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Programming Controls Directly

Before I describe the process of integrating a system controller into your Insteon system, the part of this project I am personally most interested in, I thought it would be a good idea to explain some simpler steps first, like programming an Insteon remote control by pressing its buttons.

The new Insteon remote controls (example: 2440BK) are much better than the older X-10 remotes — they are faster responding and they work over a greater distance. I personally wish they had more buttons, but I don't think this will matter to most people. There is a an easy and efficient way to associate the remote's buttons with specific controls and scenes using the ISY-26 controller to be discussed later, but for completeness I will explain how to manually associate buttons on this remote with particular installed controllers.

At this point I will assume readers have been following these instructions in sequence, and have installed some Insteon controls and the two access points/wireless couplers (which are required for use of the remote control). Therefore it should be possible to program an Insteon remote control such as the 2440BK. There are several variations on this specific part number, they are all programmed in much the same way.

Programming a Remote Control

The designers of Insteon gear, fully aware of what a terrific pain the X-10 system was for end users and how that prevented widespread acceptance, have made Insteon controls significantly easier and more intuitive to configure and use. Programming an Insteon remote control shows how successful that effort has been. Here is the process:

I am assuming the reader has installed at least one Insteon lamp controller as well as two access points/wireless couplers, as explained here, and has an Insteon remote such as 2440BK.

  • On the remote control, there are six buttons, each with an ON (top) and OFF (bottom) section. Select a button and press its ON section for ten seconds, or until the LED on the remote begins to flash.
  • The remote's LED will continue to flash for the next four minutes, awaiting the next step in the process.
  • Move to the lamp controller and press its "set" button for three seconds, or until the controlled lamp flashes.
  • When the lamp flashes, the remote's LED will stop flashing and the remote will beep, signifying completion of the procedure.
  • Test the remote's ability to control the lamp by pressing the selected button's ON and OFF sections.

Compared to the X-10 system, this is child's play.

Pairing Controllers

In my Insteon setup I have a number of locations where two or more lights need to act in concert — staircases, sets of external lights, room lights that need to turn on and off at once. Later on, I will show a more powerful way to group lights using a system controller, but for those readers not ready to purchase a system controller, there is a simple, direct way to associate two or more controls:

First, some terminology. When linking Insteon controls, one of the controls is designated the controller, the other becomes the responder. When the linking process is complete, activating the controller will automatically activate the responder as well.

Gratuitous editorial comment: The terms controller and responder are modern replacements for two older terms — master and slave — that have been declared politically incorrect. I will confess that I used the terms master and slave for decades during my career as an aerospace engineer, without once reflecting that someone might find these terms offensive. And, not coincidentally, during my days in the field, engineering was the most ridiculously lily-white, all-male profession one could imagine.

So will this be a rant about people's excessive sensitivity to everyday words? No, not from me. I hate the thought of causing someone private hurt by way of a poorly chosen word, in particular when there are perfectly good substitutes. I will object to examples like "person-hole cover" or "spokesperson" with respect to gender issues, but in my view there's no justification for terms like "master" and "slave" in modern times.
Anyway. It turns out that in the Insteon system, you can create a relationship of mutual dependence among controllers, so that each of the controls is both a controller and a responder. For example, this is the proper setup for two light switches on a staircase. Here is how to create a controller/responder relationship with typical Insteon light controls like the 2466SW units I have all over my house:
  • Move to the location of the Insteon control you want to make the controller.
  • Press its "on" switch and hold it for ten seconds, or until the control's LED begins to flash.
  • That control's LED will continue to flash for four minutes, awaiting the completion of the linking process.
  • Move to the location of the Insteon control you want to make the responder.
  • Press its "on" switch and hold it for ten seconds. If another person watches the controller unit, he will see the controller LED stop flashing, indicating successful completion of the link.
  • Test the result by turning on the controller light — the responder light should also turn on.

To create a mutual relationship between the controller and the responder (so that each controls the other), reverse the order of the controller and responder and repeat the above procedure.

Resetting a Control

It is sometimes necessary to undo the links and associations of a control — to wipe the slate clean, so to speak. This step is necessary any time you see a control show a response to another control that you didn't intend. But remember this — if you see control B respond to an action at control A and you want to unlink them, you need to reset control A, because it is the controller that contains the link information, not the responder. Here is how to reset a control:

  • For common light controls like the 2466SW and similar units, pull out the clear plastic "set" button, normally located below the on/off switch. Wait ten seconds.
  • Push the "set" button back in and hold it in for three seconds.
  • The control will signal that it has been successfully reset by turning on its light after an additional three seconds.

Advanced Programming and Scene Creation

This section is present only so I can say I won't be describing how to create exotic setups using direct programming of controls as shown above. Such setups can be created, but they are rather difficult to manage and one quickly arrives at a level of complexity where it becomes obvious that a system controller attached to a computer is a more practical approach. That's the next step.


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