Home Automation with X10 – Part 2

On November 18, 2013, in Automation, Home Automation, X10, by LuCuS

X10 Home AutomationA couple of days ago, I began a series of articles introducing you to some of the products used in my home automation system. In that article, I introduced you to X10. Today, I want to expand on that article by showing you more X10 products. Unlike in the last article, these products will required more than simply plugging in an outlet or screwing in a light bulb. In fact, if you aren’t too comfortable with some of the things mentioned in this article, I would recommend higher a professional electrician or asking for help from someone that has does something like this before. Don’t be too worried though. The things mentioned in this article aren’t extremely difficult to do, but they do require you to shut off circuits at the circuit breaker, removing existing light switches & power outlets, and wiring in new ones. I also take no responsibility or liability for any damages that may result from anything mentioned in this article. So, continue at your own risk.

To begin with, if you haven’t read Part 1 of the Home Automation with X10 articles, I would suggest you do that now as we will be using the same transceiver as mentioned in that article. If you do not want to read that article, you can find the X10 Powerhouse Transceiver mentioned in the article at Amazon for around $20.00 by clicking here. The transceiver is basically a small box that plugs into your wall which accepts RF messages from your controllers and broadcasts those messages over your home’s wiring so that the other X10 products in your home can receive them. Remember the house code you set for your transceiver as you will be needing that same code for the other X10 modules shown here.

After you have a transceiver in place, the next thing you will need is called the X10 Wall Switch Module which you can get from Amazon for about $18.00. X10 Wall Switch ModuleThe wall switch module is a replacement for existing light switches in your home. Unlike traditional toggle-switches found in most homes, the X10 wall switch uses a push-button design instead. I should tell you now that these switches take some time to get use to. If you’re like me, you’re probably used to simply running your hand down the wall until the light turns on or off. With the X10 switches, you have to tap the button on the front which is actually pretty convenient once you get used to having them in your home.

The X10 wall switch module works by receiving commands from the transceiver and will control your light accordingly. For example, if you send an “on” command to the X10 wall switch module, it will turn on whatever light the original switch was connected to. The same goes for the “off” command as well. Aside from being able to remotely turn on & off lights using this module, it also provides the ability to dim your lights as well. This is nice for energy conservation and for simply setting the mood for the room. To dim your lights from the switch itself, simply press and hold the button until your light has achieved the proper lightness you desire. Once the light has illuminated to the brightness you want, release the button. When you are done with the light, simply tap the button to turn it off.

Before moving on, there are a few things I need to mention about this particular X10 wall switch module. First, this module only works with 2-way lights. For example, if the light you are wanting to control can be turned on / off by more than one light switch, this module will not work for you. This module requires that it is the only switch that can control the light you are wanting to control. However, there are other modules including 3-way, 4-way, and so on, available, but I’m not going to discuss those at this time. Just know that they are available. Switches such as 3-way & 4-way are typically used in locations such as at the top & bottom of stair cases. So, if you plan on controlling a light in a stair case, you will need to look for one of the other multi-way switches.

The next thing worth mentioning about this particular X10 wall switch module is that it does not work with ceiling fans. When you turn on or off a light using this module, it will gradually increase or decrease power to the light until the desired brightness has been achieved. That’s also how the dimmer works in this module. Due to this behavior, it would cause issues with ceiling fans and should not be used for them. Along with ceiling fans, this module also does not work with fluorescent lights for the same reason. Some websites will also say that this module does not work with LED bulbs, but I have a couple in my house that work just fine. I don’t recommend using them for LED bulbs, but I do know they work in my case. However, where as incandescent bulbs will gradually increase / decrease brightness using this module, my LED bulbs will simply turn directly on or directly off and they do not support dimming.

I’m not going to explain how to install this switch as it comes with instructions and you can learn how to do that by watching YouTube videos or from other websites. I will however mention that you will need to configure the switch for your home automation system by setting the dials on it before wiring it into your house. Just like the other X10 modules, this module includes a red dial for setting the house code and a black dial for setting the unit code. Just like the other modules, you can set these dials using a standard flat-head screwdriver. Just make sure you set the red dial to the same letter as on your transceiver and set the black dial to something that hasn’t been used yet. If necessary, you can set the black dial to something that has already been used in your house if you want to use the same code for controlling multiple lights at the same time. For example, if you want to send one command to turn on 2 different lights in the same room, you can use the same unit code for both. However, I would recommend still using different unit codes so that you can control the lights independently of each other. If you need to control both lights at the same time, you can add both devices to what is called “scenes”. You can also control these lights using timers which we will talk more about in another article.

In my last article, I showed you how to control devices such as lamps using the X10 plug-in appliance module. Even though those work great and can be moved from room to room, I don’t like the idea of having a bunch of boxes sticking out of X10 Controlled Wall Outletthe power outlets in my house. Instead, I replaced all of the power outlets in my home with X10 controlled wall outlets which are available on Amazon for $22.00. These devices also require that you turn off the circuit breaker before installation as well and I highly recommend that you ask an expert for help installing these if you aren’t very comfortable doing it yourself. Just like all the other X10 modules, the X10 controlled wall outlet also includes the familiar red & black dials which should be set before installation. Even though the dials are exposed after installation, I would still recommend that you set these before turning the circuit back on.

The X10 controlled wall outlet allows you to control anything that is plugged into the top outlet such as a lamp or floor heater. The bottom is a standard outlet and is always live just like a typical power outlet. The bottom outlet can be used for something that always needs power such as an alarm clock whereas the top outlet can be used to control things such as bedside lamps. This module is also great for turning on / off Christmas tree lights or night lights for your kids.

If you are replacing wall outlets that have a hole at the top and another at the bottom which the outlets are exposed, you will also need to replace the faceplate as these X10 outlets require the rectangular face plate instead. You can find these on Amazon for about $0.65 each by clicking here. If you look around on Amazon, you can also find multi-packs if you need more than one or two. You can get these in white, stainless steel, ivory, gray, brown, black, and almond. However, if you need another color, you can always buy the white and paint it yourself.

Now that you have your light switches and power outlets replaced, you can control them using any of the X10 controllers such as the X10 wireless handheld remote I introduced you to in my last article. If you use that controller, all you have to do to test your new modules is to press the on & off buttons that correspond to the unit numbers you specified on your modules. When testing the wall outlet, I would recommend that you test both the top & bottom outlets and that you test them using something small such as a lamp before moving on to something larger such as a floor heater.

Well, that’s it for now. At this point, you should be able to control your ceiling lights as well as any device that can be plugged in. In my next article, I will introduce you to a couple of products that can be used to control your devices. After that, I will show you how to control all of the X10 devices in your home using your cellphone, tablet, & computer. The cool thing about that article is that I will also teach you how to control everything in your home over the web. This will allow you to control your home from anywhere in the world which is a huge win for home automation. So, until next time, have fun and share your home automation stories with us in the comments below.

 

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