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Archive for June, 2020

Dirty Air Conditioners

Tuesday, June 30th, 2020

We are well into summer and many areas are seeing temperatures in the 90s or higher. We rely on our air conditioner to keep us cool and comfortable during times like this, but is it working as well as it could be? For many, the answer is no. The reason is simple lack of maintenance. Your air conditioner sucks outside air through the metal condenser coil while it’s running. Dust, bugs, grass, dirt and all kinds of other contaminants can get sucked in and stuck in the coil. Eventually this build up reduces the airflow through the coil, reducing the cooling capacity of your air conditioner. This means longer run times and more energy usage. It could also mean that your system won’t be able to keep up on the hottest days.

The solution is simple. Just spray the outside of the coil, working from the top down, until the debris is gone and the coil looks clean. If your coil is very dirty, the unit will require disassembly and a coil cleaning chemical to get it fully cleaned. If this is the case, you may want to hire an HVAC company to clean your unit. If you are mechanically inclined and want to take the side panels off for a full cleaning, Nu-Calgon Nu-Brite is an excellent coil cleaner. One gallon should last a long time since it must be diluted with water in a sprayer at a 1:4 ratio.

Whether you choose to clean it yourself or hire a pro, your AC will reward you with higher efficiency and less breakdowns when you keep it clean!

Where did the brass go?

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

Brass has been the standard metal most bathroom fixtures are made from for hundreds of years. This is mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t rust like steel or iron. So why is it so hard to find quality brass items now? One of the items that specifically bothers me is escutcheon plates. They are those little trim plates that go around your pipes to hide the hole in the wall. They used to be commonly made from brass and then chrome plated. Now if you go to your local hardware store, your only option will most likely be chrome plated steel. The issue with steel escutcheons is that they will inevitably rust and become an eyesore. How long this takes depends on the quality of the chrome plating and the level of moisture in the bathroom. But since the chrome plating is usually poor quality and bathrooms usually have high humidity levels, this can be a relatively short time. You might remodel a bathroom only to have your new steel escutcheons showing rust two years later. I’m not sure how most people feel about this, but it’s unacceptable to me. Especially since the only way to properly replace them is to pull the valve off the pipe.

It is still possible to find brass escutcheons if you know where to look online. Whenever you order something like this, always double check that they aren’t made of steel before you install them. This can be done easily with a magnet. Steel will stick to the magnet, brass will not. Some of the brands out there I have found are Kingston Brass, Brasstech (Newport Brass), and Wolverine Brass. Out of these, Wolverine Brass seems to be the most affordable. Wolverine Brass also has excellent solid brass quarter turn supply valves they call their “Finale Ultimate” line.

So if you find yourself remodeling or sprucing up a bathroom, try to replace all your steel escutcheons with brass and you will be able to enjoy a rust free bathroom for years to come!

-Daniel

Ring Stick Up Cam 3rd Gen Problems

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

I’m a big fan of Ring. I have the Ring Video Doorbell, Floodlight Cam, and Spotlight Cam. I wanted better coverage of an area that already had a nice outdoor light, so I made what I though was an easy choice and bought a 3rd generation Ring Stick up Cam. I had previously installed the 2nd generation Ring Stick up cam and thought they were high quality just like the rest of the Ring line of products.

The first thing I noticed is that the new 3rd gen Stick up cam no longer comes with the versatile mount that was included with the 2nd gen. The previous mount allowed you to easily mount the camera on a wall or ceiling and adjust for just about any angle you wanted. The new 3rd gen mount is very restrictive and only allows for wall mounting. Before I even attempted installation, I could tell I would not be able to get the angle I wanted with this mount. I found out that the 2nd gen mount is sold separately for $19 and compatible with the 3rd gen camera, so I ordered one.

Since the camera was going to be mounted high off the ground outside, I decided to set it up inside first so I wouldn’t have to mess with it as much on the ladder. The first thing I noticed when I took the 3rd gen Stick up cam of the box was how lightweight and cheap it felt. It didn’t have that quality feel I had come to expect from Ring. I powered it on and started adding it in the Ring app. When I got to the step where it connects to my WiFi network, it failed to connect! All of my other Ring devices connected flawlessly the first attempt. I pushed the setup button on the camera to start the process over and on the second attempt I was able to get it to connect. I got all the settings the way I wanted and checked the audio and video quality on the live view, then went to get the ladder ready outside. When I came back, I figured I would check to make sure the motion detection was working. I checked the app, but it hadn’t recorded anything! I tried the live view, nothing! Completely unresponsive. I tried unplugging the power and plugging it back in. Still nothing! I decided to hit the setup button and reconnect the camera, and it was working again. I thought maybe it was just a temporary problem and needed to update it’s firmware or something. Since it was working again, I unplugged it and brought it outside to install. I got it all mounted and power up. I kept checking my app waiting for it come come online. Minutes passed, nothing. I had to hit the setup button and reconnect it again to get it working! This time I double checked that the firmware was indeed up to date. I left the ladder up for a while and did some other work while I waited to see if it went offline again. About an hour passed and everything was working, so I took the ladder down and called it good. Or so I thought.

One weird thing I noticed was that my other Ring cameras would update their thumbnail pictures in the app every 30 seconds like I had them set to do. I also had my new 3rd gen Stick up cam set for a snapshot every 30 seconds, but it didn’t seem to keep up. Most of the time, I would have to completely close the Ring app and re open to get it to refresh, but only for this camera. Also, it was at this point that I realized the field of view on the 3rd gen Stick up cam was terrible compared to my other ring devices. I’m guessing this is due to a cheaper lens.

It worked for about two days after I got it installed outside. Even though the snapshot feature seemed sketchy, it did record motion reliably. Then it stopped responding again! This time I decided to call Ring support. They instructed me to (once again) hit the setup button and reconnect. This brought the cam online. Once it was online, they informed me that it was my WiFi signal that was the problem. They said it wasn’t strong enough. I knew this couldn’t be the case since my phone had excellent WiFi signal even far beyond where I have this camera mounted. They recommended I buy a Ring Chime Pro to extend my signal. I asked them why the same thing happened when I first connected the camera in my house only 10 feet from my WiFi router, and they had no explanation.

After thinking about my general dissatisfaction with this camera, even without it dropping off the network randomly, I decided to return it to the store and look for another option. I’m glad I didn’t waste any more time on it, because I discovered that refurbished 2nd gen Stick up cams are available on Amazon for less than a 3rd gen Stick up cam! With the good mount included! When I received my 2nd gen cam, the difference in build quality was immediately obvious. The 2nd gen is far superior to the 3rd gen. It connected to my WiFi and added to the app flawlessly. The field of view is MUCH better, and I think the image quality is better too! So far, my new refurbished 2nd gen Stick up cam has been rock solid.

After this experience, I did some searching. It looks like I’m not the only one having reliability issues with the 3rd gen Ring Stick up cam. I also noticed that the capabilities in the settings for the 3rd gen are inferior to the 2nd gen. Where are the customizable motion zones? In my opinion, Ring thought they could cut hardware costs and no one would notice. I noticed, and if this is what Ring deems as acceptable for future products, I will be looking for my security cameras elsewhere.

As of the writing of this post, if you need a Ring Stick up cam, I suggest going with a refurbished 2nd gen or the new Elite. I suggest that Ring step up their game and get back to making quality cameras. After all, this is all about peace of mind. How can you have peace of mind if you have doubts about the reliability of your security cameras?

-Daniel