Insteon Hub first impressions, easier home automation, configured right from your smartphone

Posted by Paul Braren on Dec 22 2012 in
  • Electronics
  • HomeAutomation
  • Reviews
  • INSTEON-Hub
    Insteon Hub Item # 2242-222 [click to view on Amazon]

    Insteon Hub - Initial configuration, creating a Christmas lights scene for my living room, from my smartphone.

    It's a busy time of year.

    But my Insteon Hub 2242-222 arrived today, an early gift. I knew it was going to be at least December before it'd arrive, back when I placed the order from Smarthome on November 14, 2012. Had backorder warnings when I placed the order, and got regular emailed from Smarthome while I waited. So no surprise.

    I saw this Insteon hub as a way to replace my failing, out-of-warranty Insteon Central Controller 2412N, which was had a good 3 year run for around $100. But  it never kept time very well, with a clock drift of as much as 15 minutes per month. Yes, no NTP time sync for its little ethernet connected web server. And the free HomeControl app with the 2412N was a little clunky, and didn't handle pairing very easily. And out of warranty. So time to move on, and place the order, and wait.

    What did I use to turn the lights on and off during the long back-order wait? Time to get the dust of my little-used but highly-configurable PowerLinc Modem - Insteon USB Interface (Dual-Band) 2413U. And fired up an always-on Windows virtual machine to go with it, attaching USB physically and virtually, so the the free, but not-so-fun-to-use HouseLinc software could be programmed to handle lights-on, lights-off duties, pictured here:

    HouseLinc-PowerLinc-USB-Modem

    There are drawbacks to using a VM for basic lighting controls over USB. I would rather have an efficient and simple device taking care of that automation, for many years to come, without having to think about it. At all. No PC required. Always working.

    If something higher end is what you have in mind, consider the ISY-994i, reviewed here, with options from $199 to $324 seen here.

    What factors did I weigh, when shopping around for the most affordable solution to my basic home automation needs?

    Advantages:

    • cloud-based offering would be the simplicity of not dealing with dynamic DNS
    • no need to worry about potential loopback issues when running the software at home, described here, and something I saw when using the free HomeControl app with the 2412N
    • finally, an accurate clock, based on giving the smartphone app permission to use your smartphone's GPS/location, greatly simplifying sunset and sunrise time set up
    • easy ability to check status and turn things on and off, even when not home, using minimal cellular data
    • low price
    • simple and quick one-time configuration, given my Insteon network settings stay largely the same for years

    Disadvantages:

    • cloud-based offering, which relies on Smarthome continuing to run this service for years to come
    • not as full featured as some higher end products with complex macros and scene configurations (that I never needed or used)
    • Smartphone (Android/iOS) only, no PC software or no decent direct web interface

    I just discovered that the hub responds to ping on your local network, but doesn't respond to telnet, ssh, or port 80 web requests. The port I chose to forward on my router, port 8822, does work, sort of!  The smartphone app is a heck of a lot friendlier, not doubt. But http://10.10.1.6:8822 actually gets me in to the basic interface (much like the 2412N), seen screenshots below:

    MyHouse-Web-Interface-INSTEON-Hub
    MyHouse-General-Settings

    There seems to be very few hands-on overviews of this new Insteon Hub out there so far. I'm already able to quickly summarize some lessons learned, that would have made things far simpler during the set up, including:

    • plug hub and any devices your paring directly into wall outlets as it advises
    • make sure your WiFi signal is strong when doing the initial setup
    • everything after that initial, first-time set up can be done over cellular, even the pairing with Insteon devices, nice!
    • if you're willing to expose your router to possible UPnP vulnerabilities, that'd make set up easier, I just went with forwarding a single arbitrary port number in my router and moved on
    • depending upon your router's security level, you may need a PC for setting up that port forwarding, especially if you don't have UPnP enabled
    • don't be scared off by all this port-forwarding stuff, most routers ship with UPnP on and you won't have those issues you see me deal with in the video
    • at one spot in the video, you'll see an add new device search fails when using cellular, no biggie, I should probably be sticking with local WiFi when adding devices anyway
    • you'll want to set up this device in your own home, so if you receive one as a gift, don't bother to try to play with it on somebody else's network
    • go with SMS instead of email, for more immediacy when you receive confirmations
    Welcome-to-INSTEON

