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 2477D causing intermittent flickering of lights.
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greazer
Junior Member

USA
35 Posts

Posted - 12/30/2015 :  11:13:35 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
It seems that this is a relatively common complaint, but I'm having a hard time figuring out if there's a solution.

I have several 2477D dimmers installed at my house. One of them in particular in my living room tended to "flicker". By that I meant that the lights would turn off for a split second (about a 10th based on a measurement done by one of our city's utility techs -- long story). This happens apparently randomly sometimes with minutes in between flickers and sometimes just a few seconds.

I've determined that at least one of my dimmers definitely causes it to happen. I tested it by moving it to different circuit and suddenly THOSE lights would blink. I put a regular non-dimming insteon switch on the original set of lights and they no longer flicker.

Given the fact that I've found others around the web running into the same problem I'm pretty sure the unit is not defective, nor is it insteon traffic causing the problem. Also, I cannot switch to incandescent (most people can't anymore).

Any suggestions as to how to make this stop happening other than ditching the dimmers altogether?

BLH
Advanced Member

5983 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2015 :  03:08:42 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Since you mentioned incandescent bulbs being unavailable.
Are you using dimmable LED or CFL Bulbs?
You can, if really needed. Get halogen replacements for the old incandescent bulbs. That meet the energy requirements to be sold in the USA. I have a few of the 72 watt, 100 watt equivalent ones in a damp location outside. Where an LED may have dampness issues.

Edited by - BLH on 12/31/2015 05:10:05 AM
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greazer
Junior Member

USA
35 Posts

Posted - 12/31/2015 :  10:32:44 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Since I wrote this, I have noticed I get the same behavior in the bathroom room of my house that has a different 2477D in it. This particular dimmer controls to 6 incandescents (3-light sconces over each sink), nothing fancy. Therefore, I don't believe that swapping out the bulbs in the other room with incandescents or halogens will solve the problem effect. But thanks for the suggestion.

Any other suggestions?
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Geo
Advanced Member

Canada
815 Posts

Posted - 01/01/2016 :  06:00:49 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
One possible reason seen with pretty well all dimmers are transients. Dimmers react to spikes on the power lines. These can be just a few milliseconds long, caused by switching different loads on and off. Inductive loads, such as furnace fans, motors, refrigerators and so forth can be especially bad for this. There is nothing you can do about it as it changes with the overall loading of the distribution transformer circuit. I've seen CFLs and LEDs to be more sensitive to this than incandescents, because they are loaded with internal electronics. Some designes may be better then other.

GJN
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greazer
Junior Member

USA
35 Posts

Posted - 01/01/2016 :  1:49:38 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks Geo. However, I think you're implying that I would see these reactions when larger electric motors first start up. From what I've experienced the blinking is completely random and does not correspond to any large electric motor going on or off. I live out in the boonies so I only have one neighbor (i.e. I don't in a large development that may have other households items that could cause problems for me) :)

I've experienced these blinks with nothing big running at my house or when they are running. I have paid attention when things like my heat pump first turns on and at that time, they don't blink off and on. Sure, they kind of dim for a small amount of time, but not blink completely off than on. The blinking just seems completely random.

I cannot say I've turned off all circuits at the master panel EXCEPT for the dimmer circuit that's causing me problems. Perhaps I should do that? In theory, would that completely exonerate any large motor causing this problem?
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Geo
Advanced Member

Canada
815 Posts

Posted - 01/02/2016 :  10:22:55 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
It's really hard to figure out what the cause is. I also have just one neighbor on the transformer. The heat pump was a big problem until I put it on a separate circuit. I have a little 16W halogen light with a 12V bulb and a transformer inside it on my desk. After some frustration I discovered that whenever I turned this light on or off and had one of the external USB drives transferring data at the same time, the data would get corrupted.
Both CFLs and LEDs contain a rectifier and their driving circuits work off the DC voltage. So those bulbs would appear as capacitive loads. Except they usually have an inductor in their inputs for suppression of the EMI their internal circuitry generates. At any rate, dimmers like resistive, not complex loads like these. And since there are no standards to follow, the dimmer manufacturer can only guess how the loads will look like.
With complex loads, and given all the stuff connected to the power distribution that make it totally unpredictable, it is not impossible to see ringing triggered by just a small transient. This can then lead to flickering. I've been so frustrated with dimming CFLs and LEDs that I use those bulbs on strictly on/off circuits. Beside the fact I don't like the color of dimmed LEDs and CFLs (and the lack of stability of the light output due to warming up), when you dim incandescents their power consumption decreases with the square of the degree of dimming. Just dimming to 90% which is hardly perceptible will decrease the power draw to 81%.

