Today I’d like to discuss my recommendations for a beginner and how they should get started with home automation. For the purposes of this blog post, I will assume that Insteon will be the standard of choice.
I recommend you start out by purchasing one of the Insteon starter kits from SmartHome.com. There are many to choose from so do some reading before buying. I recommend one with a plug-in device, a wire in device and either a remote (RemoteLinc) or ControlLinc to get a good feel of the different types of devices. Something like the “RemoteLinc – INSTEON Lamp Control Starter Kit” is a good start, with a few additions to it. The RemoteLinc Kit comes with 2 Access Points, 2 LampLincs (plug-in lamp controller) and a nice remote.
To get a good foundation of a network started, I would suggest adding a couple of things to the kit. I would purchase these at the same time so you have them all from the beginning. Pick up a FilterLinc, this device, as the name suggests, filters the power line signals that can be interfered with by certain items in your home. Plan on getting at least one for your UPS or power strip for your home computer. UPS’s and power strips are notorious for this problem, so plan on it from the start and save some aggravation. Next, get a SignalLinc Repeater. This one you might be able to get away without, but I use it to make sure. (The SignalLinc is primarily used for use with X10 devices, so if you are going Insteon only, you might not need this.**) This device plugs into the 220V dryer outlet and actively amplifies X10 signals and sends them to the other leg of your electric wiring for highly improved performance.
** NOTE: If there is a “catch 22” about Insteon is that it is backward compatible with X10. This can be good if you are already an established user of X10. This can help to lower the cost of entry (Into Insteon) as you can change over slowly, while keeping your older X10 Devices. Now X10 is fine, but it is no where near as reliable, or fast as Insteon in my experiences. X1o has signal strength and reliability issues, and what some people call ghosts. This could be when you send a signal to a receiver and nothing happens. Other times, a light or appliance will turn on (or off) completely on its own. I have experienced other issues with x10 related to cross talk. For example code A1 will be sent, but A2 will react as well. This can be very frustrating. This seams to happen more when the X10 motion sensors are involved. But anyway, back to my point. The fact that Insteon is compatible with X10 can be a positive because X10 is so much cheaper than Insteon, and can therefore keep costs down. But, if at all possible, I suggest fighting the temptation to supplement your Insteon with X10. It will save you time and money because you will want to upgrade your X10 in the future. Try to hold back and go straight to Insteon if at all possible. You will thank me later.Now, back to the starter kit, start with the Access Points. The Access Points are the key- the backbone of your Insteon network. They lay the groundwork for everything else you will add to your network, so the proper usage and installation is critical. They are very easy to use, but if not done right, things can get very frustrating down the road. All you do is plug them in to an open outlet, and follow the instructions to assure they are on opposite phases of your homes split wiring network. Most homes in the US have two 120V “phases”. You want one access point on each phase. Simple trial and error can help you identify the separate phases.
Next, plug-in your FilterLinc into the wall and then plug your UPS or Power Strip into the FilterLinc, your done with that device! Then if you purchased one, do the same with the SignalLinc on the dryer outlet. You are now done with this step!
Now that you have the backbone of your network installed, you are ready to have some real fun. I suggest starting with a plug-in module, either a LampLinc or an ApplianceLinc. These devices plug directly into the wall and then you plug the lamp or appliance into the controlled outlet on the device. It’s that simple to use these devices. Next you need to link the device to a controller so you can USE the lamp or appliance. Take your controller (either remote or control linc) remote and determine what button you want to control the device with. Then, following the instructions for the controller put it into linking mode. Usually this is just a matter of holding down the button for 10 seconds. Next, go over to the device and put the device in linking mode to link the two devices together. It’s that easy! Continue to do the same for all plug-in modules.
Next, you need to install the wired-in devices. Depending on your abilities and experience with electricity, this might be easy for you or completely scary. If the idea of working with electricity scares the heck out of you, then please stop and call a licensed electrician at this point! Electricity is dangerous and can hurt you or your home. On the other hand, if you have ever changed out a light switch, you can handle an Insteon switch, as it is essentially the same thing. For the purpose of this post, I am not going to go into every variable for the wired-in devices, simply read the instructions and you should get it installed just fine. Once the keypad or SwitchLinc or dimmer is installed, test it to make sure the primary button is controlling the light that the old switch controlled. After that, if you installed a keypad (a device that lets you control either 6 or 8 devices or groups of devices), you can start doing some programming. This is where it gets fun. Not only can each button control and link to one device, but a whole group of devices to create a “scene”. Hold down the button you want to use for 10 seconds until it goes into linking mode, and now you are free to link one or many devices to that button. For example, if you want a scene for “dinner” to turn off the kitchen light, turn off the living room lamp, and dim the dinning room light to 50%, then you can program that now. This is a major way how home automation really saves you time, and is conveinent and fun. In stead of running around to three different rooms and switches, just one button press can do it for you! Once you get to this point, the sky is the limit. Adding a computer to the mix adds even more capability, and increases what you can do with your home so much more.
Well, this post has gone way longer than I intended, so I should wrap up for now. I will pick it up from here another time. Thanks for reading. Please follow us on Twitter at @DupreyHomeAutom, and join us on Facebook. We would love to hear from you and read about what you have done with your homes. Enjoy the fun of home automation! Thanks.