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Author Topic: Improving X10 Signal Reliability  (Read 119 times)

brobin

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Improving X10 Signal Reliability
« on: May 06, 2017, 12:05:06 pm »

I did a little write up on X10 signal issues in the Nuts&Volts Tech Forum awhile back and thought it might be of interest to the group.

X-10 was developed back in the '70's as the first consumer power line carrier (PLC) home automation product. While newer and more robust systems are available, X10 remains popular due to its simplicity and low cost. Back in the '70's we didn't have the plethora of wall warts, PC/printer/monitor power supplies or CFL & LED bulbs, all of which tend to either absorb X10 signals or put noise on the power line or both!

All of these signal suckers and/or noise generators can swamp the X10 signal resulting in problems.  There are filters, amplifier/repeaters and couplers to resolve these issues and, I'm happy to report that, after over 30 years of using X10, I've been able to maintain reliable operation even in fairly large homes.

Before adding any of the above devices, the trick is to identify the source(s) of the problem. At the time the intermittent problem began, think about what changed in the house. A new TV, computer, monitor or phone/tablet charger? Conversion to CFL or LED bulbs? If any of those get a yes, try removing them and testing. Plug-in filters will help.

Does the problem only happen at certain times? For example, when my in-ground incandescent pool light burnt out I replaced it with an LED bulb. When it was on it generated sufficient noise to render X10 useless to a number of locations. The solution was to add a hash choke in series between the switched wire from the X10 module and the light. Problem solved.

Another very important consideration is coupling from one side of the power line to the other. As we all know, residential service consists of two 120 volt legs (L1 & L2) from the street transformer to the electrical panel where roughly half the circuits are served by each leg. Electric ovens, water heaters and central A/C units are connected to both legs to provide 240 volt service. If an X10 controller is plugged into an outlet on L1 and the lamp module is plugged into an outlet on L2, the signal needs to find a bridge to get from one leg to the other. That bridge can be a 240 volt appliance, if it's on, or the street transformer itself - a long run that attenuates the signal.

The solution is to use a coupler at the electrical panel to provide a reliable path for the signal to reach every circuit. The very best solution that will overcome a multitude of problems is the installation of an XTB-IIR which is both a coupler and X-10 signal amplifier. It's available both as a kit or fully assembled from www.jvde.us. That site offers a number of solutions and some great tutorials on X10 troubleshooting. I've been using both their site as a resource and their products for many years with great success.

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Brian H

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Re: Improving X10 Signal Reliability
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2017, 06:25:26 am »

Good write up. Thanks for sharing it.

I agree JV Digital Engineering products are top notch.
I have an XTB-IIR and XTBM myself.

Wow. I have not seen Nuts&Volts magazines in a real long time.
Maybe they changed to all online publishing. I believe last time I looked they still had paper magazines and online versions.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2017, 08:39:35 am by Brian H »
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brobin

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Re: Improving X10 Signal Reliability
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2017, 02:58:10 pm »

Nuts&Volts is still in print. Usually stuffed in the back of the computer magazine section at Barnes & Noble
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