May 05, 2022 2 Comments
Insteon just became another smart home company to shut down their services. Overnight, the platform’s servers were disconnected, leaving their customers without a functional smart home. SmartLabs, Insteon’s mother company, claims to have sold over 5 million connected devices; that’s a lot of sensors, switches, and controllers that became orphaned. Does it mean that all of this hardware is now completely useless?
It turns out that there are ways to salvage your Insteon products and continue using them, at least to some extent, on other platforms who stepped up and provided integration for this protocol. However, these workarounds are less than user-friendly and will require more time and possible frustration around a system that’s no longer backed by any official support. What’s the alternative and is it even worth it to have a connected house these days?
It's not easy to take another chance after putting your time and money into a system that was abandoned. When you start researching, you come across similar stories of Iris by Lowes, Best Buy’s Insignia, Alphabet’s Revolv, Staples Connect, or the ADT SmartThings offering that was discontinued in 2021. Wink suddenly started charging a monthly fee for their already dwindling service and there’s no guarantee these days that the smart home hardware you buy is really yours.
Cloud systems, like Insteon, are expensive to maintain and challenging to keep secure, so we’re likely to see more interruptions in platforms heavily reliant on cloud. Is there another way to approach smart home then? When purchasing hardware and deciding on the wireless protocol of your automated house, offline processing and focus on privacy should be key. Z-Wave happens to check off all of these boxes. It was designed as a secure local automation system with signal speed and reliability in mind. That’s the reason it’s currently the protocol of choice for home security companies like ADT, Alarm.com, Vivint, and Ring Alarm. Chances are, you may already have a Z-Wave controller in your home and you didn’t even know about it.
Unlike Matter that’s being delayed and will take time to test and prove itself, Z-Wave is a mature technology with 20 years in the industry. You can find direct replacements for your Insteon devices among thousands of Z-Wave products available from companies around the world. We put together a short list of the essential smart home components below to make your transition from Insteon a little easier.
An upcoming joint venture between Zooz and Fibaro, the Z-Box hub will be released in the fall of 2022. It’s thought of as a Z-Wave focused solution to highlight the advanced functionality of Z-Wave while offering a simple UI and an elegant app. It will be based on a local ecosystem with optional cloud features, making it impossible for either company to simply switch off any local automations or device access. The platform is backed by the US based support team from Zooz.
A local based platform with expansive device integration and a vibrant community. The app is still a work in progress and the UI can be a bit overwhelming but they provide tips, tutorials, and answers you need in a comprehensive support portal. The platform receives frequent updates for more functionality and optimized performance too.
Unlike other systems, this open source platform is free to use, and only requires a computer (Raspberry Pi will do) and a cost-effective Z-Wave USB dongle to start your Z-Wave network. Home Assistant runs cloud-free and offers you the ability to connect many technologies in a single ecosystem. It’s community based so there’s no professional support but you can turn to published documentation and forums for assistance.
This is one of the most robust home automation systems out there. You can even add an Insteon Plugin to keep your existing devices in use. Documentation may not be as accessible as for some of the other controllers so expect a learning curve at first. Once it’s set up, the system is rock solid.
All of the above hubs allow you to connect with your smart speaker but note that these are cloud integrations that may not always be free and that take your data outside of your home network. Remember that as of May 2022, there aren't any Z-wave enabled smart speakers so you can only control Z-Wave devices with voice commands if your speaker is connected to a compatible hub.
Life in an automated house is easier when you've got a central switch or keypad that manages multiple devices. Control up to 35 other smart devices or trigger up to 35 scenes with the buttons of the ZEN32 Scene Controller. Connect a load of lights or a fan to the main button of the ZEN32 for local control, or use it with no load, and have 5 remote control buttons with customizable LEDs.
Voted the most popular style of smart switch, you could never go wrong with decora dimmers like the ZEN72 Dimmer or ZEN77 S2 Dimmer. Use the ZEN72 in single pole installations or set-ups involving smart bulbs. No need to rewire the other switch box if you use the ZEN77 in your 3-way and 4-way set-ups. Both models support multi-tap scene control and over 20 settings to adjust the dimmer's functionality to your needs. Customize with replaceable black, brown, and light almond paddles, and different colors and brightness levels of the LED indicator.
No need to dim? Use the ZEN71 On/Off Switch or ZEN76 S2 Switch for physical and Z-Wave control of your smart home's lights. Add voice control when you use it with your smart speakers or program scenes via mutli-tap triggers. These switches have the latest 700 series Z-Wave chip for improved range and security. They are smaller in size for tight or crowded switch boxes and have a built in range test tool for reliable hub connection.
If toggle is the preferred switch style in your connected home, try the ZEN73 Toggle Switch. All the great features of the 700 series paddle models, including the unique 3-way wiring solution of the ZEN76 and ZEN77, built into the classic toggle design switch. The 4 color smart LED indicator (not visible with the wallplate on) guides you through the inclusion, exclusion, and reset processes for easy command confirmation.
Never worry about flood and leak damage again with the ZAC36 Titan Water Valve Actuator. This device can be used with or without a hub thanks to the included wired leak sensor probe. Pair it with Z-Wave leak sensors like in like in the Zooz Flood Prevention Kit for a truly smart leak prevention system. The probe or sensors trigger the ZAC36 device to automatically close your valve in the event of a detected leak. Indoor and outdoor rated, easy, tool-free DIY installation, with an extremely powerful motor to tackle even the most stubborn valves.
