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Electrical Interference in Home Automation


Home automation technology implies that devices communicate with each other. When electrical interference is encountered, that communication becomes interrupted and home automation devices either stop working or work sporadically.

Electrical Interference

Powerline communication devices use your home wiring to communicate with each other. Although the obvious advantage is the convenience of not running dedicated wiring, this also can serve as a disadvantage when it comes to electrical interference. Electrical interference means unwanted signals on the power lines interfere with your home automation signals.

Common sources of electrical interference include devices with motors (fans, vacuum cleaners, etc.), refrigerators, power tools, aquariums, florescent lights, and garbage disposals. If you happen to have a welder in your shop, these devices are particularly nasty when it comes to introducing powerline electrical noise.

Filters Remove Unwanted Noise

Home automation filters are designed to remove unwanted line noise while allowing home automation signals to pass. Non-home automation power filters, such as computer power strips, can actually filter out your home automation signals and make your communication problems even worse.

Signal Boosters And Repeaters

Sometimes the problem is that your home automation signals degrade so far that your devices can no longer distinguish them from regular line noise. This was a common problem with older X-10 devices that exhibited sporadic device because of signal degradation. Using signal boosters and repeaters helps alleviate this problem by increasing the strength of your home automation signals.

Another solution to this problem is using A10 devices, which have both a higher signal peak-to-peak (Vpp) and an improved device signal-to-noise ratio. These features make A10 devices less susceptible to line noise.

Do You Have an Electrical Interference Problem?

One of the surest signs of electrical interference is sporadic response of your home automation devices. A particular device may respond one day and not the next. Several steps you can take to determine if you have a problem are:

  • Unplug the device you suspect is being interfered with and plug it in at another location in the house. If the problem didn’t follow, you either have an interference issue or a phase problem.
  • When experiencing sporadic performance with a device, turn off suspected noise culprits  (florescent lights, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators). If the problem goes away when the suspected culprit is unplugged, and returns when the culprit is plugged back in (and turned on), then you have an interference problem.


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