Monitoring Home Temperatures and Boiler Use with Ecobee3

In addition to the NEST thermostat in the living area, I recently added an Ecobee3 with one sensor in the rear bedrooms. This area is a separate zone and for LEED we are required to have a thermostat in every room. This Ecobee provides a wireless thermostat sensor to place in a different room than the thermostat itself. Since these read home and away motion it is important to have a sensor in the bedroom we are currently using, but the wiring is in the guest bedroom so that is where the master Ecobee thermostat is located.

The Ecobee wiring information is extremely clear, however, I still messed up the wiring and had to call customer service. The customer service wait was moderately long, about 20 minutes, but the help was very efficient when I was finally connected. The service rep instantly understood that I was using an electronic valve controller and understood there are three connections, R W and C. The C connection is important for these digital thermostats because it provides the power. The R is positive and the W is neutral. But for some reason I hooked the W up to G which is probably Ground. So I was not getting a heat reading. That was my mistake–admittedly an easy one to fix. So soon I was connected and now I’m able to read the usage for the rear of the house.

Unfortunately unlike the Nest, the usage is not part of the iphone app. I have to log onto HomeIQ on the ecobee site and download the spreadsheet.

Ecobee Spreadsheet

Ecobee Spreadsheet

I deleted a couple of columns that my boiler heat system doesn’t use. The data from the spreadsheet is very detailed which is good but it would be nice to have a snapshot of usage on the iphone app.

The temperature screen is not as inviting as the Nest screen. The heat icon allows you to turn off the heat and the sliding temp scale allows you to hold the temperature or change it. The menu icon brings up the main menu of options. The weather icon gives current weather based on address. The settings sets Home or Away manually and also can hold the temperature.

Ecobee Temp Screen

Ecobee Temp Screen

System tells what the thermostat is controlling. Sensors show temperature and home/away setting (Occupied/Unoccupied). The thermostat has three configurable “Comfort” settings; Home, Away, and Sleep and these are the settings that are programmable in the schedule area. Vacation/Away time can be set so that the Home sensors won’t register during that time, for visitors that water plants etc. Reminders can be set to change filters and high low temperature alarms are available.

Ecobee Options Screen

Ecobee Options Screen

The remote sensor capability is really the selling point for the Ecobee3 over the Nest. Ecobee has a Lite version that does not use sensors too. Ecobee is less popular than the Nest so it is easier to find lower than list pricing on the devices. I bought the set with one sensor for $60 under list.

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What about a Winter List?

Frosted Tree

Frosted Tree

We are two weeks into the new year and it is time to consider the plans for this winter. We are working away at the house. So much so that it will be great to take a little time off next week. In the meantime I can plan what we need to get done before drywall goes up.

Our fall list had some good accomplishments.

Fall 2016 List

  1. Schedule electrician to wire remodel
  2. Pass electrical inspection
  3. Schedule return of electricians to install outlets and switches
  4. Schedule plumber to install rough plumbing
  5. Pass plumbing inspection
  6. Pass structural inspection
  7. Finish membrane on walls
  8. Build ventilation chase
  9. Install ductwork for ventilation
  10. Schedule drywall
  11. Install radon fan and piping
  12. Install ventilation system and outdoor piping
  13. Plan for crawlspace ventilation
  14. Fix crawlspace radon mitigation
  15. Install polyiso in crawlspace
  16. Install tile on slab periphery
  17. Install siding (front)

We finally had the electrical rough install finished and passed the inspection. I decided to do the rough plumbing myself and that passed inspection. And due to my brother’s help the front of the house got sided and the ventilation soffit started.

So the new list has to build on what didn’t get finished on the old one. We can’t have the structural inspection until I finish the ventilation and have the HVAC inspection for that system.

  1. Finish ductwork for ERV
  2. Pass HVAC inspection
  3. Finish all door frames
  4. Pass structural inspection
  5. Finish membrane on walls
  6. Run master bedroom thermostat wire
  7. Close up wiring chase
  8. Install membrane over wiring chase and any other ceiling space not yet finished.
  9. Run central vacuum piping in duct soffit
  10. Install central vacuum ducts
  11. Install wireless devices to monitor home comfort and energy use
  12. Fix electrical wiring to wood boiler secondary pump
  13. Schedule drywall
  14. Fix crawlspace radon mitigation
  15. Install polyiso in crawlspace
  16. Install radon fan and piping
  17. Install tile on floor periphery
  18. Install crawlspace ventilation fan and duct

There is not one thing I can cross off the winter list yet. But I hope to get the ventilation ductwork completed soon. And I’m installing wireless monitoring devices that monitor heat and energy use and air quality for boosting the ventilation system when needed. Using the NEST thermostat is just the beginning. I will post more about these systems soon.

