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Author Topic: Ciarcia/Circuit Cellar Comments on CFLs and LEDs Used With X10  (Read 22690 times)

Oldtimer

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Those of us who have been trying to work with X10, seemingly, forever will remember Steve Ciarcia from the Circuit Cellar column he used to write for Byte magazine 30 years ago.  When Byte went botique Steve, who had the forsight to maintain ownership of the copyright on his column, started a magazine with the same name.  The current issue is #205!.  It has became the industry's small system bible. Every issue Steve writes a pithy one page column at the back of the magazine which is the first article most long term subscribers such as myself turn to. 

This issue Steve's topic was "Let's Count the Lumens" which is all about trying to use CFLs and LEDs with home automation equipment, mainly X10.  Click here to open an easy to read PDF copy of his article.

Click here to see a copy of the same article on the Circuit Cellar web site. There's a lot of other information about the magazine there also.

When I wrote Steve to get permission to use his article on the forum he included a lot of additional information about his experiences trying to use CFLs and LEDs.  Here it is:



Hi Gerry,

Let me add a bit more to the story for you that you also have my permission to share. I've learned a bit more since writing that editorial.

I have lots of X-10 installed around my property and lots of experience trying to control it. First, the positive news:

In my experience LED bulbs don't like traditional X-10 modules either. While some LEDs may turn on successfully, many will not turn off. Instead, the trickle current used to sense manual lamp or appliance control causes the LED to flash.

If you are willing to spend more money ($35-$45 each instead of $12) there is a better X-10 module - InsteOn.  InsteOn has it's own interactive communication system that is their successor to X-10 and not compatible with my current home control system. However, as a minimum, InsteOn functions as a typical X-10 receiver. The good news is that the InsteOn receivers seem to be both more sensitive than standard X-10 modules but they also use less manual turn-on sensing current which results in less flashing and better turn-off in LEDs and CFLs.

Finally, you have to watch out not to end up chasing your own tail when playing with X-10 controlled LEDs and CFLs. Let me explain.

As you know, I'm using most of these LEDs as low power alternatives where CFLs either won't work with the electronic control device or the slow CFL warm-up is too long to effectively use with staircase or hallway motion detectors. These LEDs are mostly X-10 controlled.

I installed two high-power CREE LED bulbs in in 5- bulb light fixture (with only 2 of the 5 lights enabled) on another circuit. Coincidentally, around the same time I noticed X-10 communication problems so I started substituting InsteOn receivers and that temporarily solved the problem. A little later on I started having more problems again so I ordered a couple X-10 repeater amplifiers and installed those. Again, it seemed to have solved the communication problem. Then, the next morning I decided to add two more of the CREE LED bulbs (for a total of 4 in the 5-bulb fixture). The LEDs operated fine but coincidentally my X-10 communications became very very flaky again.



This scope trace is what the specific high-power CREE LED looked like when powered (the test circuit is simply the AC power applied to the light through a series 16 Ohm resistor. The scope probes are across the resistor monitoring the current through the bulb). As you can see it is radiating a tremendous amount of RFI. Higher frequency spikes actually have a lot higher amplitude than the scope pictures show and, unfortunately, I didn't expand the trace to see what the noise frequency was but it looks pretty broad band. Basically, 4 of these bulbs killed the power line communications in the whole house.

Don't get me wrong. I think LED bulbs are the future and the dozen or so other LED bulb types I tested did not have RFI problems. In fact, one other CREE LED floodlight I tested did not exhibit RFI. Just be careful that you tell X-10 users that for at least the present evolutionary period they should carefully test any combination of high power LEDs and X-10.

--Steve


« Last Edit: October 20, 2009, 09:59:37 PM by Oldtimer »
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HA Dave

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Re: Ciarcia/Circuit Cellar Comments on CFLs and LEDs Used With X10
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2007, 06:14:47 PM »

I have done CONSIDERABLY LESS experimentation than Steve Ciarcia and have previously posted my opinions (see links below). But I have played with LED's enough to confirm Steve does know his topic.

