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Author Topic: 5 out of 9 modules failed  (Read 47142 times)

LA Fred

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5 out of 9 modules failed
« on: November 23, 2007, 08:54:26 PM »

I bought 9 modules last year to control the Christmas candles in our windows.  All worked as advertised, except one.  It would come on but not turn off.  I figured it was a faulty receptacle and bought a new one to put in this year. 

However, today when I hooked the modules up for this year, only four would work.  Of the five that failed, four are three pin appliance models and one is a two pin appliance model.  To double check the bad units, I plugged them into the bottom part of the receptacle in which the control box was plugged. 

I guess they were cycled on and off, at the most, 30 times last Christmas.  They were then replaced to their original boxes and stored in the hall closet.

The reason I am posting this is because, within the pages and pages and pages of gushy stuff about the X-10 stuff, I could not find one single place to go to if you had faulty equipment. 

I jokingly told my wife that, with a failure rate of almost 60%, this stuff must have been made in China.  By George, I looked and it WAS made in China!

Does any one know how I can best resolve this matter?
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Dan Lawrence

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2007, 01:46:15 PM »

Where did you buy them?

I buy X10 modules from Automated Outlet http://www.automatedoutlet.com/home.php  Their prices are lower than X10 USA's and shipping is $7.50 per order no matter how many items you buy. Automated Outlet also sells a lot of X10 compatible modules made by other companies.
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I don't SELL this stuff... BUT I sure do ENJOY using it!!!

Boiler

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2007, 02:47:53 PM »

LA Fred,
Welcome to the forum.

Like you I have a number of appliance modules that get pulled out of boxes every Christmas for "decoration duty".  Unlike you, some of these are over 10 years old and I've yet to have a failure (I'm knocking on my wood desk now).

Your failure rate is unusal, particulary because your units were simply stored over the past year.  While I could understand some infant mortality, 5 units is way off the charts.

I suspect you have something else going on (noise/faulty controller) that is causing the problem with the Appliance modules.  You didn't mention what type of controller you were using (tabletop - mini controller?). 

All of my appliance modules at true "relay" units.  You can hear them "click" when they are activated.  If your problem units are not "clicking", they are either not receiving the X10 signal from your controller (noise/bad controller/signal sucking) or are totally brain dead.  I can't explain had a Appliance module would go "brain dead" being stored in a closet (you don't have any EMP sources nearby - JOKE).

If your units do "click" they are receiving the X10 signal and simply not turning on the output (You're correct - they're bad).

Let us know the situation,
Boiler

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Brian H

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2007, 05:52:13 PM »

Since they where sitting idle for a time. You may want to just give both the House Code and Unit Code dials a few turns. On the off chance they got intermitant and the address has shifted to one you are not using.
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LA Fred

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2007, 02:46:50 PM »

To Boiler:  The controller is named "Powerhouse Mini Controller."  Inasmuch as the unts were plugged into the same wall soclket as the controller, there shouildn't be too much noise.  And, since the other modules work with this controller, my thinking is stiil about the modules. 

To Dan: Everything was bought directly from X-10.

To: Brian: Turning the dials did not help.
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JeffVolp

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2007, 03:31:10 PM »

Inasmuch as the units were plugged into the same wall socket as the controller, there shouldn't be too much noise.

While plugging both into the same receptacle should eliminate signal strength issues, it does not eliminate a possible noise problem.

First, some background:  X10 data is sent as a series of 120KHz bursts over the powerline.  Presence of a burst is interpreted as a logic "1" and absence of a burst as a logic "0".  All data is sent in complimentary pairs:  "1-0" or "0-1"  In-band noise can fill up those empty slots.

A module that does not incorporate AGC to raise its detection level above the background noise level will read the noise as additional "1" bits, and reject the command.

In the year since you last used these modules, you may have added some electronic devices that radiate significant electrical noise onto the powerline.  Possible culprits include compact fluorescent lights, cell phone chargers, and other plug-in "wall-warts".  I wrote a note on one particularly nasty charger:

http://jvde.us/x10/x10_cellet_noise.htm

I suggest you also read this tutoral on how to deal with these problems:

http://jvde.us/x10/x10_filters.htm

Good luck,

Jeff
« Last Edit: February 24, 2010, 11:21:43 PM by JeffVolp »
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X-10 automation since the BSR days

LA Fred

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2007, 10:06:31 PM »

To Jeff: I glanced through the articles you provided and was blown off my feet.  If you look through the many, many web pages the X-10 people have telling about their products, I don't believe you will find one single word about any of the problems mentioned in the articles.  I wonder how they are allowed to sell this as "security" equipment. 

