It took a while, but I figured a way to solve my needs to "smartly" control my outdoor lighting with X10 that I'd like to share. Basically, I found a way to get different modes of control for my unintelligent outdoor sensors based on time of day periods.

X10 Automated Outdoor Lighting

Chris Smith


by Chris Smith

It took a while, but I figured a way to solve my needs to "smartly" control my outdoor lighting with X10 that I'd like to share. Basically, I found a way to get different modes of control for my unintelligent outdoor sensors based on time of day periods.

Special Thanks to Chris for sharing his experiences!


Normally, one uses a motion sensor to control lights directly with X10 commands or indirectly via a "virtual wiring" macro in programs such as Active Home which sends the X10 light commands from a CM11A interface. In my case, I like the dimmed outdoor lights to come to full brightness when someone approaches or leaves. However, as I added various lights, I soon discovered a need for more flexibility and control capability.

Some lights - such as my low-voltage driveway lights and lampposts - I wanted lit regardless of someone approaching or leaving, but to be on only in the evening (dusk to 11 PM). However, at night (11 PM to dawn), I wanted them off unless someone approaches or leaves - then I wanted them on only for a few minutes. I needed a way to use one sensor, but have it control the lights differently based on time periods.

As seen in the figure below, my solution was to use Power Flash Modules which are active (powered) based on time period. I now have two of these - one for evening and for night. The evening Power Flash Module is simply powered from an X10-controlled AC outlet which comes on at dusk and turns off at 11 PM -- the night Power Flash Module is powered from 11 PM until dawn. The Active Home CM11A interface does this powering schedule reliably using its timer settings. During the day, neither Power Flash Module is powered - this becomes useful as noted later.

What the Power Flash Modules do is to send a macro code to the CM11A when their inputs are "tripped." In my case, I use the contact closure sensing on the Power Flash Modules from a Reporter Wireless Driveway Alert System (this product doesn't know day from night, but has much better range than X10 outdoor motion sensors). Each Power Flash Module is set to output a different X10 code -- one sends the evening code and the other the night code. The CM11A was programmed with ActiveHome software to respond to these codes with evening/night control sequences which send multiple X10 lighting control codes out for either time period to control the various outdoor lighting modules - aka scene setting. During the day, the Power Flash Modules are unpowered and no codes are sent - this was useful because of my "un-night-aware" Driveway Alert. Were one of the Power Flash Modules left enabled, the dimmed lights would be activated during the day.

To illustrate the system in action:

  • At dusk, the CM11A turns on the various outdoor lights to their ON state including those that have reduced brightness, such as the floods. It also powers the evening Power Flash Module's X10-controlled AC outlet to enable it.

  • When someone moves past the driveway sensor, a radio signal trips the Driveway Alert receiver in the house. This product has a contact closure output which works to close the input of the evening Power Flash Module for two seconds or so. The module detects this and sends an X10 command (B5 in my case) to the CM11A. Receiving the X10 code for its programmed "evening macro," the CM11A runs through a series of evening scene commands taking all dimmed lights to full brightness for a few minutes then dimming them back down.

  • At 11:00, the CM11A turns off most of the outdoor lights and the evening Power Flash Module. It then powers on the night Power Flash Module to enable it.

  • Again, when/if the Driveway Alert is tripped by someone, the contact closure is made - this time to the now enabled night Power Flash Module. It sends a different X10 code (B6 in my case) to the CM11A. This X10 code is programmed as the "night" macro. The commands in this scenario differ a bit from the evening set in that all lights come up to full bright or get turned on, but after a few minutes, most go back off to save power.

  • At dawn, the CM11A turns the whole works off. Even if the Driveway Alert is tripped, neither Power Flash Module is enabled (powered), so the macro codes don't get sent to the CM11A.

Of course, once this was all debugged and working as I wanted - all very impressive indeed -- I found yet another unfulfilled "desirement." I wanted to be able to activate either the evening or night scenes from other motion sensors and X10 remotes. Sending B5 or B6 from remotes works, but it's kludgey and confusing for others to use. I also discovered I needed motion sensors close to the house to detect someone leaving (or lurking in the case of night mode). The issue here is that X10 motion sensors send only on the one house/unit code they are programmed to send. Though some smarter ones can be set to send only during darkness, they don't know evening from night modes for my needs.

The solution here was extending my set-up by using an X10 Universal Module to trigger the Power Flash Modules just like the Driveway Alert does. This is shown as "optional" in the above diagram. By sending the X10 B14 ON code, the Universal Module triggers the system. (I needed to use a dedicated relay circuit between the Universal Module and the Power Flash Modules -- though it seems redundant, it would not work right just connecting the modules together directly.) Now the external sensor can detect movement and send B14 ON codes during days, evenings and nights and elicit the right outdoor lighting response for each of these "modes."

This is an extensible concept -- more than three periods of a day can be controlled from one sensor and "trigger" code like this - just add more X10-controlled AC outlet/Power Flash Module pairs to the contact closure buss…


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