Renovating my Digital Life

It's been a while since my last post.

Work has been busy - lots of travel. Carving out an hour a day for physical fitness. Yada yada yada - the usual excuses.

Well - a week into the Christmas holidays - and I've been buried in my new laptop for most of the week - except when I sneak out to play a quick game of Mariokart 8 with the kids on their new Wii U. So - what has been so captivating on the new laptop? A complete digital makeover, a digital "renovation" - the term popped into my head this morning while making coffee as an excuse to try to justify the incredible amount of time spent on this project.

Ultimately, I'm a knowledge worker, manager, consultant that makes my living with my laptop and my brains. My laptop is the tool that I use to earn my living - and I try to keep my tools sharp and working well. For the past 5 years - I've been using a Sony Vaio VPC-Z11 13" ultrabook as my primary work tool - and it has been stellar. 4 x 128GB SSD drives in a Raid configuration, external GPU, this has been a lightning fast, compact machine. Originally a Windows 7 machine, I upgraded it to Windows 10 and ultimately that's has been it's downfall. I like the OS upgrades with Windows 10 - but my Sony Vaio did not. No Windows 10 driver updates for this machine which cost me over $3000 5 years ago. Still no Windows 10 driver updates as of today, and no indication that the new owners of Sony's Vaio laptop division will ever get around to issuing updates. So began in ernest the quest for a new laptop, that I've been considering for a while now.

Intel released the Skylake processor chipsets this year - and I've been waiting to see how they would be packaged in new hardware - and where I could pick up a compact, fast and capable machine. I do some heavy spreadsheeting, and other than that - my major use for my laptop is Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for managing my 100,000 digital photo collection. The Vaio was really struggling with Lightroom following the Windows 10 update - and I knew I wanted my new machine to have an external GPU for the additional processing power for lightroom. I also wanted small and compact for travelling - but the only compact machine that came out was the Microsoft Surface Pro - and I wanted something a bit more mainstream this time around. Over to Dell with the XPS line - the XPS 13 was a nice machine but was only running 17W processors - dual core, no external GPU. The XPS 15 was running 45W quad core processors, with external GPUs and M.2 NVMe SSD slots - promising to be extremely fast, and reasonably energy efficient for travelling. I also liked the idea of the new XPS 15 infinity display - reduced border around the display for a more compact laptop. So I pulled the pin - and went for the XPS 15 with the i7 processor, but without the touch display so that I could have better battery life while travelling, and the second hard drive bay for installing a nice big secondary SSD for my photo databases.

The XPS 15 arrived on Christmas Eve - and it was time to think through how I would migrate my data to the new machine. The Windows 10 migration tool works very well - I've used it before - but I didn't want to transfer over all the clutter from 5 years of digital neglect over to the new machine. I wanted to rethink how I would use the now plentitful cloud storage options - OneDrive, iCloud, Dropbox, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Drive - companies are now throwing cloud based drive space at customers like never before. I also wanted to upgrade my office suite - I've been rolling with Office 2010 for 5 years without an upgrade - and 2 major revisions have passed since then. What have I been missing?

So - Office 365 for business trial with 1tb OneDrive cloud storage - 3 month free trial - installed and running on the new XPS, with an upgrade from Adobe Acrobat 9 to Adobe Acrobat DC (I create, review and comment a lot of PDFs on a day by day basis). Very simple to get up and running - so far, so good. Oh - and a new iPad thrown in for the first time. More on the reason for getting my new iPad on the next post - the fitness discussion.

At every step of the upgrade, there seems to be an architecture decision to be  made. I'm trying to keep things simple, manageable, and consistent. This - however - is far from easy. iTunes, iPhone and iPad backups - all destined for easy integration with iCloud - this is a no brainer and a nice safety feature. The business information - not so simple. MS Office vs. Google Apps - I'm a power user so I went with Microsoft - and time will tell how the OneDrive experiment goes. 4TB of digital photos - backed up on a NAS at home - not convenient or cost effective to back this up to the cloud. So here - the backups are still going to a safety deposit box at the bank - but certainly not convenient. Cloud backups of new photos since the last physical backup - that makes sense now with 1TB of OneDrive storage. Let's see how that works.

Documents and digital clutter - I've always been fairly organized - and I have a fairly simple and well known file structure and folder organization for all my personal and work files - that has grown to be a bit of a monster over the past 15 years of consulting. So - I've decided to really pare this down and get things cleaned up. Backup all to the NAS at home, keep a copy on the new laptop - and go through everything and delete the obsolete, useless data, and keep the stuff that is still relevant for reference, work or home. This has taken quite a bit of time, but I look at this as an exercise in keeping my tools sharp.

Another exercise has been in getting my notes organized - and trying out OneNote for the first time. I used to keep about 100 notes in Outlook - but a computer migration about 6 years ago severed all those notes from my day to day workflow. So I spent a day migrating notes from an old PST backup, and notes that I had been keeping on the Toodledo web service - into one place in an new personal OneNote file. So far, so good - and when cleaning up all my historical files - trimming and cleaning out old spreadsheets and word files, and transferring useful bits of data to OneNote and discarding a plethora of digital files. So far I'm liking OneNote - and find myself keeping it open in the background now for filing away thoughts, ideas, and digital scraps of information.

