My Glowforge Lid Handle Fell off!

I went to use my Glowforge laser cutter today, and when I tried to open the lid the handle fell right off onto the floor!  This wasn’t the first failure I was expecting from this device! (I figured the laser tube would die, or something to do with the electronics would fail…but no, the glue used to attach this metal and plastic handle piece to the safety glass that makes up the lid just let go!)

Unfortunately, the lid handle has some wires running to it (for the “lid closed” sensor I assume) and now my glowforge thinks the lid is open all the time and won’t do anything. The lid handle has two wires on each side that normally plug into sockets on the end of the LED light bars on the left and right side of the lid. The one on the left nicely unplugged itself when the lid fell, but the one on the right pulled the socket off of the lightbar, and would require at a minimum some soldering to reattach the socket to the light bar PCB.

As my warranty has expired, Glowforge offered to charge me $200 for round trip shipping of the unit to and from their repair location, and after they receive the unit they will tell me how much a repair would cost (if a repair is possible.) The customer service email said that they couldn’t repair the part in the field as some of the parts that would need to be replaced require calibration which they can’t do in the field. (I assume they were speaking about the camera mounted on the underside of the lid. They may have mistakenly thought that the lid had separated from the hinge in the back, but I guess if they replace the lid entirely instead of just attaching the handle again they would need to re-calibrate that camera to the rest of the laser cutter.)

Since a brand new cheap Chinese K40 laser cutter only costs $400-500, I decided to attempt this repair on my own. After laying out a moving blanket to protect the laser tube from errant solder drops, I was able to solder the socket back in place with only a few scorch marks on the shiny white PCB.

 

I plugged the lid closed sensors back into the sockets, held the handle onto the lid while closing it (the weight of the lid keeps the handle in place when closed) and my Glowforge operated as normal!  The only thing remaining is to determine the right type of adhesive to permanently re-attach the handle to the lid. Glowforge support understandably didn’t want to go on record with a specific recommendation for this unauthorized DIY repair, so I went with JB Weld (Clear) 2 part 5 minute epoxy. So far, the handle remains attached to the underside of the glass lid.

 

Grid-Tie Solar System Pricing in Orlando – My shopping experience

We recently hired 3 Guys Solar to install a 10.4 kW grid-tie solar system on our house. They installed 36 Axitec 290 watt mono panels with DC Optimizers on Iron Ridge racking, and a 10 kW Solar Edge grid-tie inverter.  Our final price was $2.409 per installed watt (Summer 2018).   I say final price, because we had a wide range of quotes from multiple companies, and several companies lowered their initial quote upon seeing quotes from the other companies. Our home,  with a new asphalt shingle, south facing roof with plenty of room for panels was about as simple and optimal as you can get for a solar install, so if your roof is more complicated (tile, metal, gables, vents, skylights etc) you can expect to pay a bit more. Read on for the full story of how we got to this final price.

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Ego 21″ mower (LM2100SP) 2nd self propel motor failure & repair report

No, this post isn’t an accidental duplicate of this post from last year. Yes, the self propel unit on my 21″ SP Ego lawn mower failed a second time. (This is 9 months after it was replaced under warranty from the first failure, which occurred around month 4 of ownership, so this failed self propel motor lasted twice as long as the first one.)

However,  I’m quite pleased with Ego’s warranty service compared to the last time when I had to take the mower to Home Depot’s service department (who kept it for 5 weeks).

This time when I called Ego’s customer support number, I only had a seven minute hold time before talking to a person, and the customer support representative said that they would send me out a new replacement mower, arriving in 5-10 business days. [I was instructed to remove the serial number sticker and take the defective mower back to home depot “for recycling”.]

I have read many accounts on Ego’s customer web forums of other self propel units failing, so they may have had a bad batch of mowers go out and are now being more pro-active about replacing them. Alternatively, maybe I’m getting a replacement mower shipped out quickly because this is the second issue I’ve had. Regardless, receiving a working replacement in 5-10 days is much better than taking 5 weeks for a repair.   I’m still going to have to push my mower to mow the lawn (and it’s a big lawn, so this is more exercise than I am looking for….) but at least I could use the defective mower as a push mower until the replacement arrived and didn’t have to hire a lawn service while it’s in the shop.

