If the reason you're switching from X10 is for signal reliability let me suggest that you try one of Jeff Volp's XTB-IIR units first. It is a truly amazing device that is far better than any repeater/booster/coupler solution you may have tried. I switched to Insteon before the XTB-IIR came out but I still put one in and run some X10 devices with it. In my new second home I'm putting in all the X10 stuff I took out along with an XTB-IIR and I don't expect any problems.
The new technologies are nice but a bit cumbersome to manage and n> I have a remote wall switch that controls an outlet that I plug a
You've discovered part of the reason why it is a violation of the US National Electrical code (NEC) code to use a dimmer to control a wall outlet ;-)
One code-compliant solution is to use a switch (not a dimmer) on the wall. With INSTEON, you can use a dimmer on the wall (which may or may not have any load hardwired to it) 'linked' over the powerline to a lamplinc at the outlet. This works great in my experience, solves your vacuum cleaner problem and is code compliant.
In our library, I have a floor lamp controlled by a LampLinc that is programmed to dim along with the ceiling fixtures. INSTEON makes these sorts of linkages practical. (Z-wave may also -- I dunno).
HTH ... Marc
Visit my ongoing Home Automation and Electronics Internet Porch Sale at
Agreed! I've been so impressed by the increase in reliability that I wrote a review of the XTB's for HomeToys (shameless self-promotional link):
That's a very important point to consider and something I mentioned in detail in the review. With the addition of the XTBs, controllers like HomeVision, Stargate and the Ocelot benefit greatly. I had been unable to use my Ocelot (actually, the older CPU-XA) successfully up until now because of signal strength issues. With the XTB-IIR, my whole house controller really does control the whole house. It's quite a pleasant change to have things "just work." I also have to add that unlike my Leviton repeater, I've had no lock ups, no phantoms signals or repeater storms.
I also bought two used HomeVision controllers since they'll now be able to reach all devices on both phases, something that was impossible for me before the XTB-IIR. In some ways, I am torn between spreading the word about the XTB and scarfing up all the good deals to be had by people switching over to more expensive (and in my opinion, far less capable) protocols to gain greater reliability.
The truth is that I had been very reluctant to install even Jeff's repeater because of the bad experience I had with the Leviton. However, after running the XTB-IIR for two months, the only problems I've experienced were unrelated to Jeff's unit. It turns out that one of my shoplites, which had passed my testing with the Monterey for noise and signal sucking, began emitting noise as strong as 2 volts in the X-10 range when one of the bulbs began to darken at the end and started flickering. Since then, I've bought more filters and am busy making sure any fluorescent fixture is behind an X-10 filter.
As for the OP's issue about accidentally plugging a vacuum cleaner into a dimmer (been there, done that!) my only suggestion is to make sure that there's always an undimmed outlet available right next to the dimmed outlet so that no one is tempted to unplug the lamp to vacuum. There are also child protective outlet plates that have "plug locks" to make the unplugging of the lamp an action which requires significantly more hand action to remove than a normal plug.
I have a outlet strip plugged into my XTB so that I can run several X-10 loads through it for amplification. I again used childproof outlet covers (little plastic doohickeys that plug into a standard outlet and require fingernails to remove) to cover the empty outlet holes. I've written "X-10" only on the covers to help remind me that I should not plug a vacuum cleaner into the free outlets. I've done the same on the UPS's ever since our former cleaning lady plugging a vacuum cleaner into a 200VA unit and all the magic smoke escaped. (-:
I don't think there's any way to prevent plugging a vacuum cleaner into a dimmer unless you made the outlets and plugs incompatible. An easy way to do that with a lamp outlet is to replace it with an ungrounded outlet and to make sure that the vacuum cleaner has a grounded plug. That way, you couldn't accidentally plug the three-pronged vacuum cleaner cord into the two pronged lamp outlet without a three-wire adapter plug. That's pretty easy to do with plug-in lamp dimmer modules, because (IIRC) the X-10 versions are all two pin devices. That's not a complete solution, though, because more and more heavy duty appliances are double-insulated and do not use a three-pronged grounded plug.
As Marc has noted, it's precisely this situation that makes dimmer controlled outlets "against code." It's just too easy to make a mistake and plug in a motorized device, often with serious consequences.
Just so that we are clear, IMO this suggestion is _also_ a violation of the US National Electrical Code (NEC) .
(But don't take your NEC advice from a geologist! ;-)
That way, you
Specifically supplying 'dimmed' power to a standard Edison AC power outlet (eg "duplex" ; NEMA 5-15) is, in this geologist's opinion, a violation of the National Electrical Code (NEC) 110-3(B) and 404.14(E) (and maybe others)
Lutron makes an specialized connector set (eg NTR-15-HFDU outlet and RP-FDU-10 plug ) that has UL listing for dimming, but ABIK it is only UL- listed for use with Lutron dimmers -- of course ! ;-)
These dimmers may very well also "make smoke" when used with the inductive load presented by a vacuum-cleaner motor.
