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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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Well, the garbage disposal installation went well enough. Getting the old corroded pipes disconnected was a bit of a chore, until I realized that if you beat the crap out of an old corrodde metal pipe/washer/nut with a nice big channel wrench, sooner or later either the wrench or the pipe is going to self-destruct. Along those lines, I found it much easier to shatter the retaining nuts than to try to unscrew them, and removing the original sink drain was a challenge requiring three wrenches and a makeshift duct-tape rig to get apart. I forget how much I hate that black shit that grows in your pipes. I should have recalled that one of the most important lessons my father taught me is that plumbing is a nasty business.

After that, it was pretty smooth sailing. Let me just digress for a moment by saying plumber’s putty is the coolest stuff ever. You have to take a quarter pound of it for this installation, roll it into a tube, shape it into a ring that fits around your drain plug, lay it into the old sink, push the new drain in, and then shave off the excess. Now, since the instructions said the tube should be 3/4" around, I ended up with serious quantities of extra plumber’s putty gushing out in the sink and below it. On the other hand, I’m quite confident that I got a good seal out of the deal, being that perhaps 4% of the putty I put into the system remained after seepage, and this pretty much guarantees it was forced into every nook and cranny. Seriously though, this stuff is super-fun to play with, and it tells me that there is some joy in plumbing beyond sniffing PVC bonding chemicals and soldering copper pipes together.

Connecting the dishwasher was a bit of a chore, as the ISE adapter didn’t fit our dishwasher, and the old copper tube connector that was used on the sink was a little shady, but I managed to coerce it into working for now. Wiring the ISE was easy, until I realized I’d routed the wires wrong, and had to re-do the job. No biggie. Wrestling all of the pipes together is always a bit of a challenge, but once that was done, it was just a matter of tightening everything up. Initial water tests looked leak-free, so I filled the sink full and pulled the plug, no drips. I repeated both tests with the ISE on, no issues. I kicked the dishwasher on and it didn’t leak when draining either.

So that was the success story. Rasping off the top of the bedroom door worked out, but the cut is a bit uneven. Oh well, nobody will ever see it.

I thought the thermostat installation was pretty solid; I had some extra wires, and called Rite Temp to verify what to do with them, and was told to just tie them off and tuck them back in the wall, and that everything would work fine.

Paranoid, and not in possession of the requisite 2 AA batteries, I left the furnace/heat pump/control transformer breakers off, and used good old trusty google. Long story short, the claims “Works with 99% of furnaces” and “Compatable with heat pump systems, with or without auxillary heat” that is printed in nice bold letters on the back is complete bullshit. No RiteTemp thermostats support 2 stage compressor heating or cooling. End of story. What sort of heat pumps do 2 stage heating? Well, trane electric furnace/heat pumps pretty much all do it, so we’re not talking some fringe case. I’d like to see how they calculate their 99%, because my suspicion is they would respond “well, it will work with your unit, it just won’t use the auxillary heaters.”

Well, that doesn’t sound so bad, except this means it will only use the reversing defroster heating with the heat pump’s compressor … now, a little introductory information about heat pumps is in order. They become more efficient the closer they are to the target temperature they are. For example, if it’s 100 degrees outside and you’re trying to cool to 60, it’s going to be much less efficient than if it’s 60 degrees outside and you’re trying to cool to 60. Similarly, if it’s 35 below, and you’re trying to heat to 60, it’s going to be less efficient (or downright nonfunctional, as after a certain point they freeze up) than if it is just 40 degrees outside and you’re trying to heat to 60. To combat this problem, 2+ stage heating systems are developed that put additional heater coils in the air handler portion of the system so you provide in-atmosphere heating inside your house, with far more efficiency, and the ability to heat even if your heat pump is frozen and useless. Thus the terming of these systems as emergency and auxiliary heating in a two-stage heat pump system, as they allow, even in an emergency (but also during other times to save energy) the ability to prevent you from turning into a popsicle.

NB my knowledge of heat pumps is based on what I learned over the last few days in google, so some or all of this may be completely incorrect, except for the conclusion that RiteTemp sucks; I’m quite sure of that fact.

Long story short, yes, this thermostat “would work” and would be “compatible” but would actually raise our energy bills during the heating months, and is completely wasting the functionality of our HVAC system, and it might cause the whole thing to freeze up and not work in the winter. As swell as that would be… So, I’ll tear that $40 junk off the wall (even their top of the line thermostats at over $100 don’t support our system properly) again and restore the old manual mercury themostat for the time being, and order a proper multistage Honeywell controller at four times the cost, and now that I’m paranoid I’ll also wire the R circuit with a 2 amp fuse and test lead when I’m installing the Honeywell, so I don’t blow out the control transformer and the new controller.

This leads me to the following conclusions:

  • I don’t want to be a plumber
  • I don’t want to be an electrician
  • I don’t want to be a carpenter
  • I don’t want to be an HVAC technician