Do 3-way X10 Switches Need A Load To Operate Properly?

I've got one, maybe 2, issues with a motion sensing fixture.
I have 2 of the same fixtures. One by the front door, controlled by "standard" X10 dimmer switch, i.e. not a 3-way switch. The fixture has it's own motion sensor. This fixture has been in operation for over 5 years with no problems.
The other location is near the garage door and is controlled by a 3-way X10 switch, one inside the house and one in the garage. The fixture(s) in that location have failed 3 times in the same five years. Same model, same set up other than the 3-way switching. I should note that the switches rarely even get used, other than to set the initial brightness. The motion sensors do all of the hard work.
I know the fixtures themselves are bad because once they fail, they will not work even if wired directly to the power. In one case, I jumpered around the motion sensor and the bulb lit, so something seems to be frying the motion sensor portion.
Last night I unhooked the fixture and tested the voltage coming from the 3-way switches: 87V. That didn't surprise me since I keep the fixtures slightly dimmed. What did surprise me was that I could not adjust that voltage via the X10 switches. I did not have ready access to another fixture to use as a load for the X10 switches, so my testing ended there. I plan to hook something up tonight, but I'd figured I'd post my question anyway.
So, the first question is: Do the X10 switches need a load in order to dim/undim or should I be able to see the voltage change when I hold the button?
The second question is "Is it possible that I have simply gotten 3 bad fixtures in 5 years?" (That's not really a question looking for an answer, *of course* that could have happened.)
They are not expensive fixtures, but if they are that bad, I would think that the one by the front door - which gets activated way more times than the garage fixture - would have failed by now.
https://www.lowes.com/pd/Portfolio-11-75-in-H-Brushed-Nickel-Motion-Activated-Outdoor-Wall-Light/50014166
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On Wed, 30 Nov 2016 09:50:32 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03

Are you saying the motion sensor is only being supplied with 87vac? What is the voltage range rating of the fixture? What does the manual say about using a dimmer with the fixture?
My first reaction would be that there should be no dimmer in the circuit.
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On Wed, 30 Nov 2016 18:03:32 +0000, Stormin' Norman

I was actually curious about this, so I found the manual:
http://pdf.lowes.com/installationguides/886587000066_install.pdf
It didn't have the technical information, so I called the customer service number and was told, categorically, the unit is incompatible with a dimmer and using a dimmer would dramatically shorten the life of the motion sensor, which is logical.
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Stormin' Norman posted for all of us...

I wish DD would have done this.
--
Tekkie

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On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 1:23:52 PM UTC-5, Stormin' Norman wrote:

Thank you for doing that research.
re: "dramatically shorten the life of the motion sensor"
That would be a helpful comment if one knew the normal life expectancy of the motion sensor. Shortening a 20 year life to 10 is very different than shortening a 3 year life to 1.
As I mentioned in my OP, the front door fixture has not had a problem in 5 years while being controlled by a single X10 dimmer switch. The garage fixtures have never lasted more than 18 months. They are both dimmed to the same level with the only difference being the use of two 3-way X10 switches, instead of the single switch.
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On Wed, 30 Nov 2016 12:00:43 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03

The point was, the manufacturers representative looked it up and said it was not designed, rated or intended to be used with a dimmer. In that case, why would the manufacturer test it with a dimmer just to determine how much shorter the life would be? Additionally, he also told me use of a dimmer invalidates the warranty.
They should have included all this information in the manual. Feel free to call and confirm what I told you, the number is printed in the manual.

If you wish to continue using them with a dimmer, knock yourself out. IMHO, the logical thing to do would be to eliminate the dimmer and simply use a lower power bulb.
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Good point.

Hmm. Information absent from the Lowe's site. Critical information, I would say.

DD's conundrum is an all-too familiar one with X-10. A lot of people want remotely dimmable exterior motion sensor lighting.
But X-10 was designed when there really wasn't anything in a screw-in base that didn't allow trickle current to power the X-10 device. That's clearly no longer the case.
The problem may not be curable without rewiring or sacrificing dimming. I am quite surprised his setup works at all but there are a lot of different circuits in motion detector lamps. The dimmer incompatibility issue is clearly one they are aware of. They might have even developed circuits that can work reliable from the output of a thyristor circuit.
Still, I don't see a mechanism where under-voltage will damage it. True in motors but not simple circuits like these. They should just either refuse to work or behave erratically.
--
Bobby G.



