Tag Archives: sabbatication

Thermostat in the cloud


With my ever-loving wife, “Charlotte” (not her real name), on sabbatical, it has become an increasing challenge to maintain a comfortable, yet energy efficient temperature in the house amid her comings and goings and various sabbatications.

BAYweb has a convenient and powerful way to control the temperature using a web browser from anywhere in the world. You log on to their website (www.bayweb.com) to see the current temperature in the house and adjust it as needed. The service is free but you have to buy and install their control module and thermostat. In our case, the cost of the hardware was offset in less than a year with reduced energy costs by adjusting the temp when we weren’t home.

Of course you can manually set back your old-fashioned thermostat before you leave on vacation and reset it when you return but the BAYweb system has these advantages:

  1. If you forgot to set back the thermostat before you ran out the door for your vacation you can do it from your motel or even your smartphone at the rest area.
  2. A few hours before you return from vacation you can turn the temp back to normal and the house will be comfortable when you walk in the door.
  3. You can monitor the temperature while you are away. One guy was away during the winter and noticed that his house was getting too cold and got the heating repair company to fix his furnace before the pipes froze.
  4. You can view charts and reports of energy usage and temperatures.

Our house has separate systems for upstairs and downstairs so I bought two pairs of thermostats and control modules. The basic idea is to replace your current wall thermostat with the new one and splice the control module into the wire that runs between the thermostat and the air handler. (The air handler is the unit in your attic or basement that blows the heated or cooled air. See “The return should suck more.” The heat pump or air conditioner compressor is the noisy unit outside.)

A few years ago I had installed this system at another house and put the control modules in the attic next to the air handlers. Continue reading Thermostat in the cloud

Downsizing–a moving experience

SkillLevel2Nothing puts downsizing more squarely in your face than moving to new digs. The new place might not even be smaller but the thought of moving all of your stuff (which is a pretty apt word because that is often what you do with it) from here to there is overwhelming.  It is easy to identify the procrastinators because they are the ones who have a garage sale after they move.

My mother was moving from an 1100 sq. ft. condo to an 1100 sq. ft. apartment so you wouldn’t think she would need to downsize. But the condo had an 1100 sq. ft. basement while the apartment had only a 50 sq. ft. storage room and that is where the math broke down. (Other things broke down too but let’s not go there.)

I paid Mom (her real name) a visit to see if I could help her put the 10 lbs. of potatoes in the 5 lbs. bag. My ever-loving wife, “Amelia” (not her real name), was not available to help because she is on sabbatical and she was off doing whatever sabbaticants do on their sabbatications, which seems to include a lot of travelling to faraway places at times that always seemed to excuse her from less desirable obligations. Coincidence? I’m just saying.

Mom’s new apartment was on Waldo Street, which was just off a road that was under major construction and lined with orange cones and barriers of various kinds alongside huge drop-offs. If you got distracted while driving you were likely to be featured on You Tube  in one of those “fail” videos within an hour of burying your car nose down in a gravel pit with the taillights pointed toward Jupiter. The construction made it hard to find the turnoff for Waldo Street and the newcomers would be driving around asking, “Where’s Waldo?” The locals thought that was hilarious.

When you are downsizing for a move it helps to have a lot of relatives because you can designate pieces of furniture that won’t fit in the new place as “family heirlooms” and prevail upon the relatives to “keep them in the family,” which sounds a lot nicer than “Go lug that old dresser up from the basement and take it to your house so I don’t have to move it.”

Even after “heirlooming” a bunch of stuff, the furniture still didn’t fit in the new den. Mom wanted a 5′ desk in the middle of an 8′ room so people walking by would see the gold eagle on the front of it. Putting it in the middle didn’t leave much room to walk around the ends, especially with all of the non-“heirloomed” file cabinets, chests, tables, chairs, etc. My sister, my brother-in-law, and I tried to come up with solutions. The most promising idea was to pull the eagle off the desk, put the desk against the wall and stand the eagle on top of it but we wisely surmised that Mom would not be amused.

The Eagle has landed!
The Eagle has landed!

All those hours of playing Tetris helped us fit the corner of desk “A” into the gap between chest “B” and cabinet “C” and we proclaimed, “The eagle has landed!” Mom didn’t even have to crawl under the desk to get to the chair on the other side, which was a huge relief to all parties present and saved me from having to make the ethical decision whether to post a photo of her doing so (for its educational value, of course).

The shoe cabinet was too tall to fit under the clothes rod in the closet.
The shoe cabinet was too tall to fit under the clothes rod in the closet.

The shoe shelf cabinet thingy Mom built several years ago was about 6″ too tall to fit in the bedroom closet under the clothes rod so we needed to downsize it. The question was how to do it.

In this case it was easier to cut down the top section rather than cut off the bottom (losing one or two shelves) and make new legs.

I removed the little door on the top section and the cabinet top itself and pulled out my circular saw from my car trunk. (Surely, I’m not the only one who drives around with a circular saw for just such emergencies. And stop calling me Shirley.)

Cabinet on its side for cutting. Note the pink cloth to prevent scratches from the saw.
Cabinet on its side for cutting. Note the pink cloth to prevent scratches from the saw.

After removing the top portion of the Masonite on the back of the cabinet, I laid the cabinet down on one side so I could cut off about 6″ from the other side. To protect the cabinet side from getting scratched by the saw plate, I put a piece of pink cloth under the saw plate. Normally I’m not a pink kind of guy but that was what was available. I don’t know for sure if the cloth has to be pink to prevent the scratches but it worked and I would advise you to do likewise just in case.

When both sides were cut, I screwed the top on and then measured and cut the Masonite for the back and screwed it on.

The downsized shoe cabinet with the little cupboard converted to another shoe shelf.
The downsized shoe cabinet with the little cupboard converted to another shoe shelf.

The downsized cabinet fit snugly in the closet. More snugly than I had expected because I had taken an extra inch off. It turns out that I had forgotten to allow for the thickness of the top when I was measuring the sides. See how reading about my blunders let’s you avoid similar mistakes?

Moving might cause you to downsize the number of pieces of furniture you have. It might also cause you to downsize the furniture itself. It might also cause you to have that garage sale you’ve been putting off.

When Amelia gets back from all of her travels we might need to discuss whether her sabbatications require any downsizing to avoid conflicts with fun activities like moving the in-laws.