I was describing some of my X-10 setup (installed many years ago, when X10.com was heavily promoting the stuff, and you could get tons of it REALLY cheap) to a contractor friend. He seemed very interested in knowing about it for other customers. I warned him that he probably ought to stay away from selling X-10 to customers, because it's so dicey and unreliable. I'm ok with it for my usage, but I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending it to a non-hobbyist who can't handle the fussiness and frustration.
Any recommendations as to what's a reasonably priced and reasonably reliable equivalent technology these days? Is Insteon significantly better than X-10? What else is out there?
Insteon reliability is good but it's pricey compared to X10 (and it seems to be a bmoving target with new devices being introduced to 'fix' earlier flaws. You should also look at UPB (again, pricey) and ZWave (I'm not impressed). You should also be aware of Jeff Volp's XTB devices - I haven't kept up with revisions - they boost X10 signals to about 25-30Vpp which most who've tried it say makes X10 nearly 100% reliable.
Thanks for the summary! I hadn't been aware of the XTB stuff, and it looks pretty handy for my purposes. I'll pass along the information on Insteon, UPB, and ZWave.
The reason I'm reserving judgment on XTB is that, while it ought to ensure devices turn on or off when commanded, I don't see how it would help with one of the worst X10 problems, that of devices switching on or off when NOT commanded, i.e., after having recognized a code within line noise.
Now, if devices required a stronger minimum signal -- that might mitigate the problem -- but that's not a centralizable solution such as that provided by the XTB-IIR..
I'm happy with UPB in a remodel I recently did, but I knew in advance to have all the lighting circuits placed on the same phase, along with a couple of outlets in various places for CIM access. In another house with random wiring, I have the usual noise and opposed-phase problems. I have tried the plug-in phase coupler (unsuccessful); I have yet to try a breaker box phase coupler. I haven't had false commands in either situation, just lost commands.
Powerline remains a troubled communication medium, but UPB does seem to be way ahead of X-10.
While looking into UPB, I found my way over to SmartHome again (a UPB outlet), and noticed that they seem to be pushing Insteon pretty heavily. Any consensus on it? SmartHome seems to be claiming that it's most reliable of any of the technologies, while cheaper than UPB (although more expensive than X10).
I have a friend who has it, and is happy with it. But I've also seen reviews that the modules are under-designed for the rated loads and tend to burn out. The wireless aspect makes a nice redundant communication channel.
There seem to be varying opinions on Insteon. Several folks here like it a lot. Others have posted about problems they had (some or all of which may to have been resolved). My only concern is that Insteon is a single-source product line. SmartHome makes it. No one else does. When (not if) they drop the line, no further support and no replacement products will be available. IMO, this is the most significant drawback of any proprietary technology. I sell a lot of CCTV equipment in my online store. We frequently get calls from people who have purchased integrated systems conmsisting of a monitor, recording device and several cameras. If it's proprietary and out of production, the whole system has to be scrapped when a single component fails.
Since Insteon also uses X10 (along with SH's proprietary technology) to transmit signals, a failed dimmer or switch can usually be replaced with an X10 device. It won't have any of the benefits of Insteon though. Also, when a controller fails, there will be nothing to replace it. This may not happen for several years or even for 10 years. But it is certain to happen at some point. The problem is you have no way to know whether the line will be dropped in 10 years or the day after tomorrow.
UPB and Z-Wave are supported by hundreds of manufacturers, including the many of largest firms in the electrical industry. Even Intel is getting on board with Z-Wave, claiming their next PC chips will support the technology. If any manufacturer drops the line, any other company's products will still work with your system.
Another advantage of going with a more widely supported technology is that there are far more product options available. Instead of limiting your options to whatever SH continues to make, you can choose from thousands of components from a raft of manufacturers. It gives you a bigger universe.
Though I believe I'm being fair in my comments, I'm not entirely unbiased since I sell Z-Wave and UPB based products.
Noise, per se, is seldom the reason for random switch ons. Collisions between two valid codes, spikes on the powerline (e.g. UPB data, fluorescent ballasts, motors) and brownouts (e.g. sags from motors starting) causing the microcontroller to reset are the most likely causes. The probability that random noise can create a valid Manchester code is near zero.
I sure wish I could figure out what's causing my problem, then. I've got a pair of sconce lights (CFLs) switched by an appliance module (not a dimmer module) that, just this morning, were turning on by themselves. Nothing else in the house should be generating any codes, and there are no code collisions. No other fluorescents were turned on in the house.
There's no brownout or spikes -- I've got a photovoltaic system that produces a very clean, very precise power waveform (necessary for a grid-interactive inverter).
There are no motors in our house that would be starting when the lights go on -- the only motors in the house are the vacuum cleaner (not in use) and refrigerator compressor, which is nearby, but the activity of which is NOT correlated with this behavior.
The trickle current in X10 switches and modules (including appliance modules) can cause some CFLs to turn on. Have you tried incandescents in the same fixtures? This will tell you whether it's CFL related.