X10 Issues - Motion Sensor Transmission Range, Dimmer Question, GFCI

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On Sat, 18 Sep 2010 21:16:35 -0700, RickH wrote:

True, although I had much more trouble with Insteon. It never worked acceptably for more than 5 minutes (with NO MORE than one module and controller).
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The older 2 wire X10 devices keep some current flowing through the filament all the time. The latest non-X10 devices all use a neutral and completly un-power the bulb at fully dim or off.
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Contrary to the claims of it being a toy, I have been using essentially the same X10 settup Derby is attempting for 2 years. It's used to turn on lights outside the garage when motion is detected and to turn the front door lights on at dusk and off at dawn. All that is done with the outdoor motion detector, the wireless transceiver, and two wall switches.
Some key differences:
The transceiver is located at an outlet in the garage which is only about 5 feet away from the outdoor motion sensor. Had I known Derby wanted to use it at ranges greater than 50ft, I would have said that I doubt it is capable of those ranges. The initial application we were talking about was to turn front door lights on/off with a motion detector. Nothing about that suggested the need for a long range. Also, with outlets being everywhere, for most apps I would think you'd have an outlet available for the transceiver to plug in that is not too far away and with only one wall seperation. I do agree that they should make the specs and limitations on distance better known. But those limitations aren't unique to X10 and exist with a lot of wireless devices, let alone one that cost <$10.
Regarding GFCI, I'll have to check on that. The transceiver is plugged into a garage outlet, which I assume would be on a GFCI circuit and it works. But, I'll confirm that. The switches and modules are all plugged into standard outlets.
I'll also check the dimming feature, which I never use. My suspicion is that it's just the way it's designed, ie you can't dim it beyond a certain point.
I also use X10 with their controller/timer unit to turn 3 lights around the house on/off when I'm away. It's done that fine. The only issue I had was getting the correct modules that will work with CFL. Is it 100% reliable? No. But it's certainly been reliable for the applications I'm using it for. And considering the cost, I think a good solution.
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On Sep 19, 7:34 am, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

For cfls, are apliance modules needed, do they have relays. Ive used the dimming feature with modules and switches and they dim to zero.
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On Sun, 19 Sep 2010 06:38:41 -0700, ransley wrote:
[snip]

And a bypass for current when off. Check the schematics.

It's not actually zero current. It seems the differences between different CFLs affect whether or not there's any visible light produced.
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On Sep 19, 8:34 am, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

==
trader4,
Please don't take any of this the wrong way, since I really appreciate the help you given me so far.
I guess I should have paid more attention to your statement:
"The wireless unit transmits a signal that is received by a small module that you plug in to any *nearby* AC outlet in the house."
Apparently the word "nearby" held more of a literal meaning than I realized!
Based on the distance I described in my OP (30' - 40') I doubt I'll be able to mount the sensor in a location that will cover the walkway and also be "nearby" an AC outlet, especially considering that there's a brick wall then plaster/lath wall to consider.
I'm having trouble getting through vinyl siding and an unfinished garage wall from more than 10' - 15'
In addition, the nearest outlet is in the living room room which would mean that the considerable "click" the RR501 makes will be an annoyance. I was hoping to be able to place the RR501 in the basement based on the 100' spec I found at the X10-Wiki site.
I'll have to play around next time I go to Dad's and see if I can find suitable locations for both units.

Again, the use of the words "not too far away" is very relative.
I mean this in the nicest way, but I'd like to suggest that the next time you describe the use of X10, you be a bit more specific. Keep in mind that as newbies, we don't know what "nearby or "not too far away" really means, especially if we expect the specs given by X10 to be at least some what accurate. 100' vs "15' if there's a wall in between" isn't even close. 100' could be considered "not too far away" if you're talking about a 1/4' mile driveway.
That reminds me of an IT Director that I used to work for. She was a few levels above me and usually met with departments heads and the like, but on occasion would invite us lowly Project Managers to her meetings to give an update. It was well known that if she asked for time frame or cost estimation, and you gave an answer like "not very long" or "not too much", not only would you get an immediate lecture - in front of entire management team - about the use of such non- specific terms ("I can not plan for personnel and financial resources based on 'not very long. 'Not very long' is of no use to me.") but you could be pretty sure that you would not be invited back to any more meetings. Not a very good career builder! :-)

I'll keep testing the GFCI issue. Now that I think I'm a little clearer on the range issue, I can eliminate some of the variables and just see if the GFCI(s) really make a difference.

