Home Notes

How the furnace lights (Oregon Avenue)

Overnight, the furnace, now 11 years old, stopped working. The symptoms were that everything worked (fan, attempt to start), but the gas didn't ignite. Here are the steps to ignition:

  1. Power must be available, thermostat commanding a higher temperature, the blower cover in place to close lock-out, etc.
  2. The inducer is a small blower mounted above the burners. It evacuates burned gases into the flue. There is a tube that runs to a pressure switch. If the switch doesn't detect the right threshold of pressure, it will lock out the furnace starting.
  3. The limit switch is for high-temperature safety.
  4. The igniter is a semi-ceramic glow device that burns hot enough to ignite the natural gas/ambient oxygen emitted from the burners.
  5. The flame sensor is no longer a thermocouple. Instead, it uses the water in the flame to make circuit contact with ground indicating to the furnace control that the gas is burning--without which, the gas is cut off for obvious safety reasons.

Called in Nathan Gause (who lives nearer than his father, Jim) to fix it. The igniter was $60 and the service call $80.

Replaced inducer motor (560 North)

This furnace is some 10-20 years old and needs to be replaced. However, to save money, we allowed Jim Gause to replace the inducer (?) which ran us about $400. A replacement quote for $2.5K-$3K was given, but we're going to try to put it off for a couple of years.

Replaced condensate sump (560 North)

Condensate overflowing onto floor. Purchased new pump and replaced.

DiversiTech CP-16 Condensate Pump, 16' Lift, 120V

Due to miscommunication, Nathan Gause ended up performing the replacement. I enquired about replacing the whole furnace which dates back to 1995. He told me a number of interesting things.

Furnaces and furnace components are cheaper now when you take into account that they are far more energy efficient. A new furnace for us would be in the neighborhood of $1700, about what we paid for the Trane in the basement of our old house. It's illegal to manufacture a furnace that's less than 95% efficient now. (The whole shebang including refrigeration, ductwork, etc. would come up to about $6K.)

Also, the refrigeration component is far more efficient. The 12 SEAR system we got was the best money could buy back in 1995. Today, however, you can go all the way to 22 SEAR. But, he says that you can't get the better performance to pay for itself. A 16 SEAR system will pay itself back in 3-5 years. He says that heating and cooling would work cheaper and better for the house after the replacement.

No more chimney ducting would be necessary for a new furnace. It takes air from inside the basement to burn and expels it--cooled--through cheap PVC conduits (on our new house, I have pre-run these knowing that someday we'll need them).

Basically, things that are very dangerous to the house, like furnaces, refrigeration systems (air conditioning) and water heaters, are first-rate quality because they have to be. This is required or they cannot be sold. Gas-fired water heaters like we use can now have flammable liquids literally poured all over them and they will not ignite them: your house is safe from fire caused by any combination of water heater and gross owner stupidity.

Conversely, says Nathan, washing machines, dryers, dishwashers, etc. are not dangerous (i.e.: do not pose particular safety hazards to the the home). Consequently, these appliances are becoming more and more crap and have to be replaced more and more frequently.

Nathan says furnaces are a bit smaller now too. And he confirmed with me that it would be a good idea when we do replace the furnace to choose one that will mount up on the ceiling of the basement putting it higher than the house drains. This would eliminate the problems we're having now. It would also give us more room down there--floorspace to put things.

Last, he and Jim both do HVAC. It's nice to have honest people to rely on. I wish all tradesmen we had to deal with were so.

Christmas-tree stand assembly


  1. Barrel with top collar and set screws assembled, retaining collar installed.
  2. Legs deployed, right-side up on a flat surface.

Assembly instructions:

  1. Lift the center of the legs to open a "hub" and insert the barrel, top collar with set screws up, into the hub made.
  2. With channel locks, snug the fins of the legs up tight against the barrel. Because these have deformed over the years, the retraining collar's arrow markings are no longer useful.
  3. Push the large retaining collar down the barrel over the leg fins, catching these between the collar and the barrel. It's this contact that holds the entire stand together.
  4. Seat the retaining collar as much as possible to the legs.