The new mower arrived 11 business days after my phone call (it would have been 10, except UPS had a delivery exception and delayed it over a weekend, which meant I had to push the old mower around one more time.

After using the new mower with its super quiet and silky smooth self propel, I can say that the self propel unit that home depot repaired/replaced had many signs of problems before it finally gave up the ghost. First, it was louder than the mower itself. Second, it didn’t have enough power to fully propel the mower up a slight incline. Third, every time the mower went into overdrive due to thick grass, the self propel would slow down. These issues were either there from the time I got the mower back from Home Depot, or they started and got worse so gradually that I hadn’t taken note of them, but after using the new mower, it became obvious that I should have known my self propel unit was not working the way it was supposed to. On the new mower the self propel has plenty of power to move up a grade at the same speed it moves on flat ground, it makes less noise than the blade mower, and it doesn’t slow down when the blade mower goes into “overdrive” cutting thick grass.

 

Update: Ego has started to produce updated 21″ SP models that have an updated self propel unit that matches that found in their dual battery (premium) mowers. Look for a picture of a phone on the box (see this video for details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtLkT5X4MQw )

Degregation of EGO 7.5 AH lawnmower batteries over time

I purchased a 21″ Self Propelled EGO lawnmower in April of 2017, and although the mower’s manufacture date code was listed as Sep 2016, the 7.5 AH battery (Original Battery) that HD gave me (shipped separately and lost for a week) had a date code of Dec 2014.

I just (July 2018) purchased a second brand new 7.5 AH battery that has a manufactured date code of May 2018 so that I can mow twice as long, and be charging one battery while mowing with the other.

To monitor the performance and lifespan of these (relatively expensive) batteries, I have been periodically testing their capacity by draining them to the same level (when the red light on the mower comes on) and then measuring how many watt/hrs it takes to fully recharge them using a Kill-a-watt meter. In this way, I can compare the original battery (both last year and now) to my new battery.

Here is my data:
Original Battery Aug 2017:  380 watt/hr to recharge
Original Battery July 2018:  330 watt/hr to recharge
New Battery, July 2018: 410 watt/hr to recharge.

I didn’t start keeping track of how much power it took to recharge the original battery until August of 2017, so I don’t know if it was at the 410 level when I originally received it or not. It’s calendar age from the date of manufacture was 2+ years old when I received it in April of 2017, and I estimate it probably lost 7% of its capacity before I started the measurements.

Conclusions:
The original battery has lost approximately 13% of it’s capacity over the last year from the point I started keeping track.
(380-330= 50 / 380 = 0.1315 )

Right now, my brand new battery is 19-20% “better” than my original battery (which is 3+ years old and has been in active use for 15 months).
(410 – 330 = 80 / 410 = 0.1951)

Said another way, my original battery still has 80% of the capacity of a “new” battery after 15 months of use and several years of storage before I purchased it.  (330 / 410 = 0.8048 )

Just for fun, here are two graphs of the data points I have for my original battery over time. The first one shows how the degradation appears to be mostly linear (at least over the last year) but looks scary, because OpenOffice cheated and auto-scaled the vertical axis to only include the data points.

 

This second graph represents the total capacity “under the line” is a better visual representation of reality, as only 13% of the original capacity was lost over this time period (20% when compared to a brand new battery, so the other 7% was likely lost in the years of storage before I received the original battery).

 

 

 

Maslow CNC “hanging router” review

I have completed a few projects using my Maslow CNC “hanging router”. Although I’m not yet an expert on its use, I feel like I have enough experience for a general review. The bottom line is that it provides excellent value for the cost for a hobbyist, but will not replace a professional gantry style CNC router for professional use.

 

The source of the Maslow’s sub $500 cost is its unique motion system, which relies on gravity working against two variable length chains to position the router sled, which must slide on a flat work piece. Because you provide your own router, build the frame yourself, and cut out the final round sled using a temporary sled that you cut by hand, the electro-mechanical parts of the Maslow can ship in a large USPS priority mail box.

