Pool Refinishing Progress – Electrical Complete (I’m Helping!)

Today the electrical people came and did the work like ninjas.  I left the house open and also closed off part of the house so the cat wouldn’t get out.  I got no phone calls of any kind, and came back to an invoice taped to the electric panel and new stuff on my back wall.

Two things I was disappointed to see were that the timer wasn’t changed and the flex conduit to the pump wasn’t repaired.  Both were just mentioned in passing, so I don’t really fault them for not doing it.  It was something I was willing and able to do myself.  It’d be good for me to have a hand in this remodeling, lest I just end up like any of the worthless dudes on any HGTV house flipper show – the kind whose wives do all the design and they agree.  But I guess they do make some observations, so they kind of earn their keep.

Anyway, I disconnected the power and removed the timer box from the wall.  I went inside and got my replacement timer and prepared to mount it.  It wasn’t the same size as the old one.  And then it struck me.  The replacement wasn’t anything like the original.  The fact that the replacement was an indoor-only timer, with no weatherproofing at all should have been just a little obvious to me.  God, I am an idiot sometimes.

So I checked Lowes to see if they had the real timer I needed in stock, which they did.  Then I disconnected the flex conduit from the pump and took it with me.  At Lowe’s I easily found the conduit and the timer, but was unable to find the type of conduit connectors I needed.  Oh well, I’ll have to use the old ones.

The installation was uneventful and only slightly painful.  In the end, everything worked the first time, with no explosions.

Good bye, old timer.

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Welcome, new timer.

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Welcome to the family.

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Pool Refinishing Progress – Stage… Electrical

The pool is resurfaced now, so that part is finished.  Part of the upgrade includes a new heater, new pool light, and a salt-water chlorinator.  And, especially in the case of the heater, electrical work needs done.

The old heater was gas, which came with many problems of its own.  In my experience, it was a constant expense, because the gas tank vented, or maybe it had a leak, which required regular topping off, whether or not the heater was used.  And the tank wasn’t even my property, it belonged to the gas company, so there was that rental.  And the gas company just showed up whenever and topped it off and sent a bill, even if you said, “stop it.”  So, gas wasn’t what I wanted this time.

However, the electric heater is 220v, obviously.  And it’s going to take a huge power line from the circuit breaker.  And it’s going to need its own transfer switch, which is power cutoff for service.  And ductwork, and boxes, and on and on.  I had the electrician visit today to get a quote.  It wasn’t the same number I had in mind.  In my mind, I had $650, which is only a remnant memory of the pool light cost.  The electrician quote was $1300.  Ouch, my wallet.

So for that amount of money, next Tuesday, they’re going to install a new circuit breaker in my panel, run the heavy-gauge power line to the back of the house through the attic and run it down the back wall through a new conduit.  That will end up in a new breaker box of its own, which will then have circuits for the chlorinator and the heater.  They will also install an extra 110v power outlet just because.  The pool light and pump will remain on the previous circuits as they were.  The pump timer will be replaced with a new one that I have in reserve.

That’s actually a decent amount of work and I shouldn’t really be upset for paying licensed professionals to do the work.  But again.  Ouch.  That is definitely going to delay the installation of the garage door.

Dryer Repair (Not Repaired Yet)

A couple of years ago, I did some maintenance on my washing machine.  It was just kind of cleanup and improvement fixes.  I should be happy for that because these units have been going strong without failure since 2005.  I should also mention, since changing the washing machine gasket from what was a disgusting, mold-stained disaster, I have resolved to never let that happen again.  At the finish of laundry day, I dry the gasket completely and there has not been a single spot of discoloration on the rubber in the 2 years since.  However, last week during my scheduled laundry time, it was the dryer’s turn for attention.  It would not start up for my last load – my bed linens.

So, for a few days now, I’ve been sleeping in my guest bedroom until I can get my sheets rewashed and dried properly.  Or I could just buy new sheets, which is just as much an option at this point.  I had some mildly stressful thoughts of having to replace the dryer.  And if I was going to do that, I might as well replace the washer, right?  And then there goes the budget for the garage door install, which is next up on the improvement list.

