Phase Couplers and X-10 Home Automation

Do only certain areas of your house respond to X10 signals? You may be experiencing phase problems.

Most homes have 2-phase wiring that splits into two separate 110-volt legs. Electrically, this is like having two separate homes because X-10 signals on one phase can’t reach X-10 devices on the other phase. Phase couplers provide a bridge between these two separate wiring systems.

Dryer Outlets Make Good Bridges

Clothes dryers typically run off 220 volts and the dryer outlet has both phases wired to it. Many phase couplers are designed to plug into a 220-volt outlet (any 220 outlets will work) as a pass-through and provide an X-10 signal bridge between phases. These inexpensive devices have eliminated much X-10 heartache among home automation users.

It’s easy to test if using a dryer outlet will resolve your phase problem before purchasing a plug-in phase coupler. Find an X-10 device and controller that have never worked together. Try using the devices and obviously, they still won’t work. Turn on a 220-volt appliance like the dryer and if the devices begin working then you have a phase problem and using a plug-in coupler should solve your issue. Note that it has to be an all-electric appliance; checking with a gas dryer won’t work.

Hardwired Solutions

If your preference is for a hardwired coupler device, several manufacturers design devices to be installed in a breaker box. If you have ever installed a circuit breaker, then you probably have sufficient experience to install a hardwired coupler. If you are at all squeamish about working in the breaker box then it is recommended you call an electrician.

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