[How-To] Install an X-10 (Outdoor) Outlet


How-To Install An X-10 (Outdoor) Outlet
(A Beginner's Guide)

by BraveSirRobbin

This How-To is intended for the beginner who may need guidance in installing X-10 outlets and switches in their homes. The beginning home automation enthusiast may not know, nor have experience with these types of installations and are unaware of certain precautions one must take to insure safety to oneself as well as the home itself.

Though this How-To describes how to install an X-10 outlet, much of this information can be used when installing switches as well!

Again, this is intended for the beginner, but experienced members should read this as well and offer comments to enhance this guide.

FIRST, the general disclaimer. CocoonTech.com and its staff are NOT responsible for any injury or property damage resulting from anyone using this How-To guide or any associatied pictures or links.

I had mounted/installed a quad outlet on an exterior rear block wall to power cameras and low voltage lighting. The box on the right shows the quad outlet's box with an approved outdoor rain tight cover. This cover will let you plug in an outdoor powered item and let the cord extend through a slot in the bottom of the cover, yet prevent rain from entering the outlet box itself. FYI: The box in the center is "low voltage" which contains an RG-6 and Cat5e run and the black box on the far left is the transformer for the low voltage lighting.

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I wanted to control the low voltage transformer's power with X-10 and could not use an appliance module as I already had a "wall-wart" plugged in my quad outlet outdoor receptacle as shown below. There was no room for an appliance module with this wall wart and since I wanted to keep all components under the outlet cover, I elected to replace one of the standard outlets with an X-10 controlled one.

Make sure the outlet or switch you select will handle the load that it is connected to! In the case of outlets, the outlet must be rated to the circuit breaker providing power to it. In the case of switches the switch rating should exceed the total amount of lighting (or appliance) it will be switching.

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Before starting you must remove power to the outlets from the breaker box. I used a meter to measure the voltage first (to make sure the meter works) but if you don't have a meter use a lamp or something plugged into the outlet to verify presence of AC voltage (a loud radio works well if the outlet is not in sight of your breaker box).

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I like using a meter just to give that cushy feeling of seeing "ZERO" volts when the breaker is switched off. When using a multimeter, make sure the meter is in AC measure mode and when placing the probes in the outlet, make sure the tips do not touch each other.

If this were a switched "ganged' box as shown below, you would turn a controlled source ON for EACH switch in the ganged box (if a switch controls an outlet, plug something in that outlet). Then you would verify that ALL sources were off before venturing inside the box.

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It is also a good idea to lock the cover of the breaker box if you can or at least place a note so other household members know not to turn the breaker on (as the breaker may have been powering your wife’s hair dryer or son's stereo as well).

After you have verified no power exists in the outlets remove the outer cover (in this outdoor application you remove the large rain tight cover).

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The standard outlet on the left will get replaced with the X-10 outlet, the outlet on the right is a GFCI outlet/circuit which is mandatory in an outdoor environment or anywhere water may be present inside the home (such as bathrooms). The GFCI is always the FIRST outlet in line with the breaker power source as it will also protect all outlets connected "downstream" as well.

The GFCI outlet must be connected properly if it is to protect the circuits downstream from it. The back of the GFCI outlet has terminals labeled "LINE" and "LOAD". The one pictured below has a label over the "LOAD" terminals which states "ATTENTION The load terminals under this label are for feeding additional receptacles. Miswiring can leave this outlet without ground fault protection."

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This means that the "source" or "line" wires coming from the breaker box will get connected to the "LINE" terminals, and the feed to additional outlets will get connected to the "LOAD" terminals.

Now remove the outlet(s) from the electrical box. Remove the wires from the outlet to be replaced.

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In this case the conduit on the right is the source of power from the breakers (LINE) and the conduit on the left is the power which goes to the outlets "downstream" from this one. Of course the outlet we are replacing is also considered a downstream outlet as well.

I left the "LINE" connections to the GFCI in place. Connect the X-10 outlet's black wire to the "LOAD" of the GFCI, and to the black wire of the downstream outlets (if you have any). Do the same for the white wires. Make sure the black wire and white wire are in the appropriate GFCI terminals (which are clearly labeled "hot" for the black connection and "white" for the white connection). For AC circuitry black is the color code for hot and white is the color code for neutral. Green is the color code for ground. All green wires get connected together.

NOTE: Sometimes in a three way switch or switched outlet situation or in a case where say a switched fan and a switched light are run to the same electrical box, a RED color code will be used to show that additional "hot" source.

Use wire nuts for these connections. The proper size wire nuts should be used for the number of gauge wire you are connecting. This information is provided on the wire nut package (in this case a maximum of four twelve gauge wires are connected to one wire nut).

Insure all of the wires are trimmed to the proper length (there is a wire trim length gauge on the back of the GFCI). Use a standard wire stripper using the strip selector matched to the proper gauge of wire you are stripping.

Insure the wire nuts are tight and there are no bare conductors showing from the bottom of the wire nut. Also, gently tug on each wire to insure they are seated inside the wire nut properly.

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Now pre-arrange the wire nuts so they will sit behind the outlets without "jamming" on top of one another. This will also insure you have enough room in your electrical box when trying to reinstall the outlets.

Now gently guide the outlets inside the box keeping an eye out for any wires that may get pinched between the outlets and the box. Screw the outlets down to the electrical box. It may take some proper arranging and aligning to get the larger X-10 outlet to sit inside the electrical box without "jamming" on a wire or wire nut. The size of the GFCI receptacle also exacerbated this problem. Another option in this case would have been to mount an "extension" on the quad electrical box so more room would exist behind the outlets. (Insure you use gaskets between all extensions and covers for an outdoor application).

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Replace the approved outdoor cover making sure its gasket seats properly along the edge of the cover and electrical box. Note that the X-10 outlet (as well as the GFCI outlet) needs a "rectangular" opening in the cover plate as opposed to the two separate openings in a standard duplex outlet. Luckily my cover already had this rectangular opening since I had previously installed the GFCI receptacle.

Now its time to turn the breaker back on. If the breaker trips immediately after you have turned it on, something must be shorting inside the box or miswired (investigate before attempting to turn the breaker back on).

A handy tool to have is an outlet checker/tester as shown below (this particular one was purchased at Home Depot for $8, Store SKU #398469, Internet Catalog #154730).

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The guide on the front will show you a combination of lights which will diagnose proper installation, or one of several problems that could exist such as open ground, open neutral, open hot, hot/ground reversed, and hot/neutral reversed.

The one pictured above also has a GFCI test button (center black button) that when pressed will simulate a ground leak and trip the GFCI protection circuit.

Plug this tester in ALL outlets and insure the proper lights are showing a correct installation. Also "trip" the GFCI by pressing the black button on the tester. You should now see no lights lit (on the tester) and hear the GFCI trip. Reset the GFCI (press its red reset button) and insure proper operation has been restored.

Perform this test on each outlet downstream of your newly installed outlet to insure they are correctly wired and are being protected by the GFCI as well as the GFCI itself. Also note there is a black test button on the GFCI outlet. Test your circuits with this test button as well (GFCI should trip when this button is pressed).

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Note in this downstream outlet box I have an appliance module which runs my fountain pump. This module fits nicely under the rain tight outdoor cover for the electrical box.

Now connect your items to be powered in your newly installed outlet, set the proper house and unit code on the X-10 outlet, properly align the power cords in the slots on the bottom of the cover and close the cover.

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Now test for proper X-10 operation and insure all other items are powered correctly. You may also want to measure for proper 120 VAC presence with a multimeter as well.