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🔌General Home Automation => Automating Your House => Topic started by: SteveRF on May 24, 2007, 08:45:11 PM

Title: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: SteveRF on May 24, 2007, 08:45:11 PM
After almost a year off the forum, I thought I'd check back and see what was new and what may have been corrected.  Erratic behavior of the HA systems still seem to be a topic.  I was hoping that there may be some updates or new products.. i.e. Filtering so many devices in our homes may not be needed ?  Ha...nope... Still the old issue.  System works but gets erratic on occassion due to that old darn NOISE !  Conputers, embroiderya nd quilting sewing machines, Some televisions and some power supplies and various other devices around my home continue to cause erratic operation that leaves the system untrustworthy for solid, reliable operation. 
Putting filters on every device that renders X10 useless because of noise in some homes is out of the question... at $20 - $60 each for a filter that may allow a $12.99 light to appear on cue is totally out of the question.  Not Rational !   We were hoping that in the course of a year (or so), X10 would have some new and improved solutions other than the same version of software for the CM15A and the same filtering requirements.  Everytime devices are moved about (computers, power supplies and a myriad of other essential devices about the home) the smooth , reliable operation of the entire HA system is upset and becomes unstable again until the offending device is removed or filtered.
I really was hoping that my X10 HA system would have evolved with newer products and much improved longterm reliability.
Don't get me wrong, I still like X10...BUT... when put to the test for true HA service with some expected long term reliability, it just is not working out.  It is still "fun" to play with and has some built in "enjoyment factor" but for serious, reliable "on cue" Home Automation, WITHOUT filtering $400.00 worth of X10 Devices with $600.00 worth of X10 filters, I just cannot justify any serious expansion.
SteveRF   
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: Oldtimer on May 24, 2007, 09:16:14 PM

 WITHOUT filtering $400.00 worth of X10 Devices with $600.00 worth of X10 filters, I just cannot justify any serious expansion.
SteveRF


SteveRF Have you looked at this post?

http://www.x10community.com/forums/index.php?topic=11266.0
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: TakeTheActive on May 24, 2007, 10:00:12 PM

...I was hoping that there may be some updates or new products.. i.e. Filtering so many devices in our homes may not be needed ?

...it just is not working out.  It is still "fun" to play with and has some built in "enjoyment factor" but for serious, reliable "on cue" Home Automation, WITHOUT filtering $400.00 worth of X10 Devices with $600.00 worth of X10 filters, I just cannot justify any serious expansion.

Do an ADVANCED SEARCH on - Keyword: XTB  UserID: JeffVolp (http://www.x10community.com/forums/Themes/x10theme1/images/post/thumbup.gif)

BTW, a bit of WHITESPACE, a few PARAGRAPHS, and/or maybe a little FORMATTING goes WONDERS into improving the readability of a post... ;)
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: JeffVolp on May 25, 2007, 09:46:49 AM
Quote
$20 - $60 each for a filter that may allow a $12.99 light to appear on cue is totally out of the question.

You can get the plug-in X10 filters on eBay for under $10 each (including shipping) if you buy several. Computers, monitors, and compact fluorescent bulbs are the major problems, but some universal motors (with brushes) can also be noise generators. As TTA suggested, some of my tutorials may help.

Jeff
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: SteveRF on May 25, 2007, 10:11:29 AM
Jeff, TakeThe Active and OldTimer,

Thanks for your feedback.

I will take a look at your suggestions, however, placing filters all  over the home still appears to be an option that introduces more connections with additional safety hazards.  If home built suggestions are followed, the risk increases.... seems that better transmitter power, local X10 filtering or a combination of both would have given the X10 modules a much better reliability... of course, company profits are the driving force here as we all know.

Obviously, I just am not happy with the idea of having to build or purchase home filtering and wonder if I can count on reliability if I do...
We will give it a shot in the next week or two and see.

regards,
SteveRF
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: dave w on May 25, 2007, 12:37:14 PM

.... seems that better transmitter power, local X10 filtering or a combination of both would have given the X10 modules a much better reliability... of course, company profits are the driving force here as we all know.


Sounds like you are having more trouble than average. Your are right in the sense that higher transmit power would help (JeffVolp makes a dandy signal amp).

Since noise filtering must be applied to the noise source and not the receivers, "local filtering" isn't possible from an X10 perspective. AGC is a big help and X10 offers it but only in the "2-way" module (AFAIK). AGC with narrow band filtering works even better, but again is availabe only from SmartHome, PCS, ACT, etc. and at considerable more cost.

