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Author Topic: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?  (Read 20479 times)

phorce1

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Here's the situation.

Currently using an RR501 (or PAT01 -- physically identical so I'd have to pull it to see) for all transceiving. All hand remotes and motion sensors while I build the computer for my CM15 and AHP.

2 SL575 (or PLM02) modules set to B-1 and B-4
1 WS467 set to B-3
1 AM486 set to B-5

Now, all of the above work fine at all times. Below is the "problem group":

The RR501 is set to B-9 (the appliance module part of it -- operates an incandescent lamp)
1 UM506 set to B-9 (chime only operation)
1 LM465 set to B-10 controlling 120V rope lights on the porch

All of those work quite well using either a remote or the MS14A motion sensor. Hit the remote B-9 button and the chime chirps and thelamp goes on. Walk past the sensor and the same thing -- plus at dusk the rope lights come on.

Then, I added a WS467 set to B-9 controlling a standard incandescent flood light on my porch.

Suddenly, all of the B-9/B-10 devices work when they darn well please. Sometimes they'll go on but not off. Sometimes when they're off I can't turn them on. Or only one of the 3 items set to B-9 will trigger and the other two don't.

If I reach over and manually slide the local control switch on the WS467 to the off position then all the other stuff starts working again.

Everything works fine until I add that extra WS467. And only the modules on the same code as the WS467 seem affected (hmmm and the one above it too B-10). It's like the B-9/B-10 signals are being eaten at that switch, but all others are passing.

G2
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Brian H

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2006, 04:53:51 PM »

Two way modules and controllers with line transmitters have been known to absorb X10 signals if they are no the transmitting device. The receiver in a module theoretically may absorb a very small amount of signal. I don't think enough to kill the others.
You sure the load on the new WS467 is an Incandescent type?
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phorce1

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2006, 06:24:17 AM »

No two-way modules or line controllers. Only the RR501 and RF remotes.

Definitely incandescent. Two plain Jane 75W floods screwed into a non-motion sensor round flood base. I do need to check the wiring further at that light though. Did some testing and I'm seeing 60 VAC neutral-to-ground. I have an open ground somewhere. It's probably shunting most of the signal into la-la land when the switch is wired to it.

The wiring in this house was done completely by a "real electrician". He was even employed by the local electric company at the time. Only problem he was a high voltage lineman. Was never a residential installer in his career.

At least I started as a residential installer apprenticing with my Grandfather -- then, I went into the Navy and was suddenly doing mostly 3-phase work and even the single phase on the good side of an isolation transformer was always hot to darn near anything you touched. Funny how that happens when you work in a metal can sitting in a big tub of salt water.

Then into industrial work when I came out of the Navy so still 3-phase and high volts except for the occasional office building.

I remember enough to fix his mistakes for now -- and know enough to grab a fresh copy of the NEC before I start a fresh rewire later. I wish he had done that.

Thanks,

Gerald
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JeffVolp

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #3 on: July 22, 2006, 03:01:38 PM »

There are several possible causes for your problem:

1)  The "problem" devices may be on the other phase, and the signal level could be marginal.  Adding the wall switch could have lowered the signal level just enough so that operation is now marginal.  The fix is to add coupler to transfer X10 signals from one phase to the other.  Or you could try moving the RR501 to different outlets looking for one that works better.

2)  You could have a signal sucker on the problem circuit that is attenuating the signal to the point that is marginal.  Computers are a prime culprit.  Other electronic devices can also load X10 signals.  Examples are some surge protector power strips, an UPS, TVs, even a LED night light.  The fix is to identify the problem load(s) and isolate them with filters.

3)  If you have a large house with a lot of circuits, you may have to boost your signal level to reach all areas.  I developed the XTB to help with that situation, but there are also active repeaters available from several sources.

X10 can be virtually 100% reliable, but it can take some work.

Good luck,

Jeff
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TakeTheActive

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #4 on: July 22, 2006, 06:26:59 PM »

...Then, I added a WS467 set to B-9 controlling a standard incandescent flood light on my porch.