    Additional Insteon Hub resources:

    Insteon
    product page

    Smarthome
    product page
    customer reviews
    quick start guide
    owner's manual
    forum discussions

    Amazon
    product page
    customer reviews

    (Feb 24 2013 edit, shortened video to focus on just the unboxing):


    Jan. 09 2013 Update:
    Was having an issue with schedule execution after a brief power outage. Worked with Smarthome's always-excellent Insteon chat support, was informed of a new version of the Smartphone app arriving within about 6-9 days. Was given permission to share this list of fixes coming, for both iOS and Android:

    • Corrected issue where motion sensor timeout was off by 30 secs.
    • Fixed schedules not being saved to the Hub correctly.
    • Fixed row indexing issue for alerts where users were unable to select ON Alert
    • Dismiss Quick Control View overlay after control.
    • Fixed bug where updating schedules were turning on alerts.
    • Updated Quick Controls more button icon with larger width icon and height.
    • Skip the Add Device wizard before Favorites when logging in and the user has a Hub associated to the account.
    • Fixed issue where Schedules were not being activated when device was in 24-hour time format.
    • Update to use Quick Launch paddle for Fast Control
    • Enable setting of Main Thermostat – Edit Settings->House-Main Thermostat
    • Enable setting of Main Camera – Edit Settings->House-Main Camera
    • Enabled Motion Sensor Properties
    • Motion LED = ON/OFF
    • Night ONLY = ON/OFF
    • Motion Countdown Timer = 30 sec TO 2 hours
    • Light Sensitivity = 1% to 100%
    • On Only Mode = ON/OFF
    • Occupancy Mode = ON/OFF
    • Fixed issue with an X10 unit code over 10
    • Fixed issue with X10 schedules

    See also user reviews here, which are quite mixed at the current level of code, unfortunately. Mine shows as PLM Version: 9B / Firmware Version: 4.3A / Build Oct 30 2012.


    Jan. 19 2013 Update:
    Note the Insteon hub is not a dual-band Insteon device.

    Smarthome has emailed their Insteon Hub owners, here's the web version. It explains what's wrong, and what they're doing about it. See also screenshot of same letter:

    INSTEON-hub-email

    Jan. 29 2013 Update:
    The Insteon Hub app for iPhone Jan 29 2013 update 1.2.0 has been released, screenshots of the Updates below, from my iPhone 5:

    update

    The update was fast.

    So I unplugged my USB controller, and plugged the Insteon Hub back in.

    After logging in with the app, I quickly noticed something I hadn't noticed before, a "Stay signed in" slider, which I turned on.

    stay-signed-in

    Tap the Gear Icon along the bottom, tap "Edit Settings", tap "Account", tap "Stay signed in".

    Next, noticed I couldn't get my scenes to work manually. So I went into each scene, turned it on, then went in to each member device turned it on, then tapped update scene.

    See also the sequence of screenshots below that walk through what I did.

    step-1-4

    (Above) launch Insteon app, tap Scenes button along bottom edge, tap “On” at top of onscreen paddle switch, tap Gearbox icon along bottom, tap “Edit This”, tap first scene, in my case, named “On Dusk to Dawn”.

    step-5-8

    (Above) tap first Members device, in my case named “Christmas Tree”, tap On, it then confirms “Updating Settings” and returns you to the previous menu, repeat the process for all remaining Members devices

    Now all is well, turning my 2 scenes on or off is fast, all devices go on or off in unison, in well under a second from the moment I tap the button.

    Only time will tell if the clock stays accurate, and if the scenes are automatically triggered at the right times, every day. Sunset/midnight for one scene, Sunset/sunrise for the other.


    Jan. 29 2013 Update #2:
    Unfortunately, it turns out my morning scene (sunrise) didn't execute today, so attempting the same workaround, to go in and edit, making no changes, just saving it again, and seeing if my 2 scenes now work again.


    Jan. 30 2013 Update:
    Scheduled Scenes are working again. Basically I went in to edit my 2 scenes, then simply re-saved them, and scheduled scenes then resumed working just fine.

