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X10 Controllers


By James Gasta

As a crewmember for the Wet Web Media, I am always looking for ways to make the marine hobby easier and fun to maintain, and this is one item that really caught my attention. Are you tired of having multiple plug in timers controlling your powerheads, lighting, cooling fans, etc. and having to reset everything in the event of a power outage? If you are, then this is for you.

Would you like to eliminate this and add some automation to your system?  If so, X10 may be for you!

The X10 system of wireless controllers were originally designed for home security but can be used to control most anything that requires power.  The advantage of this system is that besides using it for home security tasks such as turning on lights at given times, starting the air conditioner while you’re on your way home, and controlling your garage door opener, it can be used to control your aquarium functions.  The basic units come with the interface which plugs into a wall outlet and a USB cable.  The  unit requires four AAA batteries (which are not included) to save the time in case of a power outtage.  After you install the software you click on  help for information on how to use the system.  You don’t have to be a computer guru to use this.

There are many applications for the aquarist.  The X10 system can turn on individual lighting systems and operate the dimming capability of electronic ballasts, they can be programmed to leave a fan on for a few minutes after the lights go off in order to cool down.  They can reduce the turbulence of the water at night by shutting down powerheads.  They can control dosing pumps.  You can also program macro strings, where a single program controls a series of events such as turning various lighting components on and off in a specific order to simulate dawn and dusk.  The X10 is capable of storing a total of 1000 timed events in increments as short as one minute (useful for wavemaker type functions) and repeating functions can be used in macro strings.  Infinitely many events can be stored in your computer.

Users can program macros (automated programs) to perform a variety of functions.  For example, a rise in temperature could signal the system to turn off heaters and lights.  With the correct modules, users can even program an alarm to sound if pets or children approach the aquarium!

The software uses the Windows platform for the various programming options.  On any individual module, you can turn the unit on and off as many times a day as you require. This is useful if you want to change flow directions during the day or night in your aquarium.  This is all done through the easy -to- use software.  Each module has a small dial on it that you select for the input number that will be assigned to that module.  The software is set up so you can go to individual rooms and make changes or additions.  You have the ability to name your rooms (or tanks!) that you are controlling.  Each “room” can have up to sixteen modules and the system is capable of handling up to eight rooms.

The X10 software allows the user to organize the system in a tremendous variety of ways. "Rooms" and modules can be renamed in any way the user chooses.


Each module can be labeled as the user chooses and can provide a variety of controls.

There are many different modules available for the system, including wall switches both two and three way lamps, modules for both 115V and 220V appliances and modules with motion detectors and floodlight detectors.  Want to keep an eye on your tank while you’re at the office?  No problem.  Cameras are available to record areas of interest and transmit them via the home computer to your office or place of work.


The receiver plugs into an outlet near your computer and connects   with a USB cord and modules are inexpensive and easy to address.


I believe there are many possibilities with this system along with the fact that it has more than one use.  The best feature is the price.  The basic system, which includes the USB interface with cable and software, is about $50.00 factory direct.  The modules average $14.00 to $20.00 depending on the current range you need.  "Appliance " rated modules should be used for high current equipment like large water pumps and high wattage lighting systems because of their ability to handle surges.  Radio Shack sells X10 modules so it makes it convenient if you need one in a hurry.


Now is the time to get rid of the timer mess, and get into the simplicity of controlling aquarium and home applications.


About Controllers and Marine Systems on WWM

Related Articles: ControllersMarine System HeatingColdwater Systems

Related FAQs: Controllers for Marine Systems, Water Changes for Marine Systems 1, Evaporation/Water Make-Up, Treating TapwaterMarine Water QualityMarine PlumbingHeating 1, Chillers, Water Temperature


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