Saturday, October 19, 2013

Jim & Linda's 'Aliner RV' Propane Repair

Aliner Propane Issue

Furnace worked one night while camping on the Colombia River although several times the furnace did not start on the first try but the furnace did start on the automatic restart. The second night the furnace never would light the propane.

Before this trip I found a leak where the hose from the tank connects to the regulator so I replace the hose. This hose apparently has a valve installed per the governments requirement to shut off the propane if there is a surge of propane due to a cut hose or some such.

Checking the furnace system out in the shop. First I verified there were nice electrical sparks available to light the furnace. Then I connecting a plastic hose to the propane line right at the heater entrance and configured a ’U’ loop in the clear hose. I filled the hose with about 17 inches of water and let the water settle evenly at the bottom of the ’U’. Then I turned on the propane and measured the height the water rose. You can either measure how much the rise is on one side of the ’U’ and double the result or measure the water rise on one side of the ’U’ and add the amount the water dropped on the other side of the ’U’. The result is in inches of Water Column (WC).

I measured 13 inches which is great as 11 inches of WC is sufficient for the furnace per the specification. However when I turned on the stove also the pressure dropped to 8 ¾ inch which is way too low. I then disconnected the tubing and left the connection open to the furnace. I disconnected the hose going to the output of the regulator and blew through all that tubing and hose easily.

Then I reconnect the hose to the heater and using a 12 volt battery eliminator energized the two gas solenoids on the furnace and then blew through the hose. Air blew easily for 3 seconds then got much harder. I reconfigured the furnace heater element screen to be outside the furnace so I could see the flame in action and connected all hoses. The flame when lit by a hand held lighter reached about 3 inches tall and covered only about ¼ of the wire screen that should all be lit. (Maybe 6 square inches of surface if working correctly.) Then with the furnace lit and turning on the stove the furnace flame diminished even more and turned quite yellow.

I installed Bob’s old regulator and it performed the same. I removed the Aliner regulator and observed clear oil leaking from the inside. I purchased and installed a new regulator model GR9959 (8EA9)from Clear Creek RV for $32. Now the furnace lit just fine with large flame maybe a foot tall and covering 90% of the heating element screen. The stove also ran at the same time with full flame.

I then reinstalled everything back into the furnace and using soapy water checked all the connections for gas leaks. The furnace operated very well. The next day I turned on the propane at the tank and once again the furnace did not light! So I disconnected the hose at the propane bottle and burned all the gas from the line at the stove burner. The next morning I connected up the bottle and opened the bottle valve extremely slowly. I could hear gas flow and it flowed for like 10 seconds slowly while the lines were pressurized. Then I opened the bottle’s valve all the way. I lit the stove which takes 10 seconds of flow before the air is purged and the gas reaches the stove. Then I turned on the furnace and it lit the first time. While the furnace was running I lit all three burners of the stove and all is working as designed.

In conclusion the first hose was replaced due to a slight propane leak at the hose fitting going to the RV. The RV regulator is likely bad due to lack of flow and also the oil leaking out of the regulator. (I did cut open up the regulator to see if oil is suppose to be inside.) (Bob’s regulator remains in  unknown condition.) I suspect that the valve on the bottle needs to be opened ever so slowly to prevent that government mandated excess safety valve in the hose from stopping the propane flow. There is little documentation about this government required valve. You have to learn by error. (Government at its normal confusing best.) The government means well but performs poorly at times. 

Here you are able to see the clear hose with propane pressure applied and water level raised. Also the furnace burner is removed. 

This is the furnace burner being inspected. All ok. 

Notice the very low flame. Only 1/4 of the screen has flame. 

With new regulator we have a large flame filling 3/4's of the screen. 

This is similar to the "Excess Flow Valve". 

I think if we turn on the gas too fast at the bottle this trips and causes a very low flow. The low flow is designed so in an accident, little gas is added to the crash however we can still find leaks in normal conditions. But how many know to turn the gas on very slowly?  Now if I can just remember.

This is the bad regulator and was replaced. The defective one appeared to be leaking oil. 


