About Chris

Designer and artist looking for and sharing life's wondrous ups and downs. We only get one ride. Make it a good one.

O-Ring

“Can you change the water filter?”

That seems like a pretty benign request.

“The water is running slow and before I run the dish washer…” she said

Hmmm…

“Okay but I just changed it like four weeks ago” Anyway, who knows what’s going on, so I decided to change it. I just got a new order of filters. No big deal.

So I went downstairs and did the drill. We have a whole house inline filter that takes out the chlorine and any bad germs out of the water before sending the water to the rest of the house. Process is you shut off the water, bleed out the little bit of pressure and water between the two valves; you bleed it into a steel bucket I have down there for this job. You unscrew the canister and dump out the old filter and the water in the canister into the bucket. Insert the new filter, screw the canister back on, close the bleed valve and open the two inline valves. Some gurgling and air pressure sounds and you’re back online.

Usually when you screw the canister back on it’s fussy, you have to kinda align the filter and catch the threads and it stops turning just as it’s tight and ready to go. This time it wasn’t too bad, not as tight as usual.

Hmmm…oh well, whatever.

I closed the bleed valve and turned the inline valves on and water starts spraying out the side.

What the heck?!

Water off. Try this again.

I tried it a few times. No change. Still water spraying out.

I look inside and there’s a black o-ring.

Hmmm….

I fiddle with the o-ring. Take it off. Try. Put it on the male part of the coupling. Try. Fiddle with it some more.

Now I’m worried.

Nothing I could do was fixing the issue.

That’s it, call a plumber. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m a carpenter, not a plumber. So I franticly go upstairs and google “emergency plumber repair”. I call the number and give my info. Of course it’s 6:30pm on a Monday. This never happens at 10am on a weekday. They say they’ll have someone contact me after 7pm.

“No water. You all are gonna have to stay at a hotel.” I proclaim to the family while waiting for the plumbing people to call me back. There’s nothing I can do and if they can’t fix it tonight it will be at least tomorrow. And this is the only water supply for the house. And that supply is off.

A little after 7pm I get a call. Thank god. The guy on the other end of the line is Randy and he didn’t seem as worried as I was.

Randy: “Is there an o-ring?”

“Yea.” I replied

“I’d hate to charge you $130 bucks just to do this. There’s a groove you have to seat the ring into in the canister top.”

“Yea, but…”

“…the o-ring seems too big?” replied Randy

Jesus, this dude is reading my mind.

“You just gotta seat it in there. Use two hands. If it’s not working you can try some vaseline. Or you can go to Home Depot and get a new ring. It’s not something we’d have on our truck anyway. Give it a try and worst case call me back if you can’t do it.”

So me, the spouse and kids all fiddle with the o-ring. Damn thing is too big. After all these years my o-ring has worn itself out maybe and is all loose and sloppy. That’s kind of depressing.

“Ok, I’m going to Home Depot.” Everyone else headed out the door to find a house with working plumbing and I headed to the store.

I went to Home Depot and the guy looked at me like I was nuts.

“I don’t think we sell anything like that” but he pointed me towards aisle 44 where they sell the “wrenches n such for that sort of thing” pointing at the large wet, blue canister in my hands. None of the water treatment systems there looked like mine. But…they did have packages of o-rings; one looked too small, the other looked too big. I’ll go with too small.

And to hedge my bets I went to Lowe’s. Same deal. Package of too small and package of too big o-rings, each with a little tube of vaseline.

I went home and took my canister, and it’s old oversized loose o-ring, and tried to fit what seemed to be the closest of my “too small” o-rings into the groove. I lubed up the new spritely o-ring.

Man….it was not working.

I had goo all over my hands and a too small o-ring slithering around the top of my canister, mocking me. Maybe if I had an extra set of hands, but everyone was off enjoying modern plumbing at someone else’s house. Hmm….

On a whim I took my old, loose o-ring and lubricated it. Not really sure why this would work I slowly used my gooey hands to place it in the track.

What the hell?!

As I circled around the o-ring that was previously an inch too wide, joyfully slid into the groove and sat there happy as a clam in brackish water.