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Supply Side Ductwork

Insulated ductwork connected

Insulated ductwork connected

I’ve been connecting the ductwork for the ventilation system. The original plan had a few vents that I decided to eliminate based on balancing the system’s supply and exhaust ports. So there is a long stretch of flexible duct in the soffit area between the ERV and the end of the living area and then an outlet facing the master bedroom and one facing the living area.

Tee connection

Tee connection

The supply to the living area and the bedroom are connected to a 10″ tee that acts as the living area grille holder and to a short duct to a partial elbow for the master bedroom grill.

I had difficulty using the straps over the flex ducts to connect them to the duct pipes. They would not tighten enough to keep from falling off. I finally decided to tape the flex duct to the piping first and then reinforced it with the straps.

Short connection

Short connection

I have two kinds of tape. One is for the pipes and the other for the flex duct. I used the pipe tape here but later switched to the flex duct tape which is thinner to connect the flex duct joins. I purchased 10″ duct connections at the joins along this run. The flex duct itself is from the Restore for $5 a section.

Next I started working on the supply piping that connects to the ERV.

Supply ducting at ERV

Supply ducting at ERV

The layout is a bit obscured by the radon pipe and the ERV itself but the supply duct piping wye connects to a 10″tee that feeds the long duct in the soffit on the living area side and behind the ERV to a 9″ pipe that will connect to the flex duct in the family room. The 10″ tee is reduced to 8″ to supply fresh air to the kitchen and bathroom. At the top of the photo there is the fresh air duct. It starts at 6″ in the wall and expands to 8″ to use 8″ insulated flex duct to bring the fresh air to the ERV where it again reduces to 6″. I had to buy the 8″ flex duct for about $50.
Once I complete the supply side I will work on the exhaust. I still have to finish the hole in the roof for the exhaust piping and it is starting to snow again so this project may be on hold until the weather warms up again.

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Ventilation Progress

Family Room Duct Soffit

Family Room Duct Soffit

The ventilation system has to be finished and inspected as part of the HVAC before we can drywall. We started the soffit for the ductwork in November when my brother was visiting. I finally finished the framework today.

Finished Family Room Soffit

Finished Family Room Soffit

I finally kind of got the hang of marking the metal channels and cutting the studs to fit between them while using self drilling screws to connect them.

Preassembled section of soffit

Pre-assembled section of soffit

The sections are basically two identical “ladders” joined by struts. The struts had to be hand cut to overlap the outer channels and hold the two sides together. My brother had me buy decent metal cutters. He recommended these that have replaceable blades and they really work well. The struts had corners cut out. First marked equally with a square then cut on each side to the back then down the side to the first cut leaving a tail to screw into the side channels.

Preparing support struts

Preparing support struts

Cut out on strut

Cut out corner on strut

One strut is at each stud in the front and there are two or three across the back of each section. A strut is positioned over the joins at the section ends to reinforce them too.

Now that the soffit is completed, the next step is to finish pushing the flex duct through the soffit and connect it to the metal duct work and to the ERV.

Flex duct in soffit

Flex duct in soffit

Also to put together the metal duct work that feeds the flex duct to and from the ERV and terminates in the vents.

Assembling Metal Duct Work

Assembling Metal Duct Work

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Nest Thermostat Info

It’s been cold outside. We woke up this morning to negative ten degrees. The Nest thermostat is only recording the temperatures and boiler use in the living room so it is an incomplete picture of our heat use. I need at least a second wi-fi thermostat in the rear of the house since even though it is set lower, it calls for heat more often because it does not get as much sun and is not as well insulated.

Baby its cold outside

Baby its cold outside

I just upgraded the Acurite sensor system to include new indoor and outdoor sensors. There is a sensor now in each part of the house and the garage as well as a new sensor at the spa and in the spa water. We already had one in the greenhouse too. These temperatures are a partial reading at the same time as the 13 degree temperature.

House temperatures

House temperatures

The Nest saves history for the past 10 days. The total number of hours of use is only for the living room though. This is the warmest room in the house due to passive solar heat.

Nest history

Nest history

The Nest can further break down the usage into times of day. The heat in the living area usually turns on about midnight and runs to early morning.

Nest history detail

Nest history detail

All day most days the boiler is completely off. It displays the pressure in the system but not the temperature of the water or the stage the boiler is operating in, water heater (4) or heat system (3).

Boiler off

Boiler off

I would like to get a wi-fi thermostat for the back of the house. We have a total of 6 zones and probably there should be a wi-fi on every one, but I am pretty certain three of the zones seldom turn the system on themselves but may run when others are running. I think six zones was overkill but that is how many the original home had and we just kept the same number.

I really enjoy the monitoring part of the household. The original owner had hard wired temperature sensors throughout the house and the slab. He had customized software to take all the readings. We still have the wiring and I’m wondering whether to pull it all now. I don’t know which wire goes to which sensor so it makes sense to abandon them but I hate to do it thinking it is a rich source of information if we just could figure it out.

