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Author Topic: Differences between TM751, TM751-C, RR501, and other X10 RF transceivers  (Read 2626 times)

JeffVolp

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I see that the XTBR is available on Amazon, and I believe that automatically gets a 30-day return policy.

Amazon orders are filled by us, same as if you order from our website.  The difference is they cost more on Amazon to partially cover their fee.

We have always accepted returns when purchased directly from us with full refund except for shipping.

Jeff
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madbrain

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I'm jumping in kind of late here, and I might have missed this when I read through the above discussion, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to share.

Thanks, I appreciate your help.

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There is a huge difference between two outlets (or lights) being *physically* close and being *electrically* close. Points on different circuits will have a longer path than points on the same circuit, and points on different phases will have an even longer path (though a coupler can reduce this distance some). Signal-suckers and noise-generators will have a different effect on the signal depending on where they are located in reference to the transmitting and receiving units. Knowing what's where is going to be your best help when trying to troubleshoot future issues (especially when things suddenly change).

Yes, I'm already aware of this.

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It shouldn't be that hard to figure out which breaker controlls what. It is easier with a helper (and a set of walkie-talkies, or cell phones for communication).
Just turn them off one at a time, and see what stops working. Test *every* light and outlet this way (having an outlet tester is useful here).
You may find that one outlet is on a breaker by itself - or that a single outlet out on it's own is on a seemingly unrelated circuit (ex: in my house, the outlets along the whole front wall are on the same circuit, even though they are in different rooms).

I agree that it's not hard to flip breakers and see what gets turned off, and record it. I already have an outlet tester. Unfortunately, there likely isn't going to be anybody else assisting me onsite with the mapping. My husband might help if was a one or even two hour job, but I fear it's much more than that given the scale we are talking about here - at least 100 switches, probably more than 100 outlets - I haven't counted them all yet - and 3 panels with over 40 breakers. So, I have to do this mostly on my own, and walkie talkies are a moot point. We would use cell phone if my husband agrees to help for some of it.

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In most US breaker boxes, the phases are divided by horizontal row (assuming your breaker box is set up such that it is taller than it is wide, and that the breakers flip left/right). Each row is on an alternating phase - so that double-pole breakers (that connect across both phases to provide 220v power) connect to both phases. If you have multiple panels, it may be harder to determine which phases line up between them. If the panels are on different utility feeds (instead of being sub-panels off a main one), they might not bridge until they go back to the utility transformer.
When I installed my XTB-IIR booster a decade ago (I bought it from Jeff Volp), I decided to add a dedicated double-pole breaker for it, and I also took the opportunity to add a split-wired standard outlet on that circuit (top half on one phase, bottom half on the other), to aid in future testing. The box with that outlet (and the 220V one that the booster plugs into) is located right next to my breaker box - thereby giving the shortest signal path from the booster into both phases. This is the ideal place for a coupler or booster.
There may be a limit to how much you can figure out on your own - and you might need to have an electrician (or a friend who knows what they are doing and is comfortable with electrical work) come in and open up your breaker boxes - to complete the mapping (after you figure out what each breaker controls).

Thanks for all this information. It is very helpful. If you have read earlier in the thread, you know that I am not in a financial position to spend money on an electrician at this time.
You forgot to mention quad breakers, of which my main panel, many, because it's very full. Even though it's a 200amp panel and I have never seen peak usage over 20,000 watts (about 83 amps) in my SmartMeter data, it only has 20 breaker spaces. Over the last 12 years since I bought the house, multiple circuits have been added for solar PV, EV chargers, and a few devices that needed dedicated 15amp circuits. And this could only be done by utilizing quad breakers. So, there are many of those.

I'm interested in doing the mapping for two reasons - one is to optimize X10 signal transmission, to decide which outlets to place my transceivers, or where/whether to install the remaining hardwired XPS4 switches I have. In this context, knowing the phase matters.

The other reason is to determine loads on each breaker, and see if some loads should be switched to different circuits by plugging them to different outlets, or even possibly running additional circuits in the future (if that's even possible, given how full panels are). In this context, I don't think knowing the phase matters.

I may proceed trying to do the mapping on my own, since I do have a lot of time on my hands, but I'll still want to figure out the most efficient method/algorithm to do so first before I proceed.