One of the most important parts of your smart home to monitor are your garage doors. Whether you previously used an Insteon open/close sensor, or hadn't enabled any sort of remote monitoring, there's an easy Z-Wave solution: Zooz relays. If you'd like to keep your existing Insteon wired sensor, you can simply add the ZEN17 Universal Relay to have manual and remote control of your garage door opener with status updates from the sensor. If this is a new set-up, then we recommend the Zooz DIY Smart Garage Opener Kit, equipped with the ZEN16 MultiRelay and Tilt | Shock Sensor. Automate up to 2 garage doors with a single ZEN17 relay and up to 3 garage doors with the ZEN16 model! Zooz support has you covered with wiring and programming instructions if needed.
Safety is another top priority in any smart home so be sure to add this one to your shopping list: the Zooz | Kidde DIY Smart Smoke Alarm Kit. Monitor your existing smoke alarms with a pre-wired ZEN51 Dry Contact Relay and Smoke Alarm Relay Module SM120X. Easy install with guaranteed peace of mind: connect the 3 pigtail wires to the last smoke alarm in series, pair the Zooz relay to your Z-Wave hub, and receive status notifications in the app whenever any of your smoke alarms is triggered.
For increased smart home security, you can't go wrong with the fast and reliable reports of the small, sleek, and discreet ZSE41 Open | Close Sensor. Coated with rubber oil to prevent corrosion and water leak damage, this sensor is perfect for monitoring the status of doors, windows, mailboxes and more. Equipped with the 700 series Z-Wave chip, you can install this sensor outdoors in the waterproof case (sold separately).
Complete your home automations with the ZSE40 4-in-1 Sensor. This sensor can be programmed to trigger almost any scene: security alerts as soon as motion is detected, lights on or off based on the brightness reports, HVAC system controlled by temperature reports, or control a humidifier powered by a smart plug with the sensor's humidity reports. One small, customizable device - endless home monitoring and automation possibilities.
The key to a reliable Z-Wave network is having plenty of Z-Wave signal repeating devices, or range extenders. Since the hub creates the communication route to any device, it uses existing nearby signal extenders to reach new devices. Any non-battery powered of hardwired Z-Wave device will act as a signal repeater so light switches, smart plugs, relays and other constantly powered devices make for great range extenders.
If you have any questions or can't find a good alternative to your Insteon product, just reach out to our team of Z-Wave experts and we'll be happy to help!
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August 06, 2020
If you already have Amazon Echo set up, you know how convenient it can be. There’s nothing like walking out the front door with full hands and telling Alexa to turn off your lights last minute. But these smart lights and plugs can be slow to react as you keep adding more smart home devices and clogging your network.
Alexa only “speaks” WiFi (and ZigBee if you have the EchoPlus). It currently doesn’t support Z-Wave, the protocol of choice for home automation thanks to its high speed and low interference with other connected devices in your home. That means you can’t have a Z-Wave switch or plug speak directly to your Echo. BUT you can use a smart home hub as a bridge between your Z-Wave devices and Amazon Alexa. Now that’s a whole other level of functionality to unlock!
And if you already have a Z-Wave hub but no smart speaker, you might be thinking how cool it would be to have voice control for your automations and smart home devices. It’s a step towards a more integrated, easy-to-use smart home with improved security, comfort, and convenience.
May 10, 2020 13 Comments
Starting May 13, 2020, Wink will be charging its users a $4.99 monthly subscription fee. If you don’t pay, you’ll lose your automations, smart rules, and access to voice control. [Update 5/30/20: Wink has since backed out of the decision, at least for now. Update 7/27/20: The subscription service for Wink is finally in effect.]
So is it worth paying $5 a month for Wink’s service? The platform hasn’t been adding new features or expanding its list of supported devices for a while now. The announcement introducing the subscription model didn’t include any details on when and how the system would start updating again. They also failed to give users at least 30 days notice to consider how to move forward. If you’re thinking about switching to another platform, we can’t blame you.
Here are a few alternatives for reliable smart home solutions that are most popular among our customers and the team here at The Smartest House. They’re all one-time investments without monthly fees. You’ll find a list of benefits and limitations with each platform, but if you have any questions about specific features we didn’t cover here, get in touch or post in the comment section below.
November 05, 2018
Winterizing your home used to mean lots of physical labor - caulking windows, installing heavier drapes, maybe even changing out older windows and doors that were too efficient at releasing insulated air. Winter prep can still mean all of the above, but new Z-Wave technology has made certain aspects of winterization easier while adding another level of protection as those temperatures drop.
Here’s what we’re using to stay cozy and make sure our energy bills don’t make us freeze in our tracks:
This is one of our winter must-haves. It’s the first Z-Wave line voltage thermostat in North America (but be careful, it won’t work with forced air systems!). Use it to control electric baseboards and convector heaters all from your Z-Wave hub’s app interface. Reduce your energy consumption by 30% with custom heating schedules, or just switch to the thermostat’s built-in Economy mode to keep things efficient.