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Extend the Life of Your Hot Water Tank – Change the Anode Rod

I’m on my second hot water tank in my house and it is at the 9yr old mark. When I replaced it last, I paid for the longest warranty tank since installation costs have gone up over the years. Hot water tanks will eventually rust out and leak.

Watching This Old House, there was a segment on extending the life of your hot water tank by replacing the anode rod. This part prevents your tank from rusting prematurely and should be inspected and replaced.

I was able to purchase an anode rod at Lowes. Removing the old anode rod was difficult since it was very tight and I had limited space to work in. Luckily, I had a friend with an impact wrench and compressor and it was needed to get the old rod out. I included a pic of what the old rod looks like after 9 yrs in Metro Vancouver water.

Instant Bonding with Crazy Glue

Watching This Old House, they showed a method for joining wood trim using a two part adhesive that bonded instantly within seconds.  Glue was applied to one side while an accelerator was sprayed on the other.  Researching online, I found the product is just cyanoacrylate (CA) commonly known by the brand name Crazy Glue used with an accelerator.  CA accelerator has several brands including Zip Kicker, Instant Bond and Insta-set.  Since it bonds almost instantly, it is stronger and there is no waiting for the product to dry.

I have been buying crazy glue at the dollar store since you can get mini tubes and don’t need to waste as much when the whole tube dries out.  There are some videos on youtube where baking soda is used as an accelerator as well.  Here is an article with the Mythbusters about it.

Zip Kicker can be found at hobby shops (popular with model builders) and online.  I’ll have to try it out next time I break something.

Convert Heath Zenith Motion Sensor Lantern to Regular Light

I’ve had decorative motion exterior lights for awhile and currently on my second set of three.  The second out of three just stopped working and I wanted to wait until the third one dies before replacing all of them.  I had installed switch protectors on the light switches.  See here.

To convert to a normal light, you need to access the wires going directly to the bulb socket.  You need to remove the control module to get access to the wires.  The module is held inside the fixture by two hollow rivets where the screws slide through to mount the light.  You just need to drill the tops out and you can pull the rivet and release the assembly.

There are four wires coming from the socket section – a multiwire control from the sensor, black wire (hot from bulb), white wire (neutral from bulb) and bare copper ground.  I cut the control wire and all wires from the module and connected directly to the black and white.  I then replaced the control module and rivets.

Remounting the light will give you a normal light.  I should have done this to the first one that failed instead of throwing it out and replacing with a basic jelly jar light.

Some Heath-Zenith models have a recall so check the model number before throwing it out.

Artika Subway LED Vanity Light Review

As part of my slow remodel of my main bathroom, the Broadway style vanity light was next to go.  I was down to three out of six globe bulbs and didn’t want to waste money on replacement bulbs.

I had found the Artika Subway LED Vanity Light at Costco last year and it has been replaced this year by a smaller and brighter light from a different manufacturer (Celeste from Innova Lighting, 2700 lumens).   The electrical box in my bathroom is offset from the center of the mirror and vanity  so I needed a light that would cover it and not look odd.

I initially ordered a Mirrea 16W LED vanity light from Amazon.ca but it wasn’t bright enough.  16W is equivalent to a 60W incandescent bulb.

I found the Artika Subway at Costco.com  It is specified to be 1700 lumens which is equivalent to about 110W incandescent.

When it arrived, I plugged it in temporarily to check the brightness and it seemed adequate.  The fixture is also glass so a bit heavy.  It came with a 24″ mounting plate where I drilled extra holes to feed the wire from the box which in my situation is offset from the center.  I also drilled extra holes so I could mount directly to the studs instead of using the included hollow wall anchors.

With it installed, it is more than bright enough for a small bathroom and almost covered the old light completely.  If it ever dies, it is going to be a pain to replace the entire unit.

I am finding these lights a bit too bright  (especially late at night) so I am going to replace the wall switch with a dimmer.  The costco.com website indicates these lights are dimmable.

