Lyndhurst Garden House

Lyndhurst Garden House
Lyndhurst Garden House

Friday, February 24, 2017

Audible pleasantness of water fountains

I'd often thought a water fountain would be nice in the back yard, for the sounds if nothing else.

Now, I actually have a water fountain, but not a big artful on in the back yard, just a small cat water fountain inside.

But so much the better, right?  Small is beautiful, right?  And, the best things are where form and function come together.  A cat fountain isn't a frill, it's an essential part of living for cat people I believe now.  I could tell the difference in my cat's behavior on the very first night.  Not so desperate to have me lift the toilet lid.

Some people complain about the noise of the little ceramic fountain I bought.  At first (it was a rainy night) I couldn't understand why.  Now, I do understand it can be a bit above the absolute silence which used to be typical.  But I can tolerate it, I might even like it, I'm not sure which.  One thing for sure, I'd like to make it better if I could.

Here's a study on the sonic characteristics of fountains that people like.

People don't like loud.  Honestly my little fountain hardly qualifies as loud in any way, particularly when hearing it from another room.  Barely audible is more like it.  SPL in another room is well below 20dBA by my estimation.  But in a quiet house, 20dBA is not nothing, the wrong sound could even be quite objectionable at that level.

People like a large random aspect (according to this study).  The little cat fountain is just a bit too steady and continuous.

I had been thinking about powering the pump with a lower DC level, which might achieve both objectives.  IMO the pump doesn't need to make the water flow as much as it does.  A very fine dripping stream would do as well as the current pencil thick continuous stream.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Water Fountains for Cats

My earlier feline friend, I called her Kitty, survived my care for over 15 years.  In my mind, I was doing nothing wrong…she never lacked for food or water, the best veterinary care, etc.  I fed her what I thought (at the time) was the best food of all, Science Diet.  Like many cats that survive that long on dry cat food, she ultimately developed kidney disease, and before her final termination, was being taken to the vet periodically for overnight water injections to keep her going.  It was through this experience that I learned that there is a problem getting cats to drink enough water if they are eating dry food.  If they are eating wet food it's easier because they simply get most of the water needed from the food itself.  In the wild, cats get most or all of their water that way, and their instinct appears to be not to trust still water.

Now I'm worried about my new feline companion Augie.  He actually gets a treat of 1/4 to 1/2 can daily (which he generally eats only about half of), and right now, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong.  I'd give him more canned food, but while he likes having me or my lady friend give him some canned food, he  seems much more interested in actually eating the dry food (Iams, which my friend feeds all her cats).  The wet food he mainly likes to shove around with his tongue (apparently absorbing the moisture…) leaving dehydrated muck.  The dry food he will actually polish off.

There doesn't seem to be anything wrong, but I can't really tell since he goes outside for one to six hours every night (up to six hours on weekends, but usually no more than 2 hours on weekdays) he does almost all of his business out there, so he hardly uses the litter box at all.  This is not a problem, except that I can't determine whether he is getting enough water or not, since I have no way of seeing how much he is urinating or spraying.  And since he usually only goes out once per day, I wondered why he was not using the box anyway.  Typically cats urinate 2-4 times per day, but it also appears that cats can hold urine for up to 48 hours, so going 22 hours wouldn't be impossible, even if he is perfectly healthy.  He has a perfect and perfectly clean litter box inside (which has has used many times before) but days go by before there is the least little bit in the box to clean out.

Anyway, in the spirit of doing everything I can, even if there isn't any specific knowledge that I must do something now, I'm pushing ahead.  Since food is now available at two locations in the house, I have put water bowls in both locations also.  And now I've taken the big plunge and gotten my cat a Cat Water Fountain, which I've heard my vet and other people mention as the number one thing to do to help encourage cats to drink more.  I got the Drinkwell Ceramic Avalon Fountain.  It gets very high ratings generally but some note that it is noisier than others, however as sensitive to noise as I am (very much so) it doesn't bother me because it is in the front bedroom (the Queen's Room) and as I am passing by all I hear is a pleasant water tinkling sound, the kind of sound one might have just for its own sake.  I probably wouldn't want this in my own bedroom, or the living room (where the stereo is) either, but in the front bedroom I can just barely hear it, if at all, in any other room anyway.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Relative Humidity and Dewpoint

Great discussion here.  I'm buying the cheapest recommended dew point meter.

