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Author Topic: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02  (Read 19158 times)

lflorack

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AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« on: January 28, 2010, 12:39:36 PM »

Note: I'm a newbie and this is my first post -- and it's a long one!  Sorry in advance.  This "stuff" is quite infuriating and details count (I hope)  B:(

Although this post is about my particular issue with the above combination, I know that this problem -- or something similar has been discussed before.  However, I chatted with several very helpful people at the Home Automation Chat (http://bdshost.com/ac/) last night and I promised them (including Bill- (of wgjohns.com) and Knightrider among others) that I'd report back on what I found out as I troubleshot my issue.  So, trying to make this as short (but as complete as possible), here we go....

Background
I've recently started with my X10 project at home and it now consists of Active Home Pro & CM15A, several Socket rockets (LM15A), several Appliance Modules (AM466), several Lamp Modules (LM465), a Palm Pad (HR12A), a Mini Timer (MT13A) - used pre-AHP/CM15A - and an Infrared Command Center (IR543) for controlling my A/V lighting with my Harmony One remote.  I DID have a Transceiver Module (TM751) too but removed it when I installed the Active Home Pro & CM15A.  Before I continue, let me point out that all of this stuff is pretty new since I've only been doing this for a little over a month.  Since it's all new, the LM465's all have the soft start/stop.  This all worked well except not all of my modules were accessible because I didn't have a Phase Coupler.  So I ordered one -- the Leviton 2-Phase X10 Amplified Coupler/Repeater (HCA02) (http://www.smarthome.com/4823/Leviton-2-Phase-X10-Coupler-Repeater-HCA02-10E/p.aspx).

Yesterday
So, with the above in mind, I did two things yesterday that started my issue:  I wrote two macros that did nothing more than check to see if it was night and then dim a pair of lights controlled by two LM465's with the same address by 50% and 25% respectively.  The two macros worked well when testing from the AHP screen.  The second thing I did was install my newly arrived Levitron HCA02.  This upgrade successfully made all of my modules in the house accessable/controllable (on/off/dim/bright) via my AHP screen, my Palm Pad, my Harmony One/IR543 and my Mini Timer.  Great!  Not so fast........

Signal Firestorm?
After installing the HCA02, I sat back and waited for my first timer events to happen around dusk.  Nothing happened.  Having missed the dusk timer events, I assumed there was an issue with the CM15A memory due to turning the power off to install the HCA02.  I cleared the CM15A memory and reloaded all timers and macros.  After the next event passed without activity, I thought about the only two changes I made to the system since it was last working properly -- adding the macros and the HCA02.  I also thought about comments about the buggy AHP software I was running (v 3.326).  Picking the easiest thing first, I deleted the two macros, then re-cleared and reloaded the CM15A.  Still no auto-activity from the CM15A.  I should have looked at the log at this point but I didn't think of it until talking to the guys at the Home Automation Chat later last night.  So anyway, I downgraded my AHP software to version 3.328 to see if that'd help.  Although some timer-activity came through, it was inconsistent.  Also, even manual dimming activities (via AHP % sliders) was very odd.  Sometimes if I turned off a module via an on/off AHP switch, it would automajically turn the slider all the way to off -- and visa versa on other lights.

So, I talked to the guys at the Home Automation Chat last night (thanks again guys!) and they told me about using the "Issue an ON instead of a bright 100% " choice in Macro Preferrences (which I did), Signal Firestorms due to the repeater in the HCA02 vs the CM15A, Absolute vs Relative dimming, extended commands and other things.  By now, it was time for the CM15A to turn off the various lights (which I'd turned on manualy) for the night -- which it did successfully!  Although I know the Off commands are not extended commands, this at least was a step in the right direction.  I believe it was a result of using the,"Issue an ON instead of a bright 100% " choice in Macro Preferences.  The other things I did -- deleting the macros and downgrading the software -- were probably NOT the reason for success.  But, who knows.

Today
Today I did some additional searching/reading and found some additional information in these two message threads:


It's fairly obvious now that the CM15A and HCA02 fight with each other at times -- probably about extended codes.  After spending $80 on the HCA02 AND because I need it to allow proper communication with all of my modules, I'd rather not return it (if that's even possible).  So, using all of this new information, I'll be testing for a while now to see what I find regarding work-around(s). 

In no particular order, I'll try
  • using Absolute vs Relative dimming
  • adding pauses in the macros I write even though it doesn't appear to need them
  • Other things I think -- or you all can suggest -- of for workarounds
  • As a last resort, try a passive coupler (w/o repeater)

Thanks for listening.  If anyone has any other ideas, please let me know.