Seriously, what the hell?!

With skepticism I marched downstairs, inserted the new filter into the canister and screwed it on. Kinda tight to be honest but with one last revolve it was aligned and seated. Saying a tiny prayer to the person upstairs (god, not some actual person…’cause, as you know, everyone left to find a house with working plumbing) I closed the bleeder and opened the inline valves.

Voila!

Seems like it worked. [knock on wood]

So far I think it worked. I’ll check on it before bed and in the morning. I have no idea why vaseline was the trick to tightening up my o-ring but I’m glad it worked. And I’m only out about ten bucks for the o-rings I apparently didn’t need, but will hold on to.

On the down side I realized my metal bucket has a leak so all the water in the bucket leaked out onto the floor.

I still have no desire to be a plumber, but I’m grateful it’s fixed, whether I had to pay someone or not. Thank you Randy, wherever you are! I owe you one. And I should have tried the vaseline first.

Fire Circle

I can’t believe it took me eight years to figure out what to do with the extra cultured stone that had been taking up space in my garage. The stone is leftover from the fireplace project when we built the house. At the time I had planned to do a couple extra corners in the fireplace design, and when we simplified the design we already had stone. So the result was a bunch of extra corner pieces.

Over time I tried to give the stone away to other people building houses and fireplaces but never got any takers. Then last weekend we had people over for a social distance cookout that included a campfire and s’mores. I mowed the pond dike and scraped away the grass where the fire pit was. I was worried about catching the grass on fire, so I had a bucket of water handy. The campfire worked fine and no fire spread beyond where it should have.

That night someone, maybe me, had the idea…boy, I could use those two boxes of stone to create a fire ring. So, the next day I loaded up the wheelbarrow, twice, and hauled all the stone back to the fire pit area. I simply stacked it around in a circle as my eye saw fit. Nothing fancy and not much labor other than digging the pit a little and arranging stones in the 85 degree heat and humidity.

I like how it turned out and look forward to our next campfire there.

Let me know what you think…

MyQ Smart Garage Door Hub Install

We’ve been here over eight years now, and the past several years I’ve been installing smart home products to add convenience and piece of mind to our home. This past Christmas I picked up a Chamberlain MyQ smart hub that was on sale for $17 (now regularly about $39). Finally this month I installed the unit in our garage.

The smart MyQ units mate seamlessly with the Chamberlain garage door units I installed a few years ago. What they allow me to now do is through the MyQ phone app I can see if the doors are open or closed, get alerts when someone opens a garage door, and generally have more piece of mind when I’m away from home or don’t feel like walking outside to check on the garage doors.

The system consists of a hub that connects to your home wi-fi, and a module that goes on your garage door. The hub communicates with the door module and understands its position – up or down. I can also use the app to actually open or close doors from anywhere where I have an internet connection. This is awesome for vacation or late at night. I can also push a signal if someone needs to get into the garage and it is locked and I am away.

Installation is incredibly easy, though it did take me an hour or more because I move slow and had to fiddle with the app a bit when I inadvertently lost my place. The hub is basically ready to go and the app walks you through step by step, and also the app indicates what tools you need.

Basically you plug in the hub and sync it with your phone and the door sensor module. You then mount the door sensor on the upper right or left panel of your garage door. There is a video in the app so there’s really no way to screw it up.

Note, before I mounted the hub I did have to press the yellow button on my garage door opener to sync it to the hub. I also made sure everything in the app looked and worked well.

Once everything is synced and ready to go, you mount the hub near an outlet, anywhere in the garage where people can see it, about 6′ off the ground minimum, and not near any metal. I was going to mount it on the ceiling but could not find a suitable location away from the metal struts holding the garage door and opener up. Instead I mounted on the back wall. The reason you need to see the hub is because if you are remote opening or closing the hub has a bright LED light that illuminates to alert anyone who is in the garage as to what is about to happen – the door is going to open or close – and they should get out of the way. There is an audible alert too.

The system works great. I can see from my phone when the door is opened or closed last, as well as its current status. To operate both garage doors, I have two separate ones, I need to get another door module and adhere it to the other door. The extra module costs about $30.

