... are firstly, the x10.com company. If the company sells products as they are, there won't be god knows how many abandoned modules around the globe. On top of that, the company is one of the most hated company online. I hope this is the first of a serious of articles of my rantings about X10, the protocol and the company.
Like most users, I brought a kit for the price, tried it and felt that it was cool. When I committed to it and expanded to the whole house, it became another infamous haunted house. There's no way you can make the X10 products work reliably from the product literatures from x10.com. I had many light switches and modules, three RF transceivers, a full security system with two PIR detectors and many door/window modules. Also I have several cameras controlled by DC adapters from X10. I kept on adding to the system but at the same time part or most of the system are abandoned.
The many troubleshooting guides on the net doesn't help much. They are rarely written by Electronics Engineers. Anyway, I started around 1999 so there wasn't that much information around. Well, who will get into X10 if they know they need to install another box at the distribution box or consumer box, to block out noise and potential interference from neighbors using x10? And they need one isolator or blocker for any electronic equipments including DC adapters for phone chargers? And then a 3-phase coupler for most houses. And a coupler and repeater if you have a large house. How about the new RF transceiver that listen to all possible house codes and can generate a log for the ghost activities? And a pair of testers at $100?
But if I were to do it all over again, it will still be X10. A total wireless system is still too expensive; every module has to have a receiver that is more complicated than the x10 crap. Modules are selling about 1/3 on eBay compared to the x10 website. After 7 years, everything still works, though not together. Despite all the hype, I think I only need one blocker/isolator for the main TV and the electronics around it to solve the reliability problem. The price is some $10 on eBay?
Though my system will still be based on x10, but I would have mixed in a lot of other components. For example, for rarely opened and difficult to enter windows, I would use a small independent alarm which could be as cheap as a few dollars. The x10 cameras are crap, which also need short line of sight reception to be non-irritating. More for the next message.
Price doesn't always correlate with the quality of product. What's the alternative you suggest?
X10 is an open standard and perhaps the only one with 2nd source. The price cannot be bad. All carrier line signaling systems suffers similar problems. The wireless standard is still fairly new and hardly any components on sale on the net. It cost a fortune now. Wireless systems can be jammed easily unless for a spread spectrum system, which make it harder, but not much harder when the intruders can get close to the receiver.
X10 is the pioneer of using Chinese factories. Who doesn't nowadays? Just that the other system prices don't reflect the crap manufacturing price and pass on the savings. I don't see what a properly installed X10 system can't do when other systems can. It's all about objectives and the minimum cost to get it done, and no more.
I think the real problem is a serious lack of competition. The reliability, performance, durability and overall quality is crap. BUT - there is simply no other product that provides X10-like functionality. It must be wonderful to have an entire marketplace to yourself for years, but it certainly doesn't encourage quality improvements.
Jim said "buy cheap, get crap". The trouble is, you can't buy expensive, good quality X10 if you try. (At least, not that I know of).
If someone were to market a competitive product with the same functionality as X10 but proper reliability and durability, I'd switch over to it tomorrow.
Having said all that, once I'd weeded out all the rubbish modules and got down to a set that seems to work and keep working, I've had reasonably good service. There are still switching failures (a device doesn't respond to an event sent by the CM12), but it's not like I'm running someone's life support system off it.
And don't get me started on the CM12!! It's a shameful piece of rubbish which should have been sorted out years ago.
Since X10's patent ran out many years ago there are now lots of competing brands using the same technology.
marketplace to yourself for years, but
Look around. There are lots of options. The problem IMO is not just poor quality from X10 brand. The medium itself (powerline carrier) is rife with problems such as line noise, interference, signal loss, etc. There are ways to deal with each of these problems and, from what others who tinker with it enough have said, it can be made to work semi-reliably as a home automation add-on.
Unfortunately, X10 security hardware is not reliable enough to meet the demands of a professional security installation. Most of the participants in ASA are not home automators. Their exposure to X10 is usually with the toy-like X10 alarms so there's not much respect for it here.
