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Fixing my X10 problems

Back to main X10 projects page
Below, are my experiences at solving my X10 issues. This info is not new, you can read about filters, couplers and boosters all over the internet, but it took a while before it actually sunk into my brain. I put up with strange X10 problems for about a year and then decided to just fix my X10 woes once and for all (I hope). It's pretty easy to fix, you just throw more X10 hardware and money at the problem. :)

 I had owned X10 Active home pro 3.204 for about a year. I also have IWitness, MyHouse OnLine and Smart macros installed also. I can say that right from the start, there were always a few X10 modules that did not work properly all the time.

 Here's a few of the strange X10 incidents that I have had and probably many other people also based on what I have read on the X10 forum.

A WS467 wall switch would not respond or would turn on but not turn off or it would just come on by itself.
I would turn on a table saw in the garage and my outside house spot lights would come on.
Using a remote keypad to turn on a macro that then turns on the coffee pot and a kitchen light, would work one time and then the next morning only the kitchen light would come on and not the coffee pot.
A garage porch light would just come on all by itself.
A motion detector would trigger a lamp on macro one time and then not other times.
A SR227 wall receptacle would work sometimes and not others.

 Everything seemed to work most of the time but then all off a sudden, something would stop working or would be intermittent. These are the basic problems that I see many other people having also.

 I read many times how a UPS battery backup, battery chargers, TV's and many other common electronic devices will degrade the X10 signal over your house wiring. I also read many times about how filters, passive crossovers, X10 signal boosters can help fix these problems.

Here's some of the gear I have on my electrical service that is spread over two different buildings, all on the same electrical meter service but on 3 different electrical panels and sub panels.
I have 4 x UPS battery backups in two different buildings.
I have 4 x PC's on a networks hooked to those UPS's.
I have My home theater setup hooked to a big UPS. A 50" Plasma TV, a 100 watt amplifier, a 150 watt subwoofer, a Direct TV receiver and a DVD player.
I also have 3 high tech digital display battery chargers going almost full time here.
I have a humidifier in my bedroom that has a transducer that atomizes the water into a fine mist.
I have those small florescent light bulbs all over the place, replacing the old incandescent lamps where ever possible.
X10 image
Here's a diagram of my House and garage electrical panels.
 Until recently, everything had been working well enough that it did not cause me too much grief, and so I lived with the occasional glitches. Here's what drove me over the edge to finally get off my but and fix my X10 setup properly.

1) I had just set up my new home theater. Now all of a sudden a few X10 devices did not work any more. If I unplugged the UPS that feeds the home theatre components, everything would work again.
2) Next, I went to Wal-Mart and I bought a new humidifier because it's winter and the humidity is too low in my bedroom. Now my morning macro that I trigger with a wireless key chain switch next to my bed and is supposed to turn on the coffee pot and a kitchen light only turns on the kitchen light and not the coffee pot. Oh, and instead of turning on the coffee pot, it turns on outside spot lights on my house. But the morning macro works just fine when the new humidifier is not on, so the humidifier is an X10 signal killer also.

Ahhhhhh!!!!!, I've had enough, that's it, it's time to get serious about fixing my X10 setup.

 I then purchased 3 passive couplers. I installed one on my main house electrical panel and the other on the two sub panels that feed off the main panel. The couplers let the X10 signal pass freely from one side of your 120vac electrical panel to the other 120vac side. Here in the states, we have 240vac service that enters your main panel via two very large 120vac wires. In your electrical service panel, the left side breakers are fed by one of the 120vac lines and the right side breakers are fed by the other 120vac line. Most electrical items in your house will run off of 120vac. A 120vac breaker only contacts one of the 120vac main lines on either the left side or right side of your electrical panel. A 240vac breaker will contact both the left and right sides of the breaker panel and will deliver 240vac to appliances like dryers and hot water heaters.

 Ok, after installing the 3 passive couplers I did not see any difference, I was still having some X10 problems. That's not to say the couplers were not doing their job, it's just that now I need to kill the X10 signal suckers so the X10 signal level will be stronger. Many electrical items in your house degrade the X10 signal that passes through the electrical wires. The X10 signal may be only 100 millivolts in strength and any item that decreases or degrades the X10 signal level will cause all kinds of grief. The X10 signal will not be read and understood by the proper X10 device. This may result in some other X10 device coming on by mistake or the intended X10 device coming on but it will not go off. All kinds of problems happen when your X10 signal is degraded by signal suckers that are plugged into your home electrical service. It may only affect one X10 device in one room of the house.

