iiNet SpeedTest Results

My internet speeds can be a bit flaky, so I set up a cron to run speedtest-cli every half an hour a la this post (this is a good one too), but I log the results into a database. What good is data if you can’t view it easily? So here it is…

Upload and download speeds from the last 24 hours.

Daily average download and upload over the last 30 days

Control a Braemar TB heater with a Nest thermostat by adding a Common (C) wire

I was fortunate enough to receive a Nest learning thermostat for Christmas 2014, despite them not being available for purchase in Australia at the time. I have a Braemar TB ducted heating system which was installed before we moved into this house, I’m guessing around the year 2000. It’s a fairly simple unit that does heat only, so the wiring setup was very basic.

I went onto the Nest web site to check if the thermostat would work for me and they had a handy compatibility checker to see if it would work with my existing wiring. I removed my old Honeywell thermostat finding only 2 wires – W1 and Rh. I entered that into the checker and it came back saying that it would work. Hooray!

However, I obviously had a few issues with the installation or this post wouldn’t exist. I’ll be addressing the 2 big issues I had – not enough power to the thermostat and a heater that has a normally closed (NC) circuit, meaning it comes on as soon as the circuit is completed and therefore could be running all the time without the thermostat to control it.

The Initial Installation – finding the problem

After labelling the existing wires I proceeded to remove the backplate from the old thermostat and mount the new one as per the instructions that came with the Nest. I connected the wires to the appropriate spots. Before I even mounted the thermostat part my heater suddenly came to life. Thinking that was a bit odd, I went out to my heater to have a look at the wires and found the wiring diagram below. In the top right corner under the word ‘Thermostat’ there is a picture of a relay indicating that the thermostat would have to handle the switching.

Braemar TB Wiring Diagram
Braemar TB Wiring Diagram

I went back inside and attached the thermostat unit to the back plate and turned the temperature setting right down, expecting that it would turn the heater off. Nope – didn’t happen. I could be wrong, but it seems that the Nest thermostat doesn’t have an internal relay, instead expecting that the relay will be part of the heating/cooling system it is attached to. That was problem 1.

The next thing I found was that the Nest unit constantly shut itself off, saying it needed to charge it’s battery. Through the unit’s information screen it showed that it was receiving 16V of power through the W1 and Rh wires. According to the Nest support pages, the unit requires between 20V and 30V AC to operate. That was problem 2.

Secondary Installation – implementing the solution

Thankfully the solution to both problems was fairly easy to find using the Google machine and not too difficult to implement. Thanks to a few posts from users in the doityourself.com forum (especially the user hqmhqm – massive thank you ) I found the solution I needed. Post #28 has a hand drawn diagram (below) that had everything I needed to know, so off to my local Jaycar to get the bits I needed.

Wiring diagram for adding a 24V power supply (for Common wire) and a relay to a Nest thermostat

Here’s what I bought at Jaycar:

The tools you will probably need:

  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Shrink tube/electricans tape
  • Wire cutters
  • Stanley knife
  • Power drill and drill bits
  • 3 strands of speaker wire all the same length – I used a heavy gauge wire
  • Serrated blade/plaster board knife
  • Screw drivers

First off, I labelled my 3 new wires on both ends. I then taped them to the original wires and pulled them through the wall cavity to where my power supply was going to be. For me this was conveniently in the air intake chamber directly below the thermostat, but was still the most difficult part of the whole setup.

To wire everything up I  just followed the diagram that hqmhqm drew. The result is super hacked and would probably look a bit nicer mounted to a PCB, but as everything was going to hidden I didn’t really care for aesthetics. I did a ‘dry run’ first to make sure everything worked as expected before soldering things in place. The final results are in the following pictures.

Relay and Bridge Rectifier
Relay and Bridge Rectifier – white wires from the heater attached to the C and NO terminals

Above we have the two white wires leading to the heater unit soldered to the relay. These are the old W1 and Rh wires – it doesn’t matter which way they are connected as they simply complete the circuit when the relay is triggered. These are connected the the common (C) and normally open (NO) points on the relay as per the data sheet  found on the Jaycar site.

Next I attached the power supply that would give the Nest the juice it needs. The bridge rectifier stops the relay from buzzing. I found this useful page for understanding how the bridge rectifier worked, particularly that “the input to the circuit is applied to the diagonally opposite corners of the network, and the output is taken from the remaining two corners“.