Not a big issue at all. I didn't realize when I posted that a quick tap of the push button turned the light on or off at it's current setting. I can't imagine why I'd ever dim the lights to zero.

...within it's limitations, of course ;-)
Thanks again.
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Yes I did say nearby. Going back to your initial description of the application:
" My dad asked me to replace the light next to his front door with a motion sensing unit. He bought a stock fixture from HD with the sensor built into the fixture. There is no way to aim the sensor, it just points straight out from the front of the fixture.
The approach to their front door is straight up a ~40' walkway from the sidewalk. Even set at the highest sensitivity, which should allow for a ~30' range, the light doesn't come on until the person is right at the stoop, ready to lift their leg onto the first step.
However, if you walk across the yard the light will come on anywhere in the 5' to 30'+ range. In fact, 1 out 3 cars going down the street activate the light.
Unfortunately, "across the coverage area" is not how they (or anyone else) would approach their front door.
What kind of fixture/sensor does he need so that it will pick up people walking straight towards it? "
From that description I took it that you are activating a typical front door light with a 75 or 100 watt bulb, intended to provide light as people get within 10 to 20 ft of the steps. The problem seemed to be that the motion light you had only activated when people were right at the actual porch steps. And such a porch light isn't going to do anything to provide light 40 ft down the sidewalk. You'd need a 150Watt flood aimed from the porch down the sidewalk, right into peoples eyes to provide light 40 ft out. Either that or a light located somewhere other than the front door.
So, I assumed you would be mounting the motion sensor facing across the walkway somewhere along the sidewalk, maybe 20 ft out, not necessarily close to the end of the 40 ft sidewalk.
From this part:
"BTW, it's an old brick house with a shallow box for the fixture cut into the brick. A one-for-one swap is easy, but mounting a separate sensor someplace else and running wires back to the fixture would be a pain. I'd really prefer something built into the fixture if possible. "
I didn't pay close attention to the brick wall part or think of it's implications. Had I thought that part through, it probably would have dawned on me that it will indeed reduce the range of wireless compared to vinyl or wood walls. For that I appologize.
Are there any windows nearby? If you can get a path from motion detector to transceiver through a window instead of brick, or through the front door unless it's steel, that should make a big difference. Also, any chance of putting the transceiver in the attic near the front door?
>

For some people that's a feature, as now you have a click when the motion sensor on the front door is activated. But I agree, if you're sensitive to it then it can be a valid issue.

Have you actually tried it at all yet in the intended use at your Dad's house?

I mean this in the nicest way too. I'd suggest that in the future, if you don't know what is meant by any terms that are unclear, just ask. We are talking wireless here and with any wireless products there are distance limitations. When I get a chance I'll test mine and see how far the wireless range is.
Worse case you can just put the X10 stuff back on Ebay and resell it.
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On Sep 20, 6:34 am, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

==
==
This may not have been clear, but it's not as much an issue of lighting the pathway as much as it's lighting the stoop. Since the stoop is set back from the street as described in one of my other posts, the fixture next to the door is sufficient. Street lights handle the walkway, but for safety and convenience the steps and door need lighting.
==

==
==
I'll have to see about windows. as far as the attic, I don't think so. It's a crawl space attic and I seriously doubt there's an outlet in there. Beside, since my parents are in their 80's, I wouldn't want to have any of these components in a spot where they could access them if there were any problems.
==

==
==
Buried somewhere in the previous thread is the issue that Dad lives 300 miles away. That is why I bought enough components to install and test the set up at my house first.
==

==
==
Which I did when I didn't understand what you meant by "controller". However, the specs for the sensors said the range was 100' with no mention of walls being an issue. When you said "nearby" and "not too far", I had no reason to question what that meant. Instead of asking, I went and looked up the distance specs.
==

==
Agreed, which is why I went looking for the specs for the devices. Unfortunately, as I now know, the published specs are a load of crap.