One idea I have to test the outlets is to use smartplugs with static IPs that I already own, plug them to various outlets, turn breakers off at the panels one at a time, recording the time I do so in a timestamped video with my phone or camera, and then review the video and cross reference with my smokeping data to see what time each smartplug went offline (stopped responding to ping). It requires the cable modem/router, at least one wireless access point, and my Raspberry Pi running smokeping to all be on UPS, so that they stay up even if their breaker gets turned off, but that's already the case also. This should work well enough to map outlets to breakers. I have many more outlets than smartplugs, though, so I'll have to repeat the process several times just to map outlets. It's still not an efficient process, but at least it's a reasonable 1-person job. That method won't work to map any switches/light circuits/appliances to breakers, though, as none of them are Wifi, and thus can't be pinged with smokeping. Rather than testing all 100 switches, I might choose to just test the 9 existing XPS4 switches, and test the dumb switches at the few locations I'm considering installing my remaining boxed XPS4s. The appliances have been labeled on the breaker boxes and those breaker labels seem accurate, but they don't tell the entire story. It has been my experience that some outlets are also on some appliance breakers. I know of at least one example off the top of my head of this.
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madbrain

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Amazon orders are filled by us, same as if you order from our website.  The difference is they cost more on Amazon to partially cover their fee.

We have always accepted returns when purchased directly from us with full refund except for shipping.

Thank you. I will keep this in mind and purchase directly from you if I choose to try the XTBR.
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JeffVolp

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Even though it's a 200amp panel and I have never seen peak usage over 20,000 watts (about 83 amps) in my SmartMeter data, it only has 20 breaker spaces. Over the last 12 years since I bought the house, multiple circuits have been added for solar PV, EV chargers, and a few devices that needed dedicated 15amp circuits.

This is a red flag for me.  Some PV inverters can inject noise onto the powerline, and prevent X10 devices from decoding commands.  So can chargers and other electronic devices.  And with that many circuits, you probably have devices that are acting as signal suckers.  Checking the various circuits with a borrowed XTBM/Pro would be the first step in increasing X10 powerline control reliability.

Jeff
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madbrain

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This is a red flag for me.  Some PV inverters can inject noise onto the powerline, and prevent X10 devices from decoding commands.  So can chargers and other electronic devices.  And with that many circuits, you probably have devices that are acting as signal suckers. 

Thanks. That makes sense, and would explain a lot of my X10 troubles.

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Checking the various circuits with a borrowed XTBM/Pro would be the first step in increasing X10 powerline control reliability.

I appreciate the suggestion. A borrowed meter would only help identify problem noise/signal sucker devices in the short-term, but in the long run, at least plug-in devices change, and new problem sources are very likely to be introduced. The meter doesn't fix the issues also, it only pinpoints them, and while that goes a long way, it still leaves additional costs to fix, possibly needing devices out of production like your XTB-IIR, and electrician labor to install them. A lot for me to think about.
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madbrain

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I received the second RR501 earlier today - also old revision, almond color on all sides. I set it up on house code D and plugged it in to an outlet in my downstairs utility room. The circulation pump is on an XPS4 set to code D1. I set HomeAssistant to start it every 12 minutes, then stop it after 1 minute. The automation hasn't been reliable, unfortunately. I was watching TV in my home theater, which is adjacent to the utility room. I didn't hear the loud relay at the bottom of the RR501 turn on and off 10 times an hour. The volume was loud, and there are 15 speakers in the HT including 4 subs. Still, I did hear the relay a few times. One thing that I saw also is a case where the pump was turned on, but not off.

I don't know yet if it's an RF problem (signal from CM17A not reaching the transceiver reliably) or a PLC problem. It could be either, or both.
There is a lot of stuff going in that utility room - two electrical panels, one water heater, one furnace, and ceiling light. Everything is hardwired except for the plug-in RR501. I'm going to swap transceivers (RTM75, HC50RX) and see if things improve - some might have more RF reach than the others.
I could also tell HomeAssistant to send multiple X10 on/off commands and see if that helps reliability. I'm not certain if it will ignore multiple commands of the same state (eg. 3 consecutive ON commands, 3 consecutive OFF commands). There is no way to do that manually from the HTTP interface or app. Switch state can only be toggled. So, I have to modify the automation and see if I get a better success rate.

If I get one of the transceivers to work reliably enough to control the pump, I will change the unit code on the XPS4 switch controlling it to something other than 1 (or 9), so I don't have to hear the relay for the outlet at the bottom of the transceiver when toggling the pump. Besides the annoying noise that can be heard across rooms even with the door closed, those relays have to have a limited lifespan in terms of actuations. Is there any info on that ? Same question for the relays in the XPS3 and much quieter XPS4 relay.

