New Fridge - setting up monitoring

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Just got a new fridge, and I thought I would try monitoring operating parameters with my home automation system. I 've got sensors for kWhs used, ambient room temperature, freezer and refrigerator temps and the temperature of a sensor on the back of the unit. I was hoping this should give me enough of a baseline to be able to detect "out of whack" conditions before they show up in a puddle on the floor or a failure to cool.
I discovered in my old fridge that as freon leaked, the kilowatt hours used shot way up before I noticed the problem in the fridge temp (that became obvious on a very hot day when we had the A/C off and the kitchen temp was about 20 degrees over normal. Unfortunately, on the old box, I didn't have good baseline figures from the early on when it worked well. That's why I am trying to determine what information I need to be able to have my home automation system (HomeVision, CPU-XA, ActiveHome and more) record and process to alert me that there's an issue with the unit.
I suspect that the electricity consumed daily will rise as the dust on the coils builds up. That should be detectable by looking at the average daily power used figure. I am recording ambient, backplate and internal temps as well in case the power usage increase is due to other factors, like this stinking endless heat wave. I also want a baseline on energy consumed and back plate temperature in case I decide to put a filter on the air intake to minimize coil cleaning. I found out the hard way that an added filter can decrease air flow on some devices to the point of overheating the motor. If the filter blocks too much airflow I would expect power consumption and the back plate temperature to rise conspicuously.
Reading this over, I realized I need two more monitors. A battery-backed dialer that can call my cellphone to tell me to buy dry ice because the power or compressor failed and a door alert to let me know if the dog manages to open the door again! She's been unable to do it with the new box because the magnetic seal is incredibly strong - much stronger than the old one. Took nearly ten pounds of pull as measured by a fish scale. But she might figure out how to do it in time. She's been watching very closely. In fact, I nearly spit out my coffee because she was eating when the new unit started up when it first arrived and she went off on it as if the fridge had made a move on her food. She's still not quite comfortable with it.
Any suggestions on something I might have overlooked are cheerfully welcome. Bad attempts at comedy or remarks on my sanity, with much less cheer. (-:
-- Bobby G.
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I'd like to be the first to cast a vote for sanity, haha :-)
Did the amperage actually go up? Or was it simply that the compressor was running a lot more due to the lack of cooling? I'd expect the later. It will be difficult to early detect a problem based on electrical operating conditions. An internal temp sensor is all that most manufacturers use as an alert system.
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wrote:

used,
temperature
used
to
If
the
box
old
welcome.
<I'd like to be the first to cast a vote for sanity, haha :-)>
Arf, arf. Is there an emoticon for glaring? -.-*
<Did the amperage actually go up? Or was it simply that the compressor was running a lot more due to the lack of cooling? I'd expect the later. It will be difficult to early detect a problem based on electrical operating conditions. An internal temp sensor is all that most manufacturers use as an alert system.>
I only had the Kil-o-watt meter on the machine during the final stages of what I assumed to be a pinhole leak in the coils in the freezer compartment due to some oaf manhandling them during a rapid defrost. (me)
What I saw was a constant increase in the KWH's used. I assumed that to keep an unvarying temperature inside the unit it was working harder and harder (longer, actually) to cool as it had less and less refrigerant. Or that the compressor was experiencing greater friction from having less refrigerant.
I was monitoring the room temperature as well. When that shot up high enough, the freezer temps began to rise almost in perfect correlation to the room temp. Only when the room temp got below 70 would the refrigerator maintain normal inside temps. All this leads me to believe that long before I notice a change in the internal temperature of the unit, I would see a rise in energy consumption. In any event, just like medicine, it's probably a good idea to have as many "base level readings" as you can. That way, when they change substantially, it's a pretty good idea that something's wrong.
We'll see.
-- Bobby G.
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1) You must be an engineer? 2) Please consider a logger for how often and long the door is open. That's a major factor in power usage.
--
Christopher A. Young
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Father was one, and I started out in his footsteps but then got sidetracked. To my wife's eternal annoyance, I am a home automation enthusiast. Her take is "we wouldn't need all this automated crap if you weren't too lazy to get up an turn off a light." That's probably true but it hasn't changed anything. She actually likes *some* of the features of an automated house, but clearly not nearly as much as I do.