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January 1, 2017-Retrospective of the First Five Years

Today we have owned the house for five years. That is a sizable amount of time and one that seems unbelievable when we look back at our LEED project. I created a retrospective report but moved it to its own page. It has been a time for reflection but also creates an urge to get moving and get this project finished.

Satellite View

Satellite View taken March, 2012

House image 10_15

Satellite View in Oct. 2015

 

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More Work on the Soffit

The last couple of weeks I’ve been working on the metal soffit. This is the last task finished in 2016. I built another 10 foot piece and installed it.

Building more soffit

Building more soffit

Then I put in the top of the corner piece since a prebuilt box would not fit between the upper wall and the existing soffit.

Corner Piece

Corner Piece

The bottom of the box was not fitting as I had measured although the measurements seemed to be accurate. I decided to cut back the bottom piece and have it stop at the corner turn of the soffit.

Bottom of corner

Bottom of corner

Instead of continuing across the hallway to the opposite loft, which I considered in order to point a duct up the hallway to the rear bedrooms, I ended the soffit at the shelf as in the original design.  I’m also going to install the vents in this upper area instead of near the floor to avoid having to put a column for the duct in the bedroom. The last section has to drop down to the shelf so that a vent can go between the upper roof and the lower roof section into the master bedroom. The duct will then continue to the end of the soffit and direct the fresh air into the living area.

Soffit End

Incomplete Soffit End

I am not very knowledgeable about using metal studs so the end pieces are kind of cobbled together. The angle was tough and I had to make the end a bit larger than when I first assembled it. The soffit end seems sturdy as finished but it was hard for me to assemble it up on the shelf and some screws had to come out and be redone more than once. But I finally got the end pieces put together.

Finished soffit end

Finished soffit end

The framing is complete for the living area soffit. Next I can stretch the flexible ducting inside it. I ordered more ductwork for the ends of this soffit including a couple of round vent covers. I need to have the ductwork finished and inspected before the drywalling can be done.

Living Area Soffit Completed

Living Area Soffit Framing Completed

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IKEA/Whirlpool Oven

We decided that it was impossible for us to fix the Advantium oven. I am sad about this because it was a great experience having this combo microwave and infrared oven for about a year. But it overheated and burned out a fuse and I broke the cable to the display when taking it apart. The cable part is no longer made so I’m out of luck.

We have made do with a Oster tabletop oven for about a year since the Advantium died. It has been OK but tabletops use 110 instead of 220 and are very limited in size. No turkey can cook whole in 1.4 cubic feet. We split a turkey to cook it in this oven. Actually the Advantium was too small for a turkey too.

After the electricians installed a 220 outlet for the oven, I looked for a single electric oven in black for a reasonable cost on craigslist. Finally I found one that was not too far away and advertised as only 2 years old. However, the serial number shows that it is actually 5 years old. It may have been purchased only 2 years ago on clearance as they said it was about $500 new. I found the Datid oven in an old Ikea catalog online and in 2010 it was priced at $749.

Datid Oven 2010 Ikea Catalog

Datid Oven 2010 Ikea Catalog

It was still $749 in 2014. The Datid oven is no longer available and the Nutid with the same features today is $1199.

I researched these ovens trying to see if the serial number is actually saying the oven was made in 2011. Apparently it is a Whirlpool serial number D11287258 in which the 112 reads as the third week in March of 2011. The Appliance Age website says it was made in Danville KY for the D in the serial number.

0 – 1980/2010/2040 X – 1990/2020/2050 K – 2000/2030/2060
1 – 1981/2011/2041 A – 1991/2021/2051 L – 2001/2031/2061
2 -1982/2012/2042 B – 1992/2022/2052 M – 2002/2032/2062
3 – 1983/2013/2043 C – 1993/2023/2053 P – 2003/2033/2063
4 – 1984/2014/2044 D – 1994/2024/2054 R – 2004/2034/2064
5 – 1985/2015/2045 E – 1995/2025/2055 S – 2005/2035/2065
7 – 1987/2017/2047 G – 1997/2027/2057 U – 2007/2037/2067
8 – 1988/2018/2048 H – 1998/2028/2058 W – 2008/2038/2068
9 – 1989/2019/2049 J – 1999/2029/2059 Y – 2009/2039/2069

If I had realized how dirty the oven was when I went to buy it, I may have changed my mind. But although I noticed it was not clean, I thought it was cleaner than it was when I got to it.  The oven was a relatively low cost at $100 and it is a convection oven, which we had in Arizona and they save a bit on cooking time so therefore electricity.

It took me several weeks to have time to bring it inside and clean it. I took out the elements and the light covers, the fan cover and the fan blade to clean them all separately. I used a spray oven and grill cleaner from Big Lots.

