Archive by Author

Stepping it up

28 Jul

As you saw in a recent post we are working on the third set of stairs for our deck. Now that the concrete has cured we were ready to move on to the building portion of the project. Due to the mitered corners we chose to do on the treads we chose to do some unconventional framing. Essentially we built a set of stairs to put the treads on instead of counting on the treads to span the stringers, this allows us to screw in the treads wherever it makes sense instead of hoping you hit something or compromising where you screw in. We made “sub-treads” out of 2×10 and risers out of 2×8 which then were ripped down on the table saw to the exact size we needed. When all was said and done we had a very solid base on which to lay our stair treads.

20140728-154922-56962995.jpg
Continue reading

Advertisements

Garage a go-go

23 Jul

As part of our ongoing renovations I needed to replace the old outlet on the back porch, which is part of a bigger project I’ve had on the back burner for a while. The wiring in the garage was not up to our standards and so the only way I could replace the outlet in good conscience was to re-wire the entire garage. As luck would have it I had run a new feeder line from the panel up to the attic above the garage when we were doing work in the kitchen and dining room. The outlet outside in the back was the first order of business but also on the list were the ceiling outlet for the garage door, a new light, a replacement outlet inside the garage, a new outlet and light switch by the rear door, a new outlet in the front and a new outlet and switch for the exterior lights on the garage. I’m already exhausted from just writing that list. The good part of replacing the old outlets is that the Sheetrock in the back of the garage was bashed to hell already so it was easy access.

20140204-085818.jpg
This is after I made a straight cut across the whole damaged area in anticipation of repairing it.
As with most wiring projects the real work is fishing the cable through the walls, at least with the unfinished attic I was able to fully access the wiring from above, and pull most of the wires through where the old wires were. Being a garage there is also no insulation besides the wall against the interior of the house, so that helps make things a little easier as well.
There were a number of challenges involved but I won’t chronicle them all here, instead I’ll move on to the fun stuff.
Over the last few months I’ve been stocking up on some Z wave items to continue our home automation project. The big one I was exited about was the garage door integration with Z wave.

First off, the fact that an integrated product to do this does not exist seems crazy since the internet is full of accounts of people going through this process. Instead, you kind of have to figure out on your own. This required two separate pieces of equipment; a garage door sensor and a relay module.

The sensor is used to indicate whether the door is closed or open, or more accurately closed or not closed. My brother Chris actually was over to help with this part of the installation, which wasn’t too labor intensive but it was good to have another person to bounce ideas off and make sure things weren’t interfering with each other. The sensor works through means of a glass reed switch, which is basically a switch that connects a circuit if it senses a magnet next to it. This is the basis for most door and window sensors used in alarm systems.
The trick was placing it somewhere where the magnet would be able to safely travel with the garage door without interfering with something and mounting the sensor where it wouldn’t be impacted by any of the moving parts. The sensitivity of the magnet switch is pretty precise so the magnet needs to land within a quarter inch of the sensor when it is closed. We played around a bit and found a spot on the frame of the garage door where we could mount the sensor and have the magnet on the edge of one the door panels to just barely scrape by.
I had previously joined the sensor to the Z wave network and tested its functionality prior to mounting it so once it was up we could see right away that it was working. As of now the sensor only sees itself as a door sensor intended for an alarm system environment, which is a little odd because it gives its status as “Tripped”: Yes or No. If the sensor is not detecting the magnet it is considered tripped, which translates to open. Like I said though, a limit of this system is that it can’t really say it’s open, just not closed. If the door was open one inch it would be “tripped”. Many people recommend a camera to confirm whether the door is actually closed or open, which kind of negates the need for sensor, in my opinion. I’m sure we’ll get one anyway, at some point.
We also installed a Z-wave contact closure relay that I wired in to the garage door opener which actually allows us to open or close the door from the remote app. It functions by briefly connecting two conductors on the opener, mimicking what would happen if you hit the button inside the garage. It actually works pretty well, and any shortcomings it does have I think are more of a symptom of the app we use rather than the hardware or installation.
So now that this project is complete we can plug stuff in without having to use a ground lifter and if we go somewhere and think “oh no! Did I leave the garage door open?!” We can check, and if we did we can close it. As an added bonus if I’m too dumb to even realize I left the door open, I was able to program in a timer that emails and texts me if the door is open longer than a half hour.