My Maslow is the 2nd generation that includes a ring for two chain carriages to roll along. The rolling chain carriages allow the two support chains to virtually “end” at the center of the sled where the router bit is positioned. This mostly eliminates negative effects of sled rotation and simplifies the kinematics of the machine. Earlier versions tried to model and account for the sled rotation with chains anchored off-center, or used a mechanical linkage system to achieve a similar effect. In my opinion, the ring and carriages is the best solution.

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Ego 21″ Self Propelled 56 volt Power plus lawnmower review

In April of 2017 I purchased an Ego 21″ Self-propelled electric lawnmower (Model LM2100SP), and I have been somewhat happy with it despite two failures of the self propel drive unit that were both repaired/replaced under warranty.

I still believe that an EGO mower is the best option if you are going to be buying a cordless electric mower, but there are a lot of caveats you should know about if you are trying to decide between it and a traditional gas model.

Performance and “Range”:
The Ego has comparable performance (cutting power) to a gas mower (and an impressive ability to automatically ramp up the torque if needed), but it can’t compete on range with the energy density of gasoline. My mower came with the largest 7.5 Amp Hour (AH) battery, and I need to re-charge it once (winter) or twice (summer) to mow my 3/5 acre yard in two or three sections. I can usually mow for between 30-60 minutes at a charge depending upon conditions (cutting thick wet grass with a dull blade takes a lot more energy than cutting thin dry grass with a sharp blade).

As an example, I was able to mow this section of my lawn (from the foreground to just past the pine tree to the right of center) on a single charge (until the status light on the mower turned from green to red, leaving just enough power in the battery to use it in the leafblower to clean off the lawnmower and a short sidewalk). The section was 66′ long by 130′ wide, (8,500 sq ft, or just under 1/5 – 0.195 acres ). This was grass that needed mowing (mowed last about 9 days ago) but wasn’t quite overgrown yet. Time wise, this took me around 45 minutes running with the self propel set to maximum speed. As another data point, in the middle of summer, mowing thick overgrown grass, I was able to mow a 5,200 sq ft section ( 130′ x 40′) on a single charge of a new 7.5 AH battery.

With a gas mower you could mow my entire lawn with thick wet grass and a very dull blade and only notice that you needed to re-fill the gas can slightly more frequently. With an electric mower, you learn to keep your blade sharp, and to never mow wet grass (which is good for the lawnmower and your lawn) because it makes a significant difference in your mowers “range”.

My lawn is large, and most homeowners would probably buy a riding mower with a wide deck to mow it, so I don’t mind getting a break between each section. [Electric riding mowers were prohibitively expensive when I purchased my walk-behind Ego.] Recharging the battery takes an hour with the included fast charger, so I can mow one section, recharge while taking a lunch break and then knock out a second section. Usually though, I just mow 1/3 of it each day, so the battery charging speed doesn’t really matter. If you wanted to be able to mow almost continuously, you should buy two batteries so that one can be charging while you are using the other.

Cost:
The mower will cost more up-front than a comparable gas mower, due to the cost of the rechargeable battery (The battery and charger is warranted for 3 years, while the mower itself has a 5 year warranty). If the battery lasts a full 5 years, your total cost of ownership will probably be very similar to a gas mower + fuel and maintenance. However, if you were to purchase a used gas mower, you can save a significant amount of money. Purchasing a used electric mower was not yet a viable option for my lawn, as most used electric mowers on the market still make use of lead acid batteries and do not have the comparable performance to the Ego’s 56 volt lithium battery pack. If you have a very small yard (1/10th acre or less), an older used electric mower may still work for you.

Benefits of electrification

Once you accept that the energy density of a LiIon battery is significantly lower than gas, there are many benefits to an electric mower. First, it costs me about 5 cents to fully charge the battery (15 cents to mow my entire lawn), and I never have to travel to a gas station to purchase fuel. I will have to purchase a new battery at some point in the future. Currently, it is unclear exactly how quickly the battery will degrade over time. I have detected no degradation after the first four months. It is warranted for 3 years, and I hope it will actually last 5-10 years before I need a new one, but only time will tell. New batteries are expensive, but if technology improves and costs reduce over the next five years, I may just buy an electric riding mower once my Ego walk behind is 5 years old and the warranty expires.

