I had installed X10. It was very flaky in my house. I bought a plug in phase coupler which didn't help much. I have lights going off randomly, some lights unable to controlled etc.
Is Insteon going to be much better? I was hoping that the RF was used to send signals,but as I understand it, the RF is used for phase coupling. That being the case, since I already have a coupler, can I expect much better with Insteon.
It's hard to say without knowing why your X-10 installation is flaky. In general, Insteon does a better job because all of the Insteon modules and switches repeat the signal and the "network" tends to be evenly covered and less prone to signal sinks (depends on density of devices). However, Insteon uses 131.65kHz vs. X-10's 120kHz and is therefore subject to the same noise sources and signal sinks. Insteon devices have better sensitivity and this might make noise sources (e.g. CFLs) even more of a problem.
There have been several X-10 users who have switched and who report Insteon works better but they have been ones who were also skilled at troubleshooting and maximizing their X-10 systems.
I'm not sure what you mean by the reference to your coupler. An X-10 coupler may not couple Insteon signals. You will need the Insteon SignaLincs for that and also for receiving RF from wireless remotes once they become available.
I've written a brief article explaining X-10 noise and signal sinks. See...
Can you tell us more about the kind of components (CM11A, CM15A or other HW) and software you are using? Understanding the failure mode of your X-10 might help determine what future direction to suggest. It could even be that the XTB series of boosters might help restore your X-10 functionality to acceptable levels.
As you've discovered, Insteon is a hybrid system, but it's still mostly PLC and sends control signals through the powerline.
Smarthome's got a flexible return policy (if you consider two or three billing cycles to post refunds reasonable!) so I would say the best bet for you is to buy a starter kit and give it a whirl. That will tell you better than any of us how Insteon will perform in your environment.
The most important advantage Insteon has, IMHO, is that MORE switches mean STRONGER signals whereas the reverse is usually true of an X-10 installation. X-10 "scales up" rather poorly since each transmitter, by design, absorbs some of the X-10 signal sent by other X-10 transmitters. The more X-10 gear you install, the weaker and weaker the overall signal level becomes in the entire house.
I *was* about to switch away from X-10 for the same reasons you noted, but Jeff Volp's XTB devices eliminated the troublesome "dead spots" and other anomalies that modern 110VAC electronic goodies like UPSs, CFLs, SPSs, GFIs and other 3-letter demons cause on home powerlines. I'd have to know a little more about what you've got and how you use it before I could say for sure that was the cheapest and easiest way to go.
In my case, considering $ for $ and hour for hour of my time, the XTB was the hands down winner. No switches to swap. No SW to change, no change in the human interface to the system. Just plug in a few XTBs (or have the II installed) and the flakey becomes the reliable. As they said in Aliens and my X-10 meters confirm: "that's one big ****ing signal!" There's 20V+ coming out of my controllers instead of the anemic 5V that dribbled out before. That boost makes all the difference in the world. It may not be the answer for you, however. It all depends on your setup.
That one was interesting as the pattern seemed to be "alive" with those bursts constantly changing in ampltude as signals summed together. The reason the bursts appear in the X10 transmission window is that the CFL frequency drops into the X10 bandpass near the zero crossing. At the center of the waveform the chopper is running at a high enough frequency that the bandpass filter rejects the CFL noise.
The simulations really show why a coupler is so important.
That was the first one I did, so I'll have to go back and add a link.
I'm addressing that issue with the enhanced repeater version of the XTB-II, and I'll complete that document when I finish the firmware. Right now I'm sort of derailed due to the April 15 date screaming at me. Also, Mouser backordered some of the parts that were listed as stock when I placed the order.
I have found INSTEON to be much more flexible, reliable and aesthetically acceptable than X-10.
1) If your wall switches do not have hot, neutral as well as the conductor to the light under control, you would need to rewire to use INSTEON powerline control (PLC). Might be a deal-breaker.
2) So far, the RF component of INSTEON with the exception of the coupler that you cite, is vapor. SmartLabs was criticized by the development community for what was considered an flawed/inadequate RF development kit. ABIK, even those companies shipping INSTEON PLC products have so far not shipped any INSTEON RF. E.g.:
The easiest RF solution in many cases may be to continue using X-10 RF concurrently with INSTEON PLC without using X-10 PLC. This would require the use of an intermediate controller to allow the X-10 RF subsystem to communicate with an INSTEON PLC subsystem.
3) There have been significant growing pains typical of newly introduced technology in both INSTEON hardware and supporting software. Most have been resolved. INSTEON has commendably bent over backwards to resolve the issues and provide replacements. A minor example: The LEDs on some light switches were too bright for some tastes. Smarthome voluntarily contacted all purchasers, and sent free replacement light pipes/diffusers to those that responded by email.
4) The price of the least expensive dimmers (originally
But INSTEON does have important advantages over X-10 advantages with respect to reliability:
1) Each INSTEON module/dimmer can serve as a repeater to increase signal strength.
2) Signal propagates faster so delay caused by repeated signals is substantially less.
3) Configuration software is much better. For example, HomeSeer a) automatically tracks commands sent and reports raw data and percent success b) sets the maximum number of hops (1-4) c) sets the number of retries (1-25) d) track links between devices e) response timeout (1-5 seconds) f) reports device type and firmware revision number and so on INSTEON has other advantages over X-10 also that relate to usability that I won't enumerate here.
eliminate some of the issues I've experienced (flashing, line noise, signal sucking and unintended relighting). (Marc, if you're reading this, can you post the UPC codes of the CFL's you mentioned? It's been useful in helping locate stock they didn't know they had before.)
n:vision 14 watt/ 60watt equivalent:
UPC SKU Soft White ~2700K 6214858144 423-599 Bright White ~3500K 6214851035 160-678 Day Light ~5500K 6214851055 161-167
But the permanent n:vision display at our local Home Depot is about 8 feet x 12 feet wide . Hard to miss. About a dozen different types of n:vision brand CFLs. Which is about one-sixth of the CFL assortment available at
Be forewarned that I still haven't found my oscilloscope (a PCMCIA card that was in my shirt pocket but has now has disappeared, hopefully not into the laundry ...) and haven't looked quantitatively at the noise levels.