But, after some Internet research, I learned that dryer failures are usually either a thermostat/thermistor or the control board.  The former is a cheap ($40) fix and is pretty common.  The latter would be around $350 and might warrant an upgrade.   So, yesterday, I tore the dryer apart and on the guidance of online articles, I started testing thermostats and sensors.

After taking the top and back off the dryer, I was able to identify 3 potential sensors.  Using a multimeter, as instructed, I tested continuity between the two leads.  In two of the three cases, the LCD display displayed some numbers.  In the final case, the LCD didn’t change at all when touching the contacts.  That is the one I will suspect has failed.

I did a search online and the shop that sold me the washer replacement parts did not have this particular sensor in stock.  Boo.  So I went to their competitor.  I paid $2 extra for Standard shipping, an upgrade from Economy.  They said their Standard shipping was fast.  2-5 business days, they say, but realistically, it’s usually 2.  Shortly after I got the order confirmation email, I got a shipping notification.  Later that night, FedEx tells me my shipment is arriving tomorrow.  Well, that is fast, I have to say.

I opened up my new sensor package pretty quickly and immediately tested it with the multimeter.  It didn’t register anything.  Well, shit.  Maybe the old one wasn’t bad after all.  Sigh.  Well, as long as I’ve spent the money, I might as well install it, so I have at least one new part.

Swapping out the sensor was a pretty easy job.  Before I sealed everything up, I wanted to see if maybe by chance I did fix it.  So I reattached the power cord, plugged it in, and switched it on.  Just like last time, the “lint filter” light blinked 5 times, then stopped.  The Start button did not begin the cycle.  Oh well.  That was a nice $40 experiment for nothing.

I took a break to think about what to do next.  I came back and looked deeper into the body of the dryer.  Then I saw two more sensors up front.  I wouldn’t be able to reach them from the back, so I guess I’m going to take the front of the dryer now.  Unlike taking the top and back off, the front of the dryer had a bunch of different size screws, so I began to get nervous I wouldn’t remember which screws went where when it was reassembly time.  I had about 4 different piles of screws sitting to the side.

When I finally managed to get the metal front of the dryer off, I was faced with a large plastic frame that had the sensors mounted on the back.  Part of this plastic frame was the lint trap.  I figured as long as I had access to it, I would open it up and get all the excess lint that had collected in it over the years.  When I did get the lint cover off, holy shit.  It was a few inches of densely packed lint and dust.  I broke out the vacuum clear and cleaned it all up.  Maybe that’s what the problem was, having the lint sensors buried under inches of lint for years on end.  I plugged the dryer back in and turned it on.  Nope.  Still five blinks.

More contortions to remove the plastic frame from the drum and now I had access to the sensors in the back.  The multimeter says one is fine and one gives no response.  Yeah, I’m not getting fooled by that again.  So where does that leave me?  I guess I’m going to have to call a professional. 

I called the first repair shop and went right to voicemail.  Ugh.  I left a message and they called me back in about 15 minutes.  That’s not too bad.  Except they don’t service Siemens brand, so thanks for that.  I called another shop twice and got no answer either time.  I called a third shop and the phone never rang, it just disconnected.  A called a fourth shop and talked to a human right away.  They didn’t have a problem with the brand, but they weren’t able to schedule me for service for a week.  So, I guess I’ll be without a dryer for another week.

Pool Refinishing Progress – Stage 4

The pool filled all night.  I had no idea how long it would take, but when I woke up the next morning, it had maybe another 10 inches to go.  I had called in to work and said I might need to take half the day off to watch the pool fill.  So I went back to sleep.

I was woken up at 9:00 by another crew.  They were there to install the filter and heater.  So that was good.  They could watch the pool fill and I could go to work.  I talked to the guy doing the work and he turned out to be the company owner, so that was good to meet him.  I assume he will be in touch with the others when the pool is ready for its initial chemical bath.  We talked briefly about the new light and how the electrician would be coming by to do the wiring.