Overall I highly recommend the Chamberlain MyQ unit. It is easy to install and adds a lot of practicality for very little cost.

 

Breezeway Lights and Closet Cleanup

Winter is a pretty rad time to tackle all those household tasks that have been weighing on you. In between turkey dinners and pine tree flavored beers, any household can benefit from simple tasks such as updating burnt out light bulbs and cleaning out the closet, and ours did just that.

First up were the breezeway overhead can lights. Five of six bulbs had been burnt out for quite some time, so the it was a rather dim experience. I finally found a decent bulb that met my preferences. The basic GE LED outdoor PAR38 bulb I used was available at Lowe’s.  It’s warm (3000K) and rated for outdoor. When installed it has a nice flush look to it. There isn’t much else to say. After all we are simply talking light bulbs here.

 

The other project we tackled was cleaning out the master bedroom and closet. We packed up over eight bags of clothes, shoes and other items to donate or recycle. The room looks really open and refreshing now. Not such a stressful mess anymore.

After clean up I was able to install some shelves and a mirror we got from IKEA to create a little dressing area. I really like the space, even though it’s primarily for the wife to use. I just enjoy seeing the space now. The light reflects off the mirror and makes the room brighter.  I used drywall anchors, and wood screws (into one stud) to mount the shelf brackets to the wall. Here are pics:

Hanging Pictures

Hanging framed pictures is one of those things that seemingly never gets done. We still don’t know what to hang over the couch or to the side of the living room window. My bedroom is basically bare. All over the house we have bare walls because I never know what to hang, I’m too broke or cheap to buy anything, or I’m too lazy to get around to hanging anything.

Well that changed a bit today. On our vacation to the Pacific Northwest this year I collected a poster from each of the National Parks we visited (a couple posters I had to order online when we got home, to complete the set). I spent a pretty penny getting them all framed. Today was the day, I just went for it and hung them on the wall.

I selected the large blank wall leading from the first floor to the second floor. It’s a vast space and you’d need a super large piece of art to take up that amount of space. So instead of one piece I decided to do sort of a framed art collage on the wall. I have five framed posters so I somewhat arbitrarily hung them on the wall, according to the geographic locations of the park in the Pacific Northwest. Clever, right? I will infill around the posters with photos of our trip in various sizes and shapes. I think it will look nice.

And it feels good to get not have framed posters laying around, and it feels good having one less blank wall in the house. It makes it feel homey and is a nice reminder of our family vacation.

Visit https://scenichwys.com/product-category/posters to order posters for yourself. The ones we have all have old time cars…we wonder if the cars correlate to the year the parks were opened, but that would require research, blah.

Ring Spotlight Cam (Battery)

In addition to the video doorbell I got the chance to test out the Ring Spotlight Cam (Battery). When we built the house it was 2012 and about all we could do was pre-wire the house for security cameras. So there is a blank box on the garage, and in theory a way to route wires to the studio where a DVD recorder and screen could be mounted. Well not it is 2019 and smart home technology has become mainstream. With smart phones as our screens, the cloud as our recorder and wireless cameras you no longer have to plan for anything. You can just purchase the hardware, download the app, maybe sign up for a plan and voila! you’ve made your home significantly safer and more convenient to live in.

I’ll just say I absolutely love this camera. What I like about it most is its versatility to be mounted literally anywhere you can get a wi-fi signal. I mounted mine on the house but you could mount it on the garage, porch…a tree I guess if you wanted to. The Ring app allows you to see the video and sound on demand. The app will also send you notification when motion is detected. I’ve seen strangers, deliveries, family, even wildlife like deer and ground hogs. I also like that the camera has a spotlight. The spotlight comes on automatically which helps illuminate doorways, or just alert people that they are being recorded at night. The video quality is excellent day or night.

The camera comes with everything you need to install it including a drill bit! The instructions are super easy, and the app is simple to install and set up. I mounted it directly to the cement board trim with the included screws. There’s not much to say…it was an easy job.

Ring-camera

The camera looks good, has motion detection and a spotlight. It can be mounted anywhere there’s a wi-fi signal.

