Posts Tagged ‘Residential Security’

ADT Pulse Premier User Review

February 4, 2012 36 comments

ADT Pulse Premier is a decent system despite ADT’s best efforts to lock away the true potential this automation package contains.

The Pulse system is basically a home automation system that is tied into your alarm system.  By having Pulse on your alarm system you are provided with an easy interface to control lights, cameras and thermostats.  The website allows for the setting up of schedules, alerts and automation for any device tied to the system.  There are several systems of this nature on the market.  All claim superiority over the other.  Do your research to find the best system for you.

The web interface has several tabs which allow you to control and set up your system.  The touchscreen can also be used to interact with the pulse system.  The bulk of your setup and tweaking will come through the web-based interface.  From what I understand, this web interface is a portal to your IHUB, via ADT, IControl servers.  The IHUB is what allows for the interface with your system via the web and touchscreen.  The ADT pulse website gives a pretty good run down on what the system can do.  Generally, you are able to set up electronic trip wires that que the system to do something.  This can be done through outdoor motion sensors, indoor sensors or pretty much ANY device that is attached to the system.  Below is a screen shot of the web page you use to tweak your system.

Pulse Summary Page

You really can get creative with your system.   In my situation I have the lights coming on in all the bedrooms with a path to the door if the carbon monoxide or fire alarm goes off.  If somebody comes to the door, certain events occur depending on the hour of the day.  If you forget to arm the system, no problem I have an automation that takes care of it.  Most everything can be tweaked and you can set up the system to alert you via text and/or email.   Attached to this electronic message will be details of the event and if you choose, a picture or video.  If you are a gadget guy like me, you find yourself coming up with fun ways to customize the system.  Depending on your panel, you can use leak sensors to automatically shut off the household water if a leak is detected.  The zwave water shut off is something I have NOT dabbled in.

The Ihub-3000

The Ihub-3000 connects to your LAN, physically.  You need an open port on your router.  I noticed the Ihub’s IP and attempted to interface via the IP.  This brings up a screen asking for an activation key.  See below.

Activation Key

I have the key.  The installer left it.  I have not ventured past this screen shot since I am not sure what effect it will have on the Ihub.  If it were to default back to factory settings I would be unable to reconfigure the Ihub without a manual.  Looking over the installers shoulder during an Ihub replacement made it obvious there is more to just powering on this device.  I believe the Ihub is made by IControl.  The Ihub is pictured below.

Ihub 3000

GE Touch Screen

The touch screen has a 7 inch view screen and  is made by GE.  I would say it is somewhat limited.  You can arm your system, turn off and on lights, view cameras and read some basic information from the internet.  The touch screen acts like a glorified keypad.   See a picture below.

ADT GE Touch Screen

There is another touch screen out there that I have been unable to track down.  I might have to attempt to locate one through ADT.  It does not show up as an option for additional touch screens via the web interface however, it does appear in the ADT Pulse online manual.  Perhaps it is in a limited test market.  The screen is made by Netgear and is called the HSS101.  You can install up to four touch screens on the system. The Hss101 is pictured below.

Netgear Touch Screen

My system has a Concord 4 panel.  With the touchscreen and installer code I am able to add NON approved zwave devices to my system.  When I say “non-approved” I am specifically talking about zwave devices allowed by the concord panel but NOT officially sanctioned for use with the ADT Pulse system.  Devices such as leak sensors, outdoor motion detectors, garage door open sensors and such would fall into this category.   This video gives a quick tutorial on how to access the installer screen from the touch screen.

You will have to ask ADT why they don’t open up the pulse system to allow an easier user configuration for zwave devices approved for use by Concord 4.  I suspect it has to do with marketing.   I believe ADT charges for carbon monoxide monitoring.  With the  installer code, the user can add a wireless carbon monoxide detector via the pulse touchscreen bypassing ADT’s revenue stream.

To install approved devices on Pulse you will have to go through the ADT web-based interface discussed above.  This is done through the “system” tab.   Approved devices include ONE type of wireless camera, wired analog cameras (attached to the NV412a-adt decoder), light switches, dimmer modules, lamp modules, additional touch screens, remotes and thermostats.  The lesson….GET THE INSTALLER CODE if you want to move beyond these devices.  Lately I have read posts on various blogs indicating ADT has removed the “installer” window on their touch screens.  If that is the case, tweaking the system may have to be done through the keypad.

