Nest Thermostat troubleshooting

We got Nest thermostats for our house over a year ago.  Easy installation (about 15 minutes) and setup.  So I figured I would get one for my mother, so she didn’t have to keep walking up and down the long hall to the thermostat to change it when she was hot or cold (or even worse, walk downstairs to change it after going to bed).  I put it in… and it kept saying “Delay 3:00” and the house was cold.  Now what?

The thermostat will delay heating or cooling if the furnace or A/C has just cycled off, for 3 or 5 minutes (depending on the type of equipment you have), to prevent damage to the system as a whole.  See here for more details.  Makes sense.  But the thermostat would show the Delay, count down to 0, turn on the furnace for 5 seconds, and then Delay again.  Repeatedly.  I couldn’t figure out what the problem was, and my mother wasn’t willing to give me the time to troubleshoot.  So the old thermostat went back on.

After mom’s fall, I wanted to try this again (along with adding security cameras, etc).  I put it back in, and it again did the whole Delay thing — but perhaps more importantly, it wasn’t holding a charge.

Now, it was hard to figure out what was *supposed* to be happening.  The Nest.com website wasn’t that helpful.  The thermostat has an internal battery (as opposed to the AAs in the old White & Rodgers thermostat), and it’s supposed to trickle (re)charge from the existing wiring.  But it wasn’t holding a charge, and that also meant it wasn’t staying on-line.  The house dropped to 50F.

I spent quite a bit of time with their technical support chat (btw, chat is far better than a phone, because you are running back and forth to the circuit breakers, the furnace and A/C units to see if they are running, etc).  After going to second-tier support, we figured out that there wasn’t enough power coming through the wires, and I needed to have a “common” wire attached.  Which would require someone to come out and add one.

I called my mom’s HVAC company, got an appointment, and one of their technicians came out.  He said that we would need to have an installation team come out to run new wires, but he would see if he could troubleshoot for us, and get us a bid for new wiring if necessary.  We did find two unused wires, one of which might be good as a common. He had never seen a Nest thermostat before.  I showed him what I could do with mine from my mom’s house.  He went to the furnace room, popped off the covers, and the power wire basically fell off of the mounting screw.    He fixed that, wasn’t sure what else to do, and I told him thanks and I would deal with replacing the Nest thermostat.   I installed it, adding that extra wire — and it said that it had no power on the Rc wire (which it had had before).  I took off the “C” wire, and viola, it worked.  And it kept the power up!  For 4 days.  And then the power dropped below the level necessary for the wifi to work.  And the house was cold.

 

I did some more searching, this time for the definitions of the terms Voc Vin and Lin.   And found this wonderful article:

What your Nest could have told you but didn’t

You would think that the tech support folks would have asked me what the numbers were for the Voc and Vin, right?
Mine were Voc 35.7V and Vin 14.0V and Lin 20mA. So I have a power drain. It actually gets worse if I try to hook up that blue wire as a common (it may not actually be connected to anything useful).

So… back to the White & Rodgers thermostat. At least for now.

Oscars 2017

This year, we decided on our costumes fairly early:  Dr. Strange for Stephen and Jyn Erso for me.

I started making Stephen’s costume before Halloween and the first of November partners meeting, which was themed “SuperHeroes” (I wore the General Organa costume from last year).  Well, it wasn’t really ready for prime time at that event, and got put on the shelf for a bit.  Fast forward to February and needing to get it done.  I wove an inkle band for the neckline trim on the blue tunic.  I figured out a better way to create the Cloak of Levitation (both overall shape and the collar).  I broke down and just bought the jacket/vest for Jyn Erso, because I just didn’t have time to do the pleated sleeve insets or fit a jacket from scratch.

Stephen worked on upping our game for the video.  We totally rearranged the setup during a test run in the fall, and it made for far better traffic flow as folks were coming in.

And then my mom fell and ended up in the hospital.  So I stayed home and Stephen went to the party.  I was able to record my interview remotely and Stephen added it to the video feed at the end.  It was the most eventful Oscars ever, with the wrong movie being announced at the end.  Here’s the CNN article about what happened.  And a follow-on article about Why Typography Matters.

 

 

Nest Cam – exterior mounting tricks

We had been intending to add security cameras when we rebuilt the house.  But the options available at the time, even with our professional company, were more limited than we wanted.  We add a pair of DropCams before our trip to Europe a few years ago, and we now use them to keep an eye on the dogs.  At the time, there was no exterior-rated option for the cameras.  Earlier this year an exterior version was released by Nest (who bought out DropCam).  We put one up in the backyard, also so that we could keep an eye on the dogs.  It took about 15 minutes to install, because I had exterior power right under where I wanted it installed.

