Insteon or UPB?


Senior Member
Time for another poll :blink:. It appears clear that Insteon and UPB are poised to be the PLC protocols of the future. There are a lot of considerations people use to choose what's right for them. This poll is intended to eliminate certain things such as 'the switches are shallower and fit better' and 'they just look and feel better'. Answer this poll as if you were planning a new install of say 25 devices in a split phase home. Also assume all else is considered equal, like each protocol has ALL of the same devices available - fixture modules, receptacles, etc.
'the switches are shallower and fit better' is important to me, but the poll is already almost an essay answer anyway.

'they just look and feel better' is too subjective, IMHO. Considering that UPB and Insteon are different for so many reasons, I cannot imagine anybody (on this board) saying "I don't care anything about the technical or pricing difference, I just want the one that looks better"
EXACTLY! Trying to eliminate the 'subjective' and choose based primarily on technical merits. Also trying to eliminate the price difference. Lastly, assume a 'new' install where current limiting factors such as depth are no longer important to people - you can have whatever J-boxes and wiring you want.

This sounds like the old Beta vs. VHS debate. If you removed factors like longer record time, availability of pre-recorded movies, sexier looking hardware, etc. then Beta was certainly a superior format. Unfortunately for Sony, most people didn't care how VCRs worked as long as they got the job done so all those other features and aspects became the deciding factors in a purchase decision.

If you choose to ignore the cost, esthetics, ease of installation, X-10 interoperability, etc. of INSTEON what are you really trying to compare? The command set and the modulation technique? Makes for a nice geeky discussion but unless you can say one technology or the other just doesn't work, I don't see where it plays that big a role in picking a switch preference.
I've already voted by purchasing and using UPB. However, I don't know how to vote in your poll... it's diced up a little too fine :blink: You need a few polls to accomplish what you are trying to smush into 1. Poll 1: UPB or Insteon (why not ZWave too?) Poll 2: what changes need to be made to UPB? poll3 : what changes need to be made to Insteon?

I guess I don't see what you're trying to accomplish with this poll...
Oh well, I guess I was looking for things such as 'I like UPB better, if the cost were about the same I would choose UPB' or 'I really like Insteon over UPB and if it just had the setup software then that would do it for me' or 'I just can't stand the buzz UPB makes but if it were not there then I would choose UPB over Insteon'. Yeh, maybe there are too many choices. I guess I was trying to figure out if cost was a major factor or some of the other significant features. Like do some people like UPB better, but they're going Insteon because of the cost, or do they truly like Insteon better and would choose it if pricing was equal.

This poll will self destruct in 10 seconds, 9, 8....
The poll is flawed because Insteon doesn't have any software to control it now nor does it have enough devices to be used in a "true" Home Automation setting "As Is"!

Although Insteon has many significant advantages, is not yet ready for "prime time" in the Home Automation field because it can not yet be "AUTOMATED". Everything still has to be manually first started. You can not walk into a room and have the lights turn on and dim, and go off after you leave. You can not have it notify you there is a car entering your driveway or your garage door has been left open. It can not active a security camera, record the event and notify you by cell phone or email, or turn on inside and outside lights to ward off a potential intruder.

Yes, you can push a button or a switch and have it turn on various lights, but that is basically it. Until there is powerful software that can integrate with a security system, such as the Elk M1 Gold, then Insteon is not going to be used by installers of Home Automation, just us that want to "play" with it.

Until then, with all the software and hardware device support, UPB is really the best of the two for now and the only one to choose for "True" Home Automation.
Hey, Jim, I think you need to go back and fully read the question:

Also assume all else is considered equal, like each protocol has ALL of the same devices available - fixture modules, receptacles, etc.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: This is a great time to witness, even influence, the advances in home automation. This is a terrible time to invest thousands of dollars automating a home.

I'm a bit of a geek, so I don't mind jumping through hoops right now as manufacturers and the market sort out what everybody wants. Jane and Joe Public are going to be far less forgiving, expecting very high reliability and an attractive cost-to-benefit ratio. So far, Insteon has proved most capable of delivering a quality product while containing costs, which will be key if HA is to ever go mainstream.

Furthermore, I think that long-term, Insteon is better poised to handle an end-game strategy wherein remote control features are built into consumer devices. Plus, it doesn't have that annoying UPB buzz.

jimspobox said:
Until there is powerful software that can integrate with a security system, such as the Elk M1 Gold, then Insteon is not going to be used by installers of Home Automation, just us that want to "play" with it.

I read on one of the threads Elk is very close to supporting insteon as well as HAL, HomeSeer etc. Actually HAL went into Alpha testing a few days ago with insteon support. Plus, the switches are $40....that is nearing "dumb" switch price levels. Looks like another month and insteon will be ready for "Prime-Time."
I agree that Insteon is the better of the two by far and has the most potential to be the #1 protocol in the future. However, the poll didn't offer that choice, only "as is" or "limited set up software".