    See the exact steps here.

    fixed-1-4

    (Above) launch the Insteon app, tap “Scenes” icon along the bottom row, tap Gearbox Icon, tap “Edit This”, tap the first scene name “On Dusk to Dawn”, tap “Schedule”

    fixed-5-7

    (Above) tap “Save” at top-right, it returns to the previous menu and confirms “Updating Settings”, then tap “Back” at top left, repeat this process for each remaining scene, in my case, it was by tapping “On Dusk to Midnight”

    all is well now, all lights on and off at the right times. It now seems possible I won't have to touch anything again. Well, not unless I bring more Insteon devices online.

    I can reliably turn on and off any individual device in my home, so lack of dual-band not apparently an issue with my configuration. Now the only apparent remaining issue for me is clock drift. Checking in on my the time it thinks it is today, on this private IP (with hub set to port # 8822):
    http://10.10.1.6:8822/network.htm

    Right after doing an NTP clock sync of my laptop, I can see the Insteon Hub's clock is 57 seconds behind. Time will tell if it begins to drift further, but more importantly, if it adjusts itself automatically in the coming weeks.

    57-seconds-off

    Jan. 31 2013 Update:
    Darn. Brief power outage during a pre-sunrise windstorm last night. This took out power to the Insteon Hub for a few seconds. For mysterious reasons, this also means the house lights didn't turn off at sunrise an hour or so later. Used the iOS app to turn the 2 scenes off manually.

    The two scenes did turn on again at sunset, without any further intervention. So not sure what his single incident means. Or why the Hub didn't recover itself. But worth noting. Especailly since you can't use a UPS (battery backup) on such a device.

    See also my related Smarthome forum comments, from Jan 30 2013:
    Insteon Hub iOS app 1.2.0 works better, here's how


    Feb. 05 2013 Update:
    TheGuy has kindly posted a very useful tip in his very detailed post (including Android and iOS experiences) in the Disqus comments below, thank you!

    To access the cloud version of your Insteon account from any browser, such as on your PC, TheGuy reminds you to use the basic functionality available at:
    http://connect.insteon.com

    and login with your ID. That simple. Note, you're redirected to https secure version, as soon as you visit the site:

    Log-in-to-your-INSTEON-Hubs-Cloud

    One more trick that may others have discovered. Here's how you see how Smarthome's cloud sees your Insteon Hub:
    http://connect.insteon.com/getinfo.asp


    Apr. 13 2013 Update:
    The April 11, 2013 Insteon for Hub App upgrade to version 1.3.0 completed quickly, without incident. Some new UI stuff, but no big differences noticed, other than having to type in just my password again. Then after a day, noticed it asking for both Email and Password, despite the "Stay signed in" slider still showing set to ON.

    How have the last few months of automation gone? Daylight savings was honored, and the clock is correct, this is good. Unfortunately, once or twice a month, the sunset scene would just be skipped, with darkness falling, and the house lights not turning on. But functions would resume without intervention, like the next day, lights would automatically go on again. And jumping in and using the App to turn things on or off always works, so I have no indications of signal issues that could explain the missed scene.

    I doubt this App update will fix my occasionally skipped scenes, since the firmware has stayed the same, PLM Version: 9B, Firmware Version: 4.3A Build Oct 30 2012.

    IMG_6150

    May 16 2013 Update:
    Thanks to a tip from TinkerTry reader JPMJR, I learned that the newer 2242-224 Dual band hub is apparently available for trade-in, even though it's still unlisted on the Smarthome site. It appears to be an offer intended for just folks who bought the 2242-222 and have experienced some issues. Just call Smarthome and explain your situation. All the details in the threaded conversation right below this article, jump ahead by clicking here.


    May 23 2013 Update:
    My new 2242-224 has arrived, working on unboxing video.

    Also, got this tip from a TinkerTry reader JPMJR:

    I received my new insteon hub.  Just a quick note before you unplug your old hub go into the insteon application on your device and delete your insteon account.  When you plug in the new insteon hub you just create the same account.  There were no instruction to do this so it took me a bit to figure it out.  I just plugged my old hub in deleted it then plugged the new hub back in.


    May 24 2013 Update:
    I've taken screenshots of all pages of the iOS app, so now with device IDs in hand, I should be able to rediscover all Insteon devices in my home, without having to walk around to each one to press the pairing button. Smarthome support agreed this approach would likely make for the smoothest approach to replacement.

    Unboxing video now available.

    You can tell its a revised model by the Model 2242-222R (the R is simply a small sticker they've added at Smarthome, presumably after replacing the circuitry inside).