I have electronic humidity meter with daily min-max in the kitchen and look at it frequently nowadays.

The Carrier Infinity system does a pretty good job of keeping humidity below set point (56%) even on days that are cool or merely warm, and even with continuous low fan.  (With my previous system, I had to turn off the continuous fan during this kind of weather to keep indoor humidity from going through the roof.)  Though I wish it had more user-accessible fine tuning.  I can turn on/off the supercool feature which cools up to 3 degrees below set temperature to keep humidity down.  In practice, it very rarely does more than one degree of supercooling.  I'd like to be able to set 1,2,3 degrees of supercooling.  Sometimes I have to turn off the supercooling (because it's chilling too much) even though I still need some humidity control, just not as much.  The infinity will even attempt to control humidity by other means if you turn off supercooling, but it won't be very effective unless cooling is needed.  This makes me wonder about whether a dedicated dehumidifier wouldn't be a good idea sometimes.

I have a 1 gallon humidifier I run on dry nights which does an acceptable job of keeping humidity above 30% on very cold nights.  My feeling is that you don't need to seek optimal humidity, but when it's going below 35% it helps to start humidifying a bit.  Not too much.  Too much, or trying to track some optimal value like 45% could lead to mold accumulation in poorly built areas of the building envelope.  On the very coldest nights I run the humidifier on high and it needs to be refilled every 6 hours or so.  Even if it runs out while I'm asleep, however, it's done a wonderful job of keeping the air from becoming horribly dry.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Range Hoods

Most of the range hoods I've seen don't make sense, I realize now.  I once liked the sexiness of curved glass range hoods with inner stainless block, like this one

though I have only been looking at the wall mount kind, to replace my fake (no exhaust) system.

But the capture area of such a hood is determined by the inner metal part.  The glass doesn't help much in capture, by the time the smoke or steam rises there it is probably lost, unless the fan is blowing harder than necessary.  What counts is more approximately the area directly horizontal from the air inlets, and not too far out from the last air inlet in any dimension.  Or, if the center is raised, capture area extends as far as the sides continue lowering.

Capture area is what you want to maximize with a range hood.  For efficient capture of the steam and odors, building scientists have determined that you need a hood at least as large as the cooking area, and increased 6" for each 30 inches of rise above the cooking area.

Conventional electric cooktops end around 22 inches from the wall (this specification is remarkably hard to find, and I'm guessing) and this is the spec that matters for range hood depth, because it shows to meet an efficient capture area a hood at 30 inches above cooktop should be 28 inches deep.  I have not seen that, though I do sometimes see hoods at 25 inches or so deep, called "professional" and having very hard to meet residentially 1000 cfm or higher.

There's been a kind of horsepower race in big ranges and range hoods, where the sellers of these things push people to large sizes ("everybody does it now", the familiar self-fufilling claim) so people feel inadequate without the latest 2000 cfm or higher for their 48" range.  (Meanwhile, lifelong cooks for large families say a 30 inch range is entirely adequate...)

If you have a range hood higher than about 100cfm/1000sqft of house space, some say (actually there is a code on this now, and I'm not exactly sure what it says, but possibly something like this) you need to explicitly provide make up air.  And this is still sometimes not done (though less often than before thanks to the code change in 2009).

Anyways, not only do you need makeup air, but it's expensive, so you don't want an unnecessarily powerful fan.

And to get the most clearance of cooking smoke and smells, you can do it one of two ways:

1) have the proper sized hood (as described above, quite deep, in fact unobtainium in residential equipment) combined with the rule-of-thumb sized fan, for example, 10cfm per inch of electric cooktop width (it's a btu number for gas).  So for my 30 inch wide wide range I need (or would need) 300cfm blower (which means I'd need makeup air, but not too difficult with 8 inch dampered duct).

