Don's Home Automation Passion

Home Automation (X-10)

The concept of the Smart Home has been around for quite a few years. I recall it being discussed when working for Honeywell in the late 1980's. Well, without mortgaging the kids, what can a techno-geek do to play around with home automation?

Enter - X-10. This electrical control system sends signals on the AC power lines within your house, going from one electrical outlet (the originator) to another. There are multitudes of gadgets that can be used.

After installing X-10, we have created an adventure for our children's friends. The male-types think it is cool and go into "remote control nirvana", while the female-types just roll their eyes and laugh about the place being haunted. Apparently, this is not a unique reaction. I have learned from others who have undertaken this kind of installation that the response from males and females is consistent from home to home.

In our home, we have installed a lot of X-10 devices and are running 5-zones. We use the X-10 ActiveHome software package from X-10 USA, but it isn't the best solution due to some shortcomings in the area of IF-THEN-ELSE macros. The following are actively used control units:

WS467 - Standard X-10 Wall Switches (Light Controls)
WS4777 - 3-way X-10 Wall Switches (Lighting Controls)
SR227 - X-10 3-prong Wall Sockets
LM465 - Plug-in X-10 Lamp Controllers
AM466 - 3-prong X-10 Appliance Modules
TM751 - X-10 RF Remote Control Units
MS10A/MS13A/MS16A - X10 Motion sensors **
DM10A - Outdoor Motion Detector (not a very good product)
DS10A - Door and Window Sensors **
CM11A - Computer Control Module
LM15A - X-10 Socket Rocket Lamp Controllers
PF284 - X-10 Power Flash Modules
CK18A - Firecracker Wireless Computer Interface
SC546 - Remote Chime
KR10A - Security Remote **
SH624 - Security Control Pad **
SH10 - Security Alarm Horn
ApplianceLink - High-power Appliance Module
Templink 1625 - Temperature Module

To maximize the capabilities of the system, I have also integrated the X10 security system with the home automation system. Interestingly, the RF signals from some wireless devices are effectively captured by both systems enabling a bit of parallel operation, as well as synchronized response. Devices on the security side include (common use denoted by ** ):

X10 DS7000 - Security System
KR10A - Security Remote **
SH624 - Security Control Pad **
MS10A/MS13A/MS16A - X10 Motion sensors **
DS10A - Door and Window Sensors **


Other devices that are installed or used to make the system work more effectively include:

Leviton 4820 Amplifier/Repeater
X10Pro PSX10 Smart RF Repeater
KC674 - Keychain Remote
HD460 - Mini Controller
HomePro Noise Filter
X-10 Signal Meter


Many other neat X-10 devices are floating around including a cross-phase amplifier, signal blocker, signal measurement meters, motion detectors, RF repeaters, local noise filters and a wide variety wireless control devices.

So how big is the system now? Well, with the help of Home Control Assistant (now HCA version 9), the system is pretty large with about:

9 Active House Codes using 108 Unit Codes
50  X10 addressed
controllable devices (excluding motion detectors)
21 Smart Devices (meaning not pure X10, but registered uniquely and capable of registering with the Security System)
18 Motion Detectors (in addition to the Smart Devices)
176 "programs" that respond to inputs from the many smart devices, motion detectors, ongoing/continuous processes, and triggered/scheduled events


This is certainly getting fairly complicated and actually reasonably reliable too. The system's sophistication has reached the point where the house system knows exactly what's going on in it, and can respond accordingly. Now that's cool!

Do you need help with X-10? Here are a couple helpful pages that might clear up some issues that you are running into. 

Lessons Learned

X-10 Automation Secrets

Home Automation Program - Home Control Assistant


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Last Updated: 2011 January 7