Since there is no issue of matching switch colors in that utility room with the rest of the house (it's not a place where anyone normally goes), this seems like a case where it may make more sense to replace the XPS4 in that room with a $15 white Kasa HS200 Wifi switch. I haven't seen any issue toggling the Kasa smartplug state from HomeAssistant not getting executed. I did have issues with automations that depend on sensor states, for example the power consumption sensor, not getting triggered, to notify me when my clothes/dishes/etc are done, or automatically turn my multi-channel amps off when power consumption flattens, indicating nothing is playing.

So, I have an update at least for that circulation pump XPS4 switch. For the past 24 hours, I setup the RCA HC50RX, which I identified as the best RF->PLC transceiver I own, in the utility room in which the pump is located. I also setup HomeAssistant to send 3 consecutive ON commands every 20 minutes, and 3 consecutive OFF commands 1 minute after that. All sent via RF through the CM17A.

Even after doing this, it hasn't been 100% reliable. I still stumbled on the pump accidentally left in the running state, outside of of the times it was supposed to be activated at, meaning the D1 ON PLC command went through at some point, but corresponding OFF D1 PLC commands didn't. The whole purpose of the automation is not to run the pump 24/7 and save on power, and reduce noise as well, so this is a big fail. I know that the state of the outlet at the bottom of the HC50RX isn't getting switched reliably either, so I think the RF signal from the CM17A isn't reliably reaching the transceiver. The CM17A is in the front of the house, and the utility room is in the back. It's a bit surprising to me that an RF signal works intermittently when both devices are stationary, but that appears to be the case here. The other possibility is that the HC50RX transceiver is receiving the RF signal 100% of the time, but the controller is programmed to send the PLC signal first, and changes the bottom outlet state second. If the controller is "polite" and it can't send the PLC signal somehow due to noise issues, maybe the device gives up, and doesn't proceed to change the outlet state. All conjecture on my part, I just don't know, but the bottom line is that it's still not reliable, sadly. This particular automation really needs to be reliable. So, at least for controlling this particular XPS4 switch, I am ready to admit defeat, and declare that my experiment of using RF and a transceiver to work around PLC line noise and CM11A problems failed. I have a $15 Kasa HS200 switch on order from Amazon that will arrive tomorrow, and hopefully I can get it installed within the next week, and that will be the end of that. Sigh.

That still leaves 8 XPS3/XPS4 switches currently installed.

The 3 XPS3 light switches in the home theater still work as reliably as they always have with the RW724 outside the room and the IR543. When doing remote toggles from the HomeAssistant with the CM17A, they are not 100% reliable, though. That's less critical than the circulation pump, though. Remote automation for those switches from HomeAssistant would only ever be used to turn these light switches off when there is no motion, but I still lack hardware for a motion sensor that I can query from HomeAssistant. I just created an automation that turns off those 3 switches every 30 minutes, same as I used to do with heyu and cron. I'll turn the lights on manually now, and see if they are still on tomorrow, but I doubt they will, as the automation would have to fail every single time between now and them for these lights to remain on.

The 1 XPS3 in my office still works with the RW724, as does the AM466 plug-in module controlling the audio. Again, less critical for automation to work with these. I want to get a motion sensor for auto-off, just as in the home theater, but still lack hardware. I'm not programming auto-off every 30 minutes or at any interval for these, though, as it's way too annoying when I'm at the desk for multiple hours to have things turn off unwittingly. The light is not going to auto-off for a while longer until I solve that.

The XPS4 in the entrance that controls the porch light has worked much better with the CM17A + transceiver than the CM11A did. So far, the porch light has come up every evening and turned off every morning as it should. The transceiver definitely helped here. There are multiple transceivers on the same house code  at different outlets, so that very likely helps.

The 3 XPS4 for the outdoor flood light on my terrace, backyard, and deck (hot tub area) haven't been completely reliable with the CM17A, despite multiple transceivers on the C housecode they all share. Meaning, it sometimes takes a few toggles in the HomeAssistant app to get the state switched, but it eventually works quickly enough. But it's a hell of a lot better than it used to be, though. In the past, I have been completely unable to turn any of these lights on after it got dark while staying in my hot tub late, back when using the CM11A - likely because the CM11A interface locked up and nothing could be done remotely to fix it. Not 100% reliable, but good enough for this use case.

Have yet to open any of the switches and consolidate around a couple house codes vs the 4 now remaining.

I have 3 more brand-new boxed XPS4s, and a couple of XPFM, XPSS, and an XPT bought long ago. Given the level of aggravation with X10 in my home so far, I don't know if it's very wise to get them installed. The X10 switch colors don't exactly match my dumb Leviton switches. They are almond, not light-almond. Still better than the white-only Kasa. I have 7 appliance modules not currently in use that might make sense to put back into service close to RF transceivers. RF remote colors don't match other switches either.
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