Credits: Willis Dair. Original material at his web page
There are a couple of drawbacks to these options. The mechanical relays has a rather loud, annoying clunk (shakes my walls) when the switch is thrown. All of the fluorescent switches are relatively more expensive (~$30 to >$50) compared to a regular X-10 dimmer switch ($10-$13). The lower cost fluorescent switches usually use a mechanical relay while the silent fluorescent switches are over $50.
I was interested in a cost effective (cheap) silent fluorescent light switch. Recently, Steven Bloom posted a pretty inexpensive solution by modifying a standard X-10 lamp or wall switch module. The original triac is removed and replaced with a solid-state relay. This is a really good solution to the problem. The concerns I had were 1) the SSRs are a little big, but Steven claims they can fit in the original case, 2) the SSR is a bit expensive (~$9), though less expensive than a $50 silent switch.
I did not know much about SSRs and did some research on the net. I learned about SSRs, SCRs, Triacs and how to make solid-state relays with zero-crossing optoisolators. Later, I came across an app note at Teccor, a manufacturer of Triacs and SCRs. Teccor also manufactures a relatively new product called an alternistor, a triac with the characteristics of inverse-parallel SCRs to drive inductive loads. The cost of the parts are farely inexpensive. The optoisolator can be had for about 95 cents and the alternistor is under $2 depending on the current and voltage rating. With all this information, I felt it would be feasible to make a tiny, cheap SSR on a circuit board and retrofit it into the standard X-10 lamp or wall switch modules.
The modifications to the lamp and wall switch modules require some intermediate to advanced skills in soldering and electronics. This is probably not a project for a beginner. However, I will detail the mod as much as I can with pictures and tips. Follow the links below to see how I did the mod.
These pages exist to document how I made the modifications and that these modifications work for me. Opening and modifying an X-10 product voids its warranty. More importantly, modifying the X-10 product can put your home and/or your life in risk. You have been warned about making any modifications to the X-10 products. If you choose not to heed my warning, you take your own risk when making the modification. I take no responsibilty if you burn your house down or get electrocuted. I make no claims to suitability to your needs or guarantees.
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Pages created March 13, 2000