However.... I do (only slightly) disagree about "the future" of lighting. Lighting accounts for LESS than 20% of my electric costs. Cutting the cost of lighting by even 75%...... would not buy me a cup of coffee at Star Bucks once a month. I think as more people become aware of lighting options (thanks to CFL's) more people will become aware of quality of light, and effective lighting solutions.

Thank-you for sharing this Helpful information Oldtimer!

http://www.x10community.com/forums/index.php?topic=13095.msg72895#msg72895[/color]

http://www.x10community.com/forums/index.php?topic=7504.msg71614#msg71614[/color]
« Last Edit: August 04, 2007, 06:17:11 PM by Dave_x10_L »
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Brian H

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Re: Ciarcia/Circuit Cellar Comments on CFLs and LEDs Used With X10
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2007, 06:34:57 PM »

Oh yes. Fond memories of the Circuit Cellar. Was always one of the first thing I read with each new issue.
I had Steve's web address in my address book and now I may visit more often.
Thanks for sharing.
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-Bill- (of wgjohns.com)

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Re: Ciarcia/Circuit Cellar Comments on CFLs and LEDs Used With X10
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2007, 08:58:51 PM »

Yes, thank you Oldtimer!   ;D

Steve!  We're not worthy... we're not worthy... we're not worthy!   :D
Ahh, the good old days when electronic magazines were choc-full of useful info and projects, not just ratings and ads disguised as columns!

I have really missed Steve's articles!
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In the real world, the only constant is change.

When I'm online you can find me in the Home Automation Chat Room!

Brian H

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Re: Ciarcia/Circuit Cellar Comments on CFLs and LEDs Used With X10
« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2007, 07:17:22 PM »

I picked up a LED Light Sampler set. No high power ones just 5 assorted 1.5 watt to 3.6 watt units. 36 to 15 LEDs in four of them and one 3 watt higher power one with I think 1 LED [data sheet didn't say how many and it has a frosted cover over the lED].
I basically found what the article found. All glowed even when off with an Appliance Module even one with the jumper and diode cut. Same for some Smarthome ones that I have found use less sensing current then X10 does. Only ones that functioned correctly was a Lamp Module I had removed ALL the sensing components and changed it to a Sharp SSR control chip and the good old LM15A Socket Rocket!
Even a TM751 and RR501 that do not have local control still have a circuit to sense if the switch is open or closed glowed dimly or in the higher power one flickered on and off.
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steven r

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Re: Ciarcia/Circuit Cellar Comments on CFLs and LEDs Used With X10
« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2007, 03:29:30 AM »

...Lighting accounts for LESS than 20% of my electric costs. Cutting the cost of lighting by even 75%...... would not buy me a cup of coffee at Star Bucks once a month. I think as more people become aware of lighting options (thanks to CFL's) more people will become aware of quality of light, and effective lighting solutions....
Yeah the savings from setting back your thermostat a few degrees blows away the savings from switching to CFLs.

Don't get me wrong. You can save money switching to CFLs, if you can stand them. Personally I hate the light they put out. I also like to be able to dim my lights with X10 and don't want any more signal noise sources in my house.
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HA Dave

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Re: Ciarcia/Circuit Cellar Comments on CFLs and LEDs Used With X10
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2007, 11:24:15 PM »


Don't get me wrong. You can save money switching to CFLs, if you can stand them.


I am all for saving a penny here and a nickel there....

But decent light is good thing. I really believe in the right light [source] for the right job. Candle light is right sometimes..... and sometimes it takes a 300 watt halogen.
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HA Dave

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Re: Ciarcia/Circuit Cellar Comments on CFLs and LEDs Used With X10
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2007, 09:22:10 PM »

I recently setup a garage door open reminder. Part of the system was an old stand-by... a night light that came ON when the garage door is up. Well maybe it was the two adapters I used to have it standout in front of the lamp module... or maybe it was the red bulb (7 watt) I put in it. But the wife wasn't pleased with it's appearance.

So she bought me a nice decorative lantern (and suggested where it should sit). She also put one of our new LED nightlight bulbs in it.

Well (of course) when the lamp module turned off.... the LED bulb only dimmed.

