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Author Topic: Soft-Start Dimmer Problems -PLEASE READ FIRST  (Read 47142 times)


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Soft-Start Dimmer Problems -PLEASE READ FIRST
« on: October 05, 2008, 01:36:59 PM »

For anyone that is having problems interfacing a new “Soft Start” dimmer to AHP, the following is intended to be a Tutorial on how to deal with these units when using ActiveHomePro

I have become increasingly upset with the number of problems that new and old users have been encountering interfacing the "New Soft Start" modules to AHP.  There's a huge amount of frustration out there and it is due to an incompatibility between the new design hardware and the AHP software interface.  A new WS467 (WS12a, LM465, XPD3, ...) will not work properly if identified as a WS467 within AHP.  The underlying problem here is that the units were changed and they were not re-identified (as a WS467b for instance).  This would have allowed the addition of an new interface to AHP without messing up the existing. 

I am hoping that the following will help reduce the frustration that people must be encountering with these new units.  Life is far too short to get upset by the "little things".

What is a “Soft Start” dmimer?

A soft start dimmer is a unit that gently ramps the light level up in response to an “on” command or a local keypress.
Back in early ’07, X10 began introducing new “Soft Start” modules to the market.  These units include many nice, high end features, but unfortunately they do not interface very well to AHP.  The first units affected were the WS467 wall dimmer and LM465 lamp module.  Since that time virtually all of the X10 and X10Pro dimmer modules (WS467/PLW01, WS4777/PLW02, LM465/PLM01, WS12a, WS13a/XPD3, XPDI3) have incorporated these new features.

New features include –
1)   Soft start
2)   Resume dim
3)   Extended code “Direct Dim”
4)   Extended code group capable.

Charles Sullivan has a write up on the capabilities of these new units at his site:
Softstart WS467 and LM465 Documentation

Common Complaints/LM14a Interface Solution

Complaints when using these units include the following:

1)   I can turn my XXX unit on from the AHP switch Icon but macros/timers don’t work.
   a.   The is likely a problem due to 2 issues.  1) "ON in place of Bright 100%" has not been selected under macro options.  2) Dimmer switches will not "turn on" in response to a bright command.  Use the Lm14a interface to correct this.

2)   I can’t turn get my dimmer switch to dim from a macro.
   a.   Likely a problem responding to a “bright” command.  Use the LM14a interface to correct this.

3)   The brightness levels are not correct on my XXX unit.
   a.   Likely a problem with the unit returning to a previous “dim” level (resume dim feature). Use the LM14a interface to correct this.

None of the above is due to a problem with the unit itself.  The problem is related to a command incompatibility with ActiveHomePro.   In all of the above instances, changing the module type to a “LM14a 2-way Lamp Module” should correct the problem.

Testing the LM14a Interface

To test whether your unit is a “Soft Start” version (and compatible with the LM14a) perform the following:

1)   Re-Identify your unit as a LM14a 2-way Lamp module within AHP.
2)   Move the Brightness Slider to 50% - You should see an extended code transmission similar to the following in activity monitor.  If your lamp/switch functions it’s compatible.

Activity Monitor Output
Event       Date/Time                Action             Data
0    10/05/2008 10:19:24 am    Transmit A15    Extended Code 6b 31 (New Module)  Extended Code Data Transmission

3)   Save your changes to the interface.

Pluses and Minuses of the LM14a Interface (extended codes)

Positives of the LM14a Interface
1)   Speed – Standard turn on to 50% bright sequence takes roughly 6 seconds to communicate.  The LM14a extended code interface will communicate the 50% command in just over a second.

2)   Reliability – A standard turn on to 50% bright sequence requires 15 sequential Bright/dim commands.  It’s very hard on active repeaters (can cause “firestorms”) and can be interrupted by other transmissions.  The extended code sequence is a single command.

3)   Direct Dim – The LM14a interface will send a lamp/switch directly to the requested brightness.  The standard interface must first turn the unit on to 100% and then dim down.

4)   Resume Dim – The LM14a interface bypasses the internal “Resume Dim” feature of the switch.  Using a standard interface, the ON command will turn a switch on at its previous brightness level.


1)   Certain active repeaters cannot repeat extended code commands.  If your active repeater does not support extended code commands, you may not be able to communicate with units on the opposite phase.

2)   Simple “ON” commands with Dimmer Switches – Switch modules (not the LM465 lamp modules) will return to their previously set brightness due to the resume dim feature.  Unfortunately, the LM14a interface will send simple “ON” commands for “ON at 100%” which will activate this feature.  The workaround is to program macros and timers to use “99% On level” which will then use the extended code “Direct Dim” and bypass the resume Dim feature. 

3)   Macro Grouping – AHP allows you to “group” units when using standard commands without delays between them.  Basically AHP addresses all of the units and then sends one “action” command so they activate at the same time.  While this is still possible with the LM14a interface, it will activate the “resume dim” feature of the new switches and is therefore not recommended as explained above.  Using the “ON at 99%” extended code command will not allow units to be grouped.

Example "Grouped" Macro"

Macro Output In Activity Monitor

4)   Activity Monitor will not show extended code transmissions for Macro executed commands.  Clicking on a macro will show extended code commands to LM14a modules.  Unfortunately remote triggering (RF or PLC) will show the macro execution, but not the extended code transmission.

Incompatible Repeater Workarounds

If you have a repeater that is not extended code capable don’t give up.  Don’t give up, there are options.  You will need to use the standard device interface and you’ll be fighting a few problems:

1)   Wall dimmers will not turn on in response to a “bright” command.
2)   Wall dimmers will return to their previous “bright” setting in response to a “on” command.
3)   Lamp modules will turn on in response to a “bright” command, but will return to their previous level.

Knowing the above limitations allows us to get around the problems by being a bit creative.  For the below solutions to work properly, please make sure that the macro option “ISSUE On in place of Bright 100%” is checked under the “Tools/Preferences/Macro Options:

Wall dimmers

Since the wall dimmers won’t respond to a “bright” command a standard Macro command of Bright 50% won’t work.  You must first use an on command which will turn the unit on to the previous brightness setting (resume dim feature).  Follow that with the standard “bright” command to adjust to the correct level.
Lamp Modules

Lamp modules are a bit different since they will respond to “bright” commands.  Unfortunately, the standard “brightness” interface can activate the resume dim feature and cause undesirable results.  The workaround for these devices is the same as for the wall dimmers.

To new and old users alike

The new features in these units are, as I said previously, rather High End.  I've been using these features on Leviton units for quite a few years at 4x the price.  Once you learn to interface them properly to AHP, you may be able to appreciate these additional functions.

At some point I hope to address the "scene capability" of these units.  But that's another post...

« Last Edit: October 30, 2009, 07:08:02 PM by Boiler »

steven r

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Re: Soft-Start Dimmer Problems -PLEASE READ FIRST
« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2008, 04:37:14 PM »

Well documented! One helpful for you.
This needs to be stickied.
BVC let's me tell my camera where to go!
:) Murphy is my beta testing pal. He helps me find problems whether I like it or not. :)

Brian H

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Re: Soft-Start Dimmer Problems -PLEASE READ FIRST
« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2008, 06:11:13 PM »

 #:) Great job and thnks for all the time and effort to do it.
Helpful fro me also.
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