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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:

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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!

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A Touchy Subject

10 Feb

Back in March of 2012, my sister and I were wandering in and out of antique stores in Williamsburg (Brooklyn, not Colonial). I took pics of some items I liked that may be nice in our house in the future. Among these items were an old dresser I thought I could restore, a channel-back chair I thought I could reupholster, and a pair of really pretty lamps that only needed shades. These were all wish-list items, that I though would “one day” be lovely in our house..

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Kitchen Aid – Aid

15 Feb

This post is a follow-up to the post “All Mixed Up”
It will make a lot more sense to you if you read through that post, first.

This happened a few weeks ago but I’m finally getting around to writing about it. We got the parts we had ordered to repair the mixer and completed the repairs, I made sure Corinne took plenty of pictures along the way, and that’s what kept from writing. She was taking plenty of pictures to begin with, and then I kept saying “make sure you get this, make sure get that” so we wound up with like 60 or 70 pictures of the repair process, which is quite overwhelming. But, I’m going for it now.

With our new gear (and backup new gear) in hand, we were ready to begin.
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The first step was to remove all the old grease.

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At this point I could remove the tower, which is the assembly that contains the offending nylon gear.

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Once that was out I could continue cleaning out all the grease, especially the grease that had become liquid from excess heat. I also wanted to try to avoid any incompatibility issues between the old grease and the new so I really spent some time cleaning it.

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Once we were all clean I went on to removing the stripped out gear from the tower. I used a punch and a brass hammer to drive out the roll pin that holds it on the shaft.

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You can see how the punch fits through, as illustrated with nice clean new gear.

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The old gear is removed from the shaft, a little more cleaning and then the new gear is installed by driving the roll pin back in until it just barely sticks out on each side. The new gear is coated with grease as is the shaft before it is installed in the tower.

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After that the tower is reinstalled so it meshes with the other gears. And then it’s time to gob the whole thing up with lots of nice, new, food safe, NSF approved, grease.

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Then it’s time to put the cover back on the case, which requires a little finagling to get all the various gears to line up.

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A punch through the beater shaft allows me to rotate the gears a bit, which lets the top of the case finally drop into place. You can see that I am having the time of my life in this picture.

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All the screws that hold the case together are reinstalled.

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The planetary assembly can then be reinstalled, which is held in place by another roll pin.

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After that the little chrome trim ring can be hammered into place, I used a nice clean dead blow hammer so it wouldn’t mar the surface.

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The last thing to do was to reinstall the electrical cover and cord strain relief.

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And of course, just one more step…
Testing!

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All Mixed Up

20 Jan

Corinne was in the kitchen yesterday making some of her mom’s famous “Snow Bread”, using the dough hook on her beloved KitchenAid stand mixer. It sounded like the machine was struggling a bit, but that happens when mixing dough because it has a lot of resistance. She also claimed it was getting a little hot (I felt the machine and it was beyond what I would call a little hot..)

At one point, the dough hook got stuck, making an awful grinding noise. She turned the mixer off and pulled the dough out to finish kneading it by hand. However, upon turning the mixer back on to make sure it was OK, we discovered it was not. The mixer was working, but it was making a noise that was not pretty.

As she finished up prepping the dough for its first rise, I began researching repair and replacement parts online.

I found a very helpful video that described exactly what part was likely to bad, and how to disassemble the machine, replace the part and reassemble it. It turns out that there is one gear in the drivetrain that is nylon, while the rest are metal. This nylon gear acts as a “fuse” of sorts by purposely being the weak point between the motor and the blades. While it is a bit of a pain to have to replace this, I’m sure it is about $100 cheaper than the motor it is intended to protect. It seemed like this was the likely cause of this noise and, while I was tempted to simply order the part, it seemed wise to confirm the damage and make sure there was no further carnage.

Follow along as we tear her down!

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Removing a roll pin on the lower shaft using a punch and a brass hammer. Seems low tech but this is exactly how it’s installed at the factory!

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Now that the outer planetary gear ring is exposed the 5 screws holding that in can be removed.

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The rear electrical cover is removed as well to free up the cord strain relief.

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After 4 screws below are removed, the motor housing can be lifted off, revealing the grease-covered drivetrain. (Luckily the video warned of this or it would have been quite shocking!)