Suddenly, all of the B-9/B-10 devices work when they darn well please. Sometimes they'll go on but not off. Sometimes when they're off I can't turn them on. Or only one of the 3 items set to B-9 will trigger and the other two don't.

If I reach over and manually slide the local control switch on the WS467 to the off position then all the other stuff starts working again.

Everything works fine until I add that extra WS467. And only the modules on the same code as the WS467 seem affected (hmmm and the one above it too B-10). It's like the B-9/B-10 signals are being eaten at that switch, but all others are passing.

...I do need to check the wiring further at that light though. Did some testing and I'm seeing 60 VAC neutral-to-ground. I have an open ground somewhere. It's probably shunting most of the signal into la-la land when the switch is wired to it.

As is often my SOP, I'm going to DISAGREE with the other two posters and concentrate first on your "60 VAC neutral-to-ground" - did you correct that yet?

...If I reach over and manually slide the local control switch on the WS467 to the off position then all the other stuff starts working again.

This sounds like the KEY to me. 

Do you have another TRANSMITTER besides the RR501 (RadioShack is DUMPING X10 - they had the MiniController for $2.97; *EVERYBODY* should have 'spares' ;) )?

What happens if you set the 'problem' WS467 to a different Housecode?

Can you control it?
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JeffVolp

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #5 on: July 22, 2006, 10:40:52 PM »

As you suspect, the 60V neutral-to-ground reading probably indicates a loose or open ground connection.  Some electronic equipment has capacitors from each AC line to case ground to reduce conducted EMI.  Computer power supplies often include them.  Unless the case is properly grounded, those two capacitors can form a voltage divider that causes the case to float at half line voltage.  There isn't a lot of current involved, but the open ground will read half line voltage on a meter.

If the 60V ground-to-neutral reading is caused by a capacitor divider, that same capacitor divider can present a heavy load to any X10 signals on that circuit.  While the open ground connection should certainly be fixed, the offending equipment may need a filter to reduce the X10 loading.

An open ground return path shouldn't cause a problem for X10 data transmission.  The X10 signal path uses the hot and neutral wires, same as the AC power.  X10 works perfectly fine in older homes that do not include grounded circuits.

Jeff
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phorce1

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2006, 08:02:38 PM »

Sorry about the delayed reply to all of your posts. I've been in my house roughly 48 hours total since the initial post (which I made from work after minimal troubleshooting).

I suspect it is a combination of "same circuit" and "open ground" problems on that circuit.

It's raining bad here so my trouble shooting has been limited to things I can do with the X10 devices themselves. Breaker panel is outside and I'm not going to open it up right now.  ;D

I suspect the porch light (the floods) and the receptacle on the porch that the rope lights are plugged in to are on the same breaker. And the open ground is casing the WS467 to shunt the X10 signal off into la-la land.

Here's what happens:

WS467 OFF at the local control switch. All other X10 devices in the house -- everywhere -- several different rooms and on the porch -- work fine. On/Off/Dim including the following:

B1 -- SL575 Living Room
B2 (empty because I have a MS14A set to B1)
B3 -- WS467 -- front bathroom
B4 -- SL575 -- front bedroom
B5 -- AM14A -- kitchen for coffee pot
B6 -- LM465 -- back bedroom lamp
B7 -- (blank)
B8 -- AM466 -- Living room (operating power to my wireless router so I don't have to unplug to reset)
B9 -- RR501 -- Living Room -- transceiver for house code B and relay switches lamp for "doorbell" using a MS14A
B9 -- UM506 -- Living room -- "doorbell" beeper
B10 - LM465 -- Side porch receptacle -- operates 120V "rope lights" dusk/dawn from the MS14A or by hand from a remote

B11 - B16 (empty)

The WS467 for the porch lights was originally set to B9 so it would come on with the "doorbell". I switched it throughout the unused numbers and the behavior was the same regardless of what number I set it to.

The porch light worked "whenever it wanted to". Sometimes on but no off. Sometimes off but no on. Always worked using the "local control" on-off button. Dimming operation  random.

