Tuesday, September 18, 2018

handy totes from produce trays

Why buy plastic organizers? You can get free corrugated fiberboard organizers at your food store.

If you have access to your grocery's packaging discards, you might experiment with produce trays.


Produce trays which carry fresh fruit and vegetables can be very sturdy. Some are even waterproof. Some have interlocking tabs to help them to stack. Some are beautifully made and very durable. They come in a variety of sizes.

I am finding them very handy for organizing my stuff.

They are free. They need recycling but reuse is even better!

I glued and screwed scrap 1x2 pine to the short ends to act as reinforcing handles. You could add these instead on the long sides? You can paint the trays (the ones without the glossy coating).

Some have holes in the bottom so another sheet of cardboard could be added if you expect small items inside? I am using discarded plastic clam shell cases here for small parts. [click any pic to enlarge]







Recently I have been building carts to hold a number of the larger trays. The whole cart is made from recycled wood.

This one is being used in the garage as a mobile tool cart.

This one as a laundry cart.












Thanks for your interest.

George Plhak
Lions Head, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

heat 4 - the new furnace

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The new furnace has been operating here for the last two days taking the chill off cooler night temperatures.

Very quiet! Should use much less electricity. I intend to show how much less.


The installation techs had two visits ripping out the old oil burner/tank and installing the new propane furnace. Another visit tomorrow to correct some minor deficiencies identified at the "gas check".

I found it interesting that another company, in this case, my propane supplier who this summer installed my propane service, inspected the work of the furnace installer and did a leak down test. A gas pressure meter with high resolution is attached temporarily to a port at the tank regulator, the system filled to recommended pressure then the tank valve closed off. The pressure is watched for 15 minutes to note any drop. They did find one very minor leak outside, at the fitting to the regulator. It wasn't dangerous but it would have wasted gas. It was fixed with a bit more torque on the fitting.

This series is about my home electric energy use. My former heat source, a 1994 vintage Brock oil furnace burned fuel oil for heat but used up to 700 watts of electricity while it was running to power two motors and the spark igniter. One motor pumped oil and air into the burner, the other pushed air through the house. The igniter ran all the time there was flame, even after ignition.

The old furnace ran up to 35% of the time when the outside temperature was -15C. See the previous article Heat 3. My metrics to compare are the duty cycle at a given outside temperature and the energy drawn. Once I know these for the new Lennox EL296E 96 AFUE furnace monthly over the winter, I should be able to compare new to old to see how much of an improvement has been gained.

[click any pic to enlarge]

The burner motor in the Lennox is a conventional capacitor start motor but it is tiny - 1/20 HP! The diameter of the body of the motor is about three inches. A sewing machine might have a motor of this capacity. This motor supplies combustion air from outside to the gas burner.

In the oil burner, the corresponding motor also pumped oil as well as air to the flame. I believe it was 1/2 HP single speed. Because propane is pressurized in the tank, there is no need to pump.

As promised by my supplier, it has two speeds. Unlike the single speed oil burner and most gas units, this Lennox has two operating levels for the burner - High and Low. So I will have to watch the usage to identify the two, they may have different current draws. Supposed to provide efficiencies when little heat is required. Most of the time in winter Canada, a LOT of heat is required! It will run on high most of the time I think.

I will have to find the motor start capacitor that is attached to the two brown leads (shown on the lable). A failed motor start capacitor is an old time problem that could happen to this new motor after a few years. And an easy fix if you have a replacement capacitor, a few dollar part.

The house air mover motor is the bigger of the two at 1/2 HP. It is deep inside the bottom of the furnace but I can see it if I take out the air filter and look in the opening. I am actually taking this picture with my hand in the air duct!

This Endura Pro motor is from Genteq. It is indeed an ECM "Electronically Commutated Motor" which is supposed to save energy. It is also variable speed.

More on ECM later...this is an introductory tour.

The new furnace does not have a pilot light! When it is OFF, no gas is used.

I also have a new thermostat, a Honeywell T6 Pro which I am getting used to. Mine is not wifi connected but is a high end conventional programmable with the latest Honeywell baseplate and new multi-condutor wire to the furnace where previously there were only 2 wires. I now have a C-wire (or common wire). I believe I can upgrade just by plugging in a Honeywell Lyric T6 Pro but haven't decided to do that yet. I am most interested in verifying energy usage rather than control and I am not convinced that Lyric (or any of the others?) will help me do this.

The Lennox control board is about six inches square, located behind two covers. The thermostat connections are at the bottom. The micro computer is the small black rectangle near the center. I was not able to read any markings on it. The single 7 segment LED readout and the one single button are just up and to the left of the micro. This is a real mixed media board with surface mount and high power connections, spade lugs, Molex type connectors and some conventional size capacitors and a relay or two. Probably typical for a high power consumer appliance. It is marked Lenox under the wires at the top right so is a proprietary board.

