January 15, 2016

INSTEON Switches

Switches are the most popular type of INSTEON device but why are there so many varieties of INSTEON switches and which on should I choose for my application?


We often get that question so I thought I'd try to explain.

On/Off vs. Dimming

Most INSTEON switches are available as either a dimmer or non-dimming (On/Off or Relay).  Dimming switches are a great way to reduce the light intensity and save energy when used with incandescent bulbs.  Dimmers can also be used with some new LED and florescent bulbs but results may vary and may not provide a full range of intensity levels.

Non-dimming switches, usually referred to as On/Off or relay switches, should be used to control electronic audio/visual equipment and devices with motors or transformers, otherwise known as inductive loads.  The use of dimmer switches with these types of devices may cause damage or fire.  Call us if you have any questions or concerns.

What's watts?

The watt is a common measure of the electrical power requirements of a light or appliance.  Dimming high wattages will cause the dimmer to create a certain amount of heat.  The higher the wattage, the more heat will be generated by the dimmer switch.  For this reason, you should always add up the total wattage of all the light to be controlled by an individual dimmer switch.  Generally, loads of less than 600 watts can be safely controlled by a standard INSTEON dimmer switch.  A heavy duty dimmer is also available for loads up to 1,000 watts.  Note: When multiple INSTEON dimmer switches are mounted side by side in the same switch box the wattage rating for each switch should be reduced to account for the heat generated by the other dimmer switches.  Call us or refer to the manufacturers documentation for additional details.

Shifting into Neutral

Another important consideration when selecting an INSTEON switch is if your home was wired with a Neutral wire accessible in the switch box.  If a neutral wire is present, it is usually identified by two or more white wires (commonly connected together with a wire nut), a three wire (black, white, red) switch should be used.  A two wire switch (black & red wires) for dimming applications is also available for use when no Neutral wire is present.  Inspect the switch box where you plan to install the INSTEON Switch.  If no white wires are found, you have a choice; call an electrician to add the white wire or purchase a 2-wire switch or use INSTEON controlled bulbs.  Usually, the latter is your best choice, but remember, the 2-wire SwitchLinc Dimmer is RF only, does not repeat INSTEON power line signals and is not suitable for multi-way circuits.  Refer to the Caveat emptor blog post (below) or click here for more information about how to determine if you have a Neutral wire connection.  Again, call us if you have any questions.

 Isn't that Special?

Want to preserve an antique or special switch?  INSTEON Micro Modules are the perfect solution. 

These compact modules install behind your existing switch, giving it full INSTEON automation while retaining local control at the switch by way of sense wires. Connect the sense wires to any style wall switch to match any type of designer theme (antique, push-button, metal, etc.).  Micro Dimmers can be installed as an in-line module within a fixture box, providing remote control dimming without needing to run wires to wall switch. 

Finally, don't forget you can use INSTEON Sensors to control any of these wired-in switches.  For example, the INSTEON Hidden Door Sensor can be used to turn on the closet light whenever the closet door is opened or the INSTEON Wireless Motion sensor can trigger lighting whenever you enter a room.  If you have a special need of any kind, contact us.  We can suggest ways to address the issue without breaking the bank.                        











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