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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is X10?

A. X10 is a communications protocol (language) that uses the house's electrical wiring as the medium for remote control of electrical systems and products such as lights, audio/video devices, appliances, etc. The X10 commands are broadcast from X10 transmitters to X10 receivers through standard household wiring, hence the name powerline-based control system.

Each receiver can be set to its own specific ID (unit address, consisting of a House and a Unit code) and reacts only to commands addressed to it. There are 16 House codes (A - P) and 16 Unit codes (1-16) per house code, which equates to 256 unique Unit addresses. Multiple X10 receivers can be set to the same Unit address.

Q. Are there any books that can explain how X10 receivers, transmitters and other products can be used in a home?

A. The Automated New and Existing Homes (HCBOOK15) book goes into detail on how X10 receivers and transmitters can be installed and used in a regular home. It contains ideas for a do-it-yourselfer wishing to incorporate "smarts" in their security system, irrigation controls, lighting, audio/video IR control and distribution.

Q. Can I use the telephone to control X10 products & modules?

A. Yes, the following devices allows the telephone to be used as an X10 transmitter.

1. Telemaster HCTMS - can control all 256 addresses
2. X10 Telephone Responder XPTR16A - can control up to 10 X10 addresses
Additionally, the Omni controller series and the Stargate controllers allow you built-in telephone control of X10 devices.

Q. Do X10 switches require special pre-wiring to install?

A. No, they don't. However, non-dimming switches require a neutral connection in order for the switch to function.

Q. How do I know who manufactured the X10 receiver/transmitter by just looking at the part number?

A. Home Controls, Inc. uses the first 2 letters of the part number to designate the manufacturer. Here are some common home automation and networking manufacturers with their 2 letter prefixes:

XT X10 Powerhouse OQ OnQ Technologies
XP X10 Pro AT Applied Digital, Inc.
LV Leviton GE GE - Interlogix
PC Powerline Control Systems (PCS) AC ACT
HC Home Controls, Inc. (OEM products) CX Caddx
JD JDS Technologies PA Panasonic
HA Home Automation, Inc. (HAI)    

Q. I am interested in using X10 to automatically turn ON/OFF some lights for security purposes. What would be the most economical and efficient way to accomplish this?

A. The X10 Mini Timer (XPPHT02) can turn ON/OFF (twice daily) up to 4 sequential X10 addresses. Plug-in lamp modules (XPPLM01), non-dimming appliance modules (XPPAM01) and dimmer switches (XPXPDIW) are inexpensive receivers that can be controlled by the Mini-Timer.

Q. Are there X10 receptacles that are capable of dimming?

A. No, however, you can use the plug-in lamp modules to have that capability or wire the receptacle to an X10 dimmer switch, (or use an inline X10 fixture module, LV6376/XPXPDF). Note: Ensure that only incandescent lamp loads are plugged in to the receptacle when wired directly to an X10 dimmer switch or dimming fixture module.

Q. What is Automatic Gain Control (AGC)?

A. Most X10 receivers require 100mV of signal strength to function. Since distance from the transmitter as well as line noise can weaken X10 signals, some manufacturers have included AGC circuitry in their products to adjust receiver sensitivity to help eliminate noise interference.

Q. Is AGC different with Leviton's "Intellisense"?
A. Intellisense from Leviton is a better designed AGC circuitry. Intellisense gated AGC will desensitize a receiver to noise signals with only a minimal reduction in command signal sensitivity. The result: Problems from noise interference are dramatically reduced without affecting overall system performance. Intellisense "listens" for the X10 commands ONLY when the 60 Hz sine wave approaches the zero crossing. It is called gated-style AGC, and it significantly reduces false responses due to powerline noise.

Q. Since X10 uses the powerline to communicate, does it affect other electronic devices.

A. X10 does not affect the performance of other electronic devices.

Q. What affects X10 signal transmission?

A. Several factors do affect X10 signal transmission . The most common problem is a weakened X10 signal due to distance from the transmitter to the receiver. In North America, normal household power is 120/240 VAC 60 Hz. It is fed from 2 Live wires (phases A and B) and a shared return Neutral wire N.