    Model-2242-222R
    Model 2242-224 Dual-Band shows as Model 2242-222R

    May 27 2013 Update:
    It works! The replacement has been a complete success. It's easy IF you remember to delete the account before swapping units and have UPnP enabled. Not as easy if you forget to delete first, or are avoiding UPnP by using port-forwarding. But it even comes with a how to replace guide that warns you to delete your account first, featured in the unboxing video above, and the screenshot below.

    INSTEON-Hub-Get-Started-with-your-new-INSTEON-Hub
    INSTEON-Hub-Get-Started-with-your-new-INSTEON-Hub-page-2
    INSTEON-hub-models-comparison

    May 28 2013 Update:
    Rather aggressive, painful procedure for swapping out your hub is documented in the manual at page 18:

    Factory Reset
    If you have already set up the Hub in the app, you must first delete your account prior to factory resetting the Hub. If you have added any Insteon devices to the app, it is strongly recommended that you factory reset those devices prior to deleting your account and factory resetting the Hub.
    Delete Account
    1) Go to the Edit Settings page by tapping the settings button and selecting Edit Settings
    2) Select Account
    3) At the bottom of the page is a Delete Account button. Tap button to delete your account (this cannot be undone).
    Factory Reset Hub

    On the phone with a knowledgeable support rep at 866-243-8022, I was instead told to follow the procedure on the "Insteon Hub - Get Started with your new Insteon Hub" pamphlet included with the new unit, seen pictured under the May 27 2013 Update above.


    May 29 2013 Update:
    I noticed my scenes just weren't working. I called in to support, and Justin advised me to

    1. turn off all 7 days of the week in my 2 scenes
    2. log off the app
    3. log back in again
    4. turn all 7 days of the week again in both scenes
    5. log off the app
    6. log back in again

    I'll know at sunset tonight whether this workaround works. If it doesn't his next advice was to delete both scenes entirely, then re-add them back again, adding each of the member devices back to each recreated scene.


    May 31 2013 Update:
    It worked! A power outage May 29th overnight got in the way that night (with all Insteon lights off after power was restored, as expected). But last night, my 2 secenes worked fine:

    • Sunset light on/midnight lights off
    • Sunset lights on/sunrise lights off

    So in a few more days, my confidence will be built that this swap was a succces.  I'll then mail the old unit back to Smarthome, with the provided pre-paid label. See also my comment dropped over at the Smarthome Insteon forum at:

    http://www.smarthome.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=12944


    Jun. 04 2013 Update:
    Sorry about the ridiculous article length, which turned out more like a 6 month experience journal. I probably need a whole new article just about DHCP reservations, port forwarding, and then setting a fixed IP (to avoid UPnP while allowing easy setup), but that's for another day. And maybe a Insteon Superguide. And perhaps a little something about dimmable LEDs, and which Insteon products work well with them.

    FYI, soon, there might be some podcasting about this Insteon Hub going on, keep an eye on:
    homeservershow.com/category/byob

    In the end, it was all worthwhile, with a new Insteon leak detector arriving today for free, for the trouble of having to replace my original unit. I did not ask for or get any special treatment (Insteon tech support doesn't really care who calls in anyway). Everything was bought with my own $, as just another customer.

    Your feedback about the Best Buy deal is also [b]very [/b]interesting. I was at Best Buy just last weekend, and didn't see any Insteon on display, but Belkin certainly had a big WeMo display. Anyhow, those Insteon starter kits available online do seem to be a pretty amazing deal, and knowing they're likely to be the "R" model is great info for folks out there.

    Here's the handy shortened URLs, for easy sharing:
    Insteon - Starter Kit Model: 2244-224 SKU: 8448042 (Hub with LampLinc 2-pin lamp dimmer module (2457D2) [i]- this is the one you mention, but it only says 1 dimmer[/i]
    $119 at Best Buy at http://fave.co/10W7v9j

    Insteon- Starter Kit - White Model: 2244-223 SKU: 5388941 (Hub with SmartLinc controller, LampLinc dual-band dimmer, dual-band access point range extender)
    $99 at Best Buy at http://fave.co/17lEThf

    Insteon Hub Model: 2242-222 (just the 2242-222R hub)
    $119 at Amazon http://amzn.to/ZIiqIE


    Jun. 05 2013 Update:
    FYI, I avoid UPnP, which admittedly would make initial configuration simpler for most folks, and much more like the Smarthome getting started guides. But I'm concerned about the vulnerabilities, explained here:
    TinkerTry.com/upnp-vulnerability

    So I instead went with this method:

    1) Create a DHCP reservation for the Insteon Hub (before even plugging in the new one), using the MAC address listed on sticker on the bottom. That way, I'd know it'd always gets the same IP address, even at first power up. So in my case, that is 10.10.1.6.

