Using an Industrial Limit Switch to Lock Out Garage Door Opener When the Door Lock is Engaged

It's pretty common to see garage door bolt locks that lock the garage door closed with a pin through the door rail.
Garage Door Bolt
Have you ever accidently actuated your garage door with the lock engaged, and had the opener strain against the locked door? I've done this a few times by accident, and luckily never had any damage to the opener or to the belt. You can install an industrial limit switch to detect that the lock is engaged or disengaged, to protect against damaging the opener. 

I used a Telemecanique XCK-L - you can see the switch label below. Note that it's rated for 10A - less that load of my garage door opener. 

Telemecanique XCK-L Limit Switch with Roller Head

Here's a photo of the limit switch installed - note the roller head depressed by the door lock tab on the right
The limit switch is installed by screwing it directly to the garage door - ensuring that the limit switch is depressed by the end of the lock handle. 

Limit switch with coiled cord running to surface mount electrical box
The limit switch gives you both a normally open (N/O) and a normally closed (N/C) connection. I ran the coiled connection cord to a wall mount electrical box, where I connected the N/O wires to a 14/2 electrical cable. I ran that 14/2 electrical cable back to the electrical outlet near my opener, and used it as a switch wire for one half of the outlet. When the lock is open, it depresses the limit switch plunger, which closes the N/O connection. This allows power to the outlet that the opener is plugged into, and allows the opener to operate. 

 When you close the lock and lock the door, the plunger on the limit switch extends and opens the switch, opening the N/O connection - and disengaging power to the opener outlet. I also added a small lighted adapter so that I can see with a glance whether I have power to the opener outlet.


Automating a 220V Pool Pump using a standard Home Automation Light Switch and a Contactor

I had some spare Insteon Switchlinc Relays remote control switches and wanted to control my pool pump remotely, and put it on a programmed run cycle based on the hours of daylight, sunrise and sunset. There are 220V controls that can be purchased for loads such as pool pumps, but they tend to be expensive. My solution was to use a standard remote control light switch 110V with a small contactor (industrial relay) to control the pool pump. In order to do so, you have to purchase a contactor with a 110V coil (that can be controlled using the light switch) and contacts rated for the load you need to switch (voltage and current).
Electrical boxes arranged for incorporation of the contactor
For the installation of the contactor I used a small 4 x 4" plastic junction box. In the photo above, note the small length of DIN automation rail that I installed in the bottom of the junction box. My small Siemens contactor had a DIN rail mounting interface, so that made the installation of the contactor in the plastic box very simply. I oriented in the cables entering the junction box so that the routing around the contactor would be direct and simple.
Devices installed - switches and contactor
 I used a double switch box to install my Insteon Switchlinc relay switches. The left switch controls a ceiling fan used to keep excess heat from building up in my pool shack. The right switch controls the coil of the contactor, switching it on or off. The bottom box is a manual disconnect switch which was originally used to control the pool pump motor. I decided to keep it - to give me a safety lockout switch to allow me to cut power to the pool pump, and avoid the possibility that automation turns on the pool pump while I'm working on the pump, cleaning a filter, etc.
Detail of the contactor installation
Here's the detail of the contactor installation. This small Siemens contactor cost about $20 on eBay, and has been running perfectly for about two years now. 

I've written a program in my ISY-99i which runs the pool pump for 8 to 12 hours a day, depending on the length of daylight on a daily basis (sunrise and sunset). In addition, I've added a program that switches the pool shack ventilation fan on anytime the pool pump is running, to ventilate excess heat from the shack. All works perfectly. This contactor also switches the line power for my Salt chlorination system - I'll write a separate post about that in the near future. 

Inexpensive Water Leak Detection using a Dry Contact Input

When I installed my automated water shutoff valve, I used three of Smarthome's battery powered, wireless leak detectors. They work quite well and are simple and easy to install and setup without wires. There is a less expensive way to add leak detection, if you have dry contact inputs to your home automation system, such as the Insteon Smarthome I/O Lincs or the Smartenit EZIO series. You can purchase a spare Floodstop water sensor, pictured below:
Floodstop Water Sensor
The Floodstop water sensor is basically a simple circuit board with a series of intertwining contacts that don't make contact on the board. If water touches the board, it will allow current to flow between the two outputs. All you need to do is some wiring from this board to your dry contact into your automation system, set it up with a current source, and when current flows through the circuit it will change the state of your contact.

Installing an Automated Water Main Shutoff Valve with Water Leak Detectors

One of our family members recently had a dishwasher fail while they were away from their house, and they suffered water damage to their entire kitchen and finished basement. Insurance will cover the damage, but they are now going through the hassle of the reconstruction of their kitchen. I had been thinking for some time about installing an automated main water shutoff valve, and this was the motivation for me to get started on this project.
The Smarthome Select Water Valve - 12V Operated
Smarthome has a new product - the "Smarthome Select Electronic Water Shutoff Valve". It is available in two sizes - 3/4" and 1". My main water entry pipe is 3/4" copper nominal pipe size (NPS), so I ordered the 3/4" valve. I followed Smarthome's suggestions for the recommended accessories - and I/O Linc to control the valve, a power adapter to power the valve, and some of Smarthome's battery powered water detectors - the Insteon Leak Sensor (2852-222). As usual, shipping was quick and within a few days I had all the components to begin the project.

First step to installing the valve - shutoff the manual valve and cut the pipe
 I started with the installation of the valve. The valve body is made from stainless steel, with female national pipe thread connections (NPT). Since space is limited in my wall, and to facilitate servicing in the future, I decided to install the valve with two brass unions. Installation of the valve took about 2 hours - shut the water off and drain the water, cut the water supply pipe about 3" after the manual shutoff valve (so that when soldering the new union fitting, I won't be overheating the manual shutoff valve), create the adapters to install the automated shutoff valve (male NPT / solder adapter, short section of 3/4" copper pipe, one half of the solder union fitting).

Soldering the Valve adapters - Male NPT (top) to Union threaded side
Once I had the valve adapters soldered - I installed the adapters on the valve using pipe dope to ensure a good seal.

Screw on the adapters to the valve with some pipe dope on the NPT Threads

I then did a test fit of the valve to the water pipe - and measured where to cut the water pipe for a perfect fit between the two union fittings.

Prepare the water main pipe for soldering the union connector - clean with sandpaper
Test fit the valve to measure where to cut off the distribution pipe at the correct length
Then I installed the valve, tightened the union fittings, and did a leak test. No leaks, then on to wiring and programming the I/O link and the valve.

Valve installed, water turned back on, no leaks
I was fortunate when my house was built that the builder ran a 14/2 electrical cable to the main water shutoff - so all I did was install an outlet box next to the main water valve, an outlet, and connect the line to my UPS. In my home automation design, I've tried to put all my mission critical controls on UPS circuits - network switches and routers, ISY-99i, and now this water shutoff valve and its I/O Linc. Once I had power to the I/O Linc, I wired up the valve per the wiring diagram provided by Smarthome on the product page. One drawback to this valve is that there is no installation and operation manual provide - online or in the box. The only information available is a wiring diagram, a dimensional diagram and override instructions. So - I wired up the valve per the wiring diagram - Power to the common connector, red wire to the N/O connector,  and green wire to the N/C connector.

Outlet moved next to valve, I/O Linc Installed with Power Adapter and wired to Valve control
Then I linked up the I/O Linc to my ISY-99i, and tried cycling the valve on and off. The valve would open when powered up, but it wouldn't close. I checked the I/O Linc settings on my ISY-99i page, and found that the I/O Linc was set to "Momentary A". So I switched that to Latching, and then the valve worked properly, opening on "off" command, and closing on "on" command. I decided that I would like the water supply "on" with the "on" command, and water supply "off" with the "off" command - so I reversed the red and green wires - red to "N/C", and green to "N/O". Now - when I control the I/O Link "Off" - the water supply shuts "Off". When I control the I/O Link "On" - the water supply turns "On".

One thing that I discovered once everything was installed and wired is that the LED on the I/O link provides the status of the valve control (and if everything is working well - the status of the valve). When the status LED is bright, the I/O Link is "On" and the Valve is open (water is On). When the status LED is dim - the I/O Link is "Off" and the Valve is closed (water is Off). I was fortunate that I oriented the outlet and the I/O Link to have the status LED facing away from the wall, towards the opening. This is a good visual status indication.

Next step was linking the Insteon Leak Sensors (2852-222) to the ISY-99i. These are interesting little sensors - battery powered, works over wireless, and up to 10 year battery life (according to Smarthome). They linked up quickly and reliably to the ISY-99i using the instructions on the ISY wiki. When linked to the ISY - they give you two inputs per device - a "Wet" input (On or Off), and a "Dry" input (On or Off). The normal state has the Wet input Off, and the Dry input On. If there is water bridging the two contacts on the bottom of the device, the Wet input goes On, and the Dry input goes Off. I wrote a very simple program for the ISY that has three "or" conditions for my three leak sensors - if any of the leak sensors - Wet input - goes to "On", it then shuts the water valve "off", and sends a notification to my smartphone by SMS text message, and an email to my personal email address.