That's actually a great idea. I knew we kept you around for a reason despite all the folks who'd like to lynch you for being a top poster. (-: (just kidding!)
Tracking "door open time" will allow me to determine if increased energy usage is from mechanical issues or just greater use. That might also mean tracking humidity because the unit has to work harder if lots of humid air is allowed in during long openings like the ones that occuring during loading after a grocery trip. I've also decided to track peak current draw (now at 760 watts) because I assume that any nascent compressor problems will cause that number to increase. I can also set a variable that rings an alarm if the door open time exceeds a predetermined value.
The old box would probably still be alive had it closed properly on one very humid night. It didn't take much time at all to encase the coil in a block of ice and during my impatient defrosting efforts, I cracked a solder joint. Since it was 30+ years old (Westinghouse) I figured it was time for a new one, even if we plan to move soon. It was worth it just to have ice cold beer again.
Thanks for your input!
-- Bobby G.
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Robert Green wrote: I am a home automation enthusiast. sounds like an understatement.
I'd like to hear more about the monitoring system as a whole.
I'd like to graph total electric power consumption. I use a Palm Pilot to count the IR pulses out of the power meter, but the newer palms that support bluetooth have the newer OS that doesn't support direct reading of the IR port. So it's not wireless. Then I got a BlueLine wireless power meter, but that doesn't support logging. I've never been able to determine the communication protocol or whether there's a pin inside that I can tap to log the data.
What's a good cheap method to log total consumption...emphasis on the cheap...free...?
Thanks, mike
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Nah, there are people who have systems that astound me. They log everything that happens - from all details of the weather to the daily consumption of water, gas, electricity, etc. One gent in California had a solar heating and power system that even opened and closed casement windows automatically according to the weather conditions.

Not if you want to do it on the cheap. In the search for a "magic bullet" I've bought a lot of bullets and very few of them were magical except in the holes they put in my VISA balance.
The Kill-o-Watt provides a visual indicator and a reference but I do datalogging with old Radio Shack PC-interface meters and old, low power consumption laptops like a Dell Crapitude with broken hinge running a very old version of the Ratshack recording software (actually developed by a company called Metex).
The laptop is hooked up in the basement just below the fridge with a 30' ft. serial cable I used to use Fastwire and LapLink with (before LANs were reasonably priced). Real time monitoring is done through a power strip that has the conductors separated and a home-brew "current sensor" (a few turns of wire wrapped around one of the conductors) running into a CPU-XA that can send alarms or take actions based on preset analog values.
Calibration of that was done using a strip of 8 porcelain lamp sockets and combinations of 25, 40, 60 and 100 watt bulbs so I could simulate the draw of various wattages. The Kill-O-Watt is very useful for knowing the exact number but basically I will set the new fridge up by making sure that the starting up current draw won't trip the alarm, but eight 100 watt light bulbs do. (Shut up about your solenoids, "Doc" - it's my hobby!)

There's nothing wireless about my current setup except the Chaney fridge thermometer. I will be installing my own digital temperature sensors in the freezer compartment by going in through the unused water line for the icemaker option that I declined.

I "fight" continuously with makers of home automation equipment to convince them that data logging is an important part of home monitoring. Well, for me, anyway. (-:

Ah yes, I see you've been searching for the magic bullet, too. I've been very disappointed by the number of proprietary protocols in devices like wireless thermometers. Like remote controls, there's only moderate agreement about how things should be done.
Stuff like monitoring the fridge is really just a curiosity. Since there are no "blood tests" to see if a fridge is sick, I want to monitor whatever conditions I can to see if I can determine when it's in need of cleaning or when something's out of whack. Someday they will come with a little LED like on my central vac that goes from green to yellow to red as it fills up telling you the coils need cleaning.
This newer GE is far better sealed off from dirt that the 30+ Whirlpool it's replacing. Anyway, I'm just curious to monitor the life cycle of the fridge to see what is revealed. While I am it, it seems logical to try to prevent or at least alert me to certain modes of failure, as someone suggested, a horn that sounds when the door's been open longer than a few minutes.
As noted in a previous message, once I have enough readings about power usage, temperature of the backplate, internal compartments and ambient room temperature, I am going to try placing a custom made filter over the openings in the bottom of the unit where dusty air is likely to enter. I am afraid that by lowering the airflow to the compressor by filtering it I will shorten its life or even burn it out. The data I collect running it filter-free will allow me to compare the two states to help decide whether it's useful to filter or not. As someone else pointed out, it's a lot easier to pop an old filter out and a new one in that it is to get all the dust off the innards once it has built up. Since it's always moist from condensation, dust and hair can matte up into a mighty sticky, very "uggy" plaster on the surface of the coils, lowering their heat transfer capability significantly.

