Brian Toth

August 18, 2014, 11:50am

A Tale of Two Thermostats

Last year I purchased a two-story house that was built in 1928. It is not particularly energy efficient. With the A/C turned off, I’ve seen up to an 8º F difference in temperature between the first floor and second floor.

The house came with an older Honeywell round mercury thermostat installed on the first floor. I love how those old thermostats look and how simple they are to operate. However, while the temperature reading seemed accurate, the set point was way off and annoying to use. I figured it just made the most sense to get a fancy new wifi thermostat that I could remote control from upstairs.

2nd Generation Nest

The obvious replacement seemed to be the 2nd generation Nest thermostat. I care very much about design and how well something looks and works. The competition at the time seemed crudely designed and cheaply made by comparison.

Over the Winter, the Nest seemed to perform just fine. I closed the registers upstairs and let the heat come from the first floor registers. The heat stayed within 1-2º between the upstairs and downstairs.

However, over this Summer I found that I was having to constantly adjust the set temperature on the Nest. I had already closed all the first floor registers and had the cold air just coming out the 2nd floor. I would try running all the ceiling fans. I would try experimenting with opening and closing windows - trying to draw cool air in downstairs venting hot air upstairs. Nothing made a difference. I started complaining about the house, the insulation, the lack of attic venting, etc. I was getting no sleep, running up and down stairs all night fussing with things.

I started paying very close attention to the thermostat. I would leave the Nest set to 70º F. The AC would not turn on until the first floor temperature would reach 72º. The downstairs is very good about holding its temperature and it would take a while for it to rise 2º. In that time, the upstairs would often rise to about 77º! (Most commonly late at night, when I wanted to sleep.) In response, I would turn the Nest down to 68º! (Because turning it down to 69º wouldn’t trigger the AC.) Then the AC would literally run for hours until the temp got down to 67º! This was unacceptable. Once I knew what to look for, I found others complaining about this wide “activation window” as well.

A simple software-based solution is all that would be needed to fix this otherwise great device. But there seems to be no sign that Nest is considering making any changes…

Honewell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat RTH9580WF

The Honeywell does not excite me in the way that the Nest does. I even hated having to buy it because I wanted to like my Nest. It has a stupid name. It’s plastic, grey, and boring. It looks like my old Garmin Nüvi 350 on the wall and the UI graphics are actually worse. The iPhone software is unreliable and not very pleasant to use. The build quality doesn’t even come close to the Nest: the wire terminals are tiny and literally a pain to use. The back plate wouldn’t snap into the thermostat, it’s all just flexible, cheap plastic. I needed help to get it level. I could go on and on…

But here’s the thing: my house is now comfortable. Seriously. I can now leave my thermostat set to 72º and the downstairs stays at 72º. The upstairs will stay at 73º. What a concept, a thermostat that keeps the house at the temperature you set it to. And it keeps the humidity much lower too.

I have a feeling this isn’t unique to this thermostat. Probably any thermostat would do a better job than the Nest at keeping my old house comfortable.

Conclusion

With the Honeywell, the AC runs much more frequently, but for short periods of time. The upside is that the temperature doesn’t get a chance to vary at all. I was concerned about energy usage, but so far it seems about the same. I had to keep much colder temperatures on the Nest than I do now and the Nest would run for HOURS at a time rather than for 10 minutes every 10 minutes. If anything, I would guess it’s more efficient now. At least for my house.

Now if Honeywell could just work on the design and quality a bit… =)

July 20, 2014, 7:30pm

Google Maps Plugin Updated

I’ve updated the Google Maps Plugin installer to detect OS X 10.9 and later and provide instructions for manually copying the shared framework to the proper location. The rest of the plugin files will still be automatically installed.

Sorry for not figuring that out a year ago… I know I’ve received quite a lot of email regarding the lack of support for Google Maps in 10.9.  I’d still like to make a proper update to the plugin for the latest OS at some point.

July 20, 2014, 5:38pm

Google Maps Plugin and OX 10.9 Mavericks

Not sure why I’m just now discovering this, but the Google Maps Plugin will work under OS X 10.9, if you move the shared framework to the root Library/Frameworks folder.

So, move /Users/<you>/Library/Frameworks/GoogleMapsShared.framework to /Library/Frameworks/GoogleMapsShared.framework and then it will work. At least until I put together a more professional solution.

June 11, 2014, 12:05pm

The Funny Pages - Part 1: Motivation

For a long, long time now, reading the comics in the newspaper has been a part of my morning routine. Not that long ago, my paper, The Cleveland Plain Dealer started cutting back on their comics. Then they stopped delivering the paper part of the week.  The Plain Dealer does offer an “e-edition” online or on the iPad, which is a glorified PDF copy of the daily paper. It’s not fun to use and unreliable.

I realized that all I wanted were the comics, all of the other news I care about comes from RSS feeds and TV, so I didn’t need the paper.

I found Cleveland.com had some of the comics, not all that were featured in the actual paper, and weren’t great quality either. They were a scaled-down, embedded version of what is offered by King Features and Comics Kingdom. The ComicsKingdom.com website has the same content, but in much better quality.

The rest of the comics that I cared about were on GoComics.com, published by Universal Uclick. Except Dilbert, which is somehow only available on Dilbert.com.

I already subscribed to Bill Amends’ FoxTrot.com RSS feed, so I thought maybe I could subscribe to other comics via RSS. Long story short… no.  I found both services offered iPad apps… but I didn’t like the experience of using them at all. What I really wanted was all my comics, in one place that I could read through quickly during breakfast.

So I developed The Funny Pages

January 27, 2014, 9:18pm

AutoMile 1.4 Now in the App Store

AutoMile 1.4 has been approved for the App Store and is available now.

January 23, 2014, 10:47pm

AutoMile 1.4

AutoMile 1.4 is now available from my website.  I’ve also submitted the App Store version to Apple for review. Ideally I’d like to wait until it’s approved for the App Store and release them simultaneously, but since it fixes a crashing bug it seemed best to just get it out as soon as possible.

Please let me know if you encounter any issues with this release. Feedback is always welcome. Thanks!

January 19, 2014, 6:18pm

Upcoming AutoMile Fixes

I wanted to take a moment out of my debugging to let all AutoMile customers know that there will be an update coming out soon.  I’ve been getting an increasing number of crash reports in the last few weeks now that more people are using AutoMile, I have not been ignoring them.  December was a very busy month and I just didn’t have the time I needed to properly investigate the issues.  But, between the new crash reports and some helpful emails I think I was finally able to find the cause of the problems.

Thank you for your patience while I’ve been working on this. I hope to get the update out as soon as possible.

If you have any comments or feedback, feel free to contact me.

October 29, 2013, 9:24pm

AutoMile 1.3.1

AutoMile 1.3.1 is now available for download. The App Store version has been approved and should be available soon.

October 23, 2013, 8:05am

Mac OS X 10.9 Mavericks

AutoMile and PostCheck are both 10.9 compatible. My Google Maps Plugin is not. If you find that PostCheck (or other Contacts plugins) are not loading correctly, please make sure that you remove the Google Maps Plugin if you had it installed. There’s a simple removal tool available on the Google Maps Plugin website.

October 6, 2013, 11:55am

PostCheck Installer Updated for Mac OS X 10.9

Now that the GM of OS X 10.9 is available for developers, I’ve once again updated the PostCheck installer. The only thing that’s been updated is the installer, the plugin hasn’t changed since the update in July. No need to re-download unless you’re also using OS X 10.9 and need to reinstall PostCheck.

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