Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?

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There is no doubt in my mind that z-wave is superior to x-10 but x-10's
advantage is cost. Even with the extended x-10's protocol, it still falls
short for complex applications. In my situation, I have a few x-10 recievers
controlling a few lamps around the home. I basically use it to turn on/off
lights in the room I'm in. I don't have a need for pre-set lighting moods
(complete with the hide-away bar that appears with Burt Bacharach music that
starts to play.) I really don't see a need for lighting computer interface
for how I currently use the system. My house is basically square with one
floor at about 1800 sf. My real motivation is to perpetuate my couch-potato
lifestyle by not needing to budge from the chair to operate room lighting or
to turn-off lights in another room. I'm now getting ready to hardwire wall
switches to control ceiling fans and lights along with some lights for the
pool area.

What I'm asking of you folks here is a justification for one or the other
based on how I use wireless techology. I'm not interested in entertaining
other technologies and would strongly prefer to hear about just the two.



Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
Stick with X10 and solve your signal integrity problems with Jeff Volp's
XTB-IIR.
See http://jeffvolp.home.att.net/xtb_files.htm


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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
Is there any reason for this product over, for example, Leviton's HCA02-10E
Amplifier/Coupler/Repeater?

Tom

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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
Yes, the XTB-IIR works extremely well providing a signal boost of up to
20 volts while the HCA02-10E does not work very well at all and provides
a boost of no more than 5 volts. The XTB-IIR is the ONLY
amplifier/repeater worth spending money on. I replaced two ACT repeaters
(much better than the Leviton unit) with one XTB-IIR and the performance
and reliability went to 99.9+%.

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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
As I read this thread, my brain is getting full. I'm going to look at the
XTB some more. Elsewhere on this thread, mention was made of using a real
transceiver rather than the stock model. I would think that would be my
first step before the XTB. Am I correct in this thinking or am I missing
something? Since I'll be building my system a little at a time, I'll
purchase items as they are needed and can't afford everything at once.

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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
I'd go with the XTB-IIR first to remedy any powerline issues and provide
a rock solid base for signal delivery.  As for the wireless aspect,
based on the size of your house, a centrally located WGL V572 receiver
should do the trick. Total investment of about $260 will be saved by
using X10 vs ZWave switches.


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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
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outlets
on

I believe that's the case, but you would have to ask Jeff to be sure.  Some
people are just lucky in the way their house wiring is laid out and the
components they are using.  Others are not so lucky.  You seem to be pretty
lucky so far.  If your luck holds, you might be able to make use of the
stock RF transceivers.  They vary wildly in quality and range.  Some can be
retuned or have antenna augmentation surgery, and some just happen to work.

I am unclear about one thing.  Are you having intermittent trouble already?
Are there times when things won't turn on or off as they should or as they
do at other times during the day?

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off

If he's using X-10, it might be possible.  (-:  When I first installed my
XTB the signal was so strong it coupled at the pole transformer across the
street.  I assume if my neighbors were using X-10, they might experience
issues, but thanks to the mortgage crisis, I am living in a virtual ghost
town.  My non-existent neighbors don't even use electricity anymore, let
alone X-10 to control it.

Good luck!

--
Bobby G.



Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
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I also believe the two-legged version (XTB-IIR) will repeat the signal of
any transmitter it hears in the second half of the frame, on that same
phase, giving greater "bang for the buck" as IIRC, the OP has non-RF
mini-timers to contend with as well as the RF.

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Someone willing to wire a line cord to two or three PC terminals might not
want to tackle anything related to 240VAC.  I was that guy for 20 years!  I
haven't priced adding a new 240VAC outlet lately, but I assume it's not
cheap.  I bought the XTB-IIR eventually and *learned* how to add the outlet,
more or less to code.  It seems so easy once you know how to do it, but when
I had the HCA-10E running, it was hooked into the panel via Velcro and
insulated jumper cables.  That experience convinced me I was right to not
have wasted money having it professionally installed.  After buying the
plain XTBs, I realized that there was now a repeater with someone willing to
fix whatever bugs came its way that outperformed the competition by several
orders of magnitude and that my purchase would benefit a small American
business too?  So I bit the bullet, asked the questions, bought the books,
the tools, the equipment and spent far more time, $ and energy than hiring a
pro, but now I can do it again the next time with incredible ease.

