• You've been granted Beta access to this site, allowing you to explore some of the new features while they're still under construction. More information can be found in the Beta forum.

The Right Stuff?

DRB

Member
After receiving a free firecracker X-10 kit I am ready to start building a complete home automation system. Being a newbe I need the help of you experts in the correct hardware choices for building a reliable system.

Since this is just a hobby and am not rich, I am trying to keep the cost down as much as possible but want it to work correctly.

The system will be installed in a single family ranch style house under 2000 SF. I plan to eventualy control most if not all of the lights, including the basement. There will also be various lamp and appliance modules throughout the house. I also plan on controlling heat and air, and much later will play with the video aspects of X-10. Most, if not all, of my devices will be 2-way.

The switches will be the SwitchLinc Plus or Lightolier Compose 2-ways. I have one each on order to see which I prefer.

One thing I think I read was that some homes require a coupler/repeator? installed by a electrian to the main box. What and were do you purchase these repeators? Is this something that affects only an unlucky few, or do most large systems require this? Also would the SmartHome BoosterLinc Plug-in PLC Signal Booster solve this problem with out the need of a coupler-repeator? Is the best plan to start the system without any of these extra componets and then add only if your having problems? If that is the case, would you first add the BoosterLinc, and then if that didn't work then have the coupler installed?

My last concerns deal with the transceiver and the computer interface. Currently I am using what came with the firecracker kit, the TM751 and the CM17A. On a bigger system do I keep using the TM751? Do I install more TM751 in other locations of the house? Do I or can I have these set to the same house code? I realize after I get more than 16 devices I would need more set to a different code? What about whole house transceivers? Is this something to purchase only if I am having problems? Would a set-up require more than one if there is more than 16 devices? The CM17A I plan on replacing with a PowerLinc USB with mermory controller and they become avaiable. I can't think of any questions on this.

With me being a newbe this info may be confused or incorrect, so any and all help or comments would be appricated.

Thanks
DRB
 

electron

Administrator
Staff member
Use one of these to replace all your transceivers (it's much faster too and keeps X10 traffic of your lines):

http://www.automatedoutlet.com/customer/pr...5&cat=34&page=2

For a while I didn't need a coupler, but then all of a sudden things didn't work correctly anymore, so I bought the coupler, which fixed the problems. I also bought a repeating coupler (not passive), so my X10 signal reliability is 100% right now. You can either get the kind that installs in the electrical box, or get the plugin kind if you don't like wiring:

http://www.automatedoutlet.com/customer/home.php?cat=42
 

AutomatedOutlet

Senior Member
DRB,

Those are some good questions. Let's try to tackle them one at a time.

Most, if not all, of my devices will be 2-way.

Yep, I really like 2-way devices for everything.

The switches will be the SwitchLinc Plus or Lightolier Compose 2-ways. I have one each on order to see which I prefer.

These are my two favorite. My preference is the Lightolier. I think they are better made, easier to program, and have a few extra features that are nice. They do cost about 15% more though. Your switches that you ordered shipped out today - thanks.


coupler/repeator

There are two ways to go with this and really only two paths you can take. You either need to get a coupler/repeater or an X10 firewall. The electricity comes into your house and is split into 2 legs. If it's not coupled, you can't reliably (if at all) get x10 signals from some parts of your house to others.

Option 1:

If you equip your entire 2,000 square foot house with 2-way x10 devices, you will definately need a good coupler/repeater ($90 - $150) and maybe one to two boosterlincs ($90 each) and possible a some filters (about $20 - $25 each). You're probably looking at between $200 and $500 to clean, coupler and boost your signals. If you have neighbors that also use X10, you may also need an x10 blocker. It's a very rough guess because it really varies a lot by the house, usage, other devices, etc.

Option 2:

Your other option is to install a Lightolier Firewall. This will cost $650 for an 8 circuit box which should be large enough for your house. The firewall will isolate the lighting circuits from the rest of the house that can potentially cause problems. With it, you do not need to couple the phases since it's all connected inside of the firewall. The firewall filters noise on each circuit, amplifies the signals up to 7 volts, manges signal collision and re-broadcast, and will also provide diagnostic tools for trouble shooting your system (also you probably won't need test equipment since this functionality is also built in).

Costwise, I would guess a firewall is probably a wash at around 3,000 square feet or so. Reliability-wise, it is far more reliable.


Yes, the whole house transceiver in my mind is a must once you get past the begining stages. The range is better and it will eliminate needing a plug-in transceiver for every housecode you want to use.
 

DRB

Member
Thanks for all the great input. Not sure if it makes any of mine decesions any easier tho. I really like the Lightolier firewall solution, not sure if I can spend the required money tho. Since this will be a slow build I will hold off on this decesion until reliablty becomes an issuse. This leaves me a few questions:

1] Is Lightolier the only firewall X-10 solution? And if there are others, are they not worth it cause you'd be better off paying more for Lightolier's qualitly and extra features?

2] If I go with SwitchLinc switches and when the time came to solve my reliable problems I go with a Lightolier firewall, did I somehow screw myself? Meaning are there now features I can't access because I went with the cheaper switch. And conversly, if I go with Lightolier's switches and then decided to follow the least expenive alturnate of using a coupler/repeater, have I lost some or all of the Lightolier's switches features/functionablty.

Now a few questions on coupler/repeaters. I have no empty breakers or slots to add new ones too left on my main electric box.

