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Insteon Replacement?


elvisimprsntr

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Happy Holidays!

Sad to see the state of Insteon and how SH seems to be running the company/technology into the ground.  Too bad we all hitched our wagons to Insteon.  

Just wanted to get your thoughts on the future of Insteon and what platform we should be moving towards.  I have a couple of devices that failed and need to be replaced, but I don't want to sink any more $ into Insteon if SH is going to abandon Insteon.

Should we be moving to a more large scale technology that is more widely commercially available from Lutron or Leviton?

1. Connects or integrates with the Elk M1?
2. Anything that integrates with HomeKit?
3. Powerline or RF (Zwave, Zigbee, WiFi, etc.)?
4. Hub and Controllers that support both Insteon and replacement communication so we can migrate over time, or just dump Insteon and possibly get some $ from selling our existing kit.

5. A platform that will add better resale value to my home?  (I don't think someone wants to buy a home with an obsolete and finicky technology.) 

6. Or just dump smart controls altogether and install dumb switches?
 

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There is not a direct 1 for 1 replacement for Insteon at this time so it kind of depends on what your existing Insteon deployment includes. I would consider using Caseta switches as the Insteon ones fail unless you need keypads in which case you need Z-Wave or RA3. Likewise if you use a lot of specialty devices beyond switches, dimmers, and keypads you will need to look at Z-Wave or Zigbee. If you have a small enough installation and are a heavy Alexa user then Wi-Fi stuff may give you the best bang for your buck. There is no one size fits all answer (at this time).

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1. Connects or integrates with the Elk M1?

Depends on the individual -- relatively few have an Elk system, so probably not a consideration for the majority.  However, for those who do have an Elk system, integration is probably pretty important!

2. Anything that integrates with HomeKit?

Opinion: HomeKit is DOA.  Big splash.  Now just ripples.  Of course, Apple could revive it at any time...  And that's really the key there: Apple.  If you are a die-hard Apple afficionado, then HomeKit.  Otherwise no, it's not really pertinent.


3. Powerline or RF (Zwave, Zigbee, WiFi, etc.)?

There really aren't any powerline solutions left.  The fundamental problem is that the modern generation of high-efficiency power-supplies and LED lighting has altered the electrical environment that made low-cost high-reliability power-line signaling viable.  So it's going to be an RF solution.  That space is still evolving, so whatever you install needs to be mass-market to remain supported in event one of the upcoming technologies is crowned the winner.  IMO, WiFi is not it -- just won't scale, and is too power-hungry.  Avoid, except for very specialized devices.  Zigbee is fine, but low-range, and mostly lighting only.  Uses its own hub.  A fine choice, but not something that's likely to be useful for general automation.  Z-Wave is the clear choice at the moment for that "general automation" category.  Not ideal for lighting, but adequate for most.  Crappy "scene controllers" compared to the Insteon KPL - but again, adequate for most.  Good choice of Garage Door operators -- better than Insteon by far.  Door locks are almost all Z-Wave, but because door locks are set inside doors and door frames, which are surrounded by walls, and considering that said doors are usually entry-way doors and made of steel -- well, door locks expose some fundamental limitations of Z-Wave's RF mesh mechanism... you may not find them useful, so perhaps explore some other technology there.  For general automation (dry contacts, leak sensors, door/window switches, Z-Wave is clearly the choice.


4. Hub and Controllers that support both Insteon and replacement communication so we can migrate over time, or just dump Insteon and possibly get some $ from selling our existing kit.

See below for the strategy I'm employing -- but in general this is an area where right now you need to consider integration, and avoid any single platform for the controller.  The ISY platform remains ideal for Insteon and Z-Wave, and with node servers it can integrate with many other device types.  It suffers (IMO) from lack of a customizable UI -- something that hasn't bothered me personally since I ascribe to the notion that automation, when done correctly, shouldn't require a UI, it should just do what it's supposed to.  That said, there are cases where a nice web display of the rooms and status of the automation in each is useful, especially for guests and family members, and really useful when something goes sideways.  My point: integration of the ISY with something like Home Assistant is very useful.

Now, to touch on something from way above -- if you are completely bought into the Apple eco-system, then things change -- integration is less of a consideration, and an all-Apple solution may be the right thing.  I can't point anyone to such a thing, since I'm not in that eco-system.  I'm sure others know what the Apple/HomeKit hub/controller/UI solution is.

5. A platform that will add better resale value to my home?  (I don't think someone wants to buy a home with an obsolete and finicky technology.) 

