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Author Topic: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?  (Read 45810 times)

GregH

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Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« on: January 01, 2009, 12:49:17 PM »

I've been a moderate x10 user (lights, scenes) for nearly 10 years and was within days of dumping all of it and buying a ton of Insteon devices when I came across this forum.
Literally, I was within days of placing the order...
1. Could it be true that the XTB-IIR can save my installation?
I have several Leviton HCM06-1TW's installed in the house which work from an x10 Maxi Controller but sporadically from the CM15A.  This is a problem because I need those lights controlled when I'm traveling away from home.  I've noticed over the last couple of years that the control has become more sporadic.  Interestingly, my lamp modules work quite well.
Now, I'm a moderate user so I don't have an ESM1 and haven't installed any filters (okay, I'm a lazy moderate user).  I do have a Leviton HCA02-10E plugged into the dryer outlet which is located within 20 feet of the main breaker box.
2. Could I pull the plug from my HCA02-10E and use it to plug the XTB-IIR into the dryer outlet?
3. How difficult is it to assemble the XTB-IIR? 
4. I've assembled a lot of little robot kits, etc. and have a trusty 40-watt soldering iron with a small tip.  Is that light enough for this project?
5. What solder do you recommend for the project?

This is great, a new project AND a fix for my x10 network!

Thanks,
Greg
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Brian H

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #1 on: January 01, 2009, 01:21:47 PM »

You most likely already know that as the years went on. More noise and signal suckers maybe causing the the decline.
Insteon also suffers from some power line signal problems; though not as much; as they bounce signals from module to module.
That said I have one branch circuit that misses On signals with my Insteon setup and I have been checking things for weeks.  ::)

The assembly instructions are on the XTBII site if you care to look at them, but I would think Jeff will be answering in more details.
http://jvde.us//xtb/XTB-IIR_description.htm
http://jvde.us/x10_troubleshooting.htm
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steven r

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #2 on: January 01, 2009, 01:23:16 PM »

I'm thinking you may of already checked out these links but in case you haven't.

JeffVolt has several useful posts you might want to look at on the forum. Also his web links below have been helpful to many.
His X10 troubleshooting tutorials are at:  http://jvde.us/x10_troubleshooting.htm
Information on his XTB devices is available at:  http://jvde.us/xtb_index.htm

1. The XTB-IIR could be the best solution possible. On the other, eliminating one or major signal suckers with filters could be all that is needed. Every installation has it own quirks.
2. Not sure on that point. I think the recommended install point is at the breaker box. Jeff: Your comments?
3. & 4. This real answer to this is based on your soldering skill. I'd recommend buying it assembled unless you consider yourself a good solderer. My guess, based your comments, is that you could handle it.
5. Good question! While some companies have switched to lead free solder, lead based solder is easier to work with and is still prefered in many applications. (Just don't lick your iron or your work.) Jeff: Do use lead based solder or have you switched to a lead free solder?

Looks like Brian sneaked in with with his answer before I could finish editing and post.  ;)
« Last Edit: January 01, 2009, 01:37:55 PM by steven r »
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GregH

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #3 on: January 01, 2009, 01:41:27 PM »

Thanks for the fast replies.
I've read all of the "XTB" hits I could find on the net as well as the tutorials and instructions on Jeff's XTB homepage.
I'm hoping that I'll achieve good results plugging into the dryer outlet.  The laundry room has a common wall with the garage and the breaker box is within 20 feet of the dryer outlet.
I'll try moving the CM15A to a 120 VAC outlet next to the breaker box and check whether that helps. I'll also acquire a couple of filters to isolate the TV's and UPS's.  Hey, where do y'all buy your filters?  Any recommendation to a reasonably-priced, quality vendor is appreciated.

I still want to build an XTB-IIR and add it to the network.  I've held off with a more elaborate x10 installation due to the lack of reliability.  If this can fix things I'll move into cameras, irrigation, drapes, etc. 
« Last Edit: January 01, 2009, 04:32:23 PM by GregH »
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steven r

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #4 on: January 01, 2009, 02:09:28 PM »

I expect Jeff will reply soon so hold off on any irreversible modifications till he posts.  ;)
I use one of the original XTB units as well as a multitude of filters. In my case, I bought it assembled.
A signal meter such as the ESM1 is a good investment for trouble shooting X10 signals.

