Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming

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Anyone know of a mod to make an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming?  If not,
does anyone have any suggestions on how to accomplish it?  I have lots of
extra modules to experiment on, and it would seem that there's a control
line that tells the triac how much to "chop" that could be modded to always
run full tilt.  That way, a brighten or dim command wouldn't affect them.

I found the schematic at Dr. C's site:

http://www.edcheung.com/automa/lm465.gif

He also did some work attempting to make the switch smarter

http://www.edcheung.com/automa/iwsp.htm

by dropping in his own PIC, but was overtaken by events and commercial units
becoming available that did what he wanted.

It looks like the triac, BTA10-400C, gets controlled by pins 6 and 8 of the
78561 microcontroller.  The trick is to make it deaf to only bright and dim,
not on and off.


--
Bobby G.




Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming

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As opposed to just using an appliance module?


Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
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Yes, for quite a few reasons.

1) Most importantly they do not clack

2) I have about 40 of them doing nothing that I would like to put in service

3) they can be used for some CFL's as long as they aren't dimmed

4) I seem to have less of a flashing and phantom restart problem using them
with CFL's.

5) They respond to ALL LIGHTS ON and OFF, appliance modules don't


--
Bobby G.





Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
The instructions for the mod you seek can be found here:
http://www.idobartana.com/hakb /
Scroll down on the left to "Lamp Modules" and the sub heading "Making a
Silent Appliance Module" and start warming up your soldering iron!

Ido's site is THE repository for X10 mods!

 Robert Green wrote:
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Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
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Thanks!  I saw that and it's close but no ceegar.  One of the reasons to do
this is so that lamps CAN respond to all lights on and off.  I suppose in
the spirit of "Thomas Edison" whose strategy was often "try anything you can
think of" I'll try cutting the control lines from the PIC to the triac to
see what happens.  I had hoped to avoid using virtual housecodes as Jeff
suggested to filter the dim and bright commands.  It just seemed to me that
the bright and dim control circuit paths might be separate enough from the
on off circuitry that one could be neutered without affecting the other.  It
would take a far smarter person than I to determine where to snip based on
circuit analysis, even with Mr. Bloom's helpful schematic.  However, reading
through Ido's explanation of his mods, I've got a few more clues as to how
the module operates.

--
Bobby G.




Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
ROBERT_GREEN1963@YAH00.COM (Robert Green) writes:
| > The instructions for the mod you seek can be found here:
| > http://www.idobartana.com/hakb /
| > Scroll down on the left to "Lamp Modules" and the sub heading "Making a
| > Silent Appliance Module" and start warming up your soldering iron!
| >
| > Ido's site is THE repository for X10 mods!
|
| Thanks!  I saw that and it's close but no ceegar.  One of the reasons to do
| this is so that lamps CAN respond to all lights on and off.

The described modification does not affect the module's response to all
lights on.  If you actually have lamp modules that respond to all lights
off (none of mine do) it won't affect that either.

| I suppose in
| the spirit of "Thomas Edison" whose strategy was often "try anything you can
| think of" I'll try cutting the control lines from the PIC to the triac to
| see what happens.

Nothing useful will happen...

| It just seemed to me that
| the bright and dim control circuit paths might be separate enough from the
| on off circuitry that one could be neutered without affecting the other.

There is but one path.

                Dan Lanciani
                ddl@danlan.*com

Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
Dan, Robert Green and BruceR wrote:

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a
do

You're correct.  At first glance I thought he was talking about putting a
solid state relay inside an appliance module to eliminate the clack.  After
your comment, I went and tested the modules I have and while the wall
switches respond to All Lights ON/OFF, the lamp modules don't.  They only
respond to All Lights ON.  Bummer.  Well, that makes the project somewhat
less attractive.  At least the All Lights ON command is more useful to me
than All Lights Off would be.  How is that the X-10 security system flashes
the house lights?  Do lights on lamp modules turn on but not off?  My memory
seems to be that all lights turned on and off, but I could easily be
mistaken.  I think it's Mad Cow disease setting in.

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can
to

Well, such is the way of the "grunt and crank" method.  I would have at
least re-discovered the local sense mod for lamp modules.  My whole premise
was based on a misunderstanding of how triacs work.  I thought they were
merely high speed electronic relays.

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the

It's become apparent that the triac can only do its magic when synched to
the zero crossing.  That became clear as I read through the modification
details.  Being a non-electrotechie, I assumed that a triac just passed
current until the trigger voltage was no longer applied, like a solid state
relay.  I also thought its other "claim to fame" was how incredibly quickly
it could switch and that tiny triggering currents could control much large
currents.  I just had hoped like the local sense problem, a simple snip
would do it.  Now it seems like the simplest mod is to extract the ZC data,
optically isolate it and then use it to inject the synchronizing signal into
the triac, assumable for it be able to reverse its polarity and pass current
flowing in the opposite direction for each half cycle of the AC line.

