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Insteon Smart Home System

Smart Home System

Insteon Smart Home System

Insteon Smart Home System – So you are looking for the best Smart Home products, Insteaon Smsrt HOome Sytem is hte best. Insteon is made by a company called Smart home, itself a subsidiary of Smartlabs, a California-based company founded in 1992. Competition for the “hub” or the brains of your home is fierce. With its acquisition of SmartThings (Mountain View, California), Samsung entere d the market in a big way in 2014 and makes all sorts of “things” to automate your home. Central to its strategy is the Samsung SmartThings Smart Home Hub. Wink Labs Inc (New York) is another strong player — launching a new v2 version of its well-reviewed Wink Hub. Plano Texas Handyman offers advice and suggestions for all your Smart Home Products. Call us at 214-507-3414 for more information. Insteon Smart Home System

Insteon Dimmer Keypad 2334-232
A new Insteon Keypad. A neutral white wire is required in your home’s electrical wiring.

Cloud technology and lower prices are key factors why the smart home is finally within grasp of the mainstream. Unlike years past when contractors might quote you $10,000+ for a custom Crestron system to control lights and cameras, these things are DIY friendly, and don’t require you to take out a second mortgage.

But there’s another reason why the time is now for home automation:

Voice control.

And we can predominantly thank Amazon (Alexa and Echo) and Google (Google Assistant and Google Home) for that.

With a voice interface, we can now interact with our home in a natural way. Better still, we can combine multiple hubs, and switches from various manufacturers and need only control it all with, say, an Amazon Echo Dot (“Alexa, turn on kitchen lights”). In my experience, it works especially with Insteon.

But more on all of that in future posts. For now, if you’ve just bought a hub, or are researching the home automation market and considering what to do, here’s 10 things I’ve learned over the past 10 years working with Insteon.

Smart Home: Top 10 tips for getting started with Insteon

1. Buy only the latest revisions of Insteon hubs, switches and modules

Insteon Tips and Tricks
Each Insteon device has a revision number. Be careful to only buy the most recent ones — they are vastly improved in quality and performance.
Old and new Insteon dimmer comparison
Old and new keypads. Note the newer Insteon branding on the right. That’s another clue, along with the revision number, you’re buying a newer model.
Insteon Tips and Tricks
3 Insteon dimmers for kitchen lighting.

This is important. Insteon (the brand name for Smarthome’s line of home automation products) has been around for a while. I bought in early, in 2006. Products were in their infancy and it showed. Reliability was a big issue — software and hardware. Dimmer switches often failed. Communication between the hub and devices was iffy. Flash forward to 2017 and the situation is dramatically improved. Insteon Smart Home System

So, please be sure to buy the latest revision (or as close to it as possible) of any Insteon device.

How?

Each Insteon device has a version label, usually placed on the front of a switch, or the rear of a plug-in module. Check that. Then use a Google search to verify the latest versions.

For instance, the most recent version of the 6 and 8-button keypad controllers (models 2334-232 and 2334-222 respectively) is at least 8.0 and from what I can tell they were manufactured in 2017. The latest version of the Insteon Dimmer (2477D) that I’ve installed this year is 8.2.

My understanding is that if you buy Insteon products from Amazon you will get the newest stuff so long as you select the seller as: “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.” That’s key. if you buy from a marketplace seller or a third-party that is fulfilled by Amazon you may get old switches as many suppliers will try to move old inventory.

If you buy on eBay (a good place to sometimes look for deals on Insteon switches), again, look for the label. A good seller with include a photo of the switch with the label so you can verify it’s a later version.

This is my #1 tip for Insteon.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Insteon, but in recent years it’s been mostly love because the newer, 2nd generation (Dual Band) products are vastly improved over their iffy predecessors. Today, I find Insteon to be very stable, and reliable — so long as you heed this advice and only buy/install newer versions of their hubs, switches and modules.

2. Keep it simple

Insteon Dimmer and Keypad Tips Review

Complexity can really create problems when it comes to the smart home. For Insteon I’ve found that keeping scenes (groups of multiple devices that turn on together) as simple as possible ensure that your home network won’t get overloaded with commands and create slowdowns and errors. Insteon Smart Home System

In particular, if you’re adding devices to an Insteon Keypad (6 or 8 button switch) just know that if you set one of the buttons as a “controller” and assign, say, 10 devices, the hub will then create 20 links, a two-way connection between each device. This can multiply exponentially if, for instance, you want multiple buttons on keypads around the home to act as a “controller” for the same scene. It can get messy really fast.

