There is no doubt in my mind that z-wave is superior to x-10 but x-10's advantage is cost. Even with the extended x-10's protocol, it still falls short for complex applications. In my situation, I have a few x-10 recievers controlling a few lamps around the home. I basically use it to turn on/off lights in the room I'm in. I don't have a need for pre-set lighting moods (complete with the hide-away bar that appears with Burt Bacharach music that starts to play.) I really don't see a need for lighting computer interface for how I currently use the system. My house is basically square with one floor at about 1800 sf. My real motivation is to perpetuate my couch-potato lifestyle by not needing to budge from the chair to operate room lighting or to turn-off lights in another room. I'm now getting ready to hardwire wall switches to control ceiling fans and lights along with some lights for the pool area.
What I'm asking of you folks here is a justification for one or the other based on how I use wireless techology. I'm not interested in entertaining other technologies and would strongly prefer to hear about just the two.
Good advice. Since you're into wireless, I'd add a good RF transceiver to the XTB as well because the stock X-10 RF units have abysmal range compared to something like WGL's line of gear. You can read my review of the XTB here:
and the VS572 here:
While Z-Wave may eventually "conquer the world" there are still a lot more control options available in the X-10 world, from remotes to sensors to whatever and at far lower prices than you'll pay for Z-wave gear. It's not immune to problems, either:
and it's proprietary. In one way it's quite inferior to X10. Z-Wave is
*only* RF whereas X-10 has three types of control signal technologies: RF-PLC, IR-PLC and PLC-PLC. If EMI ever got so high aroudn here it blocked X-10 RF signals, I could still control most of my gear via the powerline or a handheld IR controller. IIRC, Z-Wave uses the license-exempt 900MHz ISM band. EMI only seems to be growing, so how or if it will effect either protocol's RF transmissions remains to be seen. Lots of people are happy with it but lots of people also didn't know how easy it was to turbocharge an X-10 setup with XTB and WGL gear.
There's no denying that ZWave or something like it will be the future of HA. In the meantime, as competition increases, prices for Zwave gear will fall and device quality and variety will improve. Since I am now in a position to wait it out to see who survives, I will stick with X-10. I'm hoping that a open standards platform is the ultimate winner, but it may not turn out that way.
I own both. The XTB just works and works but the HCA02-10E locked up nearly once a week. The XTB outputs a repeated signal at 25+V and the HCAr somewhere around 5V. That alone blows the doors off the Leviton product since the XTB signal can overcome lots more noise and signal sucking than the much weaker output of the Leviton HCA. Lots of other features too, including Jeff Volp's technical support for the product.
After about three weeks of resetting the HCA (when it locked up, NONE of the lights in the house would work! VERY low SAF) I put it in the junk box. Make me an offer. (-: Check out my recent review of the XTB at:
Yes, the XTB-IIR works extremely well providing a signal boost of up to
20 volts while the HCA02-10E does not work very well at all and provides a boost of no more than 5 volts. The XTB-IIR is the ONLY amplifier/repeater worth spending money on. I replaced two ACT repeaters (much better than the Leviton unit) with one XTB-IIR and the performance and reliability went to 99.9+%.
I hadn't thought about the transceiver but that does make sense given what I know about the stock unit. I'm doing integration piecmeal... can't afford to it all at once. I plan to add a few wired switches at watch to see what problems I run into. I'm just using modules right now and have had little or not problems other than two different types of controllers that worked poorly from day one. I have two other controllers that have never yielded a single problem in the 7 years I had everything. So, the question is, as I start to encounter problems, which would be the first step - the transceiver or the amp? I'm assuming the transceiver but I might be missing something.
Some may balk at this, but my experience is that a well installed X10 lighting system can be close to 100% reliable. So, IMHO, the added expense of ZWave would not be worth a small, potential improvement in reliability (assuming ZWave is capable of 100% reliability). I must admit, though, that I have not experimented with ZWave.
Below is a list of the key steps I found that helped improve X10 reliability (previous CHA posts led me to many of these solutions...Thanks Y'All!).
Controller - A rock solid controller is critical. My preference here is for the Ocelot from Adicon. The Ocelot can run indefinitely without hanging or needing a reset, and all macros execute flawlessly. The one caveat is that you will need to program the Ocelot in ladder logic using its CMax language. Some may find this daunting.
Signal Strength - Standard X10 signal strength won't cut it; you will need to boost the X10 signals. As with others here, I've had great success with the XTB-IIR from Jeff Volp. The XTB-IIR booms out strong signals to the farthest corners of the house. In fact, the XTB-IIR is so powerful, I can control common area lighting in my condo building, which is outside of my unit and on a completely separate service panel from my own!
