- Bonus devices give you a start on building your home’s smart system
- A proprietary system allows for greater reliability and easier set up
No one should ever buy a hub on its own. If you don’t already have at least one or two devices, there is no way to test the functionality of the hub. Nor can you see what sort of a difference a hub can make in how you operate your devices day to day.
That’s why “starter kits” are so popular. Many of them, like this Insteon Starter Kit, include light control devices because we are all familiar with the idea of turning lights on or off remotely or want to be able to control their brightness to better suit specific situations. The kit includes 2 LampLinc dimmers that you can use on any lamps in any room of your house. Once paired with the Insteon Hub, you control the lamps (and the rest of your soon to be system) through an app on your smartphone.
The Insteon hub is a proprietary smart hub. Unlike a hub like the Wink 2 which was built to work with as many different devices on the market as possible, it is designed to work with Insteon devices. While there can be some third party integrations, it works best when used as part of the closed system intended.
What’s special about an Insteon Hub?
Fortunately, closed does not mean limited. Among the different smart home devices that can also be controlled through the hub are thermostats, cameras, motion sensors, locks, leak sensors and many others.
But the biggest difference with an Insteon hub is that it works through a dual-band system. Using either the powerline, or a radio frequency, or both, allows the Insteon network to become more robust as it grows.
Rather than signals degrading as they travel through a normal device-level mesh network, any device in the Insteon network can transmit, receive or repeat messages without requiring complex routers. So an Insteon hub can handle up to a thousand smart devices, something that other hubs can’t do. Currently, there are about 200 Insteon smart products on the market that can be chosen and purchased as part of your smart system, and many other compatible smart hubs.
Interesting, the Insteon hub is compatible with some third-party controllers such as Stringify and Sonos, Amazon Echo, and Logitech Harmony remotes. These hubs manage entertainment devices including stereos and smart TVs. This gives us a clear idea of where Insteon believes its products belong in the home environment. Insteon’s dedication to improving things within “their” parts of the home is evident in the quality of their devices and how well they work together.
How to use it
Set up of your hub begins with connecting it to your network router through an Ethernet cable. Next you need to download and install the controller app to your smartphone. The app works on Android, iOS or Windows devices so any of your smartphones can be used as the controller. The app will then guide you through connecting the dimmer modules to the hub. Once connected, you can start to control the lighting fixtures plugged into the dimmer plugs.
Apart from the app itself, you can also control the Insteon hub through the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show devices. It is one of the few third party connections that Insteon has allowed. Smart of them we think, since voice-control is making the use of smart devices more popular every day.
Most of the time, however, you will use your “favorites” screen on your smartphone app. where you will find your most frequently used devices. You can edit this favorite screen so that you can easily control the devices that you are likely to set or adjust. Adjust your temperature setting for your home to be more comfortable or immediately turn on the lights to provide you with better visibility in your room with a couple of clicks.
The app can also group devices and have all of them running at the same time by saving the setting as “Scenes” or “Rooms.” For example, this is great when you want to turn off all lights in the hallway, or your front yard at night. You can also schedule all these lights to turn off or on at a specific time. The light’s brightness can be easily controlled through the app as well.
Similarly, scenes can be created so can you easily switch through various selected settings. Sticking with our lights example, you can add as many as 4 dimmer modules to a scene and control them as one. This is very useful when you want all the lights to be as bright as they can when you are doing daily activities or dimming them to as low as possible when you are watching a movie at home.
What’s not so great?
Although we strive to find something original to say about every device we review, we have the same problem with the Insteon hub and controller that others have noted. It may be simple, but it’s not very smart.
Although the Insteon hub is great at connecting to various smart devices, the app itself needs improvement. It offers control over plenty of devices but, it is still lacking flexibility. As an example, it is only able to schedule turning on or off the lights once within a day. This may work for some but it will not do, especially when not all of those who live at home have the same schedule. There were setback thermostats and light timers that could do that much in existence 60 years ago.
However, the Insteon Home Control Starter Kit provides an easy way to get started in building a smart home. The dual-band technology is very reliable in making sure that your smart devices communicate well with each other to properly execute the command given to them. While proprietary by design, there are plenty of Insteon devices to control every environmental area of your home you care to upgrade. That makes building a home automation very simple. We just wish it were a tad smarter.