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Author Topic: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs  (Read 134138 times)

Dragon

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #45 on: April 06, 2017, 11:42:15 AM »

Hi Brian,

Yes, Philips 457036 LED (it's not CFL) is rated for diming.  I can dim it on the modified or unmodified X10 switch but the flickering problem persists at all dim levels on the modified one.

I also have WS467 X10 switches made in 2009 that contain a daughter board and other new components that I found a way to modify and they drive the Philips without flickering.  So that gives me hope it's possible to get the older switches working somehow.

Here's Philips running on a modified 2009 switch:



The mod on the 2009 switch is much simpler, requiring only one wire cut and no moving the 330k resistor:



The actual circuit with daughter board is more complex than the schematic above and the chip pins are different but the part being modified looks like the schematic.  Instead of cutting the blue wire and replacing with white, I just wrapped original blue in white tape and added a new blue wire to the cut choke wire:



BTW, I see ebay is still selling "new" WS467s that look like the old models.  The ones I got have big white house/unit code dials that look more modern and come in a sky-blue box:





I've got four of them modified and tested on about 5 different types of LED without issue, including the Philips 457036.  Considering they sell for as low as $10 shipped, it's probably easier to just replace the older switches with them when necessary, but if anyone has an idea on how to fix the old ones I'm willing to try.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2017, 02:16:38 AM by Dragon »
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Brian H

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #46 on: April 06, 2017, 12:36:24 PM »

Thank you for the added information.
It should be of some help to others.

Any clues of age between the two hardware versions you are referencing?
Maybe the Date Code on the white sticker. Usually on the back.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2017, 01:40:44 PM by Brian H »
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Dragon

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #47 on: April 06, 2017, 05:49:01 PM »

These switches are all from my father's house and he's had X10 since the 80s when the house was built.  He's still got a lot of the oldest model switches that are deeper and held together with rivets.  The two with flickering problems are marked 4A4 with a Radio Shack brand.  I'm guessing 4th week of 2004?  I also have a Sears brand marked 9A03 (9th week, 2003?).  One of the new ones that don't flicker is X10 brand, 09I36 (36th week, 2009?  It's definitely got an i in the middle, not a 1).  I've modded and installed four that I thought were purchased ~2016 based on what Dad said but I went back later and pulled one to find it also labeled 09I36, so I guess they're all 2009. 



The Sears brand has all the same components as Radio Shack, but a lot of the caps and resistors are a little smaller physically and it has a green wire instead of yellow:



I've left the Sears unmodified as I want a baseline to test with, though I should probably modify it and see if it flickers (though I can't imagine it won't).  Radio shack's chip is marked 78566 9409 while Sears is PICO-78566 8845.  Both have 78566 in them so I assume they're the same general model.  Sears plastic seems weaker as I broke a corner clip opening it up.

Here's the inside of one of the older switches with some codes on the circuit board in case they mean anything:

« Last Edit: April 08, 2017, 10:41:12 PM by Dragon »
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Dragon

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #48 on: April 06, 2017, 10:55:56 PM »

Well, this is shocking.

I went ahead and modded the Sears brand switch and it has no problem with the Philips bulb!  Sine wave is expected thickness and regular with no spikes.  Scope reads steady 106 to 108Vrms.  I see no flicker at any dimness level and it's been running with no flicker for 20ish minutes.

The 330k resistor on Sears was installed backwards so the end I desoldered was a long bare wire.  This made me think that maybe desoldering near the resistor on the Radio Shacks had damaged the resistor, but I tested one at 346k which I would think is close enough.

Just to make sure it wasn't some bizarre intermittent issue with house current, I tested the Radio Shack switch immediately after the Sears had been stable and got immediate flickering and the weird sine wave.

I compared components and noticed the following:
Radio shack has a row of three 221 (220pF?) flat capacitors, Sears uses 220 (22pF?).  A few of the other flat caps also have different values.  Sears uses 5% gold-band tolerance resistors everywhere, Radio Shack uses silver 10% tolerance in a few places.

Back of PCBs look almost identical.  Sears is on the left:



Since I'd broken a corner clip on the front of the Sears housing I tried swapping the front housing from Radio Shack to Sears (keeping the Sears back with the Sears board) and that worked fine.

So, I don't know what's going on, but it appears that manufacturer and specific values of internal components matters with the neutral mod.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 12:36:45 AM by Dragon »
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Brian H

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #49 on: April 07, 2017, 05:58:22 AM »

I have seen a few difference WS467 schematics over the years. As I suspect hardware revisions are in place over the years.
That could explain why you are getting different findings between them.

The capacitors could be different or just be the same with a different method of labeling the value.

From what I have seen When X10WTI took over. Their designs where how many parts can we eliminate and still have it work.
Like a "*" next to a component in the FCC Database Schematics. Was part not installed.  :'

The photo with the PICO marked controller must be one of the originals. Pico Electronics developed the modules and power line communications protocol. I have seen their original patents paper work. If memory serves me the X10 was the tenth experimental project they developed.

