Insteon Module Randomly Turning Off

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First, this experience may only be relevant to you if the Insteon device was just installed AND if you’re also using X10 devices. Specifically, there’s a much better chance that you may be experiencing the same problem I had if you are using an X10 motion sensor.

I recently purchased a LampLinc module to replace the X10 lamp module in the bedroom. Setup was a breeze – the new module didn’t have any problems linking to a new Insteon remote that I had also just purchased.

But it’s never that simple, of course.

After installing the module and linking it to the remote I sat on the bed for a moment. While there the light went off but I hadn’t turned it off. I turned it on, figured it was a fluke, and then walked off. Then it happened again. And once more.

For a little while I was very concerned. After all, I was switching to Insteon to implement a system that is supposed to be much more reliable than X10. I started to wonder if the LampLinc module might have been bad.

There was more back and forth between the bedroom and where my home automation software is housed than I’m including. I don’t recall all of the details (nor would it be worth repeating) but it wasn’t long before I remembered a characteristic of Insteon devices that may have contributed to the problem.

Insteon devices are X10 compatible. They can respond to X10 commands, though they don’t repeat them as they do with Insteon commands. According to the Insteon device manual it will “link” to an X10 address if it detects an “ON” signal three times in a row from the same address. As it happens, X10 motion sensors usually throw  out several ON commands, especially if there’s a lot of movement where one is located.

I just happened to trigger the X10 sensor the same time that I had the Insteon device set in linking mode. It paired with both the remote and the X10 address.

What do X10 motion sensors do after a while? Well, with the default settings they send an OFF command one minute after sending an ON.

Basically, the LampLinc paired with the motion sensor’s X10 address. Since the lamp was already on I didn’t notice it receiving the ON signal from the sensor. However, it was obvious when the motion sensor later sent the OFF command.

To unlink the X10 address from the Insteon device it was just a matter of setting it back into linking mode and then getting the same X10 address to re-send the original commands that caused it to link.

I haven’t experienced the problem since.

The next time I need to link an Insteon device I’ll have to remember to “blind” the motion sensor first and then wait a couple of minutes before setting up a new link.

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