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LifeShield Smart Home Security Kit

December 13, 2018

The LifeShield Smart Home Security Kit ($199) is a flexible home security system that also controls numerous smart home devicesincluding door locks, garage door openers, smart plugs, and thermostats. It’s very easy to install, and it offers both self and professional monitoring options. It also supports IFTTT applets and Amazon Alexa voice commands. Night vision image quality from the indoor camera is a bit grainy, but that doesn’t prevent the LifeShield system from becoming our latest Editors’ Choice for DIY home security systems.

Flexible Kits and Pricing

LifeShield offers several variations of its DIY home security kit. The Essentials system comes with a base station, a keypad, a keychain fob, four door/window sensors, a motion sensor, a fire safety sensor, and an Asus Memo Pad 7 tablet with LifeShield software that you can use to control everything. The fire safety sensor isn’t actually a smoke detector, but instead listens for your existing smoke detector to generate an alert. The Security Advantage system gets you everything in the Essentials system as well as two additional door/window sensors (for a total of six), one additional motion sensor (for a total of two), and an indoor security camera.

The Advantage system that we reviewed is currently sold exclusively through Home Depot or Groupon. It has a base station, a keypad, a keychain fob, four door/window sensors, a motion sensor, a fire safety sensor, the tablet, and an indoor camera.

Pricing and monitoring options vary. The Advantage kit goes for $199 with self-monitoring, or you can sign up for a three-year monitoring plan for $24.99 per month and receive a $200 Home Depot gift card. You can also opt for a $29.99 month-to-month plan, but you don’t get the gift card.

The Security Essentials kit has a direct purchase price of $199.99 in which you buy the hardware from LifeShield upfront. You can self-monitor using the mobile app for free, or subscribe to a no-contract month-to-month professional monitoring service for $24.99 per month. A three-year subscription lowers the monitoring price to $20 per month. Or, you can rent the hardware, pay nothing upfront, and commit to a three-year contract where you pay $29.99 per month (which includes monitoring) with a $99 activation fee. However, you don’t own the equipment after the three years are up.

The Security Advantage kit has a direct purchase price of $299 and month-to-month monitoring costs $29.99 per month. If you commit to a three-year monitoring contract, that price drops to $24.99 per month. The three-year rental option costs nothing upfront, but you’ll pay $39.99 per month and a $99 activation fee. At the time of this review, LifeShield is throwing in two additional indoor cameras when you choose this option.

Lifeshield’s pricing structure is a bit lower than what you’ll pay with competitor, SimpliSafe. For example, the SimpliSafe Essentials package costs $195, but it only comes with three door/window sensors, a motion sensor, and a keypad. You don’t get the key fob, fire safety sensor, or the control tablet that you get with Lifeshield. And, while SimpliSafe’s monthly monitoring charges are only $14.99, you have to pay an additional $10 per month for the Interactive Plan if you want to arm and disarm the system using the mobile app and receive SMS and email alerts.

Additional component pricing is pretty much in line with other DIY security systems, with a few exceptions. Extra door/windows sensors are reasonably priced at $14.99 each, and extra motion sensors cost $24.99 each, but flood and freeze sensors are pricey at $70 apiece compared with SimpliSafe’s prices ($19.99 and $29.99, respectively). LifeShield doesn’t offer quite as many add-on components choices as SimpliSafe, but it has something that SimpliSafe doesn’t: a Z-Wave radio. That means you can add numerous third-party Z-Wave components including garage door openers, light bulbs, sirens, thermostats, and more.

Components and Features

The base station measures 1.7 by 9.0 by 6.9 inches (HWD) and is glossy white with slightly rounded corners. Inside are a 105dB siren and Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and cellular radios (the cellular radio is a fallback in case your Wi-Fi is down). You can also connect the base station to a landline using the phone jack on the back panel. Also around back are LAN, USB, and power jacks, as well as a reset button.

The touchpad has 0-9 buttons, star and pound buttons, an Off button, and Stay, Away, and Inst (Instant) arming buttons. It also has a small 2.5 inch LCD status panel. It’s powered by two AA batteries and comes with hardware for mounting on a wall.

The indoor camera captures 720p video at 30fps. It measures 3.7 by 2.4 by 1.5 inches and sits atop a stand that gives you tilt and swivel adjustability. The lens has a relatively narrow 66-degree field of view and uses eight infrared LEDs for night vision. The camera has an 802.11n Wi-Fi radio and can also connect to your network using a wired connection. It offers motion and sound detection, and has a microSD card slot for local storage. The back panel has an LAN port, reset and WPS buttons, a power jack, and a Privacy button.

