Category Archives: Technical

Repairing and Fixing

It’s odd to me that in this day and age, it is so much easier than ever before to troubleshoot, diagnose and repair various machines, appliances, and ‘things’ that we own. It is very easy to download a manual from the Internet for just about anything your might own. Yet at the same time, there seems to be less and less interest overall in repair. Many people see something breaking as an excuse to go our and buy a new one. I’m going to give two examples below of recent repairs I have done.

One morning I went in the bathroom and turned on the hot water. The water stayed cold. I went downstairs to the basement. The water heater was there, on, and connected. The LEDs seemed to show that it was ok. I looked up the model on my phone, adding some verbage like ‘will not heat water’ to the Google query. Up popped an article that said that the most common and likely culprit was that the heat sensor was dirty. So I followed the instructions to get to the sensor, and cleaned it for a minute with some sand paper. Turned the heater back on and it has been working flawlessly ever since. This was several months ago. It took me less than a 1/2 hour to fix, start to finish. If I had called service, it would have taken more than a 1/2 hour for them just to show up, and would have cost much more. (my cost was $0)

A couple of days ago my sister in law reported that her power recliner chair was not working properly. It would go up, but not down. I powered it off and on, reseated all the connections, no change. I looked online, and many articles said that the issue was  likely to be the hand controller. I took it apart and cleaned the contacts. It still did not work. Then I took the tip of a screwdriver and put it across the contact to lower the chair, and the chair went down. I cleaned those contacts again, still no luck. I came upon the idea of cutting a small piece of aluminum foil. I place it over the conductor for the top button part of the switch that was not working, and tucked it into a recess on each side to hold it in place. I put the control back together, and it has worked ever since. Again, less and $0.01 work of material saved $100s in either service or a new chair.

Maintaining stuff and software

When you are working on your ‘stuff’ – be it a computer, water heater, stove, lawn mower, etc. you generally need to be with that equipment to work on it. A cell phone or tablet is best to use to collect data on repairs for such equipment.

I have installed Google ‘Keep’  v4.0.411 on my Android. It’s a simple app for organizing notes.

When I worked on the gas water heater this am (dirty flame sensor), I added a note for the water heater with tools needed (t20 and 3/4″ wrench).

Motion/Occupancy Sensor switches – install

I purchased a Lutron Maestro MS-OPS2H-WHB sensor switch from Low’s to test and evaluate.

I tried it first for the stairwell, no luck. There is no proper grounding there since it is legacy wiring, circa 1947. Then I tried it in breezeway which has grounding, but realized it not a replacement for a two pole switch. This switch is model is single pole only.

Then I tried it in the guest room and it still did not work. That room I re-wired myself, so I know the wiring and grounding is good, and the switch is single pole. The issue is that I was switching through the neutral instead of hot. The switch requires some power for the sensor to operate, so hot must be going to it. When I switched the switching from neutral to hot, and wired it, it starting working properly.


Improving weather forecasts and efficiency

I’ve been thinking lately about how much weather forecasts have improved in the last decade or so. It is not unusual for forecast daily highs and lows to be nearly spot on (+- 1 Deg F) up to two or three days forward.

We just had a major front pass here, and the temps went from the 40s and 50s F suddenly to the upper 80s F today. Now, if I did not have good forecasting available, the instinct would have been to open up the house when it hit the 70s. But since I knew it would get real hot, and stay hot for several days, we kept the windows closed, so the temperature in the house has stayed 5 to 10 Deg F lower than outside, keeping it comfortable for today, with no need for A/C.

It makes me think that smarter integrated HVAC systems, that have access to the forecast, could automatically make such decisions and save a great deal of energy, with no compromise to comfort. Well, sure, one issue is that windows would have to be mechanically controlled, which would be a large outlay of capital. But in general, there are great opportunities to increase conservation without loss of comfort, due to the steadily improving art of weather forecast.