In addition, a bare uninsulated wire is used for the ground connection. If the transmitter is connected to phase A and the receiver is connected to phase B, the signal would sometimes be so weak that the X10 modules would react intermittently.

To troubleshoot, turn on an electric stove or dryer to bridge the signal between phases and try your X10 system. If turning on the stove helps, get a qualified electrician to install the LV6299 or XPXPCP signal bridge across any 240VAC double pole circuit breaker so the X10 signal will be bridged from one phase to the other. In cases where houses are more than 2000 square feet, a signal bridge would still be inadequate. In those cases, the LVHCA02 or XPXPCR or ACCR234 bridge/amplifier would be the better solution.

Another source of signal degradation is electrical noise. Some common noise sources include mini fluorescent light ballasts, computer power supplies, variable speed motors, and some household appliances. There are several products available to filter out or attenuate the noise. Also, strip surge suppressors tend to weaken X10 signals. The Leviton brand of surge suppressors are best to use because they do not affect X10 signal transmission.

Note: Approximately 80% of surges are generated inside the home and 20% from the outside. It is good practice to install whole house surge suppressors in addition to strip surge suppressors for the best protection.

Q. I'm in the process of building a home and would like guidance in automating and "future-proofing" my home for the latest technology possible. What is available and where can I get more information?

A. This is a very common among new homebuilders nowadays. Unfortunately, it is so broad that it is not possible to condense the answers in FAQ. I suggest reading through a general intro book like"Smart Homes for Dummies" (HCBOOK4) and if you're planning on doing the work (i.e. wiring) yourself, the "Residential Structured Wiring Course" (TDIRW) is an excellent source of wiring tips and theoretical info. Also, the book "Structured Wiring Design Manual" (HCBOOK2) is excellent.

The de-facto standard in easy, affordable automation is still X10. It does not require pre-wiring and there is an extensive list of devices that allows X10 to communicate with other standards. Note: If you're still undecided on what type of wires would be necessary to keep you current with today's standards, installing conduits will give you the flexibility to run cables in the walls in the future.

Q. How can I use my existing security system to trigger scenes in my home?

A. The "Automated Home Controls" book (HCBOOK3) provides excellent detail on how this is done. Essentially, the sensors are connected in series with the digital inputs of the automation controller. This setup enables the sensors to do double duty, as occupancy sensors when the system is unarmed and burglar sensors when armed.

Q. I have the X10 wireless security system. Does X10 make a wireless smoke detector? If not, is there a way to connect a smoke detector to the security system?

A. No, X10 does not make wireless detectors and yes , there is a way to connect a smoke detector to the system. Use a smoke detector that has a relay output (like the GT9120F, 110VAC powered/9VDC backup) and connect that to the input of the wireless X10 Door/window (XPDS10A) transmitters. Glassbreak detectors can also be connected in a similar fashion.

Q. I want to mount a wireless IR sensor at a gate that is 350' away from my house and have that sensor turn on lights (adjustable time duration) only at night without using PC programmable controllers. How do I do it?

A. The Optex OPRCTD10U wireless IR sensor and receiver kit has a relay output on the receiver and can send a signal up to 750' away. Connect the relay output of the receiver to the ELK924 delay timer (requires PA12V2 power supply). The output of the delay timer is connected to the XPPSC01 powerflash interface which then sends an ON command to an X10 switch. In order for the lights to turn on only at night, connect a photo cell (purchase locally from an electrical parts supplier) in series with the load.

Q. I don't want to use X10 for lighting control, do you have any 'hardwired' lighting control?

A. The HAI Omni series of automation controllers utilize ALC Auxiliary Lighting Control switches that are directly wired to the automation panels for bi-directional communication and control. The system uses UTP wire for connecting switches either daisy chained or star connected. This is an excellent & 100% reliable way to go.