 
« Last Edit: January 29, 2010, 12:48:29 PM by lflorack »
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JeffVolp

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2010, 01:56:01 PM »

Extended commands are difficult for a repeater to deal with.  That is why I initially blocked extended commands from being repeated in the XTB-IIR.  Last year I added the ability to repeat only the "doublet" extended commands produced by the CM15A, HomeVision, and perhaps some other high-end controllers.

Jeff
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dave w

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2010, 02:16:22 PM »


As a last resort, try a passive coupler (w/o repeater)


Thanks for listening.  If anyone has any other ideas, please let me know.

 
Or dump the Leviton / X10 repeater and get one that can handle DIMs correctly, such as the XTBIIR or the ACT234.

One would think X10 could make a repeater that works to the standards they themselves designed.  :'
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JeffVolp

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2010, 03:02:26 PM »

One would think X10 could make a repeater that works to the standards they themselves designed.  :'

The protocol may have been defined before anyone thought about needing a repeater.  Extended commands deviate from the standard format (as do bright/dim commands), and are difficult to deal with.  I don't think it is possible to repeat the "simplex" extended commands produced by some controllers without jeopardizing collisions.

Jeff
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lflorack

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2010, 03:33:38 PM »

After my initial post, I did some testing of Absolute and Relative Dimming to see what would happen.  I used the AHP Logs and compliled the results here.  Results are at the end of each test data grouping and my 'findings' are at the bottom of the post.

Manual Test - Dim from 100% to 50% via AHP slider
1016    1/28/2010 14:00:02    Transmit    F6 (MB-Dresser Lamp)
1017    1/28/2010 14:00:02    Transmit    F On (MB-Dresser Lamp)
1018    1/28/2010 14:00:05    Transmit    F Dim 50(MB-Dresser Lamp)
1019    1/28/2010 14:00:07    Receive    F Dim 52(MB-Dresser Lamp)
Results: Transmit lines 1016-1018 aare from AHP.  Step 1019 Receive is perhaps a retransmit from HCA02(?) But Slider and light stays at 50%

Absolute Dimming Macro Test #1- Manually initiated via AHP - Dim from 100% to 50%
996 1/28/2010 13:30:13 Transmit F4 (LR-(2) Table Lamps)
997 1/28/2010 13:30:13 Transmit F On (LR-(2) Table Lamps)
998 1/28/2010 13:30:37 Transmit F Dim 50(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
999 1/28/2010 13:30:39 Receive F Dim 52(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
Results: Transmit lines 996-998 are from AHP.  Step 999 Receive is perhaps a retransmit from HCA02(?) It made AHP slider go to 0% but lights still lit ~25%?

Absolute Dimming Macro Test #2- Manually initiated via AHP - Dim from 100% to 50%
4 1/28/2010 15:11:49 Transmit F4 (LR-(2) Table Lamps)
5 1/28/2010 15:11:50 Transmit F On (LR-(2) Table Lamps)
6 1/28/2010 15:12:07 Transmit F Dim 50(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
7 1/28/2010 15:12:08 Receive F Dim 15(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
Results: Transmit lines 4-6 are from AHP.  Step 7 Receive is perhaps a retransmit from HCA02(?) It made AHP slider and lights go to ~35%.

Relative Dimming Macro Test #1- Manually initiated via AHP - Dim from 100% to 50%
1020 1/28/2010 14:14:57 Transmit F4 (LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1021 1/28/2010 14:14:57 Transmit F On (LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1022 1/28/2010 14:15:32 Transmit F4 (LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1023 1/28/2010 14:15:32 Transmit F Dim 50(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1024 1/28/2010 14:15:34 Receive F Dim 52(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1025 1/28/2010 14:15:35 Receive F Dim 10(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1026 1/28/2010 14:15:35 Receive F Dim 10(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1027 1/28/2010 14:15:36 Receive F Dim 10(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1028 1/28/2010 14:15:37 Receive F Dim 10(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1029 1/28/2010 14:15:37 Receive F Dim 10(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1030 – 1122 same as above
Results: Transmit lines 1020-1023 are from AHP.  Step 1024 –1122 Receive are perhaps a retransmit from HCA02(?)  This was a continuous loop that was only stopped by removing the CM15A from power. The lights were very dim but still lit.

