Monthly Science: Basement Humidity Step Changes

Can you tell when our dehumidifier failed?

Basement Temp Humidity - 2015-05 to 2015-07

Basement Temp Humidity – 2015-05 to 2015-07

The step change in Week 22 shows when the replacement took over. After some poking around, Amazon Prime FTW.

The square-ish pulse starting in Week 26 marks a change from 55% RH to 60%RH and back again, to see how the front panel meter compares with the low end lab-grade hygrometer in the other side of the basement near the Hobo datalogger on the water inlet; they’re all off by a bit, but well within their expected tolerances. The 5% RH height of the step suggests a good match between their incremental calibrations.

It seems dehumidifiers last a few years, no matter which Brand Name you’ve decided to trust, so there’s not much point in developing a deep emotional attachment.

For the record, the old dehumidifier sported a GE label:

GE Dehumidifier label

GE Dehumidifier label

The new one says Frigidaire on the front, but the label says Electrolux:

Fridgidaire - Electrolux Dehumidifier label

Fridgidaire – Electrolux Dehumidifier label

As it turns out, Electrolux bought Frigidaire a while ago, then absorbed GE’s appliances in 2014, so they’re all one big happy family now.

The various names notwithstanding, a recall notice suggests Gree Electric actually makes all the dehumidifiers badged with Brand Names you might think represent something significant.

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Folding Saw Rework

Mary found a folding saw buried under a compost heap at Vassar Farms, where it had evidently been for quite a while. It cleaned up surprisingly well:

Folding saw - pivot shim

Folding saw – pivot shim

I made a crude brass shim to stabilize the crude blade in its crudely bent metal frame; the ugly hole came from freehand punching with the rebuilt leather punch tool. Probably spent as much time doing that as they did on the whole rest of the saw: it’s not a high-quality tool.

It could be an older version of the Harbor Freight Folding Saw, minus a fancy plastic-encased joint screw. I added a dot of Loctite to discourage this one from leaping to its doom.

As with the other pruning saws in my collection, that blade scares me just looking at it. I managed to avoid slicing myself open, although I did stab a finger with a sharp brass sliver…

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Relics of the Empire: Electrometer Resistors

From Russia, probably without love, routed through Bulgaria via eBay:

Electrometer resistors - wrapped

Electrometer resistors – wrapped

They’re glass electrometer resistors from late in the Cold War:

Russian 100 G electrometer resistor

Russian 100 G electrometer resistor

That one presents 100 GΩ between its lead wires, which would count as open in any other circuit I’ve ever built.

The assortment arrived much richer than advertised, although I’d be even happier with a few more 10 GΩ and a few less 100 MΩ resistors. The 1000 GΩ = 1 TΩ resistor in the upper right seems absurd on the face of it, but there it sits.

I have no way to measure these, other than to build an electrometer amp and see what happens…

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Ionization Chamber: Resistor Noise Calculations

Given the ionization chamber’s tiny currents and the huge resistors required to turn them into voltages, reviewing the thermal noise I generally ignore seems in order…

The RMS noise voltage of an ordinary resistor:

vn = √ (4 kT R Δf)

The constants:

  • kB – Boltzman’s Constant = 1.38×10-23 J/K
  • T – temperature in kelvin = 300 K (close enough)

Mashing them together:

vn = √ (16.6x10-21 R Δf)

vn = 129x10-12 √ (R Δf)

For a (generous) pulse current of 20 fA, a 10 GΩ resistor produces a mere 200 μV, so wrap a gain of 100 around the op amp to get 20 mV. An LMC6081 has a GBW just over 1 MHz, giving a 10 kHz bandwidth:

vn = 129x10-12 √ (10x109 10x103) = 1.3 mV

Which says the noise will be loud, but not deafening.

A 100 GΩ resistor increases the voltage by a factor of 10, so you can decrease the gain by a factor of ten for the same 20 mV output, which increases the bandwidth by a factor of ten, which increases the noise by a factor of … ten.

Ouch.

With the same gain of 100 (and therefore 10 kHz bandwidth) after the 100 GΩ resistor, the output increases by a factor of ten to 200 mV, but the noise increases by only √10 to 4 mV.

The LMC6081 has 22 nV/√Hz and 0.2 fA/√Hz input-referred noise, neither of which will rise above the grass from the resistor.

With 10 kHz bandwidth, the pulse rise time is:

tr = 0.34 / BW = 0.34 / 10 kHz = 34 μs

The LMC6081 has a 1 V/μs slew rate that poses no limitation at all for these tiddly signals.

That’s significantly better than the stacked Darlingtons and might be Good Enough for my simple needs.

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Road Conditions: 695 Dutchess Turnpike (Rt 44), Now With More Patches

NYSDOT added a few more scab patches to Rt 44 at the top of the hill approaching Poughkeepsie:

Rt 44 - 2015-06-30 - 695 at Quest Diagnostics - patches

Rt 44 – 2015-06-30 – 695 at Quest Diagnostics – patches

As you can tell, that did not improve the overall suitability for bicycling or, for that matter, for driving.

For reference, this is NYS Bike Route 44, the main route from Connecticut into the Hudson Valley.

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Silhouette Glasses: Temple Re-repair

This was not the failure mode I expected:

Silhouette temple - failed repair

Silhouette temple – failed repair

As failures go, that one’s survivable; slightly larger epoxy dots should do the trick:

Silhouette temple - re-repair

Silhouette temple – re-repair

The other temple worked loose inside the brass tube and rotated freely, so I yanked it out, bashed the tip slightly flatter, and epoxied it back in place, along with overcoating the epoxy dots on the lens to forestall another failure.

This has obviously blown right by the point of absurdity, but …

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Road Conditions: Janet Drive

Janet Drive is across Rt 44 from the patch palimpsest I’ve already described. It serves as an entrance to two strip malls and the Canterbury Gardens apartment complex and, oddly enough, turns out to be a private road owned by Canterbury.

A huge pothole is consuming the pavement in front of the mall entrance behind the Rhinebeck Bank branch:

Janet Dr at 708 Dutchess Turnpike entrance - 2015-07-12

Janet Dr at 708 Dutchess Turnpike entrance – 2015-07-12

The light gray patches mark smaller potholes filled with what appears to be Sackrete:

Janet Dr at 708 Dutchess Turnpike - patches - 2015-07-12

Janet Dr at 708 Dutchess Turnpike – patches – 2015-07-12

The potholes made turning from Rt 44 onto Janet a bit of a challenge, particularly with drivers trying to pass on the left during the turn. We now signal for and take the entire lane from Rt 44 to the mall entrance, although impatient drivers still roar around us, directly into oncoming traffic.

Because Janet is a private drive, it doesn’t quite qualify for the Tax Dollars Asleep tag, but it gives you the general idea. The road is not signed “Private Drive” and, at least in that section, is obviously used by the general public, so it’s not at all clear what repair standards apply.

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