Dummy wiring for testing
Hooking up the bridge rectifier

The positive wire (red) from the power supply is attached to the new Rh wire leading to the thermostat and the join protected with shrink tube. The negative wire (white) from the power supply is joined to the new C wire leading to the thermostat. These are then attached to the ‘~’ terminal at the 9 o’clock position on the bridge rectifier. The new W1 from the thermostat is attached to the ‘~’ terminal at the 3 o’clock position.

The ‘+’ and ‘-‘ on the rectifier are then attached to the two terminals on the ‘coil’ end of the relay. It doesn’t matter which way these go as the power flowing through is what triggers the relay to close. This is what makes the heater turn on.

From another angle
Bridge rectifier attached to the ‘coil’ end of the relay

After soldering all the wiring in pace and shielding with shrink tube and electricians tape I did one final test with the power supply to make sure everything still worked properly before tidying up the cables in a more semi-permanent fashion.

Testing the power supply
Testing the power supply

I attached a powerpoint mounting block just inside the air intake vent, breaking away a hole in the side to feed all the wires through, with the relay and rectifier stuffed inside. I had to ensure nothing was exposed that could be dangerous and that there was sufficient clearance for the back of the powerpoint and its wiring.

Everything 'neatly' stuffed inside a mount for the power point
Everything ‘neatly’ stuffed inside a mount for the power point

A hole was then drilled through to underneath the house for the 240v electrical wire to be fed from the powerpoint to a junction box by an electrician. All that was left was to plug in the power supply, zip tie some cables and put the vent cover back on, hiding away all my hard work.

Power supply plugged in ready to hidden behind the vent
Power supply plugged in ready to be hidden behind the vent away from little fingers

Success! After connecting the Nest to wifi and letting it do an automatic firmware update I was pleased to find that it has Australia as one of it’s configuration options and can get weather data for my local area – no further hacking required. That’s toasty warm, ‘smart-controlled’ awesomeness.

Custom shoes – about time!

As a size 16, buying shoes has been the bane of my existence for a very long time. Most stores here in Australia stop at size 13, which seems crazy as we have one of the tallest populations in the world.

How I have longed to be able to have shoes made for me, at an affordable rate – something close to what the ‘normal’ folk get to spend on footware in retail stores. Alas, this is not the case.

Thankfully the 3D printing revolution is upon us and the world of generic, ‘one-type-suits-all’, mass manufactured goods is being turned on its head. Finally people are recognising that we are all unique have have specialised requirements, some moreso than others. So it’s not too hard to imagine my excitement at hearing about Feetz – a company who 3D print perfectly fitted footware based on just a few photos. So. Freakin. Awesome.

No more buying shoes sight unseen off the internet with the risk of them not fitting properly – which is often the case. Hooray!

Hopefully I can get in on their beta program. As a 3D printing enthusiast (and professional service technician) and a giant with special needs this is a service I have long been waiting for.

Westinghouse RJ422V is not cold. Oh noes!

It’s never a good thing when your fridge stops being cold. But it’s a bit of a weird thing when it’s still running and there’s no problem with the freezer.

Most modern fridges aren’t that complicated and don’t really have that many parts that can go wrong. Especially so for the standard ones with a freezer on top and fridge on the bottom. They usually use they same cooling mechanism for both sections, so why would the freezer be cold and not the fridge?

Put simply, the Westinghouse RJ422V sucks cold air out of the freezer and blows it into the fridge section. You can tell it’s working properly because it’s a) cold in the fridge and b) you can feel a slight breeze coming out of the vents. No breeze means either the fan is not working or something is blocking the vents.

Best case scenario – there’s a build up of ice in the freezer and air ducts. This will cause the whole unit to run inefficiently and eventually stop cooling the lower fridge section.

Things you will need:

  1. A sponge for sucking up excess water and spills
  2. A towel, tea towel or paper towel for drying
  3. Several large containers for hot water – glass or ceramic is best
  4. Phillips head screw driver
  5. Needle nose pliers
  6. Knife, spoon and/or paint scraper
  7. A little patience

The quickest way to fix this, and still keep most if your frozen goods is as follows;