Relative Dimming Macro Test #2- Manually initiated via AHP - Dim from 100% to 50%
1125 1/28/2010 14:45:12 Transmit F4 (LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1126 1/28/2010 14:45:13 Transmit F On (LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1127 1/28/2010 14:45:52 Transmit F4 (LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1128 1/28/2010 14:45:53 Transmit F Dim 50(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
1129 1/28/2010 14:45:55 Receive F Dim 52(LR-(2) Table Lamps)
Results: This is a second test of the above but it did not set off the loop.  Transmit lines 1125-1128 are from AHP.  Step 1129 Receive is perhaps a retransmit from HCA02(?)  Like the absolute macro test above, this test made AHP slider go to 0% but light still lit ~25%?.

Findings:  Although not extensive, the test results above appear to match what occurred previously in my environment and indicate that Relative Diming can set up a continuous retransmission loop between the HCA02 and CM15A.  So, although Absolute dimming isn’t very accurate or predictable, it may not be dangerous (i.e., might not set up a loop).  I will set up Absolute dimming macros for my daily routines and report the results when I get them.

If this doesn't work, I may have to get a different phase coupler.

Feedback is welcome.
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lflorack

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2010, 03:50:51 PM »

Extended commands are difficult for a repeater to deal with.  That is why I initially blocked extended commands from being repeated in the XTB-IIR.  Last year I added the ability to repeat only the "doublet" extended commands produced by the CM15A, HomeVision, and perhaps some other high-end controllers.

Jeff

Does a regular AHP timer (no macro triggered) that starts a lamp at a particular time and dims it to 75% contain extended commands?  Or are we just talking about macros with relative or absolute dimming?
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JeffVolp

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2010, 04:46:09 PM »

Does a regular AHP timer (no macro triggered) that starts a lamp at a particular time and dims it to 75% contain extended commands?  Or are we just talking about macros with relative or absolute dimming?

As I recall, there were differences in whether a command was run manually or triggered from a macro in the CM15A.

Some of the error may be due to how most repeaters deal with concatenated dim or bright commands.  I had only used a CM15A for testing, so it isn't easy for me to check if any use extended commands. 

Jeff
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lflorack

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2010, 05:39:22 PM »

As I said earlier, if it turns out that the Coupler/repeater I currently have cannot work acceptably in my environment, I may need to get a new one.  However, Since I never tried, I don't know if I need a coupler/repeater or just a passive coupler.  Since passive couplers are a bit cheaper, should I try one of them first?  Any ideas or suggestions?
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JeffVolp

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2010, 11:50:41 PM »

Since passive couplers are a bit cheaper, should I try one of them first?  Any ideas or suggestions?

If your home is under 2000 sq. ft. with relatively few electrical devices, and all signal suckers are isolated with X10 filters, then a good tuned-circuit passive coupler like the XPCP can work well if your CM15A is not too far from the distribution panel.

X10 signals lose strength as they propagate away from the transmitter.  So it is important to minimize the total distance between the transmitter and where the signal is split among the various circuits.

Jeff
« Last Edit: January 28, 2010, 11:55:56 PM by JeffVolp »
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lflorack

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2010, 09:56:01 AM »

Since passive couplers are a bit cheaper, should I try one of them first?  Any ideas or suggestions?

If your home is under 2000 sq. ft. with relatively few electrical devices, and all signal suckers are isolated with X10 filters, then a good tuned-circuit passive coupler like the XPCP can work well if your CM15A is not too far from the distribution panel.

X10 signals lose strength as they propagate away from the transmitter.  So it is important to minimize the total distance between the transmitter and where the signal is split among the various circuits.

Jeff

Thanks Jeff.  As I researched this more, I found your excellent article, "X10 Passive Couplers and Repeaters" (http://jvde.us/x10/x10_couplers.htm).  I also found the X10Wiki article, "Phase Coupling" (http://kbase.x10.com/wiki/Phase_Coupling).  In the section, "Problems With Extended Commands" it explains 'my' looping problem exactly:

Quote
All was good until X10 decided in 1993 to add Extended code commands to the protocol. These commands have an extra 20 powerline cycles of data (for a total of 31). The problem with this is if the Coupler-Repeater doesn't support extended commands it will start to "repeat" the data in the middle of the extended command. Most modules that generate extended commands will detect this and stop transmitting and wait for the Coupler-Repeater to finish. Once it is finished the module will try again, starting the whole cycle all over again. Thus the powerline will be filled with a flood of powerline commands that won't stop until either the offending module or the Coupler-Repeater is unplugged.

I wish I'd found this information (and a lot more) before I got to this point but I guess you don't know what you don't know until you know it.  ???

