June 2014 Archives

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For the consumer looking to get the most out of their security system, the Honeywell L7000 is the most highly anticipated security system ever released by Honeywell. The L7000 is the biggest, most comprehensive system ever issued by the company, and it boasts more features than any consumer security panel has ever contained out of the box. For those reasons, the panel has already won plenty of the industry's most important awards, even being named the winner of ISC's 2014 Best in Intrusion Detection and Prevention Solutions.

While the L7000 is not yet out, we at Alarm Grid are very excited about the panel, and are eagerly awaiting the day that it is made available to the general public. For those who do not need a 7-inch screen, and do not need the extra camera or zones available in the L7000, the already released L5200 has almost the exact same feature set. It's a little bit smaller, and does not have the capability to monitor as many zones as the L7000, but it is ready to go, and every bit as functional.

That said, for those who are interested in a rundown of the unit, we have prepared a short video describing the L7000's incredible array of features.

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Honeywell VAM

The VISTA Automation Module (VAM) may be Honeywell's most anticipated wired system accessory in years. Previously, those who owned wired systems were stuck paying the hefty price of a Tuxedo Touch WIFI if they wanted to take advantage of Z-Wave capabilities available to Honeywell security system users. The nearly $500 price tag has been a point of criticism for years, as users have flocked to wireless systems such as the L5200 where they can gain access to the convenience of Z-wave home automation with a simple $25 Z-wave ready circuit board that can be installed in seconds. But Honeywell's commitment to making systems more affordable and more DIY friendly seems to have given way to VAM which acts as a simple Z-Wave controller for their VISTA series panels.

If you are one of the numerous customers who have always wanted to take advantage of the home automation advantages of a Z-Wave system, but aren't ready to pay the huge expense of a Tuxedo Touch? Then today is your lucky day! The VAM, which is basically just the guts of the Tuxedo Touch without a screen, will get you where you need to go for a much more affordable price. Get yours today, to unlock the power of your VISTA when enhanced with Z-Wave automation products!

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While the old-style of home security trapped users into long-term contracts, dishonest pricing, and rates that never stop going up, it's becoming more and more clear that since the 90s, the trend in home security is the proprietary system scam.

According to a press release, Vivint is the newest entrant into the proprietary system market, saying that they are going to begin with their newest system, "SkyControl." Here are the problems with the proprietary system model:

You can't leave the company you're with... ever

Forget contracts! Since proprietary systems have come out, once you have the unit in your home, you can't do anything about it. Generally, those systems are built to be used with one company and one service.

Almost always, these systems are touted as being good for the customer. Alarm Force has made their own system, SimpliSafe is a newer entrant that has built their own system, Lifeshield makes their own system, and now you can pile Vivint's system onto the ever-growing pile of proprietary systems. While most of these companies still make you sign a contract, the fact that their system is proprietary means that even if you tried to exit your contract with them, you'd STILL not be able to simply leave their service.

Why?

Because their system is a simple, effective way to lock you into their service.

The systems are rarely good

Think about the number of companies that have been building systems for the last 50 years, and even more hardware-only security system manufacturers have entered in the last 10 years: Honeywell, 2Gig, DSC, GE, Elk, and many many more. The systems these companies make are top of the line. We sell Honeywell generally because we think they are the best systems on the market. That said, the other choices are pretty darn good. So why would a company, like Vivint, which has been installing the 2GIG Go!Control panel abandon their partnership in order to install their own panel? While I can't say for sure, I would venture a guess that it has very little to do with quality control.

A Security Company Can't Simply Release Their Own Panel and Expect Consumer Adoption.... So How Is Vivint Getting Their System Into Homes?

This goes to the history of Vivint. Vivint has become a huge company in the last 10 years. Formerly APX, they changed their name, which got the company away from a sullied reputation. Though, Vivint still has more than 2000 BBB complaints, and the history of government actions taken against the company tell a more complete story about how the Vivint grew into the behemoth that it currently is:

In 2010, the "State of Arkansas Attorney General's Office filed a complaint in the circuit court of Pulaski County alleging that Vivint, Inc., formerly known as APX Alarm Security Solutions, Inc. violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Arkansas Home Solicitation Sales Act.... Vivint agreed to pay $125,000 for the costs of the investigation and prosecution of the complaint."

In 2012, "the Wisconsin Attorney General's Office announced a Consent Judgment with Vivint, Inc. The consent judgment requires the company to pay refunds to consumers who were misled about their ability to cancel their alarm service contracts, as well as consumers who were misled about false alarm charges."

