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How to increase the range and reliability of the X-10 signals?

Given that the X-10 uses the existing electricity network energy for sending/ receiving commands, the system is susceptible to electrical noise introduced into the network and to the fluctuations of voltage.

Regarding the X-10 signals, there are two types of interference that may reduce their range and reliability:

Noise on the electricity network

Some devices, particularly inductive load devices (motors, fluorescent lights and power supplies), generate high frequencies (on the order of KHz), which can interfere with the signals sent through the X-10 network (frequency of 120 KHz). This type of interference can be observed when a particular device switches on/ off even when a command was not sent.

The houses' electricity network is not immune to external interferences. Unfortunately, the existence of noise in the electricity network supplied to the houses is very common; these can be caused by neighbouring electricity networks, or even by the transformer stations. In any case it is always recommended the use of a board filter (FD10) connected to the output of the main circuit breaker, thus ensuring a better quality and absence of electrical noise on the house's electricity network.

In order to resolve this issue, one will only need to use X10 filters, which prevent the noise generated by these devices to interfere with the communication. These filters are available in several formats: electric Socket – FM10; micro-module – S4813M; switchboard (DIN rail) – FD10.

Some of the marketed micro-modules have a built-in filter, which filters the noise generated by the loads connected to it.

Absorption of X-10 signals

There are electrical devices that, due to its physical architecture, absorb high-frequencies, including the X-10 signals. These devices are identified by having a capacitive load (UPS, electric sockets with surge protection and PC monitors) which greatly attenuates the X-10 signal preventing it from being received in its best conditions.

In order to attenuate the signal absorption due to the use of capacitive loads, the use of electric socket filters is recommended when connecting UPS, electric sockets with protection and PC monitors to the electrical current.

Signal attenuation

Just like most communication systems, the X-10 signals lose intensity as they get further way from the signal transmitter. In a typical installation the X-10 signal can go through 80 metres of linear electric circuit, taking into account the existence of junction boxes or other electrical items (electric sockets, switches, etc.), without the signal being attenuated below 100 mVpp - minimum intensity recommended for the reception of signals X-10.

If the receiver is too far from the transmitter, the X-10 signal may lose intensity and will not be received and processed by the actuator module. In order to avoid these situations products with greater sensitivity to the X-10 signals reception (25 mVpp) and greater power of signal transmission (5Vpp) are available.

Another effective solution for these types of problems is the use of X-10 repeaters, which receive the X-10 signals and retransmit them at a higher intensity (amplitude). Some of the available products for this purpose are the repeater micro-module (ref. SVX) or the socket repeater.

Three-phase systems

Usually, all conventional electrical installations use single-phase systems (switchboards), but some houses, particularly the older ones, use three-phase systems.

Three-phase systems are characterized by providing 3 distinct phases (whose sine signal is out of phase by 90º). In this situation, the different electrical circuits can be linked to different phases, preventing the X-10 signal to be transmitted to other phases.

In these cases the use of the phase couplers is necessary, which distribute the X-10 signals through all the house’s phases (with the necessary phase displacement). In this area two products are available, both to be installed in electric switchboards:

  • CAT6272 – Active coupler with signal regeneration. This equipment, besides coupling of the different phases, also retransmits all X-10 signals received at a higher intensity, ensuring its reception in good conditions.

  • FD10 – DIN rail single-phase filter. In addition to the functions of filtering the noise in the electricity network, the use of the three FD10s also allows the coupling between phases.

Diagnosis and resolution of flaws

If your X-10 installation presents some problems related to noise, switch off all electrical appliances one by one to find out which device is generating that same noise. After its identification you will only have to use an electric socket filter to filter the noise generated by that equipment.

Note: In the case of television sets or equivalent equipment it is necessary to switch it off, since even on sleep mode these devices may be generating noise or absorbing X-10 signals.

There are several equipment that help to identify problems in the X-10 network and measurement of the noise level, of which we highlight the PUX – Diagnostic console. This equipment, in addition to allowing any kind of X-10 message to be sent, including the advanced commands, allows the measuring of the X-10 signal intensity circulating in the network and the existing level of noise. Advanced features, such as the sending of signals with adjusted power or temporal monitoring of the X-10 messages circulating in the network, are also available.

Next, a list of equipment that "can" cause noise (inductive loads) or absorption (capacitive loads) of X-10 signals is presented:

Table 2 –Some devices that cause interference
Device Load Type
Fluorescent lights Inductive
Electric sockets with filtering signal Capacitive
UPS (Power supplies with batteries) Capacitive
Personal computers Inductive
PC Monitor Capacitive

Table 2 – Some devices that cause interference

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