GJN
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greazer
Junior Member

USA
35 Posts

Posted - 01/06/2016 :  09:14:40 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the excellent info Geo. I will experiment with trying incandescent/halogen bulbs. However, if I may ask a followup. Do you (or others) think it would be a reasonable test to:
1) Identify one set of lights that is flickering
2) Turn off all other breakers in the house except for that circuit
3) See if they still flicker

If they do not flicker, draw the conclusion that some other circuit is the root cause. Basically then turn them on one by one till the flicker reoccurs?

OR

If they DO flicker, assume that it's the bulbs (be they LED or incandescent) themselves that are the source of the problem?

I believe you're asserting that incandescents just won't flicker, especially if there are no other types of bulbs anywhere else in the circuit.



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Geo
Advanced Member

Canada
815 Posts

Posted - 01/06/2016 :  09:55:24 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
That would be the scientific approach - if you are inquisitive enough and have the time and willingness to do it. On one hand you may be able to identify the culprit, on the other you may be looking at a combination of causes in which case it will be a very frustrating experience. And, on top of it, you may not be able to fix it anyway.
Personally, I'd try incandescents and if they work I'd stick with them. As I mentioned, by dimming lights you significantly reduce their power consumption (in Canada incandescent bulbs up to and including 60W are available) and potential savings with LEDs may just not be worth the hassle. It's you decision.
BTW, to the last two paragraphs in your message. If the incandescents flicker the problem is the dimmer or your power distribution. Incandescents do not flicker by themselves.

GJN
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greazer
Junior Member

USA
35 Posts

Posted - 01/16/2016 :  01:18:23 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
SOLVED!!!
Just in case other people have this problem I have absolutely solved it. I want to document here how I figured it out and what learned for others to take note. Please realize that I am a software engineer by profession, and have only limited, but workable, electrical experience. If anybody who has more detailed electrical knowledge can provide input to what may have happened here, I'd love to hear it. :) I realize it's long, but if you are trying do deal with an issue like this, it may be interesting to you.

Here's the main points of what I learned:

- The varied LED bulb brands I have throughout the house that happen to be on Insteon 2477D dimmers were *not* the ROOT cause of the flicker.
- Flicker occurred even in multi-bulb lighting fixtures that had only incandescent or halogen bulbs installed.
- Flicker occurred circuits that contained only halogen or incandescent bulbs.
- The problem turned out to be a bad or under-spec'd simple 12v DC transformer (for those who may not know, I mean this was a simple "brick" you plug into a wall outlet to power devices). This transformer was used to power an LED tape strip I had installed under my kitchen counters.
- The bad transformer (which was plugged into a normal 120V outlet) caused flicker in multiple circuits throughout my house.
- One measly, stinking component can wreak havoc on your Insteon enabled electrical system. The problematic transformer had been in my house since before I installed Insteon switches. I had had no flicker before Insteon, then lots after.
- Arduino is awesome.

Here's how I found the problem:
1) Originally as I mentioned in the post above, I started by being very diligent about turning off circuit breakers, and then noting whether the flicker stopped or lessened.
2) In addition, I swapped out or removed LED bulbs from circuits and fixtures and had my wife sit there and wait to see if the flickering got lessened or went away.

This was awful and hugely time consuming since the flickering seemed VERY random. Sometimes it would occur multiple times in few minutes. Sometimes it would wait many, many minutes in between with no visible problem.

I then realized that I had an Arduino Microcontroller kit that I had dorked around with a year or so ago, doing dumb, worthless exercises with. :) I thought "why not make a simple device that can 'watch' for flickers for me?" FINALLY! A real reason to have bought and learned the basics of Arduino programming! :)

So I spent a day learning about how to use Arduino to detect light levels (a simple photocell) and how to log data gathered to an SD card. I wrote a simple app that basically got an average light reading over a short period of time and then just waited to see a drop in the level. If it got one, it logged it. (It may sound simple to some of you, but I was so happy that I wouldn't have to sit there and *watch* and *wait* to see if changes I was making throughout the house were having any affect.)

