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Author Topic: Returning to the fray?  (Read 15157 times)

JeffVolp

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2011, 07:29:27 PM »

I don't know too many people who have an electric dryer socket they aren't using, though.
Yeah, I agree. I think Jeff is seriously limiting his sales unless it is a pass through.

I'd be happy to use a pass-through if there was someplace local to buy them.  I don't stock any of these plugs, and would only install one as a convenience to a customer.  I have already done that for a few people who specifically asked, but now I'll add it as an option for those who want it.

Like any repeater, the best way to install the XTB-IIR is adjacent to the utility panel so there is almost no signal loss before the signal is distributed to the various circuits.  That option is not available to everyone, and the dryer plug provides an alternate means that will work for some.

Jeff
« Last Edit: January 04, 2011, 07:31:25 PM by JeffVolp »
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Noam

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2011, 07:36:23 PM »

I'd be happy to use a pass-through if there was someplace local to buy them.  I don't stock any of these plugs, and would only install one as a convenience to a customer.  I have already done that for a few people who specifically asked, but now I'll add it as an option for those who want it.

Like any repeater, the best way to install the XTB-IIR is adjacent to the utility panel so there is almost no signal loss before the signal is distributed to the various circuits.  That option is not available to everyone, and the dryer plug provides an alternate means that will work for some.
Jeff
Offering the cord and 220V plug is a nice option for those that can use it, especially if the customer would have the choice of a 3-prong or 4-prong "standard" dryer plugs.

A second benefit of offering this additional option is that it would give the customer a way to test how well their system works with the XTB-IIR (by temporarily unplugging their dryer and plugging the device in), before calling in an electrician to install a new outlet.
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ggrote

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2011, 10:19:52 PM »

I'd be happy to use a pass-through if there was someplace local to buy them.  I don't stock any of these plugs, and would only install one as a convenience to a customer.  I have already done that for a few people who specifically asked, but now I'll add it as an option for those who want it.

Like any repeater, the best way to install the XTB-IIR is adjacent to the utility panel so there is almost no signal loss before the signal is distributed to the various circuits.  That option is not available to everyone, and the dryer plug provides an alternate means that will work for some.

Jeff
Dang, I KNEW I shouldn't have come back to read what you guys were writing ... dang ... now I'm tempted, even after I had started reading about z-wave ... dang ...

Okay, Jeff (et al.), here's the scoop ... I have an electric dryer ... if I had to guess, I say there was 30-40 feet of cable between it and the panel (think: opposite side of the garage, plus 6-8 feet) ... I also have an electric range, but it's probably 10-15' farther away yet ... the only other 220 that I have is a subpanel in the basement for my shop, and that run is much farther ...

My XPS3, which is 2/3 the way across the house from my CM15A, rarely misfires, so I assume it's at least on the same phase as my den outlets (where the CM15A is plugged in).

Both of the installed WS467 switches are similar or closer distance, and they generally respond to "on" commands from a MS16, but will only catch the "off" command maybe 1:10 ... similar response to "on" from the CM15, but almost 0% reponse to "off" command.  The goal was to get the house lights to come on when someone approached the doors ... if I can get it to work I would install them at all 7 sets of lights.

I also have an RR501, which I bought to help my WS12 and WS14 switches respond to a remote, although I rarely use the remote anymore.

I use a TM751 (from my original Firecracker kit, maybe 15 years ago?) for miscellaneous security and decoration uses, and it is pretty reliable.

My house is less than 3 yrs old ... 2100 sq ft ranch with unfinished basement ... and as nearly as I can tell the guy did a decent job of wiring it ... but my wife and I like our technology, so we have a ton of electronics and related items throughout the house ... not sure I'll be up for putting filters on everything, although I did pick up 5 of the XPPF filters and have installed them on some power strips (didn't notice any performance difference after doing so, but I left them).

I know that's not a lot to go on, and I'm certainly not trying to put you on the spot, but if I install an XTB-IIR and pick up an XTBM to help locate the nastiest noisemakers, would you give me something approaching even odds to get those motion sensors and WS467 switches to work?