Samsung SDH-B3040 4-channel 720p HD DVR Security Camera System

I purchased this from TigerDirect for $189 plus $15 shipping on 12 December 2015.


  • Samsung reference site.
  • Amazon reference with reviews.
  • Disappointing, but somewhat enlightening installation video.

  • PEX tricks

    Couldn't get my cheap ⅜" crimper into space. Had better (rented) ½" crimper for tight space. I pressed ⅜" ring into ½" ring then fit the two over tube and tube over coupling, then crimped using ½" crimper. It was hard to squeeze the tool, but it worked and the connection appears not to be leaking under pressure.

    I really need to buy some good PEX tools, but except for a flurry of heavy use 3-4 years ago when I participated in rebuilding my folks' duplex rental, I really can't justify it.

    Where's PEX going...

    I'm discovering that ⅜" PEX, though what they used in my house (2002) except for washer and hose bibs, is simply not used anymore. It's ½" and ¾".

    Master bathroom remodel

    Just as the toilet plumbing in the other (original) bathroom was badly done, it's time now (2016) to tear up the floor, redo the toilet plumbing and tile the master bathroom. Here's the plan:

    Total area of room (including vanity): 44 ft2
    Total area tiled: 36 ft2 Linear total of tile border: 114"

    Replaced air system at 931 East 560 North

    ...in August, 2016 with a horizontal-flow unit ($3K+) that freed up a lot of real estate on the floor in this house.

    Replaced air system at 1778 South Oregon

    ...with super great unit ($8K+) and thermostat.

    Some steps to adjusting garage-door springs

    Somewhere, I wrote a long document with more detail, but I can't find it. I've done this successfully for two doors that already had springs and for one door whose springs I replaced with new (but the wrong-sized) ones. This procedure was noted when I once worked with a technician to install a whole new door and springs.

    Note: the door will not operate very well with the wrong sized-springs. It may operate adquately for use not including opening all the way or getting a vehicle in and out. This was my case until I fixed the problem. The symptom is usually that the door can't travel its full course without the cables coming off their drums and/or that the door will not remain closed when down and/or that it's too hard to lift or too hard to keep down and closed. To keep the door closed, use the locking bar (if present) and/or a pair of ViseGrips® clamped on either (or both) tracks over a roller.

    The number of winds isn't mysterious. You need exactly one complete spring winding per foot of door travel. Most residential garage doors have 7'-tall openings. Often, the installation manual will tell you to add an additional, fractional turn. I think this has to do with adding additional tension, but I don't know. In any case, and especially with the electric opener present, it's crucial to get this right or wear if not damage will result for the opener and entire mechanical system.

    What are the parameters of the springs?

    • Length
    • Diameter
    • Gauge of spring

    You must know these before buying a replacement spring set. Always replace both springs even if only one is broken. (Rarely if ever will both springs break at the same time, but better operation comes from both being the same age, especially near their end of life.) From Amazon, a pair of springs comes with two winding bars for circa $70. Often, they take as long as 3 weeks to arrive even if you pay extra for faster shipping. A technician will typically charge $200 (2016) to replace your broken springs.

    It's not especially hard or scary to install new springs if you follow instructions. There are good videos and write-ups on the Internet. I immediately wrote this set of steps after helping a technician with a new, insulated door I bought to replace an old one (a two-car garage door, 16' wide × 7' high, for which I paid about $1500 installed).

    Note that springs and drums are marked with black or red paint marks so you know which side they go on. Sometimes these are associated with "right" and "left," but I'm pretty sure that those appellations are from the point of view of standing outside the door. Yet, logically, you perform the work from the inside. Just ensure that you note which end of the bar (or rod) has which color markings on its drum and spring and don't confuse them when you reassemble the bar, drums with cables and springs.

