Installing the Rain Machine Internet Connected Smart Irrigation Controller

I finally got around to replacing my 25 year old analog Toro irrigation controller. I have to say - this Toro controller was built like a tank - still functioning perfectly after 25 years - but limited by the functionality developed at the time.

Rain Machine - Completed Installation
Here's a photo of the Toro that I replaced:

Toro Analog Irrigation Controller
The rationale for replacing the Toro controller was to have multiple watering programs for different phases of lawn care during the year - for example - a soaking program following fertilizer or nemotode treatments, programs to water under the large shade trees which don't receive a lot of rain water when the leaves are on the tree, spring and summer watering programs, etc. The advantage of the Rain Machine is that you can create these programs, and enable, disable or schedule them as required, all from your smart phone or tablet. You can also have multiple programs enabled concurrently - which is useful for watering flowerbeds on a different schedule than watering your lawn.

The Rain Machine was quite simple to install. I began by labelling all the wires attached to the Toro controller prior to removing the Toro. There was a few peculiar wiring characteristics worth mentioning. The rain sensor in my system was simply an interrupt switch on the common circuit - so I had to identify the two wires going to the rain sensor which wouldn't be used with the Rain Machine - the Rain Machine uses weather forecasting and rainfall data to modify watering based on internet weather data. The rain sensor is not required (and in my case, was not functioning anyway). 

Once I began installation of the Rain Machine - I immediately ran into a problem. The wiring connections on the Rain Machine are TINY - the manual specifies it will take wire from 14 to 22 gauge - but it was impossible to install the wiring from my system directly to the Rain Machine connections - my wiring was stranded 12 or 14 guage wire - and it wasn't possible to get them installed security. So - I ended up crimping on short pigtails of 18 gauge stranded wire to be able to make the connections securely. 

Installation of 18 gauge pigtails to my irrigation cabling, to permit secure connections to the connection blocks

18 gauge pigtails to facilitate connections to the tight terminal blocks on the Rain Machine
Once the wiring was completed - there was a second problem - it looked horrible, and there was no way to install cable relief to prevent the wires from being pulled out of the connection blocks. If you compare this to the Toro irrigation controller, which had a large cavity for making the connections, complete with a cable grommet to secure the field wiring and prevent it from being pulled out of the connection blocks. 

Not a pretty installation - no place to hide the cables inside the Rain Machine. 
In order to neaten the installation - I used a short length of plastic cable channel used in automation panel cabling - to tuck the wires and help prevent them from physical damage / snagging / pulling from the connection blocks.

Plastic cable channel for hiding field wiring
Once this was done - I also tucked the power cable from the power brick into the cable channel, and covered the channel to completely hide the wiring. 

Cover on the cable channel
What would be my constructive criticism to Rain Machine to facilitate installation? Larger cable termination block, wider spaced terminals to accept larger gauge field wiring, and some form of cable management for neater field installations. You can see that they've put an emphasis on the industrial design of this unit, and made it as small as possible. This seems to sacrifice the practicality of installation, however.

Conclusion

How does the Rain Machine work in practice? Quite well - the smartphone / tablet app works very well, intuitive - quick to run individual zones, easy to set programs, run multiple programs at a time, disable programs without deleting them so that you can keep them from season to season, and nice to see the watering history and weather history, and the adaptation of watering times based on the weather and rainfall history. I haven't had a chance to check on Alexa integration yet, will update the post when I get the chance.

Sources and Links

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

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Solving slow clothes drying performance with an inline duct booster fan - Fantech DBF4XL

Since moving into our new house - we've seen our clothes drying times double. The clothes dryer gets very warm, but due to a long duct run to the exterior of the house - airflow is reduced. The duct run is about 30 feet, not including losses due to elbows and fittings. Large loads would take 2 hours to dry.
The Fantech DBF4XL Dryer Booster Fan with Pneumatic Sensing Control
Some research lead to inline dryer duct fans - which improve dryer performance by overcoming the duct loss due to the length of the duct. I have a standard clothes dryer with 4" diameter round ductwork. The ducts were all sheet metal ducts, with only a short length of flexible at the dryer connection, so the ductwork was already optimized by being as smooth and as short as possible to reach the exterior of the house.

Fantech DBF4XL - Serial Number Plate - On the Pneumatic Timer Control Box
I decided to go with a Fantech model with a pneumatic switch that automatically detects the change in air pressure in the dryer duct when the dryer is activiated, then turns on the booster fan in 10 minute timed periods. At the end of the 10 minutes - the booster fan switches itself off - and if the dryer is still operating - the pneumatic control turns the fan back on for another 10 minutes. I found the Fantech DBF4XL on eBay - previously installed but never used - for a good price.

