X10 IR543AH – Review


What the Heck?  Yesterday a package arrived containing a prototype of a new X10 device, the IR543AH. So what the heck is that, I hear you ask. Well, read on and salivate.

Laser Treatment – The standard IR543 (or its CE approved equivalent the IR7243) will allow you to control all 16 X10 unit codes, but only on any ONE house code. So up until now, if you wanted to control units on other house codes you would have needed to programme a central home automation controller with a macro, and even then you’d have been limited to switching on or off a total of 16 devices.

Will the real IR543AH please step forward The need for an all house-code IR transceiver has never been in doubt then, however the prospect of ever seeing one has seemed pretty slim, especially knowing X10’s current record for innovation! So, enter Laser Business Systems. The UK on-line home automation retailer took it upon themselves to bring this device to market. I have known about the on-going development of the IR543AH for almost a year now and it’s been a long, agonising wait to actually see it. But, true to their word, Laser have come up with the goods! They have taken a standard IR-543 and added their own custom designed daughter-board to increase the functionality to include the control of ALL 16 house-codes.

The Modification

Although the modification has been done neatly, it should be remembered this is just a prototype. Installing the upgrade daughter board is not an easy process and involves the removal of the original 28-pin CPU and 8 components, ceramic capacitors C9 to C15 and transistor TR2.

The removal of the CPU is the hardest part of the upgrade as it is soldered directly on the PCB. The main component of the daughter board is a Microchip PIC16C76.

The firmware is designed to automatically detect the mains frequency in operation (50/60Hz) and adjust accordingly. So the unit should work anywhere in the world (excluding the power supply part which of course is mains voltage specific).

People with soldering skills as good as mine will be pleased to hear that Laser will be selling the unit already modified.

The standard IR543
The modified IR543AH showing the daughter board that replaces the standard chip

Using the unit – The unit is designed to work with a Philips Pronto and was supplied with a basic custom .ccf file which allows the transmission of any house code as well as unit code. On turning on the unit initially I tested it with the “standard” X10 IR command set. The unit operated as expected using the house code as set by the wheel on top (A in this case). I then sent a different house code using the Pronto (B). Sure enough the unit operated my first floor lights. After sending the initial B, subsequent unit codes can be sent on their own. Control of multiple devices is retained so you can do B-1-2-3-OFF for example (you cannot do A-1-B-2-ON however).

On the Pronto the house codes were on one panel while the unit codes were on another and while this is fine for testing the unit, it’s far from friendly. I redesigned a panel that gives access to 4 house codes, all 16 unit codes, bright, dim, on and off, from one screen. In practice many people will probably have a “mini-macro” with the unit code, house code and operation all fired together. I tried this and found it worked perfectly, eg B-7-ON (Pronto programmers – no delay required between the three commands).

The buttons on top of the unit still function in the normal way with the house code wheel governing which modules they operate no matter what house code is sent by IR.

I noticed that both LEDs, the one on the top of the unit and the talkback one behind the IR lens, flash twice when the unit code is entered as opposed to once on the standard unit. They also flash 4 times when initially powered on. I believe this is so the device can easily be distinguished from the standard unit.

Support for the extended codes used by the LD11 DIN rail modules may be added in later firmware releases.

The Re-Designed Pronto Panel

Conclusion – For most people with a comprehensive X10 setup this device is an absolute god-send! The ability to operate any of the 256 unique X10 codes from your armchair is superb. The unit will also mean those people who already have an IR distribution system in their home will only need this single unit to control X10 devices from any room in their property. Even people that only have a few modules but use different house codes for different rooms will now be able to operate lights and appliances all over their home.

The unit is available here Laser and fully assembled is £64.63

Please note that both the IRAH and IRAHKIT (suitable for both 110V and 230V 50/60Hz products) require the self-installation of the All-Housecode board. This would include the removal of 9 existing components from the 230V IR543/IR7243, including the 28-pin CPU. General electronics and soldering skills are required.

The assembled units, both 110V and 230V, are available now. Assembly instructions for the kit and and assembled unit are still to come.

So then, another improvement that makes owning an X10 home automation setup that little bit better! Well done Laser…now what’s next!?

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