Pay no attention to Jiminex.
A few people in another newsgroup have spoken well of Insteon, which claims to be the next better thing than X10. Unfortunately, Insteon also seems to be problematic. There are other, more robust HA solutions on the market that still qualitfy as DIY-capable and won't break the bank. A search on Zwave may prove interesting.
Your results are not unlike many others we've seen.
INSTEON is starting to look as though economically it will be a direct competitor...few bugs still being sorted out but most seem to be simple QC issues....I can tell you that from my perspective it is extremely reliable signalwise.
Bugs? Complaining about X10 and Insteon reliability is liking complaining about the laws of physics.
These wire-carrier signal devices are a cheap solution to a problem. In brief, you don't have to rip out the walls or pay an electrician to put in a light switch where it should have been in the first place.
I have a few X10 units in my house and they work 99.95% of the time. They control a few remote lights and I use appliance modules to power up my computers since a few of these are in out-of-the-way places.
I would never rely on these for a critical burglar alarm or fire detection system, however.
The competition: Levitron and Smarthome are using X10 protocol. They are sold as higher end items with nicer switch decor etc. The fact is, all the x10.com items I got over 7 years never failed.
The new wireless standard Zwave? and the proprietary system xxBee? are all in their early stages, just appeared in trade shows. If you Froogle them, the price are much higher even if there are something available. And I won't rely on a proprietary system as X10.com was bankrupted at 2003, and from their way of doing things on their website, they are heading at it again. They aren't suitable as security systems as they are designed to be low power so the batteries last a long long time. So jamming them should be easy. There are cheap wireless security systems around, but the security part of X10 is at the RF side, which isn't the problem.
Do you need a wired system? Rewire the whole house if you are not already in a multi-million dollar automated house? Hire expensive labor? Use monitoring service such as ADT?
There's almost little competition for automation, unless you are afraid to lose face if you press the button and the music doesn't come on. In my home "theater", I have a cable DVR, sound box, DVD changer, and an Internet TV box. I also have a TV channel sharing among 3 X10 cams, for monitoring and security. Nothing controls them all and I had a hard time to find the remote controls if I need some special functions. So a 99% reliability of the light switch is good enough for me. And if you do the math to include 2nd chances, the reliability is really high.
As for security, is your life depends on it? I'm not afraid of high tech thieves who jam my wireless security alarm while I'm not at home, steal the valuables and leave no traces. So I just claim the insurance. I don't want stupid thieves who break the windows and make a big mess. Lots or alarms and floodlights and cameras would deter them, or anybody.
I only care if I'm in the house, and I hope to get as much advance warning as possible, be it false alarm. I couldn't easily get that trade off with a monitoring service. If someone is already in the house and the alarm sounded, does it matter whether the police is coming or not?
For perimeter defense, x10 has no equal as they have the whole range of things, lights, PIR, cameras, all controlled and programmable. For outdoors, it's much harder to make it fool proof and avoid false alarm. So basically it's an early warning and deterrent system. x10 is sufficient.
I got the security system first. Still working after 7 years. Two PIR on the ground floor making it fail safe against hot body intruders. I had a couple of magnetic contacts. They are never enough for the California architecture - huge windows on all sides. So I use them mainly for the doors and garage doors. For the remaining rarely opened windows I use tiny independent alarms once they fall to a few dollars. The sound is enough to wake up everybody and the batteries last for a long time. Again I'll add some glass break detectors if I see something cheap. They seldom needed to be turned on or off. I'm not in a hurry as there is double protection.
Then a couple of light switches and lamp modules, trying to make the house looked occupied when I'm away using the macro box with old serial interface. Actually I can't do a dust to dawn PIR triggered floodlight with x10 components, so I brought one pretty and cheap lantern from Lowes. I have another old dust to dawn outdoor lantern. So I just screw in the x10 rocket to become a dust to dawn PIR triggered outdoor light. I don't actually deliberately buy all those modules, they are in the starter kits and bundled in one way or the other.
