|I have a Brand X plug in module for a window air conditioner and it has failed. Some of your products resemble my modules, are they compatible?
Here is a common question about compatibility between X10 modules. This technology has been around since the late 70's and there have been many names stamped on what looks like identical modules. It's natural to wonder if they are all related or if a transmitter from one brand will work with a receiver from another brand.
The first X-10 products were announced in America on September 22, 1978. In the beginning, they were made with private labels for Sears and Radio Shack. During the first five years, X10 products were also marketed under the BSR name, the same people who make turntables. It's still not uncommon for us to talk to users who still have BSR labeled modules and transmitters.
Since the very beginning, the folks who invented the X10 technology have been manufacturing modules for many other companies. You may own a Heath-Kit Chime Module receiving signals from a Leviton Powerflash module. Many of you have already discovered that there is complete inter-operability between X10 modules with few exceptions (I'll mention the ones I know about at the end).
In most cases, there are no differences between a module that has a Brand X name and a Brand Y name. Only the case style or outside plastic molding is the only difference. Check out the photo on the left that shows a Lamp Module from X10 Powerhouse and Magnavox. Notice that the module's code wheels are on the same side and that the lamp's AC cord plugs into the bottom of the module. It's pretty rare to find a Lamp Module that doesn't look too much different from these two examples. A home automation industry veteran once told me that the X10 factory has been using the same molds and assembly techniques for over 15 years. Unlike cars, don't look for these to be changed anytime soon.
Once I realized that all the basic modules, like Lamp, Appliance, and simple wall switches came from the same factory, I wondered about the electronics inside. For all my curious readers, I have disassembled two lamp modules. Now before preceding, a word from the legal department:|
Don't do these dangerous things to your modules. It could possibly result in loss of property or life. Doing these things, like the disassembly of a module, will void the warranty and possibly render the product non-functional if you can't get it back together. I am sacrificing two modules to illustrate an issue (and it's a pretty silly one at that!)
The lamp module on the left is an old beat-up ivory colored X10 Powerhouse module manufactured in 1993. The right one carries the IBM Home Director name and was manufactured in 1997. The layout of the components is exactly the same. When one looks closely at the board, there are few significant differences between them. One of the tech support team members mentioned that the color of a capacitor was the only difference he noticed. Bottom line is that these two modules came off the same assembly line or at the very least share the same technology. For home automation user, the important issue is that they share the same technology.
Besides modules looking alike and presumably having the same components, are there any differences between modules? It is my observation that X10, the manufacturer, is willing to make special versions of their product, but the distributor will have to ante up some dig bucks to do so. For Lamp Modules, we have seen a special version under the X10 Pro label that included additional circuitry to make the module more sensitive to X10 signals. We do see some differences in the X10 wall receptacles on our web site. These may have either 15 or 20 amp ratings, local control may be enabled or disabled see Overcoming Local Control Problems for an explanation, or in the Leviton models, they may have enhanced X10 receiving abilities.
Is there much difference between a 1998 lamp module and the same model made a year earlier? There is probably not much difference between them. Like I mentioned earlier, X10 tends to use the same techniques to make their products. Once a product comes to market, not much is done to the unit unless there is a glaring need to make changes. Most modules use 1960-era assembly techniques and electronics look nothing like the ones found in the computer you're using to read this. However, the modules sold today are more reliable than the ones made 15 years ago. I have seen differences between the 1980-era modules from Malaysia and the most recent ones from China.
While the plug-in modules are pretty much alike and come from the same source, we have seen alternative manufacturers for X10 wall switches. In addition to the basic X10 switches from the X10 company, wall switches are now being made by Leviton, PCS, and SmartLinc. These wall switches are all made differently and have many more features than the good-old basic X10 Wall Switch. A SwitchLinc wall dimmer utilized state of the art surface mounted components, heavy-duty components, and better mechanical parts for a superior operating experience.
I mentioned earlier about some X10-based products being incompatible with other brands. Here are few we know about:
We know that the remote control from the old Nutone Mega-36< will only communicate properly with the matching Nutone base receiver. If another X10 transceiver module is on the same housecode, it will not properly process the signals.
The wireless remote controls from the Magnavox Security System will only communicate to the Magnavox alarm controller. The signals from the handheld and keychain transmitters are different from other X10 handheld remotes and remotes from other X10 branded alarm system. Bottom line is that if this remote is used with any transceiver base (other than the one built into the Magnavox alarm console), the remote won't control X10 devices. The other accessories; Lamp Modules, door/window sensor, and PIR motion sensor are compatible with other X10-based products.
There may be some others I haven't mentioned because they are so rare or I just don't know about them. If you have any questions, drop an email to our crack Tech Support Team.