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On Sat, 18 Sep 2010 21:20:04 -0700, RickH wrote:

I have some of those devices. They use a neutral AND pass a current through the load when off. This is true even for the modules without "local control".
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Just an quick update.
I've been playing around with the best compromise for sensor vs. receiver locations for my driveway.
The receiver is mounted on the back wall of the garage. I held the sensor up against the outside front wall of the garage where it was almost directly in line with the receiver and then pressed the test buttons. Press - Click, the lights went on, Press-Click, the lights went off. This worked multiple times.
I moved the sensor lest than 18" to the right and tested it again. Press - Click, the lights went on, Press , press, press - nothing, the lights won't turn off. I moved it back to the left about 6 inches, Press - Click the light went off. On, off, on, off, no problem.
Move it 6 inches to the right and I get On only, never any Off.
Is the Off signal weaker than the On signal? Probably not, so it must be a frequency interference issue.
I look inside the garage, and find that the spot where it won't turn the light off is right in the middle of an empty stud bay. However, the spot where it works has a king stud, some brackets for the garage door rails, etc. In other words there's more stuff in between the 2 units in the spot where it works vs where it only responds to the On command.
What's up with that?
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On Fri, 24 Sep 2010 12:59:02 -0700 (PDT), DerbyDad03

Sometimes when "on" works, but "off" doesn't, the cause is noise coming from the whatever device is being controlled. For example, florescent lights (regular or compact florescent) can create power line and/or RF noise that interferes. No noise when off, but once they turn on, they interfere thereby keeping the off from working.
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On Sep 24, 6:13 pm, snipped-for-privacy@neo.rr.com wrote:

Thanks, but I'm using standard incandescent outdoor spots and a standard incandescent bulb in a fixture.
Everything has been working fine for the last week and continues to work now that I put the sensor back to where it's been all week.
I'm sure we'll agree that the placement of the sensor 1 foot to the right isn't going to introduce noise into either fixture, so I'm guessing noise isn't the issue here.
However, I'd like some clarification on your point for future reference.
When you say "thereby keeping the off from working" do mean that the RR501 will make it's audible Click but the lights won't go off or do mean that the RR501 won't even Click.
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On Fri, 24 Sep 2010 16:14:11 -0700 (PDT), DerbyDad03

It won't even click if the noise is RF noise that prevents the RF signal from getting to the receiver. If power line noise is involved, the receiver will click (if you are using unit code for the built-in applicance module), but the x-10 power line command sent by the RF receiver will get blocked before doing it's job.
If you are only using the RR501 as a receiver with built-in appliance module, then power line noise has nothing to do with it and the audible click means it is working.
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On 9/24/2010 3:59 PM, DerbyDad03 wrote:

From experience you are fighting a loosing battle trying to make the toy store receiver work. If you want something that will pretty much work buy a better receiver. Once you install it you will wonder why you wasted and continue to waste time with the toy version because you may tinker and get it going and then there is tomorrow when it won't.
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...Vent mode on...
My simple 1 sensor, 1 receiver, 2 light system is about to be ripped out.
One light is on a 3 way switch, the other is on a single switch. The 2 switches are in the same box, but on different circuits. The receiver is plugged into a receptacle on the circuit with the 3 way.
Intermittently, the single switched light does not come on when the system is triggered by the sensor but the 2-way light always does. Intermittently, whether one light or both are on, they (or it) stay on, even after the time period set on the sensor has past. I'm pretty sure it's not a "movement" issue because the lights have gone off in windy conditions, but stay on (sometimes) under the calmest conditions.
I know that some people have said that they love this X10 stuff and operate a number of fixtures in various configurations with it, but if it's so quirky that it can't work consistently with my simple set up, I've got no need for it.
...Vent mode off...
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In wrote:

First, it definietly DOES give you a link to the proper page, which is: http://kbase.x10.com/wiki/MS16A

On that page: The specify the beam range as 20 ft at Normal incidence, less as you angle off that plane. Even shows best mountng location and height, so it activates the most reliably.
YOu're missing something someplace; check it again - scroll down to the image that has those details on them. 100 ft is for IR Tx range.
HTH,
Twayne`

Infrared is line of sight; move your module to nearer the sensor and then use the house wiring to get it to your controls, etc.. See Installation instructions.