Plano Texas Handyman offers advice and suggestions for all your Smart Home Products. Call us at 214-507-3414 for more information. Insteon Smart Home System

One solution is not to use Keypads. Instead just use dimmer switches and plug-in modules. Besides, with Alexa you can simply ask your Echo to turn on a scene (“Alexa, turn on evening mode”). I still use two keypads as I like to see the status. And sometimes hitting a physical switch is all you want. But I don’t create mega scenes, and ensure that the scenes I do create are a minimal as possible, and typically have just one “controller” defined (the rest being a “responder”).

Note: a controller in Insteon speak can control all the devices in a scene meaning it can turn the entire thing on or off and also control brightness. A responder merely responds to the controller. For example, you have a button “All On” and set it as a “controller” and group 20 devices (dimmers and plug-in modules connected to lights throughout the home or condo) into a scene each as a “responder”. If you tap the “All on” button all 20 lights will turn on. Tap again and, of course, everything turns off. However, if you turn off the switch for any of the assigned responders (say, a living room light) it will only turn off that individual device, not the entire scene.

3. Avoid Android: You really want to use the iOS version of the Insteon app

Insteon App for iOS / iPhone

If possible use the iOS Insteon app. it’s miles better than the Android equivalent. It looks better. It runs better. It just a better overall experience.

This is where you can feel the roots of Smarthome, an A/V company founded in the 1990’s. Unlike many new home automation players who are software-centric, with many based here in Silicon Valley, Smarthome has had to morph over the years. Thankfully, the latest version of the Insteon app for the iPhone is good. Not phenomenal. But definitely functional, with a few design quirks to be sure. However, in my experience it does the job and is reliable. Just take your time and spend some time learning the layout and you’ll be fine.

 4. Setting local dim level and ramp rate is very easy with Insteon

Insteon 2477D Dimmer Indicator Light - Adjust dim and ramp rate

I still believe Insteon makes the best all around dimmer switches. They look modern and clean, and are easy to install thanks to the included pigtail cables (4 in total).

Perhaps best of all is this little trick:

You can easily set the local dim level and ramp rate for any Insteon dimmer switch:

  • To set dim level (the brightness of the light when you turn it on) simply set the switch to the desired level and tap the set button (below the paddle) once. It will beep. Next time you turn on the light it will go to your preferred brightness. Easy.

To adjust the ramp rate — the speed  at which a light turns on:

  • To set ramp rate set the light from near off for a slow ramp or up to on (100%) for instant on, or anything in between. Then double tap the set button. It will beep. Now your light will turn on at the rate which you set. Insteon Smart Home System

Once you’ve done this a few times it’s very easy. For some reason I can’t find similar features in other dimmers from the likes of GE, Lutron and Leviton. Yes, of course you can customize dim and ramp when you create a scene, but unlike Insteon it seems hard if not impossible to actually set them on the dimmer switch itself.

5. Double tap On and Off

Want instant on light? Just double tap top paddle. Or double tap bottom to turn off instantly without waiting for dimming to ramp down.

Another nifty trick. Double tapping the top or bottom of an Insteon dimmer switch will instantly turn the light to full brightness or turn it off — convenient if you don’t want to wait for the light to ramp dimness.

6. More Insteon devices strengthen the network*

*but quickly deplete your bank account

Insteon Home Control Starter Kit
Insteon Home Control Starter Kit is a great value. You get the Hub plus 2 dimmer switches.

Another thing I like about Insteon is that it is dual band. That is, it communicates using two methods: (1) power line (white neutral wire); and (2) wireless RF signal (proprietary).

Plano Texas Handyman offers advice and suggestions for all your Smart Home Products. Call us at 214-507-3414 for more information. Insteon Smart Home System

In my experience, it’s extremely reliable and very fast to respond. I now have 37 Insteon devices across a small home. As I add new lamp modules and dimmer switches (and, more importantly, replace older ones from 2006!) the Insteon network actually gets better. That’s because each device extends the range, and also adds another communication point to send/receive commands. I’m no expert, but it’s something called a “mesh network.” Like me, you may not want or need to know all the details. Just know that Insteon is not wi-fi based, and it provides serious performance, especially as you expand the number of devices throughout your home. Insteon Smart Home System

7. Leak sensors and alerts: Your new best friends

Insteon Leak Sensor by Refrigerator
Placing leak sensors in high risk areas around the home is a great way to get started with home automation.

