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Author Topic: X10 And Home Environmental Control - No. 1 of 4  (Read 14259 times)

Oldtimer

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X10 And Home Environmental Control - No. 1 of 4
« on: October 14, 2006, 12:45:08 PM »

TakeTheActive and I have had several exchanges about the negative content of a lot of posts on the Forum and what to do about it.  He encouraged me to post some of my success stories in the hope they would inspire others to do the same.  I have found that X10, properly used, is a very powerful tool but it can't do the whole job by itself, as these stories will show.

Note that these are excerpts from the FAQ about our house that I keep up to date for my wife and family.

All feed back, good or bad, is welcome including personal messages.


HOW THE DOWNSTAIRS BATHROOM WORKS AND WHY
December 16, 2005

Oldtimer
A Supplement To The Household FAQ Book

  • Section "VIII"-Oil Burner & Thermostats
  • Section "IX"-Electrical System & X-10 Controls
  • Section "XIII"-Seasonal Maintenance
[/b]
We've had two problems with the downstairs bathroom since we bought the house.  First, no one seems to be able to find the light switch, which was put on the wall next to the toilet but out of sight when you enter the bathroom.  Second, the room has always been cold.  50 degrees or colder during the night and in the morning in the winter.  55 degrees in the Spring and Fall. In addition, particularly in the winter, a north wind would blow back into the bathroom through the exhaust fan which comes out inside the eaves over the hot tub.  In addition the radiator in the bathroom is at the end of the baseboard heater loop for the dining room, living room, kitchen, bathroom zone. That means the circulating water from the furnace is fairly cool when it finally gets to the bathroom.  Finally there's the problem with the bathroom's location.  It is on the North West corner of the house which only gets sun for a brief time in the middle of the afternoon, and also has two walls and a ceiling with outside exposure.

The first thing I changed here and upstairs were the exhaust fan switches.  They were both simple ON/OFF switches that could be left ON and would then suck all the warm air out of the house in an hour or so.  I replaced them both with mechanical timers.  The one upstairs went into the same box but I had to install the timer downstairs in a new box above the existing switch.  While doing this I realized there was no practical way to rewire the overhead light and exhaust fan to a new switch located just inside the door without taking out parts of two walls and the ceiling and then replacing them after the new wiring was installed, so we just learned to live with the problem.

We were finally able to fix this light switch problem a few years ago when I installed an X-10 RF receiver (RR501) in the dining room outlet (since replaced with a new RF receiver (CM15A) in Helen's closet upstairs), and an X-10 I/R sensor and X-10 replacement wall switch in the bathroom. Now when you walk into the bathroom the IR sensor sends an RF signal to the RF receiver (CM15A/RR501) which then sends a carrier current signal (PLC) over the power line to the new wall switch, which then turns ON the overhead light.  As long as you're in the bathroom the IR sensor refreshes those signals and keeps the light on.  About 4 minutes after you leave the bathroom the IR sensor sends a new signal via the same route to turn the overhead light OFF. As Rube Goldberg as it sounds this system has been quite reliable, although it occasionally has a delayed reaction to your re-entering the bathroom.

The first thing we learned to do to keep the bathroom a little warmer was to leave the door wide open when we weren't using it and to block the exhaust fan outlet in the winter (now that we have the installation described below we keep the door shut during the heating season).  This helped some during the day, but not much.  The next thing I did was to put a "wind proof" dryer vent cover over the end of the outlet duct inside the eaves when the porch deck and the first floor roof under it was taken off to repair water leakage.  With this in place we didn't bother to install the exhaust fan block in the winter anymore, although you could still feel a slight draft coming from the exhaust fan if there was a very strong North wind blowing.

This winter 2004-2005 was much colder than it had been for quite a few years so we were again reminded just how cold the bathroom could get.  We realized that putting in an ordinary electric heater would be out of the question, since it would probably run constantly and add 50% to our electric bill.  Ideally we would have liked to put a small overhead duct with a fan in it from the furnace room to bathroom, but this would have been ugly, not to mention dangerous and against the fire code.