I've just disassembled a lamp module and it looks as though it's not as
crowded as I recall.  I have enough of these to practice on so that when the
weather turns hot, I might just attempt to undertake the modification.  I'd
still rather just clip a resistor lead to fix them but the discussion has at
least educated me as to why that's likely to have no effect.

Perhaps you could be kind enough to explain what would happen if the line to
the triac gate was high all the time.  Would it conduct only on the first
half cycle, or not at all or would the magic smoke escape?  (-:

--
Bobby G.




Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
ROBERT_GREEN1963@YAH00.COM (Robert Green) writes:

| You're correct.  At first glance I thought he was talking about putting a
| solid state relay inside an appliance module to eliminate the clack.  After
| your comment, I went and tested the modules I have and while the wall
| switches respond to All Lights ON/OFF, the lamp modules don't.  They only
| respond to All Lights ON.

Although All Lights Off was part of the original command set it was not
implemented by X10 until pretty late in the game.  I don't think most of
my cheap wall switches respond to it either.  The relay wall switches have
responded to it for a long time, though; possibly since their introduction.

| Bummer.  Well, that makes the project somewhat
| less attractive.  At least the All Lights ON command is more useful to me
| than All Lights Off would be.  How is that the X-10 security system flashes
| the house lights?

It alternates All Lights On with All Units Off.

| My whole premise
| was based on a misunderstanding of how triacs work.  I thought they were
| merely high speed electronic relays.

They are to a first approximation, but there are a lot of details that
can trip you up.

| It's become apparent that the triac can only do its magic when synched to
| the zero crossing.

You can turn a triac on any time, but unless you are dimming it is usually
best to turn it on near a zero crossing.  You can't turn it off unless
there is no current flowing.

| Perhaps you could be kind enough to explain what would happen if the line to
| the triac gate was high all the time.  Would it conduct only on the first
| half cycle, or not at all or would the magic smoke escape?  (-:

Having the gate "high" is probably not the best way to think of it.  A
triac is triggered by current flowing between gate and MT1.  There are
two possible directions for that current and two possible polarities for
the voltage between MT1 and MT2.  Together this gives you four combinations
which are commonly referred to as quadrants of operation.  (If you google
the terms you will find pictures.)  Most garden variety triacs can be
triggered in any quadrant; however, it may require more current to trigger
in some quadrants than in others.  Some triacs are designed to be triggerable
in only three of the four quadrants to reduce certain kinds of false
retriggering.  There may be more exotic variations.

Note that the requirement for the trigger current to flow between gate and
MT1 is independent of the quadrants.  I've read claims that some triacs
are symmetrical with respect to MT1 and MT2 but I wouldn't want to count
on it.

So, assuming you have satisfied the triggering polarity requirements (if
any) and you drive current between the gate and MT1 all the time, the
triac will conduct all the time.

                Dan Lanciani
                ddl@danlan.*com

Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
ROBERT_GREEN1963@YAH00.COM (Robert Green) writes:
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a
After
only
introduction.

It's a mix here.  When I get a moment I'll try to figure out which lights do
and which do not.  What's clear is a lot more units go on than go off when
using the All Lights On and Off commands.

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me
flashes


Indeed.  I'm tripping all over the place.

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to

OK - that's a point I was missing and why I thought they had to be synched
to the ZC.

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line to
first
combinations
triggerable

I'm having a hard enough time with the garden variety triac.

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I am still a bit confused about one thing.  When the AC waveform crosses
over, does current through the device drop to zero and the triac stops
conducting simply because there's no current at that point on the sine wave?
Does the triac have to be "retriggered" at that point and after each
subsequent recrossing or does it start firing again as soon as current
begins to flow again in the opposite direction?

I have another question.  When taking apart the lamp module, I noticed that
the tiny triac has an enormous aluminum heat sink.  What process generates
the high heat developed?  I know it can get pretty hot from someone
accidentally plugging a 1400W hairdryer into one.  It ran the hairdryer,
even as the case melted around all the components.  )=:

FWIW, there's an interesting looking three wheeled car called the Triac:

http://www.inhabitat.com/2008/05/20/transportation-tuesday-the-80mph-triac-g
oes-on-sale/

"The TRIAC is essentially a large, covered trike. The 20kw electric motor
can achieve a very reasonable 80mph, and will take you on travels up to 100
miles on any given charge. It takes about 6 hours for its lithium-ion
battery to recharge fully and, as with most electric vehicles, it comes with
a regenerative braking system. The package for all of this three-wheeled fun
runs about $20,000 dollars."

