While home automation continues to be the hot trend in home appliances these days, it’s not always easy to take that first step into this brave new world. This is especially true for the older folks who have the money and the authority to buy and install these products but aren’t exactly what you’d consider tech-savvy. That’s why many experts advice newbies to begin their journey into smart home networks with just smart light bulbs. Insteon reinforces this belief by introducing their Starter Kit 2.
What Is It?
The Starter Kit 2 is a basic introductory configuration from Insteon. This company manufactures its own line of smart devices, and they usually work best only with other Insteon products. And by going with a starter kit you can enjoy a considerable discount.
This starter kit includes 2 Insteon dimmers and they’re both connected to the Insteon Hub, which is available for less than a hundred dollars. You’d spend close to $200 for all of them, but with the Starter Kit you can have all these for a lot less.
Features of the Insteon Hub
So let’s first take a closer look at this hub. A hub functions like your Windows OS. It’s basically a platform on which all the other devices offer you a lot of functions, just as different programs make your computer more useful. This is the device that lets you save programmed lighting settings for all types of events.
Do you want a different lighting setting for when you wake up, when you’re reading by the bed, when you’re watching a movie, or when you have a date at home? You can save all these different lighting settings so that you can return back to them anytime you want instead of setting each light individually.
It’s also the hub that allows you to have your devices operate on a schedule. So if you have smart speakers, you can use it as your alarm clock. You can automate your lights to turn on and off randomly at night when you’re away so burglars will think someone’s home. Lights can work together with your motion sensors, so that the lights can illuminate an area where someone may be skulking around your house. Lights can even be programmed to activate automatically when you enter a room, either by using motion sensors or by using the location services of your phone.
You can use an app (available for iOS, Android, and Windows smartphones) to control your hub remotely. The Insteon hub needs a Wi-Fi router with a broadband Internet connection. It can get your commands when you’re away at work or on vacation, as long as your smartphone has Internet access as well.
Features of the Dimmers
Now let’s go to the dimmers. This is a device that adds a lot of modern smart functionality to all kinds of table lamps and floor lamps, as well as other plugin lights. It gives you full local control, whether to turn it on or off or to dim or brighten the light. You can also remotely do these things with your smartphone. You can put in an old-fashioned lamp and instantly you can incorporate it into various lighting design settings (called “scenes”).
Benefits of the Insteon Starter Kit
So now you’re off and running with home automation. Exactly how does this benefit you? With the Insteon Starter Kit, you’ll get the following advantages:
- Remote control. We’ve mentioned this before, but when you get used to remote controlled lamps it will be very difficult to get back to manual control ever again. It’s like with TV remotes. When these devices became popular, manual TV controls on the set became virtually irrelevant. Who wants to get up to change the channel or set the volume?
In this case, home automation redefines what “remote” control now means. Because of Wi-Fi connectivity, you’re able to monitor and control your lamps from anywhere. You don’t even have to be in the same city or the same continent.
So with the app, you can check if you left the lamp on or not. Or you can manually turn it on just so people don’t know that no one is home at your place.
- Scheduling. Insteon lets you program your lamps to turn on or off at a certain time. As your experience in home automation grows, you can experiment with different schedules for each day. And you can have your two lamps turn on and off together.
- Scenes. With this feature, you can automate your lights to create scenes. With just two lights this is a bit rudimentary, but as you add more lights and more devices you can control many types of gadgets at the same time. You can have a party setting for your lights, or have the lights dim enough for best movie viewing.
- Alerts. You can program your smart gadgets at home to send you an alert if something goes wrong, or if something changes. With just your starter kit, you can practice with this feature so that your lights can notify you if it activates or turns off.
This feature becomes more important when you have added security devices such as motion and smoke detectors. These devices can then send you an alert to notify you that something is wrong. And these can be tied to your lights, so that they will blink when your sensors detect something unusual.
- Free services. Insteon saves your instructions and settings to the cloud, and there are no monthly fees for this. The cloud notes all the devices you have, and the scenes and settings you’ve saved for each. Other home automation services may charge you a monthly fee to use their cloud. But not Insteon.
Now you may think that working with just Insteon may limit you to a mere handful of devices. That’s not necessarily the case. If you’re pleased with how your starter kit works and you wish to continue with Insteon, then you’ll find that you have a very long list of possible devices you can add.