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nate’s Heat Pump Repair

Nate’s heat pump became silent. The indoor blower did not even function. We inspected it some and saw the fuses were good so Nate kind of figured it must be the controller electronics card. Nate and I looked on the internet for another card but everyone said it is now obsolete. We saw prices for the card as high as $500 but there were no cards available. Nate called the repairman who came out and confirmed it must be the card. So the repair company  tried to purchase a card and thought they had one but when it came it was not compatible. They recommended changing the indoor blower system for $1,800.

With nothing to loose Nate and I played around some, not knowing much about these type thermostats or air handlers and heat pumps. We decided to  remove the suspect controller page assembly which involved labeling about 12 wires and pulling a 10 wire edge connector. There is no schematic that I could find on the page assembly but at least many of the input output wires were labeled on the board which is a big help.

I brought the page assembly home and examined it with high power glasses and a magnifying glass.  Wow, lots of corrosion. It must be getting some moisture from the heat pump indoor coils which are located above the board. Then the edge connector contacts on the board were extremely corroded.

So I pulled out the dremmel tool and polished all the edge connector contacts until they were bright and shinny. I noticed the 3rd lead over was labeled ‘fan’ and the lead was 90% gone, the worst of all the leads by far. And since it is the fan that did not start I found a place on the board to solder a wire to the same trace and knew I could bypass this connector with this hardwire. Also on the board the capacitors had a lot of corrosion on the ends also. The board was heavily shellacked and the shellac had turned very dark so I could not read all the numbers on the two IC chips. One chip started with 68HC which is likely a type of microprocessor I am familiar with. But microprocessors are hard to work with if you don’t have the code or at least the flow chart. Fortunately they seldom fail. 

Well we reconnected the board and jumpered the ‘fan’ lead to the yellow wire on the thermostat cabling. Now for the first time in a while the fan started up on the air handler when the fan switch was energized on the thermostat. Unfortunately the 5 amp fuse would blow when either heat or cooling was turned on!

So I brought the board back home and replaced 3 corroded capacitors. On one I did not have a matching size so instead of a 33 microfarad 50 volt capacitor, I installed a 10 microfarad 50 volt in parallel with a 22 microfarad 35 volt. (With the board installed I measured the voltage across these capacitors at 34 volts which is awful close to the voltage rating.)

I further observed two places that had turned black indicating electrical arching on the board. These burnt spots were at the relay contact traces. The board traces left only 1/8 inch between traces and there is 240 vac on these tracts. I was able to remove all the blackened board using a dental pick. It amazes me if these were really caused by current leakage or arching that the board did not blow up and completely destroy itself.  I also washed much of the contamination off the board using alcohol. 

Eventually I realized the ‘fan’ lead on the edge connector was not used on this installation so I removed my clever jumper, replaced the fuse and walla all seems to work now. The fan comes on and heat and cool functions work. We have not run the heat pump for an extended time yet though.

It is interesting that when one turns up a thermostat It sometimes can take like 10 minutes for the outside unit to start the big fan or the compressor. Not knowing the micro-controller programming leaves one in the dark why this happens.

I ordered all new capacitors of the right farad and voltage rating from Digikey and should get them in maybe 3 days. They cost like 50 cents apiece. So if needed we can quickly install some new capacitors. The ones I put in were used and could easily be 20 years old.

Maybe we should consider putting a metal shield above this control board to divert any water droplets away from this board. The system is about 18 years old.

Bottom line - The main problem with the system was the corroded leads on the edge connector making no contact. After polishing they are likely almost as good as new.

The controller board
The edge connector is bottom left, there is no contact material on this side. 

The edge connector is top left.
This is before cleaning.

This is the edge connector before cleaning.

 The edge connector after cleaning and polishing.
Notice the 3rd tab from left is missing most of the conductive metal.

 Some of the corrosion before cleaning.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The A-liner RV Refrigerator Not Cooling

The A-liner uses a Dometic model 4223 gas, 12 volt and 120 vac refrigerator. With gas it was cooling by only 10 degrees cooler than the outside temperature.

