I recently purchased a Samsung Smartthings Hub and it was one of the better decisions I have made for my home automation system. The Hub has it pros and cons but one thing it does really well is that as a developer I can write my own custom switches and have them behave like professional consumer products.
In particular I’ve gotten rid of all of my custom software to control my X10 equipment and now use Smartthings to handle this for me. This offers a huge benefit because it now future proofs my legacy equipment and allows them to interact with other modern automation systems. Essentially Smartthings adds an abstraction layer so I no longer need to hand-roll x10 support on a case by case basis for my gear at home.
What does this really mean? For starters I have slowly been replacing my x10 light switches with Philips Hue lights. Philips Hue lights are compatible with Smartthings. I have a Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home kit. The harmony remote has support for Smartthings and hue lights out of the box. Which means I can control my Hue lights from my TV remote.
Now because the Harmony remote can communicate with Smartthings, and because I can control my x10 gear from Smartthings, by that extension I can now control my X10 lights from my Harmony remote. There was no custom hackery required, it simply just worked. I can control my Hue lights and my X10 lights from the harmony remote as if their was no difference between them.
Likewise when I control my lights from my Android phone, the Hue and x10 lights behave as though they were the same.
Why do I still have x10 lights? A) I’m cheap and lazy and B) I found that if you are powering at least 4 bulbs off one x10 switch, you can actually switch to LED bulbs. Any less than that and LED bulbs will not work properly. The current that flows through the circuit to power the X10 switch causes one of the LEDs to stay on permanently if you don’t have at least 4 bulbs.
This is also a good solution for appliance modules. Current generation zigbee or z-wave appliance modules are pricey. X10 appliance modules can be found used for cheap and offer the same functionality. However they obviously suffer from classic X10 signal issues, which means if you plug them into a wall socket that gets a poor signal, you might as well use a modern module instead.
But if you plug them into a wall socket that seems to behave well, chances are it will be rock solid. In one room using X10 appliance modules work great and have no signal issues. In another room, the signal was so bad that I replaced them with the Samsung Smartthings Appliance Module. It’s just a matter of being realistic with your results. I already owned a bunch of x10 gear, so for the circuits/rooms it works well on, I’ll keep them.
So, what I’ve done is replaced all of my x10 switches with fewer than 4 bulbs with Hue bulbs. For any switches powering 4 bulbs, I just swapped out my old incandescent ones with cheap LED bulbs.
I’m not going to walk you through how to do it just yet but you’ll find that after doing some reading and after setting up a smartthings developer account, it’s actually quite simple. All you need to do is add a custom x10 device and an x10 smart app to your developer dashboard. Someone else already wrote the code to do this but they’ve since abandoned the project. (I’ve forked the repo and will maintain it, see links below)
Here’s a video of him demonstrating how it works.
You can read about the x10 Smartthings app here: https://community.smartthings.com/t/x10-bridge-is-released-obsolete/4783
Since the project has been abandoned, I’ve forked his code and been maintaining it here: https://github.com/ssshake/SmartThingsPublic
What you need is the x10 bridge:
And the x10 switch:
This x10 bridge communicates with the mochad service running on a Linux machine (a raspberry pi in my case). I was already using this to control my gear so this was ready to go and super easy for me. https://sourceforge.net/projects/mochad/files/?source=navbar
In closing it’s great that I can now treat my old equipment as if they were modern. But Smartthings has also allowed me to take advantage of its presence feature. Automatically shutting my lights off when I leave. Automatically turning my porch lights on at sunset, etc etc.