I have over 100 standard X10 modules driven by some form of controller since 1987 and this system has migrated to four different homes, each with it's own set of problems. My largest system was 127 modules in a 2500 sq ft home. I have PLENTY of expeience with noise and black holes. My solution method and materials applied to each home is: 1. An ACT repeater. ACT is known for their high output. 2. An ELK signal level meter to track down noise generators. 3. Cheap line filters soldered on extension cords and outlet strips, used to isolate the noise generators.

I don't know how many modules you have or how big the area you are covering. The repeater and meter will set you back about $200. Is a fix worth that investment?

Good luck and don't throw in the towel, this stuff is fun once you get it working.
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: Bill H on May 26, 2007, 08:49:10 AM
Dave--Which model ACT repeater/coupler do you recommend and where is best place to buy? (Average 120v/120v home) Tnx!
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: SteveRF on May 26, 2007, 11:50:28 AM
Dave W,

Many thanks for the advice... interesting...
I still have about 25 devices, scattered in a 1800 sf area and a cm15a with extended antenna.

Lets here more about the "cheap" line filters, soldered on extention cords....??

What did you actually use ?  Choke coils ?? 

I saw the mention earlier aobut that method without caps...
Is there any info on similar circuits that may be even better utilizing caps in addition to the choke coils ?

Regards,
SteveRf

Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: TakeTheActive on May 26, 2007, 01:13:20 PM

...Lets here more about the "cheap" line filters, soldered on extention cords....??

What did you actually use ?  Choke coils ??

Do an ADVANCED SEARCH on - Keyword: filter  UserID: dave w  Time Period: Late Summer/Early Fall 2006 IIRC
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: SteveRF on May 26, 2007, 07:40:31 PM
Take_...,

I did that and after muddling my way through hundreds of comments and replies .. and yes I filtered VERY WELL...
was not sure what was done (and how) with the chokes on an extention cord , as I originally asked Dave W.

Was hoping the next time he saw this, since my question addressed an issue he may have resolved and that he responded to,
that Dave may have to time to respond.... but I appreciate your interest.

oh, TakeTheActive, since my original comments concerning noise on the power line was moved from it's original posted location,
would it not have been more appropriate to post this thread on the "General Home Automation/Troubleshooting Automation Problems" rather than
in the "Automating Your House" layer ?? ... It does concern Troubleshooting more than Automating your house....

regards,
SteveRF
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: HA Dave on May 26, 2007, 08:18:17 PM
I have a question? Why are we assuming it's just "device" generated noise. Doesn't one HA vendor offer free use of a device to measure and track noise?

I live in a city.... I haven't been able to find the transformer that services my house, but it must be at lease three streets away. I have a decent number of X10 modules, switches, cameras and STUFF. My system is spread out over both phases and several circuts. (I do have one circut ... that I just don't use X10 on... it's a long story.... but it keeps my WAF up.) My X10 set up is completely reliable.

I have a HA PC (connected to AHP) that runs 24/7, my wife's computer is on nearly as much, and so is my laptop. I have nearly every electrical device know to man... and they are all plugged in. I can walk through my house at night and see everything by the light of red and green LED lights (and clocks) on the various devices.

Yet I have no filters. It's not that I am too cheap to buy filters (though I am thrifty). I just don't have a need for filters. I do realize some systems DO need a filter here or there, but can't there be noise sources that effect X10 line signals that ISN'T devise generated?
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: steven r on May 26, 2007, 08:38:16 PM
...I have nearly every electrical device know to man... and they are all plugged in.... ...Yet I have no filters....
I'll keep my fingers crossed that you never need them.  ;)
I went for years without needing filters in spite of having 6 or 7 UPS units and half of "nearly every electrical device know to man". Then one day my signal went poof. No change that I could determine. I now have filters on all the UPS units and my signal is back to an acceptable level.
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: HA Dave on May 26, 2007, 08:47:30 PM

Then one day my signal went poof. No change that I could determine. I now have filters on all the UPS units and my signal is back to an acceptable level.


That's what makes me wonder. Could it be something... maybe not even noise related? Like maybe a bad ground line... or something from the power line itself?

There is a saying (of sorts) here at the forum: "What changed?"
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: steven r on May 26, 2007, 11:49:18 PM
...There is a saying (of sorts) here at the forum: "What changed?"
In my case, I could never figure out what changed. No new toys plugged in. One day I just noticed that some places weren't getting a signal anymore. I didn't have a signal tester before things went out so I can't say what the signal was before it went poof. My intuitive guess was that that my signal bridge wasn't working as well. How likely is it for one of them to quit working? Maybe I'll unplug it and see if it makes and difference now that I have an X10 signal meter to test with now.
Anyway everything is working ok right now. With respect to X10, I tend to have an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" approach.
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: HA Dave on May 27, 2007, 09:22:42 AM
I worked as a factory (machine) repairman many (MANY) years ago. To be honest, most every repair was pretty much routine. We even kept parts for projected break-downs. But from time-to-time, a machine would malfunction or completely stop for reasons that weren't apparent.