In 2013 the "Kansas Attorney General entered into a Settlement Agreement with Vivint, Inc. According to the terms of the Settlement Agreement, the company was accused of using a variety of deceptive practices while going door-to-door offering to install new home security systems or replace existing systems." Again in 2013, the "State of Ohio Attorney General's Office entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance Settlement Agreement with Vivint, Inc. According to the terms of the Settlement Agreement, consumers filed complaints that the company made representations to consumers that its home security equipment was free, but failed to disclose the existence or amount of installation, activation and monitoring fees associated with the system." 

Under APX, their reputation wasn't any better. While these actions are a strong indicator of Vivint's internal philosophy, which is to grow-at-all-costs, they do not tell the full story. Vivint's known for aggressive selling practices, sending young men and women into customer homes, and acquiring new customers by getting them to setup installations and having new consumers sign lengthy contracts. The consumer actions above outline an incredibly sketchy history of deception. Even so, Vivint has grown and grown and grown. In 2012, they were purchased by one of the world's largest investment firms, Blackstone, for around $2 billion.

The reason that Vivint can simply release a new panel, and know that consumers will adopt it is because their consumers are already under contract. Via many of the practices outlined above, Vivint became one of the country's fastest growing security companies. And now that they are in your home, they started Vivint Solar (C- rated by the BBB), and are now reportedly throwing their hat into the ISP ring. So unlike Comcast which is in the home of millions of consumers, and as a result decided to get into home security, Vivint has taken the opposite path, getting into the homes of consumers through security, and moving into providing internet.

All of that said, before you consider allowing a proprietary security system to be installed on your wall, consider what you are doing, especially if you also have to sign a contract. Not only are you locking into that company by way of the contract, you are locking into that company by way of the equipment as well. Should you want to leave at the end of the term of your contract, the expense will involve swapping out the security system in its entirety, sensors and all. And that, depending on how big your home is, can be an expensive proposition... a fact that proprietary system makers are counting on.

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While the Honeywell L5000 and L5100 are very different security systems, they look almost identical. Luckily, Honeywell left a few distinguishing marks that makes it very simple to be able to tell the difference. 

The fastest way to identify the two systems is by simply looking at the buttons below the screen. If they have words written on them, then you have an L5000. If they are only icons, then you have something newer. It's also worth noting that the area surrounding the screen is going to be tan on a Honeywell L5000. This is the same color that can be found on early revisions of the l5100. But if you see a tan colored area surrounding the screen, you can be certain that the panel is either an L5000 or an L5100.

While the L5000 is crippled in some ways, the L5100 was not flash upgradeable (not like the new panels) which means that when Honeywell would update the system with new functionality, the newer versions would be able to do things that the older ones could not. For example, a later revision L5100 was able to open a garage door opening while the older was not. As a result of the non-upgradeability of the panel left many users in the lurch as they were not able to access many of the functions they were hoping would be added to the L5100.

If you are concerned about which L5100 panel you have the identification is very easy.

If you can be certain that you do not have an L5000, knowing which approximate revision you have of the L5100 is as easy as looking at that plate I mentioned earlier. If the area surrounding the screen is tan, then you have an early L5100. If it is as white as the driven snow and there are 4 buttons below the screen (4... because 2 buttons signifies a different system), then you have a newer L5100 and it can be used to open and close your garage door.

The L5200 is the newest arrival in the Honeywell line. Having been just released, this security system is the most state-of-the-art ever created. 

While an L5100 has four buttons right below the screen, the L5200 features only two small rubber buttons. The rest of the features have been integrated into the touchscreen. The chances of the system you're trying to identify being an L5200 are pretty slim since it just came out. That said, it's worth having a look at. The L5200 will be the same size as the L5100, and it's hardware performs much of the same functions.

All of that said, the l5200 is not the only new system with two buttons. If your system has two buttons, you may also have the L7000, which isn't very much different from the L5200 in its functionality, but it is the bigger and better of the two panels.

Again, the fastest way to identify these units is by their buttons. If the Honeywell security system sitting on your wall has only two buttons, these are the only two systems they could be. If the buttons are made of rubber, and the system looks just like the L5100, then it is most likely an L5200. If the screen is much bigger, and the buttons are made of plastic, then the system is an L7000.

The big advantage of these panels over the older ones is their customizability. For example, a user can now edit the chimes that sound when a door is opened.

Moreover a user can easily upgrade the panel to the newest revision.

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Honeywell's much anticipated L5200 has finally been released. The L5200 is the sister panel to this year's ISC "Best in Intrusion" winner, the Honeywell L7000, which is expected to be released in the latter half of 2014. Like the predecessors of these two panels, Honeywell has designed the L5200 to be an integrated system that combines state-of-the art wireless security features such as Advanced Protection Logic (APL) and Interactive services that allow an user to control the system from any smart device, with the incredible convenience afforded by modern home automation products

With this release, Honeywell has gone far to address many of their consumers' demands, and it's clear that with this panel the company is furthering its commitment to improved user experience. They have removed many of the disparaging limitations of the old L5100 panels: the Honeywell L5200 comes with more zones of protection, the ability to display a camera on screen, and one of the most exciting developments in Honeywell's technology comes with the announcement that the L5200 is flash upgradeable.

