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X10 Home Automation Review E-mail
Written by Peter   
X10 Home Automation
X10 Home Automation


Rating: 2 out of 5

Even if you're looking at home automation for the first time, you've probably heard of one brand: X10.  It's cheap, readily available and based on the advertisements can do just about anything.  In fact, it's how many of us who are now obsessed with home automation got started years ago.  The difference between then and now is that back then, that's all that was available.  It was either X10 or build your own from relays and spare computer parts (yes, I did this - as did many others).  Today however, there are several other choices, almost all of which are better than X10 in one very important way: they're reliable.

When we talk about reliability in the home automation sense, there are really two things that we mean.  
1) How long will the device last before I have to replace it?  
2) Will the button I press on the controller actually make it to the device?

The second one is the most frustrating thing in the world to deal with, as you really have no idea why the light isn't responding and it's ALWAYS when you're trying to show off your fancy new X10 to your friends or wife that it fails.  X10 SetupThen, because you can't depend on it, you will begin to think of your X10 investment as a toy rather than a serious system that you can depend on.  Using it for a security system?  Out.  Using it for controlling house access (i.e. closing the garage door)?  Nope.

Still, many people buy X10 because of the low cost and variety of devices available and are quite pleased for a period of time.  At some point however, the decision to upgrade to a more reliable 2nd generation technology is made and the investment in X10 becomes obsolete.  So, my question to those considering X10 is: why not skip the wasted money and select a second generation technology to begin with?  

There are several alternatives to X10 for your home automation, including remotes and full wireless control:

Insteon LogoInsteon
        bullet Simple to set up
        bullet All units act as message repeaters, increasing reliability as you add units
        bullet Module acknowledgment means status is sent back to controller confirming receipt of command
        bullet X10 backwards compatibility
        bullet Dual communication uses both powerline and wireless to increase reliability
        bullet Less expensive than other 2nd gen automation technologies (UPB, Zigbee, Z-Wave)

        bullet More expensive than X10
        bullet Not available in European power standards

Z-Wave LogoZ-Wave
        bullet Available in European power standards
        bullet All units act as message repeaters, increasing reliability as you add units
        bullet Module acknowledgment means status is sent back to controller confirming receipt of command
        bullet Wireless only communication excels in houses with older wiring such as knob-and-tube

        bullet More expensive than X10 and Insteon
        bullet Fewer devices available than Insteon or X10

The bottom line is that X10 is a technology that is past it's time, but still continues to be presented as cutting edge.  If you're looking for a neat toy to turn on and off your christmas tree for a few weeks a year (exactly what someone I know uses it for) then by all means go the X10 route.  If you're looking for something that you'll be happy to have invested in, works reliably and can be expanded to a whole house system (including integration with alarm systems like the Elk M1) then do yourself a favor and go with a more mature technology.  

Check out the other home automation reviews or see what the best deals are currently.



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Ray  - More detailed comparison?   |December-04 01:00:22
Can you do a comparison of what an X10 system and an Insteon system would cost
for a given setup? Just makeup an scenario (or multiple scenarios), generate a
parts list and price out the parts with real world pricing. I would like to
specifically see what the difference in price is.

Also, does Insteon have the
same number of support apps from Linux/Windows products to help automate the
Peter   |December-11 06:06:52
Good idea Ray, I've put together a couple scenarios including what it would
take to build a similar system using Insteon, X10 and Z-Wave.
The parts are all shown with pricing as of this week and linked to the
full product detail page where I found them.

Regarding app support,
my experience is that there are less little hacks for Insteon than
X10, but many more full-fledged applications. Being an older technology,
not too many people are developing for X10 anymore, with the
developers putting their efforts towards the emerging technologies.

programs like Homeseer and Girder use a modular interface
where enabling support for a technology like Insteon or Z-Wave comes
in the form of an interface plugin and the basic app functionality remains

Check out the new article and let me know what you

X10, Insteon and Z-Wave Cost Comparison
bill  - electrician   |July-24 03:33:58
Ive been using x10 since the 80,s and all non reliability is usually caused by
poor installations remember bridge/block/& amplify problems are reduced to 2 %
john  - X10 compatibility   |August-28 01:36:31
I used an iphone app called X10 Commander, which lets me control all my x10
switches via my iphone. I know you said insteon is backwards compatible with
x10, but is zwave also? Will the on/off commands I use in the x10 commander app
also control insteon and zwave switches and is it ok to mix them?

3.23 Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."