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Apr 16, 2012

X10 Review

X10 Home Automation
The X10 protocol is a communication standard that is used commonly in many home automation products. It was developed in 1975 and, basically, defines a way for home lighting, heating and security systems to be controlled remotely from a central location. Products based on the technology are used to automate tasks that are usually performed manually. For example, with X10 home automation technology, a homeowner can specify how and when lights should be switched on or off, or set specific thermostat settings for different times of the day or ensure that the sprinkler system turns on at a particular time every second day.

Decades Old Technology

Unlike newer smart home standards, such as Z-Wave and Zigbee, that use wireless technology to send and receive signals, X10-based products use power lines for signaling and control purposes. Pico Electronics of Glenrothes, Scotland developed the technology first, and then later commercialized it with the help of an electronics manufacturer named BSR. When BSR went out of business in the late 1980s, a new company called X10 USA Inc. was established to continue development of the technology.

Device Modules and Appliance Modules

X10-based products are typically sold in the form of relatively inexpensive modules that can be used to control specific systems around the home. Some modules can be used to remotely control home appliances, such as fans and washing machines. Other modules can be used to control devices like light switches and fluorescent lamps.

X10 home automation products give consumers a way to convert their homes to energy efficient smart homes. However, like any other technology, there are both pros and cons associated with using X10-based systems as well.

Advantages of X10-enabled products

On the positive side, X10 offers the following benefits:

  • The technology has been around for close to four decades and is, therefore, fully vetted and mature.
  • Products based on the standard are also generally more reliable than products based on wireless technologies, such as Z-Wave.
  • X10-based products continue to be relatively inexpensive to purchase and to deploy.

Potential Disadvantages

At the same time, there are some disadvantages with using X10-enabled products, including the following:

  • X10-based systems are ideal for embedding automation capabilities in a home that is being newly built. However, retrofitting an existing home with the technology can be challenging. Homeowners often need to rip out and replace their existing home wiring system in order to accommodate the technology.
  • Products based on wireless home automation technologies, such as Z-Wave, are plug-and-play and designed for do-it-yourself installation. X10-enabled systems, on the other hand, usually require professional installation services.
  • Products based on newer protocols,, such as Z-Wave and Zigbee, are IP-enabled and, therefore, can be controlled over the Internet or by using mobile phones. Not all X10 home automation products can be managed or controlled in the same manner, and, certainly, not as easily as the other technologies.
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