Insteon Powerline Modem (PLM) Issues - Appeal to Smarthome to Improve Upon the 2413S.

For about 2 months now I've been noticing some Insteon system / network issues - sometimes, the exterior lights won't come on in the evening. Sometimes, they won't go off. Sometimes, certain lighting scenes wouldn't function when commanded with a double tap (Fast On or Fast Off). I upgraded my EZIO6I to a pair of EZIO2x4 input output devices - but when I installed them, they wouldn't give real time status updates in my PLM. An hour with Smartenit tech support, two factory resets of the EZIO2x4 units - and then I had my real time updates in my PLM.

A few clear warning signals appeared at this time when I was trying to get the EZIO2x4 units linked up properly to my PLM. The first occurred about 3 weeks ago - when the PLM completely lost its link table. For Insteon novices - it's important to understand that most of your automation logic occurs directly device to device when using scenes - even when you set those scenes up using your ISY 994i. All the ISY does is set up the link tables in each device to communicate directly with eachother. E.g. - I have installed some Micro open/close modules in all my bifold closet doors to automatically turn on the closet lights. I've set up the controls using scenes - with the open / close modules as the controller. In this case - when the micro open / close module changes state - it communicates directly with the linked Insteon light switch - and doesn't rely on the PLM to do anything.

However, anytime you write a program in your ISY-994i to run what/if scenarios, or timers, the proper functioning and execution of the results of your program rely on your PLM to send those commands out to your Insteon network for the desired action to take place. This turns out to be a significant weak link. I installed an insteon controlled water shut off valve - whose off control is commanded by an ISY program based on the results of the inputs of eight Insteon wireless leak detectors. So - when my PLM lost its link table 3 weeks ago - it also lost it's capability to communicate with the IOLinc which controls the water shutoff valve. Needless to say - the protection of the system was defeated by a single point of failure in the system.

When my PLM lost its link table a second time - I knew that something was going wrong with it. It was a 6 year old Smartlabs 2412S manufactured in the 23rd week of 2008. I did a bunch of research on the Universal Devices ISY forums (an excellent source of information) and found that the current generation PLM - 2413S - had some known power supply issues - the power supply would fail fairly predictably after about 2 years of use. I was interested in upgrading to the 2413S - apparently it runs a bit faster than the 2412S. However, I did not want to purchase a PLM that would predictably fail in a short period of time. Replacing a PLM takes about one to two hours - you have to backup your ISY, install the new PLM and reboot, and then restore the new PLM. Depending on the extent of your system, this can take a significant amount of time. Then - one by one - you have to put all of your battery powered devices into linking mode manually - and write updates to them so that they have the new PLM network address. In my case - that means rounding up all my leak sensors - and going to the closets and doors one by one to put the open / close sensors into linking mode. 2 hours to reset a PLM - and I've done this three times in the past three weeks. I decided to look for an NOS (new old stock) 2412S on eBay, and found a vendor selling 10 of them for a reasonable price. It was at my house in three days, installed the next day - and all my Insteon network flakiness seems to have been fixed. No issues so far with scenes not completing themselves, or fast on  / fast off triggers not executing. My old 2412S lasted 6 years - if I can get 4 years out of this new one, I'll be happy.

So - some constructive criticism on the 2413S PLM. We're using this device and increasingly relying on it for home security, loss prevention, garage door operation, energy management in addition to straight convenience. The first criticism is that the gradual, progressive failure mode of the PLM associated with failing power supply components inside the PLM has no definitive failure warning. Your system simply starts losing reliability, until you eventually have a link table loss which then manifests itself by loss of functionality in your system. First, you have to notice something isn't working correctly. Then, you have to troubleshoot it, realize you MIGHT have a PLM issue, then troubleshoot some more until you decide to replace the PLM. Time lost in my case - maybe 10 hours. So - the PLM should have some form of self-diagnostic routine and be able to signal a performance problem - blinking red light, message to your ISY - when it detects that it is failing. Ideally, the PLM should have internal redundancy - so that if it detects that it's main circuit is failing, it fails over to a backup circuit that can continue running your network reliably.

I really appreciate my Insteon network - and the conveniences it brings with lighting control, security, and so on. However, I have absolutely lost my patience for the amount of time I lose trying to troubleshoot and keep the sytem working. I have two kids - I'd really rather be doing something else on a Saturday than troubleshooting sporadic communications issues that may be related to a failing PLM. So - consider this a call on Smarthome to do something about the single point of failure in all our home automation networks - the PLM.

The second conclusion to take from this? Be very aware of the limitation of the PLM with regards to any mission critical applications you have it controlling in your home. For example - shutting off the water supply in the event of a leak detection. Or - relying on it to relay smoke detector alarms to your alarm monitoring company. When you are adding a function to your Insteon network - take into consideration the reliability of your network and the possibility of a single point of failure event. There are some good program examples on the Universal Devices forums that monitor the heartbeats of your leak sensors in order to give you a warning of a missed heartbeat, a low battery, etc. Put these programs in place in your network. If your PLM link table goes down - such a program would then be inundated with missed heartbeats, and within 36 hours you would have indication of a widespread network problem, helping to link it to a PLM issue.

There's my Sunday morning essay, a month in the making with my trials figuring out some seemingly random communcations issues. I don't mind spending $80 to replace the PLM, however I very much do mind losing 10 hours researching and troubleshooting whether my existing PLM actually has gone bad. This is a perfect opportunity for Smarthome to improve their products, the reliability of their systems, the happiness and confidence of their customers. Let's hope they take the opportunity.


The 2412S that I was hoping to get a few years of life from, just failed after 6 months in service. Now that I know what to look for - it's easy to see the signs of a PLM that is failing. My double tap commands on my switches start becoming unreliable - sometime they work, sometimes they done. The automatic water shutoff valve stops working on a water leak detection command. The monitoring programs for the leak sensors and the closet door sensors start reporting missed heartbeat messages. As soon as everything starts operating "flaky" - there's a problem with the ISY PLM. I thought back to the amount of time I lost trying to reload the link table in the PLM, restore the PLM, try to eke a bit more time out of it - and I couldn't bring myself to try to reset it even once. Interweb order to - new 2413S PLM with the request they confirm delivery of a hardware version 2.0 or greater. 2 days later - the 2413S arrives, hardware version 2.1. And a full evening of swapping the PLM, and getting all the battery powered devices to relink up.

People are reporting on the forums better reliability with the new 2413S, hardware version 2.0 - but it will really take 2 years before we really see if these are made more reliably. Cross your fingers.

On another note - in the course of reprogramming the PLM - I couldn't relink the IOLinc connected to my water shutoff valve. Factory reset 3 times - can't communicate with the IOLinc. I've had this unit for 320 days - RMA to Smarthome to replace the unit.

I'll say it again - I love the things my home automation system does for me - but I can't afford the waste of time troubleshooting and replacing a faulty PLM and relinking battery powered sensors one by one. Here's hoping that these devices start being made more reliably so we spend more time playing with our kids, and less time with our significant others laughing at our obsession.


I installed the new 2413S - and less than 6 months later it's lost its link table - and nothing is working in my network. So tonight - I'm off to lose an hour of my time resetting it, reloading the link table, and relinking all my battery powered insteon devices one by one. Seriously - how about a redundant link table and a device somewhat more suitable as the heart of a home automation system?


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