By the way, I had a programmable timer to replace the light switch in the dinning room. Not from X10 but from Lowes. After a year or two, the battery leaked and the whole thing sort of degenerated. While the X10 craps are still going strong.
Then two more lamp modules and a stick on wall button switch and key chain switches because I wanted to add two bed side reading lights as in hotels. They are the only dimmers that get used a lot. Once in bed, I don't need to get out of bed to turn off any lights. I can also turn on or off any lights in the bedroom at the door. This is the most used and most like home automation part of my system.
Then I played with those cheap eagle eye PIR detectors to see if I can do perimeter defense. No. Two much false alarms. So I think someday I will put them in the toilet, so the light will turn on when people enter.
Then xcam's to monitor the front door so I only need to dress decent and open the door when necessary. Then another for baby monitor, them more baby monitors.
Then someone do some harmless prank on my front lawn. It's totally harmless but I have to clean it up. For the 2nd time I called the police. I'm in the sort of town that they are happy to sent a deputy over right away. But they told me that they can't do anything and those who done it are probably kids. I agreed because otherwise they wanted to send me a message, but I don't know what it is.
So I have to do something about it. So there are independent dawn to dust PIR controlled lanterns around my house. I tried to build many cheap laser beam detectors to trigger alarms, so there will not be false alarm if someone enter my lawn, just like the museums in the movies. The detector is trivial, aligning is easy but mounting them in secure places around the lawn is difficult. My "gardeners" will mow them down in now time.
So alarm is out of the question, and it have to be cameras. I played with a night vision camera. The night vision is OK but even if I put on a high power IR source, the contrast aren't enough to trigger my $100 DVR with motion detection at night. The bottom line is that I need a install-it and then forget-it system, running 24/7 on itself.
Perhaps x10 should go into those crap DVR's. Nobody has VCR's anymore. And I don't want to give the space to put a big VCR box. I don't want to change tapes, period. For $100 you can get a 20 GB MP4 recorder, or a laughable 128 MB motion DVR. I opted for the later as no human intervention is needed. The old images will be replaced automatically. Adding a 1 or 2 GB SD card will be OK. It's trivial to change the
20 GB hard disk recorder to a security DVR aware appliance, but nobody did it yet. Both device are palm sized. So if all come to the worse, you can stick it next to the camera at the roof.
My Eagle eyes came to the rescue. So the final system is something like this. There is a wall of cheap PIR around my house. For dust to dawn operation they are awesome. You need to point it about 20 degree downwards at 10 feet high to reduce false alarm. So only people walking into the front lawn will trigger anything. Then each PIR will trigger the same or different floodlight AND camera. So the changing of camera via X10 and the onset of floodlight triggers the motion DVR. Even a 50W bulb outdoor is better than a night vision camera with 12 high power LED.
Look what I caught? Teenagers and kids walking home alone at 9 pm. I was surprised as nobody walks even in day time. People walking dogs at
10 pm. Though I'm not sure if they are really neighbors or spies. Anyway, I saw somebody jumps when the flood lights are on. Now nobody dare to walks pass the sidewalk in front of my house any more. If necessary, they all cross the road first before proceeding.
Solar: I planned to go solar for all the eagle eye PIR's and the newer magnet window / door detectors. The batteries in them last a long time so they are good candidates. They are either at the roof or near the windows. Now the cheap solar panels are a few dollars each, smaller than half a dollar bill. They may last a year or two. All except those PIR mounted on trees They are shadowed by leaves all the time. But then again, no other system suggest to mount anything on trees!
X10 troubleshooting, or it should actually be X10 essentials.
If you get an X10 kit and try it out, most likely it would work beautifully. But if you expand to any non-trivial system around the whole house, I can guarantee that it would not work reliably. The troubleshooting from X10 are well hidden or very distorted. A few years ago it's difficult to find any info in the net though the technology is from the 70's. Now there are two much troubleshooting info over the top, without perspective. Mostly likely something simple will make you system work reliably.
