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Author Topic: PLW01 junk?  (Read 266 times)

bkenobi

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PLW01 junk?
« on: September 16, 2017, 12:25:43 PM »

I have a standard dimming wall switch controlling 2x 150w halogen bulbs. I flipped the shutoff switch to replace a burned out bulb and when turning it back on, it didn't work quite right. The switch has twisted and would not slide. I removed and disassembled the module and found some misformed parts. I'm thinking I should junk bin it, but does it look like a problem on the switch side or the lamp? If this part melted once, could I have another issue?
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Brian H

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Re: PLW01 junk?
« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2017, 01:03:25 PM »

The PLW01 is rated for 60W-500W.
So your two 150W 120 volt halogen bulb load is under the maximum wattage rating. At 300W.
Since the safety bulb change switch carries the load current when On. My thoughts are it got dirty and part of the load current started to heat up the switches contact resistance. Then the plastic started to melt and deform.

I don't have an opinion on the Load itself. If it is a 120 volt Halogen bulb. I don't see anything standing out right now.
Others may have added thoughts for you.
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dave w

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Re: PLW01 junk?
« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2017, 05:01:03 PM »

If this part melted once, could I have another issue?
Piggy-backing on to Brian H comment. If you carefully dissemble a wall switch you will see a rather hinky mechanical switch where a small metal bar bridges two conductor posts. The bar is not "fixed" on either end. When the disconnect switch is slid left it lifts one side of metal bar, breaking the connection. The two conductor posts are notched on top when the bar sets, but over all IMHO it is a somewhat Rube Goldberg design.

If I had to make a WAG, my guess might be that using the disconnect switch to turn off a heavy load might cause minor arching, and after several times, to build up some carbon which could cause heat to build up across those contacts.  I don't know what presses on that bar to ensure solid contact. A typical switch in one way or another uses spring tension to maintain contact pressure. I'm not an engineer, so this is only worth $0.02
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dhouston

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Re: PLW01 junk?
« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2017, 06:54:22 PM »

I'm not an engineer, so this is only worth $0.02
I dreamed of becoming an engineer until an uncle, an engineer for Ford in Detroit, told me that not all engineers drove trains. At 5 years old, my dreams were dashed.

My non-engineer $0.02 re the topic at hand - if you've used the switch for years, replacing it with the same model should be OK - if you've only had it in use for months, you should be concerned.
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bkenobi

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Re: PLW01 junk?
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2017, 11:24:55 AM »

I replaced it with one from my spares box and actually and very happy with it.  I sourced it from CL where someone was moving to a different tech and it turns out this one is non-soft start and non-local control.  This is EXACTLY what I want in a switch!  The only change I'd make (minor issue) is to have it be of the Smart Home style toggle look.  But, those are huge and don't fit in many of my boxes due to quantity of wire.

This switch was installed for several years (5+) without any issue.  When I pulled it apart, I did notice a black buildup on one contact where the bar should be touching.  My initial thought was melted plastic or carbon buildup.  I suspect that somehow the bar did not get fully seated a few days ago when changing the bulb and the arcing caused carbon buildup and eventually melted the slider.  I'll keep it around in case I need it for another switch, but I'm sure it will eventually find the round bin.
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roger1818

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Re: PLW01 junk?
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2017, 01:34:11 PM »

If you carefully dissemble a wall switch you will see a rather hinky mechanical switch where a small metal bar bridges two conductor posts. The bar is not "fixed" on either end. When the disconnect switch is slid left it lifts one side of metal bar, breaking the connection. The two conductor posts are notched on top when the bar sets, but over all IMHO it is a somewhat Rube Goldberg design.

Agreed.  This is a very old design.  I believe X10 was one of the first electronics companies to manufacture products in China (I read they actually built their own factory there).  Because of that, it was probably cheaper at the time to design their own switch than it was to use an off the shelf part.  These days it is cheaper to use an off the shelf part as they are also made in China.

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If I had to make a WAG, my guess might be that using the disconnect switch to turn off a heavy load might cause minor arching, and after several times, to build up some carbon which could cause heat to build up across those contacts.

Be it carbon build up from arching, corrosion, or dirt, you are probably right in that the switch likely wasn't making good contact and started to heat up.

