Archive | February, 2012

El Microondas es Muerte

29 Feb

It’s been a long ride, little buddy, but you’re not cutting the mustard anymore, or melting the butter, or heating things up. We’re gonna have to let you go.

20120229-232039.jpg

I got this microwave from storage at work many years ago, probably a good eight years ago, if not more. It’s never been the most stylish microwave, but not especially dated looking either, and it’s always worked great, so we never really thought too seriously of replacing this kitchen workhorse.
The other night though, I went to heat something up and it didn’t get hot the first time, so I put it in again for another minute, and again and again… After about 12 minutes in the microwave a little bowl of vegetables was just barely warm. Today, Corinne tried it again to heat up some soup and it was another strike out.

We’re not sure what happened, but I have to imagine it’s not a good idea to keep trying it or to monkey around with the guts of this thing, so I think we may be in the market for a new microwave soon. We had sort of hoped to wait until we decided to redo the kitchen as a whole, but I guess that’s not gonna be the case.

Advertisements

The Nest

26 Feb

In my review of the new Trane Z-wave thermostat we installed we received a comment from my friend Donavan about the new thermostat he got, called the Nest. I wrote such a thorough reply to his comment that I decided maybe it would justify a blog post of its own.

20120226-200044.jpg

There is no doubt that this is, as Donavan put it, a sexy looking thermostat. It was designed by two former apple product designers, and it shows. It takes cues from the classic “The Round” Honeywell thermostat and pushes it about 100 years into the future.

20120226-230550.jpg

The Nest claims to attempt to learn your habits and heating and cooling preferences and adapt to them. Essentially it tries to predict your needs and plan the heating schedule based on your past settings, rather than simply letting you chose a schedule in advance. This is a very unique take on a ubiquitous piece of home control that we all are familiar with in some capacity. I applaud the designers for taking a huge leap from the traditional manner of setting your heating and cooling.

My problem with the nest is that it tries to predict what you want, but if I’m going to interact with my thermostat anyway, why don’t I just TELL IT what I want? The Z wave thermostat allows me to set a program based on our expected use and then modify that while we are home or away via the thermostat or iPhone/ website. (the Nest also allows remote control over your wireless device, say if you are coming home early from work and want to turn the heat up… but the Nest will also factor that change into your schedule)
I have experienced heating and air conditioning systems that tout themselves as “automatic” in various vehicles I’ve owned or driven, and instead of it being a convenience, I find myself trying to trick the computer into doing what I want. For instance, I can not get cool air to come out the foot vents of my BMW if the ambient temperature is below a certain threshold unless I turn it all the way down to 59°, the lowest setting. So because someone at BMW could not conceive of someone having sweaty feet when it’s cool out, it’s nearly impossible for me to get what I want.
So I have found that any time a machine tries to guess you want it is usually wrong, so I decided to decide for myself what I want the temperature of my house to be instead of having to consult with my thermostat.
I made the analogy that if I went with you to subway and ordered your sandwich for you based on what you’ve ordered in the past. I will probably get you something close to what you want, but you’re right there, why didn’t I just let order for yourself and you could have gotten exactly what you wanted?
I read a review of the Nest and the reviewer basically said he spent so much time trying figure out what the Nest would do and second guessing it every time it turned the heat on that he felt it achieved the exact opposite of what it is intended to do.
I think the Nest is very cool and very cool looking, but my feeling is that the kind of person that’s willing to spend $250 to replace a $50 thermostat probably is the kind of person who wants to have full control over their HVAC system, not to give it up the algorithms built in to some tiny computer.

Cheers to the Happy Couple!

25 Feb

Today is my brother Tim and his fiancée Chinar’s engagement party, and this is just a quick note to congratulate them and offer our best wishes for their future together. I’m looking forward to having Chinar as my sister-in-law and I know the rest of us welcome her to our family, just as her family welcomes Tim.

Key Ring App Update

23 Feb

Well, I tried to use the Key Ring again today at Stop and Shop and it worked!
(and I saved $1.99 because of it)
This was at the self-checkout lane where Corinne had previously not had success. So, all hope is not lost for this app after all!