No photos for today's post - except for a catalog photo of the new laptop:


Low Speed AC Fan Dehumidification - Honeywell Prestige 2.0 Thermostat and Evergreen IM ECM Variable Speed Fan Motor

Now that summer is just about here - I've been working on fine tuning my summer dehumidification as part of my indoor air quality project. One of the issues that I'm working on resolving has been a faint musty odour in the house particularly in the summertime. Last summer I was dealing with 60% relative humidity (RH) levels in the house - even with the air conditioning running, and a small 18 litre/day humidifier running in the basement.
Honeywell Prestige 2.0 IAQ Thermostat - With low speed fan AC dehumidification - and the RH right at the setpoint - 45%
I'm running a 4 ton thermopump with a large Lennox fan coil unit in the basement. The system heats well in the winter, cools well in the summer, but the single speed 3/4 hp blower was consuming a fair bit of energy running 24/7 so that I could keep the heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to try to deal with the musty odour. I've done a couple significant upgrades to the system since last summer; i) upgrading the 3/4 hp split capacitor single speed blower motor to an electronically commutated (ECM) permanent magnet varable speed Evergreern IM blower motor - which is much more efficient at full speed, and magnitudes more efficient when running in low speed circulation mode; and ii) installing a Honeywell Prestige 2.0 IAQ Thermostat and Equipment Interface Module (EIM) to manage all aspects of HVAC control - especially to control humidification and dehumidification in conjunction with the heating and cooling system.

The Honeywell Prestige 2.0 IAQ thermostat has a control option for dehumidification using the low speed fan option of an air handler / air conditioner with a multiple or variable speed motor. There are three user defined outputs on the EIM that can be set up and customized using the configuration tools on the Prestige 2.0 IAQ thermostat. One of these outputs controls my HRV. A second output controls my new Honeywell Truease Bypass Humidifier and Damper, and the third output was unused. Since my humidity levels were running a bit better than last summer, but still higher than I wanted (52 to 55% RH) I decided to try configuring the third output to slow the blower speed down when air conditioning - Low Speed AC Fan Dehumidification - as a way of getting the humidity level indoors between 45 and 50% RH. The theory behind low speed AC fan dehumidification is pretty simple - by slowing the airspeed across the evaporator coil - this allows the evaporator coil to run a little bit colder, increasing the temperature differential of the return air and the evaporator coil, and improving the quantity of condensate on the evaporator coil.

So - the Evergreen IM motor uses speed "taps" that sense control voltage (24VAC) for the various HVAC functions - such as 1st, 2nd, 3rd stage heating / cooling, emergency heating, etc. and allows you to configure the motor to run different speed ranges for different heating and cooling functions to optimize the performance of your fan coil / thermopump combination. My configuration is described at the followling link - but simply, I had thermopump heating or cooling running at high blower speed, electric backup heat running at medium high speed, and HRV / circulation running at low blower speed. The control connection is simple - the Evergreen IM high speed "tap" which is the yellow control wire is connected to the first stage thermopump compressor control wire ("Y") from the thermostat (or EIM with the Prestige 2.0 IAQ). Since the Evergreen IM speed always defaults to low speed whenever it doesn't receive a higher speed control signal from any of its speed taps - all that is required to switch the fan to low speed when the thermopump compressor is running is to interrupt the speed tap on the Evergreen IM motor connected to the "Y" control wire. I thought I would have to install a small control relay to interrupt the speed tap, but the Honeywell EIM user outputs for low speed fan dehumidification is software configurable as a normally open or a normally closed relay. So - run the speed trap through the EIM user input - configure the relay as normally closed - and when the thermostat calls for dehumidification - it will interrupt the speed tap on the first stage compressor and force the fan to low speed operation. Since I already had a pair of unused wires running between my fan coil control box and the EIM - I didn't have to run any new wire, just make the user output connections at the EIM, and wire the pair in between the Evergreen IM speed tap, and the "Y" connections on my furnace. Simple.

One of the nice features of the Honeywell Prestige is the Equipment Interface Module (EIM) - Instead of all connections being made at the Thermostat in the living area of the home - all the connections are made at the EIM installed at the furnace or air handling equipment - and the Thermostat only requires power - control is all wireless between the thermostat and the EIM. 


So - how does it work? In a word - excellent. It took about a day for the average RH to drop from the 55% range to 49 / 50%, and then after the second day it's been running at my setpoint - 45% - during the day (when there is enough solar energy hitting the house that the air conditioning is running during the day). At night, the RH will drift up towards 49% because the outdoor temperatures are just a bit higher than the indoor temperatures, but this will improve as the summer gets hotter in the evenings. I shouldn't have any trouble now keeping my indoor humidity level below 50%, and I didn't have to resort to purchasing a larger dehumidifier, or a whole house dehumidifier.