When the WS467 local cutout is ON then the B10 LM465 also becomes random in operation. Sometimes on but no off -- sometimes off but no on -- random dimmer operation.

When the WS467 local cutout is OFF (so the porch lights don't work at all) then B10 works fine. This behavior is the same regardless of what number the WS467 is set to.

ALL OTHER MODULES work fine regardless of the WS467 settings.

I just need to clean up the house wiring.

Jeff -- I'll probably buy an XTB later when I get the garage rebuilt. I plan to add a V572AB all housecode transceiver in a weathertight box out at the house panel and the XTB is what I've been looking for to bump up the signal. Everything else I found was a "repeater/amplifier" and I don't want the signal repeated, just amplified
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JeffVolp

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2006, 01:25:14 AM »

While that open ground should certainly be fixed, I don't think it can be "shunting" the X10 signal to ground.

If the "problem" WS467 and your B10 are on the same circuit, I can see several possible causes:

1)  All X10 receivers do load the signal slightly, but not as much as transmitters.  If your signal level on that circuit was marginal, then the one additional receiver could drop the signal below the threshold for reliable operation.  Check the circuit for possible signal suckers that could be causing a low signal level.

2)  You could have low signal levels on that circuit due to the signal source being on the other phase.  I didn't see a passive coupler included in your list, and you may want to add one.  A good passive coupler will be necessary with the XTB unless you move all your X10 devices to the same phase.

3)  You may have marginal signal levels due to either a lot of circuits or perhaps a few signal suckers scattered around.  You can identify and isolate the signal suckers with filters, or increase your signal levels.  It will also help if you can move your signal source closer to the distribution panel.  That's especially true if you plan to eventually use an XTB.  A lot of signal level can be lost in the first run from the signal source to the distribution panel.

4)  While not likely, it is possible that the WS467 may be defective.  You could swap with another WS467 to rule this out.

5)  Does the problem WS476 control compact fluorescent lights?  Some are not friendly to X10 operation.  If you have compact fluorescents anywhere on that circuit, you could do a test with incandescent bulbs.

6)  At our last house I had a problem with one circuit that used a 2-wire X10 switch because of the length of the run out to the light and back.  If the light being controlled by the "problem" WS467 is a long run from the switch, you might consider upgrading to a 3-wire switch (needing a neutral connection).  They tend to be quite a bit more expensive, but we have had 100% reliability with the older Leviton 16383/16293 switches using neutral connections.

It can take some work, but X10 CAN be virtually 100% reliable.

Jeff
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roger1818

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2006, 10:00:56 AM »

Everything else I found was a "repeater/amplifier" and I don't want the signal repeated, just amplified

X10 commands are always repeated.  What a Coupler/Repeater is make the repeated command stronger at the breaker panel to make it easier for all modules to hear it.

I don't know much about the XTB, but signal amplifiers in general can actually make strong signals weaker.  For more information about Coupler/Repeaters I highly reccomend reading "Uncle" Phil Kingery's Which One Should I Use series (Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 20 deal with phase coupling and coupler/repeaters).

2)  You could have low signal levels on that circuit due to the signal source being on the other phase.  I didn't see a passive coupler included in your list, and you may want to add one.  A good passive coupler will be necessary with the XTB unless you move all your X10 devices to the same phase.

I totally agree that some type of phase coupler should definitely be used in any serious X10 installation.
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dave w

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2006, 01:26:29 PM »


but signal amplifiers in general can actually make strong signals weaker. 


Poodle gas!! Please explain.
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roger1818

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2006, 02:18:04 PM »


but signal amplifiers in general can actually make strong signals weaker. 


Poodle gas!! Please explain.


