Viper Home Starter Kit
Jealousy. Cranky, burning jealousy is how a lot of home automation products make me feel. I’m sure the Nest thermostat is a neat device to use…if you have a thermostat, which I very much do not. Likewise, I’d love to test out the Goji Smart Lock next year, but my Luddite boyfriend is still rocking a feature phone, which rules that out too.
So I was excited to set up Viper’s Home Starter Kit even if just to see how successfully I could automate the security of a mostly analog house built in 1908. And after nearly four weeks of testing, over 4000 words and 12 pages of notes on all the tinkering and testing, I had the Viper Home Starter Kit running exactly as I wanted. Here’s the nitty gritty on what was good, what was frustrating, and what was confusing.
Viper claims its Home Starter Kit can be set up in about 15 minutes, and on the hardware side, I found that to be true. The Home Starter Kit consists of the Smart Hub, one Motion Detector, and one two-piece Magnetic Door/Window Sensor. I additionally had an Indoor Siren ($49.99), a Wireless Camera/Motion Detector ($149.99), and another Magnetic/Door Window Sensor set ($24.99). Viper also sells a Remote Control Key Fob, which comes in particularly handy if someone in your house doesn’t have a smartphone.
Each device is sleek, lightweight, and white in a way that evokes Apple’s aesthetics—the chunkiest pieces, the motion detectors, still fit in my hand. The hub uses a 128-bit AES encryption for data security, and has a maximum RF range of 1968 feet in open air. It can support up to 64 security devices, 24 safety devices, and 32 users and is controlled using an iOS or Android app (or the optional key fob).
The motion and window sensors are all battery operated and use two-way RF communications. The motion sensor can distinguish between people and pets and has a multizone spherical lens to cover 90 degrees horizontal and 105 degrees vertical.
The camera uses two-way RF communication to capture video, up to 5 frames per second—which is not a ton of frames. With a shooting range of up to 32.8 feet, it provides real-time capture of full-color live streaming video in short, laggy, spurts. I was able to walk past the camera in my hallway, then back into my office in time to watch myself on the video.
The siren has a decibel level of 85 dBA with up to 2000 feet of range—it’s decently loud, especially in the room it’s placed in. It could be heard, albeit faintly, outside of my house as well. When an alarm goes off, you also receive emails and text message alerts about the event. Viper also sends emails about power failures and tampering.
Setting up the Viper hardware is simple enough: Put a battery pack into the Smart Hub, connect it to your router with an Ethernet cable, and plug in the power. Then register your Smart Hub (also referred to as the “Central Controller”) on home.viper.com, after which you’re taken to the home management center page to set up your account and add each of your sensors.
This is also where you select your service plan; like most home security systems, Viper is subscription based. For two months you get free premium service, which allows for up to 30 users, will store your event history for 60 days, and also provides 60 days worth of video storage, 5 seconds of camera feed per intrusion detection, live streaming on the camera for up to 45 seconds, and Z-Wave control. The free basic plan, meanwhile, allows one user, only five events stored in the history (which adds up quickly), and standard motion detection. For $9.99 a month, Premium is pretty much the only way to go.
Easy enough, so far. Next, put batteries in your sensors: Door/window sensors get mounted so the dots on each are lined up. You’ll see the larger one flash green when they’re close, red when they’re separated.
Motion sensors (and hence, also the camera) need to be mounted at least four feet from the ceiling and six feet from the floor, which wasn’t a problem but did limit where I could put them. I wound up putting a motion sensor in the front hallway, the camera/motion sensor in the upstairs hallway, and sensors on both the front door and kitchen window. The siren went on top of a bookshelf where it was unlikely to be noticed.
Each device has adhesive strips on the back to mount them on your walls. A note about these adhesive strips: The ones on the motion sensors and camera are particularly hearty and pulled away large-ish chunks of plaster from my wall when I tried to move them.
Pulling extremely carefully while sliding a knife along the edges of the adhesive mitigated the damage somewhat. And for what it’s worth the door/window sensors were easy to twist off with no damage (although the one on the front door fell off multiple times because it was unevenly sat in the door frame).
Adding devices to the web dashboard is also relatively easy: From the Devices tab you select a device from the Add New Device menu. If the device has batteries, the system should find it. However, the menu has no option for Wireless Camera/Motion Detector—that is added under Camera. Hopefully you’ve got a good intuition because, like the rest of the software side, that detail isn’t provided for you anywhere.
Once you’ve added the device you can name it, provide a location and type, and customize how you want the device to be set. Here you can tweak Arm Stay and Custom Arm settings, decide what happens when a device is armed and it detects an event (always trigger alarm, allow delayed entry/exit, or allow walking through device), and enable the option for a chime to go off when a door/window sensor is not armed but detects an event.
Once you’ve set up these options, you’re ready to control the Viper system via the Viper Connect smartphone app—which should not be confused with their automobile offering, Viper SmartStart, which lets you to lock, unlock, arm, and disarm your vehicle (among other options).
Viper Home Starter Kit
The hardware in the Viper Home Starter Kit is super easy to set up. The software is where we encountered some road bumps including dual log-in confusion and the system going offline at random. A software upgrade would go a long way here.
- The hardware components were all fairly easy to set up.
- Alarms and alerts worked very well.
- Two log-in's within the same app resulted in confusion and password errors.
- The software isn't intuitive enough to not include a more detailed guide.