Who's Online

We have 59 guests online

LiveAutomatic Newsletter

Subscribe now for LiveAutomatic exclusives!

Home Automation Review - Question & Answers E-mail
Written by Peter   

scratchinghead_border.jpgIf you're one of the many people considering home automation, but you aren't quite sure where to start or what the best technology is, this article is for you. It seems as though the majority of information about home automation is either extremely technical or focused on one specific product offering. There is no 'perfect' system in home automation, but that's the beauty of it too - the parts work together to achieve what you want your house to be like, not what someone else thinks it should be like. Read on for the top questions asked when starting out with home automation...



Question: What is the best home automation technology?

Home Automation In-wall screen

Answer: While there is no definitive answer, there are certainly best ‘fit’ products depending on your needs. For the average user, Insteon offers low price, high reliability and many software options that don’t exist with other home automation solutions. For people with older houses using knob and tube wiring, Zwave is the best solution since it does not require any expensive electrical modifications to function (it uses wireless communication exclusively). Zigbee is still emerging as a technology and as such has a limited supply of devices available. HAI is targeted towards professional installations and as such is the most complicated to design, install and maintain however if done correctly it can be one of the most flexible solutions as well.

For the majority of people looking for a solution, Insteon will be the best choice with its inexpensive, easy to use modules and backwards compatibility with X10.


Question: How difficult is it to install?


Answer: If you are comfortable with replacing a light switch, installing a home automation system is within your reach. The basic process is: switch off the breaker to the switch (or your whole house to be safe), unscrew the cover plate and switch, disconnect the two wires from the old switch, connect the wires to the home automation switch and replace the cover plate. Once you turn on the breaker again, you can test the switch locally and then using the remote. If it works, move on to your next breaker and light switch. If the switch does not work, check your wires for a solid connection and ensure that if you are connecting a three-way switch (ie. A stairway switch with one at the top and one at the bottom) that you selected the right wires (there are three wires used in these circuits) according to the included diagram.


Question: What can I control with home automation?


Answer: That depends on the manufacturer, but taking Insteon as an example we can control the following:

ezrain_border.jpgLighting: Keypad Dimmer Scene Lighting for in-wall and Lamp Scene Lighting for plug-in lamps.

Ceiling fans, fluorescent lights, other inductive loads: SwitchLinc relay

Garage door, fireplace, sprinklers, other low-voltage devices: EZRain for sprinklers, EZIO for garage doors, fireplace and other low-voltage devices.

Hot tub, pool: EZIO with water temperature sensor and 220v outdoor SwitchLinc to control the motor/heaters.

Alarm system: ELK-M1 Gold with Insteon interface.

Venstar T1800 with Insteon adapter

IP Cameras:
mControl software, or through a NetLinc (now called Smartlinc).

The following devices can be used as inputs to your system:

Indoor Motion Sensors:
Insteon motion sensor

Long-range motion sensors:
Dakotawireless alert with Simplehomenet Insteon interface.

Door sensors, window sensors, glass break sensors:
Through Elk M1 Gold Insteon interface all alarm sensors can be monitored and used as inputs for home automation.

Moisture sensors:
Sensor and X10 Powerflash module using Insteon backwards compatability

Infrared remotes like Harmony series:
IRLinc receives infrared and allows home automation control from your remote.


For more home automation articles, see the ‘related content’ section on the left.

Add New Search
Write comment
[b] [i] [u] [url] [quote] [code] [img] 
Please input the anti-spam code that you can read in the image.
Peter  - Ask away!   |December-04 08:45:44
If you have a question about Insteon, home automation in general or a specific
task, ask away!
gerry  - insteon..is it reliable.   |December-16 11:44:50
considering it but electrician found comment about switches not working after
few months..press, press and nothing. Is this unique or ? He is reommending
Lutron. Any advice
Peter   |December-16 13:24:42
Good question Gerry. Some of the first generation switches had issues with
components failing, however it appears to be related to heat and ganging
multiple switches in the same panel box. The newer switches (last 8-9 months)
haven't had any issues due to a redesign.

It's also worth mentioning that
Smarthome was noted as being excellent about replacing switches with this issue,
regardless of warranty period.

Lutron is quite high end and generally
requires more experience to setup correctly, which is likely why your
electrician is advocating it. When comparing Lutron to Insteon, the general
consensus is that Lutron has a slight edge in reliability however your cost is
twice to three times as much as with Insteon.

Personally, coming from the X10
world where reliability was a huge concern, Insteon has been great with not a
single missed signal in my experience of 1 year's use.

Hope this helps!
Jerry  - Controlling x10 components with Insteon Smartlinc?   |December-26 04:49:02
I've been looking over all this home automation technology trying to figure out
which product would work best for me. I've decided to use Insteon and am
planning to get the Smartlinc controller. I chose smartlinc so that I could
remotely monitor/control my home while away, and I wasn't sure if that would be
possible with Powerlinc or Houselinc 2. Though if I setup a Remote desktop
application I guess I could access the software and my Insteon devices through
it, as long as my computer was online...which it usually is.

