Sunday, September 25, 2022
HomeElectronicsDissecting a deceased Insteon energy line modem

Dissecting a deceased Insteon energy line modem


Lengthy-time readers could recollect my previous sequence of posts masking the testing and extra common ongoing use of SmartLabs’ (additionally identified by its Smarthome on-line retail model) Insteon residence automation know-how and merchandise. Insteon primarily leveraged powerline communications between a hub and adapters—mild dimmers, switches and extra common energy retailers, thermostats, and the like, in a extra strong style 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 reminiscent of the necessity to bridge between the phases of a 220V premises energy feed, in addition to when powerline indicators had 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 occurring) turned off the lights and locked the doorways for the final time, within the course of taking down the cloud-based service that the majority Insteon customers had traditionally leveraged in controlling their residence automation networks. Worse but, anybody who reset their {hardware} in a fruitless try and resurrect their setup, not realizing that the basis reason behind 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 had been in a position to migrate their networks to various providers like Dwelling Assistant or to Common Units’ hub {hardware}). And naturally, additional availability of SmartLabs {hardware}, each for alternative 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. Inside the assortment had been two used 2412S Energy Line Modems, each of which ended up being purchased by the identical individual, and each of which ended up being returned to me for refund after the vendor reported they had been non-functional. I wasn’t utterly stunned on the consequence; Insteon gear (the PLMs, significantly) 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 goal 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 indicators traverse. The 2412S was a second-generation design, with a serial interface to the hub system and powerline-only performance (wi-fi community capabilities required discrete 2443 Entry Level gadgets and the like). The precursor 2414U PowerLinc V2’s USB interface related to a pc operating HouseLinc management software program that SmartLabs ultimately phased out, and likewise didn’t assist 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 images I included after I posted this explicit 2412S on the market

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

Discover the now-warped plastic case? Though the customer 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 to be 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 aspect and the injury 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 measurement 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 quick glimpse of this preliminary overview perspective will probably offer you 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 residence about, apart from 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 knowledge, and which will get erased throughout a manufacturing facility reset), on one aspect. Additionally word 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 elimination of two extra screws and two standoffs:

Keep in mind 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 aspect 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 attributable to one thing else “going south”?

With the enclosure out of the way in which, I’ll shut with some closeups of either side of the transformer together with the perimeters 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 system 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 way more educated on such issues in 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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