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Author Topic: Advice please: X10 signals, can different circuits degrade one another?  (Read 4250 times)

SimonW

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I have a UK X10 setup in my single-phase 230v 50Hz house, and as per the norm with X10 these days have issues with X10 signals reaching all of my house.  Some questions if I may to help me further my understanding of X10 characteristics so as I can look to investigate and hopefully improve on my current setup.

My house is a relatively large 3 storey / 4 bed town house, yet I'm pleased to report I have no RF range issues, I've tested this by having my laptop plugged into a CM15 at one far end of the house and then sending x10 RF commands from a keychain remote at the other far end = everything is received / logged fine in AHP Activity Monitor.  Therefore the placement of my CM15 interface within the house should be influenced purely by the best socket in relation to the circuitry (and maybe a tiny bit of cosmetics too.. ie. it is currently hanging out of a socket in my lounge on full display - not ideal!).

My consumer box (RCDs, MCBs etc) is in the garage.  I originally had the interface plugged into a socket in the garage and found this covered the majority of the house, however annoyingly I had varying results in the master and guest bedrooms (I'm sure there are many jokes here - obviously I'm referring to X10!!).  Since the majority of my x10 devices are in either my lounge, master bedroom or guest bedroom I have therefore found by trial and error that a socket in my lounge is the best comprise (now works more often than not in these 3 rooms).

I've read a lot about 'signal suckers' and 'noise makers' and indeed I have many of these items scattered across the power line (surge protectors, multiple large LCD TVS, CFLs in non-X10 areas).  My main questions is: to such 'signal sucker' & 'noise makers' connect to one circuit (ie. MCB or RCD) affect the signal strength / background noise on another circuit?  Or would the effect be limited to that circuit?

Looking at my consumer box it seems I only have a few MCBs and RCDs and therefore the few circuits must be spread and shared through multiple rooms.  I think my first task will be attempt to map out these circuits (obviously I can only easily identify which circuit a given rooms sockets/lights are on, then just take a best guess as to the actual path).  I see there are signal strength indicators available to buy, I guess one of these would be a good start.  Any recommendations (for the UK)?  Also, looking at this a different way, is there a tool which measures signal noise or whatever 'sucks' up the X10 signal at a given location?  For example it would be nice to be able to go and measure the harm a specific device is causing (plugging it in via a power block along with such a tool) as opposed to probing a poor X10 outlet, then going removing an offending item, then going to probe again and monitoring the difference.  Both ways would achieve the same results I know, however for future reference I personally think it'd be nice to be able to check new devices.

Assuming I do identify plug-in electrical devices as the offenders (ie. everything unplugged I can X10 the entire house quite happily!) - do the X10 filters actual work?

Much appreciated in advance for any guidance / words of wisdom!

Cheers, Simon
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dave w

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Re: Advice please: X10 signals, can different circuits degrade one another?
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2008, 12:29:15 PM »





My main questions is: to such 'signal sucker' & 'noise makers' connect to one circuit (ie. MCB or RCD) affect the signal strength / background noise on another circuit?  Or would the effect be limited to that circuit?

Assuming I do identify plug-in electrical devices as the offenders (ie. everything unplugged I can X10 the entire house quite happily!) - do the X10 filters actual work?

Cheers, Simon

Noise makers can be analogous to X10 transmitters; if the X10 signal can span multiple circuits then so can noise. Signal suckers are a different animal and tend to be more localized,  although they can still attenuate X10 signals in branch circuits.

Yes the X10 filters work.

Good luck
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Boiler

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Re: Advice please: X10 signals, can different circuits degrade one another?
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2008, 01:07:48 PM »

Simon,

First - NICE Post.  It makes things much easier when members take the time to describe their system.  Thank you.

Second - Most of the forums experience is based on units manufactured in the States ( 110V 60Hz Split phase).  We can give general guidance and theory, but we don't have much first hand experience with the UK X10 modules (220V 50Hz).