I removed then disassembled the burner assembly. All seemed clean except for the burner jet which was corroded some. The miniscule hole that limit’s the gas appeared to be corroded slightly. I cleaned all with Super Clean then alcohol using an old toothbrush and then reassembled. Now the flame is extremely blue to the point it is hard to see in sunlight.

After several hours of operation the refrigerator measured 35 degrees while the outside temperature was 80 degrees. Looks like all is working.

This is the clean burner assembly.

This is the jet (before cleaning) with the small hole in the center.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Jim and Linda's new high efficiency mini ductless heat pump!

The following is information on Jim & Linda’s new high efficiency mini ductless heat pump. Our Fujitsu 18,000 BTU/h unit was installed May 3, 2013 by Quality Heating. This unit runs on a 20 amp 220 VAC circuit at less than 7 amps maximum.

The Fujitsu has the highest efficiency in the heating configuration of all the mini ductless heat pumps I looked at. The rate for the heat efficiency is listed as “Heating Seasonal Performance Factor” or HSPF. This value is calculated by taking the annual heating requirements including the defrost cycles and dividing by the total electrical power used. Our unit was rated at 12.0 which is lots higher than the units built just 7 years ago. I read where Fujitsu sells the most units world wide for any manufacturer. This unit operates at full efficiency down to -5 degrees Fahrenheit.

We were very fortunate to qualify for a $1,200 Puget Power rebate along with a $1,200 RePower rebate since we had been heating almost solely with wood heat and our backup heat was radiant ceiling heat along with some baseboard heat.

I considered getting a Diakin or a Mitsubishi heat pump also. They both seemed like great units.

Quality heating did not have the cheapest bid until the rebates were included. They were the only ones that figured out how to get us the full $1,200 RePower rebate which then made them the cheapest bid.

It shall be an interesting heating season this Fall and Winter. I suspect we will just have fires occasionally. Maybe fires will be needed in the coldest 2 weeks of the year although that remains to be seen.

We have only used the unit to cool a couple of times this Summer as Linda somehow controls curtains and windows in a way that keeps our house cool enough all day. 

The bottom line is we now have $1,679.30 invested in this unit. I think we will get another $300 back at income tax time due to a Tax Credit for Consumer Energy Efficiency. That will make our total outlay $1,379.30. Such a deal.

Per a comparison chart from the Coleman company they rated the cost of different heat sources to deliver 100,000 BTUs of heat as follows.

$0.96 Heat pump with an HSPF of 10.0 (Ours is more efficient than this one.)
$1.31 80% AFUE Natural Gas Furnace
$2.85 100% Electric Furnace
$3.13 80% AFUE Propane Gas Furnace
$3.35 80% AFUE Oil Furnace

I have another chart with very similar numbers as the above chart.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Irrigation Pump Failure

Every October I pull in our irrigation pump due to pipes freezing and cracking and also high creek water flooding the pump area occasionally. Then in about May I reconnect the pump. This year after reinstalling the pump which takes about an hour the pump motor did not start or even hum.

After inspecting the pump pressure switch I found it in terrible condition. Lots of corrosion likely due to entry of rain water all last year. I was able to clean it up much to my amazement and it is likely as good as new. Two lug screws were so damaged I replaced them with some ground screws which I do not use down there by the creek. (I don’t want a better ground down there than at the house which may draw too much current for the #12 wiring.) After reassembling the pressure switch, the pump still did not power up or even hum.

I found a little one inch round device that sort of looked like a time delay for a start coil on the motor. This device was corroded and was a likely culprit. (The device is labeled Klixon CET54CY 12A with 3 connections.) I did measure the resistance of the two windings in the motor and they both had continuity. So I used the web mail at Center Electric and asked if they had a replacement. No answer for 4 days so I called them this morning. The guy did not even know they had web mail. Oh-well, he knew right off what the device was. It is an over current protection device. (12 Amps). It has a heating element that under an over current condition, heats up a disk which makes the disk convex rather than concave which opens up the power to the motor. Interestingly the Center Electric person says these devices take about 6 month to order and cost about $60. He recommended just joining all 3 wires together effectively bypassing the protection.