I have to say that I still really appreciate the Evergreen IM variable speed blower motor - the HVAC system in the house runs silently most of the time now, and I still really like the Honeywell Prestige 2.0 IAQ thermostat - I like the display and integrated humidity control, I like that it controls my HRV and I don't need a separate, uncoordinated HRV control on the wall, and I like the continuous outdoor temperature and humidity display, along with the indoor temperature and humidity display. I also appreciate the ability to monitor and change the thermostat settings from anywhere - inside or away from the home,  using my smartphone and the Honeywell Total Connect Comfort app. (I still intent to write a post about this app.)

Now that the house has been below 50% RH for a few days since making this upgrade - I've noticed a reduction in the musty odour. It's not completely gone yet - we'll see how this evolves, but I'm thinking of adding a UV lamp to the ductwork to further improve the indoor air quality.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. 

The Ring Video Doorbell - Upgrading from an old Nutone Intercom System

A little while ago I was standing in my basement looking at all the old Nutone Intercom parts that I had removed from the house. When we moved in 3 years ago - the system had Keypads on all three levels of the house, and keypads at the front and side doors. The system had a central controller with radio, and an electronic chime. Since the system looked old and dated, I removed all the internal components, and replaced the large electronic chime with a very simple Honeywell Doorbell. Everything was reconnected using the original transformer and wiring so just the doorbells worked. I'm in the process of selling all the old Nutone components on eBay.

The Ring Video Doorbell - Silver Version
So - when looking at the leftovers of the system, I began thinking - I'm never more that 2 steps away from my smartphone, why isn't there a simple doorbell that rings my smartphone when I'm in my house? I could be in the basement or the back yard, and I'd be able to respond to the doorbell. I didn't think too much about it, but then I decided to research the web to see if anyone had followed through on this idea. Of course someone has, and I found the Ring Video Doorbell.

These devices aren't that expensive - about $200 - and they hook up to your home wifi network to send door ring notifications to your smartphone - wherever you may happen to be with a wifi or data connection. You can see who's at the door, you can decide whether you wish to answer or not. So - I took the plunge and decided to purchase one and install it.

The first step was removing the old Nutone intercom speaker. 2 screws, and I took note that the orange pair of wires in my installation was used for the 17VAC doorbell switch circuit. By connecting the Ring Video Doorbell to your existing doorbell switch wires powered by an internal transformer, the Ring will keep itself charged, and pressing the button on the Ring will sound the doorbell in your house.

Removing the old Nutone Speaker Unit
The Ring is smaller and more compact than the Nutone Speaker unit. This caused an issue in my installation because the Nutone was installed in a custom installation box - set into my masonry. I decided to create an aluminum cover plate to hide the old box, and create a flat surface for installing the Ring.

The Ring Video Doorbell adapter plate is smaller than the Nutone Speaker installation Box. A Cover will be required. 
I had a sheet of white painted aluminum for flashing and eavestrough repairs, so I simply cut a rectangle 4 3/8" wide by 5 7/8" tall to cover the Nutone installation box.
Aluminum sheet cover plate - with 2 holes drilled for installing on the Nutone installation box.

Four holes punched for the installation of the Ring Adapter Plate, and a Grommet installed to pass the Doorbell Switch Wire.

The adapter plate installed on the installation box - with the wires pulled through the grommet. Don't forget to cut the power to your doorbell circuit before working with these wires. 
So now I had my box covered with a smart looking aluminum plate - it was time to get started installing the Ring. First step was to install the adapter plate with the supplied hardware. Ring provides you with a small toolkit including a special screwdriver, a concrete drill bit, various screws and anchors, and some filler for filling old holes.

Install the adapter plate, and connect the existing doorbell switch wires to the two contacts in the center of the plate.
Click here to purchase a prefabricated aluminum adapter plate for the Ring Video Doorbell on eBay.

The Ring snaps onto the adapter plate, and locks down using two special screws on the bottom of the unit. This prevents someone from easily removing the Ring from its mounting base. 
Now that all was installed, it was time to test out the Ring. Reconnect the power to your doorbell circuit, and test the doorbell button. You normal doorbell should sound inside the house, plus you'll hear the distinctive chime of the Ring Video Doorbell. Once you've run through the setup routine of the Ring (connected by USB to your computer) everything will be ready once the Ring is on the adapter plate. Some have complained that the Ring may have a hard time reaching a good wifi signal when installed at your front door - this hasn't been the case in my installation - I've got a great signal.

With the Ring app installed on your smartphone and/or tablet- ringing the Ring doorbell switch initiates a video call with your smartphone or tablet. On the iPhone you get a notification on the home screen, and the video application launches so that you can see who is at your front door. You can decide whether to accept or reject a call to talk to whoever is at the front door - and this feature is available anywhere you have internet connection with your smartphone or tablet. Very cool.

Ring screenshot - when someone sounds the door, or when the motion detection function detects motion . You can choose to initiate voice communication at this screen.
I also set up motion detection - the Ring will send you a notification whenever someone approaches your front door. You can adjust the zones and sensitivity (range) in the app to prevent false alarms. 

