Check out the full Schlage LiNK system and how it can work with your BlackBerry. Keep reading for your chance to win a Schlage LiNK Starter Kit!
One of the things I love most about my BlackBerry is that it is always with me when I'm on the go. I love to be able to get things done from my device, be it sending emails, making phone calls or what have you. When things go above and beyond and I can integrate more of my life with my device, I'm all for it. Enter the Schlage LiNK system. Being a tech geek I'm always open to add more technology into my daily routine - be that good or bad - and the LiNK system is no slouch. We first checked out the system nearly 2 years ago, and since then many updates and features have been added. I was lucky enough to get my hands on a system including a keypad lever lock, wireless camera, light module and thermostat and I can honestly say my house will never be the same. Read on for my full review and thoughts on the Schlage LiNK system.
Schlage LiNK System Review
If you're not the handiest person the system can be a bit intimidating at first. There is a some installtion required (namely for the lock lever and thermostat) that might scare off some, but Schlage gives you very detailed instructions on how to get the job done. The light module and camera are the easiest to get up and running, but the lock and thermostat can take a bit of time (or a lot of time if you run into issues like I did, but we'll get into that later). From start to finish for all the components you can budget around 2-3 hours if you have smooth sailing, or a bit more if you need to tweak some things to get it all situated. You'll need to setup your online account where Schlage currently charges $8.99/month for service plus a 2-month trial period to get aquainted. You can access all the features through the web control panel or the free BlackBerry Schlage LiNK application.
The bridge is the "hub" of all your Schlage goodies. It acts as the go-between and let's everything play nice. It comes into play as we get things installed as this is what you use to pair items with your system. It will need to be connected to the next and power to operate but it's all pretty straight forward.
By far the easiest part to get going with is the light module. This handy box plugs into an outlet in your home and can control a lamp remotely. Using the included bridge for the system, you pair up the light module with a few easy steps, plug it into an outlet, plug in your lamp and you're ready to roll. Schlage suggests using a standard incandescent bulb in the lamp to take advantage of the dimmer functions, but I actually have an eco twisty bulb (as I like to call them) that works sans dimming. After you're setup you have total control over the module from your control panel (via your device or the web) where you can turn the light on or off and use the dimming function. Use this to turn on the lights before you get home, when you're on vacation or to just mess with your spouse (my personal favorite). You can also tie the light module in with the lock (which we'll get to) as well as create a schedule (just like a regular lamp timer) if you plan to be away.
This is the one component that intrigued me most I think. Not in the aspect that I'm shady and want to keep an eye on people in my house, but just that I could easily have the option to view the camera from my BlackBerry while I'm away. Again, the setup of the camera was cake. Just enter the ID of the unit in the online control panel, click a few options, setup your wireless network to play nice with the camera and you're done. Once the camera restarts and is ready to go, you can pretty much put it anwhere within range of your wireless network (and an electical outlet to plug it in) and you're free to view. I currently have mine looking over my driveway for lack of anything better. You can view the camera from your browser via the web or fire up the app and check things out on your phone. I was surprised at the clarity of the image as it actually shows very well on my device and better yet from the web. The cool thing is that you can add multiple cameras as well. So if you want to get really crazy, you can deck out your house with cameras and never miss a beat.
For the door lock you have a few options from Schlage. You can choose from either the deadbolt or keypad in Satin Nickel, Bright Brass or Aged Bronze. For most people installing the deadbolt or lever will choose to be the most difficult of the entire process. If you're at all handy and have a few tools you should have no problem from start to finish. If you aren't a big fan of screwdrivers or taking things apart, you might want to enlist the help of someone else but the instructions do make things clear and easy enough for most.
To start you'll have to remove the existing door knob/lever which doesn't involve more than a few screws. Once the assembly is out you'll hopefully be left with an opening that will match the Schlage setup you're going with. If not, you'll have to dive in a bit and tweak thinks up to get the right fit. From there, simply follow the instructions and insert the lever piece by piece, tighten the provided screws and you're in. Install the batteries, attach the cover and levers and that's that. I did have a few issues with the size of my strikeplate so I had to make a few minor modifications, but the overall process only took about 30 minutes or so.
Once you've got the hardware installed you will pair the lock with the bridge (provided in the starter kit). Again, there are easy instructions for all of this, but it basically consists of removing the bridge from power, putting in a 9-volt battery and pressing a few buttons. You get confirmation on both devices when you did things correctly and you're lock is ready. You can then add it into your account via the control panel on the web. From there you can view battery status, create lock codes and more. The lock comes programmed with an entry code, but you can create any number of others for family members, the housekeeper, babysitter etc. You can customize each to only work for a set period of time (ie. 2-4pm) and also send you SMS alerts when used. From both the web control panel and your device you can also "buzz" the lock which will unlock and relock the unit so you can let someone in right from your device. This is useful if a guest shows up at your door while you're not there or you're just too lazy to get off the couch and unlock the door. Again, you can tie the lock unit in with other devices, so when entering a code you can unlock the door as well as activate the light module so you don't have to enter a dark house - very cool. If you have the lever locked, you can still open the door from the inside without doing a thing, and it will stay locked once you close the door again.
