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Author Topic: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief  (Read 1648 times)

HR

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X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« on: April 29, 2024, 03:53:06 PM »

I picked up my first X10 stuff in the 90's when shopping on the World Wide Web was akin to the Wild West.  I have 90% of the original items I purchased and for all intents and purposes, they still work.  The problem is the amount of junk we now have in our home plugged into power strips and so forth.    I am not an electrician and I'm not testing signal strength, etc, I simply have always had 2 RF Transceivers and I positioned them in various plugs in my home until the lights turned on, and turned off...and stayed that way.    For probably 18 years all was right with the world.  Except when you plugged in Christmas Lights or moved something to a different socket in a different room, then...well.....move that transceiver around.   

But the past few years have been problematic at best.  I believe one of my original transceivers died, half the lights stopped responding to my "Add a Keypad" flat adhesive-backed keypads I use to control two separate floors and blocks of lights on each floor.   I plugged in a temporary "small format" transceiver while I wait for the RF501 (?) replacement to arrive, and it helped but not 100%.  Now I have some lights that refuse to turn on (no signal) and I have others that randomly turn themselves off...and one that randomly turns itself on.

Obviously this won't stand, and I am hoping that having 2 of the larger transceivers (which I believe prevent ghosting of signals) again will alleviate the problem.

But truth is, this is a sloppy fix/band aid at best.  One of my lights no longer receives the on/off signal on the floor where all of the others do, and its the one that is closest to the small 3 button (plus dimmer) keypad (Cr2032 powered) and one of the two tranceivers.   in other areas of the house, lights are turning on and off and I believe this is due to having exactly 1 motion detector that turns on a light in a room when you enter it auto-magically.........again I think a ghosting/repeating signal.

I did pick up a couple of spare noise-isolators that I put on some power-strips that don't pull a lot of power, that seemed to help.....is the solution to add those to power strips when necessary?  I mean the whole x10 thing is a bit rube-goldberg in my home, but I can't deny that replacing everything with smart-bulbs that can be controlled from space is not my ideal solution.

I literally want to turn lights on and off and having the little CR2032 powered switches on the walls blended seamlessly into my home, but now those will really only trigger 'some' of the lights, enough to find a larger 16 button remote control and trigger the rest of them.   And even those, sometimes, I need to re-position my body, etc.     I do have a passive coupler on my dryer that I stopped using years ago because I found it seemed to make zero difference with it on or off, and on it would get and stay warm.   

Anyhow that's my story, suggestions or mockery both accepted with thanks.
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brobin

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2024, 08:28:59 PM »

You need more than a passive coupler.  In addition to filters on any obvious noisemakers like UPS units for PC's, a repeater would go a long way to solving your problem.  The venerable XTB-IIR is no longer available so your best bet would be an X-10 XPCR wired in at your electrical panel. It's simple job that doesn't require an electrician unless you're uncomfortable doing it.
https://www.x10.com/collections/x10-filters-and-repeaters/products/xpcr

Also try unplugging some of the "wall warts" used for phone chargers and the like.  They can still provide power but start generating noise on the power line as they age or if they're poorly designed.  I once had one that shut down X10 for the whole house till I unplugged it!

Also, read some of the great info here:  https://jvde.us/x10-troubleshooting/
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JeffVolp

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2024, 11:48:52 PM »

You need more than a passive coupler.  In addition to filters on any obvious noisemakers like UPS units for PC's, a repeater would go a long way to solving your problem.  The venerable XTB-IIR is no longer available so your best bet would be an X-10 XPCR wired in at your electrical panel.

I recently ordered a small batch of XTB-IIR PCBs for a customer who wanted to build his own units, and there are some PCBs left over for anyone who wants to build one from scratch.  The parts list and assembly notes are on line.

The plug-in XTBR is still available.  It is a single-phase version of the XTB-IIR and runs essentially the same repeater code, but it must be paired with a good tuned circuit passive coupler.  The X10 XPCP has been discontinued, but a good coupler can be made with just 2 components as described here:

  https://forums.x10.com/index.php?topic=31723.msg189289#msg189289

Jeff

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HR

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2024, 07:57:32 AM »

Nice to know X10 is still alive and kicking and I thank you both for the quick and concise replies.
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HR

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2024, 08:38:00 AM »

I purchased another X10 transceiver to replace the X10 Pro transceiver I had been using for probably the past 10 years.  That solved my problem.   I don't think it should have, but it did.   The lamps all went on again.  I also discovered that I have an X10 repeater module in a drawer, which I plugged in....which didn't seem to do much of anything where I happened to have it inserted in the wall.  I didn't do the "let's try this outlet and see if anything changes....nope, let's try this outlet." etc.   