Oh, and optimal hood also includes being 6" wider on both sides, so the hood should be 42" wide in my case... 

2) Have an undersized hood, and a stronger blower fan.  Well of course this is what everybody actually does, and for those that don't bother with such nicieties (and code requirements now) as makeup air, they aren't getting the nameplate cfm anyway, as the house turns to vacuum state and crud rushes in from everywhere.

The typical range hood is 17 inches deep, way inadequate even for electric, very inadequate for gas.

Well I may get get a 22 inch deep Broan Evolution 4 hood anyway, with 440 nameplate CFM hood (and you gotta look for the vertical 7" shaft number...the fan above is actually advertised as 600 cfm, but that's with a particular large rectangular duct only...another form of specification inflation).  I could possibly get by with the Evolution 3 and 330 CFM.

With 440 (instead of 300) CFM, the lack of proper depth and sides is somewhat compensated for, without going overboard.  Anything larger than the above would be way overboard.  I haven't seen reasonably sized fans or designs above 22 inches deep so far.  Also, the hood has to be raised to allow for taller people, especially as the hood gets deeper than 22 inches.

Perhaps a blank slate hood would be 34 inches deep, 7 feet high.  Such a large hood could actually use lower CFM than a typical system, and work as well.

And I'm doing the fan-sensor controlled makeup air system with controlled duct, and outlet hopefully above the refrigerator.  Cold air will sink onto the warm refrigerator coils, hot air will stay around the ceiling.  Muchly.  And it makes sense for the gain or loss to be felt in the kitchen, where the source of the problems is, and the operator can make needed adjustments if going too far overboard.

As long as it doesn't get too cold outside (combined with cooking in the early AM) make up air dumped above the refrigerator should be no big deal.  BTW, otherwise the kitchen is heated to 75 degrees as the rest of the house in my case.  If there were not such general heating/cooling, the makeup air dump there could be more of an issue...and would have to be relocated to some other place chosen to cause the least discomfort...bedrooms and bathrooms worst, living room(s) best.

Generally, in a fully designed system there is balanced ventilation, with fresh air routed to the central system, and continuous exhaust in bathrooms (I suggest also the attached garage have it's own continuous exhaust, which is what I do).  And the ultimate would use something like ERV to obtain energy efficiently, so indoor air temperature is less compromised by the inlet of outdoor air, which can range from far too hot to far too cold.

That cost...the cost of loss of good climate the cost of using too big a range hood fan, ultimately the biggest cost (well, without makeup air, if you had unvented gas appliances, the occupants could suffer with CO poisoning and such...but after  those serious errors, the loss of interior comfort is the greatest reason for designing the range hood right and not using too much exhaust flow.

UPDATE: A week of more research has changed my range hood selection.  I was not reading the complete story (nothing new, sorry dear readers).  The Broan Evolution hoods are intended for under-cabinet mounting only, and that may partly explain the low noise, since in testing the "cabinet" that the range hood is mounted to absorbs most of the vibration.

What I need (or at least wanted and still want) is a wall-mounted range hood.  Figuring this to be the need, I've already had the cabinet that the previous non-ducted hood was mounted to removed.  It would had to have been relocated (upwards) anyway to be compatible with my new range.  And while I could, in principle, reattach the cabinet about 8 inches higher than it was, the effect of different height cabinets with an under-cabinet hood would be unsightly in my opinion.  Though I think fancy designer homes go overboard nowadays with fancy detailed and oversized range hoods, the hood is a very visible part of the kitchen and should look nice--and impressive.

