Do X10 modules degrade over time?

Hello Folks,

We have a weird phenomenon, or maybe it's normal. Older X10 appliance and dimmer modules begin to become erratic. Mostly they miss the switch off command more and more. Until some day they plain don't work. It's not signal strength or anything because I can take a (newer) module that works in another location to that outlet and it's just fine.

The modules that fail are about 5 years old. Took a few apart and one was definitely shot (the receiver input was shorted inside the IC). I couldn't find anything wrong with the others except for really sluggish response of the 120kHz LC circuit when turning its core. More sluggish than on newer modules (I always align them because I found lots of them to be way off).

So, is it normal that they slowly die?

Reply to
Joerg
Loading thread data ...

Not really. I have some modules that are over 20 years old still working fine. Your problem could be increased line noise from more and newer devices.

Joerg wrote:

Reply to
bruceR

Had a similar experience with a powerlinc (serial). Started missing more and more until eventually it was neither receiving nor successfully sending signals. My transceivers were working fine, and I swapped out the powerlinc with another one and all was fine... so it definitely is not a noise related issue at least in my case...(i thought it was at first, believe me, i tore my house apart trying to figure out why the powerlinc was having issues)

so it definitely did degrade over time until eventually it stopped responding/sending...given that it's a solid state device, i have no idea what would cause that....

Reply to
random735

The age of the OP's X10 devices corresponds approximately to a spate of electrolytic capacitors (which dry up and otherwise age even under the best of circumstances and original construction) made with faulty electrolyte. "Entire newsgroups have sprung up on the Internet to deal with the problem."

formatting link
formatting link
... Marc Marc_F_Hult
formatting link

Reply to
Marc_F_Hult

That's pretty much my situation. Plugged in a new device and everything worked again.

Marc mentioned bad electrolytics. I did check some failed modules for that and found no problem. Most of the affected electrolytics were the big ones on PC motherboards and in larger power supplies. What I did notice was a change in behavior of the resonant circuit and this could possibly indicate damage within the chip. A fried or partially fried first stage maybe. One IC was actually completely dead. Usually ICs do not deteriorate but either work or die abruptly. However, I have seen some ICs in my professional life that did change their performance. Often because of electromigration caused by undersized interconnects on the chip.

Reply to
Joerg

Hello Bruce,

That could be the case. Our power grid here isn't the most stellar. But I haven't seen anything else degrade. Only these X10 modules and only the ones that are plugged in. Dimmer modules that replaced light switches are all fine and consistent. Some are in the same box as the power outlets that failing lamp or appliance modules were plugged into. IOW on the very same physical node so they should receive the same signal strength and noise.

Reply to
Joerg

You'd think...

Whatever is going on re. X-10, I'd strongly recommend whole-house surge protection. I quite like the Delta LA line in the main and any/all sub- panels. (IIRC, LA-302R is what I used). But I also have scattered MOVs all around (three in each spot, hot-neutral, hot-ground, neutral-ground).

Contrary to popular opinion, not all powerline problems originate outside and come inside via the main panel. Check out the sag when your central A.C. compressor starts up on a hot day. Or the spike of inductive kick when it (or any motor) turns off.

And of course, make certain your panel electrical connections are solid. Especially neutral and ground.

sdb

Reply to
sylvan butler

[]

Right. Which begs the question of whether the failures might be caused by hot-to-neutral/ground differentials with grounded modules that (eg) WS467 X-10 dimmers don't experience directly because they are connected to ground only through the filament of the lamps.

I have suffered significant damage to electronic equipment in my house through what the engineer who designed the whole-house surge-protection installed by my utility company at the meter outside told me was consistent with lightning ground strikes. In any case, a device that is floating (like an in-line dimmer) may not see voltage differentials that a device connected to ground (like a grounded module) would see. Joerg can tell us whether this fits his physical situation and device deployment.

... Marc Marc_F_Hult

formatting link

Reply to
Marc_F_Hult

Hello Marc,

I re-tighten these regularly. Especially since the cables to the sub-panels are Al. And yes, we do have spikes but not really tough ones. We don't run the A/C often, in most years not at all. The wee spikes from vacuum cleaners are something I'd expect well-design equipment to handle. But that's where I have my doubts.

The wall switch dimmers I could understand but this wouldn't explain why the built-in wall switch modules survive (the white dual-outlet variety). Those are connected to both hot and neutral.

FWIW, yesterday we had another lamp module croak. Oh man. Sometimes I wish I had never had the idea of installing X-10. Now my wife has gotten used to the comfort it provides but the stuff keeps failing. From what I have read some of the Pro version modules probably aren't different in circuitry so I guess that wouldn't help. My impression is that five years may be some kind of expiration time frame for these modules. Or to say it a bit arrogantly, maybe I ought to be designing my own, something I'd really hate to do just for 15-20 units.

Reply to
Joerg

We've been using X10 for almost 30 years. Yes, we have had some failures over the years. The wipers on the early thumbwheel switches often had to be repaired. Over the years we lost an occasional lamp module triac due to a "flashbulb" lamp failure. A switched outlet broke the little plastic lever. And I recall one module with an unidentified failure. Perhaps a dozen total failures, half of them the early BSR module wipers. Most were easily repaired and put back in service. I don't recall any real X10 wall switch failures, although I did swap one out perhaps 10 years ago. The replacement also was intermittent, and the problem was eventually solved with a Leviton

6201 repeater.

Considering how cheap the X10 modules are, they have been remarkably reliable. Even those old brown BSR modules are put back in service every year for Christmas decorations.

I do remember a post of yours saying you re-tune all your X10 modules. Since your failure rate seems to be much higher than what most others report, could that possibly be a factor?

Jeff

Reply to
Jeff Volp

Hello Jeff,

I haven't been so lucky. Also, some modules such as the RF transceiver module seem to be quite marginal in other things. The plastic is significantly discoloring where the dump resistor is located.

Probably not. I found some modules being way off, sometimes the core was "tightened" all the way in as if it were a screw. Adjusting them has made them work at the far end of the house.

Reply to
Joerg

Cabling-Design.com Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.