Thursday, July 14, 2022
HomeElectronicsDissecting a deceased Insteon energy line modem

Dissecting a deceased Insteon energy line modem

Lengthy-time readers might recollect my previous collection of posts masking the testing and extra common ongoing use of SmartLabs’ (additionally recognized by its Smarthome on-line retail model) Insteon house automation expertise and merchandise. Insteon primarily leveraged powerline communications between a hub and adapters—gentle dimmers, switches and extra common energy shops, thermostats, and the like, in a extra strong vogue than was attainable with its X10 predecessor. It additionally supplemented the powerline spine with a proprietary 915 MHz wi-fi hyperlink to deal with eventualities akin to the necessity to bridge between the phases of a 220V premises energy feed, in addition to when powerline alerts have been attenuated by surge protectors and UPSs, noisy close-proximity switching energy provides, and the like.

In late April, SmartLabs abruptly (and with none public communication of what was happening) turned off the lights and locked the doorways for the final time, within the course of taking down the cloud-based service that almost all Insteon customers had traditionally leveraged in controlling their house automation networks. Worse but, anybody who reset their {hardware} in a fruitless try to resurrect their setup, not realizing that the foundation reason for the issue was their former service supplier, was successfully left with a ineffective “brick” (conversely, those that’d in-advance heard of the company shutdown from Reddit discussions or elsewhere have been capable of migrate their networks to different companies like Dwelling Assistant or to Common Units’ hub {hardware}). And naturally, additional availability of SmartLabs {hardware}, each for substitute and community enlargement functions, additionally evaporated.

I hadn’t run an Insteon community since transferring to Colorado a decade in the past, however I nonetheless had a mixture of each used and old-but-unused gear in storage. I made a decision to promote all of it on eBay, each to assist others with still-active community aspirations and (admittedly) to make just a little “coin” for myself within the course of. Throughout the assortment have been two used 2412S Energy Line Modems, each of which ended up being purchased by the identical particular person, and each of which ended up being returned to me for refund after the vendor reported they have been non-functional. I wasn’t utterly shocked on the end result; Insteon gear (the PLMs, notably) are infamous for being fragile, and bulging-and-leaking capacitors and the like are at all times potential culprits. However discrepancies I seen with one unit, as soon as again in my fingers, piqued curiosity and prompted this teardown.

The elemental function of a PLM is to “bridge” between the Insteon community’s all-digital hub and the AC-and/or-wireless community throughout which control-and-response alerts traverse. The 2412S was a second-generation design, with a serial interface to the hub machine and powerline-only performance (wi-fi community capabilities required discrete 2443 Entry Level units and the like). The precursor 2414U PowerLinc V2’s USB interface linked to a pc working HouseLinc management software program that SmartLabs finally phased out, and in addition didn’t help newer Insteon {hardware} or instructions. Conversely, the successor 2413S (serial) and 2413U (USB) PowerLinc Modems built-in each “dual-band” powerline and RF transceivers.

Let’s start with these earlier-mentioned discrepancies. Right here’s one of many photographs I included after I posted this explicit 2412S on the market

And right here’s what that very same unit seemed like when it arrived again at my mailbox:

Discover the now-warped plastic case? Though the client reported no resultant explosive sound, warmth, or smoke when he plugged the PLM into an AC outlet, I strongly suspected that one thing had blown up inside. Right here’s what the opposite one he returned seems like for comparability (not like its peer, its side-located LED nonetheless illuminates and it seemingly responds to manufacturing facility reset makes an attempt, however the Common Units isy-99i-IR PRO controller additionally queued up on my teardown pile doesn’t “see” it, so one thing else has seemingly gone awry with it):

Flip the primary 2412S over to its entrance facet and the harm is much more apparent:

Right here’s its peer once more for visual-comparison functions:

RS-232 interfacing leverages a space-saving RJ45 (i.e., wired Ethernet) connector, versus the extra conventional 9-pin port:

And yet another front-side view, this time with a 0.75″ (19.1 mm) diameter U.S. penny nestled within the broken “crater” for dimension comparability functions; the 2412S has dimensions of three.9″ (top), 2.6″ (width), and 1.5″ (depth) and weighs 9.6 oz:

Time to dive inside. Even a short glimpse of this preliminary overview perspective will possible provide you with a strong presumption as to what let go inside (first? secondary? solely?); the transformer:

Subsequent step: disconnect the RS232 supplemental PCB after eradicating two extra screws:

Not a lot to put in writing house about, other than predictable STMicroelectronics ST232B twin RS-232 transceiver and M41T81 serial real-time clock ICs, together with a 24LC256 256 Kbit EEPROM (storing the person’s community information, and which will get erased throughout a manufacturing facility reset), on one facet. Additionally notice the coin cell battery, and the soldered-in-place (versus user-replaceable) fuse:

Final, however not least, let’s get the first PCB out of the now-warped enclosure, a course of which necessitated the removing of two extra screws and two standoffs:

Do not forget that entrance case warping that was outwardly seen within the first photograph I shared? Its location corresponds to the scorching on the within:

Match up the burn marks on the case with the corresponding places on this facet of the PCB (together with through-holes from the transformer and different other-side componentry) and also you inform me: was this additionally an exploding-transformer impact, or brought on by one thing else “going south”?

With the enclosure out of the best way, I’ll shut with some closeups of each side of the transformer together with the edges of the first PCB:


I’m guessing that the explosive warmth, and so forth. are what obliterated the markings on that 20-lead TSOP IC (whose identification and performance I’d like to know if anybody in-the-know is prepared to share?). And the white-packaged six-lead machine close by it’s apparently a Fairchild (now ON Semiconductor) 4N25 optocoupler?

And with that, my elementary insights into all issues analog-and-power is depleted. Over to these of you much more educated on such issues to your ideas within the feedback!

Brian Dipert is Editor-in-Chief of the Edge AI and Imaginative and prescient Alliance, and a Senior Analyst at BDTI and Editor-in-Chief of InsideDSP, the corporate’s on-line publication.

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