Typically the thermostat installation shouldn't be a very difficult task. In most newer homes you can simply pop off the old unit, swap a few wires, attach the new unit and be done with it. In my case (and what I'm sure is the extreme opposite end) things may not be so simple. The thermostat was actually what I was going to install first, but it turned out to be the last and most lengthy of all the pieces.
Most homes will be outfitted with a 4 or 5 wire thermostat cable from the furnace (boiler, heat pump or whatever). Each serves a purpose, and the Trane thermostat provided needs them all to work properly. The unit is self powered, so it needs to receive current from the furnace itself to operate. Unfortunately my old system was original to the house (built in 1959) and I was presented with only a 2-wire unit (I don't have central AC). This meant a decent project was in store. I thought running a new cable would be easy enough, so I snagged 100ft on Amazon for a decent price, and when it arrived I was eager to go. I popped off my old unit hoping to just run the new wire along the same path as the old on the way to my furnace. Sadly the old wire looked to be installed while the house was being built, so it ran all over through my walls - wedged behind studs and snaked behind electical boxes. Once I realized this was a no go I tried to run the new cable on it's own which didn't work out so well either. After an hour or so of trying to snake the line through the walls I decided to move to plan C. I found a new suitable location for the new thermostat, drilled a few holes through a different wall and floor and the cable found the way to the furnace. I hooked up the needed wires (again, explained very clearly in the instructions) and hooked up everything as it needed to be. When I flipped the power to the furnace back on, the thermostat came to life and I was in business ... thankfully.
From there I needed to pair the device to the bridge with the same process as before. A few button presses and flashing lights and all was well. The unit was then added to my account and viewable in the control panel. The options for controlling the thermostat are plenty. You can choose from the existing Energy Saver option or create your own heating/cooling schedule. You can view the status of your system, place the unit on hold and change temperature remotely. Perfect for monitoring when you're away or just turning up the heat from bed on a cold night.
The Control Panel
From the web you have a huge control panel that houses all the options you need to get things done. You can control all the pieces of the puzzle from one interface, as well as rename units, program codes, set a heating/cooling schedule, add phones and much, much more. It's the "command center" for your house once you get everything up and running.
From here you can also set Events and Schedules. Event's are things like getting the lights on when the door opens, and schedules would be triggering the lights on at 5am to wake you up in the morning. You can figure out what needs you have and they will do the job for you.
The BlackBerry App
Here is the coolest part of it all. You can control all your newly installed pieces right from your BlackBerry, no matter where you are. You'll have to create a PIN when you start the app the first time which is good as it prevents unwanted users from getting at your stuff. You'll have to setup your device via the web, and then you can choose which units the phone can access, change alerts and more. Total control on the go.
The main screen shows you a list of all your components that you can scroll through.
Check the status of your lock (locked or unlocked) on the security screen.
On the Climate screen you current heating/cooling status where you can choose to run schedules, change the temperature and more.
The Cameras screen shows your available cameras - just click to view.
Lighting and Automation shows all the installed light modules. Choose one and easily dim or turn on/off.
Once you get all the installation done you can just sit back and do your thing. You can install the free app to your device OTA from which you can access all the features of the control panel (for the most part). You can control your light module (or multiple ones if you add to your system), view any cameras, unlock your door and, change your thermostat settings.
I'm definitely a big fan of the entire system, although some friends and family find it a bit too "geeky" to comment on. I do like the fact that I can monitor my heating system when I'm away and even check on things from the comfort of my office. Having the keypad on my door means no reason to carry extra house keys around as long as I remember my code. I have one set for daytime that simply unlocks the door and another for nights when I want to turn the light on as well. I think down the road I'll toss a few more light modules on and maybe another camera, just to take the "go big or go home" approach. At $8.99/month, it's not a bad price to pay for all the features you get. Schlage is a big name so everything is very well built and should last for years to come. They are constantly adding more features that make things even better, and hopefully more toys will be added to the lineup at some point as well.
So is the LiNK system a good buy? I believe it is. It all depends on how much tech you want to surround yourself in. The price to get started is a bit steep (around $150 for a lock, camera and thermostat and $50 for a light module). I personally like the fact that my house is a nerdy as I am, but others may not feel the same. The price may be hard to justify for some, but you don't have to go all out with every component either. All the items can work on their own, so if there is something you like more than another you can work with just that. The available starter kits come with either a keypad lever or deadbolt, light module and bridge. You can find the full selection at the Schlage LiNK site or many home improvement stores.
Contest: Want to try a Schalge LiNK setup for yourself? We're passing on the fun and giving away one starter kit. To enter to win just leave a single comment on this post. You'll be able to choose a starter kit to get you up and running. Good luck!