Are there any
advantages to using Powerlinc or Houselinc 2 over Smartlinc?

Another thing I'm
still a little unclear on is about the backwards compatibility with x10. Would
there be any issues or compatibility problems if I bought one of the Insteon
controllers mentioned above, but then bought a lot of x10 products like motion
sensors, flood lights, cameras, etc?...because their equipment is A LOT

I'd appreciate any advice anyone could give me about what to do.
Peter   |January-01 03:56:48
The quick strokes are that Powerlinc / Houselinc / other software can do things
like trigger events based on sensors etc which the Smartlinc can't do. Simple
associations (ie. when motion sensor detects movement, turn on light) can be
done without any controller at all, but more advanced things (ie. when doorbell
rings, pulse all lights in the house and turn tv to front door webcam) require
software and a Powerlinc / Power line modem (sometimes referred to as PLC or

The bright side about the Smartlinc is that it is dead simple. I had
mine up and running in 5 minutes, including tying up my ethernet cable for

Regarding X10 and insteon, they are compatible and insteon devices
can be assigned an X10 address, however you will not benefit from the increased
reliability of Insteon with your X10 devices. I made the transition from X10 to
Insteon and still have a few X10 devices (IR-543 infrared controller for
example) however the in-wall light switches are where Insteon really shines over
X10. So far my reliability has been 100% in terms of responses to commands,
whereas my X10 (in a brand new house) was about 60%. One of the keys to this is
that Insteon devices repeat messages, so the more devices you add the better the
quality of the signal, whereas X10 does not and usually more X10 devices means
more powerline noise and less reliability.

My advice would be to get Insteon
devices where possible, but some things (you mention flood lights) are not
available from Insteon yet and you could definitely purchase these items in X10
and have them integrate.

Regarding cameras, any IP camera will work with the
Smartlinc, it does not need to be Insteon or X10 specific.

Hope this helps!
Mike  - Insteon w/ Harmony 1100 Universal Remote?   |August-05 07:14:20
Greetings. I'm investigating remote-control of lighting for my home theater.
Insteon's dual rf/wired communications looks very appealing to me vs. z-wave,
etc. One requirement: The last thing I want is "yet another remote control
handheld." I've heard the Logitech Harmony 1100 will control Insteon
switches. Is that directly via the 1100's rf output, or do I need an Insteon
I/R receiver, etc. etc. which adds another cost?
Peter   |September-05 07:26:38
You would require an Insteon IR receiver, however you can get by with the
lower-cost IR-543 (there's a review on the side links above) and just program
your insteon devices to have an X10 address. I believe you can pick up an
IR-543 for about $10 on ebay, so hopefully that helps!
Radi8tor  - Insteon-Mixed Knob and Tube environment   |October-27 05:55:37
Hi All! my house has knob and tube, as well as modern wiring...I actually think
some of the modern stuff is piggybacked off the knob and tube, but I'm not
entirely sure. i read above to use Zwave with knob and tube, but I have a
friend heavily into insteon that is going to help with the install and was
hoping someone could tell me why Zwave is recommended in a knob and tube
environment and what issues i may have in my hybird setup with knob and tube and
standard electrical system.


Peter   |October-27 06:40:12
Someone else may chime in here with more information, but the basic issue
you're going to have using Insteon in a knob-and-tube environment is
the lack of a neutral wire to communicate the phase-shifted signal over.
There is the option of using the new 2-wire insteon switches (Click here for more info) which use a device in the light fixture and one in the
switch box to convert one of the wires to a neutral. This is a bunch
more work than using Z-wave, which is why it was recommended for your
setup, but certainly you do have some options if you're set on Insteon.
Radi8tor  - Thanks Peter!   |November-12 06:47:27
Mind telling me a bit more about Zwave? can I link a light switch in my kitchen
to a control pad in my bedroom without other hardware? or do i need to install
a Zwave control module on my breaker box in the basement?
Peter   |November-12 11:22:26
You won't need a control module on your breaker box, but you will need a programmer/controller to tell your modules how they should act. If you're just doing the 2
switches, you can get away with one of the three-way kits (since
they're already linked), but if you add any other switches you will
need to get a programmer.

Hope this helps!
Mike  - Power Monitoring Solutions?   |April-05 11:47:28
First off -- thanks for putting up this site. It took me a few days to find
your site, and now I feel like I've wasted those days researching home
automation reading press releases about vaporware.

Second -- now that I've
got a basic package for lighting control installed -- do you have any
recommendations for power monitoring? I note your somewhat negative comments
about what Google is doing. Is there a simple product that will measure current
in a line that I can network using Insteon or Z-wave?
Ray Lynt   |May-28 03:53:24
Can anyone supply info on a good Wireless, IP camera to use on a Zwave system
using a Micasa Verde Verta Controller. I have read many articles on cameras, but
many are not too reliable in the Wireless Mode.


3.23 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."