Monday, December 01, 2008

What Engineers do when they are bored.

It was an excellent Thanksgiving and I got to see all of my family with the except of my sister in law who wasn't feeling well. She remained in undisclosed location while brother-that-does-not-exist-on-the-internet-even-though-he-has-a-domain drove up with his boys.

I did not get to participate in this year's million man nap last Thursday but I heard it went well in spite of everyone have to give urine samples because of last years artificial tryptophan doping scandal (you know who you are cousin....). Mrs F had to work until 4 and my boys drove over to my mother and father's ahead of me in the other car.

That means that I was home alone for most of Thanksgiving. That is usually not good.

So what does an Engineer do when left alone for hours? I wired the heater with temperature probes. Or at least I did until I ran out of heat shrink tubing. (Did you ever try to buy heat shrink on Thanksgiving? Radio Shack is closed!)

I am not making this up. I have a computer connected, multi-probe thermometer that I have wired to just about every room in my house.

Thursday I put the final touches on connecting my new heater to the thing.

Why? I don't know. This is what I do.

I found this device years ago when I was just getting started on weather stations. I didn't have a lot of money and I found this Electrical Engineering Professor at Morgan State University who was selling kits of some of the projects he and his students designed using PIC devices.

I wanted to know the Outside temperature so I bought a kit and put it together. Pretty soon I wanted to know the temperature of everything in my house.

I hooked up the garage, the dryer, the family room and the freezer in the garage. I went a little nuts. I now have 8 probes and every three minutes the record their temperature. By the way, measuring outside air temperature turned out to be way harder than expected and I gave up on that and bought a weather station.

So I spent Thursday morning watching the Detroit Lions get destroyed by the Titans and hooking up this probe to the chimney so I can see every single time my oil burner goes off.

The plan is to tune my set back thermostats, adjust my heat flow and add insulation and watch the impact.

I'll be able to figure out exactly how much the dishwasher costs to run or if the flue from the chimney is open. Or I could just go look at the flue.

Sometimes having all this temperature information is not a good thing. Like the time I convinced myself that I had a ghost in the garage. I hooked up the freezer expecting to see like a straight line of below freezing temperatures all day and all night.

What I found was that the temperature in the freezer jumped to nearly 60 degrees F in the middle of the night. Now it was an older fridge, so I knew it was on its last legs but 60 degrees?

I was convinced that someone or something was opening the fridge at 2 AM until I realized that the freezer was doing an automatic defrost with little heaters in the freezer. Besides, having a ghost that opened the freezer seemed a little far fetched. What did they expect to find in there?

Or the time I thought I left a space heater on my room since the temperature was heading up. The room was being heated by the sun. I feel bad that two of my neighbors had to check it out for me.

So I'll just keep hook these little probes up and recording temperatures. I'll let you know how hot is in my attic next summer.

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