Because the mower has no gas or oil, you can turn it to change the blade or fold the handle and stand it upright for storage without worrying about leaks or damage. This is a prime space saving benefit that I feel is one of the main benefits.

Because the motor is electric, starting and stopping the mower is as easy as pushing the start button and pulling the bail bar in.  No more pull starts, or dealing with a dead starter battery on an electric start model.

The mower is MUCH quieter than most gas mowers. Although it makes noise, it is much less disruptive than even a four stroke engine with a good muffler. And of course, you never have to walk through fumes or smoke from an internal combustion engine.

It also comes with headlights. This may sound like a gimmicky feature, but since the electric motor is so quiet, you can mow later in the evening without worrying about annoying your neighbors. Because the headlights are down low shining across your lawn, they do a very good job of highlighting the mowed/not-yet mowed division, making it even easier to overlap your tracks slightly than in the daytime.

Common Gripes

Reading the Ego community forums (after purchasing the mower) I found several common complaints.  First, it can leave  tufts of uncut grass near the edge of the mower, which can mostly be rectified by overlapping your passes a bit extra. So instead of a 21″ deck, you are really getting the performance of a 19-20″ deck. This may be related to the second common complaint, a lack of suction. Some people complain that it doesn’t always lift leaves or grass upwards enough to cut/mulch. Many of these complaints are from people who bag their clippings and want absolutely everything off of the lawn when they are finished. I use it almost exclusively in the mulching configuration, and am happy with it’s mulching performance. Ego does sell a “high-lift” blade that has more “uplift” specifically designed for bagging operation, which does improve the suction, but at the expense of extra energy usage (shorter runtime). I have the high lift blade and can confirm it does a good job increasing “pickup” when bagging, but I was happy enough with the mulching performance with the standard blade that I don’t use the high-lift blade and bag frequently.

Hardware failures

The third, and most concerning complaint I see on the community forums is failures of the hardware, combined with difficulty contacting customer support and a poor dealer network for repairs (of the mower). I have seen many posts by people who have had motor failures, battery failures, and charger failures. Without knowing how many units have been sold overall, I can’t estimate a failure rate, but they are happening often enough to show up in the community forums as a seriously sour note.  [It doesn’t help that EGO, and their system of Home Depot authorized repair centers some issues, keep reading.]

Repair Difficulties

To be clear, EGO stands behind their products and will replace batteries and chargers if they fail by sending out a new unit. However, their call center is very busy, and hold times of over an hour are reported frequently (and bitterly). The best advice seems to be to call early in the morning to reach a real person, and to never expect them to return a voice-mail. I have talked with two different customer support representatives (to register my mower, and to initiate a warranty repair on the self propel motor) and they were always very helpful (once you got through to them.)

If your battery or charger goes out under warranty, they will ship you a new one relatively quickly. However, if a piece of equipment needs repair, instead of outright replacement, you must take it to an authorized repair center. For most people, this will be the closest Home Depot that has a tool rental / repair center. [If you are lucky enough to have a local lawnmower dealer that is an authorized repair site for Ego anywhere near you, DRIVE YOUR MOWER TO THEM INSTEAD.] Unfortunately, the time to repair a piece of equipment at the home depot repair center is 3-4 weeks if they can do the repair in the store, and 6-10 weeks if they have to ship it to the repair depot in Atlanta.  Think about that, two months without your lawn mower!  (You can read about my repair experience at this other post…)

Update:  The self propel unit failed on my mower a second time after 9 more months of ownership, but I was much happier with how Ego handled the failure, as they shipped me a replacement mower so that I was quickly back in business. You can read about the 2nd failure and replacement at this post.

2nd update: The self propel unit stopped working on my replacement mower after about 11 more months of ownership, and Ego again offered to ship me a replacement mower so that I’ll be back to mowing in only 10-15 days.  However, when I went back out to push-mow the rest of my lawn, the self propel unit was again working (I assume it was some type of self resetting thermal fuse or circuit breaker) and the self propel unit was working again! (So I had to call Ego back and cancel the replacement shipment.)

