Why are my simple projects always NOT simple?

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You know, Air Conditioning is one of those things that you don’t pay attention to until it gets unbearably hot. Well, at least that’s when I take notice.

I like it a little warm, you know, mid 80’s with a light breeze. Warm enough that my junk hangs nicely and I can run around in nothing more than a pair of shorts without getting cold. If I’m in Palm Springs 100+ is fine as long as I can run around naked.

The past few days though, it’s been HOT even here on the mountain. Heat here on the mountain is  often not a big deal because there’s usually a breeze and with the windows open, it’s actually pretty comfortable. However someone turned off the breeze and in the still air, the heat seems to build upon itself in waves.  With the electronics, and musical instruments; heat like that is a big no-no.

We decided to turn on the A/C. That’s when we discovered something I’d suspected in the winter, the thermostat was screwed up. I could put up with the 6 to 10 degree discrepancy between what the thermostat said and what the actual temperature was. No big deal there…

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During winter it seemed like the heat was running all the time and would only shut off for 5 or 10 minutes. Since it was a mild winter, I could open the blinds and capture the heat from the sun. Which meant that I could leave the actual heater off during the day. Turning on the heat at night it was easy to ignore the short cycling of the furnace. When I went to bed, the thermostat would set back to 58 and that meant the machine wouldn’t come on again until 6 am.

As I said, the problems were easy to ignore. Turning on the A/C however, caused the thermostat problems to smack me in the face.

Turns out that the thermostat would turn on the cooling, and keep it running even though the house would cool to 74F (The unit was set to 79. However, It always showed a current temp of 85.) After a little experimentation I found that the thermometer in the thermostat had become decidedly un-reactive if it was reading 85 or above. You’d think putting the unit in the fridge for 20 minutes would drop the temp reading to below 70, it didn’t, the unit still read 85.

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Only when the thermostat was put in the freezer did the temp reading move toward 70.

Humm, the sensor must have gone. The old unit was an all digital no moving parts affair. I’d never in a million years have thought it could go bad and yet here was evidence right before my eyes.

This meant it was time for a new thermostat. Oh Goody, just what I needed to deal with as I melted into the floor.

Thus began the great thermostat discussion and exploration of 2014.

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I wanted a “Smart unit,” something that I could control from my phone or ipad. Yes they’re expensive but I was thinking about all those times when I’d left the house and forgot to turn the heat down. Or those times when I’d walked into the house late at night to find that the heating or A/C had been running for hours because of a timed schedule instead of running only when it was really needed, ie when I was home.

It is all about me after all.

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Honeywell, makes a variety of units that can connect to WiFi, which allows them to be controlled remotely. Honeywell’s newest unit called the Lyric looks pretty interesting, but is only available via professional installation. Price? Unknown. The next Honeywell model down from the Lyric is also a smart machine with a big assed display that costs about $250. Oh, by the way, professional installation  is recommended.

I think to myself, “Hell, that’s the same price as a Nest.”


Which led to another round of discussion and batting the problem around discussing the pros and cons of each machine, including the cheaper alternatives.

While all this discussion was going on, the temp was rising and in desperation I was switching the existing machine on when it got too hot inside, then off again via the switch on it’s front.

I wanted a smart thermostat because they learn your habits and adapt their programming to meet your needs.

I wanted to be able to control the unit remotely so that I could turn it on or off if I was coming home early or wasn’t going to be home at all. Why heat an empty house to 70F?

Some of the units have the ability to recognize that the house is occupied even when according to “Schedule” it shouldn’t be. That would be nice if I’m taking a sick day so that I don’t have to wake up to a 50F house because I took a nap and forgot to override the programmed schedule.

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I’m also attracted to the potential energy savings that one of these units can supposedly provide.

Then there’s just the cool gadget factor coupled with the aesthetics.

Of all the units I looked at and researched, I kept coming back to the Lyric, and the Nest. They’re both simple and elegant.

In the end, I presented my case and let the other half make the decision. Sweltering on Tuesday and trying not to turn the busted thermostat to cool, the other half comes home with a bag from Lowes.

OH BOY! OH BOY! what did you bring home?

Ahhhh, a brand new Nest thermostat.

And Now I get to install it. OH JOY!

I gotta say Nest really has it going on. I went to their site, entered the wires I saw, they said our system was compatible and gave me a very nice picture of how the wires should be connected.

Great! I trot downstairs and turn off the breakers labeled A/C. Next I spackle the holes in the wall from the old thermostat, then paint the area. While I’m waiting for the paint to dry, I’m cutting out circles of some thin foam we had laying around. The object it to provide an insulating barrier between the hole in the wall where the control wires come through and the thermostat.

Paint dried, barrier installed, new screw holes drilled and bingo! The new unit is installed and ready for activation.

I trot back downstairs, flip the breakers on and…

Absolutely nothing happened! No lights, no bells, no automatic setup routine… NOTHING.


Trot back downstairs recheck the breakers, yep, they’re on.


Go to the basement to check the A/C unit itself. After fighting to pull the service panels I see the circuit board humm, no lights on. This doesn’t look good but I can’t figure out what’s happened. I follow the wire from the fan unit to a standard 110V socket.

Wait a minute… the breakers I switched off were two 30 amp and one 15 amp. That makes sense, 30 amp for the compressor and 15 amp for the socket that powers the blower.

Slowly it starts to dawn on me, the breakers labeled A/C are not the right breakers which means that I was working on the thermostat and it was still energized. Thankfully it’s only 24V!

I should have checked for voltage before I started monkeying around. But I saw the indicator light was off on the main compressor, which led me to believe that for once in the history of this house things were labeled correctly.

BUZZZZ! We’re sorry that is the wrong answer, but thank you so much for playing!

I go back to the breakers, flip off the 15amp labeled A/C then go back to the basement. Yep there’s still power at the socket, I know this because the water softener is still active.

OK I need to firgure out which of the breakers actually does switch off the socket the A/C blower is plugged into, relabel the breaker box, and then replace the fuse on the circuit board that controls the A/C blower.


The breaker chores done with the attendant resetting of all the clocks in the house. I discover that the service for the A/C blower is connected to the kitchen, not the nice usually unused GFI sockets around the garage. That electrician was stoned out of his mind. Come to think of it, I did fire him when the house was being built.

I reach for a 3 amp fuse.


The box labeled 3 amp fuses is empty.

I pass the thermometer on the deck it’s reading 95F. Now I’m getting cranky.

The other half hops in the car and goes to an autoparts store.

New fuse, button up the unit.  Trot back upstairs…

New thermostat is asking for input! HUZZZZAAAA! As soon as I connect the machine to the WiFi it starts downloading a software update. I like the auto updating feature, but I’d kinda wanted to turn on the air conditioning which I can’t while the unit is updating.

Now I get to clean up the mess I’ve made with spackling, painting, drilling and tromping in & out of the basement, yard, and patch of weeds behind the compressor.

The download and update is still in progress. While I’m waiting I water the plants.

The house is sweltering hot.

The evening breeze is picking up, the sun is going down and it’s cooling off, the reason I was going through this exercise is going away.

I finish programming the thermostat and leave it OFF. The temp is dropping rapidly so what’s the point. I’ll have to see how the new unit works tomorrow.


Nothing in my life is simple.