Now that I had this device ready, I started taking readings throughout the day and night in different places in my house. What I saw was that while we were home the flickering, on average, would occur *about* every 90 seconds or so when it was rocking. However, there were sometimes when many minutes or even way more than an hour would go by without any flicker at all! However this seemed to coincide with when we weren't home. Not completely, mind you, but close. Therefore, I focused on things that were OFF when we were gone.

- I turned off the TV, amplifier and such. Lots of flicker (i.e. ~90s intevals)
- I replaced bulbs. Lots of flicker.

Then on one of the evenings, while I was setting up my device in the kitchen, I realized that the under-cabinet LED's (which come on when they sense motion in the kitchen) were on and potentially screwing up my little flicker detector. Since the light from the LED's would bleed to my photocell when they were on, when they auto-turned off, a flicker would be erroneously detected. SO... I lowered the dimmer they were connected to zero and took readings throughout the next day. My flicker detector registered almost zero flickers in 8 hours with the only flicker detected being the one that occurred when I moved my device around to unplug it! Hallelujah!!!!!!

Before fiddling with those cabinet lights, I decided to see if turning them off would cause the flicker to go away in other rooms in the house where it occurred. With my trusty "flicker detector"(tm) I found that it didn't. BUT it did show that they were reduced in frequency to much less than an average of 90 seconds.

At this point, I decided to remove the dimmer on the cabinet lights (based on all the talk about how dimmers don't get along with LEDs). However, this was NOT the problem as even after doing that I detected flickers again now that the LED lights were ON (full blast) again.

So, the only other thing to do was examine the power to the LED's. I found that they were plugged into what appeared to be a really cheap AC/DC 12v transformer. Since I knew that turning the dimmer down to 0 caused the kitchen lights to stop flickering, I hoped that maybe the transformer was bad and that if I replaced it, I would fix at least some of my flickering. So I did. I replaced it with a better quality 12v transformer I had saved from some other device I had long ago.

Wouldn't you know it, my flicker detector registered NO flickers *all day* the next day. However, based on my empirical observations, it ALSO *seemed* like other rooms may have stopped flickering. So I put my flicker-detector in my bedroom all day under some other problematic lights. AGAIN, NO FLICKER!

Therefore, REPLACING THE BAD SIMPLE 12V TRANSFORMER IN MY KITCHEN, WHICH WAS ON A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CIRCUIT THAN MY BEDROOM, *COMPLETELY* SOLVED MY PROBLEM THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE! I have NO flickering at all now. It's been several days and neither my detector, nor my wife has complained.

So there you have it. One measly, stinking component can wreak havoc on your Insteon enabled electrical system.

Hope this little story might help somebody else someday. :)






Edited by - greazer on 01/16/2016 10:39:20 AM
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BLH
Advanced Member

5983 Posts

Posted - 01/16/2016 :  03:18:31 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The 12 volt transformer should NEVER be on a dimmer unless it is specified as made to be on a dimmer.
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greazer
Junior Member

USA
35 Posts

Posted - 01/16/2016 :  10:37:13 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The transformer wasn't on the dimmer. The dimmer was after the transformer, but before the LEDs. 120V Outlet -> Transformer -> 12V Dimmer -> LEDs.

To be extra clear, I had removed the dimmer and still had the same flickering.

Edited by - greazer on 01/16/2016 10:40:24 AM
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Geo
Advanced Member

Canada
815 Posts

Posted - 01/17/2016 :  11:39:21 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Sounds awfully strange to me.

GJN
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greazer
Junior Member

USA
35 Posts

Posted - 01/18/2016 :  12:39:52 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
(Note I've been misusing the term "transformer". I really meant to say power-supply or rectifier or basically a wall-wart that converts AC to DC power).

It's been another couple days and indeed the flickering is completely gone. Also, for the record:

- The flickering occurred only on circuits that were on an Insteon dimmer switch.
- I don't know if regular dimmer would have caused the same problem. It may have, since I originally had simple switches throughout before I replaced them with Insteon dimmers.
- The *only* change I made was to replace the AC to 12V DC transformer that was driving my under-cabinet LED lighting. I don't know what the specs on the original power-supply (rectifier) were as there was no markings on it to specify whatsoever. However, the new one is a Class 2, Input: 120VAC, Output 12VDC 500mA.

