Insteon Hub Review
The Insteon Hub is a good option for someone who wants to keep their entire home automation system under one manufacturer. You should experience better reliability and easier setup since they make all of the components within the system. In addition, security should be stronger since all programming is handled by a single entity — although, the company has started to partner with other manufacturers so that more features are available.
Unfortunately, there are only a few other manufacturers that Insteon connects to, including Nest and Sonos. This means you are limited in the variety of devices that you can add to your smart home. For instance, there is no support for Z-Wave or Zigbee, two common home automation protocols.
A few key features are missing. We'd like to see Geo-fencing, true multi-user support, vacation mode, and conditional controls. You may find yourself limited without these important options. We cover them in more detail below.
While the Insteon Hub is a reasonable smart home hub, we think there are better options that provide more flexibility in devices and in programming the system.
What We Like:
- Closed system ensures devices connect easily
- Dual-mesh communication allows for reliable connectivity to components
- App is easy to use and navigate
- A Windows Phone App is available (in addition to iOS and Android)
- Closed system limits compatible devices so it isn't perfect for experts who want to use generic devices
- No voice control without adding Amazon Echo, Google Home, or buying the HomeKit Pro version
- Lack of conditional triggers (if X happens, tell device to do Y)
- Local control is not available — all commands from your phone go through the internet so there may be a delay
- No Z-Wave or Zigbee radios
- Vacation mode is not available
Before You Buy:
- Make sure you don't have a use for Zigbee or Z-Wave.
- Confirm that you have access to an ethernet connection where you want to keep the hub.
The Insteon Hub is a powerhouse of connectivity between you and your home. It measures 3.75" x 3.75" x 1.5" tall, which is very small compared to others on the market. The white plastic case sits on 4 very small pads or legs — it should blend in to your home decor easily.
The front of the case includes a small Insteon logo and an LED indicator light. The LED provides you with information about the current status of your smart home. Steady green means everything is working well. Flashing green means the hub is establishing a connection. Flashing or steady red indicates an internet connectivity problem.
The back of the hub includes ports for power and Ethernet. There is also a reset button in case the unit freezes up or cannot connect to the internet. The underside of the device has a QR-code that you will scan during the setup process to link your account to the hub.
The product packaging includes the Insteon Hub, an Ethernet cable, a power cable, and a Quick Start Guide. The guide walks you through the process of booting up your Hub and connecting all of your devices. A full owners manual PDF is available on the Insteon website.
The Insteon Hub connects to the internet through an Ethernet cable so you should confirm you have an available port on your router before you purchase the hub. You cannot use normal Wi-Fi to connect to the hub since the only wireless radio is the proprietary 915 MHz band. Consumer Wi-Fi routers use the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bands.
|Protocols||Powerline, Insteon 915 MHz Wireless|
|Multi-User||No, but multiple phones can log in with the same user info|
|Voice Control||No — can be added with Alexa or Google Assistant|
Radios / Protocols
Insteon communicates with individual devices through a patented dual-mesh communication system that uses both powerline technology and a proprietary 915 MHz wireless system. Using both of these protocols guarantees that signals are transmitted and helps prevent slowdowns or connection losses. For instance, wireless interference isn't a problem since the devices can communicate over powerline. Likewise, if the powerline communication is compromised then wireless can take over. The two different communications protocols also allow a larger coverage area for bigger homes or those made of concrete block.
Dual-mesh communication is the primary benefit of Insteon since Wi-Fi or Z-Wave home automation systems are limited by the distance their radios can transmit and they have trouble transmitting through very dense materials. We've already discussed the "dual" part of Dual-Mesh above (powerline and wireless). The "mesh" part is also equally beneficial. Every Insteon branded device is a wireless repeater so every device you add increases the range of wireless coverage. When you press a button or issue a command from the app, all devices receive the command and send it along for other devices to receive. This makes it easy to expand your system to the far reaches of your home.
Unfortunately, the hub does not support any other common home automation protocols like Z-Wave or Zigbee. This means you are limited in the components that can be added to the system. You won't have the ability to connect popular Z-Wave or Zigbee smart devices. While this is a negative in our mind, Insteon does put a lot of resources into developing their own line of components that should be more reliable on their network.
The app and hub only support a single user account. This is unfortunate since you likely want multiple people to have control capabilities, but you also want to limit who can do certain things.
You can log into multiple phones or tablets using the same username and password, but this isn't a very good (or secure) workaround. Insteon needs to update their software to allow multiple users with different levels of access on the same hub system. That way, the kids or guests can control lights, but cannot change critical security settings. We recommend you look at other hubs if you plan to allow multiple people to have access to your system.
The Insteon Hub Pro with HomeKit does allow guest accounts, but we have other issues with that system, which you can read about below.
Voice control is not built into the Insteon hub or app. However, the system supports both Amazon Echo and Google Home Assistant so you can easily add one of those devices to your setup if you need voice control.
We say this a lot, but controlling your home by voice is still a little goofy, but we do see the benefits. It is very helpful when your hands are full and you just need a bit more light.
One missing feature that has become popular over the past couple of years is some form of local control. Local control allows your phone to communicate directly to the hub when you are in the house so commands happen much quicker. Currently, your phone must send the command to Insteon's servers through the internet, the servers then send the command through the internet to the hub, which then tells the device to activate. This causes a couple of seconds delay from the time you tap your phone to the time the adjustment gets made. While this is a minor annoyance, other hubs have solved the problem by creating a direct link via Wi-Fi so commands don't have to travel across the internet.