The removable battery needs recharging every few weeks but that is easy to do using the included USB cable. There is room for a second battery and they cost about $30 a pop. So far I’ve found one battery to be enough. Eventually I will probably get a second battery.

All Ring products work with one app on your smart phone, which is convenient when you have multiple products like we do. It was great to watch the painters progress on the exterior of our house while we were three thousand miles away on vacation.

I highly recommend the Ring spotlight cam for any home or office. Well worth the money because of the convenience and added security.

Ring Video Doorbell 2

I recently got the opportunity to test out the Ring Video Doorbell 2. We’ve always had a “regular” doorbell at our house. It was a pretty and unique bronze butterfly that was absolutely perfect for our nature oriented home. There was no real reason to replace it. My only complaint was that about half of our guests didn’t realize the bronze butterfly was the doorbell so they would knock. And if I was in the basement I couldn’t hear anyone knocking. But given the opportunity to try out a new “smart” video doorbell I figured it was time to retire the butterfly, at least for a while.

butterfly-doorbel

Our original bronze butterfly doorbell

Ring is a California based smart home company that manufactures and markets smart doorbells, cameras and security systems. The Video Doorbell 2 looks to be a middle of the road entry in their lineup of doorbells.

Ring doorbells copy

The Ring lineup of doorbells as of September 2019.

The purpose of a video door bell is to be able to see who is at the door, via your smart phone, from anywhere in the world. You can also talk to them without having to come to the door, e.g. “No, thank you we aren’t interested.” or “Please leave the package by the door, thank you.” The voice feature is a great way to scare the crap out of people as well, so you can have a little fun with unsuspecting skittish kids and adults alike. You can access the camera at any time to see what’s happening outside your front door. Video is recorded and can be viewed via the website and app for future reference. The app on your phone can be set up to send notifications when motion is detected. I could be in my living room or the other side of the world and see and hear in real time what’s going on. Ring is also promoting safer neighborhoods by encouraging sharing of video with neighbors if you see something suspicious. Imagine a “ring” around your neighborhood via various cameras on everyone’s homes.

The doorbell comes with everything you need for installation including mounting hardware, several paintable faceplate options and even a screwdriver. The instructions and app set up are incredibly easy. The doorbell connects to the existing wiring and also operates off of a rechargeable battery. The app alerts you when the battery starts to get low on power. The removable battery recharges simply using the USB cord included with the doorbell kit in a couple hours.

I installed the unit in less than an hour. My biggest hang-ups were 1) trying to turn the power off to the current doorbell, I never did figure that out but I think it’s so low voltage I couldn’t really hurt myself, and 2) trying to figure out how to take the butterfly doorbell off (there’s a screw the wasn’t readily viewable). I left the new doorbell unpainted because the plastic (black) case matches our exterior superbly.

I love the new “smart” video doorbell. It allows me to check on the front door when I get an alert without having to drop what I’m doing and see who’s roaming around outside or I can see if something has been delivered. The video and sound quality is great day and night.  The app is easy to use and integrates beautifully all of my Ring products in one place. Setup and use is so easy that anyone can install and live with this doorbell.

It is sad to see the butterfly doorbell go away but I am extremely happy with the new doorbell.

House Painting

Good news: we got the house painted.

Best news: I didn’t have to do it.

We’ve been here seven years this year. To maintain this beautiful structure, skinned in western red cedar and cement board, it needs to be cleaned and painted every five or so years.

We called the man back who painted the house to review the state of the house and provide an estimate. The house exterior is in pretty good shape. It really needed to be cleaned though, as the clear coated cedar was showing signs of sun exposure as well as black spots from just being exposed to the air, rain and snow. The white trim was dirty. the only area that we didn’t think needed touch up were the charcoal colored sections of the house. Those looked pretty darn good.

It cost us $4,600 and took two weeks to complete the job. And it was worth every penny. The house looks brand new on the outside. And there was literally no way I would be able to have done it myself. Just the amount of time and effort required. The painters went up on the metal roof without scratching it. They knocked down all the wasp nests, cleaned out the old bird nests. They pressure washed the white porch columns. And they even stained all the decks and pressure washed the screen porch inside!