  • Turn the fridge off at the wall to stop it cooling the freezer. Perhaps unplug it for safety as there will be water involved.
  • Move as many frozen items as possible into the fridge (or a spare freezer if you have one) to keep them frozen as long as possible. Put them close to perishables like milk to help keep them cool.
  • Avoid opening the fridge door throughout the process to keep as much cold air in there as possible.
  • Eat the ice cream. You may be able to do this quick enough before it melts, but what better excuse to binge.
  • If there are visible chunks of ice in the freezer, try to remove these being careful not to break any plastic , particularly if you bash or chip at the ice.
RJ422V freezer vents blocked
Ice blocking the bottom vents in the freezer
  • Fill some large bowls or tubs with very hot water – the hotter the better. Put as many of these as you can fit into the freezer and close the door so it gets nice and steamy.
  • Glass containers work best as they conduct heat better than plastic. This will give you more hot surface area to work the defrosting magic.
Defrosting the RJ422V
Defrosting the freezer with bowls of hot water. Good opportunity to give the freezer a clean too, by the looks of it.
  • Wait patiently. Check the water every now and then as it will cool quickly and may need to be changed a few times during the defrosting process. Keep as much heat and steam in the freezer cavity as possible when changing the bowls.
  • Once the ice you can see is melted, it’s probably a good idea to check for build up on the condenser coils. These are behind the rear panel of the freezer, so grab a Phillips head screwdriver and some needle nose pliers.
  • Remove the screw covers with a knife and unscrew the two screws at the top of the panel.
Remove the screws
Remove the screws with a Phillips head screwdriver
  • Now get your needle nose pliers and firmly grip one of the fins in the top vents and give a decent pull. The rear panel is held in place with plastic clips (that you can’t get to) so it should just pop out from the top. Repeat on the other vent if necessary until the panel comes away.
  • As you can see below, the rear panel is backed with polystyrene foam and a metal sheet. If the panel is hard to remove, that metal sheet may be stuck to the ice on the coils behind it, so stick some more bowls of hot water in and wait a little while longer.
RJ422V rear freezer panel removed
Rear freezer panel removed. That polystyrene is a great insulator. Barely any ice behind it had melted.
  • In the shot below you can see there was ice built up in the cavity behind the bottom vents – this was most certainly preventing air getting sucked through to the fridge section below.
Ice build up in the vent cavity
Ice build up in the vent cavity
  • So with this panel removed it became pretty clear that there was a bigger ice problem than what could be seen previously. In the shot below you can see the ice is clogged up right down to the bottom. This was causing poor air circulation and blocking a drainage hole, which was probably not a good thing.

20140226-201732.jpg

  • You can carefully remove quite a lot of ice manually using a spoon, a knife and/or paint scraper. This will help speed up the defrosting.
  • NOTE: Those ‘fins’ are thin bits of metal and are very easy to bend, and a bit sharp, so be careful. Also be careful of the various wires and stuff as well. You don’t want to damage any of those. See the final picture for more detail of what goes where to help avoid those bits.
  • Time to get the tubs of hot water again. Again, a few water changes may be necessary.
  • When all the ice is melted, remove the water tubs and give the freezer a good clean and dry it – this helps prevent the ice building up again.

20140226-220634.jpg

 

  • Turn the unit back on and see if you can feel the breeze coming through to the fridge section now.

Success! You’ve saved you food, your fridge and yourself a costly repair bill. Hooray!

Now stick all that stuff back in the freezer before it melts!

 

—— UPDATE: 20/12/2015 ——

The fridge finally gave up the ghost. I clearly didn’t fix the underlying cause and eventually it gave out completely.  Was able to make it last another 18 months+ since the problem began though. For anyone else experiencing the same sort of issues I’d recommend to start saving for a replacement fridge or get a service man in to try and fix it properly.

How to fix loss of WiFi on a Billion BiPac 7404VNPX

We had a power outage the other day while the power company did some maintenance. When I got home, much to my horror, we’d lost wifi. You forget how much you rely on wifi when it otherwise just works all the time.

We still had internet through ethernet, but it was damn inconvenient not having wifi. Our 3G coverage is rubbish and I hate to use that when at home, chewing through my meagre data allowance. No control of my LIFX bulbs and tethered connections to our laptops was just not going to cut it. So I jumped onto Google to see if this was a know issue and if there were any easy fixes.

Thankfully – it appeared to be a well documented issue, as per this Whirlpool thread. From there I found a handy pic of the wifi module showing some corrosion and, even better, this great PDF detailing how one user fixed their loss of wifi.

While I was already going to pull the modem apart to see if I could identify the issue, armed with all this information I had a great understanding of where I should start. So here’s how I fixed wifi on my Billion BiPac 7407VNPX.

