Insteon reliability

I was at my cardiologist this AM for some tests. One of the technicians
there (who I met on my last visit when she administered a nuclear stress
test) has a daughter in her early 20s who has been a quadriplegic since an
accident at 16. I volunteered to advise her and her daughter on simple home
automation related topics.
Previously, I usually advised people in her situation to use X-10 with
appropriate cautions about reliability and with suggestions (and occasional
custom hardware) on ways to implement specific tasks.
I would like to start recommending Insteon but my direct experience is
limited and my views of its expected reliability is more academic than
empirical. I would appreciate feedback about its reliability in small to
medium sized installations. I would especially appreciate feedback from
anyone who experienced the flicker problem and who replaced the flickering
devices with newer, "fixed" devices.
I notice that they have just issued recall notices (with free upgrades) on
all of the Insteon interfaces (2414S, 2414U) but I haven't yet researched
the reasons. If anyone can share these details it would save me a bit of
time.
Reply to
Dave Houston
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I woule like to know the same. I'm interested in getting into home automation, and insteon's products seem reasonably priced. I just wondered how reliable they are. How is their build quality and do they work significantly better than X10? The only downside I was concerned with was with other systems such as Z-wave, X10, and soon Zigbee becoming available, what happens if you outfit a home with this Insteon stuff just to find that a year or two later one of the other protocols becomes standard and SmartLabs/Insteon goes away? I guess for small installations like what I would have, it wouldn't be a big deal. But if you tied up thousands of dollars in it, you might think differently. It seems like the Insteon products that are available right now are pretty good, but it appears that it is taking a long time for them to come out with new accessories, i.e. motion sensors, remote controls, cameras, etc. This fact concerns me a bit. You figure they came out early enough to get a jump on the market, but their early advantage is gone now because they don't really have any other products other then dimmer switches, appliance outlets, and on/off switches. I would like to see more before I spend my money on it.
Thoughts?
Reply to
Josh B.
On Wed, 13 Sep 2006 14:30:33 GMT, snipped-for-privacy@whocares.com (Dave Houston) wrote in message :
I have about 25 INSTEON devices of all types and experienced only one (predictable) minor glitch with the hardware. Feeling left out of all the enjoyment others were experiencing over the fickle flicker phenomenon, I set up a situation and can now evoke and then correct the 'flicker' at will as explained below.
Software is a different matter but every bit as important. The hardware doesn't work in an automated fashion without software, so recommending one without knowledge of the other is [choose a gentle word for here] at best. This is particularly true of INSTEON because many/most software communicated through the SmartLabs Device Manager (SDM) and not directly with the hardware. Homeseer development of a module for INSTEON has been a stand still because of problems with the SDM and PLC. A new SDM was released at the same time as the PLC recall announced.
My house has three above-ground stories totally about 3200 ft2 + partial basement. About half the wiring is ~25 years old to main entrance panel. About half to recent additions through local load centers. Lighting loads greater than about 270 watts are dimmed through hard-wired, centralized commercial dimmer panels, not INSTEON or X-10. The system has three X-10 dimmers still in place because there is no neutral wire in those switches and I have not yet installed a fix (hardwired or neutral for INSTEON. And there's a story about REX waiting to be told ;-)
The only _hardware_ glitch I have (other than the induced flicker discussed below) is that if two INSTEON wall switches controlling two different INSTEON loads with one being a slave (not an actual dimmer) are pressed exactly simultaneously (two fingers, one on each dimmer) the load on the slave will be delayed by 1/2 second or so. Rarely it won't turn on at all. The problem is a collision and the need for a repeated signal. The solution is to separate the two presses by a fraction of second in which case there is no delay.
To coax my system to flicker under controlled conditions, I used a V2 dimmer (top of stairs) and V2 slave (bottom of stairs) connected to a chandelier with 12 bulbs that normally is populated entirely with 15watt bulbs (180 watts total) By substituting 60 watt lamps for 15 watt ones, I can create any load between 15 and 720 watts in increments of 15 watts. The chandelier flashes (not really a 'flicker') when the load reaches 270 watts if an adjacent dimmer controlling the light at the bottom of the stairs in the same junction box and powered from the same hot and neutral to the entrance panel is pressed.
The flickering can be eliminated for any wattage up to my maximum of 720 by putting a coil (inductor) salvaged from an old dimmer in series with the dimmer that controls the chandelier. This gives me good confidence that the fix now in place for all INSTEON dimmers affected (a larger coil) is appropriate and effective and that new purchasers of the devices should not experience the problem.
The hardware PLC recalls are both firmware and hardware revisions and are themselves accompanied by new releases of the SmartLabs Device Manager and PLC core application.