This board is about 18 inches off the floor so to study or work on it means a very low stool to sit on or crouching on your knees.

I was joking about the error codes and a friend had asked me if there was a computer interface, like a USB port. I didn't see one. But there are about 25 status/error codes that show on the LED if required. I think you have to push the button to display.

I did my first mods!

The door that covers the big new filter didn't have a handle and was very difficult to open with fingernails so I added a solid brass handle!

Once the door is off the filter is in the opening and very difficult to remove since it fills the opening almost completely. Again, fingernails don't really work.
So I added a folded tab of packing tape which makes the filter easy to pull out to inspect. The tab folds flat against the filter when the outer metal cover goes on so it is out of the way.

Both work great!

The filter is supposed to last six months but you are supposed to look at it once in a while. Mine already had a few big dead bugs in it.

If they made it easier to look at, people might look more often!

More on the guts of the new furnace later...

I have lost my ability to see my overall electricity usage. The McMaster University program has ended. My Blueline Energy sensor no longer works. That will be another story. So I cannot yet see the electrical usage of my new furnace.

Thanks for your interest

George Plhak
Lions Head, Ontario, Canada

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Saturday, September 08, 2018

dehumidifier 2

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My new small dehumidifier has been working hard in the basement.

Working hard and getting results but with high electric usage I hadn't anticipated yet less than I calculate.

Results: The freezer has no condensation. The puddle that once lived under the old freezer is long gone and the floor is desert dry. The basement seems slightly warmer and smells fresher.

The energy graph for the dehumidifier's plug looks like this, from the Itead EWeLink app. 93 kWhr for the month of August! Or 2-3 kWhr per day. I haven't loaded the tiered prices by time of day so there is no dollar amount.

This is a huge chunk (about a quarter) of my monthly usage of 355 kWh for August. Hydro One nags me about it on my August bill! Your usage has increased by 38% compared to the same period last year! They are right! It is because of this dehumidifier.

Another effect is an increase in both On-Peak and Mid-Peak usage since I am not controlling the dehumidifier for time of day. It runs when it wants to. I'd like to see how it behaves without that added complexity for now.

I am visiting the basement several times a day because of this dehumidifier. Good stair climbing exercise. It will have to be made more automatic but I am enjoying seeing the result of it's work.

I am surprised at the amount of water produced even at the the relatively "low" humidity setting of 70%RH. I have to carry a bucket a day out of the basement or it stops running. I can empty the machine into the bucket three times but then I have to carry it out.

The dehumidifier uses 400 watts when it is running and it runs a lot, even at 70%RH.

This data [click to enlarge] shows the outlet temperature of the Danby dehumidifier over one week Aug 4 to Aug 12 from an Elitech RC-4 temperature data recorder. The black areas show when the dehumidifier is running. When it runs, the instantaneous usage shown by the Itead is 400 watts.

When not running, usage is 0.58 watts. The longer gaps of not running are when the internal reservoir fills and it shuts off because I have not emptied it.

Towards the right end of the chart is when things are working more of less properly, the bucket is getting emptied and the machine is catching up with it's 70%RH set point. If I try to set lower, say 60%, it runs more or less continuously until full. I cannot separately measure RH% of the basement air. I should have a way to do that.

Heating season is starting so I expect that the furnace will soon keep the basement dry. The dehumidifier should work less and I expect I will retire it for the winter.

The new furnace (which I have yet to tell you about) has a condensate pump so I might connect the dehumidifier into that pump. The furnace and the dehumidifier should run in alternate seasons. I have a spare of the same pump.

Thanks for your interest

George Plhak
Lions Head, Ontario, Canada

An update on the energy required to operate my dehumidifier:

The energy used by the dehumidifier is 93kWhr for August as taken from the Itead S31.
93kWhr is equivalent to 334800 KJ (using the Google unit converter)
I was not so careful about measuring the water but I'll use an average of one bucket per day. For the weight of this average bucket I'll use 8.4 kg H2O per bucket as before although the last bucket was destroyed and the new one is very slightly smaller. August has 31 days so 31x8.4= 260.4 kg H2O was produced in August by the dehumidifier at a "cost" of 93kWhrs.
Recall: The Latent Heat of Vaporization - the input energy required to change the state from liquid/vapor at a constant temperature - for water 2260 KJ/kg.
The energy to condense 260.4kg of H2O as required by physics would be 260.4x2260= 588504 KJ
I used only about half that amount so something is not right.
Your comments/suggestions are appreciated - what am I doing wrong?

A homework type help reference


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