So far I’m happy with Ego’s 5 year tool warranty (they only offer 3 years on the batteries/chargers), but there are some very important restrictions you must know about.

Important Warranty Restrictions

This isn’t a craftsman hand tool where you can buy a broken one at a garage sale and get it replaced. For warranty service, you need to be the original owner, have proof of purchase (if you have not already registered the product), and you MUST have bought the product new, from an Ego certified dealer (Mostly Home Depot, although they do sell on Amazon as well as through some local lawnmower shops.) Note that if you buy an EGO product on Amazon, you MUST make sure that it is “Sold by and shipped from Amazon” to be covered by Ego’s warranty. Many other sellers will sell via the Amazon Marketplace, but they are not Ego authorized dealers, only products purchased directly from Amazon itself are covered by the warranty.

 

Ego 21″ mower (LM2100SP) self propel motor failure & repair report

After four months of ownership, around 40 hours of usage, the self propel motor unit on my Ego 21″ Self-propelled electric lawnmower (Model LM2100SP) failed. Before this failure I was very happy with its performance, and although it was repaired under warranty, the procedure took longer than I think was reasonable.

Ever since I purchased the mower, I have been monitoring the Ego community forums, and I knew that reaching a customer support representative would sometimes take extended hold times, and I had heard that taking a mower to Home Depot for repair could be an extended procedure, so when my self propel motor failed, I was relatively well prepared on how to handle the situation.

August 29th, 2017 – The self propel motor fails. I finish mowing my front lawn pushing the mower by hand (which makes me realize that paying extra for the model with the self propel motor was the right choice.)

August 30th, 2017 Time to call customer support. After re-charging the battery, and letting the mower sit overnight to cool, I tested it again (yep, still no motion) and then called Ego customer support early in the morning (to avoid a long wait on hold.). I only had to wait a few minutes on hold, and then a helpful customer support representative walked me through a few simple questions (yes, my mower blade would turn on and spin, so the battery was good, and the folding handle interlocks were correctly latched, etc…) to verify that the drive motor had actually failed.  After that, she “made a note in my file” and told me to take it to Home Depot.

What I wish she had told me: 1. Home depot will charge you a $20 deposit, just to look at the mower (and you authorize up to $150 worth of repairs upon drop-off). They will refund this deposit to you if the work is covered under warranty (mine was).  2. You can only take the mower to a Home Depot that has a tool rental / repair clinic (call first to check). 3. The Home Depot repair clinic doesn’t have their own EGO batteries for testing, so be sure to leave your battery in the mower. [This makes sense in hindsight, but I was hesitant to leave 7.5 AH battery that costs $400 to replace at HD, so this required me to make a second trip back to HD with the battery a few days later.]

Also, after talking with her I received an email from Ego that stated my “case had been closed” (this is the case associated with the phone call to Ego only…but the wording of the message didn’t inspire confidence.)

Because I had heard horror stories about the Home Depot repair clinic taking a long time to repair EGO mowers, I made sure I called them every week to check on the status of my mower, just to make sure it hadn’t fallen into any cracks. I also posted an update every Monday on the ego customer forums, which may have also helped things behind the scenes.

Sep 18th 2017: They are still checking on the mower, but the HD technician felt that they could repair it locally instead of shipping the mower to Atlanta.

Sep 25th 2017: In progress, waiting on a part which usually takes a week or two (presumably the motor/gearbox unit).

October 2nd 2017: HD is still waiting on the part.  [After this update to the Ego community forum, April from EGO said that they were tracking the shipment and that the part should be arriving at the HD store within a few days.]

October 9th 2017: HD claims to still be waiting on the part.  [I mentioned this on the Ego community forum.]

Finally, on Thursday night (Oct 11th), Home Depot calls me to tell me the mower is ready for pickup. Because the home depot with the repair clinic  is 12 miles away from me, I delay pickup until Saturday.

