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Guide: X10 Basics - Part II - Take Control Of Your Home by ASIHome Staff

The idea of remotely controlled lights and appliances is great, but how do you actually control them? In our last installment, we covered X10-compatible receivers. These included plug-in modules, light switches, hardwired receivers, and more. For a refresher, click here.

However, you need something to send these receivers commands. This is where X10-compatible transmitters come into play. They, like the receivers, come in a variety of form factors, from plug-in models to hard-wired wall-mounted transmitters. But, like the receivers, they all share a common means of communicating their control signals over the powerlines in your home.

Mini and Maxi

The simplest controllers are the plug-in Mini- and Maxi-Controllers. But don’t let their simplicity fool you. These are vital tools in setting up and controlling a well-planned X10 control system.

The Mini-Controller is a simple plug-in device that allows you to control up to four devices, sending ON, OFF, DIM, and BRIGHT commands. It features one code wheel for the housecode, as well as a slide switch to select devices 1-4 or 5-8. It also features an ALL LIGHTS ON, ALL UNITS OFF button.

To use the Mini-Controller, simply select the appropriate housecode and unitcode range for the items you want to control. For example, by setting the housecode wheel to A and sliding the switch to 1-4, you’ll be able to send commands to devices addressed A1, A2, A3, and A4. You can turn them on or off with their appropriate button. To dim or brighten, press the appropriate ON button for the device you want to control first, then the DIM or BRIGHT button.

The ALL LIGHTS ON and ALL UNITS OFF button will send those commands to the housecode set on the Mini-Controller. In our example above, they would send those commands to all devices addressed with a housecode of A.

This is a great controller for the bedside or next to an easy chair. It is small, easy to use, and inexpensive. One simple use is to replace the wall switch in your bathroom with an X10 receiver switch, then set-up a Mini-Controller at your bedside to control that switch. Now, instead of stubbing your toes when you get up at night, just reach over, hit the ON button on your Mini-Controller, and the light comes on for you. All you have to do is turn off from your bed when you return.

The Maxi-Controller is a step above the Mini-Controller. The Maxi-Controller can control all 16 devices on a single house code, as opposed to four at a time. But there is a distinct difference that really gives the Maxi-Controller power.

When a button is pressed on the Mini-Controller, it sends out a full command sequence. For example. If you push the 1-ON button with the housecode set to A, it sends A1, AON. The Maxi-Controller, however, has separate buttons for each command; 16 unitcode buttons, ON, OFF, DIM, BRIGHT, ALL LIGHTS ON and ALL UNITS OFF. When you press a unitcode button, it only sends the unitcode. If the housecode is set to A and you press the 1 button, all that is sent is A1. Not until you press the ON button is an AON command sent. This means you can stack” commands. For example, push 1, 2, 3 and 4, and then press ON, and you get the command sequence A1, A2, A3, A4, AON. The four devices will all come on at the same time, as they were all “alerted” by the address command. They all went into a state of looking for an action command, such as the AON, so they all react simultaneously.

There are other reasons why the Maxi-Controller is so powerful. The ability to send individual addresses without sending an action command allows you to use it as a trigger for sophisticated whole-house controllers (more on these in a future installment). For example, you can program your controller to look for an A16 command and respond to it by sending a series of commands. This allows you to produce sophisticated scene effects with just one button press. Also, some of the more sophisticated wall switches use the Maxi-Controller for programming things like dim levels and ramp rates. Every X10 installation should have at least one Maxi-Controller.

This article was published on Monday 10 January, 2005.

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