Firstly, remove the sticky rubber pads on the bottom and remove the 4 Phillips head screw located underneath (after disconnecting from power of course).

20140215-151157.jpg
On the bottom of the 7404VNPX, remove the sticky pads and 4 screws

Next, flip the unit over and carefully take off the top of the case.

Take the top off the BiPac 7407VNPX
To get the the circuit board, remove the top of the case

I decided to unscrew the antenna connectors from the side, remove and flip over the circuit board to check the bottom for any corroded or fried spots. Thankfully, it was all clear, so I put the board back in and put the antennas back in place.

The bottom of the 7404VNPX circuit board
The bottom of the circuit board – nothing funky there
Top of the 7407VNPX circuit board
The top of the board in all it’s glory

Next was to inspect the wifi module, where I noticed the adhesive gunk didn’t look too crash hot. Based on the PDF it looked like some of this was bridging some of the connectors on the EPROM or RAM chip (whatever it is) on the left in the pic below. With a pointy tool I carefully chipped and scraped this away (did it on the right bracket first as a test). That’s what seemed to be the problem in other posts, so I hoped that would do the job here and didn’t bother removing it from where the antennas are glued onto the module (bottom of the pic).

Dodgy glue
Dodgy looking glue on the side clips and antenna connectors

Then, I simply replaced the top and screwed the unit back together. Powered up, re-enabled wifi via the admin GUI and Ka-Pow! Wifi is working again. It may have just been a fluke of power-off, power-on but as this didn’t work originally, I’m putting it down to my de-gunking as being the fix. Hopefully I’ll get several more years of hassle free use out of what has so far been a very reliable unit.

Tropical cyclone trash collector

Last year my partner and I spent a month in South America, which culminated with a few days at the beautiful Atlantica Jungle Lodge on Ilha Grande, Angra dos Reis. Upon arrival we were informed that a tropical cyclone had passed by just 2 days before, so there was still a little tidying up to do over the island, not that we could tell – it looked like paradise to us!

Ilha Grande beach
The beautiful bay outside our jungle lodge on Ilha Grande, Brazil – how a beach should look

We were advised to take a short stroll over the hill to the famous Lopes Mendes beach – “the most beautiful beach in all of Brazil” (said with an exotic Portuguese accent). However, when we got there we were perhaps a tiny bit disappointed. I guess we’re spoiled here in Australia as this beach looked like any one of a hundred beaches we’d been to back home.

They did have some nice facilities set back off the beach and, wonderfully, vendors selling ice cold cans of beer. You’d never get away with that back home in Oz, the land of over protective laws and people taking no personal responsibility. And we did have to remind ourselves that the place also looked a little rough because of all the drift wood and rubbish that had been washed up from the massive storm just a few days before.

While the missus was sunbaking, I was getting fried to a crisp so went looking for something to do in the shade. As we had walked down the beach I had noticed all sorts of stuff – useful, though somewhat waterlogged stuff. Along with plenty of junk – piles and piles of it that really detracted from that was otherwise a really beautiful place.

So I set to work, gathering bits and pieces, with no real aim in mind – just that I was going to make something. Anything to keep me out of the baking sun. I gathered old rope, shoes, a busted lawn chair, a flat volley ball, a crate, some lengths of bamboo, planks of wood – all sorts of things I thought I could possibly make something out of.

The first logical choice was our very own Wilson…

Wilson 2
Why should Tom Hanks be the only one with an inanimate friend?

With all that trash lying around I did feel a little disheartened that the locals weren’t doing a little more to restore the reputation of that beach, and a little saddened by the amount of crap us humans discard into the ocean.
I figured I could do my small part and tidy up a little, as well as trying to set a good example for others. So I set to work and fairly quickly was able to assemble what you see below.

Behold! The trash-barrow!

20140131-161115.jpg
A slightly ugly, slightly dangerous (check that hook on the front), yet perfectly functional barrow made out of junk

It even had a removable squeegee thingy that was really good for scraping away seaweedy bits and making a nice clean spot to lay our towels on.

Whilst I did receive a few odd looks from passers-by, there were some really encouraging responses with folks asking what I was making and some even taking pictures of my cobbled together creation.

Though a little wonky, the thing was sturdy enough to carry a massive load of plastic bottles and other assorted trash about a kilometer down the beach from our cosy spot all the way back to the main path, where I left it with some local vendors to deal with the trash in a responsible manner.

If you’re stuck in a zombie apocalypse or on Survivor, you’d want me on your team.