    2) I then also set up manual port forwarding, for the port # it chose during that initial configuration, in my case, that was port 25105.

    3) On the iOS app, I configured a fixed IP anyway, as 10.10.1.6, so that the Insteon Hub would boot and be all set with knowing it's IP address, even if something went wrong with my DHCP server, which in my case is my router.

    Hope this short version those with less conventional home networking helps folks a bit!


    Jun. 11 2013 Update:
    I've been running on the new Insteon for Hub Version 1.4.0 since its June 6th release, and so far, so good, with many nice new icons. No missed scheduled scenes, things have been good for weeks now actually. So confidence high, now that I must mail back the old unit to avoid getting stuck with the bill...

    1.4.0

    Jun. 15 2013 Update:
    I've finally gotten around to shipping my original unit back in the Smarthome-provided, pre-paid FedEx box. Hope it gets there fast enough to avoid any potential billing hassles. Also noticed the provided label says "RMA: BETA HUB"

    Today, I also happened to spot that the Insteon Hub is supposed to now be compatible with the free Insteon HouseLinc PC software, figured I'd give it a try. After getting past some rough edges and dead-end attempts, turns out it's quite easy to get the hub recognized, if you make the menu selection seen below.

    INSTEON-Hub-found-by-HouseLinc
    Configure-an-interface-success

    Here's a full video walk-through, but skip ahead to 8 minutes 30 seconds in if you just want to see the part where I succeed.

    Not sure what benefits I'll be getting out using HousLinc (again), since the Insteon for Hub smarthome app is already meeting my needs. I should probably try CastleOS as well, someday.


    Jun. 23 2013 Update:
    Insteon Smoke Bridge 2982-222 works, and works well. Video footage of the unboxing, linking, and testing will all be published in upcoming articles. Also covered will be the Insteon Water Leak Sensor 2852-222. See also TinkerTry.com/first-alert-onelink.


    Jun. 25 2013 Update:
    Video of the Smoke Bridge now added to TinkerTry.com/first-alert-onelink.


    Jun. 28 2013 Update:
    Still finding that once in a while, the Insteon for Hub mobile app forgets to remember my login credentials. Not a big deal, just an annoyance, just type them in and I'm back in action.


    Jul. 14 2013 Update:
    Excellent overview and video of the Insteon Hub over at insteon.com here.


    Jul. 29 2013 Update:
    Very complimentary and complementary podcast, where this article is discussed, now available here:

    Podcast: The BYOB Podcast
    Episode: BYOB Episode 127
    Starting From: 01:36
    http://pcasts.in/cj0O


    Jul. 30 2013 Update:
    Wow, yet another very complimentary and complementary podcast, where this article is discussed, now available here:

    Podcast: Home: On from The Digital Media Zone
    Episode: Home: On #005 – Getting Started, with Mike Faucher
    Starting From: 19:42
    http://pcasts.in/vEhH

    Really good points made as Richard and Mike contrast the Insteon Hub (lower cost of entry, no monthly fees) with the Lowe's Iris (higher up front cost, monthly bill of $0 or $9.99, depending upon your needs). I'm glad that more competition and product is actually making it into the world of retail. It's about time.


    Jun. 12 2014 Update:
    If you are an original Insteon Hub owner from Dec 2012, you may be affected a notice, read the article to determine if it applies to you:
    support.insteon.com/customer/portal/articles/1510932

    If it does apply, call in and get your hub replaced, no charge.

    My own Insteon Hub was replaced back in May 2013, and it's been mostly smooth sailing ever since. I only have some sluggishness when I leave several modules unplugged that the app is still trying to see.

    Big recent news is the release of the Insteon for Hub universal Windows app release, trying it on my Windows 8.1 system tonight actually. Then there's news that Microsoft is selling Insteon gear now, seen here already:

    INSTEON-Home-Kit-at-Microsoft-Store