A trouble-shooting method taught to me by an older (and more talented) electrician, has helped me resolve problems (both mechanical and personal) over the years.

If I don't know what part broke, or where in the system I have a malfunction, I start as close to the beginning as necessary. For me, that has generally been the power source. Then once that is confirmed as good, I go through the machine (or system) pointing at each part or process with my finger, part-by-part checking and confirming that each point or part is OK.

Though it might appear to be a time consuming method... because it works.... it has saved me considerable frustration (and TIME) over the years.

Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: SteveRF on May 27, 2007, 12:29:38 PM
Dave L and others...

I guess I may be assuming too much concerning noise but I definitely have one computer, one UPS, One DVD and TV setup and the wife has a Quilting Machine, Embroidery and Monogramming machines (She has an in home Memory Quilt business) that seem to cause malfunctions depending on the time of day of operation.   We didn't realize the Sewing stuff was causing problems for quite a while because of the times of use.  Also have a passive coupler that may be an issue but have not noticed a complete phase failure so doubt that is the troublesome spot. 

I was mostly interested in Dave W solution of incorporating choke coils into a home built filter for testing....  I was hunting for the best solution in building a good filter because of the known noise sources... at least when the offending PC is "completely" removed from the power line the light modules in that area of the home suddenly start working again.

Now the WAF is suffering terribly. That is what happens when she picks up a remote and after several clicks... nothing happens...
Comments like "This is becoming annoying instead of enjoyable.

Guess I will order some choke coils and give it a shot after I happen upon the latest and greatest filter schematic.

Would appreciate and and all ideas and suggestions.

regards,
SteveRF

 
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: JeffVolp on May 27, 2007, 01:34:13 PM
Series choke coils should be at least 100uH to be effective. I recommend 250uH to 1000uH. Remember, they MUST be rated for the maximum current. Except for low current devices, such as compact fluorescent lights, you may find that suitable chokes bought from major electrical suppliers are actually more expensive than buying the "Made in China" X10 filters on eBay.

Jeff
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: SteveRF on May 27, 2007, 05:33:54 PM
Jeff,
Thanks for the input...

OldTimer recommended a source for 22 uh chokes...
You are suggesting 250 to 1000 uhenry chokes...

So what is the formula for the noise freq we are trying to choke out here ??  Anyone know...
Is there a "proven" schematic here on the forum with "for sure" values for attenuation ??

Appreciate any and all suggestions

Many Thanks,
SteveRF
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: JeffVolp on May 27, 2007, 08:49:09 PM
22 uH has an inductive reactance of 16.6 ohms at the X10 frequency. While better than nothing, that is too low to have a significant effect.

The formula is XL (ohms) = .754 x L (in uH)

Unless you are using resonant circuits, you want a series inductive reactance in the 100 to 1000 ohm range. Your choice will be a tradeoff between current capacity, inductance, physical size, and cost. If considering resonant circuits, the cost of parts will probably be higher than a real 5 amp X10 filter purchased through eBay.

Jeff
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: Oldtimer on May 29, 2007, 10:27:24 AM
22 uH has an inductive reactance of 16.6 ohms at the X10 frequency. While better than nothing, that is too low to have a significant effect.

The formula is XL (ohms) = .754 x L (in uH)

Unless you are using resonant circuits, you want a series inductive reactance in the 100 to 1000 ohm range. Your choice will be a tradeoff between current capacity, inductance, physical size, and cost. If considering resonant circuits, the cost of parts will probably be higher than a real 5 amp X10 filter purchased through eBay.

Jeff

I have to respond to JeffVolp's comment since he's effectively saying that the filters I built using 22uH chokes can't possibly work when in fact they work extremely welll. (Having said that I will admit that the one on the microwave has been marginal on occasion but I'll save that, and the solution, for another post.)

While Jeff's calculation of 16.6 Ohms for the 22uH choke is true it is out of context if he doesn't also state what the impedance is of the overall house wiring is. I have no way of measuring it but I think that the impedance of house wiring at the X10 frequency may be quite low. If it is in the order of one or two ohms then the reduction provided by my two 22uH chokes may be in the order of (33.2/33.2+2))*100 or 94%.

I don't have an X10 meter so I can't measure noise reduction directly, but let me give an example of why I think the the house impedance is so low. The branch circuit with our downstairs TiVo on it is only about 20 feet from the breaker. When the TiVo was first installed X10 modules about five feet from the TiVo stopped working but would still work on an outlet about 13 feet from the TiVo. Nothing else in the house was effected.