As would be expected. Mine works perfectly - using 3 total R detectors.
I'd recommend you take these questions to the X10 forum where at least more than onr or two people are gong to know what you're talking about. You questions are all answered on the wiki or installation or product sheets.

No. Properly installed, they will dim to nothing. Somehow you have probably put them on the dmmer switch control (A4). You probably also have a switch ni the line that isn't X10; the switch shouldn't be used or should be an X10 switch.

Check with the forum; too much to explain.

Rip 'em out if you can't figure out how to use them and where best to get help with them, which is going to be X10.

Sorry; doesn't make sense to me.

Your real problem is not reading or not comprehending the installation and test sequences for these things, I think. I have a number of socket rockets, PIR sensors, modules for AV equipment, remote for AV equpment, and will be adding a couple more. This is because I am disabled and like to be able to hit "All OFF" without gong around to check that all the lights etc. are off. Got the shower room and bathroom left to put IR sensors in.
HTH,
Twayne`

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==
That's the same link I posted below.
I must have missed it, so please show me where on http://www.x10.com/products/x10_ms16a.htm it has a link to http://kbase.x10.com/wiki/MS16A

I wasn't questioning the detection range or the mounting location, I was questioning the distance that the sensor could be from the RR501 to turn it on and off. On the wiki page noted. It says:
Transmission Range 100ft.
Does that not mean that the sensor can be placed up to 100 feet from the RR501? (We know that in reality it can't be, but isn't that what that specification is supposed to indicate? If not, what does the Transmission Range of 100ft mean?

See my question above.

Exactly what I'm doing.

Other have said they do not dim to zero. There are no other switches that control those lights other than the X10 switches. There are other switches for other lights on those circuits, since they are not dedicated circuits, but no other switches for those devices. Are you saying that you can't have another switched light on the same circuit that an X10 controlled light is on? I hope not.

1 - Spot light over garage door, on the garage circuit, controlled by a X10 3 way Master switch (WS477) in the living room and an X10 3 way Companion switch (CS277) in the garage.
2 - Entry light over the entry door, on a living room circuit, controlled by a X10 single switch (WS467) in the living room.
The WS477 and WS467 are in the same box in the living room, but are on different circuits.
All three switches are set to respond to a single RR501 that is plugged into the garage circuit.
A single MS16A speaks to the RR501 in the hope that both the garage door light and entry door light will come on when someone walks up the driveway.
I don't know if this enters into the situation at all, but the circuit for the single switch entry light is part of a multi-wire (Edison) circuit. It's interesting that this is the light that doesn't always come up when the RR501 fires. The spot over the garage, which is on the same circuit as the RR501, comes on 100% of the time when the MS16A signals the RR501. The entry light, on the multi-wire circuit, comes on about 75% of the time.

I have read the instructions, I have followed the test sequences. I have gotten proper operation of the system, probably 75% of the time. However, above and beyond all that, I have gotten confirmation from members of this group as well as other sources - including an engineer at a company developing a home automation hardware/software system - that X10 is quirky and that many, many things can cause it to act strangely.