I use INSTEON, not X-10 with these CFLs and as 'they' say, "Works for me" ;-)
Thanks, Marc. I'll print out those numbers and tuck them in my wallet for the next shopping trip. Can you recall the maximum wattage available for these bulbs? One of the recurring issues I have with CFL's is that high wattage bulbs tend to be so long that they stick out beyond the reflectors of the fixtures I use, creating some pretty garish shadows from the undiffused light source.
I'm hoping that this is a country-wide promotion. However, I've found a great disparity in what the local HD's stock from store to store. Much more DIY stuff in the blue collar areas, much less in areas where there's little new construction and the mean income is much higher.
In the truly smart home of the future you'd just say "Where is my oscilloscope" and a little robot will appear, oscilloscope in its waldos.
Let's hope they do as well with X-10 without requiring local sensectomies and/or additional filter modules. If they do, I'll buy a case and begin selling them on Ebay to frustrated fellow X-10'ers. (-:
I recall seeing something recently that implied the competition from CFL's is driving down the price of incandescent lightbulbs. My limited experience agrees, since I seem to able to buy the name brand incandescent for less than a quarter apiece.
Do I understand correctly? Are you saying that the much-touted redundant signaling capability of Insteon (RF + PLC) is not even available? IIRC, some folks raved about how much better Insteon is than Z-Wave because it sent signals both via RF and PLC. Was that toal or partial nonsense?
"Vapor" is the best vernacular descriptor I could come up with. As is often the case, this is not-necessarily a permanent condition. That's about all I should say in part because it is not possible to know what folks might have nearly ready but have issues including patent to resolve. Lutron, Leviton and others have been in legal squabbles over RF 2-way comms and other issues for nigh onto 15 years.
Here's the latest suit over four allegedly pertinent patents (March 2,
Here's a recap from the March 4th 2007 issue of CE PRO describing Lutron lawsuit again Leviton and speculating on the impact of all the other actors in the HA RF arena including Zigbee Z-wave and INSTEON.
It cites the patent numbers and provides "twenty-seven 8 by 10 colored glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one".
"It could also hurt SmartLabs, whose Insteon RF technology is similar to both Z-Wave and Zigbee, and which also has lighting control as a linchpin of its strategy"
Random on and off can be caused by noise spikes operating directly on the X-10 modules and switches. They can also be caused by collisions between legitimate PLC commands.
What types of switches & modules do you have? Are they made by X-10 are by other manufacturers? Are there motors turning on or off (e.g. AC, furnace blower) at the time of the random events?
A list of _all_ X-10 devices in use would help.
I usually recommend the ELK ESM1 X-10 meter for troubleshooting although it's not much help for random events. Do you have a computer interface like the CM11A or other X-10 interface? They can log events and can sometimes help with things like this.
We need to identify the cause of the random events before deciding whether the XTB or Insteon make sense for you.
The XTB will only help if commands are not getting through. If control is marginal, the XTB will help when a light is commanded to switch either ON or OFF.
If your lights are turning off randomly when no X10 signal is sent, that is something else. Some controllers, such as the CM11A, provide the ability to monitor line traffic. It would be interesting to see if there are any X10 commands on the line that could cause the lights to switch off.
I recall the CM11A had a quirk that was called the "haunted house syndrome". It could send random commands if the memory wasn't cleared when a new program was downloaded. It might be something like that. It is possible that your lights are responding to external commands coming in either over the powerline or via RF. Or you might have some particularly nasty CFLs that are radiating noise that looks like X10 OFF commands.
Were any new electrical devices installed around the time the problem started? How about a new neighbor, or one who might have bought some X10 equipment?
"Lutron is suing Leviton for infringing on patents that have to do with wall-box dimmers, RF transceivers in a junction box, and lighting control with two-way status/feedback.
The lawsuit is no surprise, really. It was only a matter of time. Apparently, that time was when Leviton finally shipped its two-way Vizia RF lighting control system based on the Z-Wave mesh-networking wireless protocol. "
" One of the patents in particular I've been told is pretty rock solid. Number (5,982,103) refers to an RF transmitter and/or receiver sharing the same wallbox as a switch or dimmer (See links and illustrations of all patents below). Lutron first employed such technology in its Radio Ra lighting controls and later HomeWorks Interactive Wireless. From what I recall, it was the first to deploy such a technology. "
"Control4 would seem vulnerable--I believe they've shipped more than
100,000 Zigbee products--but, Control4 is different than the others. The company invented a technique whereby the RF transmitter/receiver is actually in the paddle of the dimmer--outside of the wallbox, not inside it as Lutron has patented."
"Another patent, number 5,905,442 has to do with two-way controls, where the status of certain devices on the network can be transmitted to the controlling device, and the controllers can respond to those status reports. "
"Two-way Z-Wave lighting controls have been delayed for quite awhile; some have speculated that a potential lawsuit was the reason for the delay. "
Since I read the hard-copy version of the article, it has been updated to note: "In fact, Lutron filed a patent-infringement case against Control4 in May 2006."
Point being that Z-wave and Zigbee are also seen as vulnerable.