The Evolution hoods were also only 20 inches deep, and the correct size for a 24 inch deep residential range cooktop is exactly 24 inches also, for the capture area reasons I mentioned above.  Indeed it now seems that all the highest end residential hoods are 24 inches deep, and that's how you can tell them from the one-step-or-more-down hoods.  24 inch deep wall mounted hoods are made by the likes of Wolf, Viking, and Imperial, among others.  I'm now planning to buy the Imperial 24 inch deep hood with the smallest dual-blower option: 635 CFM.  That's a little more CFM than I'd like, but it's ok, and the sound level is rated at 1.5-4.6 sones depending on speed.  Because it's variable speed we can guess that the low speed is about 1/3 the maximum, or about 211 CFM.  (Looking at specs for high and low speeds, when they are actually specified, they always fall like this and I think it's because of the nature of the triac speed controls and possibly also the induction motors used.  If they used DC motors, they could have a low speed much lower than 1/3, which I think would be desirable in a lot of occasions.  I think the low speed should have been around 100 CFM, but 200CFM isn't much different.

Before deciding on the Imperial hood, I briefly looked at what would be possible from a Broan-owned brand, BEST hoods.  BEST makes a wall mounted hood with 20 inch depth and a very nice button system for speed control.  It has a button for each of the 3 speeds, and when you press the button, the bezel around it lights up.  Then you can press the same button again to turn it off, or press the on/off button which will turn everything off (light and fan).  This is so much nicer than the typical one button (where you just have to keep pressing to get the speed you want, and guess whether you have gotten there yet) I had deeply fallen for this.

But the Imperial (and Wolf and Viking) hoods use an even better arrangement: a rotary control with "infinite" settings.

The downside of the BEST hood (and the model I'm describing is their best model) is the relatively higher sound level.  The minimum level goes up from 0.3 sones (the likely optimistic rating of the under-cabinet hoods…where the cabinet does most of the sound absorbing) to 1.5, and the top level goes up to 9 sones.  That top level is really too loud IMO (though other hoods can be even louder).  Now looking at the charts, the Broan Evolution 4 under cabinet hood maxes out at 7 sones (with vertical stack) and 440 CFM (never mind the 600 CFM rating for horizontal ducting which I can't use). If you could imagine an increase of Sones with CFM, if you could increase the Evolution 4 to the higher speed, it would also be around 9 sones or more.  At the same 400-ish speed you would imagine the Evolution and the BEST to have roughly the same noise level, with the primary difference being that the BEST simply goes faster--and louder, and the Evolution does get slightly quieter at the lowest speeds (though how much that is just specsmanship related to the cabinet we can't know without actually testing them side by side).

So while you could argue that the BEST is not louder than the Broan Evolution at the same middling CFM levels, the BEST is only louder because it goes to an actual higher CFM, it nevertheless got me looking for something quieter.

Now as far as I can tell, the Viking hoods do not give any soundness level rating.  While the Viking hoods have the same or better features than the Imperial (Viking hoods can also come with heat lamps, and fancier lighted controls), I've seen a number of negative reviews related to the quality of construction (non-deburred metal sheets), the difficulty of removing the baffle filters (and all of the top hoods have non-cloggable baffle filters btw, which the cheaper hoods don't), and the 430 grade stainless steel.  Imperial specifies the sound level for every hood they make, and also specifies that they use only 304 grade stainless which they describe as the best.  (I'm not sure that 316 might not be even better, but 304 is very good, and very few other makers use it apparently, even the very high end Viking hoods).

The heat lamps had me desiring the Viking for a few hours, but I'm thinking that when it comes time to cleaning those heat lamps are going to be an issue.  For one thing, they get in the way of the baffles for cleaning, and for another the bulbs themselves (and their holders, etc) will ultimately need cleaning.  At the end of the day, it might simply be more convenient to use the warming elements and modes on my electric cooktop instead.

Imperial seems to have been thinking about hoods much as I do from the beginning, putting an emphasis on making quiet hoods.  Their 4.6 sones rating for top speed is the lowest top speed rating I have seen anywhere.  They also have a full makeup air kit, actually slightly nicer than the Broan kit (it comes with a pre-wired sensor duct, with the Broan kit, unless your hood already has the sensor in it, as the Evolution and top BEST hoods do, you will need to install the sensor in a duct yourself, which doesn't look hard, but your installer may be reluctant, etc).

