X10, Insteon, and Z-Wave – If I Knew Then What I Know Now


The Short Version: X10 is considerably less expensive and more compatible with various wiring schemes, Insteon is very reliable and relatively secure but requires a neutral wire for in-wall modules, Z-Wave is more compatible with various wiring schemes and far more reliable than X10. X10 modules are usually around $5 each. Insteon and Z-Wave typically run from $35-$50 each but they both rebroadcast signals and verify device status. X10 is good for beginners but anyone considering a whole-house automation scheme should probably invest in Insteon or Z-Wave instead.

I’ve learned quite a bit about some of the more popular home automation devices and protocols. When I first became interested in home automation I started dumping cash into X10 modules. X10 is typically much less expensive and compatible with most wiring.

Over time, and after much experience troubleshooting my own X10 woes, I eventually started switching over to Insteon modules.

Recently, I installed my first Z-Wave dimmer switch.

X10 was very inexpensive (read “cheap”). Unfortunately it’s not reliable. X10 equipment doesn’t (usually) support any kind of device status or confirmation. In short, if you turn a light on from a remote, and for some reason it doesn’t turn on, the remote can’t check to verify whether or not the command was received.  Granted, our wiring is a mix of new and old (including knob and tube) so it’s not exactly an ideal environment for X10 but even with a signal phase bridge (on the clothes dryer) I still experienced frequent signal loss or interference.

I started using Insteon but so far I’m limited to only using plug-in modules since most of wiring doesn’t have the required neutral wire (at least not at the switches). It does work great with these modules. I’ve almost never pushed a button and not had a device respond.

Recently, I installed my first Z-Wave device on our back porch light. The light was controlled with an X10 wall-switch but it frequently did not receive commands from the computer. Since I’ve installed the Z-Wave dimmer it seems to turn on and off every time it should. This is very impressive considering the distance between the dimmer switch and the controller – at the moment there aren’t any other Z-Wave devices in the house to repeat the signal.

Eventually I will eliminate all X10 devices. I’ll probably keep my Insteon devices, at least until I’ve determined how reliable Z-Wave really is in our home. In the end I’ll probably have a mix of Insteon and Z-Wave, though it’s possible that one day I’ll only be using Z-Wave.

Updated 07/18/2013: I’ve completely eliminate all X10 devices from my house by replacing them with Z-Wave devices. Eventually, I’ll also replace the handful of Insteon devices with Z-Wave modules.

6 thoughts on “X10, Insteon, and Z-Wave – If I Knew Then What I Know Now

    • My configuration hasn’t changed much since I posted this. I still only have one Z-wave device installed. Overall, the Insteon devices continue to function more reliably but since I only have the one Z-Wave it may not respond as well because there aren’t any other devices to re-broadcast the signal.

  1. Nelson

    How can you control Insteon and Zwave devices in one plataform?
    For example, can you use Veralite (micasaverde) to control Insteon devices? and how?

    • Nelson,

      It varies among control devices/software. It looks like the Veralite is Z-Wave, Insteon, and X10 compatible though I’m not familiar with this device so I don’t know if there might be different versions that are not. I’m using a software package for the Mac to control my setup. The software is compatible with several different home automation protocols though each one requires a physical controller. For example, I have a Z-Wave controller connected via USB and also a separate Insteon/X10 controller connected via USB. I have a project page for home automation and security that contains more information about what I’m using.

  2. Maxim Brandwajn

    Hi, any updates on this article? I’m very concerned with reliability and read that Insteon is the best, whereas z-wave would be the second. However, insteon is expensive and closed, while z-wave is mid-range expensive and more open. So I’m leaning now towards z-wave for openness and cost (new project for 20 controlled devices and about 10 controllers), as long as I can get a really good reliability (things acting as they should), and as long as I don’t get weird things happening (I remember back in the day with an X10 that some lights went on and off randomly and I wasn’t able to fix that one ever).
    Anyhow, news and updates are appreciated.

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