Check your wiring if you are not in a new house. It just take one moron in the past 10 years before I took over the house to wire a wrong socket and disabled half the house from X10 control. The socket is well hidden, never used, but it will work as the neutral is wired into the ground. A few dollars for a 3 pin tester will get the sockets tested pretty quick.
You need at least one 5A "noise" blocker and two will be good for most people. One for your TV and all the home theater gadgets around it. Other for the computer and the gadgets around it. The devil are electronics especially higher power ones.
All electronics need to reject power line noise and fluctuations. Basically they all attenuate the X10 signals, which is noise to the power signal. The higher the power, the more difficult the job is, while the easiest way to do it is to use a by pass capacitor.
The TV alone doesn't cause any obvious trouble but the load of all the boxes add up. The lights near the TV and home theater cannot be switched on half of the time.
Since usually you have a single extension where all your devices are plugged on, you just need to plug in the blocker to the wall socket first, and then plug in the extension plug over it. But check if 5A is enough for all your devices. If not, either buy a higher amp one or plug some of the lower power devices directly into the electrical sockets. A blocker is basically an inductor in serious so the whole extension are isolated from the rest of the house electrical circuit via a high impedance.
The other cluster a home may have is a computer. My 400W switching supply is OK. On the same extension, I have cable modem, wi-fi router, scanner, printer, and many more because I needed two extensions with between 15 to 20 sockets.
The devil is the D-Link wi-fi router. Strangely it has a DC adapter rated at 2.5 Amp !! It alone will kill off any X10 action in the same electrical circuit. I replaced it with a 500 mA and it still works reliably as a wi-fi router. Once it's sorted out, I don't even need a blocker for the lights to work reliably. But since these things add up, I suggest to add another blocker here.
The moral is, if you plug in a crap battery charger somewhere in your house, your whole system could be compromised.
If your house has 3-phase 240V circuit split into two separate 120V circuits, x10 doesn't work across the two circuits. I have 3-phase and I thought I had the same problem. But after I found out what a moron had done, now I can control every socket and light in my house, a typical 3-bed Cali house. Anyway, the problem is easily detected and the solution is simple. There's a adapter plug type of thing to couple the two phases. You can still plug in your 3-phase appliance over it.
One even cheaper way is to add another transceiver on the other circuit that come to you bundled and almost free, that you never needed.
Noise and interference from outside of your house. I don't think the problem is that common. x10 house codes are supposed to solve the interference problem. Unless your neighbor has something strange in their house, the outside noise is similar to the inside noise you generated in your own home. I would invest in a pair of testers before committing to find a qualified electrician to do the job according to Cali code.
Noises - overrated. The big blower of the central system, no problem. Washing machine and drying machine, no problem for x10, even though the wi-fi performance suffers. Ceiling fans, washing machine and fluorescent lights, all no problem. But the truth is, they are never turned on all at the same time. Very unlike the electronics.
RF range. I never have any problem with the range. The exception is when the security console is in the install mode, the range is much shorter probably due to old age of the device. I make sure that the backup battery is charged and bring the console near to the detectors one by one to "install" them.
Another exception is when there are two transceivers on the same phase, listening to the same house code. The range appeared to be very short, but the cause of unreliability is probably the collision of x10 power line signals.
I think you really have a lot to learn and could have saved yourself a lot of trouble by asking questions in comp.home.automation where there are a lot of people quite skilled in things X-10.
First, even though the price has recently gone up to about $65, an ELK ESM1 X-10 Signal Strength meter is an invaluable troubleshooting aid. It can also show the presence/absence of Insteon signals.
The inexpensive X-10 Sundowner can be used to detect dawn and dusk.
Some TVs need filters - some do not. The ESM1 will tell you whether yours does or doesn't.
"X-10 security" is an oxymoron. I can disarm any X-10 security console in less than 30 seconds from outside the residence without physically touching anything.