I would not be too surprised if the present models may even be using surface mounted components.

I know the present Appliance Modules and Lamp Modules are 100% different than any schematics I have seen. Surface mounted controllers that are using about 3.5 volts VCC. The latest wall switches could also be 100% different from the schematics we have seen.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 07:04:26 AM by Brian H »
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dave w

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #50 on: April 07, 2017, 03:30:06 PM »

The Sears brand has all the same components as Radio Shack, but a lot of the caps and resistors are a little smaller physically and it has a green wire instead of yellow:

I've left the Sears unmodified as I want a baseline to test with, though I should probably modify it and see if it flickers (though I can't imagine it won't).  Radio shack's chip is marked 78566 9409 while Sears is PICO-78566 8845.  Both have 78566 in them so I assume they're the same general model.  Sears plastic seems weaker as I broke a corner clip opening it up.
Nice write-up and pictures. I want to buttress what Brian said about X10WTI quality/reliability. X10's design philosophy seemed to be "make it cheap with low margins and sell a lot". As Brian said, a design would come out and after a few years it went through a "cost reduction" and parts would be missing compared to the older model. At X10, it was; "what can we remove and still have it work". One way to tell of a cost reduction had happened was if there was less screws holding the case together. i.e. The original BSR lamp and appliance modules used four screws and had two PC boards crammed in the module case. The first redesign came after X10 divorced themselves from the BSR marketing / distribution partnership. The Maxi Controller, Appliance Module and Lamp Module were all redesigned to reduce PC board count and build complexity. It was a good move. The cost reductions came later.

I never got a handle on the "Date Code" X10 stuck on the modules, but the Pico chips were more conventional.  78566 was the Pico chip number followed by year and week of manufacture.

I'll go back to sleep now.
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Dragon

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #51 on: April 08, 2017, 01:52:32 AM »

According to this, the left digit in the date code sticker is the year, the letter is the month (A=Jan, L=Dec), and the last two digits are the week (1 to 91).  If the year is a single digit, it's supposedly the X in 199X.  If two digits, it's XX in 20XX.

So in my Dad's switches:

Radio Shack brand: 4A4 with chip marked 9409
If Dave is right about the chip code, the chip was made in the 9th week of 1994.  4A4 should mean 1994, Jan, 4th week.  The dates are close, but it's odd the chip claims to have been made a few weeks after the unit was assembled.

Sears brand: 9A03 with chip marked 8845
Chip code implies 45th week of 1988.  9A03 should mean 1999, Jan, 3rd week.  However, given the chip code implies 1988, and the PICO on the chip implies it's older than the Radio Shack switches, I'm guessing 9A03 actually means 1989 in this case.  Maybe in PICO-era units, a single digit year is always 198X?  This makes it sound like PICO-branded stuff was likely winding down by 1985 when their US partner BSR went out of business.

X10 brand: 09I36
09I36 should mean 2009, Sep, 36th week.  36 / 4 = 9, so Sep makes sense.
« Last Edit: April 08, 2017, 02:21:45 AM by Dragon »
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Brian H

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #52 on: April 08, 2017, 06:27:15 AM »

There is an explanation of the 5 digit date code in an X10 Wiki entry on differences in Lamp Module hardware.
http://kbase.x10.com/wiki/SoftStart

I also have a real old BSR Model X10-HD243 Heavy Duty Appliance Module. It has a 4 digit Date Code 2J42.
I agree the single digit Date Code could be vintage 198X or 199X for the year.
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Dragon

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #53 on: April 12, 2017, 01:47:28 AM »

I've now added a neutral wire to seven BSR brand 1980s era WS467 switches.  They're much thicker than newer switches and are held closed with rivets.  The modded switches have no problem with the Philips bulbs but the ones made in 1980 show a bit of spiking in the sine waves and very occasional flicker with GE bulbs that haven't had problems in any of the other switches.  Go figure.

Switches made in 1980 have a round green sticker that starts with 0, while 1984 switches have a round white sticker that starts with 4.

Here are the steps:

With a new 1/8" titanium-coated drill bit, drill in the center of the rivet on the front of the switch.  Push with gradually-increasing pressure till drill bit starts to carve out a thin strip of metal.  If you push too hard and it will bite too deep and start spinning the rivet instead of cutting.  When it works correctly, you should feel a slight change as the ring-shaped rivet head snaps off and starts to pull away from the switch.

The rivet is brass colored inside but if you see silver, you're drilling into the aluminum frame of the switch, so stop.

If the rivet head ring doesn't break off from drilling (which happened about half the time before I switched to the new titanium bit which drilled 8 in a row with no problem), gently hammer a small chisel under the ring to break it off.  Once it starts to break, to limit nicking the switch faceplate, you can pull it off with a pliers.  You might even get a grip on it with pliers without chiseling - start with whatever side the drill made thinnest.  Bend any parts that don't break off inward so they'll slip through the hole.

