Notes from Sand Hill


XTension Tech Notes

Sandhill Crane

Subject:Remote control using X-10 telephone responders
Applicability:All versions of XTension
Contributor:Michael Ferguson

Control your home by dialing in from any phone.

There are several devices available which allow you to issue X-10 commands by entering touch-tone sequences from any telephone, even your cellphone.

These devices vary greatly in features and price. Beginning with the simplest from X-10 Powerhouse, at about $80, to the JDS TeleCommand at about $300, there are many features, the most essential are provided by all, but some may be unnecessary or just what you need.

The essential feature is of course the ability to recognize touch-tone (DTMF) signals from a plain-old-telephone and issue X-10 commands onto the powerline bus in your home.

Of course it does not require a computer to turn off a fan or even setting back the thermostat. These products are useful in themselves.

However, given a Mac and XTension, you can send one command which stimulates a script which performs a sequence of commands. (a macro)

For example, you have to work late one night, so you call your system and tell it that you're going to be late. This might cause the system to set up a 'fake' series of actions which make your house look 'occupied'. This would also cause a delay of the 'warm-up' or 'cool-down' if the house is not otherwise occupied.

You might also cause a message to be announced to your significant other that you will be late.

The devices available are all capable of the above, but there are some limitations and features which might be of concern :

X-10 Powerhouse
Telephone Responder :

X-10 Phone

X-10 Powerhouse Telephone Responder :

This unit picks up the phone after 30 seconds, even if your answering machine picks up first. You simply ignore it and when you hear three 'beeps' from the Responder, you enter a number 0 to 9, for a Unit number, followed by a "*" for ON, or a "#" for OFF.

Although you can only directly control 10 unit codes on a single house code, you can have up to 20 different 'Macros' triggered in XTension. This is most likely all you will ever need.

You can also require a 3-digit security code preceding the commands, and the console has many other useful 'features' such as 'flashing lights' on the same house code whenever the phone rings, and giving you a 8-unit keypad similar to the 'Maxi-Controller'.

It's one drawback is that you cannot use it from a telephone which is on the same phone number, as it must go through the 'ring' cycle, and if an extension phone is picked up during this period, the responder is disabled.

This may be a little bother, however, itsprice (around $85US), simplicity and local control pad are really hard to beat.

It requires no TW-523, simply plug in to the wall socket. Set the base house code on the control panel, and maybe choose a 3-digit PIN for authentication.

You just dial in and wait for the 'beep', (maybe issue a PIN), and then a number followed by the "*" star key. The responder will issue the Unit ON command, and then give you another 'beep' to indicate whether it was done.

If you've created units in the XTension database corresponding to these House/Unit codes, then these commands coming in to XTension will trigger these scripts as "Macros".

You might want to have
such macros as:

A5 ON = I'm coming home now.
A5 OFF= I'm going to be late.
A6 ON = Let the maid in.
A6 OFF= Force "Guard the Home" script.
A7 ON = Set notification phone to 'office'
A7 OFF= Set notification phone to 'mom'
A8 ON = Set notification phone to 'alarm service'
A9 ON = Start daily irrigation cycle
A9 OFF= Stop irrigation now.

"Notification phone" macros require something like the YoYo.

There are certainly more things that you can or would want to do, but even just 20 different 'macros' can be very useful and convenient. And, of course, with XTension you could use one of the codes to literally 'change the menu' and give you another set of macros altogether !

The X-10 Telephone Responder should be all you need for most situations, but there are some products available which offer such things as the ability to control more X-10 addresses, and some even give you a nice female voice as response.

Telephone Responder :


Leviton Telephone Transponder :

For just a little more money, this device offers the ability to use extension phones, and you can control all 256 X-10 addresses. A very nice female voice responds to your commands. It also offers a 'dry-contact' relay which you can control from either the phone or from a X-10 command.

The only real drawback of this device is that it always requires a PIN, and could be a bother when used within your home PBX. Its price is around $130US.

JDS TeleCommand 100 :

JDS Telephone Transponder :

This device provides control of 'only' 100 addresses, but has DIM/BRI as well as ON/OFF commands. The PIN requirement is very polite, and certainly better for extension phones. In addition to a 'DPDT' relay which is controllable, it offers a feature where all extension phones become 'intercom' stations.

The price of the TeleCommand 100 is around $300US.

Home Controls TeleMaster :

This device is mid-priced and offers control of all 256 addresses, and a polite local/remote PIN mode. It works with local extension phones.

Just some thoughts :

Although it is nice to be able to send commands from any phone in the house, it is still a bother to remember just what each of the commands means. If possible, you might choose to use some of those "speed dial" features that you paid for.

And don't forget that wireless remotes which can more easily populate your house can be used to stimulate macros of any type.

If you only need to be able to dial in and stimulate some XTension scripts, then the X-10 Powerhouse device is probably the best choice.

Oh yes, don't miss the tutorial about using your new Digital Cell Phone with text messaging service as a way to have your home call you !

Any comments or corrections to this app note would be appreciated.

Additional help is available on our website:
Or directly to Michael Ferguson at: 407-349-5960
Or mail to Sand Hill Engineering Inc. Box 517 Geneva FL 32732
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