Choosing a Standard
You can buy interfaces through websites like Smarthome, or even through mainstream places like Amazon.com–just make sure they’re compatible with Powerhome and X10. I’ve heard that the Powerlinc is an excellent option.Some modules contain onboard memory. This allows those without a dedicated computer to store timers directly on the interface. Since Power Home doesn’t support saving things to onboard memory, I won’t bother going into it.If you choose to go with Activehome for your control software, you’ll be using the CM15a, a USB interface.
Unfortunately, Power Home doesn’t currently support the CM15a. Since I started with Activehome and upgraded to Power Home, I had to find a workaround–the Firecracker.
The Firecracker (cm17a) is a little device that plugs into a serial port. It sends x10 RF signals, which the cm15a picks up and sends through the powerlines. The cm17a can’t recieve signals, but for about $12 it’s a good stopgap solution if you start with Activehome and upgrade.
Lamp modules allow you to control incandescent lightbulbs. You plug the module into an outlet, then plug the lamp or light fixture into the module. Lamp modules can be dimmed, but they can only handle a certain load, so you shouldn’t use them for appliances.
A variant on the lamp module is the Socket Rocket.
It screws directly into a light socket and performs the same functions as Lamp Module.
When it comes to local control, both modules are problematic. With both, you can still operate the light using its switch, but the system won’t know if you turn a light on, and it sometimes takes several flicks of the switch. For this reason, it’s best to use lamp modules only when you won’t need to control the device using its own switch.
Applicane modulesact just like lamp modules, except they handle bigger loads, and they aren’t dimmable. They are basically a remote controlled relay, so they make a distinctive “clunk” when triggered. The same issues with local control apply.
Wall Switch modules replace an existing wall switch. Since they use the same switch cover and wiring as the old switch, they are relatively unobtrusive and easy to install. As modules go, these are some of the most versatile–they allow built in light fixtures in your home to be controlled remotely, while leaving local control uncompromised.
There are a lot of variations on the basic design–companies offer 3 way switches, switches with dimmers built in, etc. For details on installing these swtiches, see the Installing Modules section.
These motion sensors act slightly differently from other modules. They are wireless, so rather than sending signals through the powerlines, they send them through the air, where they are received and relayed by the interface. This allows you to place the sensors wherever you want–some are even waterproof. Eagle Eye is the X10 brand name for these sensors.
Like motion sensors, remote switches transmit x10 signals through the air. That, combined with the fact that they’re extremely thin, means you can place them anywhere. It’s a great alternative to drilling holes and running wires if you need to install a new switch.