ADT does not like you to have the installer code.  It denies them a revenue stream for adding modules or tweaking your system.  Recently, I wanted to add a duress code to my system.  ADT advised to do this I would need a tech to come to my house.  There would be a charge associated with the visit.  I thanked the operator on the phone for her time and hung up.

Armed with my installer code, I dusted of the Concord 4 manual.  Trying to get to the installer menu via the keypad did not work.  Going through the installer menu on the touchscreen did.  The touch screen installer menu has the option of “simulating” the keypad.  By using this you are able to navigate the options of your alarm panel.  Do this at your own risk.  It would be easy to get lost or accidentally alter settings, twisting your system into a useless cyber knot.

ADT Pulse Cameras

ADT is equally hesitant to allow you to install approved cameras.  They would much rather come to your house and charge you.  Light switches and lamp modules are easy enough to obtain.  The wireless and wired cameras are another story.  ADT’s wireless camera is the RC8021.  ADT has configured the Pulse system to only allow RC8021’s that are configured by ADT.   Getting a RC8021 from any other source will not work.  ADT charges 150 dollars for this very cheap piece of technology.

The wired camera’s are better.  At this point they are analog camera’s that run through a video decoder enabling the Pulse system to relay video.  Again ADT makes it as difficult as possible to get the necessary equipment.  In my case I purchased some ADT analog cameras on Ebay.  If you go this route, make sure you get cameras that will work with the decoders.  ADT has a list of analog camera’s at   On Ebay I picked up ADT A-CBVD36PI 600’s.  The cameras are fixed.  They do not have the option to zoom and they do not pick up sound.  This is not a huge loss for me since I am simply trying to monitor.  I have no need for these two options in my set up.  If you do, go with a DVR equipped to handle this function.  You can have up to ten cameras on your system.

The NV412A-ADT Decoder

Once you located your cameras you will need a decoder.  The model used by ADT is NV412A-ADT.  For me, these were impossible to locate from a non-ADT source.  The cameras hook into the decoder via your standard BNC type connection.  The decoder hooks into a switch.  The switch goes to the Ihub.  The switch can be any non-managed device.  ADT will install a netgear switch.  The NV412A’s have an output that you could connect to a DVR or any device that will accept a BNC type connection.  This enables the user to dual stream their video.  This is a function of the decoder ADT does not advertise.  The NV412-A is pictured below:

NV-412A-ADTTo get the NV412A’s I started with my local ADT sales agent.  She was always polite and seemed willing to help however, never once did she actually assist me in my effort to buy the above device.  After about a MONTH of back and forth via email I gave up.  I was stone-walled with reply’s indicating she had to check and make sure my cameras would work withe the decoder.  I was warned I might void my warranty.  It was one excuse after another.   I posted my saga on ADT’s Facebook page.

After the FB post I got some traction with a corporate rep out of Florida.  Very nice, professional and helpful.  Once she confirmed my cameras would work and warned me I was on my own she shipped the requested decoders to the ADT office in my area.  Be prepared to get frustrated if you seek to tweak your system with additional cameras on your own.  Keep at it and you should be successful.  Each decoder costs 75 dollars.  If you ask nicely you could probably get them down to 50 dollars.  If you are a USAA member, you should get a 10 percent discount.  This discount is also available for your install and monthly service bill.

Installing the cameras via the web portal was easy.  The hardest part of the whole process was the physical install.  Each decoder has a specific server number.  This number is entered during the install process on the web interface.  I believe these server numbers refer to an Icontrol server managed for ADT by Icontrol.  Again, NV412a’s are available outside of ADT if you look hard enough.  I am not sure they will work since they are not enabled on the ADT system or programmed to work with Icontrol servers.

