*X10 Home Security Review*
13 May 2008

In this brief article, I would like to give a review to a very inexpensive security system that has served me well for over a year.

I am sure that anyone that has ever done even a cursory search for home security has come across an X10 system. They are crude, cheap, sometimes denigrated, but can be quite effective, especially for cost-sensitive individuals.

I will not detail the inner workings of the X10 system here, but in short, the X10 system is a battery operated/backup alarm system that uses parts of your houses wiring to communicate between the separate modules of the system. To me, this made the system very versatile and easy to set up as there are no wires to run with the attending hassle that usually accompanies running wires. This makes the system very scalable, easily changeable, and enables the homeowner to add layers to the system as needs and budget dictate. The extra perquisite that comes with the system is that with the batter operation and backup, even with power out, the system still functions as intended.

My current residence has had this system in operation for over a year with very good results. Thankfully I have not had to rely on it yet, but daily testing of it has shown me that I can rely on it as much as I can any other piece of electronic equipment.

My "setup" includes a base unit referred to as the Protector Plus message dialer, 3 lamp modules, 2 door/window modules and 1 motion sensor module.

The door/window modules are exactly as they sound, they hook onto your door with a typical two piece sensor (1 for each side of the door) and the alarm is “tripped” when they become separated.

The motion sensor is self-explanatory.

The lamp modules allow you to have lamps on remote control giving you control to activate inside lighting before you enter your residence, or with computer software, you can turn you lamps on and off while you are away. They also work with the alarm system and flash on and off when the alarm is "tripped" allowing those that are deaf or hard of hearing to notice the alarm, and alerting you before entering your house if you are just arriving home.

The "brain" for the system is the Protector Plus message dialer console. This is the part of the system that "monitors" for signals from the door/window and motion sensors and that actually has the "alarm" part of the system. When an alarm signal is received from a sensor, the system will then signal the lights to begin flashing on and off, will sound the audible alarm and then does something that I truly love, it will begin dialing up to 4 preset phone numbers that you program into it and allow you to be notified that the alarm has been activate and even allow you to hear inside the house from your phone!

The system has two "ARM" modes, one is for "HOME" and one is for "AWAY". The only difference between the two modes is the activation of the motion sensor.

ARM HOME activates the system for only the door/window sensors and ignores any signal from the motion sensor units. I find this useful when I am in a back part of the house, or upstairs as I know that I will be alerted if the doors were opened. This is also useful of you have young children as it allows you to ensure that they do not attempt to exit your house without you knowing about it.

ARM AWAY activates the system for both the door/window AND the motion sensor units. This ensures that any motion inside the house or attempt to open an armed door or window will trigger the alarm.

(Please note that this is not the best mode to use if you chose to keep your pet inside while you are away, happen to have helium filled balloons that could move when the air conditioner kicks on etc.)

The system has another nice feature that allows you to set a tone as silent or audible when the alarm is NOT activated. When it is set to audible when the alarm is OFF and a door or window is open, a simple short duration, dual tone sounds, alerting you, but does not actually sound the full alarm and requires no action from the user.


Even as much as I like this very simple system, it does have some drawbacks, thankfully, most of them are easy to deal with.

1. Firstly, when the audible alarm sounds, it makes it easy to pinpoint the source of the sound (the message dialer console) and if the intruder is not startled enough by the alarm to leave the premises immediately, it could allow them to find and destroy the console quickly enough before it dials out to alert you that there has been a breach (Please Note: the alarm cannot be deactivated at the console).

I think it would have been prudent to have included a switch to allow you to activate or deactivate this buzzer feature.

Thankfully, it is a fairly easy fix. Firstly, X10 sells a very inexpensive auxiliary Alarm Buzzer that is battery powered. It can be placed remotely so the location of the console can remain unknown.

What I did to ensure that the console does not sound is simply to open the system (of course voiding any warranty, not that I would ever use it anyway) and cut the wires going to the small alarm speakers.

Now the system only sounds the auxiliary buzzer and the console itself can remain hidden.

2. The second drawback that I have noticed is the fact that the alarm modules do not seem to like the slightly reduced voltages (1.2 volts) that accompany rechargeable batteries. During the early testing phase of the alarm system, I noticed that sometimes the alarm would not sound when a module was activated. At first I was suspicious that this was an inherent flaw in the system and that the rechargeable batteries played no part, but after over a year with regular batteries and not a single issue during daily testing, I feel confident that regular batteries at 1.5 volts each is what the modules need to signal the main console properly.

I have a fix planned for this, but FNV, so I will save that for a later article.


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