Saturday, 30 May 2015

Marmitek/Haibrain SC9000 X10 alarm system

* Updated 02/06/2015 (See end of post)

When we moved into our new house a year ago, I decided to go for an alarm system that I'd be able to integrate with, and use with my home automation that I keep trying to build upon and improve. I already had various X10 home modules (lights and appliances) and whilst some of these modules are poor quality and fail quickly, it is a good system that has worked for me. I have the CM11a conneted via serial to my server in the house so it can monitor all X10 codes and also send them for turning outside lights on, living room lights, etc.

So I looked into it and went with the SC9000 home alarm system from Marmitek (Who are now called Haibrain) as it was a fully integrated X10 alarm system, it could send and receive X10 signals over the home powerline and also used wireless door and motion sensors in the house for triggers.
The above is a stock image, but it's similar to what I got, I added more sensors and an external bell box. I fitted the unit into the hallway in the house, cut a hole in the wall and fed it to be supplied by a mains socket. This was the first challenge. The PSU looks like this:
Which is kinda tricky to install for an alarm system! You want things like that hidden (So burglar doesn't unplug the alarm!) and that huge power brick and hard-wired plug was a pain. I also did a bit more reading and found that power brick isn't just a step-down transformer. Since it has to send and receive X10 signals it actually has a lot of the X10 circuitry built into it.
So my plan was, install the front facing alarm unit somewhere public, then run cables away somewhere hidden. The house lent itself to this so I got it fitted and sorted. The alarm had backup batteries internally, so it was protected even if the power was cut.
Registering the wireless motion sensors and door sensors was easy and the remotes to arm and disarm the unit, etc.
The unit wasn't as flexible as I'd hoped, you couldn't specify which zones you wanted for "home set" and "away set". I.e. when "home set" it will only activate the door sensors, no motion sensors. And "away set" activates all sensors, no option to exclude. This was a bit annoying, but the unit didn't have much flexibility in it's programming.

Anyway, I lived with all of that, and now almost a year later the unit has stopped working in quite a critical way. It won't alarm! It sets, it will do the exit timer chimes, and notify when people open doors, but critically if it's triggered it would sound the main alarm sounder. It is also not sending or receiving the X10 signals.

Again, reading up, it appears the PSU on these units is particularly sensitive and will 'blow' in a partial way quite easily. My PSU has always run pretty hot, this seems common with X10 stuff, and it looks like after around a year it's given up. It still supplies the correct voltage, etc, so the alarm is on but critically it won't send or receive the X10 commands (So can't send the 'ALARM ARMED', 'disarmed', etc) and it also won't trigger it's main alarm siren.

I've contacted Marmitek in the hope of finding a solution, as I am also not 100% sure this is a faulty PSU, or some other fault that has been developed. Either way I want an answer as surely it has a longer life than a year on it. If it does indeed turn out to be the problem, I think an alternative is needed as I'm not going to keep replacing these every year for an alarm system, seems excessive that, as electronics should be more capable than that.

* Update 02/06/2015

I've had a reply back from a UK reseller of the Marmitek equipment regarding this issue, and they do indeed state that it was likely a brownout or power spike caused the PSU X10 electronics to fail causing the situation I've got. They've recommended their replacement power supply at £13. I've contacted them back asking if anything can be done to protect the supply, as my understanding is I could buy a new one, plug it in and if I get another surge next week that one will blow. And putting it behind a surge protection multiway I suspect would stop the X10 signals. I'll post back if/when I get a reply, but in the meantime it doesn't look a very good solution to me.

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