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Insteon Hub & Bulb

As noted in the introduction, Insteon doesn't have a starter kit. But you can assemble your own for about $100, buying a Hub and bulb. We included Insteon because the company has been deeply involved in the home automation market for a long time. Insteon has a complete product line home automation devices that provide solutions for lighting control, audio / video, security, convenience, energy saving, thermostats, pet care and even irrigation.

Insteon Hub and LED bulb

Insteon Hub and LED bulb

The Insteon hub is a small white rectangular device that connects to your wired Ethernet network and power. Just plug it in and, within a minute or so, the single LED will glow solid green. While most people will set up the hub using an iOS or Android device, there are also applications for Windows Phone and Windows OS.

Once you create an Insteon account and your hub is set up, you just add devices. The hub will scan your network for compatible devices. But unlike other products, you also have the option of entering a unique Insteon six character ID. To me, it looked like part of a MAC address. One of my bulb's ID numbers was 2F 66 8A. I tried discovering the LED bulbs both ways, and device recognition seemed quite a bit faster using the Insteon code.

The composite image below shows the rather spartan landing page (l) and the main menu (r) that is exposed when you click on the drawer icon at the top of the screen. The landing page shows your favorite devices. Newly added devices are automatically added to favorite devices.

Insteon landing page (l) and main menu (r)

Insteon landing page (l) and main menu (r)

You can group devices together using the Rooms feature. All activities, scheduled and unscheduled, are created and managed using scenes. With scenes, you can add devices or room memberships. Once you select devices, you can select on/off or brightness levels for each bulb along with a fade on or fade off time. Scheduling options include time of day, Sunrise and Sunset.

As part of scene setup, you can set both the off time and on time for each device, and you can control brightness and fade in/out times. This saves a lot of clutter on your screen as compared to products that force you to schedule on and off activities separately. You can also select days of the week to execute the scene. You can disable an on or off event within a scene to prevent the schedule from running. This leaves your originally selected days checked, so you can come back and enable the event to run on its originally scheduled days, but you'll need to re-enter on and off times. The scheduler is smart enough to check other schedules for conflicts. You can't, for example, have two scenes containing the same devices scheduled for sunset.

All schedules executed on time and as expected. I tried different ramp rates for both on and off cycles. In the end, I think I preferred the 0.5 second fade times. Insteon has 15 preset ramp rates from which to choose as well as individual quick set icons for Instant (0.1 seconds), Fast (0.5 seconds), Medium (2 seconds), and Slow (5 seconds). The range of on/off fade times ranges from 0.1 second to 8.0 minutes. There's isn't a "custom" fade setting that allows you to set your own amount of time.

Each bulb has its own dimmer (see gallery below). Dimming seemed linear throughout the entire range. The bulb actually illuminated when I slid the control from off to 1%. Like the other products, when using the dimmer manually, the change in brightness doesn't execute until I released my finger from the control.

With a color temperature 2572K, the Insteon bulb is the "warmest" bulb in our roundup. It was noticeably warmer than the next coldest bulb in the roundup, the Philips Hue Lux (2700K). The bulb is rated at 717 Lumens, which is less light output than any of the other bulbs in our roundup. I could notice the difference in output comparing it to the 750 Lumen Philips Hue Lux. However, at 79.2 Lumens/W, it was the third most efficient bulb in our roundup.

This configuration of Insteon lacks support for randomized scenes (schedules) to give your home a lived in look while you're away, IFTTT, and geo-fencing. The gallery below will give you an additional feel for the user interface.

Pro: Dual wireless and powerline connections enable large robust networks
Con: Lacks randomized "Away" schedules and Geo-fencing

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