I then did a quick test - placed a sensor in a plate of shallow water - and tested to see how quickly everything responded. It seems the leak sensor sent it's message to the ISY almost instantaneously - and a fraction of a second later the automated water valve closed. About 2 seconds later I received the notification on my smartphone. This seems to be perfectly acceptable performance.

I did not set up a program to automatically turn the water back on. My thinking is that I'll keep that a manual control - to force me to inspect why a sensor detected a leak before resetting the water valve.

My final test will be do a water test at each installed leak sensor location - this will tell me whether I have a good wireless connection from each leak sensor to my Insteon network.

Update - 6 years of Usage

The system has been running fine for 6 years now. I've found that I need to do periodic testing - because every once in a while some bug appears which causes a problem between the link sensors and the automated water valve control. I solved program issues by direct linking the individual water sensors with the I/O Linc - which takes the ISY 994i out of the chain of communication for actuating the water valve. 

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


Aluminum Wheel Cleanup

This fall I purchased a second hand set of wheels to use for winter tires for the new station wagon. When I got them - they were quite badly encrusted in brake dust, I'm not sure if the previous owner ever cleaned them. Pressure washer and aluminum wheel cleaning products barely touched the brake dust stains. I then took it up a notch - and scrubbed the wheels with lacquer thinner and used terrycloth towels. That was really effective at removing the brake dust stains from the wheels, but you have to be careful - the lacquer thinner will soften the existing finish, and the fumes are hazardous - chemical gloves and a charcoal organic cartridge mask are a must if you're working indoors.

Once the wheels were clean - a new problem quickly became apparent - spots of oxidation underneath the existing finish - the size of quarters. Several per wheel. Not only that, but oxidation around the wheel rims where the tire bead contacts the rim. This oxidation will eventually cause air leaks and would have to be removed.

I decided not to completely strip the wheels, but to do a repair job and spot refinishing. That consisted of buffing out the oxidized areas with a 2" buffing wheel on a die grinder, and a sandpaper wheel on a dremel for tighter areas.

Next step was to prime the buffed out spots where I removed the oxidation to the bare metal. I used automotive self etching primer, decanted to an airbrush bottle and an airbrush for better control and even application. If you don't have an airbrush, you could mask and spray from the can, or decant and apply the primer with a brush. Here's a photo of the primer used, and the spot priming:

Once the spot priming was done, I decided to paint the interior of the wheel - silver metallic and clear. I did this before painting the fronts of the wheels, so that overspray would be less of a problem. I started by masking off the front of the wheel from the back:

I decided to go with a Lacquer paint system. These wheels were originally painted with Lacquer, so I was confident I'd have good compatibility. Plus - the recoat times with lacquers are extremely flexible - from 15 minutes to any time. From what I've found online, acrylic enamels are becoming more prevalent, probably due to tightening VOC emissions regulations. I went with the recoat flexibility - because with a couple small kids running around, and limited time to dedicate to painting, I could do some several evenings in a row and not have to finish all coats in the same day. I used duplicolor spray lacquer with these wheels - seems to be a very good product. Available at Canadian Tire - about $10 a can. 

Three coats of colour, and three coats of clear - on the inside of the wheels, and the bead surfaces. I did all the coats of colour in one evening, then waited 24 hours, and did the three coats of clear the next evening. After that, it was on to the fronts of the wheels. 

On the fronts of the wheels I gave up on the spot repair also. Since they are winter wheels, I didn't dedicate much time to level out the areas where I sanded - I just feathered the clearcoat back some so that the edges wouldn't be too jagged. I also sanded all surfaces to roughen them for paint adhesion. Since I was worried about the etching primer raising existing paint, I used a sandable primer over the existing finish (photo above). This sandable primer was a bit darker than I expected, I was hoping to keep everything light so that dings and scratches won't show through. By the way - I picked up the Rustoleum spray can trigger at home depot - this is the way to go. Each set of wheels took about one can of primer, three cans of colour, and two to three cans of clear. 
The finish turned out good - I applied colour about half an hour after the primer, and three coats about 15 minutes apart. Waited a day, and onto the clear. 

On two of the wheels, I applied the clear a bit too thick, and the solvents in the clear lacquer redissolved some of the colour layer. Once that happens, you pretty well have to start over. You can wipe clean with lacquer thinner and restart. I was pressed for time and just left it as is - not too noticeable, especially on wheels that will be crusted in salt most of the winter. 

I'll do another post on my outback wheels - which I stripped down to the aluminum using paint thinner. Those wheels turned out a bit better than these, and it didn't take any more time to strip the wheels down, compared to all the time spend cleaning, wiping with lacquer thinner, and sanding these wheels. If I was going to do it again, I would just strip them completely before starting...