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And here’s a view of the damaged gear.

A few more screws and one more roll pin and it’s out. I’ll wait ’til the replacement comes in to pull that out.
In the meantime, all the hardware I removed is neatly labeled so I know where it goes when it’s time to put it all back together.

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The replacement part can be found for as low as $4, I’ll probably order 2 just in case another stiff dough wreaks havoc again in the future…

Doing this ourselves is probably saving about a hundred dollars or so, if we could find a local place to do the repair. The mixer weighs about 35 pounds, so if we had to ship it to be repaired you could tack on another fifty bucks, probably.
We may replace the grease as well because of the shredded gear fragments and the fact that grease is known to break down under high heat conditions. Stay tuned for the follow up!!

Titus Road, Powered by Honda

26 Nov

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The day after the hurricane came through, we lost power, as did the majority of Long Island. I am not among the LIPA bashers. All you had to do was drive around a little to see what they were (and still are) up against. The sheer amount of trees that fell down is mind boggling, and it seems like 75% of them fell on roads and power lines. In any event, we were without power… For a few minutes, at least.
Unlike last year’s power outage from Irene we were prepared. We got back from my brother Tim’s wedding on Saturday and got right to work prepping the house. Some of this included getting the Honda EU2000i generator hooked up to the house. A while back I had ordered a transfer interlock for our electrical panel, and had procrastinated on installing it. Obviously, the time had come. There would be no running of extension cords through cracked doors and windows this year, the entire house would be powered up by the generator. I took my amp meter and with Corinne upstairs on the phone I checked the amp draw of various lights and appliances throughout the house. Doing this enabled us to decide what we could use freely, what we could sparingly, and what we should probably avoid using. We found out that heat/ hot water system, since it runs on natural gas, was a pretty small consumer of electricity. It only needs to run the circulators, the combustion fan and the controls. Both refrigerators were also pretty low consumers, except on motor startup. The microwave, toaster oven and hair dryer were on the no-no list.
The generator we have is very small, so it does have limited capacity, but for a house with gas heat, hot water and stove we found it more than met our needs. It is my opinion that most backup generators are oversized. This really came into play when the gas shortage started and we were using about 1/6 as much gas as other people with full size generators. Most people I spoke to were reporting gas usage of 4 to 5 gallons for an 8 hour period. We were using just about 2 gallons for a 24 hour period! Most people were only using their generators in the evening due to the gas shortage and THE NOISE. Over a 6 day period we only shut our generator down 3 times, and that was to change the oil. Besides that it ran constantly for 146 hours. Due to our careful usage we were able to be extremely fuel efficient. Our refrigerator never defrosted because it had power for all but a total of maybe 3 hours. We were careful with lights we used and hand washed the dishes rather than using the dishwasher (although it could handle it). We switched from the big plasma TV to the smaller LCD, which used about 150 watts instead of about 350. Most of our frugalness was to maximize fuel efficiency and keep the generator running nice and quite. Even at its loudest, though, it is probably 1/8 as loud as a standard generator, and at its normal level on Eco mode it is super quite. You can just barely hear the hum inside the house. If any of our neighbors had their generators on, we’d have to open the window to hear our little guy.
I can now fully endorse the Honda EU2000i generator as a durable workhorse that can power our entire house if we are smart about our energy usage. It operated flawlessly for the duration of our power outage. I strongly recommend adding an hour meter to this or any generator that does not have one to keep tabs on maintenance.

A/C Modding

18 Jul

So, I’ve always been a big fan of Air Conditioner Modification… I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels where I found it necessary to modify the air conditioner, because a lot of hotel air conditioners are programed to turn off and on with the thermostat. I prefer for the fan to stay on constantly because I find it very annoying to hear the fan kicking on and off all night long, I like the consistant white noise the fan provides. I’ve disassembled units, I’ve downloaded manuals, I’ve gone in to deep programing menus, service menus, you name it, I’ve done it. I even had to trick a thermostat once by removing the probe and putting it in a hot bottle of water.

