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X10 Clocks and Modular system...

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by GreenLight, Jul 14, 2009.

  1. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525

    Occasionally we have requests for these and in the past 2 years I think we have installed a grand total of 3 systems. Overall it's not rocket science to set them up, but I have had odd results at times where things will be great for a month and then go haywire. Out of the the 3 system installs 1 has been trustworthy and 2 are functional but have a tendency to have a mind of their own.

    Long story short, a new customer calls a few weeks back explaining how they have an X10 clock that controls 2 modules (one for each transformer) and how they have only lived in the home for 6 months and all was fine until recently (lighting system and x10 system were already installed by previous owners contractors). Myself and the guys I work with are not terribly excited about this news because to be honest that seems to be this devices MO. Anyway, we have done every kind of trouble shooting imaginable from basic analysis to replacing modules, adding another seperate clock moving it to the lower level of the home to control one freaking module....End result, this thing is still schizophrenic and as of today both clocks have decided they simply will not turn on either or off their circuits at all. I was seriously ready to punt them out the window and run as fast as I could to ewing and get 2 analog timers and just say DEAL WITH IT...But alas, im here seeking any similiar stories and feedback or knowledge...Thanks a lot..
  2. The Lighting Geek

    The Lighting Geek LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 886

    generally speaking x-10 is about 60-70% effective in my experience. It does not take much to screw with you, a new router in the house, plasma tv, toaster oven, just about anything will put noise in the wiring system of the house and keep the signal from reaching the module. A phase coupler/repeater is a must with x-10, sometimes more than one if there are several sub panels.

    Many people here on lawnsite use UPB, Universal Power Bus, and is close to 99% effective with a phase coupler in most homes. X-10 is a one way signal sent only once for every time you push the button or the clock signals the module. UPB operates on a much different cycle and is a two way communication. Due to the fact it operates on a different cycle it tends to not be affected as much with line noise. The module reports back to the controller device or switch and if it has a null report it keeps sending a signal till it gets a report of the desired task. Each unit can be programed in 256 different configurations with pretty much gives you unlimited possibilities. It is about 3-4 times more money but well worth the expense if you consider the service calls will decrease. Just be sure to study the system and maybe try a small sample at your house to get up to speed. I am giving you the Reader's Digest version here, there is more to it than just plugging modules and setting a clock.

    I would propose a UPB system and round file the x-10.
  3. Mike M

    Mike M LawnSite Bronze Member
    from usa
    Messages: 1,988

    I am leaving my region for lord knows how long, but no plan for permanent. I have my customers hooked up with referrals for service, but I am re-thinking controllers, bulbs, etc.

    I hate controller call-backs. I like what the guys recommend here, but...

    On my last system to install in my area for a while (this week), I am using mechanical timers and photocells. I know the owner or any service guy can handle the mechanical timer, and a service guy could handle replacing a photocell.

    I'm also throwing in 10,000 hr. bulbs, and providing a list of items which should be addressed every year or two years with a service contract.

    I will begin a new thread on a similar topic.
  4. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    I would highly recommend you upgrade the client's control system from x-10 to a UPB system. UPB is vastly superior to x10.

    Mike... best of luck to you if you are considering using the Ushio Ultraline 10,000 hr lamps. They are absolutely horrible. Do a search here of Ultraline and you will learn more.

  5. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    x10 can be very simple and effective to use when installed properly. It is also very cost effective means. I have dozens of them out there with maybe 1 service call per year on all of them combined and it is usually where the battery backup failed. They are easy to set and program and when coupled with a photocell are in my opinion easier to use than an in trans timer.

    ALL x10 jobs get phase couplers no exceptions. Does your job that is having issues have a phase coupler ? If not the system will be erratic at times. My phase coupler is removed at my own house right now due to a panel upgrade and my older x10 is being erratic. The new UPB stuff going in is working fine but the signal is also 40 times greater than that of x10. Couplers come in many styles ranging from plug in ones ro breaker mount and hardwire configurations.

    Tommy is right tho that UPB is a much more robust system. Yes 4 times the cost min but you can set the intensities and it is also Astronomical eliminating the need for a photocell. The last UPB we installed went for 1900 just for the control system with 9 controlled locations including existing line voltage lights.
  6. JoeyD

    JoeyD LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,933

    I dont think I have ever been a part of an X-10 system that ever worked flawlessly. When i was using/selling a lot of X-10 I had the reps number on speed dial! I no longer reccoomend it accept for single transformer set ups and thats only for the remote control option. GO UPB all the way! PCS/Pulseworx http://pulseworx.com/
  7. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525

    I appreciate the answers and suggestions. The UPB sounds great and I will certainly research it a bit more and purchase a small kit for my home and make my own mistakes first (thanks lighting geek)..

    Billy, you are right it seems. I actually spoke with a rep from x10 a day ago and was informed of some of it's shortcomings and the work arounds needed to correct it. I did not have the phase coupler and as it turns out, the one job that has been working correctly for the past year is almost blind luck. It's the one property we have where the customer actually has a remote. The mini timers on this job just so happened to be on the exact same circuit as the modules going to the transformer and it was almost out of sheer luck that it happened. On the failing or erratic jobs, we were a bit uninformed of the importance of being on the same circuit (especially w/out the phase coupler)...All in all, lesson learned. Im still a little ticked off that x10's user manual doesn't broadcast the importance of these things considering I thought I was dealing with faulty modules and timers the whole time and replaced a few of them. Certainly I shoulder the blame as well considering I was flying by the seat of my pants a bit..
  8. Pro-Scapes

    Pro-Scapes LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,180

    no no you dont have to be on the same cicuit. You should be on the same PHASE if you do not have a coupler. every other breaker is on a different phase.

    Start at the top left and go down... phase 1 phase 2 phase 1 phase 2 etc.

    We have swapped breaker slots to improve ther performance. Several x10 units I put in back when I was a cast user are still working flawless today. I agree it is not as robust as the stuff avalible today but dont dismiss it as a cost effective means of control just yet. Especially on smaller jobs where people want the ability to switch on and off the lights from inside the home.
  9. GreenLight

    GreenLight LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 525

    Thanks Billy, I understand what you are saying I believe. Most of the info I was discussing was stuff the x10 rep was telling me and it doesn't surprise me at all that he was off base. Glad you cleared that up for me.

    1) I looked up the phase coupler device, what do you suggest? I see the standard plug in to the 220 volt appliance adapter by Signalinc. I have no idea if this is reputable or hack so I ask for your opinion.

    2) Does this eliminate the alignment issues or does it simply give it a better chance of working? Guess what I am asking is, would I still be better off having the transformer modules and mini timer on the same phase and having the phase coupler or does this device offset the need to worry about that? Thank you..
  10. INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting

    INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,102

    Billy's info on phases inside the main panel is only partially correct. Simply put every other breaker is on the same phase however the phase on the system can shift whenever a 240V appliance is switched on.

    So all the modules that used to be on phase O can suddenly be accessible only on phase S and vice versa.

    Ultimately it does not matter if you are using x10 or UPB, there should be a passive phase coupler installed on every system. Those of you using wired in phase couplers be warned that this work should only be done by a Licensed electrician. There are plug in phase couplers available, but I have not found any that are appropriately listed for use in Canada.


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