Insteon implemantation confusion


Active Member
I thought I would try adding a couple of insteon devices to see if it was something that would be useful.

I have read as much as I could about it but still have a few questions.

I know that the Elk can somewhat control the insteon network although with some limitations.

The powerhome software will control the insteon network as well as allow easy setup of links and grouping.

Homeseer with the insteon plugin will control the insteon network and has its own internal to homeseer way of grouping and linking devices.

My confusion lies in the actual physical set up. Once the linking is setup (I understand that I can use powerhome, for example, to add the insteon information into the Elk) Do I plug the PLC into the Elk and then use whatever software to interface to the elk and then control the lights via the elk? So the PLC is connected only to the elk?

Or is it easier to just plug the plc into a computer running the software and let the elk control the insteon network through the software interface to the elk?

I have read posts about the reliability of computer vs elk and understand the pros and cons of that, but which configuration is the best from a "works well"/efficiency point of view?

Thanks for any ideas....

As you stated, the PLC can be hooked to either the computer or the Elk. There are many that would state that the Elk is more reliable than a PC. But the Elk can only do basic lighting control. If you have the PLC connected to a computer, you will be able to take better advantage of the new features and products the should be coming out for the Insteon family. But you don't really have to make a choice as you can use two PLCs, one connected to the computer and one connected to the PC.

So, there is no "one size fits all" answer. ;)
I have three PLCs:
- one connected to the MainLobby Server
- one connected to the Elk
- one connected to a PC that uses HouseLinc and/or PowerHome to program links.

I had a fourth when I was using HomeSeer.

It's a lot of extra link overhead to have all the PLCs linked, but it's nice to be able to do it every which way.
Thanks for that information, I did not realize that you could have more than one PLC. So, for a basic setup, I could use software such as Powerhome on my PC and have that connected to PLC 1.

I would then have PLC 2 connected to the Elk.

After setting up everything in powerhome, I would send that configuration to the Elk serial expander using the serial cable and then plug the PLC 2 back into the Elk.

After this was complete, Powerhome could control the lights AND the elk could control the lights independent of each other.

How do changes from one PLC reach the other? Would you just go through the process of updating the Elk which then updates the PLC each time you make a change?

Do I have that right?

Is the advantage (as far as running the lighting part of home automation) of the more expensive software such as Homeseer, Girder, CQC, etc that they can communicate with the Elk directly and therefore the control of the lighting is not independent of each other (PC controls one PLC, Elk controls another PLC)?
Yes, you could do as you describe and it would work as described.

Changes from one PLC to another are also "link" based, if applicable. Unless you're using a "group", the other PLC will not know about a state change initiated by the software (Elk / PowerHome / HS / ML / whatever) of the other PLC's system. The other system(s) would have to poll to find states set by another PLC / software. Alternatively, one could use groups... but that gets pretty darn complicated to set up in a lot of ways. Polling is a lot of traffic but probably ideal. I've sort of narrowed it down to who controls what and why.

Anything that changes at the switch can be sent to multiple PLCs. It's just PLCs telling a device to change state that create a "disconnect" on state knowledge without some fancy footwork that I have chosen not to do thus far.

The advantages of HS / CQC / Girder and others are far beyond anything relating just to Insteon or its controllers. It's really all the "other stuff" they control and the user interfaces they offer that make them worth their costs.
One note on using only a few insteon devices: The network for insteon gets stronger with more devices. I know I had some unusual results and did not have 100% reliability (or close enough that I have not noticed) until I got to about 15 switches. I must have about 30 now.

I found insteon great for 3-way/4-way/etc without having dedicated wiring.

Once I hit that number it was fine. I believe this is a 'your mileage may vary' item as I know a few others noted similar results, while others were fine with only a few.
Good warning. I have about 50 of them so I forget about that aspect. Of course, some have had good experiences with only a few devices. YMMV, eh?
One note on using only a few insteon devices: The network for insteon gets stronger with more devices. I know I had some unusual results and did not have 100% reliability (or close enough that I have not noticed) until I got to about 15 switches.

