"I'm a small security dealer and I'm interested in getting into the Home Automation business. I've heard that these days many customers expect Home Automation to be part of a security system. I've noticed that X-10 seems to be the DeFacto standard when it comes to Home Automation but I'm wondering how I can find out more about the subject in general."

Some Common X-10 Questions and Answers

Dave Rye

Some Common X-10 Questions and Answers
by Dave Rye

"I'm a small security dealer and I'm interested in getting into the Home Automation business. I've heard that these days many customers expect Home Automation to be part of a security system. I've noticed that X-10 seems to be the DeFacto standard when it comes to Home Automation but I'm wondering how I can find out more about the subject in general."

Q. I have been using the HD245 to control a room air conditioner in my Summer home and it works fine. I just installed one in my apartment in New York City and it doesn't work. I tried the SAME module in my Summer home and it works fine!

A. The Heavy Duty 220V Appliance Modules HD243/61-2668 CMC (15A) and HD245/61-2669 CMC (20A) are designed to work on single, split phase 120/240V house wiring. Some apartment buildings have 3 phase wiring and even though only 2 of these phases may be present in each apartment, these two phases are from a 3 phase 120/208V system. There is a 30 degree phase shift between zero crossing points of 120V and 208V in a 3 phase system. X-10 signals are transmitted at the zero crossing point of the 120V AC power line, therefore in a 3 phase system there is no signal present at the zero crossing point of the 208V line (phase to phase). The Heavy Duty 220V Appliances Modules therefore will NOT work on a 3 phase system, which quite frequently translates to "they will not work in apartments."

Q. I own a TR551 (R.S. 61-2692) Telephone Responder but I'm not sure what the slide switch labeled Normal/Answering Machine is for. Can you clarify?

A. If you own an answering machine set the slide switch on the TR551 to the Answering Machine position, otherwise set it to Normal. In the Normal mode, the TR551 will NOT pick up the line if someone (or something) answers the phone. With the slide switch set to "Answering Machine" the TR551 ALWAYS picks up the line.

With the slide switch on the TR551 Telephone Responder set to "normal," the Responder verifies that ringing signals are present on the telephone line and starts a 30 second timing cycle. If the telephone line is not answered during this period, the TR551 engages the line and acknowledges with three beeps. This delay is to avoid having the TR551 answer a caller when nobody is at home. (The average caller hangs up if ringing for 30 seconds remains unanswered). In this normal mode, the TR551 will not respond if someone picks up the telephone during the 30 second time-out. Therefore, you will not have to explain to a caller what the three beeps are for.

In you own an answering machine: Place the slide switch in the "answering machine" position. In this mode the unit always answers the telephone 30 seconds after the first ring, whether or not a telephone has been picked up or an answering machine has come onto the line. The answering machine will normally engage the line before the TR551 does and so its operation will proceed as usual. All that will happen is that the touch-tones you enter from a remote phone may be recorded by your answering machine.

Q. I would like to turn an outside light on by a timer to make my home look lived-in. I'm familiar with the X-10 system and know that I can use an X-10 timer and replace the light switch that presently operates this light with an X-10 Wall Switch Module. However, even though I've been told that installing the X-10 Wall Switch Module is simple, I'm not that handy and I'm afraid of working with something that needs to be wired-in. Is there any other way to control my outside light?

A. X-10 recently introduced a new "screw-in" Lamp Module. You simply unscrew your existing inside or outside light, screw the SL575 module into the existing light socket and then screw the bulb into the socket on the SL575 - simple! The SL575 fits most types of light fixture, and can be used indoors or outdoors.

Q. I have been using the X-10 CP290 Home Automation Interface with my Macintosh Plus for a number of years with no problems. I recently upgraded to a Quadra 650 and have been having some problems. Is the CP290 compatible with the newer Macs?

A. You're not specific about the nature of your problems but the CP290 is compatible with any Macintosh. The problems you're having are more likely related to the version of Apple system software rather than the type of Mac. The version of X-10 software currently shipping is version 2.3. Earlier versions could exhibit some problems with Apple's system 7.0 software. I suspect you didn't upgrade to system 7.0 until you purchased your new Mac. Please contact X-10 if you need to upgrade your Home Control software.

Q. I have owned the CP290 Home Automation Interface for many years and have used it successfully with several IBM PC compatibles. A while ago I upgraded my system and started using Windows.® I have gradually been switching all my programs over to Windows® and although I have been using the X-10 DOS program from within Windows,® I would find it much more useful to have a Windows® version of the X-10 Home Control software. Any plans to introduce one?

A. X-10 have recently started shipping an X-10 Home Control program for the Windows® Operating System, called Lighthouse.™ It follows the Windows® User Interface with pull-down menus, pop-up dialog boxes, etc. and has extensive on-line help. It allows you to program different lights and appliances to go on and off together as a "scene." A typical "Morning Scene" might be to turn on the bedside lamp, turn on the bedroom TV or radio, turn on the coffee pot in the kitchen and turn on the hall light. You could then program this scene to happen at 7:00 AM and Weekdays, and at 9:00 AM on Weekends. A "Dinner Scene" might be to turn on the dining room light and dim it to 75%, turn on the living room stereo, and turn on the outside lights so your guests can find their way. Many different scenes can be programmed to happen at different times on different days and you can also save multiple scenes as a "Winter Schedule" or "Summer Schedule," etc. You can then load these schedules from disk as the seasons change.

