If controlling items wirelessly in your home, such as light switches, thermostats, power outlets, and more strikes you as an endeavor that’s both costly and annoyingly “techie,” you should seriously consider taking a look at the line of home-automation products offered by INSTEON. Many manufacturers tout their products as being easy to use, but INSTEON seriously embraces this concept with a simple setup and operational approach that virtually any smartphone or tablet user can successfully navigate.
Setup and Operation
"These products from INSTEON show us that we don’t need to have a degree in electrical engineering to install a home-automation system."
On the surface, INSTEON products greet you with a user-friendly interface that allows you to set up and control your connected devices intuitively with the touch of an icon or swipe of a finger, while dual-band powerline and radio-wave technology work seamlessly in the background, allowing you to control your INSTEON home-automation components wirelessly. If your Internet service provider supports port forwarding, you can even control your INSTEON-connected devices from a remote location, wherever Internet access is available. If you run into difficulty during the installation process, INSTEON phone technicians can walk you through the necessary steps. The INSTEON app is available for Android, iOS, and Windows 8 devices. Users of Windows 8 devices can enjoy convenient app-based control from an Internet-connected laptop or desktop computer, in addition to Windows 8 phone and tablet support. Mac OS X and Linux users need not feel left out, since browser-control options are available for those operating systems. Once your INSTEON system is set up, there are no monthly service fees or contract requirements—your only expenditures are for the physical devices.
So, how easy are we talking about? INSTEON offers the Starter Kit to get your home-automation system up and running, which includes the INSTEON Hub and comes bundled with two dimmer modules. The Hub is the heart of your INSTEON system, and communicates directly with your other INSTEON components. Once you connect the hub to your home network via its integrated Ethernet port, you can use the INSTEON app to interact with those devices. You can do things like schedule on and off times for connected lamps and even use the two included dimmer modules to control lighting levels (by sliding a lever in the app’s interface to a precise percentage). If you need to add more devices, the hub and app have you covered there, as well. The app walks you through the addition of those devices and, as an added convenience, you can name your new devices for a customized experience. Each dimmer module has a 2-pronged AC outlet for connecting a lamp, and modules can be purchased separately if more than two are required in your system.
Additional Home-Automation Components
What other components, you ask? INSTEON offers a wide range of devices that you can integrate into your wireless home-automation system. While the aforementioned Dimmer Modules connect via an available AC outlet, INSTEON also offers On/Off and Dimmer wall switches. These devices require electrical know-how for installation and are designed to replace your existing wall switches. These switches are engineered to control a variety of devices, such as ceiling lights and fans. For added wiring flexibility they can even accommodate 100 to 277 voltage requirements at 50 / 60Hz. They also feature a dual-color LED that lets you easily see the switch’s current operating state.
The On/Off switch is a great solution for devices that don’t require dimming and can switch up to 1800 total watts. You can use the INSTEON controller app to create lighting schedules, which you can program to automatically turn on or off your lights at a specific time. For example, you can program the switch to turn on at sundown and off when the sun rises. Expanding upon the relay functions of the On/Off Wall Switch, the Dimmer Switch incorporates a Ramp Up feature—using this function, you can set your lights to gradually power off or on. Ramp rates can be programmed to act instantly or over the course of 9 minutes. You can also set the default brightness level at which your switch powers on; the brightness level can be selected from the app interface and you can easily select a level anywhere from 1 to 100.
Taking lighting control a step further, INSTEON wall switches allow you to create scenes for your lighting environment. These scenes can be activated with the push of a button, allowing you to control multiple lights while watching movies, or entertaining friends and family. Additionally, every dimmable light in a scene can have a customized ramp rate for added control. The Dimmer Switch allows you to dim up to 600 total watts and, like the Dimmer Module, it is compatible with incandescent bulbs, LEDs, and dimmable CFLs. Also similar to the Dimmer Module, light output on the Dimmer Switch can be controlled by sliding the lever on the control app to your desired percentage. Both the On/Off and Dimmer Switches require a neutral wire in the junction box for installation.
For powering devices on and off outside your home, INSTEON offers the Outdoor On/Off Module. This model is made for use outdoors and can serve as an essential accessory for AC-powered patio and deck items. You can use it to remotely power items like outdoor lighting and sprinkler systems. This gives you the ability to perform household tasks, such as watering your lawn, without having to be home to do so manually.
If want to control ceiling lights and other fixtures without installing wall plates or modules, INSTEON’s Remote Control Dimmable LED Bulb might be the solution you’re looking for. Not only can this LED bulb be controlled remotely, but it features an energy-efficient and dimmable design. This bulb is calibrated to 2700K for comfortable viewing and is also compatible with INSTEON’s Ramp Rate, On Level, and Scene features. Its light output is approximately the equivalent to that of a 60-watt incandescent bulb. While this device can communicate directly with the INSTEON Hub, it can also be used with light sources that are connected to INSTEON’s wall switches and modules.