So, it took Home Depot / Ego about five weeks to get my mower repaired, and this was with me keeping on top of Home Depot and making sure that Ego knew what was happening at each step. Reading several other reports on the ego community forum makes me believe that my experience was actually on the faster side of things, as 8-10 week delays are not unheard of if the mower gets shipped to Atlanta for repairs.  I paid $180 to a lawncare company and took a break from mowing my yard, but there are at least three other options to keep mowing if you find yourself in this situation.

Take advantage of Home Depot’s 90 day return policy

Many others in the Ego forums have bought another Ego lawnmower and used it while theirs was in for repair, returning it under HD’s 90 day return policy once their mower was repaired. I felt that this action would be ethically questionable, but after waiting five weeks for HD to repair my mower, my ethical resolve is beginning to weaken, and should the mower fail again, I will seriously consider this option.

Buy a second mower

I did consider buying a second Ego mower (and keeping it), mostly as a way to purchase a second 7.5 Ah battery (it is almost as cheap to buy the battery and mower together as to buy just the battery, plus you get a “hot spare” mower). Other than the fact that you have to store the 2nd mower, this does have certain advantages. If one mower fails, you can just switch over to using the second mower while the first is in for repair. And, you get the advantage of having twice as many batteries and chargers.  Unfortunately,  at the time Home Depot was not offering the same $50 discount on the mower as when I initially purchased mine, otherwise I may have done this.  [My wife points out the questionable logic of using the failure of a product to justify the purchase of a duplicate of the same product…]

Burn hydrocarbons

Of course, you could also buy a cheap used gas mower and several gallons of gas for less than the $180 that I paid for lawn care service, and probably be able to resell it at almost the same price you paid when finished.

Final Recommendation

Due to the fact that my self propel motor failed after 4 months of ownership, combined with a 5 week repair time, I can’t recommend the EGO electric mower to everyone. At least with a gas mower your options for repair are numerous and much faster. However, if you have decided that you will be going with an electric mower, I still think that the Ego line has the best performance. (I have also posted a review of the mower.) I also own the hand-held leaf blower and chainsaw from their Power+ line, and have been quite happy with them.

Update:
The new self propel unit installed by Home Depot  failed again (after 9 more months of usage) but I’m much happier with how Ego handled the warranty repair (via a direct replacement), which you can read about here.

2nd Update: Ego has started to produce updated 21″ SP models that have a new self propel unit that matches the one found in their dual battery (premium) mowers. Look for a picture of a phone on the box (see this video for details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtLkT5X4MQw )

Which toilet cleaner to use?

The local dollar general sells toilet cleaners with 3 different active ingredients. From right to left:

  1. 9.5% Hydrocloric Acid (Lysol POWER)
  2. 1.2% Hydrogen Peroxide (Lysol with HydrOgen perOxide)
  3. 2.4% Sodium Hypoclorite (Clorox Clinging Bleach Gel)

 

We get our water from a well, and it has enough iron in it that we build up rust deposits in the toilet, so that is the primary cleaning challenge. I didn’t clean the toilet for a month to make things stand out in photos better (“No Dear, I can’t clean the toilet because of SCIENCE!”) And then I gave each product a chance on 1/3 of the bowel. (NOTE: I was sure to rinse one product out of the bowl before testing a different one to avoid bad interactions! Both the hydrogen peroxide and acid specifically warn you to NOT mix with any type of bleach. I also ran the bathroom fan continuously and stayed well away from the room while letting them sit.)

Before cleaning

Presented in order of their effectiveness:
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Dual hose portable AC window adapter & Whynter ARC-14SH review

I found a good deal on a used Whynter ARC-14SH dual hose portable air conditioner and have installed it in the storage room off my garage. If I leave the door open it can help cool the rest of the garage, or if I close the door, it can condition the air in just the storage room quite easily.

I wanted something a little more permanent and secure than the included plastic window adapter kit, so I cut a piece of 1/2″ plywood to fit inside some convenient pre-existing slots in my single hung window, attached the hose end-plates to it and painted it with exterior paint.  The board fits into the window just inside the existing screen, so I don’t have to worry about bugs getting into the inside of my AC unit. Here is a video montage of building the window adapter.