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On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 3:17:20 PM UTC-5, Stormin' Norman said something similar to this:
<snip> >

That comment was on my mind because I'm going to buy a new fixture, along with some standard 3-way switches, on the way home from work.
How the heck would the manufacturer know that the device was fried by a dimmer? I seriously doubt that they have technicians test the fixture to determine the cause of the failure before they send me a new one/issue a refund. Even if they did, could they possibly determine that it was a crappy sine wave from an X10 device that killed the MS?
That's just a random thought related to corporate responses. I'm certainly not looking for an answer to my questions.
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On Tue, 6 Dec 2016 13:02:23 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03

Must be a slow day at work..... ;-)
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And that's 87 vac with a chopped waveform that can interact badly (or at least oddly) with the switched power supply that's very likely in the floodlight fixture to power the motion sensing circuitry.

"Not for use with dimmer switched circuits?" (-:
Seriously, scroll down to the ratings and reviews and the unti gets just 37% approval with the lead comments being "Poor quality . . . total junk . . . stopped working after a month" etc.
Nothing I could find about any warning but I do recall buying similar items that said "not for use on dimmer circuits."

After reading the reviews it's I think the items are dying from inherent vice. But if it's been extensively dimmed and the other fixture hasn't, there's food for thought about that being the cause. Still, I would expect underpowering a unit to cause flaky performance and not premature system failure.
--
Bobby G.



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On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 12:50:37 PM UTC-5, DerbyDad03 wrote:

I think the general answer is that many of those types of devices need a load to function correctly. The key is if they require a neutral or not. With a neutral, they can be powered with no load at all. Without, they rely on the load to complete the circuit and power the X10 or similar electronics.
I believe code may now require a neutral in switch boxes? Not sure on that, but it would be a good idea going forward. Problem with all that X10 stuff is that it's not great quality, I don't think anyone is putting out any new, improved stuff, etc. I had a case where an X10 module worked perfectly for a couple years, then just stopped working. That module would work at other outlets, but not where it was. Nothing had apparently changed, no new electronic devices, anything to account for it. I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out and could not get it to work again. My approach now to X10 is if you have a simple app and can try it out for a few bucks it's OK. But I would not use it for a whole house automation system, anything critical, anything where you want a future, etc.
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On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 1:11:03 PM UTC-5, trader_4 wrote:

I am certainly familiar with the flakiness of X10 components. In this case, all I am using are X10 switches wired in as you would any normal switch. There are no control modules or X10 motion sensors or any of the stuff that usually causes issues. The switches were used mainly to take advantage of the dimming feature which is not a necessity, just nice to have. I may just get rid of them and eliminate that variable.
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On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 2:52:44 PM UTC-5, DerbyDad03 wrote:

An X10 switch can be wired in like a "normal switch", but it's not a normal switch. It has electronics in it that need to be powered up, ie a powerline receiver and SCR that acts as the switch. It needs a load like a lamp to complete the circuit for it to work.
But I agree with SN, I wasn't paying attention to the rest of it. Any fixture that has a motion sensor in it or other electronics of it's own, isn't likely to want to work with a dimmer.

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On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 3:41:58 PM UTC-5, trader_4 wrote:

That's not what I meant. I know that X10 switches are not "normal switches". I mentioned the switch wiring only in response to your comments about "modules at other outlets" to point out that there are no appliance modules or other X10 components in use. Just the switches wired directly to the fixtures.

This is getting to be fun. ;-)
You say it needs a load. Pat says it doesn't. Robert says it depends on the wiring.
Well, that just about covers it from all sides. ;-)

And yet, I'm going on 5 years with one fixture on an X10 dimmer and get about 18 months on average in the second location, also on a X10 dimmer.
In any case, I will be removing them and we'll see what happens, but you'll have to wait a year or so before we really know.
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On Wed, 30 Nov 2016 13:28:54 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03

I don't know about everyone else, but I will be waiting with bated breath to learn if your problem has been solved........
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<stuff snipped>

Now you're just baiting him . . . (0:
--
Bobby G.



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On Thu, 1 Dec 2016 16:14:33 -0500, "Robert Green"

DD is a big boy and he can take a little razzing, he gives as good as he gets. But, yeah, a little..... ;-)
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On Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 6:17:33 PM UTC-5, Stormin' Norman wrote:

Sorry, I don't have time to respond. I have a counseling session tonight because you guys keep bullying me.
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DerbyDad03 pretended :

I'm glad that all that baiting has abated.
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On Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 8:16:58 PM UTC-5, FromTheRafters wrote:

Now I'm on the hook to fix my lights.
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