Reading the installation instructions for the fan - they recommend the installation of a secondary lint screen upstream of the fan to help protect the fan from clogging with lint. When I opened my dryer duct - I had plenty of lint in the duct - which indicated that the lint screen in my dryer was passing a lot of lint - more on this later. So - onto eBay where I found a Fantech secondary dryer lint trap for a reasonable price.

Once the secondary lint trap and fan were received, I set to work. My dryer vent line ran through the basement under the first floor where the laundry room is. So - it was a simple matter to cut into the dryer line where it ran under the floor - and duct in the secondary lint trap and the booster fan.

The secondary lint trap has a clear plastic window which helps to show when the filter box needs cleaning. It's a neat looking installation - but would be much more convenient installed directly behind the dryer.
Installing the Fantech Secondary Dryer Lint Trap - Note the Laser Line - Simplifies Lining up the Ductwork
The filter box ending up screwing directly into some wood cross members under the floor - straight through the base of the filter box. Very simple.
Fantech Secondary Dryer Lint Trap - Installing the Filter Box with the Cover Removed - Note the Laser Line
When installing the secondary lint trap and lining up the booster fan - I used a laser level with vertical laser line to line the filter box, fan and ductwork nice and straight - to have a professional looking installation. The laser really facilitates the installation.
Installing a wood block to install the Dryer Duct Booster Fan - Four Tapcon Screws into the Elevated Concrete Slab

Secondary Dryer Lint Filter Upsteam of Dryer Booster Fan

Secondary Lint Filter and Dryer Booster Fan Installed
Very important installation point on the booster fan - the booster fan uses a pneumatic diaphragm switch - the copped colored cylinder in the photo below. The diaphragm needs to be oriented vertically so that gravity does not act on the diaphragm - which would work either for or against the pneumatic pressure and upset the operation of the switch - your switch would either be on all the time, or not activate reliably on duct pressure. It's very simple to rotate the fan on the installation bracket so that the diaphragm is vertical. When installing the bracket - take care not to install the self tapping screws to close to the center of the fan enclosure - you could screw into the fan impellor and block the impellor from turning. It's not as complicated as it sounds - you just need to take care with these points on installation.
Fantech Dryer Booster Fan - Note the Orientation of the Copper Colored Pneumatic Switch - This needs to be oriented vertically for it to work properly.

Conclusion

So - how does it work? Perfectly. It switches on and off automatically as described above. I haven't had any issues with the booster fan turning on when not required, and it recycles automatically in the ten minute intervals without any issue.  The secondary lint filter needs to be cleaned once every two dryer loads on average - which is more frequently than what I hoped. It would have been much more convenient to have the secondary filter installed in the laundry room - for easier cleaning - but this wasn't practical in my installation without adding a lot more ductwork. Something for me to consider in the future.

The dryer cycles have been reduced by almost one half, 2 hour dryer loads now dry in about an hour - and the automatic dry cycles now work reasonably well - before - the automatic dry cycles never got the laundry dry.

4 Year Update

Still working 100% reliably after 4 years - at least 6 laundry loads a week. The secondary lint filter is a MUST - it is amazing how much lint misses the dryer lint trap. Super impressed with the performance and durability of this fan - no problems at all. 

Sources and Links

I hope you found this post useful. Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. I answer all questions. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to Amazon.com in the United States.

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BMW 535xi Touring E61 Tailgate Wiring Harness - SenCom Repair Kit Installation

My BMW 535xi Touring is a 2010 model manufactured in March, 2009. Almost 6 years old with 120,000km. Last summer my remote locking failed – and it wasn’t the diversity antenna module under the rear spoiler, so I suspected wiring issues. I took it to the dealer to have them check it out – and they charged me about $500 to re-splice about 6 broken wires on the right side hinge harness. Since they didn’t insert a repair section – I was sure that this problem was going to reappear, and from what I’ve learned on the forums, I decided to try out the Sencom repair harness kits – with silicone insulated wire for better protection from repeated flexing, particularly at low temperatures.

Melted rear window defroster ground wire (far left) and cracked tailgate lights / locks ground (far right)
This fall – at the onset of winter – I noticed my rear window defroster wasn’t working. I suspected a broken wire in the defroster circuit, so I knew it was time to get at the harness repairs.

I ordered the kits through Autoteilemann.de – very quick and easy and the DHL shipping they quoted included all the taxes, duties and brokerage charges. It took about a week to receive the kits. I ordered 3 to be able to do a complete harness replacement – left and right. There is the kit for the right side harness, and 2 kits for the left side harness – one for the electrical wiring, and one for the antenna cable and windshield wiper fluid tubing.