And the even more interesting stackable car from MIT:


--
Bobby G.




Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming


--snip--

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Precisely.


It will not conduct again until the proper amount of gate current is
applied, while there is a voltage across the device.

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Mostly, it's the voltage drop across the chunk of silicon that forms the
triac, although some of it may be due to the tiny wires that connect the
chip to the external leads.

A transistor is a three-layer device (NPN, say); a SCR is a four-layer
device (NPNP), and a triac comprises five (NPNPN or the other way
around). Interestingly, because of the way thyristors work, even though
they have more layers than transistors, the voltage drop across one when
conducting is lower.

But still, whatever that drop is, multiplied by RMS current that is
flowing, creates heat.

If you think about it, the worst case is when the device is "half on",
because the voltage drop is much larger. One reason to use a triac or
SCR instead of a transistor is because they sort of "automatically" go
through that halfway state very rapidly. Another is that the voltage
drop when conducting is lower.

Isaac

Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
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wave?
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that
generates

That explains a few things, especially why dimmers get very hot when dimming
at some levels but not others.  What I am trying to say is that the heat
output curve looks very unlike a resistive dimmer in the same circuit.

Thanks!

--
Bobby G.







Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming

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That's right. No matter how fast the device switches on, making the
transition at the peak of the half-cycle is going to take longer than
when it's near one end or the other. Hence, more heat is generated.

Isaac

Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
Oops - sorry for the truncation:

. . . And the even more interesting stackable car from MIT:

http://www.inhabitat.com/2007/11/13/transportation-tuesday-mits-stackable-ci
ty-car/

And this interesting tidbit:

"Why does a gas lantern use a silk mantle? How does it produce such intense
light -- BW, Santa Clara, CA

The mantle of a lantern is actually a ceramic ash. The silk itself burns
away completely and leaves behind only of the oxides of materials that were
incorporated in the silk mantle when it was manufactured. The principal
oxide formed when the standard Welsbach mantle is burned is thorium oxide,
with a few percent of cerium oxide and other oxides. This use of thorium
oxide or thoria, is a rare example of a radioactive element (thorium is
radioactive) permitted in common household use. Thoria glows brightly when
heated because it can tolerate extremely high temperatures without melting
and because it is a very effective emitter of thermal radiation at
temperatures of roughly 2200į C."

But wait, there's more (don't you just love research on the net - you always
learn at least three more things than the thing you were looking for.  I
found this interesting because I know we've had reports like this here.

Subject: What does it mean when the lights brighten when a motor starts?

 This usually means that the neutral wire in the panel is
 loose.  Depending on the load balance, one hot wire may end up
 being more than 110V, and the other less than 110V, with
 respect to ground.  This is a very hazardous situation - it can
 destroy your electronic equipment, possibly start fires, and in
 some situations electrocute you (ie: some US jurisdictions
 require the stove frame connected to neutral).

 If this happens, contact your electrical authority immediately
 and have them come and check out the problem.  If you say "loose
 neutral", they will come.

 Note: a brief (< 1 second) brightening is sometimes normal with
 lighting and motors on the same 220V with neutral circuit.  A
 loose main panel neutral will usually show increased brightness
 far longer than one second.  In case of doubt, get help.

OK.  Enough electrivia.  Back to reading up on triacs.

--
Bobby G.










Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
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I think that's rather out of date. Mantles have not contained
thorium for a long time (at least, not in the UK).

--
Andrew Gabriel
[email address is not usable -- followup in the newsgroup]

Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
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http://www.inhabitat.com/2007/11/13/transportation-tuesday-mits-stackable-ci
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intense
were
oxide,
when
melting

Probably not here either.  I do believe that they are still using
radioactive materials in smoke detectors, although that could be woefully
out of date information, too.  Thanks for the update.  Now I get to unlearn
a fact I learned while trying to learn other facts.  Unlike books which
usually at least have a copyright date, there's an awful lot of undated
information floating around on the net.

--
Bobby G.






Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming

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I was so perplexed by this I went looking for the powerflash module's
instructions and this fault is indeed described (sort of as a benefit) and
explained why I remembered lamp module lights flashing and ending up off.
Those were all set to the alarm's own unit code so they would turn off, but
none of the 15 other unit codes would.

What's the difference?  A blip in the PIC?  The wall switches obey ALL
LIGHTS OFF; why not the lamp modules?  I thought they shared the same
circuit design?