Convection Oven

Convection Oven

Then I took the door completely apart and cleaned all three glass layers and the holders. Cleaning the oven took several days.

Oven Door

Oven Door Outer Layer

Disassembled Oven Door

Disassembled Oven Door

Finally I put it all back together and tested it temporarily from the bathroom side of the kitchen wall. The 220 outlet is behind the cabinet and the oven came with a heavy duty cord and plug. I ran the self cleaning cycle which lasts for 3.5 hours and was rather smoky. I wonder if how bad it would have been if I had not cleaned it first?

While reading about the serial number I came across several complaints that the self cleaning cycle on these Ikea ovens burns up the thermal fuse and can fry the control board. The culprit seems to be not enough circulation around the oven. When I ran the self clean the oven was not in a cabinet and it did not break the oven. But I wonder if the oven was so dirty because the owners were told not to run the self clean cycle. Other advice said to limit the self clean cycle to 30 minutes instead of the 3.5 hour default.

I was glad to see both elements and the lights worked and they look pretty good all cleaned up.

Clean oven

Clean oven

I had to trim the cabinet to fit the larger oven. This was trial and error. We put the oven in and took it out two or three times to get the opening large enough to slide it all the way back.

Cabinet trimmed to fit oven

Cabinet trimmed to fit oven

Finally the front was screwed into the cabinet, the trim pieces installed and the oven is ready to go. Now that the oven is in the cabinet, it may not run the self clean cycle without breaking. The entire rear of the oven cabinet is open and that might be enough to keep it from frying. I’ll have to use caution if I run the self clean cycle in the cabinet.

I like the new oven, it looks like it belongs in the kitchen.

New kitchen oven

New kitchen oven

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LED Garage Light Bulb Replacements

When my brother was helping with the construction he worked in the garage under our old florescent light bulbs. We had to supplement with extra lighting to see well enough to do the work. He told me that older florescent bulbs not only were dimmer but they use more electricity as they age. Although the bulbs were still lighting they were black at the ends. So with this encouragement I ordered new LED bulbs as replacements for the old 4 foot florescent bulbs.

Hypericon LED T8 Bulbs

Hypericon LED T8 Bulbs

Some of the replacement bulbs require only newer ballasts or rewiring to eliminate the ballast. But the ones I ordered were labeled as working with or without the ballast.
The lights came with instructions to remove the ballast but I decided to try the bulbs without removing them. I had to run the lights only one way in the “tombstones”. This is the new word I learned for the bulb holders in the long fixtures. They didn’t light one way but they did the other.
Although the lights work in the fixtures, one light shines dimmer than the other. Not sure why but maybe it is the power going through the ballast. Someday I will try wiring without the ballast but for now it is nice to have new brighter lights in the garage that also use less electricity.

Garage Lights

Garage Lights

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Annual Garage Clean Out

Mostly cleared car area

Mostly cleared car area

We use the garage as a work space during the warmer months and it gets filled with materials and tools. So I took today very late in the fall to clear it out so the car can fit in it for the coldest and snowiest time of the year.

I was able to rearrange most of the materials taking up room in the garage. Had a whole work table of items from building the soffit as well as insulation from the siding project. Some extra interior doors that are not in very good shape so they don’t merit garage storage, and various piping and solar controls that I hope to use some day.

Tools and stuff to clear away

Tools and stuff to clear away

We just bought a new old car at a Colorado State University online auction. I’m signed up for the notices of items for sale and this car seemed like a make and model we know something about. We’ve had our current Impala since new in 2001 and just had to put a sizeable amount of money it in to keep it running. There are still some issues like a slight oil leak and turn signals that sometimes just stop working, a cracked windshield. Plus missing interior lighting and other falling apart stuff that happens as a car reaches 15 or 16 years of age.

The “reused” car is a 2010 Impala that was formerly in the department of environmental science. It is a fleet car so at the bottom of the model line instead of our Impala which was at the top end. But as a university fleet car it had regular maintenance and is in pretty good condition. It has average mileage for a 2010 car at 81,280 at purchase. So hope it lasts at least 10 years.

New old car

New old car

I raised the scaffolding to provide some over the hood storage. I had read this idea on rv.net but they may have had a little smaller car.

Storage over hood

Storage over hood

Ours just barely fits between the legs of the scaffolding when I pull it in as far as it will go.

Too close for comfort

Too close for comfort

I’m probably going to move some of the side items to the front to provide a bit more walk around space. There is room under the scaffolding and I could just drive up to it instead of poking the nose between the legs of the structure and still have room to get behind the car at the garage door.

Very tight fit

Very tight fit

This means I’m not completely done but good enough until the latest bout of deep freeze temperatures moderate. The next few nights will be below zero and days in the single digits. But like us the car will be cozy and warm in the insulated garage while we bask in our radiant heated house.

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