Signal Collisions - If you use X10 motion detectors to trigger lights, you should try and keep their signals off the power line. Unless everyone in the house is willing to stand perfectly still while lighting macros execute, there will be signal collisions from the motion detectors, and results can be unpredictable. Unfortunately, there may not always be an easy way of isolating the motion detectors. In my case, I use a WGL W800RF32 attached to an Elk M1 security panel to receive signals from ActiveEyes. The Elk then relays this information to the Ocelot via a serial connection. The ActiveEye signals never hit the power line.
Scenes - Lighting modules that accept scenes (i.e., multiple X10 codes) allow you to selectively control individual lights, a room of lights, or an entire floor of lights with a single X10 code. If your modules can't accept multiple X10 codes, then your macros will need to send out many more X10 codes to achieve a particular goal. In addition to slowing response time, long macros increase the chance of reliability problems.
As I read this thread, my brain is getting full. I'm going to look at the XTB some more. Elsewhere on this thread, mention was made of using a real transceiver rather than the stock model. I would think that would be my first step before the XTB. Am I correct in this thinking or am I missing something? Since I'll be building my system a little at a time, I'll purchase items as they are needed and can't afford everything at once.
I'd go with the XTB-IIR first to remedy any powerline issues and provide a rock solid base for signal delivery. As for the wireless aspect, based on the size of your house, a centrally located WGL V572 receiver should do the trick. Total investment of about $260 will be saved by using X10 vs ZWave switches.
I read both of your reviews. They answered quite a few questions and addressed several concerns. Right now, all my modules work anywhere in the house (when conditions are ideal) which makes me assume that all the outlets are on the same leg such that coupling between the two legs isn't necessary - is this a correct assumption? Assuming that the house is all on one leg, could I not install, using a standard wall plug and outlet, the XTB-IIR anywhere in the house?
The articles are a big help in allaying my fears of coughing big bucks for hard-wired switches and the like. I've had some problems with them in the past but lacked a real understanding of causes of failures. Thanks for replying and the articles. I wish the signal was strong enough to switch off my neighbor's terrawatt floodlight system off at night.
Conversely, what model/type controller has been successful for you? It would help to know details.
If installing the XTB-IIR across both phases is not a problem for you (and I am assuming it's not because you were talking about the simililarly installed HCA) then that's where I would start. The WGL unit plugs directly into the XTB's digital jack, so you can save yourself a few bucks (20 I think) by buying the more stripped down WGL All Housecode transceiver without the powerline interface.
I believe that's the case, but you would have to ask Jeff to be sure. Some people are just lucky in the way their house wiring is laid out and the components they are using. Others are not so lucky. You seem to be pretty lucky so far. If your luck holds, you might be able to make use of the stock RF transceivers. They vary wildly in quality and range. Some can be retuned or have antenna augmentation surgery, and some just happen to work.
I am unclear about one thing. Are you having intermittent trouble already? Are there times when things won't turn on or off as they should or as they do at other times during the day?
If he's using X-10, it might be possible. (-: When I first installed my XTB the signal was so strong it coupled at the pole transformer across the street. I assume if my neighbors were using X-10, they might experience issues, but thanks to the mortgage crisis, I am living in a virtual ghost town. My non-existent neighbors don't even use electricity anymore, let alone X-10 to control it.
I'm combining my responses to your two posts into one in this post. The responses to the other post are addressed first ...
In the past, it was at my mother's house, she was using a basic key-fob and the mini-timer to control the room lights from an adjustable bed. I knew at the time it had something to do with the bed but I was so new to actually using x10 that I didn't even know it was solvable. In my own home when I first got a 'starter kit', some locations seemed to work part of the time. Those were different than how I use it now but in reading other posts here, I'm seeing how some of the problems likely occured from either line noise or signal suckers. My only real problem was being able to control lights with a mini-timer - it is very tempermental only working about 90% of the time from my bedroom. The position of the lazyboy in the living room seemed to affect how it worked... but it wasn't consistent enough to be proven, just anedotal.
The mini-timer - never like the thing, just used it because it had a clock. Not well designed IMO and it always ran a bit hot from the power supply. To me, it seemed a bit anal in the limits of features when other products cost less and did more. It worked intermittently for me and finally failed in its remote capability... I wonder if it was defective from day one.
The other, was the UR47A Universal remote. Another design behind the curve when I bought it. It takes a steady press to get any of the modules to respond and the TV remote appeared to use a chipset that was at least a generation behind current devices on the market. I had one of the more common cable boxes used by comcast and it couldn't control it - That was 6 years ago and I switched and got sat TV and shoved the thing in the drawer knowing it couldn't control the sat converter. I have it out now, with new batteries and it is sluggish at best sometimes not hitting all the modules.
Consistent success? Hold still - the PHR03 16-channel handheld from x-10Pro! Got two of them and both haven't missed in recent memory. My only gripe is the battery compartment design - cramped and the terminals need an occasional re-forming to keep pressure on the batteries.