This feature, which allows the panel to download the latest software updates that have been released for the unit, addresses one of the chief complaints consumers have had about the old panels - no updates means no access to new features.

The release of this panel is met with another incredible development in the security industry: the rise of DIY. Since vaulting to prominence in mid-2012, Alarm Grid has set the standard for DIY home security by providing resources to DIYers that they never had access to previously. The Honeywell L5200 is the first panel to have been released since this DIY culture has become widespread. As such, the Alarm Grid team believes that it will be a great test of this new, up-and-coming model: "Do-it-yourselfers have really taken up the reigns in this industry. These panels are easy to understand, they are simple to program, and they are simple to install," said Joshua Unseth, Alarm Grid's director of marketing. "We believe that the L5200 is a great addition to Honeywell's already stellar line of products. It's a great step forward, and we think that DIYers will be quick to embrace it."

While the release of a security system like the L5200 would generally mean big money for installers who bank on consumers knowing very little about how these systems work, Alarm Grid has already released the L5200 manuals, they have begun writing L5200 frequently asked questions, and they have even released a L5200 DIY installation video, which they say shows just how simple installing this system yourself can be.

"We don't think you have to be an experienced DIYer to install a security system," said Sterling Donnelly, President of Alarm Grid. "I'm always amazed by the range of people who call us and decide to try DIY security. A lot of consumers don't even know that a self-installation is an option when they start looking at security equipment. Our goal is to make it easy. For those who want to give it a try, our tech team patiently guides them through every step of the way."

When asked how non-professionals can purchase the equipment, Unseth replied, "Alarm Grid has made it easy to get your hands on this equipment. We are committed to making sure that end users have the same access to this equipment as installers have, and we want to make sure that they have access to as much information as any professional installer would have. Not only that, but we are committed to making sure that this high-quality Honeywell equipment is affordable enough for anyone who wants a security system in their home. All an user has to do is visit our site, and purchase an L5200. We send it on, it gets delivered, the end-user can watch a few videos to figure out how to install and configure it, and should they run into trouble, they can always call us at no cost."

Alarm Grid has released 9 pre-configured kits that include the brand new wireless security system, each coming with a bevy of sensors and communicators. Regarding the quality of their hardware, Unseth points out that lots of other DIY companies have built their business on consumer hatred of this industry. "It's a well known fact that big players in home security are not well loved. But those DIY companies generally make sub-standard equipment." Alarm Grid's equipment is the same product a consumer would get if the system had been installed by ADT or another big-company installer. "With us that's what you get, great hardware at a great price, and alarm monitoring with a company you can trust and that will treat you well. We treat our customers the same on day one as we do after they have installed the system and are monitored. After all," Unseth smiled a little before adding, "since Alarm Grid doesn't believe in contracts, we have to work to win the business of our customers every single month."

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Alarm Grid is committed to giving our customers the best experience anywhere on the web. That means, we want you to love coming to our site, but we also want to make sure that you love your experience off of our site as well. We are doing everything we can on-site (perhaps you've noticed the beautiful new product pictures we've been displaying, such as the beautiful L7000, shown below)

Honeywell L7000

So for the artists among you, we have launched a contest to design our Facebook page! Jump in, participate! We will be selecting a winner within the week, and will likely have a revamped Facebook page soon thereafter.

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Over the years, the home security industry has earned its reputation as being replete with scammers. It's a reputation that is well-earned, and every summer, as college students return home, many of them get recruited into bottom-of-the-barrel companies that push them to lie, cheat, and steal in order to earn their keep.

In recent days, there have been lots of reports out of Wisconsin, regarding phone call and door-knocking scams, but this report about Vision Security which is headquartered in Orem, Utah, is one of the more disturbing in recent memory.

According to a report on KUTV, there have been numerous individuals all over the state accusing the company of using deceptive sales tactics to get into their homes. These include claiming that they are from another company, or that they are here to swap out an old system and make updates. Often, before they leave, they get the homeowner to sign a new contract under the auspices of being part of being something that they need to sign from the company that already monitors their system. The cell phone video featured in the news report below, however, is disturbing as it shows that not only are these accusations from homeowners true, but that there is a full-on corporate culture within Vision Security that promotes the use of these disreputable sales tactics, even teaching them to students in a classroom setting.

This is the sort of problematic scam that Alarm Grid is working hard to get rid of. We are committed to making sure that you know everything you can know about your security system and the company that monitors it.

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