by Mr. Spock (Jeff)
I wrote this microswitch replacement procedure out of respect and thanks to all who participate and share their experiences on the home automation forums.
Anyone who spends time on the home automation forums, such as HomeSeer and Cocoontech, are very well aware of the problems associated with the Smarthome brand of AC powerline controlled light switches called SwitchLincs. The microswitches used within the SwitchLincs for ON and OFF have a long history of poor reliability.
Evidence shows the problem started sometime predating the ICON and Insteon series that hit the market starting in 2005. In my case, some of the X10 only series of SwitchLincs (2384, 2385, 2388T, etc.) I purchased in 2004 are exhibiting microswitch failure. After 5 years I have 3 with this failure out of about 20 total installed. Two more are starting early signs of it.
The ICON and Insteon series are much worse. Reports on the forums indicate these switches have had severe failure rates of 10% to 50% or more within 2 years and possibly near 100% eventually, depending on the batch of microswitches used. It’s unclear when the problem really went away. Smarthome says they have fixed the problem with currently shipping product. Time will tell.
The original warranty on these products was 2 years. After denying the problem for years, Smarthome acknowledged it and offered an extended warranty of 7 years from date of purchase for the ICON and Insteon series of SwitchLincs. However the warranty was not extended for the X10 only series. In my case I now have a house full of these X10 only series of SwitchLincs. There was no way I was going to buy replacements from Smarthome after this experience. I’m going to fix my switches!
The only solution is to replace the microswitches with new parts. This requires disassembly of the SwitchLinc module, cutting out the old microswitches, soldering in new parts, and reassembly. It takes access to quality tools and soldering iron as well as very good skills with small electronic parts. This is not for the average person!
Note that this procedure shows how to replace the microswitches of a 2385 SwitchLinc. The 2384 is identical. It’s unclear to me how applicable this is to the ICON and Insteon series of SwitchLincs. At the very least it should give you an idea of what it takes to do the job even if the procedure is different.
- The tools required are listed below. Some are also shown below.
- Soldering iron. Any good quality iron with controlled temp (700 to 800°F) should work.
- Magnifying light, depending on your vision.
- Fine tip cutters.
- Fine tip pliers.
- Solder wick, 2.5mm (relatively wide for heavy solder removal).
- Small tip Philips head screwdriver.
- Here is what the back shell looks like. Yep, made in China.
- First step is to remove the 3 Phillips head screws and the back shell. In this picture there are 2 screws at the top (top left and right corners) and one at the bottom center.
- This is what it looks like with the back shell removed.
- Next step is to unsolder the 3 leads of the triac so the top circuit board can be removed. In the picture above they are enclosed around the red circle. This is best done by using the solder wick to suck up as much of the solder as possible BEFORE bending up the leads as shown below.
- Remove the top circuit board. You will need to gently bend the white plastic tab locks to free the board. It should come free fairly easily.
- Remove the bottom circuit board by gently bending the white plastic tab locks. The clear plastic programming bar has it’s own tab locks. The freed board is shown below.
- Use the fine tip cutters to cut out the 5 leads of the two microswitches. Cut the leads close to the body of the microswitches leaving the leads still in the PCB. This procedure is better than trying to unsolder the microswitches, which is very difficult and would probably just lead to ripping up the PCB.
- Now use the soldering iron and tweezers to remove the leads left in the holes.
- Use the solder wick and iron to remove the solder in the holes. The holes must be free of solder for the new microswitches to fit in. Don’t over do the heat on the plated through holes or you will rip the pads off the PCB.
- Now the PCB is ready for the new microswitches, as shown below.
- Insert the new microswitches and solder them in.
- Reverse the procedure to reassemble.
The villain is shown below.
This is the cheap-o push button microswitch. When I examined it up close I noted there was no manufacturer name or marking on it. Only the number T1.
- Size is 6.0 mm square.
- SPDT, NO, with ground terminal (5th pin).
- High quality replacement is part number: Omron B3F-1102.
- Portions of the Omron spec on their part is enclosed here.
Available from digi-key.com