<<In Mode 1 the Burglar Alarm Interface will turn ON ALL lamp modules and
wall switch modules set to its Housecode and will also turn ON any other
modules set to its Unit Code, a stereo connected to an appliance module for
example. All lamp modules and wall switch modules are left in the ON state
when the alarm is de-activated but the modules set to the same Unit Code as
the Burglar Alarm Interface will be turned OFF.

In Mode 2 the Burglar Alarm Interface will FLASH all lights connected to
lamp modules or wall switch modules. All lamp and wall switch modules will
be left in the ON state when the alarm is de-activated but appliance modules
set to the same Housecode as the Burglar Alarm Interface will be turned OFF.

In Mode 3 the Burglar Alarm Interface will turn ON all modules set to the
same Housecode and Unit Code as the interface. All modules set to the same
Housecode and Unit Code as the Burglar Alarm Interface will be turned OFF
when the alarm is de-activated. Mode 3 is the same as mode 1 except that the
interface does not send the All Lights On code to turn on ALL lamp modules
and wall switch modules set to the same Housecode as the interface. >>

The worst part about it is that I am sure you've told me this before.
Probably more than once.  I plead Mad Cow.

--
Bobby G.






Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
IC pin 8 is the output that drives the triac.  The delay of that pulse with
respect to powerline zero crossings determine the brightness.  It is not
clear how they adjust the phase, but it is probably done by some sort of
timer in the IC whose count for each half cycle is a function of the dim
level.

Since older lamp modules come on at full brightness, the problem only occurs
if they are manually sent dim commands.  Either just donít do that, or put
them on their own housecode where they canít be directly accessed.  Then
have your Ocelot or HV map manual commands to only ON/OFF on that housecode.
The macro can also handle the ďALLĒ issues.

We have a bunch of lamp modules that are only used for ON/OFF control.  Most
power CFLs, but one runs our hot-water recalculation pump.  Can you imagine
CLACK - - - -CLACK every 15 minutes from an appliance module?

Jeff

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Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
FWIW, for those cases where a relay is best, Smarthome does make an
Appliance Module that they claim to be 80% quieter than the X10 one.  I
have some and they are quiet enough so that you wouldn't notice it
unless the room were very quiet and you were close to it.

 Jeff Volp wrote:
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Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming
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with
occurs
housecode.

Since we have had two seriously smokin' CFL failures that filled the house
with acrid melting plastic smoke, I am afraid to leave the "don't dim" rule
in the hands of operators or my weak HA programming skills.  Another CFL
"Burning Man" tribute would have some serious SAF repercussions.  It's just
too easy to press DIM with too many different types of controllers, from
maxi's to Palmpads to keychains when you don't mean to.  Putting all the
lights on phantom codes would make the HV or CPU-XA a central failure point
I'd rather not have given my mediocre programming skills.  It's not the end
of the world if this isn't doable, but it would be awfully nice to put the
huge box of them to use and to get rid of the clacks. I really don't want to
go the virtual housecode route, but that seems to be the only option if I
can't make the modules themselves deaf to bright and dim commands.

I believe the first test will just be to simply disconnect pin 8 from the
control line.  Hopefully it will be easy to rebridge if that turns out not
to work.  Also, hopefully, it won't incinerate itself after snipping that
line.  I guess I can trot out the old 20mm ammo box I have for containment
of explosive experiments - well, maybe just leave it on a fireproof surface
to test . . .

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Most
imagine

That would have very bad SAF.  It's good to know I'm not the only one that
wants to use lamp modules for CFL's and other uses.  I assume you're using a
virtual housecode to filter out any "bad presses" that would have resulted
in sending a DIM to the pump controller lamp module.  I really would like
the ALL LIGHTS ON/OFF command to work with CFLs.  Also, I don't know whether
it's dumb coincidence, but my N:Vision 23W flood does not relight or flash
on a lamp module but does when connected to an appliance module.  The
relighting and flashing is very bothersome.  Come to think of it, that's
probably why you have very little trouble with relighting and flashing CFL's
but I do - you're running them from lamp modules and I have been using
appliance modules.  The lightbulb over my head has just lit up!

Thanks for the input, Jeff.

--
Bobby G.





Re: Making an X-10 lamp module immune to dimming

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Whoops, that was a typo before.  Pin 8 is used for the local control.
Snipping that will only disable local control.  Pin 6 drives the triac.
That line is essential.  If snipped there will be no on/off control at all.
The dimming phase control is inside the IC.

It might be possible to extend the pulse coming out of the IC so that if
there is ANY pulse at all, the transistor will remain on through the
beginning of the next cycle so the unit will switch on right after the zero
crossing.

Jeff



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