Is there any X-10 type of equipment that a person could consider for security purposes or should everything be hardwired?
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JeffVolp

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2007, 10:43:36 AM »


Is there any X-10 type of equipment that a person could consider for security purposes or should everything be hardwired?

I'm a believer in hardwired myself, and pulled in over a thousand feet of wire here.  I even installed a microswitch in front of the deadbolt on the entrance door so the security system alerts us whenever that is not locked.

Many people do use wireless systems.  They are better than nothing, and certainly much easier to install. 

Jeff
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X-10 automation since the BSR days

LA Fred

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2007, 01:39:19 PM »

Thanks to all of you.

The good news is that I called X-10 and they agreed to RMA all five of the modules.

But this was a good lesson for me if I ever get serious about a security system.
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Boiler

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2007, 02:18:26 PM »

To Jeff: I glanced through the articles you provided and was blown off my feet.  If you look through the many, many web pages the X-10 people have telling about their products, I don't believe you will find one single word about any of the problems mentioned in the articles.  I wonder how they are allowed to sell this as "security" equipment. 

Is there any X-10 type of equipment that a person could consider for security purposes or should everything be hardwired?

Fred,
While you're correct that the X10 advertisements do not list all the possible failure modes for an X10 system, their knowledge base (wiki) does deal with the subject.  This is far more information than many manufacturers put forth. 

I've yet to see an auto manufacturer list all of the possible failure modes in one of their brochures.  If they did, you might very well opt for public transportation.

There are very reliable automation systems available.  These are typically beyond the means of the average homeowner.  The X10 technology is old, is very reasonably priced, and has problems dealing with much of the modern equipment that we now install in our home.  Even with the modern noise and signal absorption devices, that were never envisioned 30 years ago, the X10 technology can be made to work.

I understand that you live in the LA area and that CFL's are pretty much the rule.  As you've probably already gathered, "certain" CFL's can be a death Knoll for X10.  This doesn't have to be the case.  You have a number of options available.
  • Replace "noisy" CFL's with X10 friendly units.  I have used Sylvania (only have 6), others have reported good luck with GE.  Try a search on the forum
  • Isolate and filter "noisy CFL's with an inline filter (may be more expensive than replacing the bulbs).
  • Switch automation technologies.

In regard to security systems, I'll again fall in step with Jeff.  I like the hardwired solution.  Like him, my home was new construction and I spent many hours pulling wires for security, phone, cable, and network.  RF is easy, but it's hard to beat the reliability of a hardwired system.

All of the above leads to a personal decision that only you can make.  Living in LA, you have very different drivers than I do in the Midwest.  Weigh the cost, convenience, reliability and make your decision. 

Let us know which direction you're headed.

Boiler

Fred - you beat me to the post.  Please let us know the results of your replacement units.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2007, 02:20:20 PM by Boiler »
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LA Fred

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #10 on: December 05, 2007, 01:39:35 PM »

Boiler,

You have educated me in two ways.

First, I wasn’t aware of the complexities involved in using the X-10 components.

Second, I wasn’t aware of the fact that that not all CFLs were the same.  I bought these at Wal-Mart or Sam’s (I nave forgotten which).  So, they very well may be the cheapest and poorest made you can get. 

I’ll pay closer attention the next time I buy some.  If they are screwing up the X-10 modules, they could very well be screwing up (or, at least, hindering) something else.

The fact that all of the “green” people are pushing so hard for everyone to go to the CFLs could very well spell trouble for the X-10 community.

Thank you for taking the time to bring all of this out,

Fred
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jeffl1932

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #11 on: December 12, 2007, 05:05:01 AM »

LA Fred,
Welcome to the forum.

Like you I have a number of appliance modules that get pulled out of boxes every Christmas for "decoration duty".  Unlike you, some of these are over 10 years old and I've yet to have a failure (I'm knocking on my wood desk now).

Your failure rate is unusal, particulary because your units were simply stored over the past year.  While I could understand some infant mortality, 5 units is way off the charts.

I suspect you have something else going on (noise/faulty controller) that is causing the problem with the Appliance modules.  You didn't mention what type of controller you were using (tabletop - mini controller?). 

All of my appliance modules at true "relay" units.  You can hear them "click" when they are activated.  If your problem units are not "clicking", they are either not receiving the X10 signal from your controller (noise/bad controller/signal sucking) or are totally brain dead.  I can't explain had a Appliance module would go "brain dead" being stored in a closet (you don't have any EMP sources nearby - JOKE).

