X10 and the art of leaving what is

Following up from this thread:

I have a home client that has an old Leviton DHC system which uses X10. No one seems to support it anymore although you can still buy equipment on eBay and find manuals etc using the wayback machine website. Everything still functions and given info gleaned from the above with some simple additions thread can be extended to work with more modern devices like HE. The good news is I and my electrician were able to help my client with reprogramming the controller and handle a few other things so they are happy (2 times - got what they wanted and did not have to pay for a new system).

It occurs to me that this is a perfect example of how I want my HE system age over the next 10-20 years. Maybe extremely outdated but still functional with the possibility of interfacing with the new stuff.

Could my client upgrade? Sure but is it really necessary given their simple use-case (essentially lights on when dark, lights off when light + some minor things).

Do we really always need to keep upgrading? As a techno-geek I mean I do sure it's my hobby/work... but the average homeowner? Where is the line between good enough/meets requirements and overkill?

In the case of X-10; YES! X-10 was pretty slick 25 years ago when it was the only game in town and I used it extensively in my quest for a smart(ish) home. The problem is that my neighbors also used it and house code collisions we pretty common resulting in my neighbor turning on some of my lights when using an x-10 remote and vice versa.

And don't get me started with the paddle switches which were a usability study in how not to design a light switch; it looked just like a Decora switch but you had to tap the bottom portion of the paddle to turn the lights on or off. It was counter-intuitive enough that it confused the crap out of anyone unfamiliar with X-10.

I suspect X-10 works for your clients because no one in X-10 radio frequency range of their home is using X-10. But yeah, add this one to the "glad it's gone" list.


theirs is not rf but works through the electric wiring and I totally agree about the switches but... they have a large house and would prefer to spend their $$$ elsewhere I guess. The system (for the most part!!) just works. The main issue for them when I got there was random lights going on and off and no one knew how to troubleshoot. The recommendations were always for replacement which was a lot more than a few hours of my consulting time.

The other problem with X-10 was if your controller was on one leg of the 110 circuit and the light was on the other sometimes the signal would cross over to the other leg and sometimes it wouldn't so there were many times were X-10 would fail. There were a few bridging devices to try to correct it that plugged into a 220v outlet to bridge the two legs for the X-10 signal but with the variety of 220v plug styles we have in the US I didn't have one at the time that fit the bridge they sold.


yeah I read about that. Fortunately in this case the installation is already in place and working and Im not really going to add anything - may play around with HomeGenie for giggles if they let me. The only other trouble spots are a lot of exterior lights are fluorescent which are electrically noisy. The electrician had already recommended replacing with LEDs so all good there.

I have a raspberry pi running HomeGenie which is pretty easy to install. HomeGenie in my case acts only as a bridge between a driver I wrote for HE and a CM15A. It actually works very reliably to my surprise.

HomeGenie also is a "hub" in its own right but I had very little success with it when trying to use it as a hub. If you don't customize it and just let it be a bridge between the HE and X10.... it seems to run VERY reliably....

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cool thanks for the info.

Yup. I used a capacitor in the breaker box to bridge the two phases. Later learnt it was a stupidly dangerous thing to have done. Worse yet, I lived in a multi-unit condo at the time. Hindsight is 20/20, but I was even dumber
in my 20s.


I still have several X10 devices (I had more but many were replaced with more robust and reliable UPB devices).

I still have six SmartHome Smartlinc X10 dimmers and switches (four dimmers are configured for 3-way circuits). Their rockers work as one would expect (press top of rocker to brighten, bottom to dim). I bought them used almost 12 years ago and they still work but they're showing their age. The dimmers report their status (i.e. two-way communications). Many of the ones I replaced developed problems (stopped receiving commands, refused to retain programming, defective rocker, etc).

I also have two SmartHome Smartlinc X10 light modules (plugs into an outlet) that control a table lamp and a hutch light. There are also twelve more modules (a mix of appliance and light) that are pressed into service at Christmas to control decorative lighting. The modules have proven themselves to be far more robust (all work without problems and tend to receive signals better) than the in-wall dimmers and switches.

I have a phase-coupler in place to pass the X10 signal from one leg to another. It helps but, overall, UPB works far more reliably in my home. Eventually I'll replace all the in-wall dimmers and switches with UPB devices. However, I doubt I'll scrap the dozen X10 modules because they still do the job.

I continue to use the same home automation software I chose in 2008 (Premise) and it offers excellent support for X10 (and UPB). If I were using Hubitat, I might consider using a Node-Red flow with Mochad and communicating via the Maker API (or via the eventual MQTT interface).

Integrate X-10 devices with SmartThings

FWIW, I use Node-Red and MQTT to help integrate all my so-called legacy devices (managed by Premise) with current home automation technologies.

And the vamperic nature of some devices (surge protectors) and the interference dumped into the lines by appliances.

Read about that too - is good to know thx!

I guess the overall question becomes at what point does the average homeowner need to replace these kinds of things. Should someone with a working system really have to upgrade? I mean I get if there are chronic intractable issues then sure. Otherwise maybe keep a few replacement units on hand + documentation for the next poor IT guy & electrician..

That's true and, as you mentioned, a "bridging" device was available, in the form of a phase-coupler, to help remedy the issue.

I consider it no more onerous that adding a device capable of routing to a Zigbee network. A user new to Zigbee, with a coordinator and only battery-powered devices, soon discovers they need to add at least one mains-powered device to serve as a router (to extend the mesh network). All technologies have specific requirements and powerline-based communications benefits from a phase-coupler.

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Yes, very true and frequently difficult to diagnose, mostly because X10 didn't have good management tools. I believe there was an X10 signal analyzer available but it wasn't affordable for the average hobbyist.

In contrast, UPB does have a centralized management tool (UPStart) that, among many other things, lets you diagnose powerline noise problems. It allowed me to detect the tremendous amount of powerline noise injected by our microwave oven (when operating). Filters are available to suppress noisy appliances. To be honest, I never got around to installing one for our microwave oven. The odds are low of activating a light while the over is running and even when it doesn't necessarily knock out all powerline communcations.

To my mind, it's similar to discovering the selected Zigbee channel overlaps with one's chosen Wi-Fi channel thereby causing interference and reduced reliability. Mitigation is needed to improve reliability.

There's always something you have to work around.

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The absolute best "phase coupler" solution for X10 and the thing that can make X10 95% reliable if not more is the XTBIIR http://jvde.us/xtb-iir.htm

There is nothing better than this for that task.

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At the cost of more than two Hubitats, one would hope so.

At one point I had considered purchasing their XTR-232 because I have a few SmartLinc Switches that barely "hear" a CM11's signals. However they do receive the stronger signal sent by an X10 Maxi Controller (a multi-button remote controller).

The XTR-232 seemed like the ideal candidate to replace the CM11 until it came to cost-justifying it. $109 in order to improve the performance of hard-of-hearing X10 switches wasn't worth it. The money went towards new switches based on a better lighting technology.

Cant argue with your decision... I am just saying that if someone wants to make X10 work... this is what it takes . :slight_smile:

Just to followup - my home consulting project ended up with the homeowner being uncomfortable with the reliability of the old system so the Electrician suggested Caseta as a replacement. I did manage to convince the electrician to recommend the Pro hub as well..

Everything is working great. Even though there is a supposed 30 ft limit (60 ft with repeater) on the range - we were able to control all the exterior lights on the property including a detached garage in the back. Very impressed.

Sadly since only one Pro was required I did not get to integrate the HE as anticipated (2 Pros connected via HE). However the homeowner is very pleased.

Maybe next time..