Electrically speaking, I'm not the least handy guy on the planet, but I generally draw the line at working inside the panel ... for example, I wired up my shop at the last house, but there was already a spare circuit wired into the basement, so it was easy ... if I wanted to install a 220V plug adjacent to my panel (I have plenty of room on the wall in the garage), is there someplace that would give me detailed instructions on how to do it?

Thanks,
Greg
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JeffVolp

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2011, 11:41:45 PM »


You raise a lot of issues.  Starting from the bottom, I can remember how nervous I was the first time I went into a distribution panel, so I can certainly empathize with you there.

Since you have both an electric dryer and range, the option of a standard dryer plug on the XTB-IIR will not work for you.  If there is spare room for a double-width 240V breaker, it is relatively easy to install a 240V circuit to connect the XTB-IIR.  If there is not room, then you have to look at maybe replacing some full-size breakers with the half-width ones to free up some room.  There are a gazillion books available at places like Lowes, HomeDepot, and bookstores that will give you the basics of how to make connections inside your distribution panel.  Pick one with good photos.  If you are still uncomfortable, then don't do it.  Perhaps you have a handy friend who would be willing to help you there.

If you don't presently have a phase coupler now, that is certainly something that you will need to achieve good X10 reliability.  However, you can buy a passive coupler with a pass-through dryer receptacle, so that is something you could consider.

Since you have a lot of electronic equipment, you probably have some signal suckers and noise sources.  I have found that the vast majority of electrical devices do not cause a problem for X10 communication.  And some of the simplest devices can be a major noise source, such as a Cellet cellphone charger that was discovered by one of my customers a couple of years ago.  There have been several threads on this forum on how to locate the offending devices, so I won't go into that here.

Except for the Leviton 6287 in-line filters I placed in most ceiling lighting circuits, we are only using 4 other X10 filters here.  One is the big 20A XPF filter for the 2200VA UPS feeding our “electronics circuit” that supplies one or two specially identified receptacles in most rooms.  The others are XPPFs for “unfriendly” loads, such as the 4W 120V Lumoform LED light that is the worst noise source I have ever run across.  We are using a bunch of CFLs in table lamps without a problem.  However, many of them are still the Philips EarthLights that we bought over a decade ago.  The only time the XTBM indicates any significant noise is when I turn on the Cannon copier (which is not filtered because it is rarely turned on).  I give this as an example that you don't need filters on everything.  Just identify the problem devices, and isolate them.

I won't push my own products in this forum.  However, I will say that once you isolate problem loads and achieve good signal levels throughout your home with relatively low background noise, your X10 reliability should approach 100%.

Jeff
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Noam

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #19 on: January 05, 2011, 08:35:22 AM »

Jeff -
I gave you a "Helpful" on that one.

Greg -
I have to say, from my experience last summer, that Jeff really knows a whole lot about how X10 works, and how to find problems, isolate them, and increase system reliability.

He was also extremely helpful, both before and after I purchased the XTB-IIR, with helping me try to track down my mysterious noise problem (which - for those who were following the forums - turned out to be across the street at a neighbor's house), and getting my system back up and running.

I decided to hold off on getting an XTBM, but only because my dad is an EE, and was able to make the appropriate adapters to measure signal and noise levels with his oscilloscope and one of his fancy radio receivers.
However, next time I think I'll just spring for an XTBM. It certainly is easier to use, and can be moved from room to room more easily.
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mike

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2011, 08:39:35 AM »

[if you can afford it, do NOT buy any XPPF filters - they tend to catch fire at well under their 5 amp rating!  buy the smart home equivalent ones instead and save your house from the fire!

While I agree that running the XPPF at its maximum rating is not a good idea, it won't "catch on fire at well under its 5A rating".  They will carry a 3A load of a typical computer just fine.  When pushed to their limit they will get warm and start to smell like hot plastic...
Jeff

Jeff, I beg to differ asbout catching fire;  I have burnt wall to prove it.  2.6amp load measured with good fluke in line rms meter directly afterwards.  I have an empty fire extinguisher, burnt 2x4 stud, blackened outlet, left behind as reminder of the fire.  Luckily I had just walked into the room when it made pop sound and 15" tall flames burst out of it licked up the wall.  3 or 4 of the xppf filters I had in use before removing them all had melted coils inside.