ADT Payment Follies

Paying for these decoders proved somewhat of a nightmare.  ADT charged both my credit cards different amounts for the same equipment, despite having already paid for the devices.  In short, I paid three times for the same items.  My ADT contact in Florida was quick to fix the problem.  Later I received a bill for TAX on the install.  Again, my ADT contact in Florida fixed the problem.  It is troubling that ADT appears to be a MESS.  How many people get overcharged because they are not paying attention?  For my troubles I was granted four months of free monitoring.

I have had the system for over a year.  Generally, I am happy with the system.  Not so happy with ADT.  I believe they are missing a heck of a opportunity by NOT allowing easy access to the system by their users.  Many people like to tweak and add to their system.  It should not be so hard.


I steered away from ADT’s thermostats.  They offer two the RCS TZ43 and TZ45.  Both are controlled via zwave.  Things like humidity control are a part of higher end HVAC systems.  The TZ43 and 45 have no option to control humidity.  If you currently have this option you will lose it when you change over to the zwave approved thermostats offered by ADT.  I will stay away from zwave thermostats until ADT comes up with one that allows for humidity control.  The TZ45 is pictured below.

TZ45Tech Support

ADT’s Pulse Premier tech support is decent.  The individuals sent to my house for various issues have always been helpful, professional and nice.  They appear to be well-trained.  I believe their biggest challenge is the structure of ADT.

On one occasion my Ihub began dropping modules randomly.  It was determined the Ihub was faulty after approximately a year of flawless operation.  It needed to be replaced.  During the replacement process I was talking to the tech.  Although he was trained in the system he was not given the opportunity to work extensively with it.  Upon arriving at my house he found himself with the training but lacking the experience.  We actually worked together during the re-configuring process and learned much together.

After installing the new Ihub I had telephone contact with the ADT Pulse technical center.  These people are usually very knowledgable.   For sometime with the old Ihub and my new one I was getting error reports that a certain video event did not occur as programmed.  I learned that these messages were ALWAYS wrong.  ADT never seemed to have an answer for the false trouble events on camera recordings.  They appeared to be random.  See below:

Video Event

Eventually a tech advised me these events were a known issue and would be resolved.  Several weeks later the problems ceased only to re-appear with the additional issue of recording for extended periods of time in 30 second intervals.  The result was a bunch of video I did not want.  Believing the issue to have been resolved and this new problem being unique, I called for a tech to come to my house.  The tech arrived and was professional and helpful.  After contacting ADT, she was eventually put in touch with IControl technicians.  They advised their servers were acting up.  IControl techs were surprised we were able to log on.  The issue was a known issue and had been going on for several days.  It would soon be resolved.

What is amazing to me is that NOBODY at ADT seemed to be aware of the “Known Issue.”  My tech was equally frustrated and went on to state that even if ADT knew about the issue she doubted they could reach out to ONLY pulse customers.  She explain that ADT had NO idea how many pulse systems were in my area.  They had no list other than one she created and that was probably out of date.  This seems odd and perhaps there is a reason for it that I am ignorant to.   I would think ADT would have the ability to send limited, focused emails about network issues to specific groups who were affected.  In this case, an email could have been sent to all pulse customers advising them of the problem.  This would limit calls for service….unless of course ADT itself had NO IDEA there was a problem.

My hope is this monster post attracts some other users of the Pulse system.  One source of frustration is the lack of “community” for the ADT pulse.  I would love a place or message board where people discuss or share information and problems they are having specifically with the pulse system.  I have not found that place.  Feel free to point me in the right direction.

ADT is missing the boat by not providing this online community for the pulse system.  It could be a link from your portal.  Given ADT’s culture I am not surprised they lack this feature.  The result would lead to self-sufficient users and I believe ADT fears this independence would lead to decreased revenue.  Users would solve their own problems.

Feedback is welcome.  I will continue to post thoughts on the ADT pulse system as they surface.  Good luck.

edit: The initial cost of the system install was approximately 1300 dollars.  This included two wired outdoor cameras, a couple of modules, a two poll light switch, key chain, concord 4 panel and touch screen.  I might be forgetting a few things.   I had to negotiate them down from 1900 dollars, if memory serves.  A three-year enslavement contract was signed as part of the deal.  The tweaking and addition of remotes by myself was done through ebay and at greatly reduced cost.  I would never buy from ADT unless that is the only source for an item.

%d bloggers like this: