AC Day

I’m getting the AC swapped out in the house.  It’s been between 77 and 81 degrees in the house for a couple of weeks now.

Two guys showed up at 9:00 sharp to begin.  By about 1:00, I had cool air moving.  At that time it was 85 in the house, so the new system had its work cut out.

The new condenser outside is much more quiet than the beast that was out there before.  It’s shorter and fatter too, if that makes any sort of efficiency difference.

In the attic, everything is new.  A new drop pan to replace the seriously rusted old one.  Even the mounting of the air handler was improved.  It got raised up a few inches and a new plywood base was installed.  I’m keeping my existing air filter box, which has a non-functioning UV light attachment on it.  Maybe some day I will replace the UV light, I’ve been told they are costly.  To do that, I would have to run a power line to it, since the half-assed previous install powered the UV light from a power socket off the attic light.  If you switch off the attic light at the switch, the UV light is turned off, too.  That’s stupid.

At the same time, I had the guys install a new programmable, WIFI thermostat.  I am really against cloud-based management, but I will admit, being able to see my thermostat in a web browser was cool.  If I can do the same thing locally, staying inside my network, I will be good to go.

After a day of usage, I feel a little underwhelmed.  It took a really long time to cool the house.  8 hours later, the temp had dropped 10 degrees.  Maybe that’s normal, but my old system, when it was running well, would drop the temp 5 degrees an hour.

I’ve read a lot of HVAC and learned that having an oversized AC unit may not be the best thing because it cools the air too quickly and doesn’t reduce enough humidity.  To handle this, advanced systems (like my old one) will run the fan at a slower speed to dehumidify without as much cooling.  That feature was eliminated when I changed the motor to a single-speed, so I have no idea if this system is better or not.  Also, I never had a hygrometer in my old thermostat, so I have no idea what the interior humidity was.

A day later, the system has held my house at 73 degrees all day, so that’s a good thing.  And I know this because I can check the temp remotely.

Cat Door

It was many years ago that I ruined the property value of my house by installing a cat door leading out to the screened-in porch.  At the time, there were two cats, Bubbles and Rump.  Bubbles came with the house when I bought it because the sellers saw she was more friendly with me than she was with them.  Rump was a stray that I befriended on Halloween and she decided I was her new owner and this was her house.

Both cats enjoyed going “outside” on the patio, and as cats are wont to do, they would request to go out, or more accurately, request the door be opened so they could decide if they wanted to go out.  And if no one was there to open the door, well, tough shit.  So, I purchased a cat door so they could help themselves.

As it turned out, Bubbles never understood how to use the door, but Rump figured it out on day one and used it for the rest of her times.  In the middle of the night, you would hear her knocking on the door before she pushed her considerable girth through the opening.  The door had a lock, but it was rarely used.

I can’t even remember how I installed the door.  I know I didn’t have near the collection of tools I have now.  And so it’s not really a surprise the installation is not as good as it could be.  The one big issue is the opening isn’t as even on the outside as it should be.  Also, over the years, the plastic has turned yellow from the sunlight and from having a dirty cat in and out for years, the door and channel was full of hair and cat litter.  With the expectation that a new cat is coming to the house, it was time to replace the door.

Surprisingly or not, it seems the model of door I have was discontinued a while ago.  But there’s still some places that sell what’s left over.  And so I bought one.  About $40.  It’s been so long, I can’t remember what I paid for the original.  And this time, when I install the new door, I can correct the opening and it should look much better.

So the old door, as I said, was old and yellowed and dirty from years of use.

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While I had the old door off, I used a file to open up the door hole where it touched the plastic.  I also superglued the tunnel to the inside frame for stability.  When I got it all assembled in place, this was definitely for the best.  You can see in the gross close-up of the old outside view how the tunnel had separated from the inside frame.

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The new install is nice and white and you can particularly see how the tunnel is in better shape now.  It actually almost protrudes past the outside frame.


All ready for a new cat.  Coming this week.

A/C Approved

There was a slight breakdown in communication with my A/C replacement quote.  For whatever reason, the office thought I had already been given the quote, but the person giving the quote didn’t write anything down.  I explained that I was told they would call me because I had questions about available rebates from my local electric company.  So whatever, we’re talking now.

I was so nervous about what the quote was going to be, I was hardly listening for anything else.  The quote is… are you ready… the technician wrote down a quote of… this is for a 3 ton system… it’s a 16 seer unit… (I can’t afford that!) this unit has a 10 year warranty…  and the cost is… including installation… $3,975.

Exhale.  So, it’s not a celebration-grade quote, but it is well within budget.  So now, I get to tweak the parameters to see where I can go with this.  The first thing I asked about was this electric company rebate.  The rebate is not available for electric heat systems, which this is.  It’s only for heat pumps.  So what would that run me?  Something like $4,300, and the rebate would be $300.  The only problem is, I would have to have additional wiring done, which is an unknown and would certainly add to the cost.  The last time I did wiring, for the pool, it was over $1,000.  And who knows what that would do to the install timeline.  So, we’re going to stay where we are.