I tried joining the logical 2 wires together and no luck. When I joined all 3 wires together the motor ran fine.

This pump is an old dog with a separate jet plumed with it. (A. O. Smith Corporation motor SKGET54CY mod C48K2FB4. I use it to pump creek water to the lawn and for other non-domestic uses. I was able to get it all running today and watered the lawn.

Over Current Protector

Disk from Over Current Protector
Notice flame for testing.
I was curious how it worked.

This old pump with jet.

Over Current Protector installed.

Note - The AC start capacitor also was damaged and I was able to get a new one from and outfit called Jafco for $2. However a minimum order of $10 plus shipping. So I ended up with a few extra items ordered.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kitchen Aid Mixer

Our mixer was starting to squeak and grind while mixing. We purchased this mixer in 1981 making it 32 years old. I found a nice little Youtube video on how to disassemble the unit. So I did take it apart and redistribute the grease as several gears looked rather dry. Now it sounds much better. There was plenty of grease still present.

Our normally great tasting water tastes bad, part 2

Our Northwest corner of the basement showed a little water on the floor again and the drinking water has a slight taste again. So I suspect the float switch failed and the reservoir overflowed. Since the reservoir is under ground this can lead to fowl tasting water as muddy water seeps back into the tank. Interestingly this water never becomes cloudy.
I removed the float switch for inspection and found the terminals had broken from the switch body. The terminals may have broke while removing the stiff 12 gauge wire for inspection. Unfortunately this type switch is no longer manufactured. Don had rebuilt an older switch but I was unable to make a reliable, repeatable adjustment.

I purchased a new tethered style normally closed switch for about $70 and reconfigured the switching system by inserting a 41 inch copper pipe inside the 3/4 inch galvanized pipe. The float switch cable runs inside the copper pipe. All worked out rather neatly and now performs reliably, at least I think so.

Now the water tastes just fine as it has for many years. Interestingly we had the well pump off for 9 days and only used half the reservoir water. And we were not even restricting our water use. The delay was mainly caused while I healed from a little surgery and while located and purchased a new style switch.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Our normally great tasting water tastes bad.

We have a very shallow well with rather slow delivery. In about 1976 we added a underground 1000 gallon water reservoir. I have only inspected this reservoir a couple of times in the ensuing 35 years.  The last time I remember was in 1999 when I was preparing to build a garage and the county, bless their little hearts, insisted I upgrade the septic system and since I was doing that, to upgrade the well system also. Whew, no small task to get the old systems to pass new standards.

Well in the last month the water which normally taste superior was now tasting yucky. I opened the shallow well and visual inspection seemed just fine. So I dumped in some chlorine and washed the walls that I could reach. Then let this rather high concentration on chlorine water reach the reservoir and sit some. The chlorine passed through in a couple weeks but the bad taste remained. Meanwhile we carried our drinking water from our neighbors.

I then uncovered the reservoir lid which is about a foot underground. A visual inspection looked rather good. The water was clear and I could see the bottom easily. There was no water leaking into the tank that I could see. But I did see some contamination, about 0.5 inches round, in the bottom which appeared to maybe be a bug or something. I got a hose working as a siphon and was able to suck this contamination out first thing. Then I went further and let the hose siphon run for 4 hours emptying 2/3 of the tank. I climbed in the tank and used a broom to scrub the reservoir walls and also stir up the maybe 1/8 inch of sand/soil on the bottom making the water very muddy. I then used the house pump along with the siphon to remove most of the rest of the reservoir water. With 1/2 inch of water remaining I used a shop vacuum to remove the remaining water along with any remaining sand/soil.

I then turned on the well pump and started the fill process. Do to the design of the system it is best to let the reservoir fill almost half way before turning on the house pump after the prime is lost. I let the reservoir fill overnight and the following noon was able to turn on the house pump which primed first time. Before I buried the reservoir again I covered the lid with some tarp material which may stop any critter from entering the tank again.