Trane Zwave Thermostat

23 Feb

Today I installed our new Trane TZEMT400 Z-wave enabled thermostat. You may recall that this is a replacement for the 2Gig CT-30 we originally installed.
20120223-003602.jpg

One of the big additional features that this thermostat has (or that the CT-30 lacks) is that it reports the set point back to the Z-wave controller. This way you can tell what the heat is set at remotely, even if it has been manually changed at the thermostat. Installation was a little more straightforward than with the CT-30, due to the more logical method of mounting a plate with wire terminals and then snapping the control on to that. This thermostat did require the installation of a “C” wire, which required replacing the original 18-2 thermostat wire with an 18-3 to gain the extra conductor. I’ll probably cover this in a separate post.
This thermostat was the easiest device to pair with Z-wave I’ve used so far, there was no button holding or mystery sequences to enter, you just scroll to “Join Z-wave network” and press OK and then it’s up to the Z-wave controller. It worked instantly, and I did a remote enrollment at full power from about 15 feet away instead of bringing the controller right next to the thermostat. It also fetched the time from the Network as well, which was a nice touch.
The thermostat has only been installed for a few hours so I can’t really comment on durability ad user friendliness but I won’t be afraid to point out quirks and shortcomings as they are discovered.

One Year!

16 Feb

Yes, one year ago today was the closing on our new home! It was a very exciting, yet tedious, event consisting of nothing but black ink (god forbid you sign something with a blue pen, you’d think I was trying to use a pink crayon!)
But when we finally left that office it was with the keys to our first home, and it was a huge milestone for us. We had big dreams for our new home and we got right to it. Feel free to take a look back at over 250 blog posts and see for yourself, but we’ve been busy… Here’s a quick list of some things we did.

Installed new door locks
Installed a new garage door opener
Started building a giant deck
Cut down a tree (and dozens of bushes)
Got a lawn tractor, weed wacker, leaf blower and generator
Took out a door
Installed a sliding door and a window
Made over our dining room
Hosted Thanksgiving dinner for 12 people
Re-wired about a third of the house
Had a Christmas party
Had a new Heating and hot water system installed
Gutted the basement
Rearranged the guest room
Made some cupcakes, ribs, pizza, pulled pork, clams and a couple of burgers.

That’s just a small sampling and there’s tons more to do in this coming year, hope you keep following along!

App Review: Key Ring

15 Feb

Key Ring by Mobestream Media is a very exciting and promising app for the iPhone. Unfortunately, so far it has not delivered on its promise. Key Ring promises to finally rid you of that key chain full of customer loyalty cards you’ve been toting around.

20120215-090810.jpg

Our beloved "Discount Lizard"

What you do is use the built in barcode scanner to scan your cards into the app, and it recognizes them and stores them to be used on your phone.

20120215-091535.jpg

The idea is that now when you want to use your loyalty card at the store you simply open the app, choose the store and the barcode will pop up on your screen and they can scan that instead.

20120215-085715.jpg

The app will also tell you if there are special offers available at the store (as is indicated next to the Staples “card”.)

20120215-085935.jpg

So far we have only tried to scan the app at self-serve checkouts, at Stop & Shop and CVS, and neither has worked.

Corinne’s app for her gym had a similar problem scanning her key card to check in – it seems certain scanners have a problem scanning backlit screens. (Not Starbucks though; their app works great with their scanners, and Corinne can scan her phone to pay for her Grande Soy Lattes!)

So, so far, a very interesting app has been a bust, but we’re holding out hope because it really could be very convenient. We’ll update if this thing starts working… We’re gonna keep trying ’til a cashier gets mad at us!

Product Review: 2Gig CT30 ZWave Thermostat

14 Feb

Following below, is pretty much word for word my amazon review of the 2Gig Technologies CT-30 Thermostat with Z-Wave.