Hate to burst your bubble, but home automation doesn't add any resale value to your house.  If that's your goal, stick with dumb switches, and sink the money into remodeling the kitchen and baths.  Seriously.  (Oh sure, given two absolutely identical homes, one with some fancy lighting system might tip the scales.  But it'll need a flashy GUI to attract attention, and "automation that just works" is a background thing.  Yes, it has value -- but not to someone buying the house... very few even consider or care that a house has a water senser to alert in case the sump is about to overflow.. and frankly pointing out that valuable bit of automation is more likely to alarm the buyer and decrease the value of your home!)

6. Or just dump smart controls altogether and install dumb switches?

Yes, and No.  Take this as an opportunity to de-gadget your house, and build "gen-2" of your automation.  My approach has been to go through the house, area-by-area, and consider what automation gets used, consider what it connects with, and upgrade as appropriate.  Some examples:

  • I just pulled out a dimmer for the front hall entryway.  That Insteon dimmer will go to my pole barn (see below); it's being replaced by a dumb switch.  Why?  Because neither my wife nor I can remember when we used that switch as a dimmer, nor are there any programs or scenes in the ISY that involve that dimmer.  Hence, it's a pointless automation -- replacing it with a dumb switch and using that Insteon device elsewhere is an obvious choice.  There are other cases of this in my house -- I imagined more automation than actually turned out to be useful.  I'd estimate about 10% of the wall switches are in this category, and 90% of the Insteon LED bulbs (ouch - they were expensive).
     
  • I replaced all the devices on the second floor with Z-Wave.  There were a pair of three-way switches involving the stairs, so those got replaced as well.  The Z-Wave switches went into the second-floor boxes, and the inexpensive dumb Z-Wave three-way switches are down at the bottom of the stairs, so that all the Z-Wave devices are concentrated into an easy-to-manage "cluster" -- works well to keep the mesh healthy and happy.  A few months later, the rear entry-way area and laundry got "Z-Waved".  In addition to replacing the wall switches, I pulled out an Insteon motion sensor that automated the laundry-room lighting -- turned out that a GE Z-Wave occupancy switch could replace both that motion sensor and a switchlinc, without scenes or programming.  Nice.  So, use the "zone" strategy to make replacement easy, to minimize "cross-technology" links, and keep your mesh happy.
     
  • Up next is the basement -- two new Z-Wave switches will go in to replace a pair of switchlinc units, on of which is failing.  This will result in an undesirable mix of Insteon and Z-Wave in a single (large) area, but since it's a basement, I'm ok with the lighting delays and "funny" stuff that might happen (primarily due to the fact that Insteon is handled by the ISY and Z-Wave is handled by Home Assistant in my setup -- if both Z-Wave and Insteon are on your ISY, it's hardly a problem).  Just remember that your lighting changes won't be instantaneous this way -- for example, you'll adjust a dimmer for the main light, and half the lights will lag.  Avoid this where it matters.
     
  • Long-term, I'm going to need to keep both.  Z-Wave won't reach out to my pole barn, plus it's so old that there just aren't travelers to the multiple doors where I need three-way switchs.  This is an Insteon strength, so as I pull our working Insteon devices, they will go to the pole barn.  The down-sides of Insteon are mitigated (there are very few electronics to mess up the power-line sine wave in a barn) -- the big electrical noise-maker is very intermittent, and besides, who cares if the lights don't turn on or off correctly in the barn while the welder is operating?
     
  • Finally, in the spirit of refining automation, consider self-contained devices and controllers where it's just gotten too complicated with the ISY.  For me, there's the septic tank lift pump.  I've posted on this before -- in a nut shell, the lift pump has a filter, and it can get clogged and needs cleaning.  Yuck.  A current sensor connected to an IO-Linc allows me to track how often that pump runs, but more importantly, allows me to track the run time.  Increasing run times means it's time to proactively clean the mesh filter.  Over time, the automation has grown -- if the pump runs beyond 10 minutes, it's not going to shut off; nothing is getting through.  However, it turns out that cycling the pump a few times can often shift the mess on the mesh, and let the cycle complete... so the automation does that, which can buy a few more days of time, in case I'm out-of-town, or the weather sucks, or whatever.  Where I'm going with this is to note that the hodge-podge of evolving Insteon devices, power-relay, current sensor, ISY programs, etc, has finally become something that needs its own stand-alone controller.  That's on my workbench right now, and when installed it'll be a single sealed box, with status and alarm indicators, with reset and test switches, and test points.  Documentation in a form suitable for an electrician or plumber will be laminated and attached nearby.  Integration with the ISY is not necessary any more, but most importantly, it'll become a "monitor-only" sort of thing, rather than the "if a program goes wonky is just the right manner, then the ISY may actually turn off my septic lift pump, and that would be really, really bad" sort of thing.