So we lost all water for well 16 hours. Linda did several loads in the washing machine the same day and also we ran the dishwasher. We expect the water to be slightly cloudy for a couple of days and hopefully when all settles out should be back to perfect soft, clear and great tasting water, again.

 The two floats tell the well pump when the reservoir is low and needs water and also when it is full and don't send more water.
The cleaned reservoir.
The lid is under this section of walkway. So this is after all the digging.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

ABS Brake Sensors Analysis

I saved 3 used ABS brake sensor assemblies cables. One from a BMW which had indicated it was bad. One from Andre’s vehicle as a new ABS sensor was provided when he replaced the left front wheel bearing assembly. The third when Paul replaced his front wheel bearing assembly.

To test these brake sensor assemblies I used a 9 volt power supply and connected the minus lead to a 1,000 ohm resistor then to one of the two leads to the sensor.
The other lead of the sensor I connected to the plus side of the 9 volt supply.

I then placed an oscilloscope across the resistor. By running a screwdriver past the sensor I would get a nice negative pulse on the oscilloscope when connected to the sensor one way and no pulse when connected in the other polarity.

The pulses I observed are shown below.

This all makes good sense as the bad sensor was known by the BMW’s computer fault code to be bad. The two sensors that I could get a pulse from were replaced only because a wheel bearing went bad. (The sensors I suspect are just hall effect sensors.)

The Antilock Brake System (ABS) works something like this, I suppose. For some interesting physics phenomenon, a tire that is sliding has less traction than a tire that is not quite sliding. So if we keep a wheel turning slightly in an emergency brake we can stop sooner than if the wheel is completely stopped. Also one can continue to steer the car. If you are in a complete slide the car will not turn. So enter ABS. Using a thin light cogged disk which is attached to the wheel they place a sensor near the cogs at the outside edge of the disk which senses when each cog rotates past the sensor. At each sense a little pulse is created by the sensor. Now if the wheel is turning the sensor will send out a series of pulses which relates to how fast the wheel is turning.

This string of pulses goes to the computer which does nothing if there are pulses. However if the vehicle is moving and the one wheel’s pulses stop the computer (ABS) interrupts the hydraulic pressure going to the brake caliper at that wheel in a pulsing motion which ensures that wheel continues some spinning which increases traction for faster stopping and also providing some steering control.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Hot Water - Continued

Well I was in for a little surprise this morning. I was the second shower and the shower ended with, warm, not hot water. So, one element in the hot water tank apparently is not going to do the job!

I checked the working upper element and it is ok, so now for the repair of the known bad lower element. First, off with the circuit breaker. Then attach a garden hose and open the valve on the tank to drain the water from the tank. Then to aid in the draining open several of the hot water valves in the house.  The draining took about 3 hours. Then remove the lower element which had bent and no longer easily came out the little 2 inch hole. But with some additional force and more bending it was removed. Sure enough there is a 3 inch slit in the element heating tube. No wonder it failed. It was a 5,500 watt element which is huge seems to me.

Off to Home Depot and I find there replacement elements all screw in while this one is held in place by 4 bolts. So off to Coast to Coast and they have an element for all water heater brands with the same bolt hole spacing. I purchased their 4,500 watt element for $16.

The tank is in grand shape where the element attaches and there is no gunk in the bottom of the tank even after all these years. But this universal element does has a thicker base so the bolts are not long enough. And the bracket that also attaches to the bolts which holds the thermostat needs a little grinding to take off some tabs that are getting in the way. So off to Henry’s for 4 each ¼ x 36 x ¾ inch cap bolts and eight washers. Less than $2. Now all installed ok with a little work. Filled the tank and walla, we have hot water once again and hopefully enough for 2 showers. I suspect we have enough hot water for 6 showers now.

Just recently we again had only enough water for one shower. [December 2013.] So rather than troubleshoot much I purchased two new thermostats from Home Depot and installed them. Now plenty of hot water again.  The elements tested just fine. The preset on the temperature was set at, 130 degrees if I remember correctly. $25 and an hours work.