Smart Home Hub Failure

posted in: Hue, Insteon, Lutron, Wemo | 0

The Failure

Alexa, turn on the kitchen lights.”

“The Insteon hub that the kitchen lights is connected to isn’t responding. Please check on the hub.”

This happened three times before I got frustrated and opened the Insteon app to turn on the lights with my phone like a sucker.  But the Insteon app couldn’t connect either.  Furious, I stormed over to the shelf with all of my hubs and networking equipment and realized the Insteon hub had no power.  Everything else had power, so I was confused.

Being a tech genius, I knew the solution to a problem like this!  I unplugged the hub and plugged it back in.  Nothing.  Clearly the power cord was the issue, so I swapped it out.  Nothing.  This went on for a while.  I tried different outlets, tried plugging it in while holding the link button down, tried hitting the button, holding the button, repeatedly tapping the button…nothing.  My hub was dead.

Insteon support was helpful enough, in that they offered to replace the unit if I could provide proof of purchase.  Wonderful news if the unit hadn’t been given to me as a gift two years ago.  Defeated, I accepted that I’d have to order a new hub for $50+ on Amazon, or better yet, a new Insteon Starter Kit with two plug in dimmers for $47.  Before placing my order I figured I’d open the hub to see what happened.  If you look closely at the image to the left, you’ll see numerous melted circuits on the board.  I didn’t even bother looking at the other side of the board.  Despite having been plugged in to a surge protector, this hub was cooked.

The Case for Diversification

As a smart home blogger, it behooves me to diversify the products I own.  It gives me the chance to give you my own long term experiences with multiple product lines.  It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized how important it is to diversify the products you install in your smart home.  In my house, most of the exterior lights are controlled by WeMo switches.  The majority of the interior lights are controlled by Hue bulbsInsteon handles the wired solutions like dimmer switches and outlets where I can’t use plug in units, as well as sensors that the other product lines don’t offer.

Had my whole house been controlled solely by Insteon, yes, the management of my devices would be easier, but I would currently be unable to remotely control anything in the house, and none of my routines would be working.  First world problems, I know, but problems none the less.

Aside from having to set up my devices in multiple apps, thanks to Alexa and Cortana, I rarely have to control my lights through their respective apps.  No one else in my house even uses the apps to control any of the lights, so to them, as long as the light switches and voice commands work, they don’t care what’s under the hood.

But the best argument for diversifying the devices installed in your smart home is cost.  I talk about this often, but the driving force behind most of the solutions installed in my house is finding the best priced solution to do the job.  Insteon products are (usually) great, but they’re far from cost effective.  I can generally find Hue White or Hue compatible bulbs for far cheaper than Insteon bulbs.  Lutron and WeMo switches are often on sale for $10+ less than InsteonInsteon, however, offers the widest range of products, with sensors and wired solutions that their competitors may never offer.

What can you do?

There are a few lessons learned here.

First, protect your devices.  My hub was plugged in to a Belkin surge protector, but clearly that didn’t do the job.  Perhaps I need to look into a more robust solution for my more expensive devices.

Second, keep your receipts!  You never know when you’ll need to prove that you actually bought an item to receive a free replacement.

Finally, diversify.  It’s great to be able to use just one product line throughout your entire house, but that will rarely be the best or only solution for the job.

I hope this situation never happens to any of you, but if it does, please remember the lessons learned here!