Setting up motion detection

Communication in progress - you can put the call on speakerphone, mute the call, zoom into the center of the frame, or end the call. 
All in all - very cool device. We'll see how useful it is over time, and I'll post an update later.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. I have started manufacturing blank and pre-drilled retrofit kits for the Ring Video doorbell to popular intercom rough-ins and electrical boxes.

Click here to purchase a prefabricated aluminum adapter plate for the Ring Video Doorbell on eBay.


Battery Life of Insteon Battery Powered Sensors - Door Open / Close Sensor, Water Leak Sensor, Hidden Door Sensor

I have a good number of sensors that have been running in my house for almost a year - 7 of the 2852-222 Water Leak Sensors, 5 of the 2845-222 Hidden Door Sensors, and 6 of the 2843-222 Wireless Open Close Sensors.

In my other posts I've detailed my difficulties with the failures and replacement of the 2412S / 2413S Insteon Power Line Modem which allows my ISY994i to communicate with my Insteon system. Last week I had to replace a defective PLM for the second time - and - in order to reinstall the new PLM in the system, you have to systematically relink all your battery powered Insteon sensors one at a time to the new PLM. So - I spent an evening doing so.

While doing the rounds relinking these sensors to the new PLM, I had to replace batteries in a a few cases. I have some Hidden Door Sensors whose original supplied AAA alkaline battery failed in about 8 months, I have some Wireless Open Close Sensors whose original supplied AA alkaline batteries failed in about 8 months, and I even have one of the Water Leak Sensor batteries fail in less than one year - and these are rated to last 5 years or more.

Battery from the Insteon Wireless Water Leak Detector - a 2700mAh 1.5V Lithium Battery
The batteries in the Wireless Water Leak Sensors are an "LFS" unbranded 1.5V 2700mAh battery. A little research on the interweb indicates that the LFS probably refers to Lithium/Iron Disulfide  (Li-FeS2) batteries. This is the same battery as the Energizer branded Ultimate Lithium batteries - link to the datasheet here. To get this sensor running again, I just installed a regular alkaline AA battery - I'll report how long that battery lasts. But - I also got onto eBay this morning and ordered up several packages of both the AA and AAA sizes of the Energizer Ultimate Lithium battery for future hidden door sensor and open close sensor battery replacements. There are also vendors selling unbranded versions of the Li-FeS2 battery - although I'm not sure how you can be assured you're getting a quality product.

Brother P-Touch Labelling - Installation Date on Batteries
Just because of the time it takes to replace a battery in one of these sensor - I'm going to do some tests on battery life using the Lithium batteries. My aim with this is to try to reduce and minimize the time it takes to maintain my Insteon system. Replacing batteries, relinking and restoring failed devices, replacing PLMs, are all "overhead" to owning and maintaining an Insteon installation. I'd rather be doing other things than tinkering with the system - so hopefully the lithium batteries will perform better - particularly on my deadbolt sensors which are subject to cold temperatures based on where they are installed.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. . My go-to place in Canada for Insteon automation components is


Running the Ecotech EZ Variable Speed Pool Pump Motor - GFCI Breaker Issues and Resolution

I've been upgrading my pool pump system with a variable speed motor from Emerson / Nidec / US Motors - the 3HP Ecotech EZ motor. I've described installing the motor on the pump, and the upgrade of the pool piping from 1 1/2" diameter to 2" diameter for better flow and lower restriction.

Ecotech EZ Variable Speed Motor installed on the Jacuzzi Magnum 1500 Pool Pump
The night that I finished the last of the 2" piping was when I reinstalled the salt chlorination cell. Then it was time to start up the pump for first time. Power on - then 2 seconds later the GFCI breaker feeding the sub panel in the pool shack tripped, and an error message appeared on the motor's LCD screen - blocked pump. The motor has a protection feature if the impellor gets blocked - it will prevent the motor from forcing against a blockage. I reset the breaker and tried a few times to get the pump running - then realized that I had installed the motor adapter plate backwards - jamming the impellor against the seal plate. So - 11:30 at night, and I pulled the motor from the pump and flipped the adapter plate, reassembled the pump and......the GFCI breaker still trips - but I no longer have the blocked pump error message on the variable speed control panel.

Ecotech EZ Motor Control Panel
The manual for the Ecotech EZ pool pump motor very clearly states that if you want the motor protected by a GFCI breaker, the pump must be installed on a dedicated GFCI circuit, not shared with other electrical loads. This posed a problem with my electrical system - my pool shack sub panel has 6 circuits - 4 15A lighting and power outlet circuits - one of which is the pool lights, and two 2-pole 240V circuits - one for the thermopump heater and one for the pool pump. When I moved into this house 3 years ago - only the pool light circuit was protected with a GFCI breaker. So - to upgrade the protection for the most economical cost - I protected the entire sub-panel from the feed from the house panel with a 40A 2 pole 240V GFCI breaker. The implication  of the requirement to have the Ecotech motor on its own dedicated GFCI circuit was to remove the GFCI breaker from the panel feeding the sub panel, and convert all the breakers on the sub-panel to GFCI breakers - an expensive upgrade. To try to avoid all this - I tried to get the pump to work with the GFCI breaker on the house panel - but even removing all the other loads on the sub-panel was causing the feeder GFCI breaker to trip every time I tried to start the motor. 

