An Introduction to Insteon Home Automation

Updated on May 6, 2016

Insteon Dual-Mesh Home Automation

Insteon is a hybrid wireless and powerline networking technology for home automation systems. The company behind Insteon claim that this dual channel communication makes the technology more reliable than its main wireless-only competitors such as Z-Wave. This also allows for compatibility with products made for the once popular X10 powerline protocol.

Insteon is still primarily a United States based company, but is expanding globally and has already launched 30 products in Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The wireless network created by Insteon devices uses the mesh topology - meaning that each message is broadcast to every device, and every device is capable of acting as a 'repeater' to pass on the message until it reaches its eventual destination.

Technical Specifications

  • Network: Peer to peer, dual powerline and wireless mesh
  • Powerline: 131 KHz
  • RF (US): 915 MHz
  • RF (Europe): 868 MHz
  • RF (Australia, New Zealand): 921 MHz
  • Maximum devices per network: 16,777,216
  • Maximum scenes per device: 256
  • Security: Encrypted Paypload

Product Range

Because Insteon is a proprietary technology rather than an open protocol - meaning that all of its products (apart from controllers) are designed and manufactured by the same company - the range of dedicated products is more limited that some of its competitors. This does mean, however, that all Insteon devices are guaranteed to play nicely with all others, which can't always be said of more open systems.

On the other hand, the fact that it is compatible with the x10 product range means that Insteon has arguably the largest range of compatible devices of any system on the market. The X10 was previously the most popular home automation system in the U.S. and still has users across the world, but has become less popular today because newer systems have improved reliability. Despite waning popularity, there is a huge range of X10 product still available to buy.

Award Winning Low Energy Bulb

In 2012 Insteon received accolades for developing the 'world's first fully dimmable networked light bulb'.

  • At just 8 watts the low energy bulb is as bright as a 60 watt incandescent lamp.
  • It has an estimated 52,000 hour lifespan.
  • Like any other device and can be added to scenes and linked to any controller.

Popular Controllers

Name
Key Selling Points
Compatibility
Security
HomeSeer HomeTroller SE Pro
Voice control, free app
Wide ranging compatibility with Lutron, Zensys, Leviton, Lightolier, HAI, Global Cache, UPB, X10, Z-Wave and more
HSSentry and HSProtect
Insteon Hub
Text message notifications, IP camera support
Insteon only, require
Standard

Installation

The wireless set up of an Insteon system is easier than most, as individual devices do not require network inclusion. In order to take advantage of the system's full capability, however, they do need access to your house's mains electricity supply.

If you are looking to migrate from an older x10 system then you can do this gradually and fairly easily. If you installed your own X10 network then you will certainly have no problems at all with the simpler Insteon installation process.

Getting Started with Insteon

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DIY and Maker Culture

Insteon is more of a closed system than some of its competitors, meaning that it is less suitable for DIY modifications. There are a few independent software makers out there who can help you develop your own controller based on a static computer, which allows for the creation of some additional features, but there is no significant 'maker culture'.

The lack of a substantial online community of self-installers should not be a problem for people wanting to set up a basic system themselves, as the installation process is very simple. But if you want a project that you can really get your teeth stuck into and customize in a big way then you may have to look elsewhere.

Insteon 'Connected Home' Starter Kit

The easiest and in many cases the cheapest way to get started with Insteon home automation is to buy a starter kit which includes everything you need for a basic set up.

One of the best starter kit that I have seen is the 'Connected Home' kit, which includes:

  • Hub controller
  • 2 lighting dimmer control units
  • Leak sensor
  • Wireless IP camera
  • Wireless Thermostat
  • Window or Door contact sensor

This gives you a good range of equipment to play with including enough for a decent security set up, and lighting and heating control in one room. You can then decide which features you like the best in order to build on and expand your system.

Buy The Connected Home Starter Kit from Amazon

Questions & Answers

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