Friday, October 25, 2019

Naturally, Blogger Changed Something

Of course blogger changed how the blog appears ! That led to a mess of my background image tileing and messing things up in the appearance. After some messing around I managed to get it appearing somewhat reasonable, but had to change the background picture. I've used the same one for years and years now, but so be it; I can update with the times ... sort of.

I kind of like the look, and will stay with it for while, or until google gets a bug up their butt and changes things again.

Yes, I'm still alive. I haven't been blogging because I got myself involved with local politics and have been up to my ears in that effort for many months. I do get in a technical project once in a while, but haven't had the time to write them up.

I'll put them on the blog at some point, since they may be interesting to some people out there. Here's a quick list off the top of my head of the things I've been into that haven't surfaced here yet.

1. A horrible problem with my XBee network. My end devices would leave the network and not rejoin. That meant that some of the critical ones that controlled the AIR CONDITIONING didn't update the thermostats that control the temperature. Hot house or cold house depending on where it quit working. The thermostats protected me against using power during the Peak period, so the power bill didn't get out of hand, however it was painful to deal with. I have it mostly fixed, there's still one strangeness that I have to work on to get everything back to working reliably though.

2. I still have the parts for monitoring my 220V devices piled up with an enclosure, and haven't done anything else with them. They stare at me mournfully each time I walk through the garage. I'll get to them as soon as I can. To see that project's beginnings look here <link>.

3. Stumbled across a really cool phone from the crank-to-call days. I fully plan to put this thing in service. I may have to update a few parts, but maybe I can hide them inside. There's a lot of these out there, so I'm not going to worry much about the value afterwards, but I do want to keep it as original as possible. Here's some pictures of the phone; notice it has a BRASS earpiece !

It's an Australian model, but the parts are easily found to update it. This phone was updated over the years that it was in service. The crank was disconnected and the handle lost (or taken by the phone guy that did the work) the earpiece and mouthpiece elements were changed and finally the dial was added. It is really fun to play around with. I hope I can get the ringer to work; that would be great.

Might want a switch though.

3. Stupid AcuRite 5n1 weather station channel A died. Now I have to set it up for channel C since I that's the only way it will work. Sigh, don't happen to know what the frequency is for channel C would you? If you want to look at this project, it's all under 'Weather' in the list on the right side top of the page.

4. The battery life of my XBee end device temperature sensors has been a little over 5 months consistently. That's not as much as I calculated, but it's still pretty good. I'm getting tired of buying AA cells though. They're not expensive, but when you have a half dozen devices that run on three of them each, it can get annoying replacing them. I always seem to be out of the darn things.

So, I'm looking at those Li-Ion cells that sell pretty cheaply on Amazon. They seem to last forever, have close to 4 VDC output when full and are really fast to recharge. I have a bunch that I use in flashlights around the house and one installed in a sensor being tested (for months, these things take time). I suspect I'll be switching over to them on all the battery devices; they're just great since you can always have one charged up for replacement and don't have to run to Walmart because the AC crapped out.

And Etc. See, I'm still at it, just don't have the time to gather the graphs, pictures, measurements and such that it takes to make a coherent blog post about these things.

But, like the Terminator, "I'll be back."

Friday, March 1, 2019

I Finally Gave Up On My Hayward Variable Speed Pool Pump.

Several times over the years I've mentioned my Hayward Variable Speed Pump. When I got it, it was a dream come true. Here was something that could filter my pool and save me money doing it. I could control the speed and pretty much design my pool filtering around the power company's lowest rate requirements.
But, right off the bat, it failed. Hayward fixed it and all was well with the world. Then, it failed again. Hayward fixed it again. Then, you guessed it, it failed again. This time Hayward told me it was out of warranty and would cost me $550 to get the new 'drive' unit. I bought one, but from a supplier on ebay because I didn't want to pay the required installation fee they wanted to hook up the wires that replacement would require. I'm perfectly fine with hooking up wires.

It failed again a few days ago. At that particular time it was actually snowing here in the Arizona desert. Surprisingly, we had about four inches of snow on the ground that morning. No, it wasn't frozen, I checked and the darn thing failed before the temperature dropped below freezing. Remember, I record the power usage of the house and monitor the status of the pool as well. The way I discovered the pump had failed was noticing a thin layer of ice on the pool. That has never happened because the no freeze controls on the pool keep the water moving.