The door/window sensors are 2.6 by 1.0 by 0.5 inches and can be attached using double-sided tape or mounting screws, both of which are included. The motion sensor is 3.4 by 2.4 by 1.3 inches and can be mounted using double-sided tape or with mounting screws. The puck-shaped fire safety sensor is 2.3 inches in diameter and 1.2 inches in depth. It too can be mounted using double-sided tape or screws. Finally, the 2.3-by-1.3-inch key fob has Stay, Away, and Instant arming buttons, as well as Panic and Off buttons.

You can control the system from the included tablet, with your phone using the free Android or iOS mobile app, or from a PC using the web-based app. The app is thoughtfully designed and makes it easy to arm and disarm the system, control home automation devices, check event history, and even see what’s going on in your neighborhood.

The home screen tells you the state of your system (armed, disarmed) and has buttons for Stay (partially armed while home), Away (fully armed), and Instant (armed with no entry/exit delay) modes. Below these buttons is a video panel that displays the last image captured by the camera. Tap the panel and the play arrow to view a live stream with buttons for manual recording, taking a snapshot, and accessing a history of saved video clips. To view the stream in full-screen mode, flip your phone sideways.

Scroll down from the video panel to see a history of all security events including arm and disarm activity, motion detection, open and closed sensors, and camera recordings. Below the history panel is a Lights and Appliances panel where you can control any installed smart plugsand other Z-Wave devices, and below that is a section for controlling any installed Z-Wave door locks. If you scroll all the way down to the very bottom of the screen, you’ll see a CrimeWatchmap that shows all reported theft, assault, and vandalism events in your neighborhood. Tap any event to see where and when it occurred.

Use the gear icon in the upper right corner to access the Settings menus where you can add and remove devices, enable arm/disarm alerts, and configure SMS and email alerts. Here you can also create automation rules to have installed devices work together and set security settings such as exit delay, one-touch arming, and monitoring on/off.

Installation and Performance

Designed for easy installation, the LifeShield Advantage kit comes with a comprehensive user guide with installation tips and instructions, and each box is labeled in the order in which they are to be installed.

The Step 1 box contains the base, a power adapter, LAN and phone cables, and a wall mount. Following the user guide, I plugged in the base and opened the Step 2 box, which holds the wall-mounted keypad and the Asus MemoPad 7 touchpad. I fired up the touchpad, connected it to my Wi-Fi network, and entered the master code printed on the box and in the user guide.

After creating a new password, I tapped Get Started and verified my address, primary and secondary emergency contact information, created a monitoring passcode, and answered a security question. I then added my phone number to receive text alerts, selected which events I wanted to be alerted to, and was given a choice to watch a video tutorial on how to set up the system. I tapped next, chose Ethernet as my connection type (you can also connect the base to your network wirelessly), and used the included LAN cable to connect the base to my router. Within seconds the LED light turned solid green, indicating a connection to the LifeShield servers, and I was ready to set up my devices.

The only device I had to actually install was the indoor camera, as all of the sensors are pre-paired before shipping and only require that you pull the battery tab to activate them. To set up the camera, I tapped the camera tab on the Devices screen and followed the instructions to connect it to my router using the included LAN cable. Within 30 seconds the app displayed a Wi-Fi settings button which I used to connect the camera to my Wi-Fi network. Once connected, I was prompted to unplug the camera, disconnect it from my router, and relocate it. I restored power, and after several minutes it was up and running and a live stream appeared in the app.

The LifeShield sensors worked like a charm. I immediately received push and email alerts whenever a sensor was triggered, and the siren was loud enough to be heard throughout my house. I installed a pair of smart plugs and a door lock and they responded instantly to my on/off and lock/unlocked commands.

The system always followed my rule to have a smart plug turn on when a door/window sensor was opened, and my IFTTT applet to have a Netgear Arlo camera begin recording when the front door was unlocked worked every time. I had no trouble using Alexa voice commands to arm and disarm the system and control Z-Wave devices

My only performance gripe involves the camera. Its daytime (color) video shows good color, but its night vision (black-and-white) video is grainy. Moreover, the camera’s narrow field of view limits how much of the room you can monitor. SimpliSafe’s $99 add-on camera is similarly underwhelming.

Conclusions

Easy installation, reasonable prices, and flexible monitoring options are all good reasons to consider the LifeShield Smart Home Security Kit. You can monitor the system on your own using the mobile app, choose a three-year, 24/7 professional monitoring plan, or go with a month-to-month plan that gives you professional monitoring only when you need it. Although LifeShield doesn’t offer as many add-on components as SimpliSafe, its support for the Z-Wave protocol means you can add devices such as door locks, smart plugs, and thermostats, and create IFTTT applets to make them work together. The camera isn’t among the best we’ve tested, but it doesn’t prevent the LifeShield Smart Home Security Kit from earning our high recommendation.

Publication Source: PC Mag