Follow-up question:  I believe there is a tiny light on the device to indicate when its repeating a signal, is it correct to assume the light should flash when its receiving, and repeating a signal?   

Thank You

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gadgetboy

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2024, 02:13:50 PM »

I started with x10 in the 80's as well and most of my components still work as well. The only remotes I use now are my cell phones and my raspberry pi mini computer with a usb connector using HomeGenie. This site has been the only advice available to me and is a daily stop for me. I have had better usage of X10 than I have ever imagined possible and many of the units are available on Ebay and Amazon. As Mr Volp has been better for this system than anyone I have heard of, listen to him and don't give up on x10 without a fight. This system can do wonders for your needs.

Dave
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JeffVolp

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2024, 10:11:45 PM »

As Mr Volp has been better for this system than anyone I have heard of, listen to him and don't give up on x10 without a fight.

I have been dealing with some "X10 Madness" myself lately.  Over the last week several lights controlled by X10 were on when they shouldn't have been.  I plugged in my XTBM-Pro to log X10 traffic, and it didn't record any X10 commands corresponding to the lights being on.  This has effected both X10 floodlights and Leviton X10 compatible wall switches.

Then this morning the garage exhaust fan was on.  Our Ocelot program turns that on to pull in cooler morning air if the garage had been very warm the prior day.  But yesterday was not warm, so the fan should not have been on.  I sent the X10 OFF command to turn it off, but surprisingly, a couple seconds later it turned back on.  I sent the X10 OFF command multiple times, and each time the fan turned off and back on.  I checked the XTBM-Pro log, and each time it recorded the OFF command, followed by an ON command.  Since it always responded to OFF commands before, I don't have a clue where that is coming from.

While not entirely X10, I've also been dealing with an irrigation issue that started about a month ago.  I noticed one of our irrigation zones had not turned off.  I've had valves stick in the past, but it was not that.  We have used a WGL Rain8 for almost 2 decades, and except for having to replace several triacs over the years, it has worked well.  It goes through a predetermined cycle initiated by an X10 command.  It apparently had stuck at the transition between zones 2 and 3.  I swapped in a spare Rain8, and the problem seemed to go away.  But a couple of weeks later zone 2 was stuck on again.  Cycling power cleared it.  Maybe a week after that zone 3 stuck on.  I swapped in another spare and even replaced the TW523 that receives the X10 commands.  But this morning zone 2 was stuck on again.  It is like somehow the timers in all three units are malfunctioning.  The XTBM-Pro only logged the X10 command that initiates the sequence.

X10 signal and noise problems are easy, but these have me puzzled.

Jeff
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brobin

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2024, 01:34:23 AM »

Problem #1 with the lights is one that's a real head scratcher.  I got nuthin' except maybe bored poltergeists.  :o
Could #2 with the fan be caused by whatever you're using to determine the heat level failing open or closed to always indicate a high heat condition?  That would explain the fan turning back on all the time since the Ocelot would always see high heat as true.
For #3 you might try replacing or swapping the solenoids for zones 2 & 3 with others as I've had those fail in the past or maybe the 24VAC power supply for the solenoids is failing or there's a shorted wire to the solenoids.

Just some ideas off the top of my head but I know that if anybody can figure it out it would be you!
I'll be interested to learn what you find and maybe learn something new!
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JeffVolp

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2024, 11:23:26 AM »

Problem #1 with the lights is one that's a real head scratcher.  I got nuthin' except maybe bored poltergeists.  :o
Could #2 with the fan be caused by whatever you're using to determine the heat level failing open or closed to always indicate a high heat condition?  That would explain the fan turning back on all the time since the Ocelot would always see high heat as true.
For #3 you might try replacing or swapping the solenoids for zones 2 & 3 with others as I've had those fail in the past or maybe the 24VAC power supply for the solenoids is failing or there's a shorted wire to the solenoids.

Thanks for the suggestions.

All I can think of on problem 1 is some sort of intermittent noise source or powerline glitches.  The XTBM-Pro only gives the current noise level, which is zero.  But several weeks ago I did detect a high noise level that disappeared as breakers were tripped, but it didn't resume when that breaker was switched back on.

My idea on problem 2 is similar to yours.  There is a thermister in the garage that the Ocelot uses to calculate temperature.  I have to pick through the code to see what might be causing the problem.  I wrote that code two decades ago, and it has worked fine until just a few days ago.  Maybe all it needs is a refresh.