I'm a strong advocate of UPS/Surge protectors for all sensitive electronic equipment.
Each of my desktop computers has a UPS. Also both entertainment areas have UPS units as well as phones and the fish tank. Every UPS and surge strip is plugged into a filter. I've also set up a dedicated area for charging phone and batteries that is plugged into a filter. Phone charger and laptops are common signal suckers.

I got most of my filters from Smarthome on auction but they no longer have auctions so your dealing with full price there. You might try eBay. I find the 10A ones to be best for general use.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2009, 02:24:47 PM by steven r »
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JeffVolp

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2009, 02:24:03 PM »

Hello Greg.  Welcome to the board, and thank you for your interest in the XTB-IIR.  Also, thanks to those that answered before me.

To answer your questions:

1)  The XTB-IIR will certainly help with weak signals.  However, excessive powerline noise can directly prevent receiving modules from decoding commands.  The XTB-IIR may not help with powerline noise unless the receiving modules incorporate some form of AGC to raise their detection threshold above the background noise level.  Most Leviton devices do incorporate gated AGC, and they do quite well handling powerline noise.  Possibly they have increased their detection threshold high enough that they are not reliably receiving signals from your CM15A anymore.

FYI:  I understand the ESM1 has been discontinued, as has the TesterLinc.  I'm considering offering my own tester to fill the gap.

2)  While the XTB-IIR is best installed close to the distribution panel to minimize loss in that run, a 20ft run to the dryer receptacle should not impact signal levels that much.

3)  There is nothing particularly difficult about assembling the XTB-IIR.  There are no surface mount devices.  You will need a good magnifier to read some of the part numbers.  A lighted bench magnifier works very well.  Like someone else said, read over the assembly notes before you order the kit.  It is rare that someone has trouble assembling one.

4)  Since most of the components are pretty small, I'd recommend a lower wattage iron with the smallest tip you can find.  I use the Weller WCL100 soldering station set to about half heat with a ST6 or ST8 tip.  If you do use the 40W iron, be careful not to overheat anything.

5)  I still use 60/40 "44" solder in the .03 diameter.  A smaller diameter might be a little easier to work with.  I have not switched to lead free solder because the higher temperature places more stress on the components, and I am concerned about the growth of "tin whiskers" that are more of a problem with that solder.

The XPPF filter is available very inexpensively on eBay.  I have some in stock that can be added to an XTB order for about half the "X10" price.  (Mine come from the two major eBay sellers, who I highly recommend.)

FYI to all:  With a little break away from the soldering iron, I'm back working on the firmware update again that will add the ability to repeat the "doublet" extended codes produced by the CM15A.  While that should have been a simple mod, the unintended side effects are still being debugged.

Also FYI:  The last letter in my name is a "p".  However, that has been a common problem over the years, especially in this business.

Thanks again to all, and have a great new year!

Jeff

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steven r

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2009, 02:32:12 PM »

...FYI:  I understand the ESM1 has been discontinued, as has the TesterLinc.  I'm considering offering my own tester to fill the gap....
Argh... Put me down as interested in one! I expect any tester you come up with will blow away anything else out there. Any ETA?
« Last Edit: January 01, 2009, 02:34:23 PM by steven r »
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JeffVolp

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #7 on: January 01, 2009, 03:39:20 PM »

...FYI:  I understand the ESM1 has been discontinued, as has the TesterLinc.  I'm considering offering my own tester to fill the gap....
Argh... Put me down as interested in one! I expect any tester you come up with will blow away anything else out there. Any ETA?

It really depends on how busy I am packaging XTB kits and assembling boards.  The prototype schematic is done, but the firmware will take months.  I hope to have it ready by the fall.  The plan is to offer it in kit form like the XTBs.