Please don't say it won't catch fire as I have living proof it does.
 
« Last Edit: January 05, 2011, 08:44:22 AM by mike »
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Noam

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2011, 08:48:56 AM »

Helpful from me also.
Only thing to be careful of. Is not to try using the XTBM on a light connected to the load side of an X10 or any automation module.

How would I test for signal strength, therefore, on a circuit that doesn't have any outlets?
Would I have to open the box up, and wire in a temporary outlet for the XTBM near the switch?
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dave w

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2011, 09:16:07 AM »

How would I test for signal strength, therefore, on a circuit that doesn't have any outlets?
Would I have to open the box up, and wire in a temporary outlet for the XTBM near the switch?
$0.02
IF and only IF the operation of a two wire light switch is unreliable would you need to do this. Is there any fixture on the circuit that still is controlled by a standard switch, if so measure at that socket. That would give at least some indication of signal strength and noise on that particular circuit, especially if you could find a socket near the end of the run. If the circuit is strictly lighting fixtures (as your scenario sets up) think CFLs as a problem area.
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dave w

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #23 on: January 05, 2011, 09:25:30 AM »

and/or an XTB-IIR (which will require several hundred dollars in electrician fees, because I want to live to tell about it and I don't want to burn my house down) in order to possibly achieve reliable functionality of my lighting automation ... yeah, when I put it that way it sounds perfectly reasonable!   :angel:

Okay, so I'm (mostly) joking
$0.02
Even spending a couple hundred for XTBIIR and a filter or two (and with the XTBIIR, you may not need filters) an x10 automation project is far less expensive than Z-Wave or UPB.  After the smoke clears I predict Z-Wave will be the "last system standing" but as the Z-Wave system grows it gets slower in response time, so it has it's own problems.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2011, 09:28:21 AM by dave w »
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JeffVolp

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #24 on: January 05, 2011, 09:32:59 AM »

Jeff, I beg to differ asbout catching fire;  I have burnt wall to prove it.  2.6amp load measured with good fluke in line rms meter directly afterwards.  I have an empty fire extinguisher, burnt 2x4 stud, blackened outlet, left behind as reminder of the fire.  Luckily I had just walked into the room when it made pop sound and 15" tall flames burst out of it licked up the wall.  3 or 4 of the xppf filters I had in use before removing them all had melted coils inside.

I do remember your report some months ago.  However, if the XPPF did indeed exhibit that failure mode when loaded to its max rating, there would certainly be many more reports, and I suspect the liability issue would cause X10 to either change the rating or eliminate the product entirely.

Cars don’t normally catch fire either, but several years ago there were reports of cars spontaneously lighting off while parked inside a garage.  There was a TV news story about extensive damage done to a home because of that.  If I remember correctly, there was some defect in the ignition switch.

We know that all X10 products are assembled in China, and are not known for the highest quality.  We buy X10 because it is cheap.  The unit you had may have had a defect.  Most electronic components come from China today, and I have received a couple of transformers that actually had open primaries.

I don’t recall if your report indicated what kind of load that XPPF was powering.  That could also be a factor because I found that some loads can cause significantly more heating in filter inductors than would be expected from their power consumption ratings.

Jeff
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mike

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #25 on: January 05, 2011, 01:14:01 PM »

All good points Jeff.  Yes, a unit can have an internal defect that causes a larger problem; in fact, this one that did catch fire probably had a bad solder joint on the pcb from one of the 120v prongs;  As an engineer, I often have to evaluate why failures happen in electronic power equipment and in this case it appears the fire actually started at the pcb by this prong rather than the melting coils which is common.  The load was 8' florescent lighting.  In my book, any product that will allow a device like those coils to heat enough to melt down are just one step away from potential fire anyway. Since this melted coil has been observed by many people who knew they only had about 3 amp load on their XPPFs, I call that good enough proof in my book to not use them.  In addition, there is no fuse in these units;  all the smarthome  models do have fuses to protect against overload and they do not use this flimsy plastic coil holder either.  Sorry to harp on it but I think if we can save one person from a from a fire it is worth it.
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Brian H

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #26 on: January 05, 2011, 02:20:46 PM »

OH. I would not rule out a poor solder joint or part.
I had an appliance module with a 1/2 soldered female connector on the outlet end.