Imperial also specifies 18 gauge 304 stainless shell.  At first that didn't sound very thick.  But most cheap hoods (rattle off all the names you know) are 22 gauge.  The Viking is 18 gauge, but in the cheaper and rust-prone 430 stainless.  Only the Wolf hoods ($$$$$) are a slightly heavier 16 gauge with 304 stainless.

I also like the fact that Imperial is made in the USA.  I have not noticed any other hood makers making that claim.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

New Loveseat

The living room layout is changing.  First, last month, I removed the keyboard and keyboard table (and endless associated stuff) from the back left (north) of the room.  That permitted me to move the existing couch (actually, a large loveseat from the 1950's recovered in the 1980's) to the back of the room.  During the last movie party two guests watched the movie from opposite ends of the couch.  Previously the moving was barely watchable from the farthest end of the couch.

But my friend still strongly wanted the couch moved to face the screen (and stereo, etc).  I argued that would not work, as I figured out years ago.  The existing loveseat is not as wide as the existing space, but would leave a useless 18 inches in the corner.  And then a chair couldn't be placed along the opposite wall for 50 inches or more, because of the deepness of the old sofa, and a bit of extra margin.  That would mean the ONLY possible seating along the side wall would be a single chair.  Now 3 and sometimes 5 people can sit along the side wall (up to 4 in couch and one in a side chair) along the north wall, facing as many as 4 people on the inside wall and 2 in the center, for a lively discussion.

So, moving the couch to the back wall facing the screen would destroy the discussion layout, and not provide much for video other (the new side chair would be unuseable for video), just the 3-4 in back, whereas a proper arrangement as I'm achieving will permit 6 or so.

I first researched reduced size loveseats to go on the back wall, permitting the couch to remain on the side wall but jogged out by the bookcase, which conveniently jogs it out for sofa positioning.  Even at, who produces non-oversized furniture, just the basics, 50 inch wide loveseat is the smallest of 3 options.  That would not work, 47 inches is stretching it even.

47 inches is what I ended up getting, in a deep comfortable looking Carmen armless loveseat from Pier1 (discontinued and disappeared from website after I ordered mine).  Measuring 47 inches wide, it just reaches the maximum that will work for me.  The standard Carmen is 63 inches wide, a standard loveseat width.  This is just that, minus the large rounded arms, 8 inches on each side.

Either an armless or a 1-armed loveseat might work, as suggested in an article at Houzz, to fit a loveseat in limited space.  I spent most of my research time looking for one armed loveseat, seeing that to be the perfect compromise.  I came very close to ordering the Carolina Accents model CA5005-DDNL from Mackenzie.  It had a lot going for it.  A one-arm loveseat makes huge sense, since sitter #1 will be the only one mostly, then number 2 will be leaing on #1, and so on.  People described the Mackenzie as being suitable for 1 large adult and two smaller children.  But at a maximum width of 45, and 6 or more lost to the arm, it has barely 40 inches of width.  And it was only 29 inches deep, whereas even the space minimizing furniture of comfy1 is 33 inches deep (and most big box furniture 36 to 40 or more).  It partly achieved this by limited height back, only 28 inches heigh.  So this looks more like "occasional" furniture, much like the "accents" name, for occassionally having a chat with neighbors or kids, not for 6 hours of discussion and movie.

That was why I chose the Carmen, it looked suitable for extended sitting of at least two normal sized people.  I experimented sitting in the middle of the couch for a sense of the "armless" feel...and I think it feels OK.  It may even be an advantage, in this limited space room, in being able to pivot out of the chair.  And finally it allows pulling up a chair on the door side during movie time, making for at least 3 integrated back wall seats, plus the side wall couch in which one can sit slighly diagonally...exactly as one would do in a sectional sofa...but better in my view.