Left side SenCom Kits Antenna Cable and Washer Tubing - P/N ANT0612 (left) and Tailgate Harness P/N 2016062 (Right)
The kits came with everything required for installation – all the butt crimp connectors, heat shrink tubing where required, new terminals for the defrost attachments on the rear window, terminals and terminal housings for the antenna cable splice and diversity antenna amplifier attachments, washer fluid tubing and barbed tubing splice fitting, and the rubber boots for the tailgate wiring pass through on the left and right sides of the rear window – pre-installed on the wiring loom.

Crimps, Antenna Connectors and Shells, Heat Shrink, Tubing Connector supplied by SenCom with the Left side kits
In preparation for the job – I only had one tool which I needed to add – a crimper for the very small insulated crimp connections. I picked this up at an electronics supply store. Otherwise, for tools, I used a Klein stranded wire stripper (red handled) for all the wire stripping, and an insulated channel lock multipurpose crimper for the standard red, blue and yellow insulated butt crimp connectors.


Crimper for very small gauge crimps (Top left), Klein Wire Stripper (Top right), Channel Lock Crimper for standard Red, Blue, Yellow Crimps (Bottom)
 I heat shrunk all the connections under the rear spoiler around the diversity antenna amplifier to ensure no moisture would get at any of the connections, so the heat gun came in handy there. When doing both sides – you’ll have about 120 wires to strip over the job – so make sure your stripping tool is sharp and in good condition.

I followed the Sencom video on Youtube to guide me through the process – very thorough. Here's a good tip - when the instructions come up in the Youtube video in german text - use your iPhone or Android Google Translate App to translate this text immediately - I was really surprised at how well this worked. The translation was never perfect, but you could get the idea fairly quickly.

Google Translate App is your friend with the German language text in the SenCom video
Start by opening the tailgate and opening the window glass first, then by disconnecting the battery negative post. I waited for the car to go to sleep mode prior to disconnecting the battery – about 10 or 15 minutes. I placed some small rags in the catch for both the tailgate and the window to prevent them from latching during the job.

Rags under the window and tailgate latches will help keep you moving - so you don't have to manually unlatch these if you accidently let them close. You'll be opening and closing the glass and tailgate many times during this repair, especially if you're doing both sides.
I started on the right side – removing all the trim panels per the Sencom video exposing the harness between the tailgate and the windows. I also made sure to let the car warm up in the garage overnight - so that the plastic and wiring wouldn't be cold and brittle.

A trim removal tool will help keep you from breaking the plastic.
When it came time to remove the curved black wiring supports in the hinge – I used a piece of wire coat hanger to push the pins out of the plastic clips retaining the wiring supports – makes removing these clips much easier.

Mini screwdriver worked on the outside hinges to remove the locking pin of the clip holding the black wiring guides
A short piece of wire coat hanger was flexible enough to get at the inside hinge pins - where the screwdriver couldn't access
The trim removal tool was perfect for removing the clips once the locking pin was pushed out
Removing the wiring guides was a bit tricky - using a rag to help protect the paint was a good idea when coaxing the wiring guides out from inbetween the tailgate and glass hinges. It can be done without loosening the bolts on the metal hinges.
Removing the black wiring harness guides - protect paint with a shop rag
Plastic storage container for keeping trim hardware in the order of removal - makes replacing the hardware much easier as you put everything back together in reverse order
Cut the old harness, splice in the new harness on the right side at the tailgate – then remove the speaker in the roof just ahead of the window hinges to access the harness on the inside of the car.
Carefully separate the OEM cable boot from the cable wrapping, and slide up and out of the way
Cut the harness - 10cm / 4" of free cable gives you lots of space to perform the splices
I upgraded the larger gauge splices (blue size) with heat shrinkable crimp connecters that I had on hand
All cables crimped on the right side talegate harness - and waiting to test. Note the number labels on some of the wires to uniquely identify the conductors in the SenCom harness that have the same gauge and color
Pull the old harness through the hinge area, cut the old harness out leaving at least 6” of the old harness to give you space to make connections in the speaker area. Pull the new harness through the wire boot underneath the speaker area, and make all the splices in the speaker area.
Both right side SenCom harnesses pulled through the body cable boot up from behind the inside rear speaker - I used electrical tape on the SenCom harness to make pulling the harness through the boot go easier. Then I removed the electrical tape to perform the splicing
Then go on to do the same for the harness running under the rear spoiler in the diversity antenna amplifier area. The connections under the spoiler are where I ran into a slight issue – one of the wires is brown with a very thin blue line – I mistook it as a ground wire and didn’t track it in my splicing. I had to go back, cut the splice I had done inside the car to identify this wire to the other end of the harness in the diversity antenna area.
Right hand side cable splicing in the speaker opening.
Harness Splicing Complete on the Right Side
A good trick for working with the factory harnesses after you've removed the adhesive tape wrap - is to remove all the residual gum from the wires with Goo Gone before starting the splicing. This will help keep your hands clean during the crimping.
All the ground wires – straight brown with no stripes in the factory harness – can connect to any other brown wire of the same gauge in the harnesses – you don’t need to match them to the same ground wire exactly. Otherwise – obviously – all the colored wires need to be connected correctly. The Sencom harness has a series of wires of the correct gauges but some wires are duplicates and you’ll need to track the duplicate colored wires with a continuity meter – so that you can identify them individually and track the connections. To get this straight – for each harness I cut and spliced – I wrote out a list of every wire – primary color and stripe color, and matched it with a particular color in the Sencom repair kit – e.g. Red wire no. 1, Red wire no. 2., White wire no. 1., White wire no. 2. Then when I made the matching connections at the other end of the harness – it was simple to get everything matched up correctly.

