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Saved by PBworks
on October 12, 2005 at 7:48:27 pm

X10 RF-centric Solution Improves Reliability




I was plagued with erratic X10 powerline behavior even with a well-located dryer coupler/repeater, a boosterlinc, and nearly a dozen filters. Symptoms included CM11a lockups, many missed signals, the usual suspects... Running around the house with the ESM1 signal analyzer was a nightly occurrence.


I enjoyed the access to the variety of inexpensive modules and Linux software, but for useful (e.g. family-friendly) applications I needed to get the reliability up considerably.


I faced another set of expensive upgrades (wired in repeater, even more filters) with questionable return-on-investment. What I coveted was a next-generation of X10-style home automation with all the customizability and low-price, but RF based. SmartHomeInsteon looked appealing but further reading indicated that it might not be a drop-in replacement and could cause interference of its own. Z-wave wasn't accessible to MisterHouse (yet) and was a new investment from the ground-up.


Then it hit me that perhaps I did not need to wait for a next generation system, I had the right pieces already.


I built an RF based X10 system using these parts:


* I retired the lock-up prone CM11A and replaced it with the CM17A (for sending)

* I put a TM751 unit (receiving) as the appliance controller for appliance I wanted to control.

* I set each TM751 to different house codes, and used the attached socket for the appliance.

* I programmed MisterHouse to use the CM17A (for sending) instead of the CM11A.


The CM17A is part of the famous "FireCracker" kit that was very cheap years ago during a promotion by X10 and is still reasonably priced.



The computer is connected the CM17A via it's serial port, which then uses RF to communicate to the TM751.


The more common configuration people use with X10, is having the computer to a CM11A, which then uses the powerline to communicate to X10 modules. In my case, the powerline was so 'contaminated' with laptop chargers, wallwarts, etc, that I could never get a reliable signal despite employing lots of common remedies as outlined in the first paragraph. Once I switched to RF exclusively, I bypassed the powerline and was able to get a reliable signal every time. The range for the CM17A might be limited, but it worked throughout my house and I am well under the maximum range apparently.


Effectively, I've turned my existing X10 system in an RF rather than powerline system.


Note the strap is part of an different endeavor - X10TamperResistant)




* It is possible to use a single TM751 and have it redistribute the signal via the powerline. However as my goal was to virtually eliminate powerline traffic, I needed to have one for each appliance. The TM751 is nearly as cheap as appliance modules, so I went for one for appliance. Of course, I am limited now by the number of housecodes (I think? surely there's a clever way around that!) For my needs, the click they make (as most unmodified appliance modules do) was desirable.

* Please send me an email to newsaccount.h at gmail.com if this worked out for you!



Using my X10RcxSignalAnalyzer, I was able to show that reliability of my X10 system now approaches 100% up from a dismal 60%-90%.


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