    1. Wind up the left (looking from inside) drum with its cable.
    2. Secure the drum by its set screws.
    3. Lock ViseGrips® on the bar against the ceiling or wall so that the drum cannot unwind. In other words, so that the bar cannot rotate around upward as you see it.
    4. Wind the left spring.
    5. Wind up the cable with the right drum and secure with its set screws.
    6. Wind the right spring.
    7. Remove the ViseGrips®; the door should be lighter now because of the spring tension, but, if the springs are the correct ones and are wound the correct number of times for the door (7' × winding + additional, fractional fudge per door installation instructions), the door should remain lightly closed, easy to lift, easy to pull down, etc.

    If the last instruction does not represent the state of the door and springs after installation, undue effort will be required of the garage-door opener (assuming present) and ruin it quickly. Moreover, the entire mechanics of the door installation including track, rollers, cable drums, cables, etc. will suffer and fail prematurely.

    Fixed folks' furnace (1248 North 1000 East)

    Visited the house a couple of times based on complaint that the furnace wasn't coming on. Opened the furnace, found it clean, the burners fired up each time. The second time, I reprogrammed the thermostat for Dad who wanted it 74° all day and all night.

    On the third- or fourth time, we called Jim Gause who found it to be the flame sensor and fixed it by rubbing it with some light sand paper. Once upon a time this was the thermocouple and we usually just replaced it. Jim said that this sensor can cause intermittant problems that are hard to diagnose.

    Furnace operation intermittant at 1248 North 1000 East

    Fall 2018 and again 2019. The furnace stops working. It turns out to be a corroded thermocouple. Jim Gause is trying to do something that will protect it, but clearly it needs to be sand-papered with light-gauge paper occasionally.

    Bryant furnace and refrigeration operation with Amazon Echo/Alexa

    (See below.)

    Amazon Echo skill for Bryant air system

    The only sequence of steps that worked for me started in a browser. Here they are, but, because I didn't write this down until I got through it, there's likely stuff missing that you'll have to recognize and fill in.

    To get started, deal with Amazon Echo/Alexa in a browser:

    1. Browse to http://alexa.amazon.com/spa/index.html#skills.
    2. Sign in with Amazon account e-mail address and password.
    3. Down left-hand side, look for and click on Skills.
    4. In "Search all skills" edit field, type in "bryant evolution connex control."
    5. Click on the resuling Bryant Evolution® Connex™ Control.
    6. Enable this skill.

    In a different browser tab, deal with Bryant:

    1. Log into https://www.myevolutionconnex.bryant.com.
    2. Click on MYAPPS.
    3. There may be logic here to enable, from Bryant's side of things, access to be granted to Amazon for a few features. This is what I don't remember so well. It should be fairly obvious. Be sure to scroll down in order not to miss anything. This page also gives status (we'll come back later).

    Now, deal with Amazon Alexa using your cell phone:

    1. Pick up your cell phone and launch the Amazon Alexa application. (We assume here that you have not added the Bryant skill(s) yet to your local home network via this application. Here's how to do that.)
    2. Tap Devices.
    3. Tap the + sign button at upper right.
    4. Choose Add Device.
    5. Look for and tap Thermostat.
    6. Go looking for the Bryant products, I found both thermostat and fan, and rename them to what you want to call them when talking to Alexa.

    When finished, in your browser, go back to Bryant to verify:

    1. Go back to https://www.myevolutionconnex.bryant.com. (You may still have this open and authenticated to in another browser tab.)
    2. Click on MYAPPS.
    3. You should see green checkmarks for:
      Bryant Evolution® Connex™ Control SmartHome Alexa Skill has access to:
        ✓ View system-related information
        ✓ View user and location-related information
        ✓ Modify system-related information

    Other notes:

    Toto C 100 Electronic Washlet

    The washlet's two or three years old now and has begun a loud humming when running except when the cleansing spray or heated drying are working. The noise stops as soon as unplugged or the seating session times out, then will not start until the toilet is occupied anew.

    I was able to track the buzz down to the filter at the rear of the unit.

    1. removed the cover,
    2. reseat the filter.
      1. And the buzz is gone. The filter was vibrating in the seat seat causing the annoying noise.