There are lots of home automation technologies, products, and services out there. And while this blog is called HomeAutomationGuru, the technology that we’ll really focus on here is Insteon.
I’ve always had an interest in Home Automation, and even bought some X-10 devices back in the late 90’s. But aside from a lamp here or there, I never really implemented any serious automation. A couple years ago, I sat in a meeting with a Home Automation company pitching a project to a new home builder. The salesperson was trying to sell a very high-end technology called Crestron, and the conversation went pretty much like this:
Me: “What do you think about X-10?”
Salesperson: “X-10 is the K-Mart blue light special of home automation. Cheap, but crappy and unreliable.”
Me: “How about Insteon?”
Salesperson: “More like Walmart. Reliable, but still cheap.”
Me: “So you really think Crestron is the way to go?”
Salesperson: “Definitely – they’re the Neiman Marcus of the industry!”
So, apologies to K-Mart for them getting the bottom of this analogy. But, in comparing Insteon with Crestron, the analogy is apt: Crestron is a (much) more expensive, premier product based on its brand name, but Insteon can pretty much do everything Crestron can do – and in some cases more – at a price and accessibility point for the masses.
I actually looked into Crestron when I was automating my own home several months later. But Crestron is not for do-it-yourself’ers. In fact, you can’t even buy their products directly – you have to find an “Elite Partner” to do the work for you, since it involves extensive re-wiring. Insteon, on the other hand, is completely accessible, can be retrofitted into existing homes, and you can start small and expand over time. To see what I mean about “accessibility”, just look at the comparison of an Amazon search between Crestron and Insteon – good luck finding replacement or expansion hardware for Crestron!
In time, I will post a more comprehensive comparison of the various home automation technologies out there – such as Crestron, Control4, Zigbee, Insteon, and X-10. But, suffice it to say, I’m a “Walmart guy” – inexpensive and simple trumps brand name any day – and Insteon was the system I chose based on that philosophy.
As for those homeowners who went with Creston a couple years back? They basically have a bunch of really expensive light switches, and I suspect are a little envious when I show them the system I built for 1/10th of the cost. It certainly doesn’t help when I show them things I can do that they still can’t – such as lock my doors, adjust the thermostat, check security cameras, and set up motion-activated lights from anywhere in the world on my iPhone.