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Author Topic: X10 Signal Couplers  (Read 21661 times)

JeffVolp

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X10 Signal Couplers
« on: March 05, 2007, 09:45:10 AM »

The latest installment of my tutorial series covers why X10 signal couplers are needed.  Included are a few simulations that show how the different types of couplers will work.

Jeff
« Last Edit: February 24, 2010, 10:59:47 PM by JeffVolp »
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Brian H

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Re: X10 Signal Couplers
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2007, 04:32:38 PM »

Thank you again; for all the information you have given to all the X10 users.
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JeffVolp

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Re: X10 Signal Couplers
« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2007, 09:34:28 AM »

Thanks for the feedback.  After of 30 years developing mostly military systems, it’s nice to work on some projects that benefit the average Joe.

Jeff
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LW

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Re: X10 Signal Couplers
« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2007, 04:53:55 PM »

Hi Jeff,

Many thanks from me too! A number of questions occurred to me while I was reading your document, which, I think (I may be wrong) were not addressed in it. I'd be very grateful if you could answer them for me...?

  • 1.) About the dryer plug-in phase coupler solution, I read, "That type of coupler can also work well if that receptacle connects directly to the main distribution panel through a short cable run." Is there any for an electonically-challenged newbie to make a reasonable guess as to whether the cable run is short enough. Suppose, for instance, that there is no separate panel for 240V appliances, and the house is an average 1000 square foot home. Is it probable here that the dryer-plug-in coupler will provide a strong enough signal transfer?

  • 2.)
    (a) Do I understand rightly that your graph labelled, "X10 Phase-to-Phase Signal Transfer Through a 240V Appliance", reflects the situation described in the words, "In our case, all 240V electrical appliances are fed from another panel located where power comes into the house.  It is a long run from that panel to our main distribution panel, which is centrally located in the basement.  If we used a dryer coupler, signals would have to propagate from the transmitter to the main panel, then to the entrance panel, then to the dryer coupler, back to the entrance panel, and finally back to the main panel before they could be distributed to circuits on the opposite phase.  The hundreds of feet of wire would significantly reduce the effectiveness of a dryer coupler"?

    (b) When you write, "the hundreds of feet of wire would significantly reduce the effectiveness," I wonder if you mean, "it has indeed significantly reduced effectiveness." In other words, is the "simulation" that you speak of in the beginning of the article the same as "our case [where] all 240V electrical appliances are fed from another panel ...[etc.]"?

    (c) For a house without that separate 240V panel and without such a length of wiring, I wonder if the dryer plug-in coupler's effectiveness would approximate that illustrated in the graph labelled, "X10 Phase-to-Phase Signal Transfer with Tuned-Circuit Coupling"...?

  • 3.) If the kitchen stove/range and the dryer both use 240V, then is it sometimes better to use a stove plug-in coupler instead of the dryer one (if it exists)?

  • 4.)
    (a) Short of solutions that require installation by a qualified electrician, is the dryer plug-in coupler (with the possible addition of a plug-in repeater) the best that one can do?

    (b) Would you agree with the description at eBay: X10 PHASE COUPLER / SIGNAL BRIDGE - 0.1uF CAPACITOR that a 0.1uF capacitor "should be installed by a licensed electrician"? I wasn't sure if you were suggesting the opposite when in the second-last paragraph of your article you wrote, "It costs very little to try the coupling capacitor as a first step.  If you need to hire an electrician for the work, I would certainly start with a good tuned-circuit passive coupler." Sorry for my confusion.

  • 5.) What is your opinion on the X10-Pro PZZ01, which is said to couple the phases, block external electrical noise and prevent X10 commands from entering or leaving one's home? What are the pros and cons of choosing it over an XTB or XTB-II, if one has to choose between them?

  • 6.) I read somewhere that many homes have three phases instead of two - yikes! When that happens, does one normally need a couple of couplers, or a tripler?

  • 7.) The house that we just bought, into which I'm nervously going to install my new first batch of X10 security/automation equipment, is said to have aluminum/copper wire splices with improper connectors" and "aluminum wiring at 75% of the household circuits." So says the house inspection report. In spite of this, this aspect of the home wiring was rated, "fair." Is this likely to be a problem for the X10 equipment?

Sorry for such a bombardment of questions. Thanks for your time!


[TTA Edit: Formatted for readability (needed some whitespace).]
« Last Edit: March 06, 2007, 05:26:57 PM by TakeTheActive »
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JeffVolp

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Re: X10 Signal Couplers
« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2007, 05:54:07 PM »

Thanks for the response.  Feedback will help make the document better.  Individual answers below:

1)   No exact number for a short cable run.  25 feet should be fine.  100 feet would probably have some significant attenuation.  A dryer coupler would probably be fine in a 1000 sq. ft. home, especially if the dryer is near the distribution panel.