Edited by - greazer on 01/18/2016 01:27:27 AM
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stusviews
Advanced Member

USA
15854 Posts

Posted - 01/18/2016 :  11:32:55 AM  Show Profile  Visit stusviews's Homepage  Reply with Quote
greazer, the terminology you used is correct. Anything that changes from one voltage to another is a transformer. Other terms include power supply and power adapter. If the input is AC and the output is DC, then the transformer includes a built-in rectifier.

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lightpilot
Starting Member

USA
2 Posts

Posted - 04/12/2017 :  12:06:27 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
greazer,

I've just remodeled my home and installed around 30 Insteon dimmers, as well as some I/O lincs, relay switches, etc. Your post is the first I've come across that accurately describes and constructively addresses the problems I am having. First of all, THANK YOU for all your hard work testing the issue and THANK YOU for actually sharing the solution. I created this account just so I could inquire further.

Needless to say, after spending thousands of dollars with Insteon, I am having nothing but problems. Intermittent flickering, insane strobe shows on keypad circuits, general lighting instability, etc. I have called multiple times with nothing but workaround suggestions and finger pointing (AC noise, LEDs, the position of the sun in the sky...jk). I am still in disbelief that a company this old with such expensive products could create something so "finnicky", but I digress.

I wanted to ask if you wouldn't mind sharing a link or something to the power supply you used that worked. I have a good bit of LED strip lighting installed throughout the home and powered by fairly high end "dimmable power supplies" specifically designed to work with triac dimmers. Before I climb into the attic and start unhooking transformers, I wanted to just get a starting point with a product I know is working for you. Let me know if you can. Thank you!

PS: If you would be so kind as to share the arduino program and circuit you created, I would be eternally grateful! I have some arduino boards and would love to be able to troubleshoot my system the way you did. Thanks again!
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alice_fu
Starting Member

12 Posts

Posted - 05/07/2017 :  11:07:36 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hello greazer,

I got an LED Bulb months before. I bought it just cause it has no flicker. My boy's eyesight had been failing mostly because of these flicker bulbs in his room. He is only ten! I think most people hate flicker as me.I saw a video on YouTube by chance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YXzGaKAwSE. I was a little suspicious at first. But I tried. I was totally amazed, and didn't know what to think when i turned it on its so bright. It is flicker-free! My darling and I love it. And we replaced most of our bulbs into Sansi 17W Dimmable LED Bulbs. Here is the link https://www.amazon.com/lumens-Dimmable-Efficient-150-Watt-Incandescent/dp/B01N4GUDSP/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1494223417&sr=8-4&keywords=sansi+led.
Hope this could help!
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lightpilot
Starting Member

USA
2 Posts

Posted - 05/11/2017 :  07:19:47 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Greazer,

Just giving my last post a bump in hopes that you'll see it. Thanks!

quote:
Originally posted by greazer

(Note I've been misusing the term "transformer". I really meant to say power-supply or rectifier or basically a wall-wart that converts AC to DC power).

It's been another couple days and indeed the flickering is completely gone. Also, for the record:

- The flickering occurred only on circuits that were on an Insteon dimmer switch.
- I don't know if regular dimmer would have caused the same problem. It may have, since I originally had simple switches throughout before I replaced them with Insteon dimmers.
- The *only* change I made was to replace the AC to 12V DC transformer that was driving my under-cabinet LED lighting. I don't know what the specs on the original power-supply (rectifier) were as there was no markings on it to specify whatsoever. However, the new one is a Class 2, Input: 120VAC, Output 12VDC 500mA.

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Geo
Advanced Member

Canada
815 Posts

Posted - 05/11/2017 :  10:56:34 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Having 2477D dimmer on 12V DC power?! Really? This could potentially act as a relaxation oscillator with the period affected by loads on the power lines, interferrinbg with all kinds of appliances. Don't blame Insteon.

GJN
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chriscjcj
Starting Member

USA
1 Posts

Posted - 10/22/2018 :  10:27:42 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have 27 2477D units in my home. I began to experience this flickering problem. In addition to that, sometimes after these 2477Ds were switched on, they refused to turn off, even when actuating the physical switch on the device itself. (Waiting a few minutes and trying again would usually work.) This was infuriating.

On the advice of this thread and several others, I spent half my Saturday yesterday shutting down my entire home and troubleshooting this problem. This was a pretty extensive process. I have several UPS units, lots of networking equipment, and a two NASes that I had to shut off before starting the process. I shut down every circuit in the breaker box and turned them on one at a time. Each time I turned one on, I had to stare at my dining room lights and wait at least five minutes, because sometimes there's up to a five minute interval between flickers.