The mechanicals are getting completely reorganized.  The new heater is a monster.  It’s so big it won’t fit where the old one was.  It’s so big, it sticks out around the side of the house.  When I left, everything was cut out and the heater was on a new concrete pad.  When I came back, the pool was filled and the pump and filter were doing their job.

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The pool heater was still just as massive as it was before, sticking out past the house.  While I don’t particularly like the look of that, what can you do?  The routing of the pipes was interesting.  Where the heater used to be on the left, the filter in the middle and the pump on the right, now the layout was filter on left, pump in middle, heater on right.

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The salt chlorinator was installed as well.  It was not hooked up electrical-wise.  I think there is a control module that will need to be installed on the wall, because four boxes on the wall is nowhere near enough.

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Next up is probably all electrician work.  I have boxes with the pool light and its transformer, and another box which I assume is the chlorinator controller.

Pool Refinishing Progress – Stage 3

The pool sat in its primed state all weekend and the following Monday, the pool guys were at it again.  Fortunately for them, I took half a day off because I felt ill.  So when I came back, they were busy adding the Marcite to the pool.  They got done pretty quickly and wanted to get the fuck out of there.  Like I said, they were lucky I was there because they left the pool filling to me.

But the pool looked pretty sharp with its new coating.

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And as the spa was filling up, the water was a nice turquoise, although it was a bit cloudy, too.

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My water bill is going to be pretty outrageous this month.

I called the installer and explained the current status and asked about the light, because it had been pushed back into the wall and now the pool was being filled.  There was some misunderstanding about who was supposed to talk to me about the light, but the light is a spa light.  He said it was probably chosen because of the “radius”.  Not sure if he was referring to the radius of the light bulb or the radius of the pool, which is oblong.  Maybe a full-size pool light would overpower the back wall and not provide much light to the side walls?

Whatever, we discussed what the options were.  $200 for a new white bulb, $400 for a white LED conversion, or $650 for color LED.  The color LED would also include a new transformer.  I only recently discovered the transformer (after 13 years of ownership) and as I mentioned, I had an electrical fuckup a while ago that I thought blew out the light, but now I’m more convinced I burnt up the transformer.

So, I wanted a new transformer anyway and I wanted color lighting, so the choice is pretty clear.  We’re getting some psychedelic special effects in this pool.

Pool Refinishing Progress – Stage 2

The pool guys are moving quickly.  The very next day, I came home from work to find the pool acid-washed and primed.  There were cases and cases of muriatic acid sitting on my porch.

All the algae was gone and the color was uniform.  In addition, they had set the marker tiles for the steps.

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I had a pile of new “eyeball” jets that would replace the old beat-up ones originally installed in the pool.  These are the directional jets that sit on the wall to keep the pool in a consistent flowing current, hopefully preventing standing water areas where algae can form.

The pool light was still pulled out from the wall, although it was at least brought up to the patio where I could look at it.  Now that I understand how the light is installed and how it operates, replacing it isn’t as intimidating as I thought.  The light housing is entirely waterproof and just pushes in to the pool wall.  There is enough electrical line to pull the light out and replace the bulb outside the water if need be.

The installer said they would try as best as possible to clean up my tile borders and that’s about what I got.  It’s much better, but they aren’t exactly able to work miracles.  So it’s plenty good enough relative to how it was.

Pool Refinishing Progress – Stage 1

I was told when I paid my down payment on the pool refinishing that I would have the leak inspector check the pool out, then they would begin work.  I spoke to the leak people, who scheduled me for the next Monday and prepared me for the cost of the service, almost $300.  Sure, whatever, it has to be done, right?  And before they get there, they want the pool clear, in case they need to go underwater to inspect.

Well, I guess it didn’t need to be done?  I got a text the next day that they were going to begin work on the pool right away.  I explained that I was scheduled for leak detection the next week.  They said, don’t worry about it.  I said I would have to shock the pool immediately if they needed it clear.  They said don’t bother. Ok, then.