For Home Automation, real Home Automation, UPB has a established track record and the software and hardware for it to work properly.

Personally on my home, I', holding out for Insteon and hoping that HAL and Elk will provide software that is powerful enough for true Home Automation. But I'm expecting the software from both of them will be very limited for the next year. HAL has already said it's first released version will have minimal support.

Let's hope for more robust software support quickly. Insteon could be what X-10 should have been, cost effective and reliable!
I pushed the "UPB as is" button because there's just not enough out there to do a fair test on Insteon yet. I'm looking forward to testing Insteon when my automation controller software adds support for it. I am a bit dismayed by the apparent "push setup button on switch to program" requirements though. Heck, even the X10 switchlincs are scene programable without having to physically touch the device...
I've said it before and I'll say it again: This is a great time to witness, even influence, the advances in home automation. This is a terrible time to invest thousands of dollars automating a home.
Tom - I agree 100%, but at least for me, I am just starting and I know x10 doesn't work. That's why I am really wrestling with the UPB vs Insteon thing. UPB _will_ work reliably in my house based on my testing except for an electric cooktop that spews out a ton of noise. SA indicated they will build a filter or they are pondering new firmware that their chief engineer says will somehow allow the switch to filter out any noise and see whatever signal is there. So for me UPB is good to go right now - it works, the UPStart software is great, the switch will work, they are decent quality and the wife is ok with them. I honestly don't have a problem with the buzz - if my ear is like a foot or two from the switch I really don't hear it - maybe being tall helps :lol: . But $80 for a dang switch just plain sucks and that is probably my biggest hesitation on pulling the trigger right now. If Martin runs a 50% off sale on UPB gear I'll order right now! OTOH, I have the prerelease code from Elk and have spoken with their engineer working the Insteon support. I do have a switch working through Elk but the setup is a huge pain in the arse. Right now you even need the Salad IDE to add more than 1 switch, but remember this is prerelease. They are working on tighter integration but it will take some time. They also need some better pieces in place from Smarthome. I also had the switch miss an off signal already - was it a fluke - maybe, more testing is needed. Personally neither my wife nor I have a strong feeling toward the switch itself, we can live nicely with the switchlinc or the UPB switch. I wish I could move the clock forward 6 months - it would be a lot easier choice.

I am curious though why you say Insteon is 'better by far'? I don't see that. UPB has some things over Insteon that are real nice - like links and Insteon does have a few things over UPB, but I don't see it as a blowout by any stretch. In today's economy, $$$ are tight. I really think if UPB were the same price as Insteon, and not double, it would be a lot different in peoples minds. I'd love to give Insteon a better opportunity, but I don't know if I want to wait months and months for the software to be where it needs to (if it gets there at all). But I don't want to kick myself in 6 months either when I am still paying off my 'mortage' on UPB devices. It all comes back to what Tom said. My butt is really sore from sitting on this fence.
As I see it, for UPB, cost is the only real detractor. The short buzz doesn't bother me at all, I don't really notice it (and I'm short :lol: ).

I assume once Insteon and ZWave becomes more available and a real threat to steal some of UPB mindshare, they will reduce the price. At this point, they may feel that they don't really have any incentive to reduce their price - but I think this is foolish. If they can reduce the cost now, they could steal the market before the others get established. If they wait for another system to become a real threat, they will have given up some critical marketshare.
I think in some ways this debate is based on a false premise: That UPB and INSTEON are in direct competition and price is the biggest differentiator.

My take is that these two technologies will play in different markets and not impact each other that much. I see UPB as the "professional standard" favored by installers and homebuilders. I see it highly integrated with dealer installed products such as HAI OMNI, Crestron and the like. Because of this model I expect prices to remain high even though several companies will make UPB products.

I think INSTEON will compete in the DIY market with Z-Wave. The lower cost of entry and the plug-in phase coupling make it more accessible to end users and the local programming strategy that is a problem in professional installations actually helps keep things simple in the DIY world.

Some crossover products like Homeseer and the Elk M1 may support both worlds but in general the two markets are likely to remain separate. I see lots of designer styling options in the future for UPB but not too many geeky gadgets. INSTEON on the other hand seems more likely to replace X-10 as the protocol embraced on hobbyist platforms like xAP/xPL, Misterhouse, etc.

Z-Wave does appear to straddle the two markets right now but I think it will eventually lean more one way or the other. I am guessing it will be butting heads more with INSTEON than with UPB but time will tell.
fitzpatri8 said:
which will be key if HA is to ever go mainstream.
I don't know if I want it to really go mainstream. Don't you all like to be the only one who can make lights turn on from a keypad and impress your neighbors? :lol: So far that is as far as I have gotten.

I have been waiting on Insteon, or the promise of Insteon for a while. For me X10 was too unreliable and the UPB "Buzz" kept me away. So far I have close to 30 Insteon switches, relays and keypads installed and other than the issue of not being able press two switches at one time, they have not missed a beat. I have hitched my wagon to Insteon and will go as far as it will take me. :)