Insteon Review: Broad Home Automation Options with Upfront Costs


As the number of rival home automation brands continues to grow, making a choice about which smart devices to buy grows more challenging. Fortunately, we’re here to lend a helping hand and discuss the pros and cons of the systems on the market – like with our Insteon review.

Insteon offers a plethora of home automation products, centered on its primary hub and the Insteon app that you use to control devices. The app itself is a refreshingly simple thing, offering minimalistic controls for every linked device while also allowing you to set up schedules, situational programming, and new names for more integrated homes. Insteon is also adding a “guest” mode that allows for more limited control for people like babysitters. This app is based on home automation network, which deserves a closer look.

Diving Into Home Automation … For a Price

Upfront, Insteon is a little more expensive and a little more clunky than some of the other home automation options. The products lines primarily depend (for now, at least), on the Insteon Hub, a white block of a device that you need to power up and keep out of the way, much like a wireless router. Without it, your Insteon devices cannot communicate with your smartphone, tablet, or computer: In other words, you have to drop $130 on a device that makes sure your other devices work. The Insteon Starter Kit helps you save a bit of money by throwing in a couple lamp-dimmers as well, but the initial investment is still high. Insteon designs its products for you to slowly build a complex house automation system, with less focus on single, do-everything devices.

This is simply a requirement for the types of protocols that Insteon uses, but it should be noted that some other, similar modern-day smart devices, like the Belkin WeMo line, manage to skip this necessity and make it easier to save money for simple project. If you want Insteon, you will have to begin by buying and setting up the hub, and this may be a little too much work for a homeowner looking for simple augmentations for only a few devices. To balance this out, Insteon does win points by charging zero monthly fees for its products or capabilities, unlike some competing, security-focused companies.

Variety is the Spice of Life

In some ways Insteon does resemble competing companies like Belkin, but here we see Insteon taking several unique strides that homeowners will be quick to appreciate. First, no Insteon review would be complete without mentioning its impressive catalog of devices. A look at wall switches will not yield just one basic switch option, but a number of dimmers, togglers and traditional switches to choose between. If you have a task you want automated – or made smarter – in your home, there’s a good chance that Insteon has something for you. There are energy monitors with accompanying displays and high-tech thermostats that can read humidity as well as temperature. There are remote control lights that use LED bulbs. There are security cameras and door sensors. There are plug-in products for every kind of lamp or appliance. Whether you want to focus on security, safety, lighting, or a little of everything, Insteon can support your system.

Again, newcomers to home automation may find all these options a little daunting. But for the homeowner looking for a very specific solution, Insteon is a model company without the high price tag of a brand like Elan. This also carries over to Insteon’s approach to accessories. Smart devices like Belkin’s WeMo limit you to only one color, but Insteon offers a variety of color plates, custom etching, and LED bulb color change kits. This is ideal if you want to match a particular wall color or trimming section with your knew controls.

The downside behind this approach is that customizing your network of Insteon devices can grow a little complex. If you like tinkering, you may grow a little impatient with the Insteon requirements: Our Insteon review found that you must route your conditional commands through the hub using Scenes, or mini-networks, of related devices that you build using your Insteon app. There’s just a few too many steps to the process for those trying to experiment.

A Word About Microsoft

Insteon recently announced a partnership with Microsoft that, among other things, will bring extra functionality to Microsoft mobile devices. If you already have a preference for the Microsoft brand, Insteon may be a strong home automation option based on that choice. The partnership also has the potential to lead to interesting future collaborations on new projects.

This Microsoft partnership does a lot to push Insteon to the front of the line when it comes to multi-service home automation systems (other players include HouseLinc, ADT, and options like Indigo). With its inclusive support and large product Insteon is also a great option for more international homeowners who want smart devices in their houses in Europe, Australia, and other locations that may use slightly different programming or outlets.

However, if you want to start small there are better options on the market than Insteon. The same is true if you are intimidated by too many choices or cannot afford to drop a few hundred dollars just to get started in home automation.

Photo Credit: Oyvid Solstad