I’ve always liked the concept of Home Automation – it’s really cool (and helpful) to turn on/off lights and appliances remotely over the Internet, from my iPhone or because I’m too lazy to walk over and turn flip a switch!
The Insteon® technology by SmartLabs® uses the existing 120VAC electrical wiring in the home and radio-frequency communication for reliable control of intelligent relays, switches and sensors to control lights, applicances, motors and other things around the house. Insteon is similar in concept to the X10 power-line communication technology and is compatible with X10, but has several reliability advantages.
How to Install an Insteon ToggleLinc Light Switch
Working with 120VAC electricity can kill or maim you, burn down the house or deliver an electrical shock that you’ll never forget! If you haven’t studied home electrical wiring, lack a solid knowledge of the electrical building code regulations and don’t know what you are doing, then stop! Hire a professional electrician!
I chose a the Insteon ToggleLinc Relay (non-dimming) to control the front porch lights. The ToggleLinc replaces a standard on/off light switch, but operates like a computer mouse in that the toggle switch momentarily clicks on and off, returning the center position by spring action. The ToggleLinc can generate single and double-click events that can be used for advanced features that I’ll explain in future postings.
Referring the above photo, what you receive in the product box is a ToggleLinc switch, Quick Start Guide and wire-nuts. The installation instructions in the Quick Start Guide are very well written.
The ToggleLinc is study and well made. The face and sides of the ToggleLinc are metal, the back is clear plastic – you can see the electronics inside as shown here. The white (neutral) and black (hot) wires are connected to the house wiring like a traditional light switch. The red wire (load) is connected to the porch lights black (hot) wire such that the ToggleLinc can control the lights.
Replacing a Standard Light Switch with a ToggleLinc
First – shut off the power for the circuit by turning off the circuit breaker at the main electrical panel. A simple way to find the right circuit breaker is to turn on the porch light and have an assistant watch the light as you turn off the circuit breakers.
The switch for the porch lights (right side) is adjacent to an interior light switch in the same wall box.
Removing the four switch plate cover screws reveals the two light switches in a double gang electrical box.
You cannot tell if a wire is hot by looking at it, so I always double check the circuit is dead (i.e. no power) with a voltage detector. The Greenlee GT-11 voltage detector is a nice tool – it beeps and flashes red when voltage is present. The GT-11 costs about $15 at Lowes.
Remove the two screws for the light switch and pull it gently out of the electrical box. What the hey!? There’s an obvious problem here, the numbnut “contractor grade” electrician who installed the light switch wired it improperly. He should have used a wire nut and pigtail, but instead ran the hot wire to the 2nd light switch (red dots) from the terminal of 1st switch.
OK – to correct the wiring I pull the 2nd light switch and see more shoddy, if not hazardous work! Look at the bare copper wire exposed on the back wiring noted by the red arrows! This is begging for an electrical short.
To release a back wired connection, insert a small screwdriver into the slot and pull the wire out. Wow! The wire lead is about twice as long as it should be! (See photo below). Whoever wired this switch should be fired! I’ve worked on several switches in the house and haven’t seen a job done this poorly.
Next, the line side wire to the porch light switch is released. Oh my goodness! The guy who did this really sucked! He stripped the line wire insulation in mid-span and looped it under the screw terminal (see red box). Worse, the screw was loose!
Having removed both light switches, I rewire things correctly by trimming the wires to length. The first cut is at the mid-span of the line side wire.
The remaining wires are trimmed to length, or about 6 inches in length.
The correct way to wire a light switch is to use the strip gauge on the back of switch. Here the wire is stripped and cut to the length shown on the strip gauge.
After stripping insulation from the black wires, I had my assistant turn on the circuit breaker briefly to verify the line side (main power supply) wire because I didn’t trust anything the original electrician had done here. The voltage detector confirmed this center wire is the line side and the other two black wires were dead – these being the load side wires to the lights. The circuit breaker was turned off and I confirmed the line wire was dead.
This guide is continued in Part 2.
Thanks for reading,