    Consider your cases -- you may have some unique automations that are overly-complex, or fragile, where you might need to build or buy something specific to the purpose.  Especially consider things like your HVAC and water/sump/septic systems; you don't want them to depend on your ISY or home automation.  (Note that the operative word is "depend" -- monitoring is desirable; just avoid making your furnace depend on your Insteon PLM!)

In a nutshell -- look at this as an opportunity.  Insteon had a good run, and it's not clear which technology will be crowned the winner, but there's plenty of stuff out there that's a good investment.  Don't be sucked into the trap that everything needs to be automated, or integrated, and especially don't fall into the trap of thinking any of it's going to provide resale value for your home!

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36 minutes ago, mwester said:

 

In a nutshell -- look at this as an opportunity.  Insteon had a good run, and it's not clear which technology will be crowned the winner, but there's plenty of stuff out there that's a good investment.  Don't be sucked into the trap that everything needs to be automated, or integrated, and especially don't fall into the trap of thinking any of it's going to provide resale value for your home!

Excellent and thorough post!

I only have a hand full of Insteon switches/outlets/keypads/fanlincs in specific locations.  

Option 6 is what I am going with.  Replace with dumb devices as they fail.  

For the handful of lamps I have on controls, leave connected to Insteon plug-in modules and replace with non-Insteon devices as they fail.    No more hard wired smart devices!     

I'll keep the Elk M1, since it still functions without Insteon.  

As you said, Insteon had a good run.  

 

 

 

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7 hours ago, elvisimprsntr said:

Happy Holidays!

Sad to see the state of Insteon and how SH seems to be running the company/technology into the ground.  Too bad we all hitched our wagons to Insteon.  

Just wanted to get your thoughts on the future of Insteon and what platform we should be moving towards.  I have a couple of devices that failed and need to be replaced, but I don't want to sink any more $ into Insteon if SH is going to abandon Insteon.

Should we be moving to a more large scale technology that is more widely commercially available from Lutron or Leviton?

1. Connects or integrates with the Elk M1?
2. Anything that integrates with HomeKit?
3. Powerline or RF (Zwave, Zigbee, WiFi, etc.)?
4. Hub and Controllers that support both Insteon and replacement communication so we can migrate over time, or just dump Insteon and possibly get some $ from selling our existing kit.

5. A platform that will add better resale value to my home?  (I don't think someone wants to buy a home with an obsolete and finicky technology.) 

6. Or just dump smart controls altogether and install dumb switches?
 

I'd go with dummy switches and hue bulbs for certain things before I ever used zwave for lighting. The experience isn't a great one unless you're willing to settle. 

Diy smart lighting products does nothing to increase resale value though it may make a person who wants it purchase yours over another. High end residential lighting systems are a different story. These can increase value but only in similar classed homes. Mid-high to high end homes having a lutron or C4 system will be valued higher than a similar home with nothing. Put it in a low middle and below home, you'll find that out will probably hurt more than it helps. 

Appraisers will make adjustments for smart tech in general for things such as thermostats, locks, integrated alarm systems, etc. across all classes of homes.

It's similar to car buying. If you take a $2k car and put $5k dollar wheels on it, it's still a $2k car.  However, if you buy a high end luxury car and put the upgraded wheels on that, it'll be worth more money. Go to any tire shop and use their off the shelf wheels (while they may look better), the value is only there for the person who wants the look. Everyone else will pass

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1 hour ago, lilyoyo1 said:

I'd go with dummy switches and hue bulbs for certain things before I ever used zwave for lighting. The experience isn't a great one unless you're willing to settle. 

Diy smart lighting products does nothing to increase resale value though it may make a person who wants it purchase yours over another. High end residential lighting systems are a different story. These can increase value but only in similar classed homes. Mid-high to high end homes having a lutron or C4 system will be valued higher than a similar home with nothing. Put it in a low middle and below home, you'll find that out will probably hurt more than it helps. 

Appraisers will make adjustments for smart tech in general for things such as thermostats, locks, integrated alarm systems, etc. across all classes of homes.

It's similar to car buying. If you take a $2k car and put $5k dollar wheels on it, it's still a $2k car.  However, if you buy a high end luxury car and put the upgraded wheels on that, it'll be worth more money. Go to any tire shop and use their off the shelf wheels (while they may look better), the value is only there for the person who wants the look. Everyone else will pass

@lilyoyo1 tends to exaggerate on Zwave, even when he has a point. I am all Zwave and have very few issues with my light switches. The negative of Zwave, that it has different manufacturers, with different qualities, is also Zwave's positive. Would we have had different manufacturers of Insteon, you would not all have to worry about it's possible demise.

