Adventures In X10 (A home automation project)

X10 is a system which uses electrical wiring to transmit signals from a controller – In my case a PC to remote devices such as lamps or other electrical appliances. Its quite possible to build elaborate monitoring and control systems for your home using items linked through the mains distribution cable in your home and various controllers.

 In my case I was initially looking for a system to manage switching lights on and off and being able to monitor and manage a house heating system. So some background might be useful. X10 really came about in the early 1970’s – and has persisted and been refined since then. The hardware I’m describing here is that based on the Marmitek brand of X10 equipment.

 As an introduction – you could start using X10 with 1 controller – 1 lamp module that plugs in between the socket and the lamp and whats called a whole house transceiver. In order to send instructions across the electricity mains – each device in an X10 network tends to have a unique unit number (for 1 to 16) and a house code (from A to P although P has a special meaning).

In this example – we set a lamp module to A1 using the two rotary switches on the front of the module. The transceiver is set to P (meaning accept signals for all house codes up to P) and plugged into the mains and finally the remote controller is set to house code A.

Now we are ready to switch on the light using the on off functionality of the remote control. Although this is a simplistic example – it shows how simply the X10 system can be implemented and used.

In the next article – we’ll look at expanding the number and variety of devices controller from X10, adding in a PC with software to allow us to control timing and sequences of events. In future articles we will dig deeper in integration with other systems and devices such as heating and alarm systems based on X10.