I use the standalone XTB's I bought at the beginning with my own
mini-timers, Controlinc Maxis and other line transmitters to guarantee that
they can blast around any signal suckers that crept into the house.  Not
sure how the second frame looks, with the two 25+V signals on the line at
the same time, but perhaps that's why I can hear the X-10 signal buzzing
faintly from the remote chime module when I plug it in nearby.  (-: Sounds
like little bumble bees and different commands have clearly differnt "zzzzt
zzzzt zzzzt" patterns. I have nothing that would tell me how many volts in
the combined signal unless I recalibrate or attenuate the sensitivity of my
meters.  That's another question for Jeff to answer . . .  What happens when
an XTB signal is repeated by an XTBIIR?  What are the voltage levels for the
first and second (repeated) frames?

--
Bobby G.




Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?

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Good question.  Actually I have that situation here all the time.  When I'm
testing XTBs in my lab, my "home" XTB-IIR does participate too.  Since the
120KHz is created locally at each transmitter, the frequencies will differ
slightly.  The actual voltage at any given point is the vector sum of both
signals.  The original transmitter will obviously dominate the local
circuit.  Since the XTB-IIR should have the lowest impedance coupling to the
distribution panel, its signal should dominate for the remainder of the
home.

For the techies out there - it is feasible for null points to exist where
the two signals will exactly cancel.  However, that would mean both signals
are identically strong at that point, and are exactly opposite in 120KHz
phase throughout the transmission window.  Should such a situation occur,
remember the first half of the X10 signal is not repeated.  That would be
the same strength as that received from the XTB-IIR at that node, and the
receiving module should have no trouble responding to that first half of the
command.

Jeff



Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?

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I'm
the

I hooked up the Monterey PLSA behind an AF120 15A filter and got some
interesting readings.  The WGL received an RF command and put it through a
TW523 onto the house wiring.  The Monterey showed normal commands being
received (at .15 volts, even behind the filter!) with one exception:  The
display showed them all in lower case, which means it only saw the second,
repeated half of the command.  That makes perfect sense.  The II is stronger
than the original XTB and the XTB/TW523 combo was on another circuit.  Only
the repeated signal could punch through the filter, as would be expected.

The next test is to see whether the WGL's TW-523 alone gives the same
readings.  If it's higher without the XTB, then there's cancellation going
on.  If it's higher *with* the XTB then the two signals are combining.
IIRC, the IIR alone can't punch through the AF120.  The fact that is does so
when it's amplifying an already boosted signal from the XTB seems to
indicate that the end voltage of an XTB that's repeated by the XTB-IIR is
considerably higher than either unit alone.

I tried doing some "signal dissect" runs where the Monterey looks at each of
the 22 cycles and records 0's and 1's and their voltage during each cycle
and that gave me information that seems to imply cancellation is occurring.

Cycle
01        1    .42      1  .43
02        1    .39      0  03m
03        0    02m    1   .42
04        1    .38      0   03m
05        1    .38      0   02m
06        0    02m    1    .41
07        0    02m    1    .41
08        0    02m    1    .41
09        1    .37      0    03m
10        1    .37      0    03m
11        1    .38      0    02m
12        1    .25      1    .24
13        1    .22      0    03m
14        0    03m    1    .22
15        1    .21      0    03m
16        1    .20      0    03m
17        0    03m    1    .20
18        0    02m    1    .19
19        0    02m    1    .19
20        1    .18      0    03m
21        1    .18      0    02m
22        1    .17      0    03m

Now that I've transcribed that lengthy list two things seem to jump out.
First, the noise level is very low, probably the result of the Monterey
sitting behind the AF120 filter.  The second is that the repeated frame is
seems to be actually weaker than the first copy of the X-10 command.

Obviously I need to run more tests with both the XTB and the XTB-IIR but it
looks like we're seeing some fade in the voltage as the command progresses.
Looks fairly linear, too.

