Wednesday, September 17, 2014

LED bulb that fits in a microwave? YES!

I finally found the holy grail.

That's right. An LED bulb that works in an over-the-range microwave.

Though I love LED bulbs for the energy savings, in this application, it's more than saving a few bucks in electricity. They just burn out all the time. It seems like literally every single month I have to change a bulb in the microwave. Apart from the fact that Home Depot gouges you for 4 bucks a pop for these replacement T8 bulbs for microwaves, it's annoying to keep changing it. I have longed for an LED replacement for longevity.

Here it is, in all it's raw glory. I ordered this straight from China, since in the US, apparently there is a conspiracy to ensure a steady stream of T8 bulb sales, and there is no such product available.

While this particular bit of nascent imported technology doesn't seem to have a name, your crucial search criteria on Ebay are E17 LED (the base is E17). It is easy enough to tell by the pictures on ebay if the bulb is going to fit in a microwave. The ones I got were about $3.50 apiece shipped... less than a conventional 30-day-life-expectancy bulb.

What about dimming?

It doesn't dim. On the other hand, it doesn't freak out either. Most over-the-range microwaves have two "on" settings, full power, and half power. When set to half power, it's mostly off (a few of the LEDs still light, but it's not really usable). But nothing bad happens either, I've left it this way for long periods of time with no ill effects. I've personally never cared about the "dim" setting anyway.

Energy use?

About 5 watts total (2 bulbs x 2.6 watts), versus 50-80 watts for two incandescent bulbs. So basically it's a nightlight. Just leave it on all the time if you feel like it, it'll cost you about 30 cents a year.

How's the light quality?

It's not as great as a high-quality residential LED warm white bulb but who cares? It's for over the stove. It's bright enough and not too harsh.

You are kind of a freak for LED bulbs aren't you.

Yes, yes I am. I have about 50 of them in my house. There are only about 6 incandescents left, and they too will be gone soon. I have to change a fixture to get rid of one of them, but it's time will come. Oh yes. It's time will come.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Uber Car Chase vs. DC Cabs

I don't post much lately but this incident made me break my silence. Recently someone was allegedly taken on a high-speed chase by an Uber driver after they were approached by a DC cab inspector.

Let's set aside the question of why a taxicab inspector thought that the possibility of an Uber driver having been hired as a result of being flagged down, versus summoned via app -- which is the only crime he would have been guilty of where he was stopped in DC -- was worth risking the lives of his passengers and anyone else in the vicinity, by engaging him in a high-speed chase.

Never mind that brilliant bit of risk analysis.

Let's move on to the question of what this says about Uber. I am sure the anti-Uber ranks, which I think includes the DC Taxicab Commissioner, cab drivers,
and nobody else, are thrilled to have a talking point about why regulation is needed in the cab industry.

Let's just head this off before it starts.

So.. nothing bad ever happens in a real cab, right?

Woman raped after cab ride

7 cab drivers arrested for assaulting passengers

As it turns out there were only 33 sexual assaults reported by women cab passengers in 2012, not 150 (yey)

DC taxicab commission receives 130 complaints per month (most from women)

That's just what I found in three minutes of googling, all within the last couple years.

I don't have raw data on the number of rides provided by Uber vs. DC Taxis and the number of complaints. But the point is simple. Bad people do bad things, and being "licensed" to operate a cab is little assurance that a cab won't do a bad thing. I feel a lot better about the hard data afforded by Uber in terms of identification of cars, drivers, routes, and the electronic trail of the entire transaction, than I do about a sketchy DC cab who is "licensed" to drive a rattletrap around with a TV showing me annoying advertisements in the back, and sometimes a credit-card swiper as of last year.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bosch dishwasher "stuck on 1 minute" heater relay fix

