Network Planning and Hub Setup for Insteon

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The Devicebook Hub does not natively emit an Insteon network, but has a USB port to connect to an Insteon PLM. Insteon devices in the smart home are configured to connect to the Insteon PLM's Insteon network.

Planning for Insteon Devices

Insteon networks are mesh networks. That means even if a device is out of wireless range of the Insteon PLM, the Hub might still communicate with the device via one or more intermediate devices.

Because Wi-Fi and Insteon are both  wireless, we can leverage Wi-Fi signal strength to check the approximate range of Insteon devices. Since the transmission power of Insteon is lower than Wi-Fi, we use lower RSSI thresholds to determine signal strength.

Wi-Fi RSSI Z-Wave/Insteon Signal Strength
-25 to -35 Excellent
-35 to -45 Good
-46 to -55 OK
-56 to -65 Poor/Unreliable
> -66 Unusable
 

Adding Repeaters

If the signal strength at the location of a wireless Insteon device is in the Poor/Unreliable or Unusable categories, add an Insteon repeater node between the device's location and the Hub. Note that all AC-powered Insteon devices act as repeater nodes for all Insteon messages.

Follow the instructions below in "Checking Repeater Signal Strength" to check the signal strength between the repeater and the location of the Insteon device. If it is still in the Poor/Unreliable or Unusable categories, place the repeater node closer to the location of the Insteon device. Note that repeater nodes will communicate with the PLM via powerline communication as well as wirelessly.

For Z-Wave, most AC-powered (mains-powered) devices act as repeaters. Note that too many repeaters near each other (such as a cluster of Z-Wave Light Switches in a single switch gang box) can have the unintended effect of stifling the network rather than amplifying it. Use repeaters as needed, but with enough room between them.

Checking Repeater Signal Strength

Unlike the Devicebook Hub, Insteon repeaters do not have a Wi-Fi network that you can use to estimate the Insteon radio signal strength

Instead, you can use the following instructions to estimate the signal strength of a repeater in nearby areas. You will be using an Apple iPad's Wi-Fi signal to estimate the range and strength of the repeater's Insteon or Z-Wave Signal strength. We recommend Apple iPad Model A2152, since that is the device we used to determine the numbers below.

1. Place the Apple iPad at the location of the Z-Wave repeater.

2. Turn on the iPad's Wi-Fi hotspot feature.

3. Follow the instructions in this article on another mobile device to monitor the signal strength of the iPad's Wi-Fi network as you move around. This means that instead of searching for a network with "Devicebook" in the name, you'll search for the iPad's Wi-Fi network.

4. Place the mobile device at the intended location of a wireless Insteon device.

5. On the mobile device, check the signal strength of the iPad's Wi-Fi network. Use the table below to translate the signal strength into an estimate of the quality of the repeater's signal strength.

Wi-Fi RSSI Z-Wave/Insteon Signal Strength
-25 to -35 Excellent
-35 to -45 Good
-46 to -55 OK
-56 to -65 Poor/Unreliable
> -66 Unusable
 

Additional Planning for an Insteon Network

Insteon is a dual-band network: communication is done using both powerline communication as well as wireless radio. In an Insteon network, all AC-main powered devices function as repeaters, creating a mesh network. Unlike Z-Wave, all Insteon repeaters act as signal-repeaters for all signals, rather than there being a specific predetermined path from a device to the Hub.

 

Installation of Insteon PLM

An accessory modem, called the Insteon PLM, must be installed to control Insteon devices. Use the following procedure to install the modem in a Devicebook Smart Home.

  1. Find an outlet close to the Devicebook Hub that is not blocked by metal.
  2. Plug the PLM into the outlet. Note: You must plug the PLM directly into the outlet, not into a power strip or surge protector.
  3. Connect the PLM to Devicebook Hub via USB cable. You may plug it into either USB1 or USB2.
  4. If the Devicebook Hub is already powered on, remove the Hub's power cable, wait for five seconds, then plug it back in. 

When the Hub connects, Insteon will be enabled.

Taking advantage of Powerline communication

AC-powered Insteon devices are reachable by Devicebook Hub via power line (if they are on same AC power phase. See next section about the Phase Bridge). A battery-powered Insteon device is reachable by the Devicebook Hub if it is close (within 30 to 50 feet) to any another AC-powered Insteon device.

Installation of a Phase Bridge

Install an accessory Insteon Phase Bridge to take maximum advantage of power lines for the most robust and reliable Insteon network. Most US Homes have two single-phase 120V AC circuits. About half of the outlets belong to one phase and the remaining half belong to a different phase. Insteon devices on the same phase can communicate with each other via power line only if they are in the same phase circuit. The Insteon Phase Bridge uses wireless communication to bridge communication for devices on different phases. The following is the setup procedure for the Phase Bridge:

  1. Identify outlets on a different phase than the Insteon PLM.
  2. Choose an outlet that is closest to the PLM, so that the Phase Bridge can communicate with the PLM reliably via the wireless network.
  3. Install the Phase Bridge at this outlet.

Note that this “Phase Bridge” can be any AC-main powered Insteon device

 

Next: Learn to set up Insteon Devices using House Check.

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