 

I was considering a window mount unit, but this portable unit gives me the flexibility to mount it inside the garage later (venting out the ceiling to the Fascia) or wheel it into the house to use to cool a single room if the main AC goes out.  Obviously, having outside and hot exhaust air cycle through two hoses inside the conditioned space is slightly less efficient than a window unit, but it’s much better than a single hose portable AC unit, which will cause outside air to slip into your building as it exhausts it’s waste heated air. It also presents a cleaner look on the outside of the window. (It does take up more floor space inside the room however….)

The EER rating for this unit is 11.2 according to the Home Depot website.  A comparably priced 14,000 BTU Energy Star window air conditioner from GE has an EER rating of 11.8, so from an efficiency standpoint the portable dual hose model isn’t terrible.

The unit draws a maximum of 10.5 amps, and appears to hover around 1050 watts when the compressor is running and 45-65 watts to just run the fan, depending upon what speed the fan is set to. I usually leave the fan on low if only cooling the storage room, and turn it to high when cooling the rest of the garage. The compressor is at least as noisy as the fan in “high” mode, so don’t expect “low” mode to be quiet AND condition the air at the same time, although you can run the unit in “fan only” mode if you just want to circulate air.  The unit is a bit noisy (56 dBA). This is not bad for a workshop, but could be an issue in a bedroom or media room. (In comparison, a nice mini-split ductless AC unit usually runs closer to 34 dbA.)

In AC mode it uses the collected water to evaporatively cool the hot side, and exhausts the humidity with the rejected heat, so in my experiance doesn’t need to be otherwise drained. (This hot moist exhaust air is another good reason to paint the entire adapter board with exterior paint.)

If you run it in “dehumidifier” mode (where it attempts to remove water vapor without putting too much energy into cooling) you are supposed to vet the exhaust air back into your conditioned space to prevent “cooling” from happening. (Living in Florida, this probably isn’t an issue for me….). But, you also need to remove the collected water. Because this is primarily an AC unit, it doesn’t have a large water reservoir, so to use it effectively as a dehumidifier, you will NEED to rig up a permanent drain hose of some type. And, because the drain is located about 2″ above the floor, you may need a pump system unless have have a conveniently located floor drain nearby.  I haven’t tested the heating mode, but according to the manual it has one that will work with outside air down to 45 °F. It also has some timer modes to turn on or off after a set number of hours which I also haven’t used yet.

Amazon Dash Wand

Amazon is running a promotion where you can buy an Amazon Dash Wand with Alexa for $20, and get a $20 credit on your account when you register it. (So if you are a prime member with free shipping, you get a dash wand for $1.30 in taxes.) It’s basically a handheld wifi enabled barcode scanner with Alexa voice input designed to get you to buy more stuff from Amazon.

The wand arrives in a small blue and black box, and is half white and half black. The black end shrinks to a rubber ring so that you can hang it up on the included sticky hook, and it has magnets hidden inside so you can stick it to your fridge.

 

To install the two AAA batteries (included in the box) the quickstart guide says “Open the Amazon Wand by pulling the two halves apart” when it should really say “Get two strong guys to play tug-of-war with your wand until the two sides pop apart”.

It requires you to have the Amazon app on your phone to pair the Wand with a (2.4 Ghz only) Wifi Network, which also links it to your account. After that, you can use the wand by pressing the button. A red light shines out the end, and if you point it at a barcode, the item will magically appear in your Amazon Shopping cart. (No wonder they are practically giving them away…)  You can also press and hold the button to talk with Alexa, to, for example, add an item to your cart that doesn’t have a barcode by voice.

Amazon music is not supported on the device (I suspect playing music would run the AAA batteries down too quickly, plus the single speaker isn’t exactly high quality), but some other Alexa skills are, so you can check on the weather or play colossal cave (although you have to push and hold the button every time you want to issue a command).  Home control commands (such as HUE lighting) is supported, so this could make a good secondary control device for a smart house. Messaging with Alexa is NOT supported. (Which is a pity, as it’s ALMOST small enough to wear like a  combadge.)

For a teardown, see this link.