I've had solenoids go bad before, but they are working fine.  I can manually switch them on and off through the Rain8 with a 4-button X10 wall controller.  If it was a stuck valve, the next zone would have come on, but it didn't.  Similarly, the 24VAC is fine.

I can understand one unit acting up after a couple of decades due to a soft programmed bit, but why are three different controllers misbehaving the same way?  (Zone 3 stuck on again this morning.)  The only idea I have is that somehow random X10 traffic is confusing the Rain8 while it is proceeding through its sequence.  But it had worked fine for almost 2 decades.  Why now?

As a test I'm going to modify a XTB-523 to only accept the housecode that controls the Rain8.  If that fails, I guess I'll have to move the timer function into the Ocelot, and only use the Rain8 as a multi-channel X10 relay.

I considered a commercial smart irrigation controller, but we have the unique situation that there are just a couple of inches of soil on top of a lava flow for our 20' x 40' "lawn".  So that dries out very quickly in the summer when days are often over 110F.  The Ocelot runs periodic short cycles depending on the temperature to keep everything alive.  And of course we have to be compliant with water restrictions during the summer months.

Jeff

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toasterking

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2024, 11:55:52 PM »

Hey, Jeff, did you ever solve any of these 3 issues?  I'm just really curious what the solutions were!
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JeffVolp

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2024, 12:52:26 PM »

Hey, Jeff, did you ever solve any of these 3 issues?  I'm just really curious what the solutions were!

Yes, everything is running well again. The noise source has not reappeared, and lights are behaving as they should.  I moved all irrigation control into the Ocelot, and the Rain8 is now just a X10 relay board.  That process took about half a dozen program downloads to the Ocelot before all the bugs were exorcised.  After that I had connected the garage fan back up, and it seems to be running fine.  So maybe there was a soft bit somewhere in the Ocelot because the program had not been refreshed in a couple of years.

But not all is well.  Yesterday I was leading a hike, and started up my 2005 Explorer "hiking car".  Both rear windows went down by themselves, and refused to go up again from either the switches on the driver door or the passenger doors.  So next on the agenda is pull open the doors, get the windows back up, and disconnect the motors so that won't happen again.  It is always something...

Jeff
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toasterking

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2024, 05:41:05 PM »

Yes, everything is running well again. The noise source has not reappeared, and lights are behaving as they should.  I moved all irrigation control into the Ocelot, and the Rain8 is now just a X10 relay board.  That process took about half a dozen program downloads to the Ocelot before all the bugs were exorcised.  After that I had connected the garage fan back up, and it seems to be running fine.  So maybe there was a soft bit somewhere in the Ocelot because the program had not been refreshed in a couple of years.

If you're like me, having to say "maybe" to the solution bothers you almost as much as the actual problem.  I'm glad you got them resolved, but it must be frustrating to not really know what went wrong in the beginning.

But not all is well.  Yesterday I was leading a hike, and started up my 2005 Explorer "hiking car".  Both rear windows went down by themselves, and refused to go up again from either the switches on the driver door or the passenger doors.  So next on the agenda is pull open the doors, get the windows back up, and disconnect the motors so that won't happen again.  It is always something...

Hopefully, that vehicle is not one with a "body control module" which controls the windows, with much more to go wrong than simple switches and wires.  Many vehicles now have silly features like "Insert the key into the lock and quickly turn clockwise, release, turn again and hold to roll down all windows" which most owners don't know exist and will never use, implemented using extra microcontrollers which have no business being there.  But if yours does have a BCM, an ODB-II code scanner or OBD-II Bluetooth adapter + smartphone app may give some info on what's wrong.
« Last Edit: June 20, 2024, 04:03:10 PM by toasterking »
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JeffVolp

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Re: X10 madness - ancient hardware finally giving me grief
« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2024, 10:58:21 PM »

Many vehicles now have silly features like "Insert the key into the lock and quickly turn clockwise, release, turn again and hold to roll down all windows" which most owners don't know exist and will never use, implemented using extra microcontrollers which have no business being there.  But if yours does have a BCM, an ODB-II code scanner or OBM-II Bluetooth adapter + smartphone app may give some info on what's wrong.

I hadn't thought about using my scanner, but that is a good idea.  I suspect something broke in the driver side switch module because it seems to be a common Ford problem.  Since it is just my hiking car, the cheapest fix is to get the windows back up and then just disable them.

Regarding unused features, I wonder how many people used the XTBM-Pro status monitor feature.  Or the XTB-IIR's AGC Query that reads the detection threshold to check for powerline noise.

Jeff
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