Geo-fencing allows you to use conditional commands based on your location (more specifically, the location of your phone). For instance, you can create a "fence" around your home so that the porch light turns on when you enter the "fence" boundary. Or you can set the thermostat to 72-degrees when you leave work so your house is comfortable when you arrive.
Insteon doesn't have this capability. It also cannot be added easily since the app doesn't allow conditional triggers (perform X operation when Y occurs).
The Insteon App does not have a vacation mode. We think all smart homes need some form of vacation mode that turns the lights on and off randomly to make the house look occupied. Many systems now include this feature so it is becoming more common. This is a big problem since it is a basic security feature.
IFTTT Control – If This, Then That
Unfortunately, Insteon doesn't offer direct support for IFTTT. A search for Insteon on IFTTT only reveals a few oddball applets and services. IFTTT is helpful since it can connect software or hardware devices that don't usually talk to each other. The conditional directions would help a lot since the hub doesn't have built-in conditional operations.
Most home automation hubs don't have battery backup because they are controlling devices that also require power. Therefore, the various components of the system can't operate even if the hub had a battery. Insteon is no different in this respect — it doesn't have a battery backup system. We don't think this is a deal-breaker unless you have a special use case.
As mentioned earlier, most of the devices that connect to the hub are manufactured by Insteon. The closed nature of the system is beneficial because it ensures that each device works seamlessly since it was designed and developed by Insteon. It also means that they can tightly control the security of the devices on the system, which is good for users.
The company offers over 200 products for purchase online and in stores. Some of their most popular devices include light dimmers, LED bulbs, light switches, security keypads, smart outlets, thermostats, door locks, Wi-Fi cameras, and motion sensors. The Insteon line of products is competitively priced, high-quality, and easy-to-install. You should have no problem building out a fully-functional home automation system.
Luckily, the hub does work with some popular devices like Nest thermostats, Sonos speakers, Amazon Echo products, and Google Assistant. Insteon might be a good fit if you have a couple of the products listed on the Insteon Connects page. Many popular smart home brands do not work with Insteon due to the lack of home automation radios and protocols. Be sure to check for compatibility before you invest in the hub.
The Insteon App is free and works on Apple, Android, and Windows mobile devices. Availability of a Windows Phone app is very uncommon for smart home hubs so this is a clear benefit. You can also download apps for your personal computer and Apple Watch.
The app has a simple, straightforward design with multiple options for scheduling your home’s energy use, monitoring its security, and watching video footage from cameras around the house. As with other apps, you can control individual components or set up scenes that will execute multiple commands at once.
Once you start using the Insteon App, you will also receive push notifications and email alerts about your home. These notifications and alerts can be turned off if you decide you do not need them.
First, connect the hub to your internet router with the included Ethernet cable. Then plug the hub into a nearby power outlet and wait for it to beep and for the front LED to turn to solid green.
Install the app on your phone or tablet and select the option to create a new account. Follow the instructions in the app to scan the QR-code on the bottom of the hub, then continue following the prompts to configure the device. From there, you can start installing devices by tapping "Add Device" and selecting one of the available options.
Insteon Hub Pro with HomeKit
If you already use Apple HomeKit and want a new hub option to use with more devices, Insteon also offers the HomeKit-enabled Insteon Hub Pro (model 2243-222). The Pro works with some Insteon products and many Apple HomeKit compatible devices. The Insteon Hub Pro even allows you to control all of your home automation devices with Siri. For Apple fans, this is a major plus.
Another great feature of the Pro that the regular Insteon Hub doesn't have is the ability to add guest users. Guests can only be added using the Insteon+ app; however, guests can control the system using either Insteon+ (iOS App Store) or the native Apple Home app.
Unfortunately, there are some problems with the Insteon Pro. The biggest issue is that the hub is not able to connect to Nest, Sonos, or First Alert devices (unlike the regular hub). It also doesn't work with the native Insteon Wi-Fi cameras, leak sensors, door/window sensors, or motion sensors. This severely limits your peripheral options.
Sadly, we cannot recommend the Insteon Hub Pro at this time. It has great potential if the company can incorporate all of the regular Insteon Hub's capability with HomeKit, but that may not be possible due to Apple's restrictions on HomeKit devices. We are still holding out hope and will keep an eye on hardware and software developments.
We are not aware of any security vulnerabilities in the Insteon Hub v2 device. The older version 1 did have a vulnerability that could allow an attacker to gain access to the hub, but that doesn't affect the newer hubs. In addition, the older version 1 hubs did not use SSL encryption, which creates its own set of vulnerabilities. We recommend upgrading if you are using version 1 of the hub.
The first Insteon Hub is referred to as version 1 or v1 and has a model number of 2242-222. It was released in 2012. The case was larger than the current iteration, measuring in at about 7" x 4" x 1.5" tall. The hub has been discontinued and we don't recommend buying a used version due to the security concerns discussed above.
About the Manufacturer
According to Wikipedia, Insteon was founded in 2005. The company is owned by Smartlabs, which is also the parent company of home automation retailer Smarthome.com. Insteon owns a patent for the dual-mesh communications technology that uses both radio frequency and powerline technology.