If the amplified signal is out of phase with the X10 signal (I am not talking about the phase of the 60Hz powerline signal, but the phase of the 121kHz X10 signal), the two signals can either partially or completely cancel each other out.  That is the way noise cancelling headphones work.
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JeffVolp

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #11 on: August 08, 2006, 06:10:07 PM »

The XTB is a module that plugs between a X10 transmitter and the wall socket.  The signal received from the transmitter excites a high-power amplifier that can drive 120KHz onto the line with up to 5 watts of power.  Depending on line characteristics, the XTB output can be over 20Vpp.  It was designed to fight the proliferation of signal suckers.  More information is available at:  http://jvde.us/xtb_index.htm

« Last Edit: February 24, 2010, 11:03:43 PM by JeffVolp »
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steven r

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2006, 06:50:51 PM »

The XTB is a module that plugs between a X10 transmitter and the wall socket....
That looks like a rather nice item! Can you plug the CM15A directly into it?
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JeffVolp

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #13 on: August 08, 2006, 07:04:26 PM »

Quote
That looks like a rather nice item! Can you plug the CM15A directly into it?

I tested it with a CM15A myself, and it worked fine.  Others have used it with the CM11A.
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phorce1

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Re: Do modules attenuate X10 line signals like some electronics do?
« Reply #14 on: August 10, 2006, 05:25:46 PM »

My home is actually "electrically small but physically large". It's a small home, around 1000 ft2. But the main electrical panel is actually pole mounted about 20' from the house at one end so the farthest electrical device is currently about 60' from the main panel. When I add the garage the farthest device will be around 120' from the main panel. And, if I add a runner out to the other end of my 2 acres for sprinkler or lighting all bets are off as the "electrical size" suddenly becomes as great as the "physical size".

Right now I'm just using an RR501 and handheld RF remotes for all X10 control. To allow RF control, and eventually PLC commands, over the entire 2 acres I've been investigating "repeater/amplifiers" since I started planning the system out. My problem has always been the relatively "small" electrical size of my setup. Repeaters are likely to cause all manner of signal storm oddness. A plain old RR501 (or CM15A) will probably reach everything in the house and garage if centrally located but if I add runners to the other end of the property I would need amplification of the PLC to get out there. If I add a repeater I'm going to get double (or more) responses from the devices inside the house as they receive the signal from the RR501 (or CM15A) then again from the repeater/amplifier.

I don't want my dimmers to operate at warp speed, thank you very much.

The XTB is the first "amplifier only" I have seen that actually takes the signal directly from the PLC transmitter and amplifies it directly onto the line without first RECEIVING it through the line and then RE-SENDING an amplified copy of the original (which may have already been received and acted upon by the module).

What I have always planned to do is use a V572A mounted AT the main circuit panel with an external antenna to allow RF control from anywhere on my entire property. My problem was figuring out how to get the PLC down 400' of property line.

The XTB looks like the answer to that.

Right now my system is VERY basic. Literally just the RR501 and some modules. The only problem I've had is the one mentioned at the beginning of this thread and that isn't bothersome enough to worry about right now. I plan to collect all the parts I want to install so I can just spend a couple of my days off fiddling with it. My plan is to use a watertight enclosure and a single pair of breakers from the main panel. The watertight enclosure will hold the V572A, XTB, and a passive coupler. 2 breakers for the coupler -- one shared with the XTB so the amplified signal will be injected directly onto both sides of the line at the same point.

I bought AHP *specifically* for it's ability to control and record X10 camera input. From what I've been reading that was probably wasted money for now.

My initial plan was to not use the PLC transmitting of the CM15A at all,  use only SendRF commands from AHP and loaded into the module. It would be nice if the CM15A would operate from USB power only so I wouldn't even bother plugging it in to a socket (thus eliminating the possibility of stray PLC commands from that device).

If AHP/iWitness proves too annoying I may buy a FireCracker for my RF control so I'd have more (non-X10) software options and go back to the VCRCommander for recording video. I'd sure like to have it displayed and controllable on the computer for remote viewing though. If anyone knows of other options that would allow triggered recording from a video input plus remote control of X10 cameras speak up. I know that I could probably use something like HEYU to control the camera on/off sequences with macros but I'd need a way to signal video recording to begin/end. I also plan to add Ninja bases to a few cameras so I'd need something that can control those.

<sigh>.

Gerald
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