I also was one of the many who had lamp modules that went to 1/2 brightness. I traced it to a defective triac only firing on the negative half of the AC waveform.
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JeffVolp

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #27 on: January 05, 2011, 04:49:49 PM »

The load was 8' florescent lighting.

One of the issues that most people are unaware of is the impact that reactive loads have.  This was bought home to me a year or so ago when the low-pass filter in a XTB failed due to overheating.  The customer had several X10 transmitters plugged into it when it failed.  The inductors in the XTB low-pass filter are rated for 200mA without excessive temperature rise, which is 24 watts for a resistive load.  Typical X10 transmitter labels say they consume around 2 watts.  So, it was difficult to understand how a 6-watt load would have overloaded those inductors.  The answer is the transformerless power supplies in X10 transmitters are a reactive loads.

I did further testing with a Kill-a-Watt, and found that the VA used by a X10 transmitter is at least a factor of 5 higher than the indicated wattage consumption.  VA is the real time product of voltage multiplied by current integrated over the cycle.  In a reactive load, some of that current is out-of-phase with the applied voltage.  That cancels out some of the real power consumption, but the filter inductors have to supply that out-of-phase current.  The large out-of-phase current from the three X10 transmitter loads exceeded the rating on the inductors, and caused them to overheat.

A similar issue occurs when powering inductive loads with the XPPF filter.  The out-of-phase current can result in much more stress on the inductors that would be indicated by a current measurement.  Only a VA measurement would indicate the actual stress on the filter.  Since the unit that failed was powering fluorescent lights, the reactive load from the ballasts could certainly have been a factor.

The bottom line is that you have to stay safely under the XPPF maximum rating.  Performance wise, it works very well at blocking powerline noise.  Most people use it for relatively light loads, such as a noisy CFL or “wall-wart” power module.  As long as the power factor of the device it is powering is close to 1 (meaning there is little out-of-phase current), there is no problem powering devices up to several amps.  The real test is does the filter get warm.  If so, you are pushing it too hard.

Jeff
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mike

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #28 on: January 05, 2011, 07:04:07 PM »

Jeff,  I do not know why you are defending X10's poor and dangerous design of the XPPF filter.  I will reply only one time then fade into the woodwork on this....

I have spent over 30 years working with reactive currents and power;  as you likely know, induction motors have both an in phase current to make torque and a reactive current at 90 degrees to make a magnetic field.  The vector sum of these two currents is the total current the motor pulls.  The only portion of this current that generates heat, in other words IR drop across those inductors inside the XPPF filter, is the IN PHASE current.  Reactive current does not generate heat or IR drop;  but the power company still has to supply it so hence the big issue about out of phase current. 

Please show me the reduced inductive load current rating on the XPPF UL label (copy attached for reference).  You will see there is none, as the main reason to derate a device for inductive load is if it has a contact in it;  the inductive load will cause additional sparking when the contact opens the load so it must be derated. 

My only point in posting this fire hazard warning was to alert folks who might not know that the XPPF cannot handle its 5 amp rating, it is NOT fused like the alternatives from others like smarthome are fused, and many more than me have reported that the parts inside tend to melt down above 3 amps load (remember, it is nameplate rated 5.00 amps).  A melting part means significant amounts of heat.  Significant amounts of heat can lead to flames.  Flames can lead to fire that burns houses down. 

It will not let me leave pictures so I will post them in the next post.

I will now fade into the woodwork and not comment again.  Sorry everyone for bringing this up!
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mike

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Re: Returning to the fray?
« Reply #29 on: January 05, 2011, 07:16:13 PM »

pix 1
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