The Treehouse Blog

Tag: x10

Tales of X10

by on May.28, 2010, under Happenings, Technology

A few years ago, I decided to improve the light switch situation in my garage.  The garage had lights at either end controlled by pull strings.  It was a frequent hassle to walk from one end to the other, often tripping over a variety of obstacles, to get both of them on or off.  Having already deployed X10 to control a few things around the house, it seemed like a reasonable and economical idea to use X10 here as well.  I used two LM15As for load switching, two SS13As for control near both doors in the garage, and an RR501 to tie everything together.  Initially, the project seemed to be a great success.

Then it becomes apparent that the SS13As are not that great.  The adhesive backing would refuse to stick to the garage wall for extended periods of time, necessitating the addition of some screws to provide a slight ledge for them to sit upon.  They are also battery powered, and the stock batteries were nearly useless in cold weather.  Naturally, the colder times of year require the use of lights in the garage more often, and it became incredibly annoying to have to warm the switch with your hand and make multiple attempts to turn on the light… when the pullstring that otherwise would work is in reach.  My suggestion is to never use SS13As in anything but warm environments, and probably just avoid them altogether.  The one I had used inside would “forget” its code assignments and the coldness of the window sill was enough to keep it from working well.

To fix these issues, I revisited the idea of wiring regular three-way switches in the garage.  With the layout of the existing wiring, even the most creative ideas would require two new wires run the length of the garage, with one of them likely needing to be a 3-conductor that I don’t happen to have laying around.  And copper isn’t really cheap right now.  So, X10 was again looked at for a solution.

I decided to go with hard-wired X10 controllers, specifically the XPT4-W.  I installed these near existing wire locations with a minimal of effort – maybe 3 hours total. So, now I have fully functional control of my garage lights (probably even in cold weather), and didn’t need to run crazy amounts of cable for three-way switches.

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X10 Project

by on Sep.17, 2005, under Linux

One of the things I wanted to take care of this summer was some type of outdoor lighting to be used when coming home at night. There just isn’t enough ambient light to figure out how to insert the key into the lock. I was considering LED lighting built into the deck, outdoor lights around the deck, and automating the existing outdoor lighting. Seeing this as an opportunity to finally begin playing with X10, I dove in.

The first phase was to control the deck and garage outside lights with a wireless remote. I purchased some X10 light dimmer switches to replace the light switches, a wireless transceiver, and a remote control. Everything worked well except the remote range seems a bit short. Latency wasn’t bad… probably a little less than a second.

Phase two involves the hall light, and a computer interface. I bought a PowerLinc USB and downloaded the WISH / x10dev software. The only “gotcha” for the software was that it assumes your hiddev0 is in /dev/usb whereas mine was in /dev. The error messages were not at all helpful in figuring that out, unfortunately. At this point the interface worked, but I had some phase issues: my two lights were on one phase, and the computer interface was on the other. Instead of building or buying a phase coupler, I went with Doug‘s suggestion of moving breakers around instead. They’re really about the easiest plug-and-play devices in existance, but it was something that I had never done before, so I certainly turned off the mains. My current unresolved issue is that the latency between issuing a command on the computer, and the device receiving the command, is aboud three seconds… way too long, especially if you want to do about six commands for a single event. Still haven’t figured out if this is as fast as the interface goes, or if there is a software bottleneck.

So, there’s my X10 project summary. I’m pretty happy with the results so far. It’s not incredibly cheap (I’ve spent about $100 to control three lights… albeit with a wireless remote and computer interface), but it has achieved the goal, and now I know a bit about X10 🙂

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