This blog seems to be transforming into the Bosch repair blog... though in fairness, I've now been using these appliances for over 8 years. I guess two DIY-able problems in that time with 3 appliances (range, dishwasher, & over-the-range microwave) isn't so bad.
Anyway - my dishwasher, an 
SHE45M05UC /48 befell a common problem related to the control board, in which a solder point on the relay controlling the water heater burns up all the solder and becomes disconnected. The symptom of this problem is that the dishwasher cycle takes a very long time to complete, with the display showing "1" for a very long time while it just keeps running. This is because the control module is waiting for the water to get hot enough to run the sanitization cycle, but it never happens, because the heater won't turn on. There is actually a recall of many dishwashers because of this problem, since it appears that in rare cases it could result in a fire. However, mine was not in the list of models covered.  So, on to fixing it myself. First was identifying the problematic part for my particular dishwasher. It's Bosch part # 676962 -- a roughly $250.00 affair. Being about1/3 the cost of a new dishwasher I figured I would at least give a shot to repairing it before replacing the whole thing. Back to google... I'm not going to cover the do-it-yourself fix because there are already lots of great resources out there. This blog post covers the repair in detail.. This was my starting point. 
In my case it was obvious which relay was problematic because the contact had burned. I probably could have just re-soldered the burned contact point, as others have, but I figured since I had the whole thing apart I should replace the troublesome relay.

The part referenced in the blog post above, an Omron G5LE-14 6DC, is no longer available. I located an essentially similar relay G5LE-14-DC6 at Mouser Electronics which has the same specifications. I was able to desolder the old one easily and replace it with the new part. It worked like a charm.

One thing I didn't quite count on was that the part I found has a slightly larger form factor, and when installed, you can't quite snap the cover of the control module's shell closed. 

This requires a slight modification to the cover in order to close it without use of force. I managed it with a heat gun.

All told this effort cost about $8 ($1.41 + shipping for the relay) versus about $250.00 to replace the control module... well worth the 10 minutes of work to swap out the relay.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fix for "Sensible Eco Living" unemptyable trash can

I've been a convert to motion-activated trash cans since my wife brought one into our household a number of years back. When they work, they're wonderful. They keep the stink in the can and your hands clean. The downside is, despite being a pretty simple piece of technology, they always seem to develop problems before too long. Our current one was sticking all the time and it became apparent that the mechanism had literally blown a gasket and it wasn't going to be salvageable. Time for a replacement.

Sensible Eco Living 21 Gallon Trash Can (also sold as Household Essentials EKO 35 L)

We picked up one of these bad boys at Costco for $49.99: the Sensible Eco Living motion activated trash can. They had one on display, fully operational, so we got to try before buying. It seemed to work really well and the price was right. It was also a good bit bigger than our old one, requiring 33 gallon trash bags, which actually made me happy. Over a week I fell in love with the new giant trash can. It opened so smoothly, speaking of the fine engineering within. It was so cavernous, it could easily accommodate the largest of hermetically sealed plastic packing waste products. Everything was great...

Until it was time to empty it.

This turns out to be one of those "did you actually ever use this thing" moments. Really, Mr. Sensible Eco Living, did you? Because it turns out there's a basic design premise that every trash can abides by. One that's so obvious, you don't even think about it, until faced with the product that totally missed Trash Can Design 101.

The trash can must be at least as big at the top, as it is at the bottom.

This trash can has a system of two interlocking rings to hold the trash bag internally. You put the top of the trash bag through the inner ring, wrap it around the outside of it, and then pop it into the outer ring. It holds the bag securely and it doesn't stick out of the can. The problem is, the frame of the outer ring reduces the size of the top of the trash can by almost 1" all around.

Can you imagine what happens when you try to pull a bag stuffed full of trash through this literal bottleneck. Yeah, that's right. Cursing, fist shaking, ripped trash bags, moaning, questioning, frantic googling (revealing nothing, since this seems to be a very new product), and ultimately, product hacking to fix their idiotic design flaw.

How To Make It Possible To Empty This Thing?

Fortunately the solution to this problem is pretty simple, and really without any downsides.
Pop out the outer ring, which you probably already did in frustration while trying to get your full bag of trash out. You'll need to manhandle it a bit to get it off, but it's not brittle so you won't break it.

In the picture at right you can see the ring detached from the can. There are 12 tabs around the perimeter which hold it in place, 3 on each side.

Cut those things off.

There is absolutely no need to for the outer ring to be permanently attached to the trash can. Gravity works just fine. The easiest way is with a razor blade scraper tool. (Don't try to do it with just a razor blade or you'll probably hurt yourself). The ABS plastic can be cut with some effort, just make sure you use a tool that's sharp and offers you a good grip.

Once those tabs are gone, you can pop out the outer ring and the inner ring effortlessly when it's time to change the trash.