CFL / LED bulbs and X-10 ?

Page 2 of 2  


I've been using CFL friendly X10 appliance module along with the 3-way switch units and a motion sensor for a couple of years. I've never had a flickering or a relighting problem and the dimming feature of the switches works just fine.
However, my problem has always been the fact that the lights do not consistantly turn off. I can't tell you how many countless number of times I leave for work in the morning and have to reach back into the door and tap the switches to turn off both lights that are controlled by the appliance module. It's maddenly inconsistent.
The weird part is that SWMBO and I can take the dogs out at night and the lights will come on when we leave the house. By the time we get back they are usually off, but they come back on as we walk up the driveway. That's what I would expect to happen. However, an hour later, I'll look out and they'll still be on. Makes no sense. Why did they time out while we were walking the dogs, but not time out once we were inside the house?
On the other hand, I have an X10 appliance module controlling a tube- FL shoplight and had to add a incandescent bulb (a Christmas candle) to the circuit to keep it from coming back on after it timed out. This setup has no switches, just an appliance module and motion sensor and it times out and turns off every single time.
I just mentioned to SWMBO the other night that once it warms up I'm getting rid of the X10 for the 2 front lights and going back to regular motion sensors for each fixture. I'll lose the dimming feature but at least the lights won't (sometimes) stay on all night and (sometimes) all day.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
news:a1681200-6b34-4b11-b88f-
...snip...

Well, you're ahead of the game, so far . . .

John Maddenly? (-: This maddening problem is fairly typical. In my last post you'll notice I use a smart controller (the now discontinued HomeVision unit) that "knows" that when it's light outside, outside lights should be turned off.
There can be a lot of reasons for the setup you've described to not work as intended. Any time the X10 signal is marginal, as it can be with long electrical runs typical of porch and outside light wiring, a signal can get "lost" depending on what else is turned on at the time. Diagnosing weak signals is an art with X10 and I was never very successful at it until I got an X10 meter to read the signal strength of the control signals on the wiring.
It only takes one badly behaving lamp that's "electrically near" the circuit panel to mess things up but good. I had a space heater that simply "ate" X10 signals on that circuit and several others. When it was cycled on and running, no X10. When it kicked off via thermostat, everything was fine. What fun *that* was to figure out. CFL's and fluorescent shop lights might activate with no problem but once lit they can produce enough electrical noise to inhibit their remote shutdown. Again, an X10 meter can read noise on the line in the 120KHz range that X10 uses to propagate its signal.

It may be that once you got back into the house, you turned on a lamp or device that emits enough noise to inhibit the powerline "OFF" signal from the motion detectors (EagleEye? HawkEye? DM10?) from reaching the light to shut it off. Again, without a meter it's very hard to determine if the signal level is marginal or good or if there's sufficient noise present to block signals. That covers most of the problems with X10, but there could be something else happening.
It used to be that you could sort of diagnose these issues by standing at the circuit panel and turning off all the circuits except the ones in use by X10 and restoring the circuits one by one until the X10 signal failed. That method had a very low "spouse approval" factor when I inadvertently caused the VCR to reset and miss recording the season finale of one of her favorite shows.

This is a case where with a CFL friendly appliance module, you could scrap the candle.

It all depends on circuit paths and as Trader pointed out, phases. If you're controlling items that are all wired to one side of the panel, things are usually A-OK. It's when a control device on one phase is expected to control a device on a different phase that you run into problems. In such cases, without a coupler or repeater you're typically allowing the phases to couple at the transformer and that *never* results in a strong signal. You can pull the cover off your circuit panel (another low spousal approval thing, I've found) and by inspection determine what outlets and fixtures are on which phase.
A simple coupler can be made of a capacitor, but I recommend something designed for the problem that not only couples the phases, but amplifies the signal, too. I use Jeff Volp's XTB-IIR but there are other, cheaper (but inferior) couplers on the market.
I have a Leviton HCA unit and an X10 coupler as spares I could lend you. I believe I even have an older model of the XTB-II and even older, non-coupling amplifiers (XTB and XTB-R) that you simply plug in the RR501 transceiver (or MaxiController or other X10 transmitter) and it boosts the output from around 5 volts to nearly 25 volts. That's enough to couple at the pole transformer and still have enough X10 signal left to reach the opposite phase.
When X10 was designed, 5 volts was enough to reach nearly everywhere. Now with so many chargers, CFLs, UPSs and more plugged into the home wiring, 5 volts is very, very little voltage compared to what's actually needed to pump a strong X10 signal throughout the average house.

