Insteon is great and is extremely fast when turning on / off devices, but lets say you want to turn on 10 lights all at the same time?
This is what they call groups. Groups allow you to store in each individual device settings such as turn on, ramp rate commands, for a specific group #.
Let me give you a example, Let say you want to be able to turn on all your master bedroom lights with one command. What we would do is create a group number and all the devices which will be affected will have this same number and respond as (Responder) to the person sending the command. Don’t worry its easier than it sounds. Let me go thru the basics and you’ll see how its done.
First for starters easiest way is to use some sort of spreadsheet, place all your device from left to right and then fill out what you want to turn on. Here is a example (I’ll explain what the numbers mean shortly). This way I know what group will do what and who will be ‘affected’. Then its very easy to program going down the list.
In my case I have for example, Group #15 (Its HEX) called “End of Day” and what it does is turn off all lights but and turn on the kitchen sink all with one command. So I mapped out all my devices and put how they are to be affected.
As you can see my values are two sets of numbers (I’ll select #15 the 2nd value of (FF/1B)
The first stands for the OnLevel (In the case of the dimmers (0-100%) but note its a HEX value, and it runs from 0-255. Here is a quick list which I use.
This way if I want to do a 50% I would use the A5 value, since im using FF it stands I want full blast, 100%!.
You will have to play with these to get the best ‘setting’ for your environment.
You can set a device to turn on to a 0% value which is the same as off, for example I have a group setup to turn on the sink night light but all other devices in the group are set to a ONVALUE of 0! NEAT!. But OFF is OFF, no mater what you set it to. You can see the VB samples below. Basically the commands are the same instead of calling a device you call a group.
So with group #15 you can see the first value of all the devices is 00 with the exception of the kitchen sink which is FF so when the group command is sent all devices are dimmed while the Kitchen sink is turned on, all at the same time, the effect is very cool.
The second value is the RAMP rate (This only applies to devices which can ‘DIM’, and sadly its not included on the ICON dimmers, this is one of the reasons of the price difference.) These special devices have 32 levels of Ramp rates, from .1 second (which is what it is on the Icon dimmers, to 9 minutes!!) Here is the conversion of the HEX value to the RAMP time
So a value of 1F is instant on, a value of 0C is 1 minute, and a value of 08 is 3 minutes!!! The effect is awesome! Note that once you send the command to the device to turn on with a specific RAMP rate it will go on its own and you can send more commands to other devices… NEAT! Better yet you can have different device in the same group with different ramp rates. You know where im going with that!! What i’ve read on the post that a slow ramp rate will prolong the life of certain lights, in my case all are CFL’s so I only use RAMP rates for external decorations and maybe a light or two.
Lets setup a group!
Lets show you some screens so you can see how its done.
Like all other things Im suspecting there are other ways of doing this, but this the way ive learned to do it and has always worked for me.
- Download Simplehome.net’s program which you can find under my “Programs to have” and install it. Im suspecting its free since its right off their support page. Once installed go ahead and fire it up.
- I’ve found that the program works better if there isnt any activiting on the network, also if my dryer isnt ok. Lol,. So please disconnect any X10 transievers or other information which may confuse the program.
- Since the utility is used to program many devices lets make sure we select that we are programming our PLC, select the USE PLC followed by ‘Connect’
If you get an error, make sure you SDM driver is loaded, it should load automatically if not. This is also available from the ‘Programs to have’ page.
- Select the “Manage Device Links”
- Now hit your caps lock as all values need to be capital and the devices ID need to have (.) between them, like in the sample. (Here we go!)
- In the first red square you will be entering the device you want to control (or in this case add to the group)
- In the green square, we need to add what device will be controlling it or responding to it. If the device is going to respond its command we would select ‘Responder Below’, so this means when I call the group command from the device in the green box, the device in the RED box will respond. In the case of a Controller its backwards.Since Im using my PC to send out group commands, we can assume that the ‘Second Insteon ID’ field will always be my computer PLC address. This of course can be any other item, this way you can have one device control another or vice-versa! In the case of 3 way switches this is where you would have two entries on both devices, and each is a responder and controller of each other!!
- In the Yellow box is where we 1st define the On Level (In HEX) , followed by the 2nd box contains the RAMP rate, 3rd box .
- Enter a group number in HEX.
- The last option as mentioned before its a responder or controller. For the sake of this example its Responder.
- Hit the ‘Create New Link’
11. And your SET!.
Now from your Code you can send a group ON command and watch the magic happen. Here is example using the SendInsteonRaw command to turn on group #16
Sm.SendINSTEONRaw(“0D 51 32 00 00 16 CF 11 FF“, 3) ‘ sEND broadcast group 16 ON (Command is #11)
Sm.SendINSTEONRaw(“0D 51 32 00 00 16 CF 13 00“, 3) ‘ sEND broadcast group 16 OFF! (Command is #13)
Just replace the MAC address with the group number and presto, you can DIM you whole house, For example
Sm.SendINSTEONRaw(“0D 51 32 00 00 16 CF 16 00“, 3) ‘ sEND broadcast group 16 DIM! (Command is #16)
Sm.SendINSTEONRaw(“0D 51 32 00 00 16 CF 15 00“, 3) ‘ sEND broadcast group 16 Brighten! (Command is #15)
There is a catch to group commands, that they WONT RETURN THE STATUS OF THE INDIVIDUAL ITEMS, you will only get a response that the command to the group was sent successfully. In my case I usually send the command twice to make sure they all are hit. 🙂
The first 3 sets of digits are my PLC, the next three are the group number
CF = ?
11 = the On Command
FF = the On Value
Like mentioned before, depending on your device and your RAMP rate settings the device will fade on, ICON switches will just jump to the level you have then set to.
For my program I have groups setup for
- Turn on/OFF all house lights
- Turn on/off both children’s room
- Turn on/off all external/indoor decorations
- Turn off all bathroom lights
- Turn off all lights but turn kitchen sink on
- Movie scenes Dim lights etc.
- Turn on/off all fans (We’ll get to that later using the Inline Linc’s)
- The sky’s the limit
You are of course limited to the amount of groups, depending on the device, for example the ICON’s will hold less groups but I doubt you’ll use them all. 🙂
Using this program is where I also link the device to the PLC so I can catch the commands coming in if I cant use the TAP/TAP method, for example I want to see when someone turns off a device, I would do everything the same except I would select ‘Controller’. Even thought the switch really doesn’t turn on anything on my PLC I need to have that ‘group’ setup so I can capture it in my code. 🙂