INSTEON and Z-Wave

INSTEON vs. Z-Wave

We've had a lot of questions asking why one would pick one technology over the other. Here are some thoughts on the subject.

Z-Wave routing is, in theory, much better than INSTEON since it is a routed protocol (vs a broadcast network like INSTEON). Collisions on a Z-Wave network should be extremely rare whereas they can get very common on a busy INSTEON network. Updating routing information on a Z-Wave network is a bit tricky since the protocol isn't self-healing but we've done some work along those lines already and it's not really a problem.

Range issues may be more pronounced with Z-Wave than with INSTEON because of INSTEON's dual-band nature so that's an advantage for INSTEON. INSTEON also probably has a more fully thought-out intra-device linking mechanism. Z-Wave's device linking seems to be sporadically (and sometimes incomprehensibly) implemented by vendors.

On the other hand, INSTEON has the sometimes significant issue of power line signal noise that many people run across with which doesn't exist with Z-Wave. One of the biggest downsides of the current crop of dual-band INSTEON devices, in our opinion, is that if there is a lot of power line signal noise, they'll stop working despite the fact that they're dual-band. Another issue is a low-level one: collisions. When INSTEON networks get large (say, 80+ devices), you'll start seeing communication issues because multiple devices will try talking at the same time (that's called a collision). Most technologies include robust collision detection features to mitigate the problem - unfortunately INSTEON doesn't seem to do a very good job.

Then there's device availability - there is quite a bit of competition on the Z-Wave side but none on the INSTEON side. There are device types available on Z-Wave (sirens, water valve shutoffs, etc) that aren't available on INSTEON (or require multiple parts) and there are INSTEON devices that don't have any Z-Wave equivalent (sprinkler controllers, etc).

It's our feeling that both have positives and negatives. We expect that some users may in fact end up using both (see the next section) because of device availability and other factors. We like both.

UPDATE January 21, 2022: It looks as if Smarthome's investment in Insteon is waning - as of this writing they had discontinued a bunch of Insteon devices and the ones that weren't discontinued are unavailable. At this point, we don't recommend continuing to (attempt) purchase Insteon gear, but rather find Z-Wave or other alternatives. Our Compatible Device database lists all devices that have been tested with Indigo and how they connect. In the case of Z-Wave, because the command classes are pretty well abstracted, most Z-Wave devices not listed will require very little (and often no) extra work to get them to work with Indigo.

UPDATE July 2022: Insteon (the technology and assets other than the website) have been purchased by a group of former employees. They are in the process of getting hardware back in stock.

UPDATE November 2022: The new company has gotten many devices back in stock and are available for purchase on their web site. Many of you are concerned about your PowerLinc 2413U controllers - they are slated to be back in stock by the end of March next year.

INSTEON and Z-Wave Together

We've also had several inquiries about using INSTEON and Z-Wave together. You definitely can do that (we do it ourselves). They use different frequencies for RF so they won't interfere with each other. You can also use X10 (and X10RF) as well, all at the same time.

Just like INSTEON and X10, you need an interface to plug into your Mac that will enable Indigo to communicate with the Z-Wave network. As long as you have a free USB port to plug the Z-Wave interface into, you can use both. From Indigo's perspective, they are all just devices regardless of protocols. With Indigo, you can easily and seamlessly integrate devices of each protocol together. Have a button on an INSTEON KeypadLinc turn on/off any kind of device (Z-Wave, INSTEON, X10, etc). Have a Z-Wave motion sensor trigger any action in Indigo, including controlling an INSTEON device.

A huge advantage to using Indigo is being able to tie all of the various device types across the various protocols into one consolidated and easy to manage whole. Where some protocols may be lacking (i.e. there are no Z-Wave sprinklers), you can mix and match (use a Rachio WiFi sprinkler with the Indigo plugin).

insteon_zwave.txt · Last modified: 2022/11/30 18:13 by jay

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