Next, let’s address the SEER rating.  I have read that the higher seer units jump up in cost rapidly.  So, how much can I save by dropping efficiency?  Well, there’s a 14 seer option and that’s about $3,200.  There’s no 15 seer option.  I think the quote was spot on the first time.  Now I need to make a 50% deposit and I’m on the schedule.

Yeah, about that schedule.  This is the middle of June in Florida.  It sure would have been convenient for my AC unit to die in the winter time, but it’s gonna do what it’s gonna do.  And what it did was coordinate with all its brethren and join in a mass suicide.  So, my appointment is tentatively scheduled for two weeks out.  Maybe there will be a cancellation or maybe another job will get wrapped up early and I can get promoted, but I’m probably going to be getting used to 80 degrees in the house.

And you know what?  When it’s 93 degrees outside, 80 feels pretty damn good.  I can’t really say I’m hurting too badly.  I can sleep at night with the ceiling fan and a sheet.  I can jump in the pool to cool off, now that I have a fully-restored and fully-maintained pool.  If I really got desperate, I could make one of those Styrofoam cooler AC units with a desktop fan and some ice.

Now that I go back and look at my service call invoice from last Thursday, yeah, the cost of the new AC unit is on there.  I guess I didn’t need to sweat it.  But, I don’t remember being told that was the estimated cost.  And it lacked the detail of the quote that I got today, so it all worked out as it should.

Air Conditioning

It’s hot in the house.

Today, I should be getting a quote to install a new AC system.  My old AC system is probably 15 years old, judging by some documentation I was able to find on it.  It has finally reached its end-of-life.

The AC unit has always been a little finicky.  For as long as I can remember, there were occasions where the compressor outside would just shut off and the blower inside would keep running.  Soon, it would be blowing nothing but hot air.  The fix for this was to pull the thermostat off the wall and put it back on after a few seconds.  Seriously.  It was like pulling the battery of your non-responsive cell phone, except it is your house.  Oddly, flipping the circuit breaker switches wouldn’t even resolve it.

I’ve had techs come out more and more frequently to fix things.  Over time, it’s been a bad solenoid, a failed blower motor, a bad thermostat, a failed cooling fan, and a clogged air filter (duh, me).  This time I brought them out and the diagnosis was grim.  The compressor outside was not performing up to par.  There’s not really a way to fix that, so it has to be replaced.  The tech said the compressor was only drawing 6 amps of power when it should be drawing around 15.  Conversely, when the compressor starts up, it spikes the power, at about 52 amps.  My suspicion is that it is requiring a large boost of power to break out of its inertia. Regardless of the reason, 52 amps is pretty close to my circuit breaker’s limit of 60 amps.  So, if it fails much further, it’s just going to start tripping the circuit breaker and then it will just never start up again.

I asked the tech what brands they sell and the response was ComfortMaker.  I’d never heard of the brand before and I thought it was a pretty dumb name, very generic sounding.  Internet research shows that ComfortMaker is a known brand and is a sub-brand (more or less) of Carrier, which is a very well-known brand.  One of the other interesting bits of knowledge I picked up is that “they don’t make them like they used to.”  That’s hardly news, but there’s actually a reason for it.  My unit, as old as it is, is built like a tank.  But that build quality comes at a cost.  Just like automobiles, the older cars were built like tanks, but they were inefficient.  They would last forever because of their heavyweight components, but would cost a lot of money doing so.  Newer AC units are highly efficient, but they gain that efficiency by using thinner copper pipes and lighter materials.  These parts wear out quicker, but they save you money while they’re running.  So I guess the take-away is to bank whatever you save from a new system for your next system.  The march of progress.

I’ve also been researching a bit about tonnage and SEER and heat pumps.  A Q&D calculation says I should have a 2.5 ton compressor.  I currently have a 4 ton compressor and a 5 ton air handler.  Why’s that?  Well, the old knowledge was: bigger is better.  Plus, the house used to have a converted garage as a game room, so a bigger unit was needed anyway.  Old knowledge was that you could gain efficiency by having a larger air handler than your compressor.  Also, they thought that if your compressor runs less, you’re saving money.  But all that advice is gone now.  The new knowledge is just size the unit correctly.  You shouldn’t have your compressor cycling frequently because of the wear on the unit and the large power draw when it starts up.  It’s better to have it run constantly when it’s hot (which mine is doing now, although that’s not a good thing in my case).

So today, I am waiting on the proposal to do the work.  A co-worker coincidently also was having AC trouble and while he got his system stumbling again, he chose to schedule a replacement.  His quote was $8k.  Ouch.  That’s a bit over my maximum budget.  One difference is that he’s going to have an extra return duct installed with the new system.  Mine should hopefully just be a simple swap-out. 

My budget for this is:  $3k, no-brainer; $5k, soft maximum; $7k, hard maximum.  I was told there is about a 1 week lead time on scheduling an install, so I’m going to have to get used to 80 degree indoor temps for a while.  Unfortunately, this pushes back my plans to install a garage door.  But, this was a known upcoming expense.  That and a new roof.  With the pool already redone, once the AC and roof are redone, the house will be brought back to current specs and should be good for another decade or so.

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.


Welcome, new timer.


Welcome to the family.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.