Okay, so I'd like to be able to inject a really simple signal on top of the 60Hz AC Mains. It doesn't have to contain any data per se, just a simple signal to trigger a receiver on the same subcircuit.

I'm imagining the simplest way to do this is to create a high frequency pulse on the line that the receiver could detect with a simple bandpass filter. Essentially I would like to be able to trigger a relay remotely by sending this pulse.

I think I could make the receiver side, I'm just not sure about how to actually inject the signal.

Any advice would be much appreciated!

  • \$\begingroup\$ You might want to read a bit about these ethernet over power things \$\endgroup\$ – PlasmaHH Feb 24 '15 at 23:11
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm thinking the OP knows about data over mains and is looking for a basic circuit to send one bit. Suggesting ethernet, homeplug, or X10 is like suggesting bluetooth or wi-fi for someone who wants to send a single radio ping. \$\endgroup\$ – Samuel Feb 24 '15 at 23:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Google AN236 for a great application note from microchip showing how to send x10 signals onto mains. \$\endgroup\$ – bigjosh Feb 24 '15 at 23:30

Microchip has a great app note on using a PIC to send and receive X10 over power lines. It is here...


Since you only want to send a single bit, you could just steal some of the ideas and simplify.

Here is their block diagram for injecting a signal onto the mains... enter image description here

You could use a PIC or an AVR (like and arduino) to generate the carrier as shown, or if you want to keep it simple you could use something like a 555 or even an RC oscillator, but keep in mind that an MCU like an ATTINY only costs like $1 today and will give you a more accurate and stable frequency base (especially if driven by an Xtal), and opens up possibilities for sending more than one bit (like sending error correction with the bit to make detection more accurate).

Here is their block diagram for a detector... enter image description here

...which again uses a Microchip PIC, but that could easily be replaced with an AVR or even just a relay.

I'd really urge you to read the whole app note as there is a great explanation of how the carrier interacts with the mains, when you should send it, and even how to power your circuit from the same connection to the mains using a transformer-less supply.


There are a lot of ways this is done today from high speed power line networking like say a home plug. To more simple things that grew out of X10 technology for home automation that essentially waits for the zero crossing point and sends some data, to turn a light on and off. There are many chips and solutions out there you can choose from, just depends on your application and what you like.

Wiki has an overview here:

  • \$\begingroup\$ The wiki link is pretty thin on details. (I'd like pictures.. circuit diagrams... :^) \$\endgroup\$ – George Herold Feb 25 '15 at 3:17

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