This time I was modding our own air conditioner, not because of fan cycling, but due to another issue, which is actually well documented on the Amazon reviews of the A/C unit.  It’s a Frigidaire FRA086AT7 8,000 BTU Window Unit, and it has the loudest beep I’ve ever heard on a piece of equipment that is supposed to be indoors. I can only assume they had a surplus of smoke alarm beep units so they used them in this air conditioner for the command  acknowledgment tone. It’s so loud that you kind of think twice before you change a setting because you really don’t want to hear that sound.

It finally got to the point where I was cleaning the air filter today and I decided it was time to take the bull by the horns, find this beeper and destroy it. I know a lot of people who have written and read reviews would like to do the same, and if they have the guts, they’ll be able to follow the tutorial I’ve made below…

It really is a very easy operation, I think it took me about 10 minutes and that was with taking a few things apart that I didn’t need to and documenting the whole process with the camera. This blog post is taking probably 10 times as long!

Start by opening the front of the A/C and removing the air filter. Anyone should know how to do this. Then remove the grille that covers the filter, which is a pretty simple process as well. Using a philip’s screwdriver, remove the 2 screws that are circled. Keep track of which screw goes where because they are not exactly the same.
Once you have the screws out you need to remove the whole front bezel, which will require a little squeezing and pulling, but it’s not a big deal. There is a wire that will be connected for the control panel, so the face of the unit will just be hanging there while you work.

You will want to have the unit turned off and unplugged before this step, there is line voltage present in this compartment which could cause electric shock if contacted or cause damage if a short occurs.

On the left side you will see this plate that covers some controls and relays and other circuitry. Remove the two screws that are circled, again keeping track of which goes where for when it comes time to reassemble.

Now that the screws are out you can open this panel, this is a familiar type of operation if you’ve done work inside a computer case. Simply push up with your hand in the direction of the arrow, take note how the mechanism works for when you have to put it back. Also take note of how wires are run so you can route the properly when buttoning the whole thing up

Here’s the back of the plate you just removed, this is where the magic happens.
The irritatingly loud magic.

And here’s the culprit.
They call it a buzzer, but that’s like no buzz I’ve heard before.
You have two choices now, to muffle the buzzer, or to silence it entirely. I suppose if you have a hot glue gun or some gum or sticky tack you could plug up the hole on the buzzer where the sound comes out, I tried it with my finger and it did knock it down to a manageable tone. This may be enough for you, but I think if you’re this deep in you may as well go for the kill shot.

If you’re a soldering fool you could go behind the board and melt the two contacts and remove the buzzer entirely, but I think that amount of heat is actually more risky than what I did, which was simply take vise grip and squeeze it. The cover simply cracked and the element that makes the sound fell right off with just a slight tug, it came off nice and clean, as you can see.

I put it all back together, plugged it in and I was greeted with sweet silence, no beeping at all.

This is a huge relief, and while it does nothing to silence the overall noise this unit makes, it will make it a little easier to live with. I hope some people try this and have the same success, if you do, just be careful and gentle with the wires as you put it back together and you should have no problems. Everything just goes back in the exact reverse order and you’re done! Leave a comment if you try this at home!

Coleman Comes Through

17 May

Last year we bought a propane powered Coleman camping lantern at REI for one of our camping excursions. The first time we used it, though the glass globe cracked. At first we weren’t even sure if it was cracked or there was something on the glass but our friend “Uncle” Andy did the honors of touching it to check; it turns out it was not only cracked but also hot enough to alter finger prints. It was a painful lesson.

When we got back we went to REI to see about getting a replacement glass, and they said that while they do carry it, they were currently out of stock. Fall and winter came and the lantern with the broken glass sat forgotten in the basement. We finally have another camping trip on the horizon so I figured it would be a good idea to address this issue again.

I dug up the box and then I went online and found the Coleman customer service number, my faith in well established American companies bolstered by my recent experience with Weber barbecues. I called up and explained what had happened and that I wondered if this might be covered under warranty. The guy at Coleman listened and then replied, “Well, no that’s not normal. You certainly should not have to replace the glass on your lantern each time you use it! We stand behind our products and of course we’ll be happy to send you a new one, free of charge.”

So, after taking my information he promised it would be packed well so it we didn’t receive the next one pre-broken.
Today when I got him there was a box waiting for me with GLASS stickers all over it. Our new globe had arrived! I brought it inside, unpacked it from its bubble wrap cocoon and sure enough, it had arrived in one piece, so I got to work swapping out the globe.