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signals
the

I didn't expect there to be any trouble.  I've been operating a number of
ControlLinc Maxi's, MiniTimers and TW523's through XTB's and then through
the XTB-IIR that's installed at the circuit breaker panel without any
noticeable problems.  The very faint X-10 signal noise I can hear if a chime
module's plugged in too close to the XTB isn't really a problem - it makes
me wonder if the human brain could distinguish the different commands if
they were a little louder.

Anyway, I'll take some more measurements when I get a chance.  The next
thing I want to see is whether the XTB-IIR can punch a signal through the
AF120 when it's not boosting an XTB signal.

--
Bobby G.




Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
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Since the XTB-IIR power supply is not regulated, it will droop as the
transmitter is pulling current from the 4700uF energy storage capacitor.
(The TW523 has 470uF.)

Measurements here show about 5% droop over a single transmission.  (You can
see that in the Hometoys workbench photo.)  The droop does depend on how
nasty a load is being driven.  More current will be pulled from the supply
when driving a heavy load, which will cause more droop.  Sustained
transmission into a 4.8 ohm resistive load will result in about 30% droop
(and a very hot load resistor.)  The version 1.2 board supports a full-wave
bridge power supply, which has slightly better regulation.  The total energy
delivered is about the same, but there is less change in burst amplitude
over the transmission.  That was first incorporated into the 3-phase unit,
but it will be ported over to 2-phase unit when the new transformers arrive.

While I’m not quite sure how the measurements were made, I suspect that you
had a XTB driving the same phase that the Monterey was monitoring.  I would
expect that to be a stronger signal than when the XTB-IIR is driving both
phases, especially if the opposite phase contains more “signal suckers”.  In
any case, that is a pretty respectable signal being punched through that
filter.

Jeff



Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
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It is unusual for all of a residence to be on a single phase.  If the house
has any 240V receptacles - for a dryer or stove - then it is supplied with
120/240V split phase.  Back in the early days of X10, most smaller homes
didn't even need signal couplers.  There were virtually no "signal suckers",
so even the relatively small amount of signal that coupled through the
utility transformer was adequate to drive modules on the opposite phase.
Such a situation is relatively rare today, but you may have an installation
where your worst "signal suckers" are on the driven phase so the little
signal that makes it to the opposite phase is not further attenuated.

While optimum performance is obtained with the XTB-IIR near the distribution
panel where it can directly drive both phases, it is certainly possible to
install it anywhere in the home.  A number of people have wired it to a
dryer plug.  That will also drive both phases, and there will not be too
much signal lost if the run to the main distribution panel is relatively
short.  The XTB-IIR can certainly be plugged into just a single phase.  If
you do have all your X10 devices on one phase as we do here, then it isn't
even necessary to include a passive coupler to propagate its strong signal
over to the opposite phase.  Because X10 signal strengths decrease as they
move away from any X10 transmitter, the closer the XTB-IIR is to the main
distribution panel, the stronger signals will be throughout the entire home.

Jeff



Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
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HCA02-10E
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There's almost *every* reason.  (-:

I own both.  The XTB just works and works but the HCA02-10E locked up nearly
once a week.  The XTB outputs a repeated signal at 25+V and the HCAr
somewhere around 5V.  That alone blows the doors off the Leviton product
since the XTB signal can overcome lots more noise and signal sucking than
the much weaker output of the Leviton HCA.  Lots of other features too,
including Jeff Volp's technical support for the product.

After about three weeks of resetting the HCA (when it locked up, NONE of the
lights in the house would work!  VERY low SAF) I put it in the junk box.
Make me an offer.  (-:  Check out my recent review of the XTB at:

http://www.hometoys.com/ezine/08.04/green/xtb.htm

--
Bobby G.



Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
I read both of your reviews. They answered quite a few questions and
addressed several concerns. Right now, all my modules work anywhere in the
house (when conditions are ideal) which makes me assume that all the outlets
are on the same leg such that coupling between the two legs isn't
necessary - is this a correct assumption? Assuming that the house is all on
one leg, could I not install, using a standard wall plug and outlet, the
XTB-IIR anywhere in the house?