This product is actually made by the Radio Thermostat Company of America, and is marketed under several names, such as the one mentioned above, the 3M Filtrete 3m-50 (a Wi-Fi version) and the CT30 by Radio Thermostat, it is also available as part of the Vivint Wireless Alarm System. In any event, it’s the same thermostat and it’s available 3 ways: as a standalone unit, or with different “USNAP” modules, as a Wi-Fi thermostat, and as a Z-Wave thermostat. The latter two options offer some level of remote control of your heating and/or air conditioning system. Depending on how you set it up, this can be within your home or even outside the home on the web or your wireless device. The Wi-Fi version requires a subscription to a service, I believe. (don’t hold me to that)

Overall, it is a nice thermostat. We were working through the kinks and starting to get used to it, but we woke up one day and the heat had not turned up as scheduled. The thermostat would not respond to Z-Wave commands or report back the temperature, so I knew something was up. It took about 2 hours of troubleshooting but I got it working again. Problem is, if it DOES fail when you’re away it won’t continue on its normal schedule, it will just stay at whatever setting it was left on. I don’t think this is the case, but I would be worried that it could get stuck off, which would be trouble in sub-freezing temps.

The thermostat does have a pretty cool looking touchscreen interface, but it projects off the wall a bit, and looks a bulky from the side, and being in the hallway, that’s how it is first seen. If it weren’t for the reliability issues, we’d probably put up with some of the quirks, but we are most likely going to try the Trane TZEMT400 instead, which will run off its own built in schedule if it loses Z-Wave connectivity.

the 2Gig/ Radio Thermostat CT30

My issues with the CT30:

  1. Once connected to Z-Wave, it will not run off the built-in schedule on the unit, you must schedule from Z-Wave.
  2. Unit does not report set-point temp to Z-Wave. ie: If someone changes the temp at the thermostat, the change will not be reflected in Z-Wave, it will only know the last setting that was initiated through Z-Wave. This seems to be a known, designed by choice, issue.
  3. After about a week of seemingly working fine, it began to lose contact with the Z-Wave network, and commands would not be sent to it. I changed the batteries, removed it, and re-added it a few times before it would work normally again. At that point it was not recognized as the same node, so all my scenes in Vera did not refer to it anymore, so I had to redo all the scenes.
  4. From reading the forums, it seems reliability can be spotty due to running off batteries rather than 24V power. Of course, the fact that this unit can run on batteries is one of its main selling points… What I will say about running power to this thing, (or the “C” Wire or “Common” as it’s referred to) is that the C Wire is no more than a ground back at the source of the thermostat wire. This is rarely mentioned in the all the posting about C Wires and transformers, etc., but from what I have learned, that essentially all it is. I do not have a C Wire, but I do have a Common back at the Taco SR502 that my boiler and hot water tank are hooked to, so all I have to do is pull a 3rd wire to my T-Stat and connect to the terminal labeled “COM” in the SR502 and it should work. But if it didn’t have that, I should be able to just run a wire to the metal cabinet of the boiler, furnace, or wherever the T-Stat wire originates from.
  5. I would prefer there to be a plate that mounts to the wall where you wire to and then the unit snaps into the plate. The LuxPro this replaced was like that, and is also “armchair programable” as they say. Also, the battery and wiring access covers are tricky to remove and there is no instruction on how to do so.
  6. Not knowing that the built-in schedule would be useless, I went ahead and programmed the whole thing. This was a tedious process which did not seem to function exactly as the manual says, especially the “Copy” function which did not seem to work at all.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

14 Feb

20120214-093504.jpg

Product Review: Tide 150oz. Liquid with Pour Spout

13 Feb

This is a review more of the dispensing bottle than the product itself, which is fine. I like to use the powder stuff with bleach (which is color safe actually, but they don’t say that anywhere on the box for some reason).

Anyway, this review is about the giant bottle with the pour spout. Are you tired of unscrewing a cap, then pouring detergent in the washing machine, then having to put the cap back on? Neither was I. The spout seems like a solution in search of a problem. All you have to do now is pull off a cap, fill it from the spout, dump the cap, and put it back on. Sounds like the same number of steps, doesn’t it? Except we’re leaving a step off, which is thoroughly rinsing the cap before replacing it so you don’t wind up with this…

20120212-184120.jpg

A nice sticky gooey mess on top of your dryer (in our case). After this happened a few times we dug our previous normal bottle out of the recycling bin and simply used the spout bottle to refill it.

20120212-184618.jpg

Of course, as Melinda and Alex can attest, even a standard bottle of Tide can cause havoc, so watch out!