Ecotech EZ Motor Upgrade on Jacuzzi Magnum 1500 pump - with 2" plumbing upgrade
To get the motor running - I removed the GFCI breaker from the sub-panel feed. It started and ran fine, but with no GFCI protection. When anyone went near the pool, I shut off all the breakers on the sub-panel for safety, but this wasn't practical as a permanent solution. Incidentally - I did some research on other variable speed pool pumps - such as the Pentair Intelliflo pump - and it's installation manual also requires a dedicated circuit if the pump is to be protected with a GFCI breaker. 

I had two 15A single pole GFCI breakers from the original installation, which I put back into the sub-panel. Then I purchased a single 2 pole 20A GFCI breaker for the pool pump circuit. I installed this on the sub-panel, and it worked fine. Then I installed a second 2 pole 20A GFCI breaker for the thermopump. 

The point of this whole discussion is to warn anyone considering this variable speed pump upgrade that there may be electrical implications beyond just swapping the motor. Also - it's important to state that you should have this electrical work performed by a licensed electrician - or have a licensed electrician inspect your handywork if you decide to do this yourself. You want to ensure that the electrical systems are safely installed and will protect your family and friends from an electrical fault.

One other issue that I've run into is that I had my salt chlorination cell transformer wired with my pool pump motor - but I've had to separate the circuits in order to get the GFCI breaker for the pool pump to work. Also - the pump needs to be powered on all the time - the pump timing is now controlled by the intelligent controller on the motor, and not my central pool automation system. So I've decided to control just the salt chlorination cell from my central pool automation system - I'll program it to run on a function based on the length of daylight since chlorine degradation is a function of sunlight - and run the pool pump separately using the timer on the motor controller. I still have some wiring to get this up and running - if I run into anything interesting - I may do a separate post on this.

Once I got the electrical issues sorted out, the pump has been running now for about 2 weeks. I did some testing to check the current draw on the pump at various pump flows. The control panel modifies the pump speed as percentage of flow, and not as percentage of speed changes. Since the pump runs with a single set of programming from the factory, and every pump installation will be different with its own piping head - the percentage of flow settings on the motor will only be approximate on any system. 

What's interesting about this graph is that I can run at 75% flow consuming only about half of the full speed motor current, or I can run at 60% flow consuming only about a third of the full speed current. I wish I had taken the motor current measurement of the original single speed motor on the Jacuzzi Magnum pump - this new permanent magnet motor should be much more efficient at full speed. For the past two weeks I've been running the pump 24 hours per day, at 50% speed consuming less than 1 Amp of current. At this speed the sand filter backpressure is only about 3 psi - the power savings are impressive, and the filtration is very effective - water is crystal clear and my salt cell is performing well.

Measuring power draw of the Ecotech EZ motor using the Klein CL1000 clamp meter
Another feature of the variable speed motor is to be able to fine tune the motor speed to your vacuum and vacuum hose length, to avoid cavitation of the motor. On my previous setup with the single speed motor - the motor would cavitate whenever I was vacuuming. This would cause the pump to periodically lose prime, and suction on the vacuum. In addition, whenever I was vacuuming to waste early in the season to rid the pool of dead algae, the single speed pump was always running at full speed and drawing down the water level very rapidly. Now I can vacuum to waste at 40% flow - greatly reduce the loss of water and increase the time that I have to vacuum more effectively. I also expect that I'll be able to tune the motor to the barracuda automatic vacuum for peak performance, without using the bypass valve. 

Ecotech EZ Motor - Timer Controller is mounted directly on the motor housing
So - with the exception of the surprise expense on the GFCI breaker upgrade on my sub-panel - I'm very satisfied with this pump motor upgrade. My pump running at 50% flow is very quiet - I can't hear the motor at all outside the pool shack, and my neighbor's pool pump makes more noise now than my own. One other thing that I like a lot about this upgrade is the performance of the Jandy multiport valves - much easier to actuate by hand, nice clean looking installation. This is a positive upgrade - and I hope to see the results on my electricity bill at the end of the summer. 


Ecotech EZ Variable Speed Pool Pump Motor - Pump Installation and Piping Upgrades

Now that the pump is assembled with the new Ecotech EZ variable speed motor, it was time to get at the piping upgrades to help improve the overall system efficiency. I had a few serious weaknesses in my pool piping, particularly on the suction of the pool pump, and the piping feeding and exiting the thermopump.

Jacuzzi Magnum 1500 upgraded with Ecotech EZ Variable Speed Motor, Suction Side Piping Completed with 2 Jandy Valves
The existing pump piping layout wasn't very well done - it wasn't particularly efficient, and probably contributed to the pump cavitating any time the vacuum port was used. Note the vacuum port routing - which enters from the top right - 90 degree elbow, ball valve, 270 degree sweep, 90 degree elbow down into a T fitting, then off to the pump suction. All lines are 1 1/2" - so even if you decide to draw from the drain and the skimmer at the same time, you're contstrained by the 1 1/2" suction on the pump.