Thanks for the input. I now have a clear plan how to progress and a better understanding so that I can ask Jeff some questions... and understand the answers.
In using X10, I will have saved substantial money over using Z-wave... and have enough money to buy test signal strenth meter should I start to have problems for troubleshooting. The Monterey power line signal analyzer - is that what you referred to in another thread? I do prefer a digital readout to see real values. I don't need on yet but I'm looking for something to buy down the road.
Tom, your house uses two legs, 110 volts each and is balanced between the two. In your breaker panel the breakers are A-B-A-B... going down each row of breakers. The best place for the XTB-IIR is at the panel but any location wired for 220 will do.
I might be mistaken, but I think he was trying to say that all of the X-10 gear he's controlling might be on one leg of the two phases probably supplying his house. If that's the case, I am not sure what happens with the XTB and if it can be installed with a 110VAC line cord to only drive one phase as a repeater without the coupler function.
I believe I discussed such a situation with Jeff and that it can be done. Some people don't have 240VAC outlets or they can't add anything to their circuit box. I hope Jeff will arrive soon to clarify, but he's down in the XTB lair soldering away, last I heard. I'll drop him a note.
That helps. You can expect more problems as the distance from controllers to receivers increases. The coin cell powered RF transmitters like the keyfob are notoriously weak, so it doesn't take much to interfere with their transmissions
For driving just one leg he could use the basic XTB with the WGL wireless receiver plugged into it. However, he'd be better off for future expansion with the two legged version as he's bound to use both legs eventually. Even with a full panel an XTB-IIR can be piggybacked onto existing breakers. Most panels will accept double half size breakers on the bottom 3 or 4 positions on both sides so a couple of full sized ones can be replaced and provide a dedicated breaker from each leg.
I also believe the two-legged version (XTB-IIR) will repeat the signal of any transmitter it hears in the second half of the frame, on that same phase, giving greater "bang for the buck" as IIRC, the OP has non-RF mini-timers to contend with as well as the RF.
Someone willing to wire a line cord to two or three PC terminals might not want to tackle anything related to 240VAC. I was that guy for 20 years! I haven't priced adding a new 240VAC outlet lately, but I assume it's not cheap. I bought the XTB-IIR eventually and *learned* how to add the outlet, more or less to code. It seems so easy once you know how to do it, but when I had the HCA-10E running, it was hooked into the panel via Velcro and insulated jumper cables. That experience convinced me I was right to not have wasted money having it professionally installed. After buying the plain XTBs, I realized that there was now a repeater with someone willing to fix whatever bugs came its way that outperformed the competition by several orders of magnitude and that my purchase would benefit a small American business too? So I bit the bullet, asked the questions, bought the books, the tools, the equipment and spent far more time, $ and energy than hiring a pro, but now I can do it again the next time with incredible ease.
I use the standalone XTB's I bought at the beginning with my own mini-timers, Controlinc Maxis and other line transmitters to guarantee that they can blast around any signal suckers that crept into the house. Not sure how the second frame looks, with the two 25+V signals on the line at the same time, but perhaps that's why I can hear the X-10 signal buzzing faintly from the remote chime module when I plug it in nearby. (-: Sounds like little bumble bees and different commands have clearly differnt "zzzzt zzzzt zzzzt" patterns. I have nothing that would tell me how many volts in the combined signal unless I recalibrate or attenuate the sensitivity of my meters. That's another question for Jeff to answer . . . What happens when an XTB signal is repeated by an XTBIIR? What are the voltage levels for the first and second (repeated) frames?
It is unusual for all of a residence to be on a single phase. If the house has any 240V receptacles - for a dryer or stove - then it is supplied with
120/240V split phase. Back in the early days of X10, most smaller homes didn't even need signal couplers. There were virtually no "signal suckers", so even the relatively small amount of signal that coupled through the utility transformer was adequate to drive modules on the opposite phase. Such a situation is relatively rare today, but you may have an installation where your worst "signal suckers" are on the driven phase so the little signal that makes it to the opposite phase is not further attenuated.
While optimum performance is obtained with the XTB-IIR near the distribution panel where it can directly drive both phases, it is certainly possible to install it anywhere in the home. A number of people have wired it to a dryer plug. That will also drive both phases, and there will not be too much signal lost if the run to the main distribution panel is relatively short. The XTB-IIR can certainly be plugged into just a single phase. If you do have all your X10 devices on one phase as we do here, then it isn't even necessary to include a passive coupler to propagate its strong signal over to the opposite phase. Because X10 signal strengths decrease as they move away from any X10 transmitter, the closer the XTB-IIR is to the main distribution panel, the stronger signals will be throughout the entire home.