The day after that, I got a phone call saying the crew was on-site, but they couldn’t get in.  I was confused.  The screen doors are unlocked.  I was suspicious they were at the wrong house.  The guy said he’d tell the crew to try harder and get back to me.  When he called back, he explained that they could get at the pool, but they couldn’t find any power outlets.  They were trying to get into my lanai to get to the outlet.  I said, no, that’s my house.  Why would that be unlocked?  So I directed them to an outlet by the pool mechanicals.  Right on.  Good to go.

The crew was there to grind down the marcite around the tile and the returns and the drains, where it was going to be thicker, or because it needed a strong edge.  Something like that.  When I got home that night, the crew was gone, as was all the water from my pool.

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You can see the condition I left the pool in for them.  It didn’t really matter because the whole thing would be acid washed as part of the prep.  But it did stink.

The pool light has been yanked out, so hopefully an evaluation can be made as to what replacement I can have installed and how much the new light will cost.

Pool Redo Begins

Well, it’s been about four months since anything interesting has been done to the house.  Last year around this time, I got quotes for resurfacing the pool and potentially replacing all the mechanicals, like pump and filter and heater.  The pool is about 20 years old and has never been resurfaced.  It was in need of resurfacing 13 years ago when I bought the house and it never came to be.  Mostly because of the cost.

But over a long time, I’ve saved up enough money to afford the work and yesterday, I signed a contract to have it done.  That’s an immediate 11k drop in my account balances, which hurts tremendously.  But, that’s what the money was saved for, and the pool must be brought up to a usable state if anything is doing to be done with this house, whether selling or renting.

The pool does seem to have a leak somewhere, since the water level drops pretty quickly.  That has to be resolved first before they do any resurfacing.  Then they will blast out whatever soft surface is remaining in the pool, then put fresh marcite in.  I’m losing the tile borders around the steps, but they are being replaced with tile marker dots on each step.

The pool is being converted to salt-generated chlorine, which should be beneficial from a chemical purchasing standpoint.  But in a way, that’s sort of moot, since I am going to contract the pool maintenance out after the refinishing is done.  I know that I am a terrible maintenance person.  It’s a rare month that I can go without an algae bloom.  So, budgeting about $100/mo for pool service should seem reasonable.  And, if I get to the point of renting the house, it won’t be me paying for it anymore.

One unknown at this point is the pool light.  Because of a small fuckup when I was rewiring a switch, I blew out the light in the pool.  The contractor says the light is not a typical pool light, it may be a spa light.  I want to replace it with a color-changing LED light, but there’s a chance it may not fit in the opening.  That can only be determined after the pool is drained.  It may be an expensive addition to the bill, but hopefully, it will all work out ok.

The schedule is set to begin in about 2 weeks and the season is fast approaching.

Garage Phase 2 Complete

This is a late posting.  I’ve actually been done with the garage for a little while now, but it still took much much longer than planned.

Originally, the last thing to do was paint the walls.  That was going to be done during the downtime from hurricane Irma.  The paint was purchased and everything was cleared out and ready to go.  And it never happened.  And the weeks went by and it still never happened.

Finally, I got up the energy to strip the old paint off the electrical conduit to the electric box.  Immediately after that, I got the flu, so I had another setback.  After recovering, I made a few more half-hearted attempts at stripping the paint until I figured it was good enough.

The next half-hearted attempts involved priming, which was done over the span of weeks, with a final push in early December.  Then it was on to painting.

But before all of that, there was a bit of planning for the electrical outlets.  The outlets dropped from the ceiling had cheap, flimsy plastic outlet covers.  I wanted to replace them with metal.  Also, the light switches and wall outlets also needed upgraded to more ornate metal plates.  Finally, the doorbell transformer was mounted on a plate that needed swapped out to a metal plate.

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This transformer plate.  Never before have I had such trouble finding a product.  This is simply a plate with a 7/8” round hole in the middle.  The transformer has a mount that fits into the hole and is secured with a set screw.  You would not believe how difficult it was to find a metal plate with a 7/8” hole in it.  I found one at exactly one place on the Internet – Kyle Switch Plates.  When I finally received the new plate, I had to drill an extra hole in it to route the doorbell wire.  After drilling the hole, I wondered why I just didn’t drill a 7/8” hole in a blank metal plate.  I’m not exactly the smartest handyman.