Old pump suction layout - skimmer bottom left, bottom drain top left, vacuum port top right, pump suction bottom right. 
I have 1 1/2" black poly pipe running underground to the pool. I'm not a huge fan of the insert barbed fittings - they're common for these applications but they neck the diameter down to 1 1/4 inch. I thought I would give a polyethelene epoxy adhesive a try, to convert to PVC fittings, made by TAP plastics in California.

Black poly lines moved to desired alignment, fixed with copper strapping. CPVC reducing slip elbows - 1 1/2" to 2" - fixed to the black poly line using TAP plastics poly epoxy.
I also converted the 1 1/2" poly lines to 2" at the 90 degree elbows where I made the transition from vertical to horizontal. See photo above. Once my suction lines were horizontal, I plotted the position of two Jandy 3 way valves facing each other, to allow me full flexibility in selecting and mixing the pump suction source. I used the 2 / 2 1/2" Jandy Valves to minimize restriction in the suction piping.

Suction side piping completed - Jandy Valves control suction source - skimmer, bottom drain, or vacuum port. 2" union fittings on the suction and discharge of the Jacuzzi Magnum pump. 
With the suction side piping completed - I then working on the transitions at the sand filter. I spent some time looking for a sand filter with a 2" multiport valve - mine was just a 1 1/2" multiport valve, and eventually decided just to keep the 1 1/2" valve. With the variable speed pump - the system would in the future be spending most of the time operating at a low flow speed, which would minimize the impact of the system restriction of the 1 1/2" multiport valve.

Jaccuzzi Multiport Sand Filter Valve Piping - 1 1/2" drain fitting on the close side, 2" rigid pipe discharging to the thermopump and salt cell on the far side. Pump discharge - sand filter feed line in the center. Unions on all connections. 
With the sand filter piped, it was time to work on the thermopump. The former layout had the thermopump piping side facing away from the pool shack, and 90 degrees away from the pool. In order to make the connections, about 30' of 1 1/2" hose made long circular connections between the sand filter and the salt cell.

The old Thermopump Installation - About 30' of 1 1/2" hose separates the Sand Filter from the connection to the underground hose where the Salt Cell will be attached to

The old Thermopump Installation - About 30' of 1 1/2" hose separates the Sand Filter from the connection to the underground hose where the Salt Cell will be attached to - right side of photo.
I moved the thermopump so that the piping connections would be facing the pool, and perpendicular to the pool shack, and then came up with a layout using the Jandy 3 way valves to control bypass and flow to the thermopump. 

The Thermopump was previously installed on the patio stones to the right. It's now moved into place next to the pool shack, just behind the outlet pipe for the pool jets. 

Jandy Valves will provide flow modulation and bypass isolation for the thermopump, with a much more compact piping arrangement.
Now, instead of 30' of 1 1/2" pipe between the sand filter and the salt cell, I'm down to about 10' of 2" pipe


I'm quite happy with the new piping arrangement and the upgrade to 2" piping. The only section of 1 1/2" pipe which remains is the section about 35' long between the salt cell and the first jet on the pool. I don't think I'll get the energy to make that upgrade for a while because of the trenching, so I'll wait until the pool requires major maintenance.

At this point, it was time to start the new variable speed motor - more on my next post.

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions.


Ecotech EZ Variable Speed Pool Pump Motor Upgrade - Jacuzzi Magnum Pump

I've been working towards the goal of reducing my electricity bill by 33% - and I'm actually getting there. One of the largest loads besides heating and ventilation at my house is the pool pump. I have a typical single speed 1.5 HP Jacuzzi Magnum pool pump for an 18' x 36" rectangular in-ground pool. I like to open the pool early and close it late, and the kids love to swim. My estimates for running the Jacuzzi Magnum pump was around $500 / pool season full time. I've been running the pump on a time, for about 12 hours / day - so I guess I've actually been consuming around $300 per year in electricity. Thankfully, my marginal electricity cost is only about $0.095/kW-hr.

Ecotech EZ Motor installed on the Jacuzzi Magnum 1500 Pool Pump. The control panel is directly on top of the motor.
Last year I did a fair amount of research on the subject. and the key to saving electricity with a pool is to take advantage of pumping affinity law - which simply means that increasing the flow by 10% costs you 33% more in power. Similarly, reducing the flow by 25% will result in energy savings of approximately 50% - due to the reduction in friction losses by reducing the speed of the water in the piping (and importantly, across your filter element).

You can do this with multi-speed pumps - which can be standard wound-rotor pumps with a two or three speed tap - which will result in some savings, or even more significantly, with a electronically commutated permanent magnet variable speed motor, which are the most efficient commercially available motors. To take advantage of this simple principle, the state of California has mandated that new pool installations have as a minimum multi-speed pumps which default to low speed operation for filtration (California Energy Commission (CEC) Title 20 Appliance Efficiency Regulations).