Quick tip to avoid costly home repair. Put Insteon water leak sensors in places prone to potential flooding: the refrigerator, washer/dryer area, shower, hot water heater, etc. Occasionally Smarthome direct or Amazon run 2-for-1 specials and you can get these sensors inexpensively. I sure do wish I had one a few years back when a line from our hot water tank burst.

Place the sensors on the ground next to these areas. Don’t worry, they’re white and fairly unobtrusive. Then after you’ve added them to the Insteon Hub, be sure to setup alerts in the app. Slide them to on, and add your email address. If a sensor detects wet, it will immediately email you. Then you can start freaking out.

8. Go deep with Stringify to create conditional Insteon programs (“flows”)

Stringify App - Insteon Flow Example
The Stringify app, like IFTTT, provides an easy way to create custom notifications, scenes and integrations with other apps and home automation devices. Here, in this “flow”, a simple notification is sent when the garage door opens.

You might have heard of IFFF (If This Then That)? Unfortunately Insteon is not yet supported on that platform (though other hubs are supported, including Samsung SmartThings and Wink). You can use a competitor app called Srtingify. It’s available for iOS and Android and can really take your smart home to the next level.

I won’t go into details here, that’s for another day. But you can do things like switch lights on randomly late at night while you’re away to make it look like someone’s home. Or detect if your garage door is open for 20 minutes and have it automatically close. Or have your irrigation system not run if rain is detected. And on and on… and on and on and on. The possibilities are near endless.

With Stringify (and IFTTT) and Insteon the sky is the limit and you can really do some interesting things. It’s definitely not for the plug-and-play crowd, but it’s there if you want to do more advanced things with your IoT things. It really is a thing.

9. Insteon is closed and proprietary while most of the competition is based on open standards

Insteon review and tips

This one is not really a tip, but something to be aware of.

If you own an Insteon Hub you already know that you can only use it with Insteon products. You can’t mix and match with other manufacturers. So dimmers from Lutron or Leviton or GE are a no go and aren’t compatible with Insteon.

Much of the competition, however, is based on open standards. The most prevalent — and one that appears to be gaining even more momentum — is known as Z-Wave, with the more recent standard dubbed Z-Wave Plus.

Samsung SmartThings and Wink 2 are hubs that support Z-Wave Plus. When you buy into the system you can mix and match from a variety of vendors: Nexia, GE, Lutron, Leviton, Ecolink, Honeywell, Schlage, Kwikset, and dozens of others. A lot of brands make Z-Wave enabled smart home devices.

Something to keep in mind.

In a sense, Insteon is like Apple. You buy in, and you buy only Insteon.

Z-Wave is more akin to Google and Android. You buy in, and can buy a variety of devices made by partner companies.

Neither approach — like Apple and Google’s business models — is necessarily better or worse. If you really have your heart set on that Lutron Caseta dimmer switch (Z-Wave based), then you’re choice is made and it’s not Insteon. Go with the Samsung SmartThings or Wink 2 hub. If you appreciate the look of Insteon switches and don’t mind buying only that brand then it’s definitely a strong option.

10. THIS IS BIG: Use Alexa and Amazon Echo, Dot and/or Show to control Insteon lights (Hint: it’s a home automation nerd’s dream come true)

Insteon with Alexa and Amazon Echo Dot: Tips and Review

Finally, but not least: voice control.

When I first tried out an Echo Dot I wasn’t a fan. It sat on a tabletop mostly unused. That is, until I discovered it could work with Insteon. First, I had to update to the latest hub. A bit of a pain because I needed to re-add all my devices and setup scenes from scratch. But it was worth it.

It’s as simple as this: Alexa a game changer for home automation. Together with Insteon I’m in a la-la land of smart home nirvana. I couldn’t near imagine this stuff possible even 5 years ago:

“Alexa, turn on the downstairs lights.”

“Alexa, dim the front lights to 50%.”

“Alexa, turn on movie mode.”

“Alexa, turn on sleeping.”

and my favorite…

“Alexa, turn on the espresso machine.”

It works so well that I was absolutely flabbergasted. Yes, we’ve had Siri and Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana for a while now. But to now have this capability in the home, available anytime to control lighting is a dream come true… at least for this home automation nerd.

The best part of Alexa voice control and Insteon is that the setup is a breeze.

  • First, enable the Insteon skill in the Alexa app.
  • Then tap “discover devices” under the Smart Home section of the Alexa app. In about 20 seconds the app will import all of your Insteon scenes and devices.

That’s it. You can start asking Alexa to control your lights.

Conclusion: Insteon Hub has its quirks, but is a strong option for smart home automation

tedvinci@gmail.com