Lighting

We use X-10 for all lighting control in the house.  Mostly this is done with SmartHome ToggleLink switches and dimmers.  We have discovered we really like the feel of the Smarthome switches even over regular light switches.  They are especially good for three-way switches, which we have a lot of.  Since they are momentary contact switches they are neither always up nor down.  So turning on a three switch is always a push up rather than flipping up sometimes and down other times as with normal switches.

We use non-dimming switches for compact fluorescents and fans, and dimmers for incandescent lights.  There are a few lamp modules and X-10 outlets, and we control some exhaust fans with X-10, so they are covered in this section, too.  The following describes in more detail the lighting (X-10) features in the house.

Porch Lights

When the home controller detects that an outside door is opened (via the door contact closures) it automatically turns on the appropriate porch light if it is dark.  It turns the light off again five minutes after the door closes.

Side Door Hall

For 10 minutes after the garage door opens, if the door between the garage and house opens, and it's dark, the side hall light comes on so there is light when someone comes in.  This timer is stopped as soon as the person coming in checks in with the house to let it know we are home.  It only does this if someone didn't just check out because then they are leaving not coming in.

Under Cabinet Lights/Cook Top Hood Light

When you build a custom home you try your best to decide where to place light switches to be most useful.  But sometimes you get them wrong.  One we goofed on was not putting a switch for the kitchen under cabinet lights near the sink.  So we put these lights on an X-10 switch and put a wireless X-10 controller near the sink.  Problem solved.

This same wireless controller lets you turn the cook top hood light on and off.  The hood is wired with an in-line X-10 module.  This isn't for convenience, but rather so the house can control this light.

Great Room Lights

The home controller automatically turns the lamps in the great room on 15 minutes before sunset.  It does this every night whether anyone is home or not (so it's not obvious we are not home.)  The great room is definitely the core of the house and open to many other rooms so these lights provide good ambient light and stay on all evening.

Driveway Monument Lights

We have two monuments, one on either side of the driveway, that have lights on them.  The home controller turns these lights on at dark if one of us is not home.  Sometimes it turns them on even if we are home so it is not obvious we are not home.

Outside lights

All outside lights go off automatically at sunrise.

Toilet Fans

The powder room, which is off the great room, and master bath toilet exhaust fans are controlled by X-10 switches.  These are 2-way switches meaning that when they are turned on, the home controller knows it.  It starts a timer and turns them off again 15 minutes later.  So no more having to get back up to turn off the fans, or worse, forgetting and leaving them on all night!

Master Bath Shower

The light above the master bath shower is on a 2-way X-10 dimmer.  When it is turned on the home controller also turns on the bathroom fan and starts a timer.  If nothing happens, 45 minutes later, the controller will turn off both the light and the fan.  If the light is turned off, the timer resets to 30 minutes regardless of how much of the 45 minutes has elapsed.  After that 30 minutes the controller turns the fan off.  This is great because we can leave the fan on as we head out to work in the morning knowing it won't be left on all day.

Everyone Gone

The controller will ensure that all inside lights are off 5 minutes after the last person leaves.  It turns all lights off again (just to be sure) and all fans off 30 minutes later.  It also turns the outside lights off if it is now daylight.  If it is night time, it does not really turn all lights off.  See the section on Security Lighting below.

Sleep Time

When we go to sleep at night we hit a button on an X-10 wireless controller on the wall by the bed.  This puts the house in sleep mode and causes the controller to turn all inside lights off and arm the security system.  If we are both home, it also turns off all outside lights.

Basement Stair Light

Each morning as we leave for work, the dogs go to their kennel in the basement.  We were very bad about leaving the basement stair light on when we would leave.  We put an X-10 switch on the light so the controller would turn it off after we leave.

Security Lighting

The home controller is tightly coupled with the security system.  If the security system triggers when it is dark, all the house lights, inside and out, come on.

If no one is home after dark, the home controller turns lights on and off to simulate that someone is home.  It even follows our pattern of lights for our normal bedtime routine.

Christmas Lights

In the months of November, December and January, the home controller sends the commands to turn the Christmas lights on and off nightly.   We use a mixture of X-10 outlets and lamp modules for the Christmas lights.  When the house was built we had outlets put into the soffits just for Christmas lights.  These are controlled by an X-10 Switch.

Afterthoughts

The X-10 lighting has worked pretty well.  Our house seems to be fairly clean of X-10 noise and the signals reach all parts of the house.  Or at least it is now.  Initially we had a power cube for an Ethernet Hub that was causing horrible noise right in the X-10 frequency band.  An X-10 tester helped us find and replace it.

We installed an X-10 bridge at the electrical panel.  Though it might not have been necessary, it didn't hurt either.  Even so,  fairly frequently an X-10 signal will get lost.  For some reason this seems to happen a lot more in the early AM.  We have not figured out why yet.  It also seems to happen more in the winter when the electric heat pump runs which is not too surprising.  Our X-10 tester does not reveal any noise, so the problem must be absorption.

He still have one very interesting problem that we cannot find a solution for.  The lights in the media room are on the same circuit as the outlet the theater projector is plugged into.  Initially, we put a Smarthome X-10 switch on these lights.  But, when the projector's lamp was on, the media room switch could not receive any signals.  An X-10 filter on the projector did not help.  Unfortunately the projector cannot be moved to another circuit since its outlet is a special outlet in the ceiling of the theater.  After much troubleshooting and testing we discovered that switching to a cheap X-10 brand switch fixed the problem, at least initially.  Over time, the projector has now started affecting the cheap X-10 switch in the same way.  So apparently whatever the lamp is doing is getting worse.  My guess is absorption, which is increasing as the lamp is getting older.

We informed the electrician who wired the house that we planned on installing a lot of X-10 equipment.  He wasn't familiar with X-10 but he did understand the requirements we laid out.  Most importantly, the neutral wire needs to be in every J-box.  Second, light sockets always need to be at the end of the circuit.  We have found only few cases where he did not get this right.  The overhead light in the side hall had the light socket in the middle of the circuit between the two 3-way switches.  This is a problem for 3-way X-10.   We creatively solved this problem by using part of the ground wire as the X-10 3-way signal wire.  This means the X-10 switch at the end of the circuit is not grounded, but that should not be too big a problem.