*>regular motion sensors for each fixture. I'll lose the dimming feature

My side porch light is an independent motion sensor unit that's controlled by an X10 wall switch. That way, I don't have to worry about the X10 motion sensor reaching the RR501 transceiver and then the transceiver sending an X10 signal to the lamps. I have the whole shebang supervised by HomeVision that turns the wall switch off when it's light out.
HomeVision has a dawn/dusk calculator that's based on the user's lat/longitude which is double-checked against a "sundowner" unit that has a photocell that "knows" when it's dark out and sends X10 commands when there's a transition.
http://www.smarthomeusa.com/ShopByManufacturer/X-10-Pro/Item/SD533 /
(discontinued, unfortunately, but you can do the same thing with a Hawkeye and the plus one dawn/dusk detection feature)
Like you, I often left the house only to maddeningly discover that the porch lights were on. Not anymore.
My best guess about your situation is that the porch lights are on a different phase from the outlet that the RR501 transceiver is plugged into (although I dimly remember that may not be the case in your house). Depending on what is powered up at the time, the signal either makes it to the lamps or not. Usually it's a noise issue. Something between the RR501 and the modules you are controlling is a device that interrupts the X10 signal either by interfering with it (noise). But it could also be that the signal is getting absorbed by an attenuator, aka a "signal sucker." UPSs, PC power supplies and surge protecting powerstrips are all candidates for signal sucking because they often have integral noise filters and to them, the X10 signal is simply RFI.
From what you've described, I suspect that when you return home from your walkabout, you turn something on in the house that's inhibiting the powerline signal from reaching the device. An electrically noisy CFL, even one not controlled by X10 but on the same circuit, would be enough to screw things up. With Hawk/Eagle-eye motion detectors, standing between the sensor and the RR501 receiver is often enough to prevent the RF signal from getting through. They are basically what ham radio guys call "flea powered" devices and plaster/lathe construction often blocks the signal entirely. Is there more than one RF motion sensor in the house? They love to "fight" with each other under certain conditions.
I no longer use the stock X10 transceivers for RF reception but have switched to a WGL all-housecode transceiver that feeds an XTB booster. The WGL has coaxial aerial connections that allowed me to run multiple antennas on all four sides of the house feeding into the WGL transceiver via a four-way splitter and RF amplifier. I can turn on the porchlights with a keychain controller from over 100' from the house. The bathroom light (one of the few controlled by a Hawkeye directly) activates 20 times a day without failure, so it can be done.
I consider the XTB and WGL additions mandatory for maintaining the peace with SWMBO. Her tolerance for lights coming on (and especially going out) at random dropped lower with every failure. My situation is a little different though. I've been using X10 since the '80's and everything in the house is remotely controlled so it was either "get it to work" or "get off your lazy ass and turn the lights out by hand like every other human being!" So I got it to work. (-:
I know that you'd prefer (like most people) not to spend any more money on something that already seems dubious but meters and repeater/couplers really are getting to be the price of entry into the world of X10. One of the vendors used to rent out X10 meters for very little money because end-users usually only need the very rarely to find the big problems but I wasn't able to find anyone that currently rents them.
I wish meters and repeater/couplers had not become "entry level" items but on the other hand, I've gotten some tremendous bargains from people who have given up on X10 and put all their equipment for sale on Ebay. Their loss was my gain. I recently saw such a lot go for over $400!!!!! So there's still a lot of interest in X10 out there to command prices like that. Every cloud has a silver lining and every tornado has some loose change spinning around in it. (-:
The stock X10 transmitter modules should emit a more powerful signal but from what Mr. Volp tells me it takes some pretty big capacitors to spit out a 25V X10 signal. There's no practical way to make the standard X10 gear more powerful without making it much larger. The XTB boosters and repeaters are quite a bit larger than stock X10 modules because they need much larger and more powerful components to produce higher than stock voltages.
Are you comfortable working in your circuit panel? Do you have a 240VAC outlet in the house that you can plug a coupler/repeater into for a test? Coupler/repeaters require access to both hots and the neutral wire and that can often be found at a dryer or range outlet.
My XTB-IIR repeater/coupler/amplifier is connected to the main panel via a tandem 20A breaker connected to both phases. I put a Hubbell twist-lock plug on the end of the repeater and wired a 240VAC twist-lock receptacle to the XTB-IIR so I could swap it out easily if it ever failed or if I wanted to compare repeaters. That's preferable to the dryer outlet technique because the closer to the circuit panel, the better the signal propagation. My 240VAC outlet is connected with about 10' of Romex, so it's very close. X10 forced me to learn enough about home wiring to be able to install a coupler/repeater and that's a good thing.
-- Bobby G.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I'm with you on X-10 being unreliable and not suited to any serious home automation project. It can be fine if you want to spend $25 on Ebay to control a light that isn't essential. I remember recommending it a few years ago to you for your control of your outside light. You had problems from the beginning, but I think you eventually got it to work, at least to being usable. At that point in time, my limited experience with X10 was that it worked. Even then, it wasn't 100% reliable, but my experience had been that it was good enough for that kind of motion sensing, turn on the light kind of application. And I'd still use it for limited apps like that. But you quickly ran into problems even using it for that.
Since then, I've seen more than enough to convince me that the whole system is crap and you're probably going to be disappointed and frustrated with it at some point. Either from motion sensors that don't last or from the inability to get it to work where you need it to work, etc. The whole thing has one big flaw from the start. It's a one-way protocol. The sender simply sends a command to turn on or off and assumes that it got there successfully.
I helped a friend install a system that uses a motion sensor to turn on outside lights by the garage, turn on porch lights at dusk, and turn on/off a few lights in the house randomly at night. We got it working and it was OK, with some exceptions. The motion sensor was far more sensitive to stray movement of a tree branch etc than other motion detectors I've used. We had problems getting the right modules to work with CFL, as per this thread. At it's best, it was probably 95% reliable. There were still times when you'd find a light didn't go on or off as it should. But most frustrating, after working for a few years, one of the light modules simply would no longer respond to the controller one room over. We tried different modules, different outlets, removing any nearby cable box, etc. It just would not work. And there was no new appliance, no moving of an appliance, nothing that could account for a change in the house.
I said in another post that I don't know the specifics, but I think the company that was the main driving force behind those modules that are out there has exited the business. Clearly you can see from what's available that not much, if anything new is being developed. Could still be OK for a limited investment and application, but not what I'd choose for any home automation project of significance.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 01/27/2013 03:15 PM, Lee B wrote:
[snip]

[snip]
I have used a receptacle module, which solved the problems with CFLs. Now, what I use is to have another load (such as a TV, or a small incandescent bulb) on the module too.
--
Mark Lloyd
http://notstupid.us
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.