Once rivet head is removed, push rivet body out of switch with needle-nose pliers enough to grasp its other end with pliers and pull out completely.

Switches made in 1980 look like this:



There is a small hole in the circuit board where I added the darker blue wire nearest the camera goes through.  That new wire is 18awg and will serve as the load wire.  To make room for it to slip through, I had to enlarge the existing hole with a 7/64" drill bit.  I did it by hand using the drill bit in a tap wrench and twisting back and forth to make sure I didn't damage components below the PCB, but a very slow electric drill used with gentle pressure would probably also work.  Either way, use low pressure near the end or the bit will to break through the PCB surface suddenly and slam into the other PCB or scratch a component.

Strip 1/4" insulation from the blue wire, then put the stripped end in the new hole and use a pliers to pull it between the sky-blue resistor and the red choke as you see in the picture.

In the 1984 board, there is already a hole near the 330k resistor that is large enough to fit the darker blue wire:



On either board, use a desoldering braid to remove most of the solder from where the choke wire is soldered in near the corner of the PCB.  Grip the choke wire with pliers near where it enters the coil, then twist clockwise as you heat the hole it's in to pull it out.  Once out, use a pliers to twist stripped blue wire with choke wire as in the pictures.

Solder choke and blue wire together, then add heat-shrink tube over soldered wires.

Near an edge of the PCB, find the 330k resistor which is a brown cylinder with a silver, yellow, and two orange bands.  Wedge something under the side of the resistor that's nearest the choke.  Heat solder holding the wire on that side of the resistor and pry it out of the PCB.  Straighten the wire, then bend a small hook in the end of it.

Strip a bit over 1/8" of insulation from the end of new 24awg stranded wire (I used a yellow wire in the pictures), make a hook, then crimp the hook to the hook in the 330k resistor.  Solder together.  You can optionally add heat shrink over the soldered wires but I didn't feel they were near enough anything to bother.  Don't cover any part of the resistor with heat shrink because it needs to dissipate heat.

Thread the 24awg wire over to the hole where choke wire was removed from.  In the 1980 board, don't confuse the choke wire hole with an adjacent larger hole that is ringed with solder and I guess acts as a test pad.  Make sure the new 24awg wire fits completely inside the case and won't be crimped when the case is closed (also push the two PCBs together and look for places that might pinch the new wire), then cut to length, strip 1/8", stick stripped wires up through PCB hole so wires protrude a bit above the hole, then cover with a mound of solder, being careful not to push the wires down as you work.

Completed wiring in 1984 switch:



I picked up metric M3 nuts and bolts at the local hardware store to replace the rivets.  The nuts fit exactly in the depressions in the body of the switch.  Although the bolts are thinner than the rivets, it doesn't matter because the plastic parts are keyed to each other.  Result:



It's blurry, but the original lighter blue wire is wrapped in white electrical tape to identify it as neutral.

I use a cut and stripped extension cord with Wago 221-415 lever nuts for testing.  They're expensive, but so quick and easy to connect and disconnect and hold securely - just flip one of those orange levers up, slide wire in with no resistance, then flip lever down.  I've started using them in all my DIY electrical work instead of wire nuts.



Connect all 3 white neutral wires together.
Connect black (hot) from the wall to black in the switch.
Connect blue from the switch to black leading to the lamp.
Plug a lamp in to the end of the extension.
Green ground wire is floating here and not attached to anything since the lamp plug is two-prong.
I plug the whole thing into a power bar so I can easily flip power on/off while I set up the connections.

I let each switch run two LEDs (total 26W) for at least an hour and watched them with a FLIROne IR camera to see that nothing overheated.  They all got hottest near the center of the PCB and in the 330k resistor but never above 90F.  I checked the 1988, 1994, and 2009 switches the same way.  I also ran them all at least an hour with the case closed and saw no significant heat buildup.

Finally, the neutral mod actually fixed one of the switches.  Two of the 1980 switches I pulled would not light any kind of bulb I tried them with for more than a second, even an incandescent.  One of them would not respond to X10 commands.  I used one of them as my test subject when testing the modification and was surprised to find it started working normally after adding the neutral wire.  So I tried modifying the second one (the one that didn't respond to X10) but sadly it remained broken after modification.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2017, 12:10:11 PM by Dragon »
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Brian H

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #54 on: April 12, 2017, 06:07:42 AM »

Thank you again for all your work on modifications to add the Neutral Connections. To different vintage X10 Wall Switches.
I have add a helpful post count for you.
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dave w

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Re: Converting An Existing X10 System To Work With CFLs
« Reply #55 on: April 12, 2017, 08:30:37 PM »

Adding nothing to this post, but reminiscing:
The original BSR/Sears and X10 light switches had a toggle, instead of the push button, and could not be dimmed locally.
I'll go back to sleep now. ;)
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