Insteon Home Automation Review

Smart homes are rapidly becoming mainstream, a must have “accessory” for your smartphone. Whether it is to adjust indoor temperature and lights; or to be aware of potential break-ins; many homeowners are now leaning towards DIY automation systems like Insteon.

Insteon is home automation and is available through Amazon. It was introduced in 2005 to give motion sensors, thermostats, lights, and other things, the ability to function through radio and powerline-based communications. Insteon is simple. Homeowners can install the system on their own and run it from a smartphone without monthly fees. It can be used to create automation that is basic or grow into something creative and complex.

Radio and Power lines? That’s weird.

Communicating through radios and power lines sounds a little spooky but it’s actually pretty cool. In their own words,

What makes INSTEON the most reliable home automation technology is its dual-mesh network. “Dual” means that INSTEON uses both radio frequency signals and the home’s existing electrical wiring to talk to each other. Every message is confirmed as it is received, and if any errors are detected, the message is automatically resent.

In addition to communicating through radio and power lines, Insteon can speak to other devices using several different home automation languages. It can potentially work with devices that use X10, Zigbee, Insteon, and Z-wave. Yes Insteon is technically an appliance and a language.

In summary, Insteon can speak to itself and to other home automation devices but you, as the owner, can also speak to Insteon. Insteon users can manage the network from a wide range of interfaces, including cell phones, laptops and third party controllers.

How to get started in the communication party….

Everything starts with the Hub. The hub connects to your home router via an Ethernet plug, simply plug it into the wall, connect your mobile app, and you’re good to go. Most of the time, it is cheaper to buy the hub from Amazon in the Insteon starter kit than it is to buy the hub solo. The Starter Kit is $120 and includes the hub and two dimmer modules. Buying the hardware is the most expensive part as there are no monthly fees for using Insteon. No matter how big or small you start, you can continue to expand your home automation system bit by bit.

Mobile App Control

Insteon AppThe Insteon hub app keeps you connected to your house while on the go and is available for Windows devices, iPhone/iPads, and Androids. The app is free for users and the Windows app comes with a pretty awesome feature… The newly released Cortana support for Windows Phones allows you to give voice commands without opening the app. It would be interesting to see similar features on the Google and iPhone app but currently the Windows app is the only one that supports voice commands.

With the Insteon Hub, devices, and an app, you can control switches, light bulbs, view cameras, thermostats, and more. The app can also be used to set alerts which can be sent via email or text message for fire, leaks, doors, windows etc. Better yet, with the camera feature, you can peep in to see exactly what is wrong.

The Insteon Hub app currently has a 4 star rating on Windows app store, a 2.5 star rating on iTunes and a 2.5 star rating on Google Play.

Keeping You Safe

Insteon is compatible with a number of devices that can be used for home security. They offer traditional open/close sensors that can be used to monitor doors and windows. They also offer dimmers, thermostats, door locks, motion detectors and sensing devices such as smoke detectors. The smoke Bridge monitor allow you to create a text message alert for smoke, excess carbon monoxide and fire while motion sensors control home appliances and lights automatically. You can use motion sensors to trigger a light to turn on when you get home or you can get even more creative.

What Makes Insteon Different in a Good Way

There are Pros and Cons to Insteon but what sets them apart is there use of a dual mesh network. With a dual mesh network every device acts as a repeater; relaying alert messages to all other devices on the network. Therefore, adding more devices will strengthen the network rather than burden it. Many home automation hubs use one channel to communicate like radio for example. Insteon uses two forms of communication so if one channel clogs, they have a backup.

What Makes Insteon Different in a Not So Good Way?

Technology enhances security but if we’ve learned anything it is that technology is vulnerable and like every piece of technology Insteon is not without its fair share of horror stories. Some of this may be due to Insteon’s compatibility with X10 products. I hate to be the one to tell you but if you’ve been using X10, it’s time for an upgrade. Though all home automation languages have vulnerabilities X10 is especially vulnerable.

Insteon had several specific problems in the past that left owners vulnerable. Insteon issued a recall of the devices in 2013 to rectify the problem with the Hub. Mike Nunes, Insteon chief information officer stated that the faulty system has been discontinued and that the problems occurred because of user errors since the products were not intended for remote access at the time.

So, What’s The Verdict?

Does the good outweigh the bad? You are the only one who can answer this question. A word to the wise, Insteon’s current products automatically assign a password and user name. While this is great, it’s best to choose your own password and make sure it is a tough one specific to your Insteon device.

You can get started with INSTEON by purchasing on Amazon here.