There's nothing "strange" about the current rating of the D-Link power supply. It's a switchmode supply. It only supplies what the equipment needs and wastes very little power when idle. Given that California, Europe and other regions have mandated efficiency standards that can only be met by such supplies, everyone is likely to start seeing switchmode supplies with all new equipment. Some may pose problems for X-10 but I have a lot of D-Link gear (router, WAP, network HDD and had a wireless router until I upgraded from 802.11B) with these supplies, none of which causes any trouble for my X-10 & Insteon. I've also tested the switchmode supplies sold by Circuit Specialists and found them X-10 and Insteon friendly.
Transceivers on the same phase are _NEVER_ a problem. TM751 transceivers on opposite phases (or legs) will _ALWAYS_ cause powerline collisions on unit codes 1 & 9. Use RR501s which have collision avoidance (but at the cost of duplicated commands) or use the Leviton HPCRF transceiver which handles all housecodes and also has collision avoidance.
That you experience no problems from the AC and other motors, fluorescents, etc. is the luck of the draw. Others may have problems - it depends on how noisy the equipment is and on what X-10 gear is in use. Many X-10 switches and modules are prone to brownouts and to noise spikes which can be caused by motors, fluorescents, etc. This is documented on X-10's website.
3-phase power to a single family residence is quite rare in the USA (and
3-phase appliances rarer still). I doubt very much that you have 3-phase power. More likely you have one 240V phase split into two 120V phases (or legs), 180° out of phase with each other, which the electricians among us call "split-phase". Again, whether or not a phase coupler is needed depends on specifics.
I have covered nearly each of these issues, as succinctly as I can, on my web page...
http://davehoust>X10 troubleshooting, or it should actually be X10 essentials.
Come on, who's everybody at 1999? I called the x10 technical support and he said my house has noise and stopped me from saying anything more. I gave up usenet in the early 90's and went into the WWW. I would not have posted here if not for Google revived the usenet groups because they do not have enough takers for their own Google group. And that the Google search engine is very good for Google groups (and Usenet groups). So good that I think I helped numerous people unclogging their drains last month with little work.
If you search around for info, this is precisely what you get, over the top as I already stated. Basically you are telling people on a budget, who won't change a light switch, not to get into X10 and carrier line.
I'm telling people the opposite. If you just want the house to look occupied, or seniors who wanted to reduce the need of getting in and out of bed to turn on and off the lights, X10 is a decent choice on a budget.
And that you don't need to throw a lot of unnecessary money and time for nothing. And you don't need to do trouble shooting. I already done the work for you. If you follow my 1,2, 3's.
Come on, typical, it's not just the signal meter, you need the transmitter as well. Buying all that, more expensive than most kits, to decide whether you need a $10 blocker ?! Is that over the top or what?
with only a starter kit.
That is typical of wireless security systems, but you forget that I have perimeter defense and double or triple protection for cheap.
It's useful if you can tell us how easy it is to jam or disable the x10 system. So we can see how difficult it is to guard against it. As I have said, probably I would open my doors for civilized thieves armed with a jammer, and then call the insurance company afterward. Those armed with stones are the problems.
My high power welcome lanterns from Lowes has PIR detection range of at least 300 ft. I have to adjust the sensitivity down to 50. Then the wall of overlapping cheap eagle eye PIR's which has about the same range. I have to point them at the ground to avoid reflections from afar. Then I have at least 4 cameras mounted at not so visible places. They are at 2.4 GHz and 1.2 GHz, all at line of sight to my receiver at 10 ft away. I don't know too much about jamming but to jam the xcam's, you need to have the power of a magnetron as in your microwave, and put it near to the line of sight or the receiver.
I was going to buy more consoles if I find some cheap things on eBay. I'm sure they will work together as the x10 detectors only transmit. If I put consoles at the two ends of the house, it should guard against portable low power jammers.
Now you have 3 frequencies to jam. 2.4 G, 1.2 G which is illegal I think, and the x10 frequency, which is neither of the above.
After all that, I still have decent locks on the doors, and the 3 dollar independent alarms on most windows.
Only electricians will take notice of switchmode supplies as if it is special. Most people have a big switchmode supply in their PC since the 80's !!! From 100W to 300W and now 500W. The technology isn't the problem, bad design is.