Examples of what Insteon offers include switches, keypads, door locks, and thermostats. It also offers various types of sensors. You have sensors for motion, water leaks, smoke, temperature, and even the opening or closing of a door or window. They have all sorts of cameras which may include night vision.
With your smartphone and your hub, you can open or close a door in the home or garage remotely. You can even open or close drapes, which works with your security system so people outside can’t see inside. There’s a sensor that knows when it is raining, so you can prevent your sprinkler from activating. There’s even a sensor that notifies you when your freezer stops working!
Integrating with Other Systems
This starter kit works with the Nest Learning Thermostat, which can really automate how you set your temperature at home. And it also works with Amazon Echo, and now you can experiment with vocal commands for your lights.
Pros and Cons
The Insteon Starter Kit is a fine way to get your feet wet in home automation. One obvious benefit is the savings you get. Going too deeply into establishing a network of smart home appliances can cost you quite a hefty sum. With this introductory setup, you can investigate its uses and benefits at a far lower cost.
Here you can experiment and practice your use of home automation. You can enjoy the convenience of remote control for your lamps, so that you don’t have to get up to turn them on or off, or to adjust its brightness level. Without the dimmer it may not have been possible for you to adjust its brightness, and now you can.
With this hub you can also get familiar with setting a schedule for your lights, and discovering how you can set distinct lighting scenes for each type of event at home. It’s all about practice and familiarity, and soon you’ll be able to grasp the benefits of adding more devices to the hub.
Insteon is also great not just because it’s affordable, but it’s also very reliable. Many smart devices these days are like newly released programs and apps—they’re just full of glitches and bugs. Sometimes the hub and the smart devices don’t work well together, either. With Insteon, you’re fairly confident that your devices will do what they’re supposed to do.
But sometimes things go wrong, and that’s especially true in home automation. It’s still a very young niche, and not everything works perfectly all the time. You may have some problem with connecting with your router. And Insteon knows this, which is why it offers very clear instructions within the app on what you’re supposed to do when a problem occurs with the router. These instructions are even tailored for specific brands of routers.
And if you’re still having problems? Call Insteon toll-free, and you get live assistance for free. The Insteon customer support is excellent, and it will have a person promptly answering your questions. Your call for help won’t be ignored, and you won’t be reduced to rereading “how to” articles online to figure things out for yourself.
In some ways Insteon does fall short especially when you compare it to other home automation apps. In some cases programming the lights won’t be as simple as you may have hoped. And you may not get the full functionality of these lights until you add more devices to the Insteon network.
Finally, the price may be cheaper than buying the components of the kit individually. But compared to other home automation systems, it’s still a bit too expensive. Some other kits are cheaper and they already have motion sensors that work well with the lights. With Insteon, that’s an additional expense.
The suitability of the Insteon Starter Kit hinges on your future plans for home automation. What exactly are your plans and your preferences? Do you value reliability, or do you want lots of possible options for different smart devices made by different companies?
Insteon is a great choice if you value smooth operations and bug-free experiences. Every device you can connect to the Insteon hub is generally made by Insteon as well. And each of these devices was tested thoroughly so that they know it will work well with the other Insteon devices. It’s like working exclusively with Microsoft Office applications. You can have these programs work together without a problem, because Microsoft has seen to it that they do.
In contrast, other home automation hubs and starter kits can cause you to become frustrated when you start adding more devices to the hub. It’ll always be a gamble on your part, whenever you add a different device made by a different company. It’s like using a word processor, a database, and a spreadsheet program together, except that each one was made by a different company. You shouldn’t be surprised when you have compatibility issues.
In the end, it’s a starter kit. By its name it’s supposed to be for beginners. And that’s what Insteon is doing. This kit serves as an intro to home automation, and it lays down a path for you to follow. Regardless of whether you stick with Insteon or not, it will show you the basics and it will give you a glimpse of the endless possibilities.
So the conclusion here is that either way, picking the Insteon Starter kit is a great choice if you’re a newbie. It can help you familiarize yourself with the world of home automation while you don’t spend too much money. And when you feel like you know enough and you’re determined to try other systems, at least Insteon was able to introduce you to home automation without discouraging you with constant bugs. Insteon sets the standard for how things should work together. It may not offer you all the types of smart devices you want (they don’t have a smart pet feeder, at least not yet), but it does offer the basics.