Author Topic: Won't control more than the wiring run its plugged into  (Read 3401 times)

Howard_Woodard

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Won't control more than the wiring run its plugged into
« on: December 01, 2013, 08:38:58 AM »
I'm new to this technology and this forum so if I should be asking my question differently or on a different board I won't be offended if you tell me. :)

We moved into a house that has three Radio Shack Plug'nPower (X10) lamp modules in the book cases. I noticed that the controller would only turn on/off/dim two of them. As I fiddled around with it I also noticed that if I plugged the controller into the outlet of the one that wasn't working then it would work but the other two would not.

Two were on one breaker and the third on another. The controller would only control those things on the same breaker that the controller was on. Both breakers are on the same phase -- visually observed and electrically measured. I even connected both cable runs to the same breaker and nothing changed -- the controller will only control the things that are on the same cable run that it is plugged into.

One of the breakers was a GCFI breaker so just to make certain it was not contributing to the problem I replaced it with a standard breaker. Since the symptom did not change when I connected both cable runs to the same breaker I didn't expect eliminating the GCFI to make any difference and it didn't.

I was under the understanding that X10 would work on everything that was on the same side of the transformer and on the same phase -- or everything if a phase coupler was used. Obviously that is completely true.

Does my description make sense? If so, does anyone know of a reason, or reasons, why I'm not able to control multiple cable runs?

Thanks in advance for your help.
Howard
Seattle, WA
Radio Shack X10 Plug'nPower

Jeff

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Re: Won't control more than the wiring run its plugged into
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2013, 09:31:42 AM »
X10 reliability problems are usually due to either weak signals or electrical noise on the powerline.  Weak signals are caused by the large number of electrical loads found in our homes today, particularly those that have become known as "signal suckers".  They include computers, monitors, and newer flat-panel TVs.  Powerline noise is commonly caused by electrical devices with switching power supplies, such as high-efficiency "wall-wart" power modules, compact fluorescent light bulbs, and even the newer 120V LED bulbs.

The problem device(s) may not be on either of those circuits because the signal must flow through the distribution panel even when they are both connected to the same breaker.  So a serious signal sucker on any circuit of the same phase could be loading the signal enough at the panel so that not enough is left to propagate out onto the second circuit.

If you have not already done so, you may want to read some of the troubleshooting series I wrote:

http://jvde.us/x10_troubleshooting.htm
X10 automation since the BSR days...

Brian H

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Re: Won't control more than the wiring run its plugged into
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2013, 09:56:55 AM »
Howard, I am glad you found the forums.
I had answered your question over on the Smarthome Forums. I am BLH there.

Howard_Woodard

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Re: Won't control more than the wiring run its plugged into
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2013, 10:21:42 AM »
Thanks Jeff and Brian.  I appreciate your help and have read the reference material you listed and fully intend to go through a methodical process of eliminating things until I find what is preventing it from working.

But my curiosity is peaked now.  When I connected the wiring runs to the same breaker they should have become ,electrically-speaking, one single, though parallel, circuit in which case nothing should have worked or everything should have worked.  Yet the symptom was the same -- if the controller was plugged into any outlet on one cable run then the X10 controller would work the lamp module connected to another receptacle on that same run but not on the other.

Wouldn't you expect an issue to be reflected on both runs when they are connected together at the breaker?
Howard
Seattle, WA
Radio Shack X10 Plug'nPower

Howard_Woodard

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Solved - Won't control more than the wiring run its plugged into
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2013, 11:26:10 AM »
Well, it was the first computer I unplugged that "fixed" the problem.  I'll check the current draw (startup/steady state) and see what size filter I need to get.

Thanks for your help.
Howard
Seattle, WA
Radio Shack X10 Plug'nPower

Jeff

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Re: Won't control more than the wiring run its plugged into
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2013, 11:40:19 AM »
But my curiosity is peaked now.  When I connected the wiring runs to the same breaker they should have become ,electrically-speaking, one single, though parallel, circuit in which case nothing should have worked or everything should have worked.  Yet the symptom was the same -- if the controller was plugged into any outlet on one cable run then the X10 controller would work the lamp module connected to another receptacle on that same run but not on the other.

Wouldn't you expect an issue to be reflected on both runs when they are connected together at the breaker?

Because the common point is at the distribution panel, it would not look like a single parallel circuit.  It is effectively a long serial network.

Think of it as a "T" network, with the two arms being the two circuits, and the leg being the distribution panel.  Each of the arms has inductance which acts as impedance at the 120KHz carrier frequency.  If there is a significant load on one of the other circuits on that phase, it will reduce the signal at the distribution panel, leaving little to propagate out onto the other circuit.

Many computers include capacitors directly across the AC power input to meet the FCC regulation on conducted radiation.  Those capacitors present a very heavy load to X10 signals.  Even if the computer was on another circuit on the same phase, it would have loaded down all signals on that phase.  The severity of the loading depends on how close it is to the panel.

Jeff
X10 automation since the BSR days...

Howard_Woodard

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Re: Won't control more than the wiring run its plugged into
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2013, 12:03:09 PM »
Got it - Thanks Jeff
Howard
Seattle, WA
Radio Shack X10 Plug'nPower

Brian H

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Re: Won't control more than the wiring run its plugged into
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2013, 03:39:51 PM »
I have a  Insteon system with X10 addresses also programed into the modules.
I use the Smarthome 10 amp FilterLinc on my APC BX1000 UPS and it has a unfiltered outlet on the front of the case. That is where I have my  Insteon PLM powered from.

I also have Jeff's great XTB-IIR repeater coupler. That blasts an X10 signal all over my house and it respects Insteon signals.

 

succession-resounding