I wanted to put one at the front door, but I didn’t want to run the power line around the front of the door and windows of the house to the one exterior plug we had available.   Nest doesn’t expect you to do anything else, so doesn’t give instructions for how you might put the wires into your walls.  I did a quick internet search, and folks have done this, but few details were included.  Our neighborhood had a rash of burglaries and package thefts in the lead-up to Christmas, so this moved up on the ToDo list.

I quickly made a 3/4″ and 7/8″ hole in a piece of cardboard, and the plug went through the 3/4 hole easily — so I got a 3/4″ masonry drill bit.  It was actually a bit small, and I had to both shimmy the bit and use a file to make the hole wide enough.  Given that, and the fact that I had a wall full of insulation, I opted to go directly across (as opposed to trying to run the wire down towards the floor).  I got a single-gang box and was easily able to pull the wire across the wall and then replace the insulation around the wire.  I found an insert designed for running A/V cables through, where the plug end can be quite big compared to the actual wire, and it worked perfectly.

See photos below.

Key points:
  • you need a 7/8″ hole or larger to be able to pass the protected USB connector into/out of the wall
  • it’s easiest to put a single-gang box on the interior side and then use a flexible insert for one of the square switch plates
  • you need something to fill up the rest of the hole after you run the wire through
Supplies:
  • 7/8″ masonry drill bit
  • single-gang box (one intended for use in existing walls, as opposed to new construction)
  • Decora-type single-gang plate
  • flexible Decora insert (usually found in the Audio/Video section, not the Electrical section)

 

 

  

  

  

Oscars 2016

Although we had different initial plans, after seeing Star Wars:  The Force Awakens, I decided to dress as General Organa (Princess Leia).  It’s one of those easy to wear costumes, with a moderately elaborate hairdo that is always good for the Oscars party.   After seeing Bridge of Spies, Stephen decided to go as Jim Donovan, the attorney played by Tom Hanks.

For me, I needed a flight suit – but what color?  khaki?  grey?  blue-grey?  I decided on the khaki, which is most versatile, from Tru-Spec (same company we got the BlueBox 42 clothing pieces from).  And then a burgundy/mahogany cotton to make the vest she wears.  And then figuring out how to make the belt buckles.  

Stephen was pretty easy — his suit, plus a grey fedora and a plaid scarf.

Physician Anesthesiologists Week

It seemed silly initially, when I heard that we had a week devoted to us as physician anesthesiologists last year.  And then I thought about it some more.  Many other groups have a day or a week.  The work we do is at least as important as those other groups.  And since we are often considered “behind the scenes” by many, this is one way to pull back the curtain and show off what we do.

So, thank an anesthesiologist.

doyle-SUMC-OR physicians_week_instagram_linkedin

Oscars 2015

Once again, the animated movie provided us with the best options for costumes.  This year, it was The Lego Movie.  We played Wyldstyle and Emmett, the two lead characters.  I bought a pack of hair extensions to go into the same wig that Stephen had worn as Snape a few years earlier.  And some ribbon to sew onto a hooded velour jacket.  Stephen bought an inexpensive hard hat and hi-vis vest and pants.  We switched our usual roles, and I ran the camera while Stephen did the interviews.  We had a blast, and most folks didn’t recognize me at all!

CAD-Wyldstyle   SEN-Emmett   

Harem Pants

I purchased a great jacket from J. Peterman at the holidays last year. And I wanted to make a complete costume around this jacket. I thought that some harem pants and a shell would work well.

After searching the internet, I found this video:

Key points: You only need 3 measurements to draft the pattern for the pants, plus your waist for the waistband. You only need 4 seams (both legs, crotch and waistband) plus 2 short hems.
Measurements: Waist to Ankle. Ankle/Heel circumference. Inseam.
Fabric needed: 2x (Waist to Ankle + 8-12″), +8″ for waistband

Tips:

  • angle the ankle end a bit, or you will have it all bunched right at the ankle because it won’t come up the calf at all.
  • if you have a long rise, add more length at the top (waist measurement to top)
  • although the pants are symmetrical front to back, if you are using a waistband, you can either attach it with a shorter rise in the front, or create a shaped waistband with more length on the back
  • if you are making an gathered waistband using elastic, consider using “sport elastic” with a drawstring

IMG_2183Here’s the final outfit

Erland & Angelena’s Wedding

Our friends Erland and Angelena were married last weekend. Stephen was the officiant, and I was one of the photographers. Attendees were encouraged to dress up in Renaissance or other costumes.