Looking at it, there was an error message, "Motor Stalled". I actually believed that message and took the pump loose from the plumbing (yes, in the snow) and turned the impeller. The motor was not frozen. It did cog a bit from the magnets, but it turned freely. Next, I pulled the wiring loose and took it to the patio table (out of the snow) and pulled it further apart. There was nothing mechanically wrong. Fine, look on the internet.

There was story after story about this pump. "Drive Error," and "Motor Stalled" were the two that most often occurred. I asked around, and a friend recommended a place that specialized in pool pumps. I called them. and they were very nice to me, consoling me on the problems with that pump, but didn't offer much in the way of suggestions other than replacing the electronics for $650 plus a small labor charge.


I asked about just replacing the dog gone thing. For a little over $500 I could get a 2.6 HP two speed pump motor installed on the existing impeller housing. Really? You can do that? Yes. I'll be down tomorrow morning. Here's the pieces sitting on the garage floor waiting for me to do something else to it:

I loaded up the Hayward VSP pieces into the Jeep and took it in. True to their word, they fitted the motor to the impeller housing and replaced all the gaskets and worn parts as well. These folk actually did it while I waited, and I got to talk to several people that came in for various problems and parts. 

I noticed on their outgoing shelf waiting for pickup were three pumps just like mine. All of them waiting for pickup after having some similar problem. Of course the "doctor" analogy applies. I'm at a doctor's office so everyone I see is sick, but it certainly made me feel better because, "Misery loves Company."

Here's what it looks like with the old impeller housing and new motor.

I'm sure someone wants to know what the motor is, so here's a picture of the label on the side of the motor. Thinking about it, I need to put clear packing tape over that so I'll be able to read it in a year or two.

And, here are the pieces that should go in the trash, but I want to play with that motor some. I suspect I may be able to used a three phase converter from some ebay supplier and turn this into a variable speed motor for my drill press. A three horsepower variable speed drill press !  Sweet.

So, the only piece that is going in the trash (after I see if there's anything inside worth keeping) is the part with the heat sink on it.

I brought the new assembly home and have it sort of installed. I didn't have to change the plumbing at all since it was the same impeller housing. I do have to add a wire for low speed, but (surprise) I want to change some things.

I want to add multicolor wiring for the various line power items. I had a heck of a time chasing down which wires went where and it was a real pain walking back and forth from the power panel each time I wanted to shut off the power to the pump. So, since the controller housing has facilities for breakers, I'll add breakers right where I can get to them and multicolor wiring so I can tell which things hook to what. That should make it much easier to work on next time.

But, since the motor technology is over a hundred years old, all I'll need is bearings, seals and an occasional start capacitor. If the motor wears out entirely, there will be plenty of choices on what I can stick in its place.

Heck, for that matter the Goldline controller I use is not made anymore and I probably can't get parts for it when it fails, so next time it fails, I'll gut it, keeping the power supply, power relays and tossing everything else. That complex, ever failing, mess will be replaced with a simple XBee, Arduino, and the power relays that the controller already has.

Yes, the VSP was a cool piece of technology, and did save me money on power usage. However it simply didn't save me as much as I spent on it to keep it working. Where's the fun in that?

And, yes, that means all the research I did on the protocol and operation of the motor won't ever be used by me. Others have leveraged that work and I know there are some control systems for this motor out there based in part on that work, plus it was fun to work on.

But what about saving energy? I have friends that are energy conscious, and they don't understand my motives. I'm not energy conscious as much as I'm MONEY conscious. The latest rate increase my power company put into place played right into my hands. Without thinking about it, they gave me the periods of greatest need at the lowest rate. I need to run the motor while the sun is at its peak, around noon or so, so the solar heater can have maximum impact. That's also the time for sitting by the pool and cooling off from the intense summer sun. The (idiotic) power company in their infinite greed made the peak sun period part of the "off-peak" period so they could screw over the solar installations since that is also peak solar production hours and they get to credit the solar folk less.

That played right into my miserly little hands. I can run the pump at any speed I want to from 8 PM until 3PM the next day. Sure, that falls right across dinner hours, but I can easily work around that little problem.

And while we're at it, take that Hayward. You charged me a small fortune for the pump, and due to your own bad engineering, had to fix it twice (which must have eaten up the profit). I had to fix it once, but learned my lesson, and used part of your mess and created my own custom pump arrangement.

