Help with Insteon troubleshooting, please

PlanoMike

Member
Greetings.

I have ~50 Insteon devices in my home and have had good performance since installation last May. I have two PowerLinc controllers (PLCs), one on a PC running PH and one on an Elk. The Elk has been merrily turning lights on and off for months.

As of a few days ago, the reliability of the Elk originated Insteon commands diminished. Most of the lights still work, but some are not 100% reliable as before, and a few (e.g. the flourescent lights in my garage and game room) won't respond to the Elk at all. On the other hand, everything works fine with commands from PH via the PC/PLC. Likewise, various Switchlinks with links seem to control everything as expected.

I have an old X10 signal strength meter and see strong spikes when commands are sent from the PC/PLC but only a faint blink of the first indicator (i.e. very weak signal) with the Elk/PLC. I do not see evidence of substantial background noise.

The Elk and the PC/PLC are on opposite ends of the house. I have tried everything I can think of including:

-Swap the PLCs between the ELK and PC. Both work from the PC but not the ELK.
-Unplug any applicances I am suspicious might be generating interference.
-Turned off all of the breakers one by one with no improvement
-Re-initialized my SignaLincs
-Moved the SignaLincs to various other places
-Rebooted the ELK (LEDs for the serial expanders blinking as ususal)

Around the time I started to realize I had a problem I had some electricians here working on an outdoor lighting circuit which had developed a short in a circuit controlling some outdoor lights. The circuit in question had an Icon dimmer on it and in the course of working on it the electricians managed to blow out that switch. The switch has been replaced with an identical Icon dimmer which works fine and responds to commands from the Elk and PC.

Also around the time I started noticing problems I changed the re-routed the power to my cable modem and wireless router. I hae unplugged all of the powerstips involved witout improvement.

Any suggestions of what I might try next?

TIA

Mike
 

fitzpatri8

Active Member
Any chance the electricians installed a new GFI on that outdoor circuit, and that circuit is shared with the Elk? Do you trust the electricians to have done the job right and not left any loose connections in the panel or the new work? Can the Elk reliably control the new dimmer they installed?

I'd put everything back where it was (including putting the original Elk PLC back with it, in case the link tables have any differences), then move one of the SignaLinc RFs so that the Elk PLC plugs into its pass-through outlet. That ought to bridge whatever black hole now exists on your Elk power supply circuit. If that fixes it, and if the electrician didn't leave any wiring in an unsafe condition, then it's probably cheaper to just add a SignaLinc RF than it is to have the electricians back out to swap GFIs or troubleshoot...

Tom
 

PlanoMike

Member
fitzpatri8 said:
Any chance the electricians installed a new GFI on that outdoor circuit, and that circuit is shared with the Elk?
Yes, I think they did, but am not certain. The outdoor circuit is still broken. They say they are going to have to trench and run a new wire which they have not gotten around to yet.

Do you trust the electricians to have done the job right and not left any loose connections in the panel or the new work?
They are not finished, so yes there are loose wires at present.

Can the Elk reliably control the new dimmer they installed?
Yes.

I'd put everything back where it was (including putting the original Elk PLC back with it, in case the link tables have any differences), then move one of the SignaLinc RFs so that the Elk PLC plugs into its pass-through outlet.
Great suggestion. Tried it and it did not help. The Elk is in a remote closet, so I had to move the second SignalLinc closer. When I have time this evening I will experiment with other locations for the second SL.

It sounds as if I need to get the broken circuit fixed and see if that corrects the problem. In the meantime, any other thoughts for a temoprary fix?

Many thanks for the great ideas.

Mike
 
If you have several Insteon lights that Elk can no longer control you might try verifying that the Insteon addresses in the Elk didn't get corrupted. I have had 2 instances in the past where alot of noise on my line (from a dehumidifier I think) was causing Insteon signal issues but also resulted in trashing several Insteon addresses so these devices would not respond to the Elk any more. I just reloaded the addresses from powerhome and all was well. (and I had to unplug my old dehumidifier because of the noise issues)
 

fitzpatri8

Active Member
If you've got loose wires sitting out, odds are the electricians capped of any hot wires before re-energizing the remaining circuit--at least I hope they did! They might not take the same care with neutrals. You might take a quick look to see if any of the neutral wires are making contact with each other or ground, and if so, cap them off or tape them. I'm just speculating here as ground and neutral come together in the panel, but might it change the signal characteristics if it happens both up and downstream from the PLC.

mtwalsh's idea sounds good, too.
 

PlanoMike

Member
I talked to the electician's office and supposedly they came and worked on the broken outdoor circuit last week. Something is still not right however, as the light in question still does not come on.

I noted that they did have a GFI outlet on the circuit in a bell box before and it appears they have taken that out. I do not see any uncapped wires or any evidence of neutral going to ground.

My Insteon system is still not at its prior level of reliability. Some lights perform well, others quite poorly or not at all.

Any other suggestions as to how I might troubleshoot?

If it were a problem with the broken outdoor circuit, shouldn't turning off the breaker to that circuit take the offending circuit off line effectively isolating it from the rest of the system?

TIA
 

OTA

New Member
PlanoMike said:
I talked to the electician's office and supposedly they came and worked on the broken outdoor circuit last week. Something is still not right however, as the light in question still does not come on.

I noted that they did have a GFI outlet on the circuit in a bell box before and it appears they have taken that out. I do not see any uncapped wires or any evidence of neutral going to ground.

My Insteon system is still not at its prior level of reliability. Some lights perform well, others quite poorly or not at all.

Any other suggestions as to how I might troubleshoot?

If it were a problem with the broken outdoor circuit, shouldn't turning off the breaker to that circuit take the offending circuit off line effectively isolating it from the rest of the system?

TIA
If it were a problem with the broken outdoor circuit, shouldn't turning off the breaker to that circuit take the offending circuit off line effectively isolating it from the rest of the system?

The breaker only disconnects the hot leg of a 120v circuit. Ground & Neutral are connected 24/7. Thus, if there is a problem with your neutral or ground outside, the breaker will have no effect.
 

PlanoMike

Member
I did not realize that but as I think about it harder it makes sense.

I seem to have resolved the problem. I was fixated on the problem being related to the outdoor wiring problem, but went ahead and took mtwalsh's suggestion and re-downloaded my Insteon tables from PH to the ELK and viola, things seem to be (largely) resolved!!

Thanks to all for your suggestions!
 

PeterW

Active Member
By the way, there is no such thing as "re-initializing signalinc's" (first post in thread). They are unpaired and promiscuously repeat anything they can hear.

Incidently, that means you can add any number of them to bridge sigals out of a PLC dead spot via rf.

You use the set button to find out when devices are in range, and when you've got coverage of both phases via RF. The set button doesn't do pairing or initialization. You can plug them in out of the box having never touched the buttons and they will work providing they're in range.

Just FYI. I'm glad you solved your problem though.
 
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