Yes, Zwave light switches may have small delays, especially in programs (which is annoying when reacting to a motion sensor). but overall they work well..... and they are not dependent on a PLM (a big plus for me).

Furthermore Zwave evolves with the 700 series being pretty fast (and upcoming 800 series even faster).

All this being said, if I were to start my home automation today, I would closely look at Lutron and its RA3 (here @lilyoyo1 and I agree), and I would also keep an eye on what Matter may become.

Now in conclusion and (mis) quoting Mark Twain :

The reports of Insteon's  death may not be  greatly exaggerated 

and

The reports of Zwave's weaknesses are  exaggerated 

 

p.s.  replacing Insteon with dumb switches may be stubborn. Whatever misgivings one may have with Zwave, ISY gives you the option and Zwave switches are not expesnive. Give it a try.

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11 minutes ago, asbril said:

@lilyoyo1 tends to exaggerate on Zwave, even when he has a point. I am all Zwave and have very few issues with my light switches. The negative of Zwave, that it has different manufacturers, with different qualities, is also Zwave's positive. Would we have had different manufacturers of Insteon, you would not all have to worry about it's possible demise.

Yes, Zwave light switches may have small delays, especially in programs (which is annoying when reacting to a motion sensor). but overall they work well..... and they are not dependent on a PLM (a big plus for me).

Furthermore Zwave evolves with the 700 series being pretty fast (and upcoming 800 series even faster).

All this being said, if I were to start my home automation today, I would closely look at Lutron and its RA3 (here @lilyoyo1 and I agree), and I would also keep an eye on what Matter may become.

Now in conclusion and (mis) quoting Mark Twain :

The reports of Insteon's  death may not be  greatly exaggerated 

and

The reports of Zwave's weaknesses are  exaggerated 

Exaggeration is in the eye of the beholder. What may be a simple nuisance for some may be a deal breaker for others. 

Those delays and the popcorn effect are non starters for me. The variable differences in quality as well. Even well thought out zwave switches feel inferior to insteon and that hasn't been changed in over 10 years (which I readily admit has grown long in the tooth). The fact that you have to do so much to accomplish mundane tasks (parameters) is also a turn off. Once you learn insteon or most any other device, you can toss the manuals for the most part....Not zwave. Time is money and zwave wastes both for me. 

Does it work...of course. Just not up to my standards 

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4 minutes ago, lilyoyo1 said:

Exaggeration is in the eye of the beholder. What may be a simple nuisance for some may be a deal breaker for others. 

Those delays and the popcorn effect are non starters for me. The variable differences in quality as well. Even well thought out zwave switches feel inferior to insteon and that hasn't been changed in over 10 years (which I readily admit has grown long in the tooth). The fact that you have to do so much to accomplish mundane tasks (parameters) is also a turn off. Once you learn insteon or most any other device, you can toss the manuals for the most part....Not zwave. Time is money and zwave wastes both for me. 

Does it work...of course. Just not up to my standards 

That was not my point. Over the years I have learned from you about the superiority of Insteon over Zwave switches and I don't dispute this. Alas, Insteon seems to have gone where I believed it would ultimately go (*) Therefore people rightfully ask the question of where they should go next and I believe that ISY users have little to lose to go the Zwave way while pondering longer term choices.

(*) I hated the PLM 

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51 minutes ago, asbril said:

That was not my point. Over the years I have learned from you about the superiority of Insteon over Zwave switches and I don't dispute this. Alas, Insteon seems to have gone where I believed it would ultimately go (*) Therefore people rightfully ask the question of where they should go next and I believe that ISY users have little to lose to go the Zwave way while pondering longer term choices.

(*) I hated the PLM 

I'm not understanding your point then since you were saying i was exaggerating the shortcomings of zwave which (for me) is a non starter (which my answer was based on my opinion)

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1 hour ago, asbril said:

That was not my point. Over the years I have learned from you about the superiority of Insteon over Zwave switches and I don't dispute this. Alas, Insteon seems to have gone where I believed it would ultimately go (*) Therefore people rightfully ask the question of where they should go next and I believe that ISY users have little to lose to go the Zwave way while pondering longer term choices.

(*) I hated the PLM 

I have learned a few tricks to compensate for some things in HA systems.

For popcorn effects always turn on the most visible lights when walking into a room. If the forward view is lit up, humans will tend to walk into the room, and not see the lights behind you, and not even notice the popcorn effect. By the time you look back the lights will be on anyway. Use various ramping speeds so that the last on lightbulbs are faster and tend to "catch up" to the others at full-on levels.