I'm glad you have got a working system

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wrote:

<<...Vent mode on...
My simple 1 sensor, 1 receiver, 2 light system is about to be ripped out.
One light is on a 3 way switch, the other is on a single switch. The 2 switches are in the same box, but on different circuits. The receiver is plugged into a receptacle on the circuit with the 3 way.
Intermittently, the single switched light does not come on when the system is triggered by the sensor but the 2-way light always does. Intermittently, whether one light or both are on, they (or it) stay on, even after the time period set on the sensor has past. I'm pretty sure it's not a "movement" issue because the lights have gone off in windy conditions, but stay on (sometimes) under the calmest conditions.
I know that some people have said that they love this X10 stuff and operate a number of fixtures in various configurations with it, but if it's so quirky that it can't work consistently with my simple set up, I've got no need for it.
...Vent mode off...>>
I don't know how I missed this when you first posted it but I did, so here's my late response.
I'm sorry that your X-10 experience was not good. Twenty years ago, you would have had few if any problems. However X-10 has barely kept up with the changes in the modern home's internal 110VAC wiring. Ironically, I would still advocate X-10 for large home installations. It's absolutely great "bang for the buck" stuff - there's nothing cheaper or more versatile - but for even the simplest installations you usually need a coupler/booster; there's just no way around it. I was just about to dump $2K plus in X-10 gear before I stumbled on the WGL transceiver and the XTB signal boosters. A light that turns on intermittently is even worse than no automation at all.
There are too many noisemakers in the modern home for a 5V X-10 signal to make it through reliably. As you've discovered X-10 can be so twitchy that it can turn light X on remotely but fail to turn it off. That's very disconcerting because it's so counterintuitive and it renders the technology unusable, for the most part. It's definitely NOT for anyone who doesn't really like to (choose any):
a) tinker with gadgets b) fuss with settings c) play with electronic doodads d) run around the house screaming WHY WON'T THE F*(KING LIGHT TURN OFF!!!?
X-10 is a challenge because there's so much more noise on the powerline these days. I've got gear (PC power supplies) that can even stop a 25V signal (noisy switching power supplies). While buying a booster pays off for big installs, it clearly doesn't make sense for a one-off situation like your dad's.
I'd recommend X-10 only in tandem with the XTB and WGL boosters for anyone wanting to automate on the cheap. You can get great stuff on Ebay that lowers you "per load" cost to well under $10. I know some people don't blink at paying over $100 for a wall switch but I'm not one of them. Look at the upside: You've gotten some hands-on experience with X-10 and learned about its capabilities. If you ever want to do a whole house in X-10 you at least know the issues you'll be facing.
And you know exactly why I recommended a stand-alone unit for the light control problem you had in the beginning. While it's a simple task for an all-in-one device, doing it with X-10 exposes you to a number of serious problems in the "stock" protocol. RF signals too weak to punch through interference and that don't deliver the claimed range and powerline signals that suffer from the same problems. Too much noise on the powerline for a stock 5V X-10 signal to penetrate. Boost that to 25+V and suddenly X-10 behaves very nicely. Once you get used to having X-10, staying in a house that has no automation is like being away from the computer. I knew in short order what a technojunkie I've become. Worse, still, you tend to push it on people who have absolutely no use for it. Until they turn on the floodlights from a bedside keyfob for the first time. Then they're like Tim Allen on Tooltime.
-- Bobby G.
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Can I assume that you are the same Bobby G. who raved about the WGL unit in Home Toys back in 2008?
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Derby, sorry to see you're having so much trouble. I also missed your earlier post, possibly because I was traveling. I agree that from what you described you are doing everything right. And what you're trying to do is exactly what the products were designed for. Some suggestions I can think of:
1 - Try putting the RR501 in a different outlet or on an outlet on another circuit.
2 - Try swapping the location of the 3way master and slave switch.
3 - As someone else suggested, try the X10 forum where there will be more people with experience that may be able to give you some suggestions.
Your question about the Edison circuit issue is interesting. It got me thinking about how X10 works just with standard service. For example, if I plug the transmitting device into a circuit on one hot leg of the 240V service and the receiver on the other hot leg, how does the signal get from one to the other? But, apparently it does. It would seem one way it would make it there is via any 240V load that was on or via an Edison circuit that was active. But failing that, I'm now scratching my head trying to figure out how it works in general.
With all the trouble you're having, I'm sorry for suggesting this as a solution. It's working for me with a motion sensor, an RR501, two single pole wall switches at locations far apart in a large house, a couple plug-in wall modules, and one of the timer/controller countertop widgets.
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