1] Does the coupler/repeater need a free breaker, or can it share one?

2] On the plug-in type of coupler/repeaters; Are they only for 220 type lines? I have no 220 service [outlets], so I guess this would mean I am out of luck.

And finaily, [for the moment anyway], questions on the whole house transreciever:

1] I see that they connect to a computer, this would require the computer to be always on. Is this the case with all whole-house transreciever? Also is the only connection via the serial port, are there any with USB? I intatialy will run my system off my HTPC [no open serial ports left], but plan on evenualy putting the home automation stuff on the video/audio server [which is some time off still]

Again thanks for all the help and info.
DRB
 

electron

Administrator
Staff member
1) Lightolier is definitely the best solution, I think Leviton had some sort of firewall too, but Lightolier really knows what they are doing.

2) Martin will have to answer that one

coupler:
1) I put mine on the breaker switch for my dryer, as it covers 2 phases, however this is against code in most places, and might cause problems with your insurance if your house ever burns down.

2) Do you have an electric dryer, or at least the outlet for it? That's where you are supposed to plug these in, otherwise you are pretty much out of luck.

transceiver:
I believe the CM19A is USB based and can be used as a whole house receiver, but not sure if there is a plugin for this, hopefully someone else will chime in.
 

Treetop

Active Member
transceiver:
I believe the CM19A is USB based and can be used as a whole house receiver, but not sure if there is a plugin for this, hopefully someone else will chime in.

There is a plug-in for use with Homeseer. I just did a search for cm19a and pulled this up http://ubb.homeseer.com/eve/ubb.x?a=search...&reqWords=cm19a

Read through these though, as I vaguely remember someone having some problems controlling some devices. This was initial written to control the ninja pan and tilt base for the x10 cameras as the cm19a is the only transceiver that can control the ninjas (dont qoute me on that though).

Alas, there is no plug-in for the cm19a for use with girder. Girder only supports the cm17a, cm11a, and the cm12u as far as i know. This is why I just purchased the cm11a from automated outlet. Now my personal collection includes 2 cm17a, 1 cm19a, and 1 cm11a.... I have more transmitters than I could ever use. CQC has support for the serial powerlinc, but I believe that Dean has, or is still, working on a driver for the USB version of the powerlinc.

side note to Dean: If you have worked out the USB portion of the drivers, I could send you the cm19a to play with.

Treetop
 

AutomatedOutlet

Senior Member
DRB,

Lot's of questions here. Let me take a stab at them.

1] Is Lightolier the only firewall X-10 solution? And if there are others, are they not worth it cause you'd be better off paying more for Lightolier's qualitly and extra features?

To my knowledge, I don't know of one that uses the X10 standard (not aware of Leviton having one). I know PCS has something similar but it's not X10 and it's made for them by Lightolier.

Is this house a new build or an existing house? If you're building it and don't want to lay out that much money up front, I would at least encourage you to install an empty firewall box (http://automatedoutlet.com/customer/product.php?productid=152&cat=64&page=1). At least that way, if you decide to put in a firewall, the effort is MUCH easier. You just loop the circuits through the empty box and you can add the guts later. If you never put the guts in, at least when you sell it you can say it's pre-wired for home automation!

2] If I go with SwitchLinc switches and when the time came to solve my reliable problems I go with a Lightolier firewall, did I somehow screw myself? Meaning are there now features I can't access because I went with the cheaper switch.

A little. If you compare pricing on the 2-way Switchlinc with the 2-way Lightolier, there is about a 15% difference in price (about the same on the 1-way switches). You can install any kind of switch inside of the firewall but the Lightoliers will work better with the diagnostics built into the firewall.

And conversly, if I go with Lightolier's switches and then decided to follow the least expenive alturnate of using a coupler/repeater, have I lost some or all of the Lightolier's switches features/functionablty.

No - nothing at all. The Lightolier switches technically don't need the firewall to operate. It's the firewall though that adds to reliability, etc. The base Lightolier switches have more features than the SwitchLincs and a longer warranty (3 years). They are a better made switch. In my opinion, it's worth the 15%

I probably make less money on selling a Lightolier switch than a switchlinc but I price them that way because I really think it's a better switch and they are a great company to deal with. You will be convinced as soon as you watch what happens when you change from one scene to another......
 

DRB

Member
I think cost's are dititaiting that I go with a repeator/coupler. My choice/guess is the ACT CR-234 for no perducliar reason. Is this a good choice. My electrical box was serverly lacking before this X-10 project and needed upgrading anyway. I will have a electrian in shortly to price a new breaker box with a coupler/reaptor install. Maybe the lightolier firewall is not dead yet, I will also ask a install price on this. Martin, would you have a rough guess on what the labor for just the firewall install would be?

DRB
 

jlehnert

Active Member
Hard to tell on the cost, as prices vary by area and electrician. The firewall installation will be higher than the coupler/repeater, as the firewall requires additional wiring and re-routing, while the coupler/repeater is simply wires to 2 breakers and mounting an enclosure for the unit.

In your case, you might get a break on the firewall install, since you plan to replace the electric panel also. At that point, the additional work for routing things through the firewall box would not be significant.

Of course, you could run across someone who adds a surcharge for doing something differently than the way they have been doing it since Edison. Unfortunetly, home automation is "new" to 90% of them.

Good luck.
 
Top