The articles are a big help in allaying my fears of coughing big bucks for
hard-wired switches and the like. I've had some problems with them in the
past but lacked a real understanding of causes of failures. Thanks for
replying and the articles. I wish the signal was strong enough to switch off
my neighbor's terrawatt floodlight system off at night.

Tom

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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
Tom, your house uses two legs, 110 volts each and is balanced between
the two. In your breaker panel the breakers are A-B-A-B... going down
each row of breakers. The best place for the XTB-IIR is at the panel but
any location wired for 220 will do.

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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
I might be mistaken, but I think he was trying to say that all of the X-10
gear he's controlling might be on one leg of the two phases probably
supplying his house.  If that's the case, I am not sure what happens with
the XTB and if it can be installed with a 110VAC line cord to only drive one
phase as a repeater without the coupler function.

 I believe I discussed such a situation with Jeff and that it can be done.
Some people don't have 240VAC outlets or they can't add anything to their
circuit box.  I hope Jeff will arrive soon to clarify, but he's down in the
XTB lair soldering away, last I heard.  I'll drop him a note.

--
Bobby G.

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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
For driving just one leg he could use the basic XTB with the WGL
wireless receiver plugged into it. However, he'd be better off for
future expansion with the two legged version as he's bound to use both
legs eventually. Even with a full panel an XTB-IIR can be piggybacked
onto existing breakers. Most panels will accept double half size
breakers on the bottom 3 or 4 positions on both sides so a couple of
full sized ones can be replaced and provide a dedicated breaker from
each leg.


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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
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Good advice.  Since you're into wireless, I'd add a good RF transceiver to
the XTB as well because the stock X-10 RF units have abysmal range compared
to something like WGL's line of gear. You can read my review of the XTB
here:

http://www.hometoys.com/ezine/08.04/green/xtb.htm

and the VS572 here:

http://www.hometoys.com/ezine/08.06/green/wgl.htm

While Z-Wave may eventually "conquer the world" there are still a lot more
control options available in the X-10 world, from remotes to sensors to
whatever and at far lower prices than you'll pay for Z-wave gear.  It's not
immune to problems, either:

http://www.google.com/search?q=zwave+problems

and it's proprietary.  In one way it's quite inferior to X10.  Z-Wave is
*only* RF whereas X-10 has three types of control signal technologies:
RF-PLC, IR-PLC and PLC-PLC.  If EMI ever got so high aroudn here it blocked
X-10 RF signals, I could still control most of my gear via the powerline or
a handheld IR controller.  IIRC, Z-Wave uses the license-exempt 900MHz ISM
band.  EMI only seems to be growing, so how or if it will effect either
protocol's RF transmissions remains to be seen.  Lots of people are happy
with it but lots of people also didn't know how easy it was to turbocharge
an X-10 setup with XTB and WGL gear.

There's no denying that ZWave or something like it will be the future of HA.
In the meantime, as competition increases, prices for Zwave gear will fall
and device quality and variety will improve.  Since I am now in a position
to wait it out to see who survives, I will stick with X-10.  I'm hoping that
a open standards platform is the ultimate winner, but it may not turn out
that way.

--
Bobby G.

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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
I hadn't thought about the transceiver but that does make sense given what I
know about the stock unit. I'm doing integration piecmeal... can't afford to
it all at once. I plan to add a few wired switches at watch to see what
problems I run into. I'm just using modules right now and have had little or
not problems other than two different types of controllers that worked
poorly from day one. I have two other controllers that have never yielded a
single problem in the 7 years I had everything. So, the question is, as I
start to encounter problems, which would be the first step - the transceiver
or the amp? I'm assuming the transceiver but I might be missing something.


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Re: Justify Upgrade from X-10 to Z-Wave?
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I
to
or

Which controllers have you had trouble with?

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Conversely, what model/type controller has been successful for you?  It
would help to know details.

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transceiver

If installing the XTB-IIR across both phases is not a problem for you (and I
am assuming it's not because you were talking about the simililarly
installed HCA) then that's where I would start.  The WGL unit plugs directly
into the XTB's digital jack, so you can save yourself a few bucks (20 I
think) by buying the more stripped down WGL All Housecode transceiver
without the powerline interface.

--
Bobby G.




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