My pool is probably a fairly typical installation for a 20 year old pool in the Province of Quebec - all the piping is 1 1/2 inches in diameter, and I have a 1.5 HP single speed motor, with a sand filter with a 1 1/2 inch multiport valve. My thermopump was added following the original pool installation - and it would have been difficult to imagine a less efficient plumbing addition to a system - to add the Thermopump - the pipe from the sand filter to the pool was extended by about 30 feet long in total - 1 1/2" piping - in a long serpentine.

So why upgrade just the motor, and not purchase a complete new pump? Because if you already have a decent pump - the motor will end up costing about 50% of the cost of a complete pump. If you're a bit handy, this isn't a particularly difficult upgrade. The hardest part may be the electrical part - and if you're switching the complete pump out - you'll need to deal with that anyway. My aim going into this upgrade is that the cost for the upgrade would be paid back within 2 years, and purchasing a complete new pump would not allow me to achieve that.

Starting point - Jacuzzi Magnum Pump with Single Speed, Permanent Split Capacitor Motor
So - to take best advantage of the variable speed motor upgrade, I also planned to upgrade as much of my piping as possible to 2" diameter, and relocate my thermopump to optimize the piping arrangement. I also planned to remove and replace all my 1 1/2" ball valves with 2 inch Jandy multiport valves - to simplify the plumbing and minimize the number of bends in the piping.

The first step in the project was to split the original single speed motor from the pump, and install the Ecotech EZ motor. This isn't terribly difficult to do, and it is also an excellent opportunity to replace your pump seal. The basic steps are as follows:
  • remove the pump from your system and disconnect the power;
  • split the pump from the motor by unscrewing the clamp ring between the motor and the pump;
  • unscrew the 2 screws retaining the diffuser, and lift the diffuser off;
  • unscrew the impeller by holding the motor end of the drive shaft, and unscrewing the impellor counter clockwise; 
  • lift off the seal housing (now is the time you would replace the motor shaft seals); 
  • unbolt the motor housing bracket (four bolts)
Preparing the Motor Housing Bracket for installation on the new Ecotech Motor
Note the clamp ring installed over the motor, with the seal plate installed over the motor housing bracket and motor shaft
Installing the impeller
Installation of the new motor is the reverse of the steps above, I won't go into details, there's quite a few good videos available explaining seal replacement on all types of pool pumps. Just ensure you take very clear note of the orientation of all parts during disassembly - photos will help. And - make sure you install the clamp ring right from the start - otherwise you'll be doing all the steps twice....

The Ecotech EZ motor installed on the Jacuzzi Magnum 1500 Pump - Ready to Install on the Pool
I'll write a separate post on the piping upgrade around the pump, sand filter and thermopump, Following that, I'll post about wiring up the new pump, the electrical considerations, power draw of the new motor, and the performance of the system. It's getting a bit too late to finish everything tonight.


Delta Vertical Wall Mount Bike Rack - from Lee Valley Tools

It's been a while since my last post - this spring has been exceptionally busy with the basement insulation project, basement floor slab crack repairs and concrete floor painting, the variable speed pool pump motor upgrade, and the 2" pool plumbing upgrade. I still have to write about the pool projects, but first I wanted to show some photos from my bike rack upgrade in the garage.

The completed installation - adult bikes mounted vertically on the wall - kids bikes parked underneath. Very space efficient, and easy for the kids.
The new house had a series of hooks on the ceiling - 10' off the floor, and over the railing next to the stairs to the basement. To lift a bike up or down from a hook, you would have to get close to the railing, and stretch to get the front or rear wheel on or off the hook on the ceiling - a real task. The bicycles would pivot on the hooks, and bang into each other - pretty frustrating at times. I wanted a solution that would keep the bikes off the floor - we need all the floor space to park 2 cars at times, and help keep the space neat.

The previous storage rack - bikes would swing around, handlebars would hook, not ideal.
I did a bit of research into vertical wall mount bike racks - there are some interesting designs - then I found these at Lee Valley Tools. The great thing about Lee Valley Tools - reasonable prices ($21 each), quick and inexpensive shipping (frequent free shipping promotions) and quick delivery. So - I ordered six and they arrived in 2 days.

Delta Cycles Vertical Bike Rack with Tire Tray
If you look at other vendors - sometimes they will sell the rack and the tire tray separately - the Lee Valley Tools packaging includes both for one price.

Mounting the racks was simple - I found my wall studs were spaced 16" - and decided to lay out all four racks for the adult bikes - 2 road bikes, 2 mountain bikes - on 16" centers with staggered heights so the handlebars wouldn't interfere with each other. 

First bike installed. I used a Laser Level to get the top and bottom trays vertically aligned. 
Here's a photo of all 4 bikes installed - 16" centers. This turned out to be perfect spacing. 12" spacing would not have been enough (although it might have worked if you need a very tight installation).

4 bikes - 16" centers
The bike hooks are solid, support the bikes well. I'm careful when installing the bikes on the hooks to let the weight down slowly on the hook, to make sure I don't over stress the wheel rim. The upper rack installs with two 1 1/2" screws provided with the kit. These screws are a bit too short if you're installing on a stud wall with drywall - you'll need longer hardware for a solid installation.

