More X-10 developments

I received my second shipment of X-10 goodies from SmartHome today. Among them:

  • Leviton DHC Universal Switches
  • Leviton DHC Three-way Dimmer
  • Leviton Three-way Slave Switch
  • Leviton DHC Low-voltage Universal Module
  • SwitchLinc Transmitter
  • PowerLinc USB
  • I installed all the new switches and modules this evening, it’s all working beautifully.

    The Universal Switches are to replace under-powered 500W dimmers I originally bought for my driveway and front-porch lights. After I installed them, I checked to make sure my HomeLink Vehicle Interface (which I’ve had for years but never used until now) was set to the same house and unit codes, and tried it out. Works like a charm!

    The documentation that comes with the HomeLink Vehicle Interface is very vague, but I have established that it appears to send out alternating ON and OFF codes. Also, it appears to send the codes to three subsequent unit addresses, starting with the one configured on the dials. This works well for me, since I have two separate switches to control, and I didn’t really want to put them both on the same unit code.

    Since I had the driveway now remotely controllable, I also set up the previously purchased Leviton Photocell Controller. I installed it onto an octagon box, with a cord going to a nearby outlet, and placed in my garage window. It was already dark when I plugged it in, so I haven’t been able to see it actually work yet.

    The Leviton Three-way Dimmer and Slave Switch were to replace a non-three-way dimmer that I mistakenly installed into a three-way circuit in my bedroom. I found this installation a little bit confusing. The master dimmer and the slave switch each came with a wiring diagram, but they do not agree with each other. The dimmer has black, red and blue wires on it. The black is supposed to go to the line, the blue is supposed to go to the load (the light socket), and the red is supposed to be the “traveller” to the slave switches. The slave switches are supposed to be connected between red and black, or between red and blue, depending on which diagram you believe.

    I installed it with red and black, but I suspect it would work either way. The blue line is always going to have power on it, even when the light is off, because that is how X-10 dimmers with no neutral lead work. They always pass a small amount of current through the bulb filament. They need that current to power the X-10 circuitry itself. That’s also why X-10 dimmers usually have a small slide-switch used to power the circuit off completely, for changing bulbs, etc. Even when an X-10-controlled light is “off”, it actually still has a fairly large voltage in the socket. In fact, with the light bulb removed, it will be the full 120VAC.

    The ability to wire the slave as either traveller-to-line or traveller-to-load is very useful. Standard three-way circuits can be wired quite differently, depending on which box the line comes into, and which box the load comes out of. The flexibility of the traveller wiring lets you install X-10 into a pre-existing three-way circuit, regardless of the original layout of the circuit.

    The Universal Module was installed in the fireplace, on the end of the unused cable that was roughed-in to power a blower motor. The switch that controls the non-existant blower was removed, and the power permanently connected inside the box.

    The SwitchLinc Tx switch was also installed in that same box. It doesn’t control any load, it just transmits X-10 codes to the Universal Module. I thought it desirable to have at least one permanently-installed switch in the room to control the fireplace. Without it, the X-10 Mini-Controller on my bedside table would be the only way to control the fireplace. The Mini-Controller could be removed for some reason, and then there’s nothing to control the fireplace. Not good.

    I haven’t had any time yet to play with the PowerLinc USB interface or the software that came with it. I’m looking forward to giving that a shot. Not sure if I’ll end up using the software, in any case. I’ve always looked forward to the opportunity to write my own home-automation software. Hoping the USB interface comes with some kind of drivers or programming details.

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