Update: I emailed Artika and they sent me a list of compatible dimmers.  I picked up the Leviton 6674 at Home Depot and they dimmed with no issues.  Here is the list

Leviton Decora 6674|
Leviton Decora 6631-P
Lutron Toggler TGCL-153P
Cooper AAL06
Cooper SAL06P

 

Thermostat Replacement – Two Stage Furnace with W2 Wire

My parents called me since their thermostat was stuck in a 17 deg HOLD mode.  When I looked at it, it did appear to be wonky and pulling out the batteries did not reset it.

Off to Home Depot and I picked up the cheapest Honeywell programmable one at $35.

Removing the old one, the red, white and green wires were connected to the corresponding terminals but there was a black wire connected to W2 and a blue wire tucked in behind unconnected.  Googling W2 indicated this was a second heating stage and I needed a thermostat with more than single stage control.

Back to Home Depot again and I returned with the cheapest Honeywell programmable with two stages for $80.  Checking online afterwards, the cheapest Honeywell two stage is $37 USD on Amazon (RTH6350).  A newer model, the RTH6360 is $49 and features an upgraded interface and a calendar based clock that can automatically adjust for daylight savings.

A little research indicates that single stage furnaces run fully on or off and a second stage adds a lower heat mode which theoretically saves gas and keeps the temperature more consistent.  By default, thermostats are single stage only so you need to check the specs to see if they support the second stage.  Sometimes this is marked as 2H (2 heat)

Two stages may need to be set in the system settings.  My model also allowed me to changed it to single one week programming versus the default 5-1-1 ( separate programs for 5 weekdays, Sat & Sun).

The standard wiring is

Red – 24VAC
White  – Heat control
Green – Fan control
Yellow – Cool control (air conditioning is rare in my locale)
Blue – Common (for thermostats that need power like Nest which is why it was tucked away)
Black – Wired to W2 second stage heat in my scenario

Shark Steam Mop Attempted Repair – No Steam

My mom gave me her Shark steam mop since it wasn’t working.  It was getting hot but no steam was coming out.  Google told me a common problem was mineral or calcium deposits blocking the steam nozzle.  I tried poking at the steam outlet with a straightened paper clip and then with some 14 gauge wire but couldn’t clear it.  Google also suggested running it with a 50/50 mixture of CLR and water but I didn’t have any.

Opening the back cover, I had found the insides rusty and a cracked tube with a spring coming out at the top of the heater.  I disconnected the end of the steam hose that led to the output nozzle and cleared away deposits that blocked a very small 1-2 mm opening for the steam.  It would have been a bit difficult to unblock it with the paper clip from the other side and the 14 gauge wire would have been too big.

When I tried to reassemble it, the hose was brittle and kept on cracking on the ends.  I kept on cutting it and it ended up being too short.  There is a long spring inside the hose is to prevent it from kinking.  I was able to find replacement hose and clamps on ebay (search for 5/16″ or 8mm outside diameter silicone hoses).

Considering the rust, potential deposit buildups inside the heater and the power LED indicator that fell off due to rusted pins, I decided it wasn’t worth repairing.

I will tell her to use distilled water once I find a new replacement machine.

 

 

Black & Decker Grasshog GH750 Spins Slowly Disassembly

My well used electric trimmer suddenly had an issue with it spinning slowly and the motor noise changing to a whirring sound.  I had recently replaced a worn out spool cap (bought a 2-pack with a spare).

Taking it apart was a bit tricky.  You need to remove the lower guard first.  It is held in place by one screw and a wide flat locking tab which needs to be pryed free  with a flat screwdriver.  There are 4 more screws on the top of the guard that hold an air duct from the motor.

With the guard removed, then it’s just 12 phillips screws holding the two halves together.  A spring may pop out which comes from the opposite side of the release button that extends the handle.

I noticed quite a bit of gunk in the gear assembly and also noticed the inner teeth of the plastic gear were worn.  The whirring I was hearing was the gear spinning on it’s own and not catching the inner teeth.  The air intake was also pretty clogged with grass so it would have been a good idea to clean it regularly to provide good air flow to cool the motor.