The hardware doesn't work in an automated fashion without software, so recommending one without knowledge of the other is [choose a word for here] at best. This is particularly true of INSTEON because many/most software communicates through the SmartLabs Device Manager (SDM) and not directly with the hardware PLC. Homeseer development of a module for INSTEON has been a standstill because of problems with the SDM and PLC.
A new SDM was released at the same time as the PLC recall announced last week. On the INSTEON developer support site, the is a page full of bug swats and fixes in the SDM. I haven't seen a comparable one for the PLC but I presume it is more of the same. The 2414x fixes are both firmware and hardware (see below for rev #'s).
The three new releases (announced and released to us on September 7) are:
1) PowerLinc Controller firmware revision 2.13 and module revision 2.0 (2414U) and module revision 1.9 (2414S) 2) PLC Core Application revision 12 3) Smarthome Device Manager (SDM) revision 278
To get direct access to the details, you would have had to have paid the ~$20 differential between the cost of a 2414U only and a 2414U (or 2414S) with developer access. Until then, you're working with second or third-hand info.
TO summarize, I would be skeptical of hardware recommendations made without first being knowledgeable about, and so also being able to recommend, known-good software that works reliably with INSTEON.
My three cents ... Marc Marc_F_Hult
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Reply to
Marc_F_Hult
On 14 Sep 2006 11:09:05 -0700, "Josh B." wrote in message :
More INSTEON products are on the way, but much is still vapor, eg
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I wouldn't assume p > 0.9 on more than what is already shipping and +/- a direct web-linked (ethernet)controller, +/- in wall switch (SR277 replacement).
INSTEON can do what is arguably the hardest part of HA to retrofit to existing housing ( automation/control of dimmed ceiling lighting) but was never intended to provide cameras as you suggest.
Other functions such internal occupancy sensing and periphery security, thermostats and so on are arguably better (also) done with hard-wired systems, not RF or Powerline Control (PLC). In general, think first of opportunities for hard-wired systems and only after those are exhausted, consider RF and PLC as needed because of practical considerations including cost.
If you want effective HA, do your cost calculations as % of home value, % of cost of all installed electrical, % of 10-year HVAC bill, as a cost amortized over your expected period of ownership, as an improvement that you will recoup on sale, and so on. Don't buy hometoys out of this week's beer money and expect lasting value.
...Marc Marc_F_Hult
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Reply to
Marc_F_Hult
I'm not going to disagree with you here. Obviously wired connections are almost always better than anything wireless. I come from a IT background so I'd be the first to admit that a cat 5 cable is better than 802.11g wireless anyday. I'm looking more at automating some functions in my house. My house is 50 years old so while I agree, hard wired is better, it just isn't viable for my application
Unfortunately, unless you have a lot of disposable cash, it's difficult to justify dumping a lot of money into something that you most likely won't recoup the cost. For most home buyers, HA would be nothing more than a novelty. I'm a technical person who likes to dabble with stuff like this so installing Insteon would be more than a hobby than anything. The price point of the Insteon stuff seems reasonable for what it does. But even if I replaced all the switches in my house with Insteon products, I can assure you that it would cost more than cost more than a weeks worth of beer money.
Reply to
Josh B.
On 14 Sep 2006 19:14:20 -0700, "Josh B." wrote in message :
On Thu, 14 Sep 2006 17:25:41 -0400, Marc_F_Hult wrote in message :
I suppose it depends whether your house is, as the expression goes, 50 years old or 50 years young ;-)
My house is 185 years young so it is worth the time, dirt, aggravation, challenges and money to install hard-wired in my opinion. I agree that a post-WWII, first-ring suburban tract house might be a different matter.
When I've changed houses (about every 10-15 years) I've included cost for new infrastructure and improvements in the original purchase calculus. So, for example, I enjoyed the benefits (actual $ savings, reliability/peace of mind, environmental factors, subsequent resale value) of a vastly more efficient boiler for the 13 years I owned my last turn-of-the-century home in Minnesota because I installed it in year one. It paid for itself many times over. HA can be similar if you install stuff that lasts.
It doesn't have to be so in my experience -- but I agree that it often is. I lost _all_ my HA investment in the house before this one that I only owned for two years during which I was rebuilding it.
For ~$500, you can add 20 INSTEON wall/module switches/dimmers, controller and bridge. That's $10/week beer money for a year.
Its also equivalent to ~4 miles each way/day walking or biking at $2.50/gal and 15 mpg.
Do both and you can have your lighting system *and* lose 30 pounds in six months --- easy ;-)
For a mean value US home of $200k, $500 is 0.25% of purchase price. For a $50K starter in one of the 39 "weak market" US metro areas, it's still only 1%. I dunno about you, but I could never predict/calibrate/control home purchase prices to within a fraction of 1%.
My 4 cents ... Marc Marc_F_Hult
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Reply to
Marc_F_Hult

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