With the 2 harnesses completed on the right side – I moved over to the left side and followed the same method for the tailgate wiring harness, then did the diversity antenna cable / washer fluid circuit / defroster ground wire harness. This is where I found that my defroster ground wire had completely melted through.

To splice the antenna cable – Sencom provides you with a matching pair of male and female OEM style RF connectors – which were fairly straightforward to install. You have to strip the antenna cable in three stages – the outer cable insulation, the inner shield wire, and then the signal conductor insulation. I judged the strips and cuts based on the old connector – and on the female conductor, you need to crimp on a special, tiny, female signal conductor pin. A bit tricky. I managed to get this right – eventually proven by good radio reception and lots of channels when I got everything back together and tested.
Preparing the OEM side Antenna cable for crimping the RF connector
Female terminal crimped to the center core signal wire
Shield Body Crimped over the female terminal / ready for the plastic terminal housing
Female RF Connector with Female Signal Conductor - Gold Color
Once everything was reconnected – and prior to reinstalling any wire guides or trim panels, I reconnected the battery and tested everything. Signals, brake lights, parking lights, reverse lights, license plate lights, defroster function, radio, central locking, cargo cover release, tailgate release, window release. Everything worked perfectly the first try. No fuses blown.
Test all functions prior to re-installing the rear spoiler, or replacing any of the harnesses or trims.
So then – I disconnected the battery again just to avoid any possibility of a short circuit while replacing wires, and tucked away the wires and reinstalled the trim. The wire guides next to the hinges were a bit tricky to get back together, but I got everything clipped together and tightened the guides with a set of pliers so they would hold together firmly. I touched up any small scratches on these guides with a black Sharpie, so I looked like new when it was all back together.

I pulled the new harness through the boots in the roof just forward of the hinges so that there would not be too much slack in the harnesses ahead of the hinge wire guides – so the harness would not be able to be pinched in the hinges. Then I double checked the opening and closing of the tailgate, window and made sure the harnesses were moving freely without pinching. Then – tucked the splices up underneath the speaker openings, replace the speakers and trims, and reconnected the battery.
So – with the repair completed, I noticed that my remote locking / unlocking range became much better. I was down to being able to lock or unlock the car within only about 10’ of the tailgate. If I was at the front of the car, I couldn’t even unlock it. The broken ground connection for the defroster circuit may have been the cause of the lack of range of the remote locking circuit.

Conclusion

Radio reception was excellent, with lots of channels and maybe more channels than I had before (better reception?). It also seemed like comfort access was working a little bit better as well.
Repair time – about 12 hours total. 4 hours the first day, and 8 hours straight the second day from start to finish. Hopefully I won’t have to go back into this for the entire time that I own this car. This is clearly a design deficiency, hopefully BMW corrects this in future variants it builds with tailgates. 12 hours is a lot of time to spend on this – but I love the car and hope to keep it for a while (hopefully until BMW imports a future 5 series touring to North America….)
SenCom Wiring Harness Kits
Right and Left Side Wiring Harness Part Numbers
Left Side Antenna Cable Part Number

4 Year Update

I've been running this repair for just over 4 years now - and it's been solid. No futher issues, no problems with any of the tailgate lighting or functions. Rear window release and defrost still working great. All good. Impressed with the quality of these kits. 

Sources and Links

The Sencom kits were a bit expensive to have shipped from Germany with duties, taxes, brokerage, etc. but the kits are excellent quality. I can confirm the kits work fine with North American vehicles (535xi Touring LCI e61) with one spare conductor on the right hand side, and one spare antenna cable on the left hand side. Thanks to Sencom for supporting us with a quality repair kit and an excellent instruction video. Thanks to everyone on the various BMW forums for your support, I've gotten lots of good feedback on this post and I appreciate it.

Sencom 2016061 on eBay
Sencom 2016062 on eBay
Sencom Ant0612 on eBay.

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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:

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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. 

Conclusion

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. If you're interested, you can help support this site by using the following links to Amazon.com in the United States.

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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.

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