Product Review (June 2001) - ELK Products
ESM1 X-10 Signal Meter

Home automation using X-10 compatible devices has grown in popularity with the low-cost and easy availability of these modules. Installation is simple for the professional installer or do-it-yourselfer and can have impressive results. Several manufacturers including IBM, Leviton, Magnavox, Radio Shack, RCA, Stanley, and naturally X-10 sell units that have full X-10 compatibility. Part of the process of installing an X-10 based system is determining the strength of the signal once it is transmitted through the house wiring. In many cases, transmitting X-10 signals over long distances through the house results in a weak signal at the receiver module. Another common problem occurs when the transmitter and receiver are on different phases of the house wiring. Communication problems are not alway easy to figure out when setting up an X-10 based system, but with the help of an X-10 signal meter, the task can be greatly simplified. A company called Elk Products based in Hildebran, North Carolina has introduced a clever low-cost X-10 signal meter called the ESM1 for checking the signal integrity of the transmitted X-10 data over the power lines. The ESM1 reads this information from any AC outlet and verifies the data and displays the received signal level. In addition, the ESM1 verifies the X-10 Start Code, Alternating Bit Patterns, and Total Bit Count to ensure data integrity.

The front of the ESM1 consists of one power LED and another LED that indicates when a valid X-10 command is received. There is also a 10 segment non-linear LED bar graph that displays the strength of the X-10 signal from a minimum of 100mV to a maximum of 5 volts. The heart of the ESM1 lies in the Microchip Technology RISC processor inside of the unit. Thanks to the low cost processors available today which incorporate analog-to-digital converters, the ESM1 is an affordable piece of test equipment for the installer or do-it-yourselfer. The signal is read through the AC adapter provided with the ESM1.

Elk Products has many interesting tools that aid in the installation of home security and home automation equipment. This is one of many products designed to help the professional installer or the do-it-yourselfer. Anyone installing X-10 equipment on a regular basis will greatly benefit from this affordable X-10 signal meter. Based on my own experience using the ESM1, I would recommend it for diagnosing problems associated with any X-10 based system.
- Kevin Nakano

Review System:
X-10 Active Home Kit
X-10 Mini Controller - (MC460)

Review - At a glance
ELK Products - ESM1 X-10 Signal Meter


  • Line Voltage: 120 VAC, 60Hz
  • Sensitivity: 100mV to 5.0V max. +/- 10%
  • Frequency Detected: 120 kHz +/- 10%
  • X10 codes validated on: Start Code, Alternating Bit Patterns, Total Bit Count
  • Company Information
    Elk Products, Inc.
    3266 Highway 70 West
    P.O. Box 100
    Hildebran, NC 28637
    Phone: (828) 397-4200
    Sales: (800) 797-9355

    Price: $100
    Size: Meter: 2.5" x 2.5" x 1.0" (WxHxD)
    Size: Transformer: 2.0" x 2.5" x 1.7" (WxHxD)
    Warranty: Lifetime Limited

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