I have a UK X10 setup in my single-phase 230v 50Hz house, and as per the norm with X10 these days have issues with X10 signals reaching all of my house.  Some questions if I may to help me further my understanding of X10 characteristics so as I can look to investigate and hopefully improve on my current setup.
Please verify that your service is truly 230V single phase and not 400V 3-phase.  A 3-phase system may require a phase coupler or repeater at your Consumer Box (I'm assuming your Consumer Box is your electrical distribution panel).

My house is a relatively large 3 storey / 4 bed town house, yet I'm pleased to report I have no RF range issues, I've tested this by having my laptop plugged into a CM15 at one far end of the house and then sending x10 RF commands from a keychain remote at the other far end = everything is received / logged fine in AHP Activity Monitor.  Therefore the placement of my CM15 interface within the house should be influenced purely by the best socket in relation to the circuitry (and maybe a tiny bit of cosmetics too.. ie. it is currently hanging out of a socket in my lounge on full display - not ideal!).

My consumer box (RCDs, MCBs etc) is in the garage.  I originally had the interface plugged into a socket in the garage and found this covered the majority of the house, however annoyingly I had varying results in the master and guest bedrooms (I'm sure there are many jokes here - obviously I'm referring to X10!!).  Since the majority of my x10 devices are in either my lounge, master bedroom or guest bedroom I have therefore found by trial and error that a socket in my lounge is the best comprise (now works more often than not in these 3 rooms).
Congratulations on the RF range - it sounds as if your UK version of the CM15a has a better antenna than our units in the States.

If your CM15a must be plugged into this socket to communicate with all units, you have signal level or noise issues.  In general, I consider the "Consumer panel" to be the optimum location for the CM15a.  More on this later.

I've read a lot about 'signal suckers' and 'noise makers' and indeed I have many of these items scattered across the power line (surge protectors, multiple large LCD TVS, CFLs in non-X10 areas).  My main questions is: to such 'signal sucker' & 'noise makers' connect to one circuit (ie. MCB or RCD) affect the signal strength / background noise on another circuit?  Or would the effect be limited to that circuit?
This depends on the distance between the offending device and your panel and the type of noise/degree of absorption.  In this instance, line length is your friend.  The effect of a noise source/absorber that is distant from the panel will be attenuated by the length of wiring/number of loads between it and the panel.  A noise source/signal absorber close to the panel can affect other circuits.

Edit: badly state on first attempt.

Looking at my consumer box it seems I only have a few MCBs and RCDs and therefore the few circuits must be spread and shared through multiple rooms.  I think my first task will be attempt to map out these circuits (obviously I can only easily identify which circuit a given rooms sockets/lights are on, then just take a best guess as to the actual path).  I see there are signal strength indicators available to buy, I guess one of these would be a good start.  Any recommendations (for the UK)?  Also, looking at this a different way, is there a tool which measures signal noise or whatever 'sucks' up the X10 signal at a given location?  For example it would be nice to be able to go and measure the harm a specific device is causing (plugging it in via a power block along with such a tool) as opposed to probing a poor X10 outlet, then going removing an offending item, then going to probe again and monitoring the difference.  Both ways would achieve the same results I know, however for future reference I personally think it'd be nice to be able to check new devices.

I had to read up a bit on your MCBs and RCDs to understand your UK wiring distribution.  From what I gather, your RCD's are our equivalent of a Ground Fault Interrupter (GFI) and are required to break the circuit if a ground fault of over 30ma is detected.  There is a twist here - your RCDs feed multiple MCBs (equivalent to our circuit breakers).  In addition, you may have main circuit isolators in your panel.  I don't know how well the RCD's and circuit isolators communicate X10 across different circuits (not much actual circuit description available).  However, since X10 is marketed in the UK, I assume these devices do not degrade the signal level.

In general, you have the correct approach - map your circuits to determine where all of your devices are installed.  Generate an actual floor plan of your town house and note which circuit feeds each room.  Note on these circuits where all plug in devices are located.

Unfortunately, none of the signal meters available here in the States will work with your UK power.  The one UK device that I found (PRU256) was so expensive that it was obscene ( 600 pounds UK).  Assuming that you don't want to single handedly stimulate your local economy, the are manual methods for mapping circuits and locating problem devices: Pucks Circuit Mapping Tutorial.