HTH ... Marc
Visit my ongoing Home Automation and Electronics Internet Porch Sale at
It's also not a very good solution for the reasons I noted, mainly that plenty of seriously "dangerous to dimmer" loads come with an ungrounded outlet. I offer it only as stopgap and as being marginally safer than the current situation of the OP. It's akin to the little protection X-10 provides against plugging in non-lamp loads into dimmer modules. It may be for him that the only dangerous load likely to be plugged in *is* his vacuum cleaner and eliminating that threat eliminates 96% of the problem.
But you're absolutely correct in pointing out that it's not codeworthy to downgrade a grounded outlet to a two pin device. The only way to be absolutely sure is to use a specially keyed plug and outlet that will allow nothing but the dimmed device to be plugged into the dimming outlet. X-10 "avoids" this problem in two ways with their modules. First, they use a bright red label at the device outlet that says "Lamps Only" and the second is two make their lamp modules all two pin, at least AFAIK. For me, both the red label and the two pin outlet actually do serve as a good reminder to use lamps only,
And even if it's not against code, it's certainly NOT a good idea to do so, as many melted dimmers can probably vouch for. (-: The problem, of course, is that many, many houses have been wired so that a wall switch controls an outlet, and when upgraded to nearly *any* kind of wall-box dimmer, such wiring becomes a potential hazard. I'll bet a lot of wall switch dimmers are controlling switched outlets. )-:
However, it sounds like the connectors might be used, unlisted, with the OP's X-10 setup. All that's really required is to insure that the lamp plug and outlet are not compatible with normal AC sockets. I've seen some specially-keyed 110VAC outlets that might work (they had curved prongs and receptacles) and if I get a moment, I'll try searching them out.
Since you've got a lot of dimmer experience this might be a good time to ask what's involved, technically, with building a "wrong load" protection circuit into a dimmer, to get back to the OP's original subject? We know that excessive heat is a product of plugging in the wrong load, but surely there must be some other way to detect a non-resistive load other than self-immolation!
John, Please understand that I am not trying to sell anything either - I have nothing to sell. I do not sell any HA products and I get no commission or discounts from Jeff Volp in recommending his product. I recommended it here because it's a heck of a lot cheaper to buy one XTB-IIR than replace a housefull of switches and modules and, from my personal experience, it may very well solve his problems. I think that there is a difference between recommending a product from personal experience and "trying to sell" something. Don't you?
ACT made a TK134 wall mounted transmitter which could send off/on/ bright/dim (+ more). You could remove your existing wall switch and wire the duplex always on. Then install something like a TK134 in the place of your current wall switch, and install a plug-in lamp module at the now always hot receptacle. You would need a neutral at the wall switch for this to work.
Peter I don't think anyone really answered your question. The easy answer is NO. Even if you went to a 1000 watt dimmer, the starting surge of a vacuum would likely blow the triac in the dimmer. And as other posters have noted dimmers only play nice with incandescent bulbs. Maybe you should simply put a label on the outlet so the housekeeper won't plug the Dyson in those outlets.
Good idea. I've been considering the same potential problem in my home. We have a number of lamp outlets for lamps which I'd like to control with Z-Wave dimmers. The problem is the maid might use them for the vacuum. I have a solution that will work for me at least. I will bring back a few plugs and outlets this winter when I come back from Brazil. They use the same spacing but instead of spades they use round posts. I'll swap out the outlets and the plugs on the lamps so they and they only will fit in the dimmed outlets. Unfortunately, there's no way to split a duplex outlet and leave one side (non-dimmed) Edison style and the other (dimmed) Brazilian.
What I've done is use a lamp module at the outlet and a Leviton 16400 wall controller at the former switch location. The outlet remains powered all the time and the lamp module is controlled by the wall controller. Depending on faceplate selection, other units can be controlled as well.
Also consider jamming childproofing plugs into them.
Then just make it clear which outlets NOT to use. For me it was a simple matter of asking ours not to unplug anything. That and rearranging a few things to leave open outlets best suited for ease of running the vacuum. Seems to have worked. But if you've got a 'service' that has many different employees then it's still going to be a hassle. I've always preferred to use individuals. Sometimes the cost is higher but it's nice actually getting to know them over time.
And if you don't want the hassles of X-10 then there's always Lutron's RadioRA tabletop dimmer. I've got a half-dozen of them around the house and they work quite well, every time, with no delays.
Search for RA-3LD (the current model) or RA-300TL and RALV-300TL, the previous ones. I've even got one handling dimmable CFLs (without buzzing either). And available in custom colors to match your decor needs.
Not cheap, but rock-solid reliable.
Unfortunately they never decided to make an in-wall appliance outlet, or an appliance-only wall plug-in. At some point I'd like to consider z-wave or one of the other new solutions to address this. Since everything funnels through an automation PC it's no big deal to mix-and-match.
Those are a given since we frequently care for my baby god-daughter. :^)
That would be effective if the maid actually listened.
In the US we have one woman who comes in. She's great but not exactly the brightest bulb on the tree. In Brazil we have a girl who comes in 3 days a week (smaller home). She's as sharp as they get. Unfortunately, in Brazil there are not a lot of jobs so many young people who might have been professionals here work as domestics or whatever. We're going to send her to night school to learn English which will open more doors for her.