Q. The Lighthouse software for my CP290 Computer Interface (R.S. 61-2617) says "Can’t find device" when I try to load the software.

A. Under "preferences" in the file menu make sure you have selected the COM port that the device is connected to.

The Microsoft ® Windows ® operating system can only handle 2 COM ports without special modifications to the system's IRQ settings within Windows, and on the serial card. Please contact your computer dealer for further details on this process.

You may think you have 4 COM ports available but from within Windows you cannot use COM 1 AND COM 3, or COM 2 AND COM 4 at the same time, unless you change your IRQs. If you have a serial mouse, AND an internal modem, you may for example have the mouse set for COM 1 (in which case COM 3 is not available) and the modem set to COM 2 (in which case COM 4 is not available). This means you have no available COM ports. This is a Windows limitation and is not problem in DOS. The X-10 DOS based software therefore will work fine on COM 3 or 4 when your mouse and modem are on COM 1 and 2. If the DOS software supplied with the CP290/61-2617 works but the Lighthouse For Windows software doesn't, and you are using COM 1 and 2 for something else (mouse and modem) then this is your problem. You will need to contact your dealer for more information on reassigning your COM ports and IRQs.

Q. Is there any way I can get my Universal Infrared Remote Control to operate my X-10 Modules?

A. You can if it's a One-For-All brand! One-For-All brand Universal Remotes come with X-10 codes already programmed into them. All you need to do to get them to operate your X-10 Modules is to purchase an Infrared Command Console, available either from Universal Electronics (216) 487-1110, or from Radio Shack. The IR Command Console receives IR commands from your One-For-All Universal Remote Control and converts them to X-10 signals which it re-transmits onto your house wiring to control standard X-10 Modules.

Q. I have a satellite receiver in my family room and also have it wired with coax to the TV in my bedroom. I find it very inconvenient to have to go down to the family room to set up the channel I want to watch before I retire to the bedroom. I have to do this because the remote control I have for the satellite receiver won't work from my bedroom. Is there any way to control my satellite receiver using X-10 products?

A. X-10 have a product called the POWERMID (Model PM5900). It consists of two elegantly styled pyramid shaped products. You plug one of them (the transmitter) into you bedroom and aim your satellite remote control at it. When you press a button on the remote control the POWERMID receives the infrared signals from your remote control and converts them into wireless radio frequency signals. It sends them to the other POWERMID which you have plugged in down in your family room facing your satellite receiver. This second POWERMID (the receiver) receives the wireless signals from the other POWERMID and converts them back into infrared signals to control your satellite receiver. You may want to purchase an additional remote control for your satellite receiver for added convenient so you can leave one in the family room and one in your bedroom, or you can purchase a Universal Remote Control to perform the same function as your satellite receiver remote control.

Q Why does red light on my Powermid PM5900 (Radio Shack 15-1959) sometimes flicker?

A There can be two possible causes for this depending on which Powermid has the flickering light:

If the ST539 (the one without the antenna) has a flickering Light Emitting Diode (LED) it means it is picking up stray infrared (IR) interference from somewhere. There is infrared light in sunlight so the first possible cause could be that the ST539 is positioned so that direct sunlight falls on it. If this is the case, try moving it out of the sunlight. A second cause could be that it is placed directly under and lamp. Incandescent lamps also emit a certain amount of light in the infrared wavelength. Again the solution is to move the ST539 away from the lamp.

If the RE549 (the one with the antenna) has a flickering LED, it means it is picking up some stray radio frequency (RF) interference. If the RE549 is placed on top of a TV it might pick up some interference from the TV. The solution is to move it a few inches away from the TV.

If both the ST539 and the RE549 have flickering LEDs, it might be that the ST539 is picking up some stray infrared light, converting the IR noise to RF noise and transmitting it to the RE549, causing its LED to also flicker. The solution is to unplug the ST539 and see if the LED on the RE549 stops flickering. If it does, move the ST539 away from the source of IR light (table lamp, direct sunlight, etc.).

Q. I thought the SR731 RF Repeater would give me more range for my Powermid but it doesn't seem to work, what gives?

A. The Smart RF Repeater, model SR731 (61-2567) will work with all 310 MHz X-10 and Plug 'n Power security and Home Automation products, and will increase their RF range. It will not work with the Powermid products PM5900, ST539, RE549 (15-1959, 15-1959T, 15-1959R) which work at 418 Mhz.

Q. I'm a small security dealer and I'm interested in getting into the Home Automation business. I've heard that these days many customers expect Home Automation to be part of a security system. I've noticed that X-10 seems to be the DeFacto standard when it comes to Home Automation but I'm wondering how I can find out more about the subject in general.

A. Anyone interested in Home Automation should for sure join the Home Automation Association. This an association of manufacturers and dealers who share a common goal to develop and service products and services related to the Home Automation Industry. The HAA provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information related to Home Automation. It researches and monitors the impact of marketing and technology for Home Automation. It monitors product and compatibility standards, and it generally spreads awareness among end users of the advantages of Home Automation products and services. For more information, contact: The Home Automation Association, 808 17th St. NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006-3910. (202) 333-8579, Fax (202) 223-9569.

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