One other task I wanted to accomplish was rerouting the electrical supply for my FIOS box.  The way the box was originally set up, I had to run an extension cord from the outlet over to the breaker panel, where the power transformer for the inside portion of the ONT was mounted to the wall.  I took the FIOS boxes apart and saw that the power line was just simple cat5 cable between the wall unit and transformer.

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I got a longer length of networking cable and routed it around the wall, just under the chair rail molding and relocated the power transformer just underneath the power outlet.

So, with all the plates installed and a future plan to change out the switches and outlets with fresh, clean ones, I’m considering this phase of the project complete.

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The next step, Phase 3, is installing the garage door.

The Generator

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that when I first moved into this house, one of the first things I purchased was a generator.  And since I bought the thing, I’ve never had to use it.  Never.  The only time it was ever used was when the former homeowner, who is an electrician, offered to wire up a house feed, so I could power my whole house with the generator.  Actually, it would only power some of the house, but, I could turn circuit breakers on and off to direct the power where it was needed.

Anyway, the point is that I’ve only run the damn thing once.  And after that one time, I never drained out the gas.  And I have experience as to what that will do to an engine.  But we’re not talking about leaving gas sit for months or a year, we’re talking 12 years.  So, as hurricane Irma approached, I pulled out the generator and it failed to start, as expected.  I had a couple of days to fix this situation.  The fix would be similar to what was done to my motorcycle – remove and clean the carburetor.

I started by taking the gas tank off the top and doing a general cleaning of the unit.  Considering its disuse for 12 years, the generator was in good shape.  I sprayed seafoam and carb cleaner into the throttle body.  I somehow expected that would fix the issue.  The generator did not start after a bunch of tugs.  I rolled the sad unit back inside and let it go.

The next time, I actually disassembled the carb from the engine.  I sprayed more carb cleaner all over it.  But the one thing I couldn’t do is get the bowl off, which Youtube taught me is something that needs to be done.  The screws were seized and would not move at all.  I put the carb, twice cleaned, back on and tried to start it.  Many yanks later, it still has not made an improvement.  Back inside the pathetic unit went.

I gave a lot of thought of how to get those screws off.  I was beginning to strip the heads, so my options were becoming limited.  My next thought was to clamp the screw bit against the body so when I turned the driver, the bit would not come out from the head grooves.  So, on another day, I did just that – took the carb off, got a clamp and secured the bit to the head, then using a wrench, I turned the bit.  The end result was the clamp slipping and more head stripping.

In desperation, I grabbed a pair of vice-grip pliers and clamped them onto the screw head.  A careful turn and the bolt freed itself with a small “crack”.  With what was left of the head grooves, I was able to remove the screws and expose the carb bowl.  At last.  The liquid in the bowl was outrageous.  It was a dark brown, oily substance that resembled nothing like gasoline.

I went to work with the carb cleaner and got everything shiny clean.  Now to reassemble it.  And that’s where it all kind of fell apart.  The gasket, a complex-as-fuck o-ring that rested in grooves in the carb, didn’t fit in the grooves in the carb anymore.  I must’ve stretched the rubber when I pulled it apart.  And as far as know, there isn’t a way to unstretch the rubber.  After an extended attempt to fit it all back together, I decided I would just buy a new gasket.

The problem is, finding that gasket is no easy task.  I determined the engine was a Briggs and Stratton, which got me lots of replacement parts – way too many.  Then I found the part number of the carburetor and searched for that.  That’s when I found out a replacement carb was only $20 – shipped.  Why was I even bothering to try and clean this thing?  I mean, it’s not like a $300 used carb for my motorcycle.  In the end, it’s still the same fix I did with my motorcycle.

The part is ordered and I’ll be able to install it next week.  I could have done that right from the start if I’d known it was that cheap.  What a waste of time.