The strange thing is that I'm not attaching a chainsaw to my cable modem, but a wi-fi router. 2.5 A?! No way. Throw the router away. Now it works happily on a 500 mA DC adaptor, though I'm not using all the 4 Ethernet ports. My life depends on the router, as I have internet phone. E911 depends on the router to work. Of course I have several cell phones as back up and most if not all old cell phones can use emergency services.
I'm telling you, with my now expert insight, that one moron can wire a socket uniquely and hence screw up the whole house. And one bad D-link DC adapter can kill the x10 signal stone dead. Forget about your signal meter, each electronic box attenuate the x10 signal a bit, that your LED blinking meter cannot measure. And they add up. So it's worthwhile to use a blocker to isolate the TV cluster and maybe the PC cluster, so the signal is not attenuated and increase the reliability. If your signal is weak, you will have all sorts of noise problems.
That's probably right, but who cares. I'm saying that the RF range (and the wired range) is normally decent for a 2000 sqft house and 5000 sqft yard. If you feel that you have a short range, it could be that you have two transceivers on the same house code. On different house codes are OK, I have been using it for years to overcome a moron socket wiring.
Is the x10 info ever useful? Like the D-link adapter, one bad design can screw up all. But basically I'm saying that ordinary household appliances are OK statistically, much tamer than electronics. For noise to turn on or off a light by itself is statistically unlikely event, unless you are constantly bombarded by strong noises, or the X10 physical and protocol design is really stupid. If you keep your signal strong by blocking the electronics, noise is much less of a problem.
My news are good news as what can you do about a noisy blower? Washing machine? Throw them away and get a new one? Plug them in a 30A blocker each? Worry about your electronic clusters first.
Brownouts are the exceptions. If that bothers you, forget about X10 and dave's website.
May be rare in Houston, but at least as far as my eyes can see, all the fake Spanish Californian architectures all have the same design (15 years old?). One special 3 phase socket in the utility room for the dryer and washer. But my washer don't need it and I use gas for my dryer. As my house isn't that big, having one columns of breakers in the distribution box rather than two columns, I think all the lights and sockets of interest are on the same phase.
But you turn people off at the 1st page, I'm not looking at soldering anything. And now people all over the world can Google me for x10, not you.
Did you failed to get into RF IC design, or at least analog IC design?
In the past in front of my house is total darkness. Now I have lights for the sidewalks to help my neighbors, but only turned on when there are people nearby to save electricity and the world.
Now I tone down my floodlight system, using a mechanical time so the setup is only active after 10pm. But there are still the morons walking dogs after that. Next time I'll have a paper cut life side figure holding a gun. And I'll trigger the dining room lights to shine a shadow of a man holding a gun at the windows.
BTW, all my X10 setup are for security, though they may have dual purposes.
Can you even read past the third grade level? I usually tell people how to make X-10 work without having to spend much money. The difference seems to be that I know what I'm talking about while you remain totally clueless while presenting yourself as an expert. I got into HA because it offers those with disabilities (and without a lot of income) ways to control their environment.
As I said, you are clueless and anyone who follows your advice will be equally clueless.
There is no need for a special test transmitter as you want to measure the signal from your standard transmitters in situ.
No, it is not typical of wireless security systems. Most others have some semblance of security - decent systems utilize rolling codes - X-10 has absolutely no security. I don't have to get inside your "perimeter defense". I don't have to jam it. I merely have to send all 256 possible ID codes plus a disarm code via RF and there is absolutely no way you can prevent it short of turning off your X-10 security console.
We can agree on one thing - you should have expertise on morons - you most certainly are one.
Spikes from motors starting/stopping or from fluorescents being switched off can directly affect many X-10 wall switches causing them to turn on or off. This happens in the absence of X-10 signals so neither signal strength nor the details of the X-10 protocol is a factor.
That is NOT a 3-phase socket idiot! It's a 240V dryer outlet which is single phase.