Anyway, since my current Leviton 2-Phase X10 Amplified Coupler/Repeater (HCA02) (http://www.smarthome.com/4823/Leviton-2-Phase-X10-Coupler-Repeater-HCA02-10E/p.aspx) does NOT support extended commands, I need to replace it with either a passive coupler or a better Coupler/Repeater (i.e., handles extended codes and does a good job with signal repeating).  Not wishing to spend more than I need to -- especially after already spending ~$80 for the HCA02 which doesn't work for me -- while still solving my phase coupling and signal strength needs, I'm considering the following solutions -- in order of ascending cost and probability of success:

Passive Couplers Since these are the least expensive units to try --and you recommended one of them, these are certainly an option.

Couplers/Repeaters  The added features/signal strength of these units make them attractive if they are needed.  Both of these handle the extended codes but they are substantially more expensive than the Passive Couplers.


I'm currently leaning strongly toward the X10 Passive Signal Coupler XPCP.  My house is under 2000 square feet, it's fairly inexpensive, it has a tuned-circuit, my CM15A is only 15 feet from the panel and you recommended it!  ;)  If that works, great!  If not, I'll have to move up to one of the Coupler/Repeaters -- probably your unit -- the XTB-IIR.  This trial and error learning can get expensive!  B:(

Lee
« Last Edit: January 29, 2010, 10:01:15 AM by lflorack »
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JeffVolp

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2010, 10:21:41 AM »

I recommend the XPCP:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290351373894

(That is where I get mine.)

The ACT has a 4-wire connection, and is probably similar.

Jeff
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lflorack

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2010, 11:03:10 AM »

I recommend the XPCP:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290351373894

(That is where I get mine.)

The ACT has a 4-wire connection, and is probably similar.

Jeff

Excellent!  :)%

I'll order one today!

Lee
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dave w

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2010, 11:53:59 AM »

I recommend the XPCP:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=290351373894

(That is where I get mine.)

The ACT has a 4-wire connection, and is probably similar.

Jeff

Excellent!  :)%

I'll order one today!

Lee
Jeff would never use this forum to push his products, but I will.

I understand and agree with trying to limit the amount of money being spent, but one thing to consider about getting a repeater verses a passive couple, is this: electrical noise is as much a nemisis to the X10 signal as insufficient coupling between the phases. My personal experience over my long course of home automation (remote control via X10 1979, programmed timers 1983, voice control 1984, conditional logic 1987) is a "blowtorch" repeater boosts the X10 signal to the point that noise has much less impact. Considering all the noise sources I have sprinkled around the house, without my repeater I would have to have dozens of filters to get our small 1800 sq ft home to work. With the repeater I only need one filter for an extreamly noisey microwave oven.
FWIW my $0.02
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lflorack

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2010, 12:22:31 PM »

[Jeff would never use this forum to push his products, but I will.

I understand and agree with trying to limit the amount of money being spent, but one thing to consider about getting a repeater verses a passive couple, is this: electrical noise is as much a nemisis to the X10 signal as insufficient coupling between the phases. My personal experience over my long course of home automation (remote control via X10 1979, programmed timers 1983, voice control 1984, conditional logic 1987) is a "blowtorch" repeater boosts the X10 signal to the point that noise has much less impact. Considering all the noise sources I have sprinkled around the house, without my repeater I would have to have dozens of filters to get our small 1800 sq ft home to work. With the repeater I only need one filter for an extreamly noisey microwave oven.
FWIW my $0.02

I appreciate your advice -- and the point you bring up is a good part of my dilemma -- the other part being the added cost of the (much) better Coupler/Repeaters.  My thinking is that since I never tried, I don't know yet if my environment requires the flexibility, power and filtering of a (XTB-IIR ).  Therefore, an $11 test (with shipping) is worthwhile.  I can always move up to the best if that fails.

Thanks again.  I really do think I'll probably end up with an XTB-IIR.  But I need to try this option first. If I find that noise or distance, etc make me think of buying filters, etc to solve those issues piecemeal, I'll move to the XTB-IIR.

Lee
« Last Edit: January 29, 2010, 12:35:38 PM by lflorack »
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dave w

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Re: AHP CM15A vs Leviton HCA02
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2010, 12:34:58 PM »



Therefore, an $11 test (with shipping) is worthwhile.  I can always move up to the best if that fails.

Thanks again.  I really do think I'll probably end up with an XTB-IIR.  But I need to try this option first.

Lee

At 11 bucks, I agree! Last time I bought a pasive coupler they were $40 plus shipping.

edited: By tuicemen to fix quote error
« Last Edit: January 30, 2010, 10:11:06 AM by Tuicemen »
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