2)  The simulation just included a resistive load directly across the panel with no allowance for wiring inductance.  The further away from the panel it is, the less effective it would be.  I do not use a coupler, so I do not have quantitative measurements for our exact situation.  However, I HAVE measured significant drop through 50 feet of wiring.  Extrapolating that to how our electrical distribution is configured, I would not expect a dryer coupler to work nearly as well as a coupler installed at the distribution panel.

3)  Use whichever is closest to the distribution panel.  That will reduce line inductance, and result in a stronger coupled signal.

4)  While it doesn't meet code, many here are sufficiently skilled to pop in a 240V breaker with a capacitor connected across it.  Anyone not comfortable working around an electrical panel should either solicit help from a friend with such skills, or hire an electrician to install a coupler by the code.  If you hire an electrician, a good tuned circuit passive coupler installed next to the distribution panel is the best way to go.  BTW, that's my eBay listing, and the electrician warning is to prevent people who don't know what they are doing from getting hurt.  If you have a 240V appliance near the distribution panel, the plug-in coupler should work fine.

5)  The main function of the PZZ01 is to block X10 signals from coming into the house via the powerline.  This should prevent interaction with a neighbor's X10 system.  They say it also works as a coupler, but I don't know how effective it is compared with the XPCP or equivalent.  (I wonder if they got that PZZ01 name from misswiring it at some point....)

The XTB-II is a different animal.  Its function is to drive a very strong signal into the powerline.  It does not block signals coming from your neighbors.  While not designed as a signal coupler, it does provide that function because it connects to both phases.  The plug-in XTB only drives a single phase, and should be paired with good tuned-circuit coupler if both phases are used.

6)  I don't think there are many 3-phase systems in North America, but that is common in Europe.  What is needed for a coupler depends on whether it is a "Y" or "Delta" connection.  240V "Y" has to deal with nasty voltages.  Delta should have drive on the phase most used for X10, and a "signal divider" used to couple half of that signal to the other two phases.  Obviously, those systems also need transmitters that output on all 3 phases.

7)  Aluminum wiring is a whole different subject.  There is nothing inherent in aluminum wiring that will cause a problem for X10.  I would however investigate having those improper connections changed as they will be a fire hazard as the wiring continues to age.  That is something that you might have negotiated to have done by the prior owners.

Hope this answers your questions.

Jeff
« Last Edit: March 06, 2007, 07:11:11 PM by JeffVolp »
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LW

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Re: X10 Signal Couplers
« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2007, 06:51:34 PM »

Hi Jeff,

Your replies were very helpful, thanks!
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LW

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Re: X10 Signal Couplers
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2007, 03:42:50 PM »

Hi everyone,

I recently e-mailed a few local electrical service companies asking them about the price of installing one of the $0.99 X10 phase capacitors presently available on E-bay: http://cgi.ebay.com/X10-PHASE-COUPLER-FIX-INTERMITTENT-X10-PROBLEMS_W0QQitemZ160092588442QQcategoryZ40976QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem and http://cgi.ebay.com/X-10-PHASE-COUPLER-SIGNAL-BRIDGE-CAPACITOR-FIX-X10_W0QQitemZ180092761968QQcategoryZ50587QQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem .

The first company has written me back, saying, "We also could not install the bridge you are suggesting - it does not appear to have a CSA stamp and would be rejected by SPC.  If you are trying to bridge the phases to allow for power line carrier devices to operate, you will need to check for bridges that are CSA approved for the use with devices you plan to connect." Is there a CSA stamp, just not on the side shown in the photograph at Ebay? Or is there an alternate form of certification for these devices?

Thanks for your time.
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JeffVolp

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Re: X10 Signal Couplers
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2007, 04:22:35 PM »

Quote
Is there a CSA stamp, just not on the side shown in the photograph at Ebay? Or is there an alternate form of certification for these devices?

The two coupling capacitors you refer to in your post are ordinary electronic components that are used inside devices such a X10 modules.  They would not have individual regulatory certification for this application.

The coupling capacitor in eBay listing #180087345321 does have the various certifications stamped on its case.  However, if you must hire an electrician to do the work, you really should consider a tuned-circuit coupler like the X10 XPCP or Smart Home SignaLinc.  While they are both designed specifically for this application, I do not see any CSA stamp on the XPCP I have here.  The SignaLinc is "ETL Listed", as described in the detailed specifications.  Perhaps that will be sufficient for your installation.

Jeff

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Brian H

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Re: X10 Signal Couplers
« Reply #8 on: March 09, 2007, 04:23:16 PM »

I would doubt it. It doesn't look like an AC Powerline rated capacitor.
I will look at one of mine and see if a CSA logo is on it.
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