporary guest accounts that will allow others to get some access to your Vivint smart home should you be on vacation and need a house sitter.
Vivint: Packages and devices
The pricing on Vivint packages is truly up to how much you want or need to install in your home. The base package is $39.99 a month and includes a SkyControl Panel, access to the app, two window and door monitors, a motion sensor, a carbon monoxide sensor and 24/7 monitoring.
From there, you can add a number of additional sensors (like a glass shatter sensor and smoke sensors). You can also add other devices, which include Amazon Echo, Nest Thermostat E, Kwikset Smart Lock and the Linear Garage Door Control.
Vivint also makes its own devices, which we explain below.
Vivint Doorbell Camera
The Doorbell Camera records up to 720p with a field of view of 180-degrees, which gives you a wide look at your entire front entrance. Naturally, there's two-way talk and one-way video so that you can see and converse with your guests should you need to.
There's also people detection, so that you won't get a notification every time a dog or cat or car moves past your home. You'll only be alerted when a person is in front of your door.
Vivint Element Thermostat
The Element comes with an "assistant" AI that combines geolocation, built-in humidity sensors and local weather reports to constantly optimise the temperature and air quality in your home. It's also got Alexa and Google Assistant support, so you can command your temperature with your voice if you need to.
Vivint Ping Camera
Similar to the Doorbell Camera, the Ping Camera records things at 720p and has infrared night vision so that you'll be able to check in on things when it's dark. There's also two way talk here.
There's a button on the Ping camera that you can push, and when you do so people in your home can communicate with you while you're using the app. It's perhaps most useful if you're parents and need to check in on the kids or babysitter.
Vivint Outdoor Camera
Like the other Vivint cameras, this one has 720p HD recording with infrared night vision. Because it's an outdoor camera though, it's also built for the outdoors and is mounted with screws somewhere outside of your home. It also has motion detection, so if it sees something it'll start recording at once.