Soon, I'll be looking for a three phase converter to try on that fancy motor.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Yes, I'm Still Writing About My Power Company

I've been battling my power company since 2009 or so. It started off with a bad meter and eventually wound up with my giving testimony at a hearing about their slopping and greedy way of doing business. It also directly led to me working on lower my power bills, and to this blog.

I guess I sort of owe them for that.

However, with the filing mentioned in previous posts, and an election where we the voters booted out one of the commissioners that was sympathetic to APS, Forese, things are happening a little differently. There have been two dockets opened directly against APS and the way they handle themselves.

E-01345A-19-0003 - In the matter of the rate review and examination of the books and records of Arizona Public Service Company and its affiliates, subsidiaries and Pinnacle West Corporation.

E-01345A-19-0005 - In the matter of the Commission's Inquiry/Investigation into the Campaign Expenditures and Political Participation of Arizona Public Service Company and its Affiliates, Subsidiaries and Pinnacle West Capitol Corporation in the Election Periods of 2012, 2014 and 2016.

In the fhe first one, the Arizona Corporation Commisssion ordered its staff members to audit APS and its recent profits after the rate increase. This IS A DIRECT RESULT of citizen action over the last many months.

First protests about the initial filing for the rate increase, then the lawsuit I posted many times about, then the election where Tom Forese was not re-elected (he used to chair the commission), then the two crowning touches: Tom Forese after losing, asked for APS to explain the excessive increases people were seeing, AND Bob Burns was appointed chairman of the board. Bob Burns has opposed this increase and the handling of the APS contributions in the previous election; he even brought a law suit to expose it.

Take a closer look at the second one. Yes, you read it right, they're investigating (or at least trying) the political hanky panky that was reported and suspected in past elections. You know, spend enough money to get your own people elected, then get your way with whatever you want to charge?

Then, since I'm registered to receive updates on these items, I received the following announcement headline:

"Sandra Kennedy (our new Commissioner on the Arizona Corporation Commission) has ordered a subpoena issued to APS to disclose their 'Dark Money' political contributions."

Yes, someone actually did it. Of course there will be a huge court fight at some point, but someone had the courage to actually do it. Bob Burns tried last year, but couldn't get the other commissioners to actually let it happen. This time, I bet it goes out since we fired a major roadblock in the last election.

Since most of y'all aren't on that particular mailing list, here's the significant text of the press release that I received and came out on 2/26/2019:

"Commissioner Sandra Kennedy has finalized and docketed a letter to Matthew Neubert, executive director of the Arizona Corporation Commission, directing him to prepare a subpoena to Arizona Public Service (APS) and its parent company, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation, regarding its spending on political races, lobbying, advertising, and contributions to 501 c 3 and 501 c 4 organizations for the calendar years 2013 through 2018. (Contributions to 501 c 3 and 501 c 4 organizations can be used to mask dark money spending.)

The subpoena effort has been fueled by concerns about millions of dollars of dark money spent in Arizona elections starting in 2014, and APS’ refusal to provide that information. About 30 million dollars were openly spent by APS to defeat Proposition 127 in the 2018 election, but the issue of other political spending by APS in other races is still an unknown. Commissioner Kennedy supports full transparency and looks forward to providing the subpoena results to the public.

Commissioner Kennedy promised in her successful 2018 Corporation Commission campaign to sign a subpoena to finally allow transparency regarding APS’ political spending, and she will be inviting her fellow Commissioners an opportunity to sign the subpoena as well."

The actual letter that was filed is at and makes for some fine reading.

Additionally the next day (today for me), there was an additional announcement:

"Commissioners Seek Information from APS on Political Spending
Chairman Burns and Commissioner Dunn issue joint request seeking transparency"

As with all things political, the two additional Commissioners drafted their own paperwork. They created another docket, E-01345A-19-0043, and their own letter. This letter has places for all Commissioners signature and a very bold letter. If you're interested (for a political science paper when mid-terms are looming) it's at <link>.  It has a wonderful line in a couple of pages that I actually cheered when I read it:


If anyone ever thought that voting didn't matter, think again. The first docket was filed by Bob Burns, and the second was filed by  Sandra Kennedy. This all happened after Forese was not re-elected. Of course, there were many people like me following this closely and myself and other spoke at various hearings. Money was donated, charges were filed, hearing were held.

And, we're not done yet. This will take more months and more hearings before anything of any substance happens. But, the people have actually started something.

What's coming to the world? There actually are some politicians (well sort of politicians) that keep their campaign promises.