X10 and Fluorescents


Active Member
As some of you may know, I am working on a theater for my church. Everything is almost done, but I want to replace the switches that are already in with X10 Keypadlincs and Switchlincs. There will be 3 Keypadlincs, 1 Switchlinc, and 2 Companion switches. My main concern is that the lights in the ceiling of the theater and the rest of the church are Fluorescent ballasts. Do you think they will create too much noise for the switches to operate reliably?
You can't use keypadlincs to directly switch fluorescent loads... they are dimmers only. You will need relay switches for the loads with the ballasts. Also do you have neutrals in all these switch boxes?

Ballasts may or may not impact the X-10 signal. Depends on how many you are talking about and how they are wired in relation to the circuits you are controlling.
compuguru ,
I would strongly suggest trying one or two cheap x10 switches to see if X10 will even work in your church. Out church tried using X10 and it wouldn't work at all. It seems that event with a coupler/repeater the signals wouldn't reach the switches and there was too much noise caused by the other electrical "stuff". We ended up installing Z-Wave switches and these work perfectly. Our church is new enough to have plastic boxes so we went with Z-wave if you have metal boxes then I would recommend UPB.
Would testing using plug-in modules and a Maxi controller be a good test? My church only wants automation in the theater, and the boxes are metal I beleive.
I tested with a Smarthome Lamp Linc, and a X10 Maxi Controller.

The result: The LED on the Lamplinc was off more than on, indicating traffic. :)

The boxes for the switches are metal, and I would like Keypads. It also has to be able to launch IR macros, possibly from the Ocelot. Any ideas?

I am going to see if Insteon will work and if that doesn't work, I'll probably have to figure out Z-Wave of something else.
Don't forget UPB. While it is expensive it works very well.

If you have metal boxes and want to use Z-Wave switches you can always add a plugin module close to complete the "bridge".
I will also take a look at UPB. My main issues are the powerline noise and how to get a simple 3 emitter IR system to work with it.

I'm not sure what metal boxes have to do with anything other than, heat dissipation?

I am a X-Insteon, happy Z-Wave user. The sad thing I have to say is that I am not aware of any Z-Wave devices that can approximate a Insteon KeyPadLinc in functionality. Z-Wave devices are also more expensive.

Insteon is MUCH better than X10 for noise immunity. Insteon's improvement in that field was to make each device a powerline repeater. They call it a 'Mesh Network', I call it a bunch of dumb repeaters. The reliability part came in with error checking. If a signal can not get through, at least Insteon will let you know it failed.

IF you indeed had problems with a X10 switch and a X10 PLC transmitter, then Insteon will not improve things. If you had a lot of X10 switches and one transmitter then Insteon can help (each switch will repeat the signal and make it stronger).

Z-Wave is still very new. The really cool software is still not available. Z-Wave advertises their devices at generally 50 feet line of sight. I read an article today on the Insteon RF linking devices, they claim 150 feet. Since Insteon has no true RF remote control devices, that would be hard to dispute. I would tend to believe the Z-Wave claims as they operate on similar frequencies at similar power and have actual operating devices..

Contrary to Insteon claims, Z-Wave modules are not cryptic unprogrammable devices. I have had much more trouble with Insteon broken links than anything they can say about a broken Z-Wave network device. I had more trouble understanding Insteon linking instructions than Z-Wave (and that aint saying much for either). My Z-Wave devices serve the purpose that I purchaced them for very well. I have hundreds of dollars worth of Insteon devices that are in various stages of being junk, depending upon some magic firmware fix. Given Insteon is fixing all of this, if I were to recommend a good OPERATIONAL control system to anyone, well...

Pardon the advertisement but I paid for it with a lot of electrician work and many hours spent on work developing Insteon software.

In my humble opinion, PLC devices will never work in noisy PLC environments. The RF stuff works fairly well. The only people that I have heard bashing it so far are the one deep in debt to PLC.

(you all should probably start a different thread to flame me on)

KenM said:
Insteon is MUCH better than X10 for noise immunity.

IF you indeed had problems with a X10 switch and a X10 PLC transmitter, then Insteon will not improve things.
Those two sentences confuse me. It seems like your saying that Insteon has a much better chance at working, then you say it won't.

I was not too clear about that, sorry. Both X10 and Insteon are powerline command signals. The signals have the same weaknesses.

Insteon is designed so that each device acts as a signal repeater/booster.

Each device in the Insteon system will amplify any Insteon signal it detects. The end result is that, if you have a lot of devices, spaced about around your house the communication is very reliable (I had better than 99%). If you only have one or two devices you do not gain much as you will not have many signal boosters on line.

When I had a house full of Insteon devices, the communications were very reliable. If I just plug in my PLC and one Insteon dimmer module, and nothing else, I cannot communicate to many places in my house (I have a X10 noisy environment). I guess the point is - the more the better with Insteon.

Hope this cleared up those conflicting statements a little.

Looks like the only thing that would work is a hardwired system. Z-Wave is a good option, but they don't have keypads and can't do IR with a full-fledged computer (to the best of my knowledge). The other technologies use the powerlines, and seeing as my X10 module's status light was off more than on (indicating receiving signals), I think it's safe to say those won't work. I'll probably give Insteon a shot anyways, since I already have a few modules and controllers at my house.

I took a look at the Harmony remote that can do Z-Wave, but seeing as a lot of people will have access to the room, I don't want a $300 remote in there unless it's chaned to something.........
It sounds like Insteon is worth a shot. My only problem was with some of the hardware. Keep in mind if you need to bridge a phase (leg) the RF SignaLincs do a good job, they also act as common repeaters and are the 'dual mesh' part of a Insteon setup.
Good luck with your project.