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I don't know what presses on that bar to ensure solid contact.

There is a small, hollow, metal bulb with a small spring inside inserted into a hole in the slide switch.  When the bulb presses on the bar outside of the notched post, it is like a teeter-totter and the other end lifts up, breaking contact.  When slid back to be between the two posts, it presses the bar against the post, making contact.

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A typical switch in one way or another uses spring tension to maintain contact pressure.

Yup.

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I'm not an engineer, so this is only worth $0.02

I actually am an electrical engineer and can say that you are pretty much spot on.
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bkenobi

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Re: PLW01 junk?
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2017, 04:31:02 PM »

I understand that changing the design requires retoolilng (a major cost consideration), but I am surprised that with the ability to outsource design work as well as manufacturing, X10 couldn't just have the modules redesigned to use modern tech and components rather than worrying about the fact that the old factory burned down.  I mean, look at the other stuff people are using today and the cost of it (ESP based modules are less than $10 while 30+ y.o. tech from X10 costs $30+).  I'm not saying one is better, but think about it for a second...
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beelocks

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Re: PLW01 junk?
« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2017, 09:38:57 PM »

rather than worrying about the fact that the old factory burned down. 

Possibly this happened due to excessive use of PLW01 switches and not noticing the melted bits.  :'
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roger1818

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Re: PLW01 junk?
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2017, 08:37:43 AM »

I understand that changing the design requires retoolilng (a major cost consideration), but I am surprised that with the ability to outsource design work as well as manufacturing, X10 couldn't just have the modules redesigned to use modern tech and components rather than worrying about the fact that the old factory burned down.

X10 WTI was all about keeping things cheap.  As such, they would only redesign something if there were component obsolescence issues.

Authinx is more interested in providing a quality product at a reasonable price, so I expect they will redesign the module, but first they need to clear out their old stock.   This is going to be difficult though as the PLW01 can only be used with incandescent bulbs, and not many people want a switch with that type of limitation.  They are also discovering with their WiFi module that sourcing out your design work off shore has issues.  It may be cheap, but you get what you pay for.  Hopefully they will start hiring their own engineers to do future design work.

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I mean, look at the other stuff people are using today and the cost of it (ESP based modules are less than $10 while 30+ y.o. tech from X10 costs $30+).  I'm not saying one is better, but think about it for a second...

Back in the day X10 WTI would offer 4 for 1 deals making modules cost less than $5 each.  Authinx obviously has a different business model and want to get away from the image as being the cheap solution to being the best solution.
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bkenobi

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Re: PLW01 junk?
« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2017, 11:00:19 AM »

Back in the day X10 WTI would offer 4 for 1 deals making modules cost less than $5 each.  Authinx obviously has a different business model and want to get away from the image as being the cheap solution to being the best solution.
I started my setup around that time.  I was given a few components in the late '90s and thought they were cheap toys.  I later discovered that if you ignored the scantily clad popup, the modules were very reasonably priced and performed fairly well.  I expanded to a full setup during the CM15A blowout sales which was a cost effective solution.  I don't know that I would have gone with X10 without the "cheap" business model, though.  I assumed that it would not work and the cheap components made my risk low.  Now that I have a working setup (though it did take a lot of man hours to get there), I guess it worked out.

I guess I'm saying that I don't know if marketing X10 as a higher quality, mid priced solution may work with some.  But, there are enough online posts about the old X10 to probably make that model difficult.
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dave w

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Re: PLW01 junk?
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2017, 09:27:16 AM »

When I pulled it apart, I did notice a black buildup on one contact where the bar should be touching.  My initial thought was melted plastic or carbon buildup.  I suspect that somehow the bar did not get fully seated a few days ago when changing the bulb and the arcing caused carbon buildup and eventually melted the slider. 
FWIW I have taken these switches apart to modify for a neutral connection or convert the old non dim push button to a dimming function.

Anywho multiple times have re-assembled to find the disconnect function bar not making contact. To impatient to try multiple re-assembly attempts I just soldered the bar to the two contact posts.

When changing a bulb I just kick off the breaker (not really necessary, but on the modified switch, when screwing in the bulb, when it makes contact it triggers "Local Control" turning on the light, scaring me, and I fall off the ladder.  rofl
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