This combination of armless loveseat and sofa actually seems like an inherently adaptable idea, similar to the sectional sofa but better in a way in permitting more normal seating in a limited space.  During discussion, the person at the end of the existing sofa sits square back in their seat, as in a normal sofa, and not like in a sectional.  Only during movie watching does the person turn to an angle, just as at all the other sofa seats, but it's still quite tolerable up the the far end of the sofa.

The other huge advantage of the Carmen over the Carolina Accents was in the fact that the Carmen had actual removeable cushions.  I decided that's an essential advantage, since cushions can be turned or replaced easily.  Without removeable cushions, once the top gets stained or damaged, out goes the entire sofa as repair probably costs more, and is far more inconvenient, than replacement.

Now it turns out I found a review of the Carmen (or possibly appeared in several different forms and places) where the cushions collapsed.  That person actually got their money back from Pier1.  So I figured it probably doesn't happen often, and anyway, hopefully one can just replace the cushion foam.  Now I wonder if the cushions have zippers, making foam replacement or "professional cleaning" easy.  Replacing the cushion foam would be a sort of upgrade one might chose to do on day one anyway.  So I didn't consider this problem or potential problem to be definitive and didn't cancel my order.  At worst I'd have to get zippers added to the cushions, and then new foam.

I got a discount price about 50% off list which is rare at pier1.  I think they never managed to put this item into any serious marketing, it just sat there, and then Pier1 decided to discontinue this item.

That made it a tiny fraction of a US made 50 inch (too wide) loveseat from comfy1.  I wonder about what the extra cost would be to make the comfy1 one armed and narrower.

I did learn, however, about the importance of having removeable cushions at the comfy1 site.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Security Cameras

One of the well known brands of security camera is SECO-LARM.

These are no-nonsense wired cameras.  Some use/require the Zeta OSD controller to use the special features.

Often with security camera, it's hard to figure the field of view.  With SECO-LARM cameras, it appears to be related to the focal length as follows:

2.9mm    is 120 degrees view
3.6mm    is 92 degrees view

The "varifocal" models go 2.8-12mm so from just over 120 to 40 degrees or thereabouts.

120 degrees is a nice wide angle for my front yard camera.  170 degrees, available in the SECO-LARM EV-1665-N2BQ seems excessive.

So either the EV-1606-N2SQ or varifocal cameras include the EV-C1303-NMCQ look good.

SECO-LARM does not specify that any of their cameras are 960H or AHD.  Perhaps there is little point in getting their higher resolution models for that reason (though I think there would still be some point…the higher the captured density the better noise-reduction and the like processing can be done).  One expert even argues that 960H and the like is pointless anyway.  No matter how good your camera is, forcing the signal through NTSC video means that it has a maximum 340 (!!!) lines of resolution because of the implied horizontal bandwidth of 4.28 Mhz.

I'm not as expert as that person, but I don't think I believe all of that.  For one thing, the actual "luminance" carrier in NTSC has a 6 Mhz bandwidth.  True, parts are carved out for other carriers, starting around 4.28Mhz, but if the filtering is done to specification (i.e., using real comb filtering) I think you can get close to the often claimed 540 lines, or 720 pixels, not perfectly, but closely, just as I have seen tests show the 500+ horizontal lines and they can be seen, if not with perfect clarity, on the best equipment.

Here's another put-down of 960H that doesn't make complete sense.  They say there isn't any more "quality" just an increase in picture area.  But that doesn't make sense, a wider picture of the same density is a higher quality picture in that it captures more information.  This is certainly true if you have 960H recorder which can then display the 960 pixels in a wider image, say 1080p.  Otherwise, on standard video equipment the enhanced horizontal resolution indeed may be lost.

Though I worry that this may not actually be the best choice, given that there are now read IP cameras with true High Definition, I'm tempted by SECO-LARM's best camera , the Elite 3X, because of the Wide Dynamic Range, Defogger, Digital Slow Shutter, and 3D noise reduction (which probably does take advantage of the megapixel cmos, even if megapixel pictures are not actually delivered to the user).

That camera doesn't appear to be widely stocked, however it can be ordered by the largest security camera vendors.