With my WiFi lighting using NR --> NRbridge.py -->WiFi lights, I have programmed it to have very little popcorn delay. However I still group my linearly arranged decklights and interior lamps into groups so that when turning on they turn on like this 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, then 2, 5, 8, 11, 14, then 3, 6, 9, 12, 15. This is also very useful for festive lighting using three different colours and animating rotations of colours etc.. (just to bug the neighbours :) ) The spaced out grouping in the sequences, hide the popcorn effects somewhat, especially with ramped up brightness levels.

For lightswitch delays, get a vocal control box. ie: Alexa or GH speakers. The delay from a vocal is not even noticeable mostly. It takes you about 5 seconds to get your commend out and many times my Alexa speakers command my lights via Alexa --> cloud --> ISY cloud --> ISY Portal --> Internet --> ISY --> Insteon or (NR --> NRbridge.py --> WiFi --> Lights)
Of course always maintain a lightswitch control via LAN and/or PLM/Zwave dongle to your ISY programs. The above methods are too dependent on too many mechanisms that can fail and you are not in control of.

MS---> light on  delays? That is a different problem and not very resolvable without direct Insteon Scene links. I am not sure what Zwave offers but I hear about some delays that are not well liked.
Staircases? Not really a good idea for MS based lighting but a small bulb could be turned on during dark periods and then main lighting  could be done via motion. There is nothing more frightening than having all lights switch off during a human step down on a set of steps. been there, done that. Always have a small one on for this happen stance. It could save somebody a heart attack or a nasty fall down the staircase.

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25 minutes ago, lilyoyo1 said:

I'm not understanding your point then since you were saying i was exaggerating the shortcomings of zwave which (for me) is a non starter (which my answer was based on my opinion)

Well, I think that you exaggerate Zwave's weaknesses, even if I accept that you believe that Insteon is so much better. Preferring dumb switches over Zwave is.......respectfully...... dumb.

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2 minutes ago, asbril said:

Well, I think that you exagerate Zwave's weaknesses, even if I accept that you believe that Insteon is so much better. Preferring dumb switches over Zwave is.......respectfully...... dumb.

What's next? Manually wind up windows in your car?  Get up and turn the TV tuner and stand there while you see if the program is any good or previously viewed?  :)

Man! You can never go back!

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1 hour ago, asbril said:

Well, I think that you exaggerate Zwave's weaknesses, even if I accept that you believe that Insteon is so much better. Preferring dumb switches over Zwave is.......respectfully...... dumb.

That's your opinion. It's just not an experience I'd choose to live with. Some people are ok with driving a pinto. I'm not one of them. 

Luckily for me, I can afford better so that's not an issue

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1 hour ago, larryllix said:

What's next? Manually wind up windows in your car?  Get up and turn the TV tuner and stand there while you see if the program is any good or previously viewed?  :)

Man! You can never go back!

Depends on where you started from. If someone's motor was acting up for their windows, I guarantee they wished they had manual windows at that moment. Had I never known different I'd probably would feel that way. However, with the things I've experienced, I couldn't allow myself to spend the kind of money it takes to outfit a whole house for a lesser experience. It's just not worth it. 

We all have the things that we can live with and those we cannot. As I've always said, automation for me is about the complete experience not simply being able to control something. 

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2 hours ago, mwester said:

People seriously underestimate 1960s technology.  The locals laugh at my ancient UTV - but when that EMP detonates, guess who'll still be mobile, and laughing at them!

If the EMP hits, manual light switches will not work nor will your car.  Both will be out of "fuel".  The electricity grid will go down, for a long time, and the gas pumps will not work (no electricity and the pump's circuit boards will be fried).  Soooooo, might as well enjoy the tech up until the point in time that the EMP pulse hits, if it hits.

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2 hours ago, lilyoyo1 said:

That's your opinion. It's just not an experience I'd choose to live with. Some people are ok with driving a pinto. I'm not one of them. 

Luckily for me, I can afford better so that's not an issue

There are Pintos and Rolls Royces......... and BMW's in the middle.

But seriously it is absolutely understandable that you prefer C4, Ra3 over Zwave, and most likely if I were to start from zero, I would probably prefer Lutron switches over Zwave. I am not debating that there are better alternatives to Insteon than Zwave, and good for you that you can afford the Rolls Royce.

My only point is that  stating that one should prefer dumb switches over Zwave is for me a questionable opinion. Over the years you have made a good case of Insteon's superiority over Zwave and I respect your knowledge as well as your enormous contributions to this forum, but you are too rigid in your criticism of Zwave.

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