I'm from Birmingham, England, where I am an electrician with an interest in hobby electronics.
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 it 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.
- 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
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 than 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 it has become less popular today because newer systems have improved reliability. Despite waning popularity, there is a huge range of X10 products still available to buy.
Award-Winning, Low-Energy Bulbs
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, it can be added to scenes and linked to any controller.
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The wireless setup 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 main 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.
Not Much DIY or 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 setup.
One of the best starter kits 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 setup 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.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.