Probably time to buy a new trimmer and maybe upgrade to a cordless one.

Cheap CR123A CR2032 Batteries In Canada

A couple of months ago, the batteries on my Honeywell wireless smoke detector were low and I was looking for inexpensive replacements.  The batteries are used in other Honeywell sensors as well.  The best deal I could find on Ebay were Panasonics shipped from Germany.  I checked Walmart in the US but the Rayovacs I had found previously were not in stock and no longer on their website.

While looking for 9V alkalines at Dollarama (fairly good deal at $2.50 each), I spotted the Panasonic CR123A batteries for $3.  Dollarama is also a good source for CR1032 button cells. Not all stores may carry them so you may need to search a few different ones.

Update:  The CR123A seem to be no longer available at Dollarama.  I ordered some on Amazon.ca from a third party seller for around $8 for two pieces including shipping (around 2 weeks for delivery).  MEC also carries them for about $6 each and Princess Auto has Westinghouse brand for around $6

Keywords: cheap, inexpensive, CR123, CR123A, battery, batteries

Troubleshooting Christmas Icicle Lights and How to Determine Bulb Voltage

After putting up icicle lights at the parents, quite a few of the strings had half or full sections with no light.  It is difficult to trace the wiring to see how they are wired.  Mini lights are wired in series so that if one bulb goes out, the whole string will be out.

Research indicated that the bulbs have a shunt so if the filament burns out, the bulb should short circuit so the string stays lit.  The higher voltage caused by the burnt out bulb should cause the shunt to fuse together.  Sometimes, the shunt fails causing the string to stay dark.  There is a tool called the Lightkeeper Pro that sends high voltage into your string to force bulbs where the shunts have failed to fuse together.

In my 100 light string, there are two sets of series 50 light strings  which are wired in parallel.  So even if both strings have a disconnect, power will pass to the next string.  To determine how many sections your string has, you need to pull a bulb from a good string.  If half the lights go out, you have two sections.  A third of the lights going out will indicate you have three sections.

It was difficult to find replacement bulbs at both drug stores and hardware stores.  I found some 2.5V mini replacements at an independent dollar store though it looks like Canadian Tire and Rona is also a good source for bulbs.  The bulbs don’t include the plastic base so don’t throw those out.

To determine the bulb voltage, you need to count your number of bulbs in each SERIES section.  120V divided by that number is your bulb voltage.  So 2.5V is good for 50 bulbs (and multiples wired in parallel), 3.5V for 35 (and multiples), and 6V for 20 bulbs.

I ended up going through the tedious process of testing each suspect bad bulb (by placing each in a lit string) and randomly ended up getting all the strings lit up.  The problem was likely a loose connection somewhere and not a bad bulb.

The dollar store and Canadian Tire 2.5V replacement bulbs I bought popped right away so they were bad or mislabelled.  2.5V replacement bulbs I bought at Rona worked fine.  It is recommended to replace burnt out bulbs since more current will be flowing into your string and could burn out the rest of your bulbs quicker.

I have a knockoff Fluke contactless AC tester I bought off Ebay and this could be used to check for a broken connection.  If your tester is too sensitive, it probably won’t be useful.  Here is a guide from Fluke on holiday light testing.

Ebay Motion Activated LED Bulb from China

I stumbled on some motion activated LED bulbs on Ebay from China and thought it would be a good solution to my motion wall mount porch light that had died.  A replacement was around $40 from Home Depot and it didn’t match my existing lights.

While waiting for the bulb, the listing got removed.  I became curious about the reason and guessed that the bulbs were not UL/CSA/EU safety certified.  Though the risk is small since the bulbs are low power, if they did start a fire, your house insurance may not cover the damage.

When the bulb arrived, I didn’t notice any safety certifications on the box and will probably not use it.  I tested it and it did seem to work.  It was a bit longer than a typical bulb and so it didn’t fit my light fixture.

Just a precaution for those ordering electrical products  on Ebay from China.