They did a fantastic job clear coating all of the cedar, it looks almost new. Overall I’m so happy and also happy I hired pros to do the work.

house painting 2019

The house was pressure washed and repainted. Here is the front porch and it looks phenomenal.

Three Apples

I grew three apples this year.

It’s been six years since I planted our apple trees.

Late this spring I decided I’d try to prune the apple trees in hopes they would actually, you know, grow apples.  I have a dozen books on growing trees, and that included instructions on how to prune them. But for the life of me I can’t understand what I’m reading when it comes to this topic. And there is like no one who will just swing by the house and show me. Luckily we have the internet and more specifically luckily we have YouTube. This dude, James Prigioni, on YouTube has a great video that I watched. It gave me the confidence to go out and massacre my little apple tree friends. (You can watch the rest of his videos here).

I went to the store and bought a hand saw and sharpened up my clippers. I did the best I could to remove the branches crowding the center of my trees. And I trimmed off dead branches. Generally working to shape up the trees. I removed up to 30% of branches on some of the trees. I pruned a little late in spring but I did the best I could when inspiration struck me.

The fruits of my labor were three apples on two trees this year. Not much progress but one of the apples was red, which is the first time we had a red apple tree produce an apple.

red-apple-on-tree

A red apple on a tree.

green-apple-on-tree

A green apple on a tree.

I plan on pruning my trees again this fall, or in the spring. They got very large this year after I pruned them. Watching the video helped out a ton because the books just weren’t explaining it to me in a way that I could understand. I really need someone to show me.

I’m sure I’m not taking very good care of my trees in terms of fertilizer or whatnot, but it is nice seeing them grow up, and maybe I’ll get lucky next year and they’ll start magically growing fruit.

I don’t know what happened to the apples. It’s late summer and they must’ve fallen or rotted off the trees. I don’t spray the trees so maybe that’s part of the problem too. Regardless, three apples is hardly anything to get excited about yet. So I just let nature take its course.

Pruning was fun and therapeutic. I look forward to playing with my apple trees some more next year.

Too Many HDMI Cords? Fix It With This…

January?

I haven’t written since January?

Ugh, I’ve been stressed all year – work has been crazy so I haven’t had the energy to sit down and write. Which I kind of miss it. So, today I had a blank Saturday in which I could do anything I want to do, including putting off cutting the grass. Even if not a lot has been going on, there’s gotta be at least something to write about since January, right?

Alright I’ll throw some product reviews at you all, over the next few posts. And we can touch base on the mice and whatever else I can think of. I need to write.

First up, back in February I picked up a pair of these Techole HDMI splitter switches. They are about ten dollars (US) on Amazon and got decent reviews.

Techole-switch-in-box

We use our living room as our primary living space. And our family time usually includes an hour or two at night watching tv or movies together. We also play video games…I think if I added it all up there are like ten devices in the living room cabinet…let’s see: two xBoxes, two DVD players, a Nintendo Switch…cable box…anyway it’s more HDMI cables then the Sony tv (the old ~50″+ version of this tv) has ports for. So I needed a splitter to take the HDMI from the tv and feed in two devices. I think I had 5 ports so I picked up two splitters or switches.

There’s not much going on here but these are solid metal switches (like I said, I ordered two) each packaged in some nice simple brown packaging.

Obviously super easy to install, just plug in your HDMI cables and you’re good to go. I believe because the devices I plugged into the switches are powered, the switches themselves are “powered”. This allows the number on the switch to illuminate so you can tell if cable 1 or cable 2 is hooked up at any given time.

Whenever you need to access a device just press the button on the switch and tune to the right input on the tv.

I also ordered these color coded HDMI cables from Cable Matters and love them as well. Good quality and very low cost. $12-18.50 for a three pack. Color coding is a blessing with all that’s going on behind the tv.

I don’t notice any reduction in quality and the switches (and cables) have worked fine since I bought them. I’d definitely recommend trying them out to help manage things and expand your cable capacity behind your tv.