The wire wrapped around a steel bolt I mentioned in my "how to" post solved the problem for one module but not the other which is why I went to the double 22uH chokes, which work perfectly. Note that the same double 22uH chokes on the upstairs TiVo buffer its noise from the CM15A on the SAME outlet so that it continues to work perfectly. I would hardly call this kind of performance "better than nothing"!

As a practical matter I don't consider either my or Jeff's posts to be the last words on this matter so I hope some others chime in so we can all learn more about noise control.
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: dave w on May 29, 2007, 01:01:10 PM
Bill H and SteveRF

My ACT repeater is an old CR231. The CR234 is it's replacement.
As far as the line filters, I got them surplus from MECI in dayton. The model I use is under $3 per unit.

HOWEVER there are two caveats with this :
1. I do not see the same line filter on the MECI web site any more, although they have plenty of others (http://www.meci.com/index.php/cPath/396) 
and   
2. JeffVolp pointed out that the filter I am using has a .01mf across the input which is a good X10 attenuator, which is true. But the ACT CR231 cranks out enough signal that X10 attenuation from the home brew filters has only been a problem on one branch.

Each noise source tends to be unique. I have also used simple ferrite choke core filters from Radio Shark on the line cords of noise sources and quieted them down substantially.

For me the key has been using the X10 signal meter to locate my problem areas.




Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: JeffVolp on May 29, 2007, 02:50:25 PM
Quote
I have to respond to JeffVolp's comment since he's effectively saying that the filters I built using 22uH chokes can't possibly work when in fact they work extremely welll.

Actually, I said:
Quote

While better than nothing, that is too low to have a significant effect.

That doesn't sound like "can't possibly work" to me.

X10 transmitters, such as the TW523 are spec'd to drive 5Vpp into a 5 ohm load. So, 5 ohms is a HEAVY X10 load. That should be what all the parallel loads on both phases looks like. Most individual X10 loads are probably in the 100 ohm range, or higher. So, adding 17 ohms in series with a noise source or signal sucker that might look like 13 ohms itself doesn't change things that much. Yes, adding multiple inductors in series helps more, but why not start out with a higher value in the first place? The 250uH Miller 5254 is rated for 2.5 amps, and costs less than 2 bucks each when you buy at least 10.

Anyway, the impedance of house wiring at 120KHz is not that low. If it was, the signal wouldn't fall off that much as distance from the panel increases. A typical wiring run might have 5 to 10 uH of inductance, depending on overall length. Add to that distributed capacitance and resistance from other loads.

While developing the XTB and XTB-II, I made countless measurements of signal levels throughout this house. I also created a model of a simple electrical distribution system that mirrors the attenuation I see here. So I have a little more information than wrapping some wire around a bolt and saying IT WORKS!

Yes, 22uH is better than nothing, but not the best choice. Now, if you want to build a resonant T-network with 120KHz traps and a high-frequency shunt using the 22uH inductors, that should work pretty well. But, why not just buy one for 10 bucks?

Jeff
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: Bill H on May 29, 2007, 05:56:23 PM
Dave W--Tnx, for the info.
Title: Re: Noise On The Lines... Nothing Has Changed... Erratic Operation...
Post by: gil shultz on August 07, 2007, 10:09:02 PM
Good Evening,
Sounds to me like ground induced noise, I cannot be sure but you should consider checking it out.  Be sure you know what you are doing or hire an expert. A mistook could kill you.

Start with your ground rods; do you have two or more?  If not add them at least 8 and connected with the proper size cable?

Are the ground connections solid in your main panel and sub panels if you have them?

Are your grounds (green or bare wires) separate from the neutral?  The only place they connect is in the main panel, not in the branch panels.

Are all the ground connections in your home connected together with the appropriate crimp connector (not twist on)?

Is the ground wire bonded with an appropriate screw to the metal boxes?

Are all the electrical connections in your facility tight.

Are the metal frames of the florescent lamps grounded?

Is the hot water heater properly bonded to the ground?

Is there an appropriate ground wire from the water line coming into the facility to the electrical panel and bridging the water meter if you have one?

Are all the switches etc including x10 crimped the ground wire?

If you have the meters removed or turn off everything and see if you have current in the cold water pipe coming into your home (use a clamp on).  I do and it is because I have a neighbor that has a bad ground, I see up to 12 amps, the actual voltage is in the millivolt range. Check it with everything operating normally also.

Please note this is just a starting point and not everything may be allowed in your area.  I went through this and much more and when finished the buzz was gone from the radio and the x10 worked.  The reason for doing this initially was because of a heinous power surge that destroyed most of my electrical system.  Yes I replaced a lot of wire.

Good Luck
Gil Shultz