How INSTEON works

INSTEON is one of the most popular home automation systems in the world. It's the perfect balance between simplicity and functionality.

It's a wireless system that can be easily installed into both new and existing homes, but one that also features the reliability of a hard-wired system. That's because INSTEON signals are transmitted using two simultaneous methods - electrical wiring (physical power lines) and wireless Radio-Frequency (RF).

INSTEON is also a "mesh" network, where every INSTEON device acts as a repeater, receiving and re-transmitting every command they receive. So instead of stressing the network when you add more INSTEON devices, you actually strengthen it. Other mesh networks use complex router tables where only certain modules act as repeaters, resulting in a less reliability compared to INSTEON.

This dual-medium, mesh network is called "dual-mesh", and it's what gives INSTEON the edge over single-medium technologies like X10 (powerlines only) or single-mesh networks such as Z-Wave & Zigbee (RF only). INSTEON features an almost unlimited range, is reliable, responsive and more than capable of working in the largest-of-homes or offices. It's home automation like it should be.

Mesh communication

Every device is a repeater, resulting in a strong interlocked network.

Dual-mesh in fact

Simultaneous RF and powerline communication provides a fail-safe backup path.

No dedicated cabling

Minimal disruption as cabling between modules isn't required. Cheaper too!

X10 Compatibility

Hang onto those X10 modules as INSTEON features a degree of backward compatibility.

INSTEON visualised.

Understanding INSTEON device types

There's two main types of INSTEON modules, 'Controllers' and 'Responders'.


Controllers send signals based on manual or automated events, and include devices such as the programmable network hub, remote controls, motion/door sensors etc. You choose your controllers based on how you would like to interact with your home.


Responders receive the commands sent by controllers and, well, respond! They are what actually switch the electricity to your lights and devices, control your heating, send IR signals and more. INSTEON responders essentially choose themselves for you, as their choice is defined by the device you wish to control. For example, if you want to control a plug-in lamp then you'd go with the Plug-In Dimmer responder. Need to control a wired-in pool pump? Select a DIN-Rail Relay (On/Off) responder.


INSTEON is the most reliable and cost effective home automation technology available anywhere in the world. It is the only home automation standard that features dual mesh technology, giving it the edge over the competition. Discover other ways in which INSTEON stacks up vs the competition in the comparison table below.

  • INSTEON vs ZWave
  • INSTEON vs Zigbee
  • INSTEON vs X10
  X10X10 ZigBeeZigBee Z-WaveZ-Wave INSTEONINSTEON
Repeating mesh network No Single Single Dual
Powerline communication Yes No No Yes
Powerline data rate (bps) 20 - - 2,400
RF wireless communication No Yes Yes Yes
RF wireless data rate (bps) - 20,000 9,600 38,400
Full-mesh network communication No No No Yes
Automatic network enrollment No No No Yes
Unique addresses 256 65,536 232 16,777,216
All devices are peers No No No Yes
Command acknowledgment No Yes Yes Yes
Backwards X10 compatible Yes No No Yes

Further technical detail

A full technical comparison of INSTEON and competing systems can be found in the INSTEON Compared white paper.

A detailed guide on the technology and theory behind INSTEON can be found in the INSTEON Details white paper.