In this article we’re going to look at two home automation technologies that are relatively new to the European market - INSTEON and LightwaveRF.
They are aimed at slightly different areas of the smart home market and therefore, each have features better suited to particular applications and requirements.
We'll take a look at the differences and which would be a better fit for your requirements.
INSTEON has been available in the US for a number of years, but has only just become available in the UK and Europe. INSTEON uses a unique, dual-band mesh network system that sends control signals through your home’s mains wiring (powerline) and the INSTEON wireless network. At the same time all mains-powered INSTEON devices act as repeaters - simulcasting the messages to ensure they get to the furthest reaches of your home.
Dual Mesh Network
INSTEON’s dual-mesh technology uses wireless and powerline to transmit messages, ensuring multiple pathways for messages to travel. Each message is simulcast (repeated) by all mains-powered network devices - the network becomes more robust as more devices are added,
Peer to Peer Routing
All INSTEON devices are peers, this means that any device can act as a controller (sending messages), responder (receiving messages) or repeater (relaying messages). This makes routing of signals around the network very simple. Note: only mains-powered devices act as repeaters, battery operated devices do not act as repeaters to save battery-life.
Each message is automatically acknowledged by the receiving device, any missing or stray messages are detected quickly and corrected.
Devices don’t need to be ‘enrolled’ into the network, each device has a unique ID number and automatically join the network as soon as they’re powered up.
Unlimited network devices and controllers
There is no limit to the number of devices an INSTEON network can have, many INSTEON installations have 400+ devices.
LightwaveRF is a new technology launched in 2011 by the UK company JSJS Designs, it uses a simple wireless technology to provide remote control of lighting and power at a very low cost. It does not have the advanced features of other technologies, but it
is easy to install, easy to use and is very affordable.
Simple Wireless Technology
Lightwave uses a simple, low cost wireless technology to transmit commands to individual LightwaveRF devices. It does not have the features of a mesh network technology such as INSTEON.
- Direct Transmission - Commands are sent directly from a LightwaveRF controller or sensor to any paired LightwaveRF device (slave).
- No Acknowledgment - the network doesn't know if messages have been received by the device, and the status of that device is not known. However, the Smartphone app does tell you if it's unable to communicate with the WiFi-Link.
- No Routing - messages cannot be routed via other LightwaveRF devices, messages only go directly from the controller or sensor to the receiving device.
- Shorter range - LightwaveRF has a shorter indoor range of 15m compared to INSTEON’s 30m.
LightwaveRF has a fantastic range of stylish retrofit switches, dimmers and sockets which simply replace your existing units, with no additional wiring or changes to walls, back boxes etc.
Each LightwaveRF device needs to be ‘paired’ individually to each controller and sensor that you wish to control it with. The process is very easy - simply press the button on the device and then press the selected 'On' button on the controller.
LightwaveRF networks are limited to a total of 64 devices and each device can be paired with only 6 controllers or sensors. The 64 device limit is more a limitation of the controller memory than of LightwaveRF technology itself.
The current LightwaveRF range only includes UK style sockets and therefore LightwaveRF is only sold to UK customers.
LightwaveRF has been designed to be a very low cost home automation technology, switches and controllers are around half the cost of other technologies - you can start a fully functional LightwaveRF network for as little as £25!!
|Wireless Frequency (EU)||433.92MHz||869.85MHz|
|Powerline (via mains wiring)|
|Maximum number of devices||64 total||400 per controller|
|Maximum number of Controllers||6 per device||Unlimited|
|Maximum Range||30m (outdoors) - 15m (indoors)||50m (outdoors) - 30m (indoors)|
|Device Status Report|
|Devices act as repeaters
(mains-powered devices only)
|Device Types||Controllers & Slaves||Peers - all act as
Controller and Slave
|Devices added to Network||Devices manually
|Smartphone Apps||iPhone / Android||iPhone / Android|
|Socket Styles||UK only||UK & Schuko|
|Retrofit Sockets & Switches|
|Insert Modules||Relay only||Relay & Dimmers|
|Number of products available||30+||15+|
For a full comparison of all Vesternet Home Automation technologies, take a look at the Complete Home Automation Feature Guide.
Simply looking at the comparison table, you'd think that LightwaveRF is no match for INSTEON, and to an extent this is true. However, it really depends on your situation and what you want from your home automation installation.
INSTEON, because of its dual mesh technology will enable you to create a more robust, reliable network that doesn't rely on any one communication medium and as all signals are acknowledged you are always confident that the network is behaving as you think it should. This makes INSTEON ideal for installations that have a large number of devices, cover a large area and may have multiple walls obstructing the wireless signal. And, for any network, INSTEON devices are easier to install as they automatically connect to the network at power-up.
For small to medium size installations, LightwaveRF is a good contender. Its simple wireless technology works well, it's easy to configure, even though you do need to pair each device with each controller, and in practise, lost messages really don't happen often - although it does take time for you trust it!
One thing that really sets LightwaveRF apart from other technologies is its fantastic retrofit switches, dimmers and sockets. You simply change your current switch for the LightwaveRF version and in just a few minutes you have a switch that works just like normal and can be controlled wirelessly. And let's not forget the price, LightwaveRF is a great wireless home automation technology at a fantastic price.
For more information take a look at the full range of INSTEON and LightwaveRF products, or take a look at our new Scenarios section for help choosing the right products for common cases such as heating, lighting and security.
Vesternet is Europe’s leading home automation specialist. Whatever your needs, you’ll be able to find just what you’re looking for in our range of Z-Wave, ZigBee, LightwaveRF and INSTEON home automation products.