Our final design was the fan you see now in the upper wall between the kitchen and the bathroom (K/BR fan). I found it after an extensive search on the Internet. It is controlled by a thermostat in the bathroom and only draws about 25 watts when it is running because I have resistors in it to reduce the speed. It also is turned off by the X-10 computer, via an appliance module with local control defeated, from 10:30pm to 8:30am to match the computer controlled thermostat for the kitchen area which is set back to 60 degrees from 10:30pm to 8:15am.  I replaced the standard outlet in the kitchen with a GFCI outlet before hard wiring the K/BR fan, thermostat and X10 module to it so there wouldn't be a hazard if you touched the thermostat after a shower or while standing at the sink.  After experimenting for a while we found we could set the thermostat to 64 degrees and the K/BR fan would bring the temperature up from 50/55 degrees to that in about 45 minutes and then keep it there by only running once in a while during the day.  UNLESS there was a strong North wind blowing, so I made new aluminum blocking sheets for the exhaust fan to solve that problem.

Compared to what it was 64 degrees was a vast improvement but we needed to do more.  I experimented with the space heater from the shop and found that it only had to run for a few seconds on low (700 watts) to make the room feel comfortable. So after more internet research to learn what was available I found the exact space heater we needed locally, at Benny's.

The new space heater, which is connected to an appliance module, goes ON when the overhead light goes ON and turns OFF when the overhead light goes OFF (I/R sensor controlled - see above).  The heater's thermostat is set so that it will turn off when the temperature on the Honeywell thermostat's thermometer is about 67-70 degrees, depending on the outside temperature. This is to prevent if from running too long if the X-10 OFF signal doesn't get through for some reason (See section "IX").  The X-10 computer is also programmed to turn the light and heater OFF four times a day, just in case.  Note also that local control has been defeated on the X-10 appliance module connected to the heater.

Although I didn't plan it that way it turns out that if the K/BR fan is running when the space heater goes on, the air flow from the fan doesn't divert the heat from the fan from reaching the toilet area  for more than a few seconds.  This is because the K/BR fan air flow pushes the heat from the space heater up to the thermostat and quickly turns the K/BR fan OFF.

Manual control for all this is provided by a multi-switch X-10 unit (RSS18) inside the cupboard door over the microwave.  This looks like a regular three button light switch plate but is actually an RF transmitter.  The top button turns the K/BR fan ON or OFF.  The second button turns the light and heater ON and OFF, however the ON button starts a macro in the X-10 computer that will turn OFF the heater and light after 4 minutes.  The third button labeled OUT (OFF position) turns off a whole bunch of things in the house including the K/BR fan, light and heater when we all leave for an extended period of time.  IN (ON position), on the same button turns things back on such as the K/BR fan. (This applies to the hot room fan also. That installation will be No.2 in this series of posts.)

When it's not the heating season (5/1 to 9/30) the X-10 computer doesn't turn ON the K/BR fan and the exhaust fan blocking plates and the heater are removed.

If I'm not around to maintain the X-10 program and no one else can or wants to, you can do the following after you turn it OFF but leave the CM-15A installed (see IX):

  • The upper button on the switch inside the cupboard door over the microwave will still operate the K/BR fan, but you'll have to manually turn it off at night.
    .
  • The IR sensor will still turn the overhead light and heater ON and OFF but the other cupboard buttons won't work anymore. The programed OFFs won't work either.  A Palmpad set to F14 will operate overhead light and heater however.

If you sell the house you'll need to do the following, to bring the house up to code:

  • Have an electrician remove the X-10 module from inside the wall and replace it with a regular ON/OFF switch.



For more User-Submitted Original X10 Home Automation Ideas, be sure to bookmark:

Members Sharing Their Original X10 Home Automation Ideas [Updated: 2006/10/14]

*OR*

If *YOU* have an Original X10 Home Automation Idea, PLEASE write it up and submit it!

« Last Edit: August 25, 2007, 10:04:55 PM by Oldtimer »
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TakeTheActive

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Re: X10 And Home Environmental Control - No. 1 of 3
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2006, 02:04:21 PM »

GREAT ARTICLE Oldtimer! THANKS!!!

Note that these are excerpts from the FAQ about our house that I keep up to date for my wife and family.

Please provide an overview of this FAQ for the Members (and ME!). ;)

  • Hardcopy or electronic?
    .
  • Approximately how many pages?
    .
  • How did it begin?
    .
  • Index / Glossary / Cross-reference?
    .
  • Does the family actually *USE* it?

    [I print out an Excel spreadsheet of each HouseCode / UnitCode in use for my wife, but she *STILL* asks things like "The kennel floodlights are still on - what number is that? " whereas I have everything memorized (I mean, it's been *STATIC* for so many years now!  ;D ).]
« Last Edit: October 14, 2006, 04:19:33 PM by TakeTheActive »
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