When you take a look at the wide range of home-automation devices offered by INSTEON, you will discover a variety of products that are geared toward simplifying other household tasks and functions. Let’s take a look at some of these devices and see how they integrate into INSTEON’s wireless home automation network.
INSTEON’s Leak Sensor can be used in places in your home, such as bathrooms and kitchens, to detect water leaks. If a leak is detected, you can receive a text message or email alert on your smartphone or tablet, enabling you to act quickly and thwart any potential damage. The Leak Sensor is powered by a single lithium AA battery and is estimated to provide up to 10 years of power using the included battery. Like many other INSTEON products, it has a wireless transmission range of up to 150 feet. This device is a great solution for placement anywhere water exposure is a concern.
The INSTEON Motion Sensor has a built-in countdown timer that can automatically turn off your lights 1 minute after you leave; it can also control up to 400 devices. That’s more than enough control for the average home. There’s even an optional night-only mode that conveniently allows you to keep your lights off during the day. In addition to turning lights off, the Motion Sensor can be used to turn lights on as well. This is a great feature if you would like to automatically brighten dark areas of your home as you approach them. For added setup flexibility, the motion sensitivity can be adjusted to high or low.
With the Wireless Open/Close Sensor you can automatically trigger a wireless automation event just by opening and closing a door or window. This sensor has a magnetic contact point that you can attach to your door or window frame and can be used to perform tasks like setting a thermostat or turning on an appliance. Those devices would have to be connected to other INSTEON products, such as the On/Off Module.
Nearly everyone who owns a garage has forgotten to close it at some point; it happens to us all. The INSTEON Garage Door Control and Status Kit can give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your garage is secure. This device can be controlled easily from the Hub and app and features a magnet and sensor for mounting on your garage door. Wiring is also included for connecting this kit to your garage door’s motor. Once it’s installed, if you have the feeling that your garage door is ajar, you can close it easily and remotely with the control app.
If want to remotely control the air conditioner or heater in your home and have a comfortable in-home temperature by the time you arrive, the INSTEON Thermostat gives you the ability to integrate that function into your home-automation system. While being a very competent remote thermostat, this device does more than just set a desired temperature; it’s also equipped with readouts for current temperature, humidity, and the time. Wiring is included for installation and it’s designed to replace your existing thermostat. This home-automation product also has the ability to be programmed 7 days in advance; this means you don’t have to maintain it on a daily basis. If you do want to check in on your thermostat, nonetheless, doing so is easy with the INSTEON app.
While being able to use your smartphone, tablet, or computer to control your home-automation components is convenient, they are not the only devices with which you can interact with your INSTEON devices. The INSTEON Mini Remote 4 Scene features a compact handheld design and gives you the ability to control four individual devices or eight groups of devices. If you want to turn on a light in another room, but your smartphone or other control device isn’t in reach, simply push one of the four buttons located on the remote’s front panel. While this device has a slightly smaller transmission range than other INSTEON devices, at 50 feet, its compact design allows you to mount it on a wall for convenient placement. Taking convenience a step further, it is also battery powered.
Home Monitoring and Security
Wireless home security and monitoring is a growing household essential for families everywhere. Who doesn’t want to see what’s going on in their house when they aren’t around? INSTEON’s Wireless IP Camera’s are available in both black or white and are capable wireless home-monitoring tools. Users such as travelers and parents can monitor their desired locations remotely and even receive motion-sensing alerts on their smartphones. On the audio side of things, a microphone and speaker are integrated into each camera, enabling you to listen as well as see. These wireless cameras are also designed for viewing flexibility with built-in panning and tilting capabilities, so if an angle isn’t in the camera’s immediate line of sight, you can adjust the camera to bring other areas of your home into view. These cameras are powered by a DC power adapter and include brackets for mounting on a wall. An external antenna is also included to help ensure a reliable wireless connection.
Picking the Right Components
While INSTEON home-automation devices don’t support conditional operation, where one event is automatically triggered by the event of another connected device, they do offer easy setup and control, along with vast system expandability. If you’re unsure of how many components your system requires, at B&H we offer a number of ready-made bundles like the INSTEON Assurance, Comfort, and Connected Kits. Each of these kits includes the required hub and adds devices such as Dimmer Modules, Motion Sensors, Wireless IP Cameras, and Thermostats. Building your system à la carte is also designed to be a breeze with the Starter Kit serving as a solid foundation. These products from INSTEON show us that we don’t need to have a degree in electrical engineering to install a home-automation system, although it’s nice if you do have one. Instead, the average person who has experience operating a mobile device like a smartphone, tablet, or computer can have items in their home wirelessly automated in little time—and with little effort.