I tried to fit it into a XTB plug-in case, but there was just no way to pack that much circuitry onto the board without going multi-layer and surface mount (components on both sides).  So, this will be in the Polycase AG-54 with LCD readout.  The plan is to display both signal and noise voltage as well as display decoded commands and error conditions.  It will also contain a transmitter so it can be left plugged in to report status or changes in the noise level.  Any suggestions for other features are welcome.

I think this will be a low-volume item, which is probably why the ESM1 and TesterLinc were discontinued.  So the PCB and machined case will be pretty expensive - maybe as much as $40 for the two of them.  The LCD is $10, and there is probably at least another $30 in components.  So that puts the kit price in the $80 to $90 range.

Jeff
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GregH

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #8 on: January 01, 2009, 07:59:20 PM »

Jeff,
Thanks for the very complete answers.  I'm looking forward to building the XTB-IIR and resurrecting my x10 network.
I'll also order a couple of filters while I'm at it...

I'm sure I'll have more questions soon.  Thanks to all here for the help.

Greg
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GregH

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2009, 08:00:14 PM »

P.S.  Put me on the list for your x10 signal meter, too.
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BaBaLou.

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2009, 11:23:24 PM »

Hey GregH,
You wont regret jeff's XTB, it truly completes the whole setup for you. But my opinion just go for the assembled kit, it's worth the extra money, jeff's work is outstanding and very dependable because he has a product that is well presented and perfectly assembled/soldered. It just makes X10, ROCK, Good luck

Hi Jeff,
You can definitely count me on the list for a meter.
all the best.
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dave w

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #11 on: January 02, 2009, 08:06:50 PM »


5. What solder do you recommend for the project?

FWIW
Greg, I see Jeff recommends standard 60/40 solder, and he is the expert. However if you have no solder on hand and must buy some, I would recommend 63/37 "eutectic" solder. It has a "plastic" range of only 14 degrees. Hence it solidifies within a second or two of iron removal. It pretty much eliminates "cold" solder joints for the novice. 63/37 eutectic solder is usually available at electronic stores, Fry's, etc. Radio Shack used to carry it in their stores as 64-015...a larger diameter than I prefer but is still serves the function of helping to eliminate cold solder connections.
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GregH

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #12 on: January 02, 2009, 10:51:16 PM »

Dave,
I've got about half a spool of 60/40 leftover from earlier projects, although, I may opt for the eutectic version to make it easier on me.  I'd just read about eutectics earlier today.
Thanks for the note.

BaBaLou - half of the fun is building the kit.  I'm sure mine won't be as pretty as Jeff's...

Greg
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GregH

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #13 on: February 08, 2009, 09:49:00 PM »

Well, I was able to spend some time soldering the diodes and resisitors onto the PCB.  Then I noticed one of the diodes was in backwards.  I didn't have a desoldering pump but I was able to desolder the offending diode, clean it up and resolder.  I tested the diodes and they're all fine.  (I was worried that the desoldering may have overheated them.)
In testing the resistors, some of them look fine and a couple of them show a "1" on my multimeter.  Does this mean the resistor is blown or might it have something to do with these being on the PCB?

Thanks for the help.  The board design is tight but I'm moving slowly, and having fun, freshening my skills.

P.S.  I now have a desoldering pump!  :'

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JeffVolp

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Re: Can The XTB Save My x10 Investment?
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2009, 12:27:16 AM »

It is entirely possible for a resistor to measure lower than its actual value when installed on the PCB.  In particular, R8 and R9 will measure less than an ohm when installed because they are damping resistors wired directly across low-resistance inductors.  The same is true for R1, but that inductor will measure about one ohm.

You might also be identifying the two 220uH inductors as resistors.  They are the same size as 1/4 watt resistors, but are either green or blue.  They will have a DC resistance of about 6 ohms.

Please refer to the high resolution photo on the website:

      http://jvde.us/xtb/XTB-IIR_pcb_v12.jpg

Also, please refer to the current parts list:

      http://jvde.us/xtb/XTB-IIR_partslist_v12.htm

Yes, a de-soldering pump comes in handy.  ;-)

Jeff
« Last Edit: February 09, 2009, 12:07:55 PM by JeffVolp »
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