As I said previously, the fact that you had to move your CM15a away from your consumer panel indicates that you have signal noise/absorption between the panel and your receiving devices (or a phase coupling issue).  Some general theory is in order here:
  • All electrical wiring presents and Impedance (resistance) to X10 signals.  The longer the circuit run the higher the line Impedance.
  • Because of the impedance of the electrical wiring, loads installed on the circuit will absorb X10.  This includes EMC capacitors installed in electronic devices, large resistive loads (electric heaters), incandescent lamps, and even X10 devices themselves will drag down the X10 signal level.
  • Noise generators (in the X10 frequency range) come in different styles (fixed frequency, impulse).  They are absorbed by the electrical wiring and installed devices just as the X10 signals are.  This is why a noise generator on one circuit won't necessarily affect another.  The electrical impedance between the two circuits causes the noise to be absorbed.
  • Due to the line impedance, a noise source placed between a X10 transmitter and receiver will have a much greater effect than a noise source/absorber down stream from the receiver
  • If your CM15a is installed away from your electrical panel, it must drive the line length back to the panel to communicate with other circuits.  If there is a low impedance load (absorber) or noise maker between the CM15a and the panel this communication will be compromised.

When you get down to troubleshooting your X10 signal levels, I'd encourage you to re-install your CM15a back at your consumer panel.  This will prevent the device from having to drive the line length back to the panel to communicate with other circuits.  Then troubleshoot one circuit at a time (disable all other circuits).  Disconnect all of the loads on a given circuit and verify correct operation with your installed X10 devices.  Then add your loads back in (one at a time) and note the performance.  Remember that a noise source/signal absorber placed between the CM15a and the receiver will have a much greater effect.

With regard to X10 filters - the versions sold in the states are effective in most cases.  I have no direct experience with the UK versions, but have no reason to believe that they would perform differently.

Best of luck,
Boiler
« Last Edit: December 29, 2008, 01:18:08 PM by Boiler »
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SimonW

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Re: Advice please: X10 signals, can different circuits degrade one another?
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2008, 09:00:25 AM »

Boiler - thank you so much for your detailed reply.. relay nice to see that someone has taken the time not only just to read/reply but also to actually research the specifics of my setup thus further increasing the potential accuracy of your reply.  Top man!  :)

You've given me a lot of pointers here and info for me to process, I'll maybe follow up with a more detailed reply at a later date and following some more research of my own.

Thanks again, Simon
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commsbyte

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Re: Advice please: X10 signals, can different circuits degrade one another?
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2009, 07:06:29 AM »

I am in UK also. I am having similar issues.

230v single phase supply to breaker box.
Breaker box is split into circuits:
1. garage sockets
2. Kitchen appliances
3. cooker (on its own)
4. sockets (dining room, hall, kitchen)
5. sockets (Lounge, bed1,2,3, office)
6. lights downstairs
7. lights upstairs
8. outside lights

When CM11 is located in the office I can turn on/off in same room, and adjacent sockets in bed1,2, but not opposing wall sockets.
If I locate CM11 in opposing wall sockets in bed1, I can turn on apps/lights in other rooms eg lounge, but cannot turn on devices in the office (like a ring fence around the office)

I found this article most helpful so far. I applied the rule of disconnecting everything and start back to basics.
So far the only things plugged in office were pc/monitor and cm11. Only thing in lounge were app and lamp module plugged into same circuit.
I found out I could then turn on the device in lounge when PC monitor was off but still not turn on the lamp module. This proves the signal can get to the lounge. But I could then not turn the app module off again, I will assume from what I read the load of the appliance then soaks up the signal and the reason it cant turn off. I have had zero success trying to send signal between circuits across the breaker.

I have gen2 x10 modules which are supposed to be filters as well for loaded appliance? but I am not certain they are actually filtering given that I cant turn them off again over distance. I have tried plugging the PC/monitor into spare modules I have to try and filter these devices. I also about to try but presume moving the PC to the other circuit probably wont help given that if there is noise it will pass across circuits.

Does any one have any extra advice?
Do the gen2 modules really filter noise?
Should I focus on buying filters or boosting signal strength.

Many thanks.
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