The supplied hardware is too short for drywalled walls - these screws are only suitable for mounting directly to wood studs.
Delta Bike Rack
And here's a photo of the bottom tray. The bottom tray mounts with self adhesive tape - no screws required although screw holes are provided.

Note the vintage green Michelin Wildgripper Sprint S tires - Kevlar beads, super light, and now getting very old and brittle. Time for new tires.....
In summary - good quality racks, very good price, simple installation, clean look when storing bikes - very satisfied with this system.


Basement Concrete Floor Paint - Single Part Epoxy Paint

Our 25 year old house has (had) a concrete floor in the basement utility room that was a bit more than rough. A spiderweb of hairline cracks, and some surface abrasion / weakness caused by lack of maintenance and efflorescence in certain places. It looked like the concrete had been painted at one time, but it was very difficult to tell.

The completed floor paint job.

Concrete prepared for painting - all cracks filled with Sika Epoxy Crack Fill
With the basement insulation project, where all the perimeter walls had to be cleared so that the drywall could be removed, and spray polyurethane foam insulation applied - it was the perfect time to paint the perimeter of the concrete floor. Prior to paint, I repaired all the floor cracks with Sika Crack Fix - from hairline cracks to the largest cracks which measured approximately 4mm wide at their widest. 15 tubes of Sika Crack Fix - $300 worth of epoxy - and all the cracks were filled and the floor ready to paint.

Cracks repaired that run into floor sump
For a concrete floor paint job, I highly recommend that you have a belt sander - it's perfect for smoothing out any surface roughness, high spots on epoxy crack fill, and buffing out any surface imprefections due to efflorescence. Since I just need a belt sander for this project, I bought an inexpensive Skil 3 x 18" belt sander - the 6A 7510 with pressure control. It's a nice tool, and was perfect for this job.

For paint - I decided to go with a simple single part epoxy. I did not want to get into two part epoxies requiring mixing of part A and part B - since I wouldn't have any heavy loads or vehicles on the floor. I also wanted a brand name product with a good reputation, commonly available at local building stores - so that I could restock easily, and hopefully procure the same product for touchups every couple of years.

I settled on the Kilz single part epoxy concrete floor paint - reasonably priced and with good online reviews, from a good manufacturer.

Kilz Concrete and Garage Floor Paint
I had several spots with efflorescence - a white crystalline staining in several spots on the floor - particularly around 3 or 4 concrete columns supporting the garage elevated slab. I chose to simply wash the efflorescence with the concrete wash product recommended by the paint instructions - KILZ Concrete & Masonry Cleaner & Degreaser.

Following the first coat of paint, I found that any places I had raised epoxy repairs, and I hadn't sanded the epoxy - I didn't get a particularly good bond of the paint to the epoxy. So for some spots, I went back and sanded down the epoxy crack fills with the belt sander, which also roughened the epoxy and improved adhesion of the paint.

Sanding down Epoxy crack repairs flush with the concrete
I also found that where I had heavy efflorescence stains, and I only cleaned with the KILZ Concrete & Masonry Cleaner & Degreaser, the paint puffed up as it dried, and gave very poor adhesion. So it was clear - I had to do a better job dealing with the efflorescence prior to painting.

Halo of efflorescence around concrete column - led to poor adhesion.
At the spots where I had poor adhesion - I used the belt sander to take the paint back down to the concrete, and physically remove any efflorescence from the surface. Then I used the recommended concrete etching product - KILZ Concrete & Masonry Cleaner & Etcher. This product was aggressive on the efflorescence, and soaked into the porous surface of the concrete - bubbling and hissing whereever it encountered the efflorescence. I then cleaned with rinse water, and let dry for 24 hours. When I went back to inspect the concrete - the concrete was perfectly clean, dry and natural coloured, except in a few spots where there was some new white efflorescence on the surface of the concrete - much less than before. So at these spots - I did a second treatment with the KILZ Concrete & Masonry Cleaner & Etcher, and waited another 24 hours. Following the second treatment, I had no further efflorescence on the surface of the concrete.

Efflorscence repair - sand down the paint, remove the efflorescence with Concrete Etch, and repair weak surfaces with a thin layer of Sika Epoxy Crack Fix
So - I then applied a second coat of paint - and so far - it seems to have beat the efflorescence, no puffiness or lack of adhesion in the paint, and better bonding of the paint to the epoxy crack fix.

Finally - I had spots of the concrete floor where there were small sections - up to a foot long by 6 inches wide - where the surface of the concrete had started crumbling slightly, leaving a rough surface. At these spots, I used Sika Crack Fix applied across the surface, spread out with a putty knife, and sanded flat with the belt sander once cured. This protected the concrete surface, and gave a nice smooth surface for the paint to adhere to.

Rough surface repair with Sika Epoxy Crack Fix - levels chips 
The final product look much much cleaner, and neat. A huge improvement. A bit of an investment in time and effort, but I think it should pay off when it comes time to sell the house.

Final floor repair