2017-11-29 The Tale of Two Thermostats – Part 3

I’m happy my heat is operational, but in the grand scheme of things I have not solved either problem.

I have one thermostat down for the count and dependent on an electrical voltage insufficiency problem with a wireless receiver. I put that on the back burner in order to focus on the wired thermostat which I was able to make Work with the installation of new batteries (face palm).

I now also have the Nest, which won’t work as a replacement for the original wired thermostat. That is the problem I’m targeting to solve next. It is interesting that now the immediate threat of a cold house is gone, these other problems don’t seem as important.

I felt like I needed to get some exercise, catch up on a backlog of other house things, and put some attention to the job search and apparent MFA red tape. Not to mention I had a friend in town who wanted some QT. So I haven’t even Googled “boo” about the Nest.

The problem with the Nest is a curious one. The wiring for a thermostat is super simple (which I have learned in the last two days). There are four tiny little colored wires. Marked on the panel in the basement which matches what is on the thermostat.

Y1 – The Blue Wire (why not yellow, yo?): Controls Cool
R or RC or RH – The Red Wire, for power
W1 – The White Wire: Controls Heat
G – The green wire: The Fan
All this makes complete sense to me except how Y is Blue and not Yellow, but I like blue much better so I’m OK with it.

There’s other letters with numbers but these are the basics for my setup. So unwiring the old thermostat and wiring the new one up was a snap. We made adjustments to the placement of the thermostat as there is a big hole in the wall where the other on was plucked out. We had to have enough slack in the line to put through the new hole with just the right amount of length to reach the connectors. I cut the wires and stripped the ends to be straight and so that there was 3/8s of an inch of exposed wire showing. Insert into the proper connections and bam.. we should be fully operational. But we weren’t.

The power was obviously working. We were able to go through all the setup screens on the pretty Nest display. Selected language, connected to my house wifi network, and selected desired heat and cool thresholds. The next screen was a test and that failed. It said it was turning the heat on but nothing happened. We bypassed the test and put it into full operational mode, and had a series of very strange things happen.

The fan would kick on, and the display on my panel in the basement indicated it was set to “cool”.. sure enough, cold air was coming up through the vents. It only did this for a minute or so before going off and then it would say it was going to try heat in X amount of minutes and seconds. Every time the timer wound down to zero, it would either start again with a new timer or the fan would come on again briefly.

I did all the “soft” checks. I created a nest account and made sure it was talking to my wifi and that I could see the thermostat on my phone with the app and from my laptop. I double and triple checked the wires. At one point, it reported it was shutting down because it’s battery was low (which I think is a clue), so I assumed it was having issues because of that. The website says if that happens, it may take 30 to 240 minutes to recharge and that you can charge it faster with a USB/micro USB charger cable. I took it off and did that.

As the night time drew near, I cared less about figuring it out and more about getting the heat back on. I decided to unwire it and wire up the old thermostat instead to see if that was still working.

I don’t claim to have the greatest troubleshooting skills in the universe, but with a limited set of variables, there is only so much that one can do. In my last job, I was often faced with a situation very much like this where what was happening just didn’t make sense.

The install is good, the configuration is good, the operating environment is good. Why is there a strange, unexplainable outcome? With that particular software, as a last effort (and sometimes not even a last effort), I would uninstall all of it and start from scratch. I’m going to apply the same strategy here. The human factor is real. The gremlins in the machine also seem real. I can’t recall the number of times this “re-do” worked, but it worked often enough to make that a go-to step if I ever got stuck. It’s kind of like rebooting a PC. We can’t explain why that sometimes works, but it just does. As a logical thinking being who wants the root cause, I hate that.. but I have come to accept it somewhat.

So uninstall I did, and when I hooked up the old thermostat, I was once again relieved that it worked and that I had heat and that I could control it.

What I have now, two days later, is that same thing. I have not found the time to work on it and have not had the urgency either. Like I said, getting the new thermostat operational is my next target.. I just need to find a couple hours to really focus on it.

The thought has crossed my mind to set the “current” thermostat to a crazy high temp (like 80), so that the house is really warm before I begin my next round of troubleshooting. When it was cold, I was fighting with myself and using excuses like it was too cold to think clearly. That’s pretty ridiculous, but anyone who knows me knows I don’t like the cold at all. I operate at maximum efficiency in the 78 degree range. That’s way too warm for most, but that is how I am wired.

As a side note.. there are way more wires involved with this girl. I’m not sure there are enough colors in the box of crayons to make a map of all of them. Compared to figuring human beings out, HVAC is a piece of cake!

Stay Tuned for Part 4,
~Miss SugarCookie

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