 Next, I go to my favorite X10 E-bay merchant and I buy some filters. I buy several XPPF 5 amp plug in filters for the computers, battery chargers, humidifier, and other small electrical signal suckers. I also bought a AF120-15 amp plug in filter for the home entertainment UPS. I bought two 20 amp wire in filters that I installed into home made power strips so I can filter big items by just plugging them into my home made power strips.

 Some X10 filters plug into the wall receptacles and then you just plug the offending device into the filter. This makes it real easy to filter X10 signal suckers. Some filters can be hard wired into the electrical panel and some can be installed right at the device like a bank of florescent lamps overhead in your garage. All of the filters are tuned circuits that do not allow the X10 signal to enter the filter device. This stops the offending device from being able to degrade the X10 signal because it cannot get to it. The offending device is on one side of the filter and the X10 signal is on the other side of the filter. Filters are rated by amps. Small electrical devices like a computer or humidifier can easily use a 5 amp filter. Larger devices may need a 10, 15 or 20 amp filter. My home theatre has 6 large devices hooked to a large UPS and so I purchased the 15 amp filter just to be on the safe side.

 I then installed all the filters but things actually started to get worse yet. I then read on the internet that the filters themselves tend to absorb some of the X10 signal and so I have just added about 6 new devices that have reduced the level of the X10 signals. They are not scrambling the X10 signal, it's more that the X10 signal is absorbed a bit by each filter. This would tend to decrease the voltage level of the X10 signal.

 This time I go back to my favorite X10 ebay merchant and I buy a XPCR X10 coupler/repeater which will take the X10 signals and boost them up to 5 volts. This item mounts into the electrical panel onto both 120vac lines. I removed the passive coupler that I had previously installed into the panel because the XPCR has a coupler built into it. The XPCR reads the X10 signals entering your panel and then amplifies the X10 signal. It also couples the signal from one 120vac line to the other 120vac line. Many people may be put off on installing couplers and boosters into the electrical service panel and I understand their concern. They make plug in coupler/boosters that plug into 3 and 4 prong clothes dryer receptacles. The 240vac clothes dryer receptacle has both 120vac lines present and these feed back to your electrical panel. It's the easiest way to install a coupler/booster. This would most likely be the best solution for most people who do not want to mess with the electrical panel.

Yesssssss!!!!, the XPCR coupler/booster was the final piece of the puzzle, everything was working properly finally!!!!

 I had coupled the X10 signals to both 120vac legs of my main panel, my house panel and my garage panel so that all X10 signals could travel freely throughout my kingdom. :) I had put filters on all the offending X10 signal sucker items except the small florescent lamps that I have in just about every place you can screw in a light bulb. That would be impossible to do without doing every breaker in my house and garage panel. I have a bunch of those small florescent bulbs. And finally, I boosted the X10 signal up a few volts so it was good and strong. The filters now had no effect on reducing the X10 signal level because there was plenty of X10 signal voltage available.

 I have read lots of user reviews on the XPCR booster/coupler where people have said that was all they had to do to fix all their X10 problems. This may be all you need, but it is always best to filter out the offending signal suckers. Coupling the X10 signal to both sides of each 120vac line in your electrical panel is also a good idea. The coupler/booster devices takes care of these two functions in one device, which is nice.
 My advice to people having weird X10 problems is to just knuckle down and deal with the issues instead of wasting time trying to understand why this lamp or that wall receptacle is not working. Every one of the problems I see people having is related to X10 signal degrading and so you might as well just get started fixing the X10 signal issues. I am not sure what took me so long to get busy and fix my X10 problems, but now I have a good understanding of the process and hope this info will be helpful to others.

 Here's a helpful link to my favorite X10 merchant's E-bay store. He has a page that shows all of the X10 trouble shooting items I used. Sheridan-b5 is a great merchant to do business with. He only charges the actual shipping charges on your order which is kind of a rare thing to find. And he also ships the items super fast by priority mail. I highly recommend dealing with this merchant. sheridan-b5's X10 home automation store

Here's some pictures of the couplers and boosters I installed.
Courtesy of sheridan-b5
X10 image X10 image X10 image
Plug in 5 amp filter Plug in 15 amp filter Wire in 20 amp filter
X10 image X10 image -
Passive coupler XPCR Coupler/Booster  -

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