If your units do "click" they are receiving the X10 signal and simply not turning on the output (You're correct - they're bad).

Let us know the situation,
Boiler



Well, I have the exact same problem with X-10 stuff.  I have 10 lamp modules that are about a year old and ALL of them have failed.  As far as I can tell when I performed forensics on the dead modules, the cpus are dying.  They are Microchip PIC microcontrollers, mostly of the 12c508 variety.  They are failing, rendering the modules useless.  Further, I bought two of the spotlight cameras, and they are both dead.  There is no point in buying more as their forensics turned up a relay with a large steel pin to connect to the hot side of the AC line.  These relays are getting hot or something, but the relays keep coming unsoldered from the boards.  When I opened them up, most of the solder and circuit board had arced away before the connections failed outright and the lights stopped coming on.  The relay doesn't even "click" anymore.  I also purchased the ActiveHome kit.  After about 6 months the interface stopped responding to the computer.  I bought a second just to see if it was the controller.  It was.  The second controller died just after 3 months.  I live in Phoenix, AZ and it is very likely that we have bad power.  It goes off frequently, especially during monsoon season.  This is what probably killied my remaining two appliance modules.  I also have a two-way interface that burned up without my knowing it.  I noticed the outside light wasn't coming on, and found the insides charred and burnt beyond recognition.  So -- out of over 30 pieces I once had, I have one or two left.  I have friends who have reported similar disasters.  The bottom line -- neither of us will ever even consider X-10 junk ever again.  I am working on designing my own system that will not use powerline communications...  Hey, anyone want any keyfob remotes?  I must have 6 of them.  Anyone wants them, let me know and you can HAVE them for the shipping cost.
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Boiler

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2007, 01:47:47 PM »

jeffl1932,

With so many failed units, I can certainly understand your frustration.

I've re-read your post numerous times trying to determine how to reply.  Here goes...

You've seen 100% failure of your lamp modules.  The modules you're referring to (PIC controller) are apparently the "new" design.  I don't have any of these nor is there a lot of info on them (schematics).  Let's table this one for the moment.

You reported solder re-flow on two of your camera/floodlights.  That doesn't sound like a power surge (not unless you achieved breakdown on a downstream component).  It takes a sustained over current to re-flow solder.  I probably don't need to mention that this is more than a little dangerous. 

I expect the flood lamp circuit is similar to my PR511 flood lamps.  My units have been operating since '2000 without a hiccup.

Your appliance modules are probably similar to the circuit for your floodlights (relay control).  Have you attempted "forensics" on any of these?

Your controller (CM11a or CM15a?) is a bit different.  This device isn't connected to a load.  The CM15a is fused and is transformer and opto isolated from the line.  While I don't have experience with some of your devices, they are newer devices or I simply don't have any, I have quite a bit of experience with the CM11a/CM15a.  They're pretty tough devices to hurt.

CM15a Schematic Link

The common mode failure in all of the above is your powerline (I'm trying not to jump to conclusions here).  Have you noticed a high failure rate on incandescent bulbs?

Whether or not you ever intend to use X10 devices again, I would seriously recommend that you call your power company.  It's possible that you have a poor neutral connection or other problem with your transformer.  Your power company has line monitoring/trending devices that they can install to detect these types of problems.  If for no other reason than peace of mine, the effort would be worth it.

Let us know if you come up with anything,
Boiler

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LA Fred

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #13 on: December 23, 2007, 10:42:54 PM »

UPDATE

I received the replacement units from the X-10 people Friday night (8:24 PM - I'm the last stop on the FedEx route). 

They all work. 

However, I came upon an unexpected problem.  Although all of the units worked when I tested them, two failed to work when I installed them.  Using some of the knowledge I gained here, I started unplugging likely noise making suspects on the circuit.  I finally found the problem.  It was the TrippLite Line Stabilizer/Conditioner LC1800 that I had my TV, DVD and VRC plugged into.

Now, here is something that is supposed to be removing line noise from things plugged into it, but is screwing up the circuit into which it is plugged!

I guess the next step is to get an isolator or filter to plug the TrippLite unit into.

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Brian H

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Re: 5 out of 9 modules failed
« Reply #14 on: December 24, 2007, 06:17:01 AM »

The AC Input circuit on many devices; like my APC BX1000 UPS and maybe your TrippLite; have noise filtering on them. X10 and other signals like Insteon. To that filter is noise and it absorbs it. I had to add a 10 Amp; X10 type filter to my BX1000 AC Line or it greatly degraded my power line signals.
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