Finally, after turning on a particular circuit, I began to see the flickers. Fortunately, when I moved into this house, I made a spreadsheet of every switch and outlet that notes what circuit it's on. I went around and unplugged every device that was plugged into an outlet on that circuit. The flickering stopped.

I eventually discovered that the offending device was an emergency flashlight I got from Costco. (Specifically its charging stand.) The Eco-i-lite model CT-L30.
https://imgur.com/a/LHjewga

Once this piece of $#|T was unplugged, my problems vanished.

I find it unconscionable that an entire house full of Insteon products could effectively be brought down by such a common occurrence: plugging in a device into an electrical outlet. I understand that the device was no doubt faulty and that isn't SmartHome's fault. But here are my beefs:

1. Insteon says, "We make fantastic products for controlling and monitoring your home. Those products are great because they sit on top of rock-solid Insteon powerline and wireless communication technology." They go on to say, "With our unique and patented dual-mesh technology, Insteon signals travel further without interruption than any other technology. And thanks to Dual-Band, powerline and wireless obstructions rarely impede signals, resulting in 100x more reliability than single-band networks." (https://www.insteon.com/technology) Shouldn't a technology that's so incredibly robust be able to maintain its most basic functionality even with some noise on the power lines? I'm not even talking about controlling it remotely. Shouldn't a $50 dimmer with such amazing technology be able to not flicker when there's garbage on the house's wiring? A $2.18 Leviton switch from home depot doesn't have this problem. Shouldn't a $50 dimmer with such amazing technology allow you to reliably shut it off when you actually press the switch's off-button? Shouldn't that work regardless of anything else that might be going on? A $2.18 Leviton switch from home depot doesn't have this problem either.

2. If Insteon's equipment is going to become unusable under certain very-common conditions, shouldn't there be some warnings/admonitions in the product literature? Shouldn't Insteon also ship some kind of product that allows users to detect and troubleshoot problems like this with a degree of efficiency and effectiveness that's superior to shutting down my whole house, turning on one circuit at a time and staring at my dining room lights and waiting for them to flicker? It seems that HouseLinc used to be marketed as having this ability; it's no longer supported. There's also mention of a "Insteon Keypad Diagnostic Tool" (2993-222) which seems to do exactly what I'm describing, but it appears to no longer be available. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptTnQXASzLs
I know that the isy994i, (which I use) has diagnostic tools that might assist, but performing a scene test requires you to disable all programs. This isn't practical. I also know that I can program switches and dimmers to blink their LED when they see traffic. Okay, that has potential to help a little, but it doesn't really cut it. I'm talking about a probe that could be plugged into an outlet. It would be able to intelligently discern the difference between legitimate Insteon traffic and noise. It would have a clear visual display showing noise and its intensity. It should have a setting that makes it chirp when it hears noise, allowing the user to utilize it while being some distance away from it. Hell, charge me $100 for it! I definitely spent more that $100 of my time dealing with this. I find it perplexing that something like this doesn't exist.

At the very least, SmartHome should acknowledge that this problem exists and offer help, guidance, and solutions. Pretending that it doesn't exist is not okay.

This whole experience has soured me to Insteon and I can say that I will not be recommending it to others until the company shows some level of commitment to solving or at least alleviating this and several other long-time problems with the platform.

Edited by - chriscjcj on 10/22/2018 11:10:41 AM
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Geo
Advanced Member

Canada
815 Posts

Posted - 10/22/2018 :  12:21:49 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Strictly speaking, you may not be talking about an Insteon weakness. The charger may be generating interference which is decoded by the dimmer as a valid signal. It is impossible to design and test a product for every conceivable situation just as there is no product with 100% guaranteed reliability. It's all statistical.
I'd be more concerned about the quality of the charger design and that such a poor performer, when it comes to its electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), is allowed to be sold. There are certain minimum EMC requirements imposed on electrical products connected to the power grid just about in every country in the world. Is the charger certified at all?
I can imagine that to keep the charger design cheap a switching regulator with the very minimum interference suppressing components is likely used. Such a charger would generate a lot of noise.

GJN
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BLH
Advanced Member

5983 Posts

Posted - 10/22/2018 :  1:02:59 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I have seen similar flickering reported with other brands of dimmers. Like Lutron. So it is not just an Insteon issue.
Small chargers seem to be high on the list of common offending devices.
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