[Review] Relay 8, X-10 Driven Eight Circuit Relay


[Review] Relay 8, X-10 Driven Eight Circuit Relay Module from WGL Designs

by BraveSirRobbin

WGL Designs has a new product that will let you switch eight single pole double throw relays using X-10 power line commands! This latest product is named the Relay 8. This unit can respond to X10 ON, OFF, ALL OFF and status request commands.

Here are additional specifications of the eight relays:
  • Each of the 8 independent relays is equipped with a form C contact that is brought out to two plug-in, detachable terminal strips.
  • 1A @ 24 VDC Resistive Contact Rating
  • 1A @ 120 VAC Resistive Contact Rating
  • Relay Contacts are designed for low current applications as well as power switching.
The advantage this unit has is you can control relays anywhere a power line receptacle exists since it uses X-10 power line signals to control them. These signals can be generated from any X-10 control system such as a table top controller, software such as Homeseer or Home Control, or systems such as the Ocelot, Elk M1 Gold or stand alone X-10 controllers such as Smarthomes Powerlinc Controller. Another advantage is you can bring the unit to the items you want controlled. In other words you don not have to worry about running wiring from your automation hardware to your controller.
      • relaypic.jpg
Here is an example of how the system can work for you. Lets say you want to control your garage door opener and a buzzer (audible notification of garage door opening or closing) both located in your garage via a Palm Pad remote control. Say you already have a receiver like the W-800 or similar unit installed in your home and you are already able to control lights via a Palm Pad remote. The Relay 8 unit will easily let you control both systems with a Palm Pad without having to run any wires outside your garage!

Here are details of how to accomplish this task with the Relay 8. First connect the (included) serial interface cable to a serial com port on your computer (any computer can be used for this application). Note that you do not need to plug in the Relay 8 included AC adapter for this step. Download the interface software (http://www.wgldesigns.com/relay8.html) unzip this file and run the executable relay8.exe file. You will get a menu screen shown below.
      • menu.jpg
Select the house and unit code series that you want for the eight relays. Note that this selection has to be a consecutive series of unit codes, so you may want to dedicate a house code letter just for this Relay 8 unit. In this example Relay 1 (labeled zone) will be controlled with the X-10 L1 house and unit code. Relay 2 will be controlled with the X-10 L2 house and unit code, and so forth.

Note that there is a default run time in minutes nomenclature as well as number selections beside each zone. This is a carry over from WGLs Rain 8 series of controllers and is the maximum amount of time each zone will remain on once it is switched (in minutes) provided that the disable default timers box towards the bottom is unchecked. This is a handy feature when controlling items such as a sprinkler system or other critical systems where you want to make sure the system turns off after a set amount of time (in other words the relay will not have to receive an X-10 power line Off signal, it will turn off automatically after this set amount of time has elapsed).

Lets continue setting up the Relay 8. For our case we really want to make sure the garage contacts are opened after the on signal as sent so lets change the number selection to the right of zone one to a 1. Do the same for the buzzer (zone 2).

Select the proper com port that the module is connected to and then click load module. The settings you entered will be downloaded to the Relay 8 unit. If the wrong com port is selected or communications errors exist a warning dialog box will appear stating this error. Close this software application and disconnect the Relay 8 from the serial cable. {Note: This setup software will use a high CPU percentage if left operating. This should not be a problem as the application was not meant to be used for long term durations.}

Now for the installation in the garage. The Relay 8s relay inputs are connected via a removable terminal strip. This is so the Relay 8 can easily be removed in case of needed programming changes. Note that these relays are single pole double throw meaning basically you can have a normally open or normally closed switch. (C is the common or relay swinger, NC is normally closed, and NO is normally open). We will use normally open condition so wire zone ones NO and C contacts to the garage push button switch and zone twos NO and C in-line with the power lead for your buzzer. Now install the Relay 8 on the wall near these wired connections (Velcro works great). Connect the terminal strip to the unit. Plug in the Relay 8s AC adapter. You will need a PSC05 or TW523 power line interface for this unit to accept X-10 signals from the power line. Plug the power line interface into a nearby AC outlet and connect the interface cable between the power line interface and the RJ-11 jack of the Relay 8 module (this cable should have been supplied with the power line module. Note that it is NOT a standard telephone line as the cables between connectors are not wired the same).

Now send the L1 ON X-10 command from your Palm Pad remote or table top controller and the garage door should operate. Send an L2 ON command and your buzzer should sound. Note that if you leave the Relay 8 unit in this state that both zones will turn off after one minute (the setting of the internal timer).

The Relay8 supports devices capable of sending an X-10 Status Request command (i.e. two way communications). In addition to giving you the power to poll individual relays to determine their on/off status, it also allows a controller/computer (such as an Ocelot or Homeseer software) to send a command to the module then check to see if the command was carried out. If not, the computer can automatically send the command again.

Now you have relay control using X-10 power line commands. Plus, you have six additional relays for controlling other items such as sprinklers or voice amplifiers/speakers.

The Relay 8 is available from a variety of home automation resellers as well as WGL Designs web site. Their list cost is $149.95 (US Dollars) and includes the serial adapter cable and AC power adapter but not the needed power line adapter and interface cable (this must be ordered separately). The software and instructions can be downloaded from WGL Designs web site HERE (towards the bottom of that page).

In conclusion the Relay 8 offers a quick and easy way for the home automation enthusiast to have relay control using conventional and easily available X-10 power line commands. The ability to poll the device for its status should ease the minds of those of us familiar with the particular peculiarities of the X-10 protocol.
  • PROS:
  • Provides eight single pole double throw relays for use with X-10 power line commands
  • Package is easily removed from permanent mounting location for programming changes
  • Small size, unit can mount just about anywhere
  • Internal timers are available to shut off zones for critical applications
  • WGL Designs is noted for good quality products including excellent customer support
  • CONS:
  • Reliant on X-10 power line commands. This should not be a problem with homes that have reliable X-10 communications (i.e. have a signal coupler/repeater installed in the breaker box, have filters on all X-10 “signal suck†appliances, etc…)
  • X-10 signal unit code selection must be sequential for the eight zones and use the same house code (again, this should not be a big deal).
  • Internal timer can not be selected for just one zone (either all or none).
BraveSirRobbin said:
. . . Note that this selection has to be a consecutive series of unit codes . . .
Very nice write-up, BSR.

The consecutive unit codes, though fine for the Rain8, bones me with low voltage lighting. I would like to use it with X10 motion sensors, but the motion sensors need to be on EVERY-OTHER unit code.
What about disabling the onboard dusk/dawn sensor? Wouldn't that eliminate the use of the second code?
I purchased the Relay8 about 3 weeks ago and have been using it to control my garage doors. I originally purchased it for the purpose of having different zones for my HA announcements. I was to have 3 different zones for different announcements. If I sent an anouncement to 1 zone things worked fine. When trying to send announcements to 2 or more zones is where I had problems. Using X10 to trigger 3 zones presented a timming problem. It was unpredictable as to how long it would take for all 3 X10 commands to activate the relays. Times would range from 4 to 7 seconds. The time was dependent on how busy the powerling was. Part of the problem was PLC traffic from the relay8 itself. It immediatly sent a status report back as soon as it received the X10 on command. This status feature can not be disabled. So I figured that I would use a group command and turn the 3 relays on at the same time. No dice. The Relay8 does not respond to group on commands. . Needless to say that I don not have zoned announcements at this time.

However, I must say that it does perform as advertised an am satisfied. I feel that they should at least mention that group on commands are not supported as I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why it would not work. An e-mail to WGL confirmed that group on commands are not supported.