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Lights connected to Insteon switches flicker when running on generator power

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  • Lights connected to Insteon switches flicker when running on generator power

    I've seen this discussed on other forums, but I never found a solution or even a solid explanation I believe.

    I have 25 or more hard wires switches (dimmer and on/off) and a similar number of plug-in modules throughout my home. They are powering a combination of LED and Incandescent bulbs. I've had a couple hubs and a PLM attached to a PC protected by a UPS.
    I also have a Generac 20Kw whole-house generator with auto-transfer switch.

    I don't have power failures anymore, but since installing the majority of my switches , when I've lost power and run on the generator I notice the lights connected to Insteon devices flicker and flash (a longer flicker) periodically and seemingly randomly. I'm not the only one who has experienced this.

    I have turned on/off heavy loads and that doesn't appear to be a direct correlation.

    It was suggested on another forum that the lights flicker with Insteon traffic. They suggested turning on the traffic indicator and watching it flicker with the lights. While it does flicker with the lights, the traffic indicator also flashes when the lights are on steady. Turning lights on/off will generate traffic I can see on the indicator, but doesn't cause the lights to flicker. I think this proves there is no direct correlation between insteon traffic and the lights flickering.

    Others have suggested that it's the type of generator that is causing the problem - that a Honda Inverter generator resolves the issue. However, I can't believe that my whole-house generator is not producing a clean sine wave. I'm not sure how to communicate this issue to my generator dealer since he's not an Insteon user.

    Has anyone else had this problem? Has anyone else resolved the problem? This is really irritating during long outages and has suddenly made Insteon look like X10 to my wife... Which is not good.

    Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    You will want to understand the differences between the two types of generators first.

    A conventional generator is really just a motor hooked up to an alternator to produce a desired AC output and frequency. If the load increases the generator will rev up to accommodate the extra draw but will not do any smoothing of the sine wave. Its job is to simply provide current. This is good for traditional, robust electrical devices but not recommended with anything that uses a microprocessor, or chip, as operation could be impacted.

    And invertor generator, or invertor, or pure sine wave generator, starts off the same but then converts the AC to DC, smooth's out the sine wave and then converts/inverts it back to AC. The creates consistent power for electrical consumption. Its job is to provide clean and consistent power. This is good for any of todays electronics.

    next...

    A conventional generator will have some issues with Insteon. The first issue that most people experience is bad communication, or reliability. Insteon has a timing chip that measures the sine wave and places the control messages right at the zero crossing of that sine wave. As the conventional generator revs up, or down, that zero crossing is no longer in the same place and so the messages land in the wrong spot and get lost.

    Another issue is that most IoT devices are power stealing. Since the devices are taking AC power and converting it to DC any fluctuation the electrical current is going to impact operation.

    The pure sine wave generator fixes both issues by making sure that both the electrical current and frequency are delivered according to spec.

    You should be able to ask your dealer if what you bought is a true sine wave generator. If he cannot answer you may need a new dealer.

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    • #3
      Honda Generators also cost about 10X more. I too have a GEnerac 20KW, but have not yet lost power (good thing). Of course the Generac is advertised as it has a clean output and good for sensitive electronics. it still has about 7% distortion compared to the Honda at less than 1%.

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