As I posted last week, I started a journey down the home automation path with the purchase of a controller and some Insteon switches and sensors. Given my current schedule with work and kids, it’s hard to find time to do much, but I was able to install the switches and one of the sensors and get a few scenes and programs setup, so I’ll run through a quick review.
ISY994i ZW/IR PRO Controller – Insteon, Z-Wave & IR + PLM
The controller, purchased from SmartHome.com, was extremely easy to install: plugged in the PLM, connected the PLM to the controller and the controller to my switch, and then plugged in the power cable for the controller. Configuration required getting a Java applet downloaded and running. As a developer, the interface is fine for me, however, it lacks the ease of use that we have come to expect in our increasing mobile-centric world. With some poking around, though, I was able to setup some scenes and a few programs.
Of note: I had to install Universal Devices “alpha” version of the 5.0 software in order to get compatibility with the Siren module, which isn’t exactly a new module. From what I could tell, version 5 of the ISY Portal has been in development for at least two years now, so I’m not sure what the delay is about, but the installation of version 5 was pretty easy and I haven’t run into any major problems yet.
The controller has a pretty substantial REST api which I believe I could use as the backend for a better API, either a mobile app or responsive web app. That being said, that’s a lot of work. If I was sure I would only be using Insteon products, I may have opted for an Insteon Hub, but I already know I want to interface with some other systems, so I’ll take my chances with this controller.
Insteon Remote Toggle Switch
Let me preface this review with the following disclaimer: I am reasonable comfortable with residential electrical wiring, to the degree that I planned and installed all the wiring for lighting and switches when we finished our basement. That said, the Insteon switches were pretty easy to install, but I do have a word of warning: they are bulky. Before you go investing a ton into them, it might be wise to buy one or two of the ones you want and test fit them in your home’s electrical work boxes. I know for a fact that in a few of my switch boxes I may not have the room for them boxes without trimming existing wiring to make some room.
Once installed, the controller did a great job of picking up the new hardware through a “device add” wizard. From there, adding it to scenes and programs was pretty easy. I was able to add a program to run my pool pump for 12 hours during the day and created a scene which turns on both the pool pump and lights.
A word of caution, though: if you plan on doing a large install and then having the controller pick up changes, make sure you write down the network address for each switch and where you installed it. This will allow you to quickly name your switches for identification without doing what I did, which was turn one switch on and then check the controller and find the switch in the “On” state.
Overall, I am impressed with the system. The controller provides a good balance of features and usability, but as I mentioned, it leans more towards features and less towards a slick user interface. It’s perfect for someone who wants all the features of home automation at a reasonable cost. And with the APIs and a few third party software solutions, the UI issues can be addressed.