Fixing a Breville 800 Series Professional Espresso Machine

A little while back our pricey Breville coffee machine started leaking water out of the top right hand corner, at the back – somewhere water definitely should NOT be coming out from. So I decided to crack it open and see if I could find the cause.

Started by removing the hex screws from the back and the 2 phillips head ones from the bottom to remove the back panel. The top came off by giving it a few solid thumps with my hand on the back (towards the front), then unscrewing the grounding wire.

I later found this site that has some notes on disassembly and diagnosis, which I wish I had found before. There’s also a great list of user submitted fixes here on spares.bigwarehouse.com.au.

Removing the covers revealed some tubes and wires, as expected. Plugged it in and ran it again to find out where the leak was. Turned out to be squirting out of the top part of the ‘T’ junction you can see on the left in the image below, where the tube goes into that tan coloured plastic connector. That whole section with the black thing is the magnetic valve, apparently.

Inside Breville 800ES Espresso machine
The source of the leak

I figured it was a busted o-ring or something and proceeded to unscrew the connectors. Much to my amazement and horror, the top one just snapped with the slightest amount of force – which wasn’t much as I could undo these with my fingers. I guess there was a hairline fracture on that one, which is where the water was squirting out from.

Faulty connector - Breville 800ES
The broken connector top, compared to the ‘good’ one on the left

What possessed Breville to make these things out of plastic is beyond me. They have hot water and steam going through them under reasonably high pressure. No way plastic was going to survive that.

I considered modelling these and 3D printing them, but I don’t think even ABS plastic would have lasted very well – despite melting at 230°C+. Thankfully I was able to get some metal replacements (Part Number: BES820XL/154) from this awesome guy at Eastern Electrical Repairs in Dandenong for only $20 for 2, as I figured the bottom one would blow eventually. Would have been substantially more for him to diagnose and fix the problem though. He kindly threw in some new o-rings to boot. What a nice guy.

The alternative was to get spares from here at eReplacmentparts.com, but I didn’t want to wait. There is also a useful parts diagram which would probably apply to both the BES820XL and BES830XL – not sure which one mine is. There’s a more detailed PDF parts diagram for the 800ES, which is pretty similar located here too. The parts for that at spares.bigwarehouse.com.au would probably do the job for any of them.

Faulty connector and sturdy metal replacement (Part Number: BES820XL/154)
Faulty connector and sturdy metal replacement

So I now had to figure out how to get that broken bit of thread out, so I could put the metal one in.

Broken thread - that's a problem
Broken thread – that’s a problem

I unscrewed all the bits of the magnetic valve and removed the plastic bracket that holds it to the side enclosure, before drilling a couple of small holes into what was left of the thread.

Tiny, tidy holes
Tiny, tidy holes

That let me pop in some tweezers and unscrew it – thankfully it wasn’t too tight.

Tweeze that sucka
Tweeze that sucka

Next was to reassemble it all again. I found it was important to attach the little rubber o-rings to the end of the tubes first, instead of leaving them in the metal connector and trying to push the tube into that.

Magnetic valve and o-ring
Magnetic valve replaced and o-ring in place on the tube

Lovely – all reconnected with a solid metal connector and all new o-rings. That should last a lot longer. Just needed to slide the magnetic valve back on and reconnect the plastic ‘L’ joint and tube.

It turned out to be important to make sure the 1 on the brass section of the magnetic valve is on the top so that steam and hot water work properly.

All fixed
All fixed

With all that done, I plugged it back in and confirmed there were no more leaks. So awesome to be able to make a decent coffee again.

Sadly, the steamer was not working and sounded clogged, despite me running through a 50/50 water-vinegar mix to de-scale the machine. I hadn’t done that in ages, despite being instructed to do it every few months. A build up of pressure from that may be what caused the plastic connector to fracture in the first place.

Unfortunately, fixing that is a little more involved and is still pending. Oh well – no frothy milk for the moment.

———- Update 05/02/2014 ———-

Disassembled everything and checked all the tubes, which were all clear. Figured maybe I put something together wrong – so checked my pics from before I pulled stuff apart the first time and it seems I put the brass section of the magnetic switch in upside down.

It has a 1 and a 2 marked on it and the 2 needs to go on the bottom – 1 on the top where the wires attach to the top of the black section.  After swapping it back around everything works like it did before – steam and hot water coming out where it should. Hooray! Fully functioning machine again.