I screwed a SocketRocket into a adapter that would allow the SocketRocket to plug in to a powerbar. Then I screwed a socket adapter that allows a plug .. to plug into the socket (in this case a socketrocket). And now even that tiny little LED turns ON and COMPLETELY OFF.

« Last Edit: October 16, 2009, 01:54:25 PM by Dave_x10_L »
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tgordo49

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Re: Ciarcia/Circuit Cellar Comments on CFLs and LEDs Used With X10
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2007, 09:27:44 PM »

I've been meaning to try that very same experiment, Dave. Thanks for letting us know it works! Now, when will that three-wire, 15 amp socket rocket be available?  ::)
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Re: Ciarcia/Circuit Cellar Comments on CFLs and LEDs Used With X10
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2009, 06:47:08 PM »

Greetings,

CAUTION using some LED 110Vac standard base lights, the simple turning on or off of these led lights can cause other x10 devices to turn on. Noise from these devices must be close to leds noise is my guess.

In my case Im using mostly standard x10 and a few Instineon to control lighting thru the house and outside for landscaping purposes. I removed my Instineon devices to help resolve my issue.

A couple months back I started replacing Low Voltage 12V MR16 landscape lights with leds and flouresent lighting to reduce my electrical load. I just replaced MR16 lights to MR16 leds, no other changes. Everything worked ok.

A few weeks later until I started adding 120V standard bulb base lights in low light locations for mood lighting. This is when I started noticing my X10 devices reliability for turning on and off started having issues.

After searching the internet, I read about Phase couplers and added on between phases of 110VAC to 'bridge' X10 signals across. Also read about noise having an affect on x10 as well.

To make a long story short, I used an old transistor handheld radio to check for noisy devices. Basically you go outside to tune the radio to where there is no radio station and all you get is silence. FM is best see below. Then go in the house and walk around your house listening for devices that create noise. Do the radio test FM freg in 88mhz range or 107mhz range....   I like Steve Oscope, but for those of us who dont have laying around the radio allows you to hear, not see the noise.

What I found was that a couple of my 110VAC leds lights SCREAM loud ac cycle noise. After a flick of the light switches to turn them off, the noise went away and the x10 devices worked as before.

Easy fix, make sure led light is not on when x10 signals are sent right ?  WRONG !

Yesterday I wanted mood lighting and turned on my 120VAC led light in the curio. All was fine till the landscape lights were scheduled to come on. I noticied the landscape lights outside did not come on.

I went over to my x10 mini controller to manually flip the landscape lights on, nothing worked at all. Then I remembered, opps the LED lamp in the curio was on, so I went over to the curio and flipped the manual 110VAC wall light switch off to the curio.

Walked back to the mini x10 controller and flipped the landscape switch back on, looked outside, yep landscape lights are on, Great. Well Maybe not.

A few minutes later I noticed that 'ALL x10 devices' were turned on like I gave an all lights on command. But I hadn't, all the lights were turned on by me 'turning off' the 110VAC LED light in the curio. NOT GOOD ! My guess is that when it was turned off the noise somehow emulated the x10 signal for all lights on.

At first this may not seem like a big deal, but I have a lava lamp that is controlled by my x10 network and it came on as well. I left some papers next to the lava lamp and we all know the lava lamps run Hot. Had I walked out the door after turning off the curio light, I might have come back to a burnt house. NOT GOOD huh?

The LED light in question is one I purchased from Fry's electronics, it has a standard 110Vac screw base and three 1W leds/3W with a grey plastic ribbed side cover.

So a word to you all, the 12Vdc leds aren't likely a problem because there is no 60 cycles per sec of turn on and off; you can see the leds lights flicker on 110VAc, no flicker on 12Vdc.

And while Im at it, if you attach one of the leds to a X10 device and try to control the leds with x10, it most likely will not work. The issue is that the leds dont put enough of a load/resistance/watt for the x10 device to work. The solution here if possible is to have at least one incadescent lamp of 20-40W on the same plug WITH the LED lamp in order for this to work.

Good luck and spread the work @ this potential problem.

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