X10 and compact florescents?


Old 01-14-07, 03:32 PM
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X10 and compact florescents?

Hi everyone-

I would like to change all of my energy wasting incandescent home lighting into compact florescent, but I have a problem/question.

I have replaced most all light switches with cheap X10 remote control switches (that also provide dimming).
Clearly labeled on the back of these units is: "Incandescent Lighting Only".

From what I remember of my electronics classes, these X10 units use triacs for their switching/dimming functions and designed for a resistive load (like incandescent lighting is). I think CF's would be an inductive load due to the ballast.

What are the dangers of attempting to switch compact fluorescents using these X10 switches? (is there a greater possibility of fire/damage to either the CF or to the X10 switch)

Will I lose dimming capabilities? Will it even work?

The expense of converting my old -and cheap- X10 system into a UPB ( 3-dub . smarthomeusa . com/info/UPB/about/ ) is a bit prohibitive at this time.

Thanks for the feedback,
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Old 01-29-07, 09:25 AM
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hi jlindema

i have been using 50+ x10 and insteon devices for a couple of years now and in my experiance with x10 is that i too wanted to go to the more power saving florescent lights and installed several of the florecent bulbs in various lamps, well all kinds of problems poped up! When the florescent lights WERE NOT on all the x10 stuff would work flawlessly, then the florescent lights would go on and some x10 stuff would turn on but not off and other x10 stuff would not work at all or when using the controller after pressing the button the light would seem not to work only to turn on 10 minutes later, as soon as i removed the florescent light bulbs everything worked as it should. so the conclusion I and many others on differant forums have come up with is that florescent lights produce too much noise on the lines for the x10 signals. even with filters, amplifiers and couplers installed.
And as far as using a dimming switch to control a florescent, it is strongly recomended NOT to use them.

Old 01-31-07, 07:42 PM
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I tried that once.. it smoked my X10 switch and the lamps.. used it on a two lamp post at the front porch.. came home and each light was going from dim to bright alternately... weird looking... anyway, they smelled real bad, and the switch took a major trip south.. so I went to smarthome and got the switches without the dimmer built in and specified flourescent lighting.. they work great.. its that dimmer function built into the switch I believe that messes up the flourescent so bad...
Old 02-26-07, 10:47 PM
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X10 and compact florescents?

Dimmers generally do use triacs, so compact flourescent bulbs will cause dimmers to buzz loudly and may make the light flash at 120Hz. This can also damage the switch and the bulb. You CAN use a compact flourescent bulb if you use an X10 relay switch (I like the Icon Insteon relay switch). They can't dim, but they support the CF bulbs and toggle more like a regular switch.

The other problem you guys mentioned is lights that will turn on, but not off. This is probably because the powerline interference caused by the CF bulbs prevents the off signal from being distinuished from noise. When the bulb is off, the CF bulb does not generate the interference.

CF bulbs also interfere with IR signals on remote controls and RF signals of phones, X10 remotes, etc.

Here are some other issues/problems with CF bulbs: http://members.misty.com/don/cf.html

All best,
- Dan VK
Old 03-05-07, 10:57 AM
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Same prob here with X10 when CFL is part of the circuit.

I have X10 installed to control my outdoor lights which are incandescent, however my kitchen lights are CFL (not controlled by X10 switches). When the kitchen lights are ON, my garage and backdoor lights don't come on, however the front door lights come on. When the kitchen (CFL) lights are OFF, all is well. I suspect this has to do to the fact that the X10 signal has to transverse the kitchen electrical wiring to get to the garage/backdoor lights. When the CFL are ON in the kitchen, it effectively introduces enough noise to distort the X10 signal.
Old 03-05-07, 11:26 AM
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I think the key here is to NOT use a dimming x10 box on a CFL unless the CFL is a dimmable model. I've used x10 modules on CFL's before with no problems, but they were the right module for the light, ie non-dimming, on/off only.
Old 03-05-07, 11:40 AM
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X10 Interference from compact flourescent bulbs

Yeah, the interference from CF bulbs travels along the entire phase of your electrical line. If you want to use CF bulbs and X10 in the same house, you might use one of your phases for any CF bulbs and the other for X10. In my house, I wanted X10 on on both phases, so I use an amplified phase coupler and removed my CF bulbs. It's a shame to not use CF bulbs, particularly in the summer. Hopefully, someone will invent and sell a small screw-in filter that can be used at the base of CF bulbs.

Phases, by the way, are split at the electrical line that comes into your house. Typically, you might have 2 phases that operate at 110 volts, and there may be a special outlet or two for high voltage appliances that use 220 volts. Typically, each side of your circuit breaker will be on its own phase.
Old 04-14-07, 12:14 PM
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Thanks and follow-on question

My thanks to everyone who responded. I really appreciate the thoughts and advice.

danvk and Pendragon have used florescent lamps with the right X10/INSTEON modules.

Follow-on question:
How does the use of those relay modules prevent the line noise generated by the florescent lamps from interfering with the X10 signal (as many other people have described)?
Do these modules have some added line conditioning or filtering to prevent the florescent lamp noise from flowing back (through the relay) onto the line?

Glad I asked here first and never tried the CFL's and X10 switches!
Looks like I'm going to be making a purchase or two at Smarthome

Old 04-14-07, 09:40 PM
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The relay units don't protect against the interference caused by the CFLs. There is a filter unit you can use between the relay and the CFL if you need one. Always use the filter units ~after~ the x10 units (between the control system and the load), otherwise the filter will not let the x10 signal reach the control unit.

There are dimmable CFLs on the way. Actually, they are already available but very expensive. There are also dimmable LED bulbs that are much more efficient than even CFLs. Consider these alternatives if your original question is about replacing your x10 dimmer switches with relays. Also, I don't think that the LEDs produce any interference.

Finally, consider this: the efficiency you think you gain from CFLs may be false. In the winter, hot light bulbs are actually a really good thing because they heat the room you are in, and allow you to keep the thermostat lower for the rest of the house.

Dan VK
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