Perhaps then Smarthome's starter package should have 15 switches :)
Perhaps then Smarthome's starter package should have 15 switches

Yeah a starter package with a $999.99 price tag! I am sure they will flood the market that way.

I wonder if SH planned this all carefully. Start out dirt low at $19.99 and then quickly raise prices at the same time telling people they need to buy more to make it actually work.

Just a thought not a conspiracy theory :) (looking over my shoulder every 10 seconds as I type this)
Just wanted to chime in and say that Insteon signal reliability was never an issue for me, and I think I'm the poster-boy for potential problems.

I started out with only a couple switches and grew up to my current 50 in several months, but even at the beginning my Insteon signal reliability was almost perfect. I always had 2 SignalLincs installed, which may have helped.

I have CFLs in a bunch of fixtures and lamps, I have full fluorescents downstairs in my office, I have a bunch of surge protectors, several UPSs, and a boatload of PCs around the house. I'm shocked I don't have any signal issues, but it's pretty rock solid for me.
One problem I found the past two weeks is the the ELK Serial Module is "forgetting: some of the Insteon address's. This causes a light not to turn on/off as expected. This is a new problem for me since upgrading the firmware a few weeks ago to the latest firmware for Insteon.

I have re-entered the address's a few times and I still have some lights not work consistently after a few days and when I go back into the expander with the PH "retrieve" feature it has an empty address location for that device.

Is anyone else seeing this?
Digger, I was having the issue of the M1 losing some of my Insteon address about 6 months ago. The only thing I could figure out at the time was that this seemed to occur only when the Elk was attempting to control lights at the same time I was experiencing major noise on my line and certain lights were failing to respond. I discovered that a dehumidifier that was coming on occasionally was killing my Insteon signal and causing lights to fail. Once I corrected this line noise problem and my lighting issues were cleared up I have never lost another address. I had always been meaning to go in through Powerhome to see what the address looked like once it stopped working on the M1 but I never did get the chance to check this out.

Good luck, this one sounds like a fun one to debug.

Mike, I was curious to know if your positive Insteon experience is purely with Insteon hardware or do you interface your lighting control with an M1 or other hardware/software controller. I am just curious because my Insteon experience has been 100% solid when just controlling lights and groups through other Insteon hardware (swithches, controllinc, keypadlinc, etc). I have only had signal problem related issues when interfacing with my M1 and Homeseer. I no longer have signal problems after tweaking my system and adding filters, etc but I was always surpised how well the Insteon only communications worked, even with the noise on the line and don't understand whey the reliability drops once you interface with an external system.

Matt -

For right now, I am primarily using Insteon-only hardware, with a few X10 remotes. I also use HouseLinc to trigger some basic timers and events with no problem.

I am looking at integrating CQC for more sophisticated home automation, and the current driver does seem to cause some timeout issues on my system. However, the author believes it's due to his aggressive polling and has adjusted his driver to be a bit more intelligent when polling.

I'm hoping to test it out in the next couple days...
AutomatedOutlet said:
One note on using only a few insteon devices: The network for insteon gets stronger with more devices. I know I had some unusual results and did not have 100% reliability (or close enough that I have not noticed) until I got to about 15 switches.

Perhaps then Smarthome's starter package should have 15 switches :)
Been busy, just saw this. Great response Martin.

Digger > I have not seen that issue. I have been reliable since my initial issues (with the exception of my elk/insteon not seeming to want to reset after a power failure, which I still have to run some tests on. For now I have cycled the power to the Elk if I had a power hit, which is rare). I will note I have a dehumidifier in my basement, which is where the elk is, although they are on different circuits and did not see an impact.

Mike : My experience, and the others that I referenced, were when Insteon was pretty new. I am not sure if that had anything to do with it (and I suspect those switches have been replaced at this point, but I am not sure as I did not track it well enough).

I'm curious if this has been seen by any recent adopters?