Re: LED dimmable bulbs with X10 switches

Bob F wrote:
>> I just bought some Cree LED soft white "60W" "4FLOW filamant design" >> bulbs.
>> On one circuit, with just one bulb, the bulb lights at a mid level
>> when off or full brightness when switched on at the switch. The
>> switches involved are the old X10 switches with a lower section that
>> slides to the left to cut off all power. The problem is that the X10
>> controller cannot turn that bulb either on or off. Turning other
>> circuits using the same controller continues to work fine.
>> On another circuit, there is a 2 bulb fixture downstairs and a 2 bulb
>> fixture upstairs, all currently incandescent bulbs. If I remove one
>> of the incandescent bulbs downstairs and replace it with the LED
>> bulb, everything works OK, with the incandescent bulbs dimming much
>> more than the LED bulb when the dimming function is used. When I
>> removed the downstairs incandescent bulb,leaving the LED bulb, again
>> I could not control the lights with the X10 controller. This is
>> despite the 2 incandescent bulbs in the upstairs fixture.
>> Has anyone here seen similar problems, and come up with any solutions >> to them?
>> I do realize that the low brightness issue in the off position of the
>> initial circuit is do to the switch sense feature of the X10
>> switches, and that the incandescent bulbs in the second circuit
>> eliminate that problem there.
>I just tried the second circuit again, and it seems I can turn in off with the
>controller, but not on.
Interesting. The last time I was in Home Depot, I saw those. I
suppose they disipate heat better than the old sealed ones. The
application I was buying bulbs for is outside and has lots of insects
in the summer, so I bought the older style to avoid those slots from
becoming filled with dead insects.
Anyway, the older style work well with my X10 installation. However,
I am using older smarthome wall switches (old, but not as old as your
even older switches). So, I'm not sure if the 4FLOWs make more noise
or my switches handle them better. Good luck.
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You are dealing with a limitation in the triacs in the X10 that switch the current to the load on and off. There is a minimum sustaining current that a triac needs to keep itself on after it's been fired by the trigger circuit. Replacing an incandescent with an LED can put you below that minimum current and cause the triac in the X10 module to turn itself off.
The load required by an X10 dimmer varies with the manufacturer but what I've found during a quick google search is a 40W minimum might be typical. At 120VAC this means the minimum load current needs to be around 0.33 Amps.
With LED technology you need to ignore the "wattage" of the bulb since it's an equivalent rating, not a power consumption rating. A Cree 60W equivalent bulb uses only 9 to 9.5 Watts in the soft-white and daylight types and that's less than 0.08 Amps at 120 volts, a very economical current indeed and about 4 times less current than a 40W incandescent will draw.
If it's a multi-bulb fixture you can add three more LED bulbs to get the total current up into the sustaining range of the X10 but it may be more economical to use an appliance module instead. It uses a relay and you lose the dimming capability and the "all lights on" capability but if remote on-off is your desire then it's definitely preferable to loading up on LED's just to get back into the higher current draw that LED's are supposed to be avoiding.
P.S. I love my Cree LED bulbs and I've made it my goal to replace all my incandescents with Cree bulbs as the incandescents burn out.
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Yes, that you will get weirdness when running X10 units without a minimum load is well-documented for years.
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Yes, and from what I understand, they are made in the USA in NC! Well, at least, "assembled in USA". And, one more thing about x10, some of the newer modules have less control current than the old ones. I used a Smarthome unit to power a string of LED Christmas lights. Most modules I tried, would have them glowing in the off setting. However, the with the SH unit they glowed so little, that you'd have to look very carefully in a totally dark room to even see the slight glow. BTW, I even tried a few modified modules that used a solid state relay and there was enough leakage to make some LED bulbs glow. And this modification had the monitoring current removed.
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Art Todesco
Excellent Reference Article! Thank you.
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