Network Nook

23 Feb

For a while now, I’ve had this project in mind and finally a couple of new nail guns and some scrap plywood made me finally get around to building this thing. As with many things the cable modem and wireless router just got put in the basement “temporarily” when they were first installed, with the idea that they’d find more permanent homes in the future. The original home for these items was the floor, and then they were upgraded to sitting on top of two mini-fridges for about the past 2 years. Over time other accessories joined the party, like the UPS, the Vera LITE Z-wave router and eventually a networked hard drive. At some point due to wired and wireless ranges of cameras and stuff I decided I’d get better range by moving the Airport to more centralized point of the house, and higher up.

This was the solution, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say:

20140223-103950.jpg

Not exactly a clean installation, to say the least. You can see the Airport clamped to the bottom of the I-beam, the hard drive sitting on TOP of the I-beam, and the VERA way in the back ground, the cable modem had made its way to a cardboard box, with cables going every which way in between it all.
It was time to put an end to this madness!

Continue reading

The Iron-y

18 Feb

Any time I go to iron a shirt is usually about five minutes before we are supposed to be leaving to go somewhere, and the search for the iron and ironing board usually results in me just wearing a different shirt instead; it’s gotten shuffled around a lot. A few weeks ago Corinne was at the store and picked up a solution for our rogue ironing board situation, and this weekend we got a chance to install it.

Continue reading

Happy Valentine’s Day

14 Feb

20140214-080948.jpg

Love, ishi!

Eaton Whole House Surge Protector

13 Feb

On many episodes of Holmes on Homes, good ole Frank would install a whole house surge protector in the electrical panel. It always seemed like a good idea as we have seen people, my parents especially, have surge related damage to electronics in their homes.
One day I was at Lowes looking for something and I saw a familiar face looking back at me…

20140213-213625.jpg

Continue reading

Teaching an Old Compressor New Tricks

24 Jan

When it gets cold out the low pressure warnings start popping up on the cars and of course you need to pump up those tires a little to get rid of the nagging yellow light (and to keep the tires at a safe and efficient pressure, of course). For a while we were relying on my very handy CO2 tank which is very portable and quick to fill, but through experience we have found that CO2 does not stay in tires for the long term. It sounds like nonsense but apparently the molecules are small enough to seep through the rubber faster than the nitrogen molecules that make up most of compressed air. CO2 is amazing at filling tires quickly in an emergency or for track side or trailhead use, and great for powering air tools but will not sustain tire pressure in the long term. This was very evident when we were trying to use CO2 to maintain the bike tires. I got tired of going down to the local gas stations where you have to either wait on line or pay quarters or deal with unreliable equipment and even sprinklers. (At one point I had a slow leak in my tire and was stopping there every day at around 5am and the sprinklers were on at that time so it was a wet endeavor).
Finally, the other day I decided it was time to get back into the compressed air business. We were on the way home from Townline BBQ and I decided to pick up a cheap air compressor at Harbor Freight to at least have some source of compressed air. Once we got it home I read further into the reviews online and decided it really wasn’t up to snuff and maybe I should return it.
This brings us to my old air compressor.

20140124-111533.jpg

Continue reading

Phase 3: Siding Day 6

23 Jan

The weather report said it would be 0º this morning at 6:00 am. As it turns out, they were dead wrong and it was a balmy 6º instead. Nonetheless we were pretty sure that the siding installers would not be showing up today, and really, we couldn’t blame them. So, instead of getting up to move cars out of the driveway we rolled over and went back to bed, only to be rudely woken out of an intense car chase dream by some hammering outside a few hours later. Yes, they got a little bit of a late start and by then the temperature had cracked the double digits, but they were working! Actually, it turns out just one guy is here, but he’s getting done what he can, given the circumstances.

Continue reading

Repairing a Kohler “Canister-Style” Toilet

22 Jan

When most toilets start refilling periodically it normally means the flapper ball needs replaced. Just kidding, it needs TO BE replaced, what am I, from Pittsburgh? This is also the solution to a toilet where you need to hold the handle down to make it flush. A lot of people think the solution is to put a note over the toilet that says “hold handle down to flush”.
So when our toilet starting refilling sporadically I figured it was time to change out the old flapper. But when I opened it up, imagine my surprise when I saw this…

20140116-211811.jpg
Instead of this…

20140116-212343.jpg

Continue reading

It’s officially spring…

27 Mar

20130327-190523.jpg
And seeing the Mister Softy for the first time this year makes me feel like letting everyone know that I’m Gipper!