I wore the J.Peterman jacket and harem pants (see that post). Stephen wore the frock coat I made for the Snape costume. And the bride and groom were dressed as a Queen and King of England.
Photos here


I had to take down the gallery plug-in because it caused a problem.  10/22/2015

Finally got the WP site accessible

After spending lots of time reworking the site, I stalled at the point of getting the main domain name pointing to the new pages.  The WP Codex was not that helpful, as it does not show what the final .htaccess and index.php files are supposed to look like.

After lots of searching, and a few failed attempts (including messing up access to the login files), I succeeded!  So you’re able to see this!

Short version:  you need to have a copy of the hidden file .htaccess and the visible file index.php in BOTH the top-level directory (public_html or www) and in the WordPress subdirectory (wp, etc).  The contents of each file vary in a small but critical manner.

 public_htmlwp
.htaccess filesRewriteBase /
RewriteRule ./index.php [L]
RewriteBase /wp
RewriteRule ./wp/index.php
index.php filesrequire ('wp/wp-blog-header.php')require ('./wp-blog-header.php')

And then it kept pointing the Blog link to the old site!  WordPress is generally easy to use, but when you have to dive under the hood, the instructions leave a bit to be desired.

Drip Irrigation conversion

With California’s drought continuing through its 4th year now, we are all being asked to conserve water and cut our usage by 20-30% from a couple of years ago. One of the biggest areas of usage for most folks is landscape irrigation (i.e., sprinklers).
When we did the landscape revision in 2008, we weren’t really thinking about this and everything put in was a spray head. There was some duplication in areas, although not a lot. And, of course, we now have mature plants, which don’t need as much water. So we’ve combined 5 spray circuits into 2 drip circuits. It’s been interesting learning about the tools and options out there.

We have a mixture of Rainbird’s 1800 heads and Unispray heads.  The Unisprays are mostly in areas where we wanted a really short throw (2′ or so). I didn’t want to have to dig up all of these sprinkler heads, so was happy to learn that Rainbird makes caps for the 1800 heads (part# 1800CAPOFF), although they are often hard to find.  Most stores geared towards retail customers won’t even know that they exist.  Unfortunately, they don’t make caps for the Unispray heads.  Nor do they make “blank” nozzles that don’t actually deliver water when under pressure.  Rainbird also makes some nice drip conversion pieces and sets, with “Easy Fit” connections.  More on this below.

IMG_2742
My limiting factor was which sprinkler heads I could cap off.  I started with just reducing the number on one circuit by capping half.  Then I went to a circuit where we only had a couple of plants left (and no plans to replace the others), just to reduce the volume used when watering.  And then I thought it would make more sense to convert to drip.  Our local Orchard Supply Hardware store had the Rainbird conversion kit (RCKIT1PK), and we had some leftover parts from when we first bought the house, so I figured it would be easy.  It mostly was.   I converted one circuit along the fence, with the star jasmine and some other shrubs.  The biggest problem was finding the 1800 heads, buried now under leaves and ground cover that had blown up to the fence line.  I capped all of those heads, except the one that I put the conversion on.  It worked well.  And then I realized that it would be easier to extend that line to cover the entire fence and I wouldn’t have to worry about how to cap off the Unisprays – I could just turn off that entire circuit.  I did the same thing around the side and back of the house, which converted three spray circuits into one drip circuit.

IMG_2785

Now to figure out what to do with the “back 40” area, which is three more circuits.  Some of the plants there are looking pretty over-grown, so we may replant to something a bit more drought-tolerant and switch to drip at the same time.


 

Rainbird Easy-Fit Connectors – a mini-review:

These include straight, elbow and T connectors, as well as 1/2″ and 3/4″ adapters (male and female, designed to screw on to the kit or onto the end of a pipe), and a Flush Cap adapter.

RainbirdEasyFitPartsYou can easily slide your 1/2″ hose onto the connectors.  The nice thing here is that you are basically wedging the hose between two layers, so the increased pressure when there is water in the pipe actually helps to keep the connection tight and leak-proof.  But you can also take it all back apart as you wish.

However, the adapters “click” into place and cannot be easily removed.  This does not seem to be what they had intended (especially given the flush cap adapter).  Perhaps there is a separate sort of tool that is needed to be able to separate the parts, but if so, it’s not something they have information about on their website.  Basically, you need something that will slip down between the adapter and the connector wall that will push apart the two pieces so you can pull them apart.

The kit is relatively easy to find, which includes the replacement body (which you don’t have to use), the filter, a T connector and the 1/2″ female adapter (MDCF50FPT).  The rest of the pieces are available through Rainbird, some on-line retailers, and some commercial landscape supply stores.