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Now our little lantern is as good as new and hopefully this globe will last as long as the lantern does.

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.

Impulse Purchase

23 Jan

To cope with the loss of the bar in the basement, we made a bit of an impulse purchase on Sunday…

We were at Home Dinko shopping for some supplies for our basement renovations when we stumbled by something in the clearance section. There was a lone kegerator amongst the stoves, microwaves and other appliances. The price was pretty good too, being on clearance, so we had to check it out.

There happened to be a very enthusiastic employee named James who was kind of milling about around the object of attention. Right as we approached he told us that it was a great deal and that he was almost considering buying it himself. He explained that it had been a Black Friday offer and had fallen through the cracks in the back of the store, and therefore had not been sold. He went on to say that the price listed was 30% off the current price but that it wouldn’t ring up like that on the register so we should ask for him if there were any problems.

To clarify, we already HAVE a kegerator, as many may know from our elaborate remote dual-keg setup we had in Sea Cliff. The old one had been modified and repaired by me, was quite old to begin with, and it’s begun to show its age – apparently my modifications were not quite up to fridge code, which led to moisture problems from condensation. So our old kegerator has been relegated to a life out on the back porch by the wood pile.

As we walked around the store we weighed the pros and cons of getting the new guy and looked up some online reviews, which honestly were not that great, but a few people on forums had solutions to most complaints. Plus, James told us that we could return it if we didn’t like it, so we had less to lose.

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What sealed the deal was that the fridge included a CO2 tank and regulator, as well as a coupler, and of course the tower with the faucet. So we went for it! And, as James said, we had some issues at the register. The fridge did ring up for less than the pre-discount price, as James said it might. This did not sit well with the cashier so we spent about 10 minutes trying to convince her that it was correct until we finally had her call James, who came and worked it out for us, which still took another 5 minutes. But, when all was said and done we wound up saving an additional fifty dollars!!

We got it home, unpacked it, and set it up in the kitchen. The CO2 tank is very nice and there’s a nice holster for it on the back to make it portable. One of the main complaints people had about this unit is that it won’t get cold enough, so that was the first thing I wanted to test. We plugged it in and I put a cup of water in the fridge to test what temperature it would get to. In the morning the water was down to 36 degrees, and it wasn’t even on the coldest setting, so the biggest worry was unfounded. I’m continuing to test the water at different levels in the fridge and at different settings to see what kind of temperatures I get.

Now we just need to try to get our hands on a keg of Greenport Harbor “Antifreeze” and try this sucker out!

Other Editor’s Note: We do hope to modify this kegerator too, by swapping out the single tower it came with for the double tower we have and were using with our setup in Sea Cliff!

Lost and Found

29 Nov

Our big Thanksgiving cleanup unveiled two things that were misplaced a while ago, and which had both been almost given up on finding. A tension screw for the Stihl chainsaw Corinne’s dad gave us and the hour meter for the Honda EU2000i generator. I figured I might as well go ahead and install the hour meter before it gets lost again!
I heard installation was easy, and it was, writing this blog post with all the pictures below took longer than the installation I think. The hardest part was determining where to mount the hour meter so that it would be easy to run the sensor lead, easily visible, and not subject to damage or in the way when trying to carry it. I initially planned to locate it on the spark plug access hatch but it would then act as a tether for the hatch and I thought that could be risky so I bit the bullet and located on the other side where the controls and pull start cord are, which required drilling a tiny hole in the generator, after I made darn sure that it was safe to drill in that spot.

The access hatch on the top of the generator
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The access hatch removed

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The “sensor lead” wrapped around the spark plug wire. Somehow this picks up the high voltage pulse of the engine and starts the clock running while the engine is running and stops when it’s not so it keeps a lifetime tally of engine hours.
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Drilling a hole for the lead to exit the generator case and enter the hour meter

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You can barely even see it but the lead is pressed into the back if the meter and it goes right into the hole, which is a tight fit and then covered by the meter to reduce the chance of rainwater getting in. You can also see the double sided adhesive tape on the bottom of the hour meter.

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Here’s the installed hour meter after a 4 hour test drive

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