No cheap, free that I know of, although there are suitable broken hinged laptops and new and used PC interface meters on Ebay all the time for less than $100 combined. There are, I am sure, people who will be able to suggest cheaper methods - mine is just what evolved.
-- Bobby G.
(crossposted in comp.home.automation and alt.home.repair)
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Did you ever use a kill-a- watt meter, they are accurate, easy to use and record Kwh usage over several days. They are great for doing you own energy audit of most all apliances and devices.
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Yes. And I've always been able to spot a fridge failure without a dozen sensors monitoring my fridge. After all, it's a fridge not a Boeing 777.
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On Aug 4, 12:45pm, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

His frige may outlive him, I could understand monitoring boiler flue temp or furnace temp at the coil or computer core temp, but right its no aircraft.
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wrote:

used,
temperature
before
used
became
was
have
why I

home
the
daily
temps as

this
and
intake to

can
motor. If

and the

battery-backed
the
new box

the old

she
closely.
new
with
welcome.
(-:
<His frige may outlive him, I could understand monitoring boiler flue temp or furnace temp at the coil or computer core temp, but right its no aircraft.>
You have a great faith in modern manufacturing that I don't think is warranted considering all the refrigerator issues that crop up regularly on this list. But in your house, you can do what you please, obviously. In mine, I like to use technology to keep ahead of the repair curve. Someday, items like refrigerators will contain an ethernet jack and can be remotely monitored for abnormal conditions with ease. In the next house, we'll have an autostart generator, but where I am now, the power rarely goes out but I want to be on top of it if it does.
FWIW, I do have a number of extra heat, CO and other sensors covering the furnace, the hot water heater and the A/C if only because I have a great interest in home automation.
For now, I am quite happy to know that I've taken as many precautions as required to prevent coming home and finding all the frozen food melted and refrozen.
-- Bobby G.
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(Robert Green) writes:
| Someday, | items like refrigerators will contain an ethernet jack and can be remotely | monitored for abnormal conditions with ease.
Of course, you will have to pay a monthly fee to the monitoring service. The protocol used will not be available to the consumer for "safety reasons".
| In the next house, we'll have | an autostart generator,
I'm working on this now. I told the propane company that I wanted a remote tank level indicator in the house. They said they had a great service where I could check my tank level on the Internet. I explained that I wanted a wire from the tank to a box in the house that showed the level and had alarm contacts for low level. (I even showed them some sample devices in catalogs.) They said they could program their "modem" to call me when my tank was low. I said that I didn't want to involve their "modem" at all. They said I shouldn't worry about it because something could always be done after the tanks were installed. I pointed out that the nice monitor device in the catalog supported only two of the four popular tank gauge fittings (not including snap-in) so it would really be better to work this out before the tanks were in the ground, especially since I'm buying the tanks.
It's been several weeks and still no quote. :(
                Dan Lanciani                 ddl@danlan.*com
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Dan Lanciani wrote:

expect an outlandish bid, in effect telling you that they don't want to do the job. i own my own tank and call around for quotes before every fill, which has saved me hundreds of dollars. i did find someone who will match any fill quote from anyone in the area; unfortunately he didn't say that he's beat any quote.
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(Robert Green) writes:

remotely
reasons".
We can only hope that "open standards" will prevail but I have my doubts. I read a news item about Intuit just completely screwing over its users who it had migrated to the "cloud" and only providing a data converter when hounded by thousands of irate loyal customers. I wonder when the first national cloud computing disaster will occur. Critical business data stored and managed off-site by who knows who or what working from where? Yeah, I'll do that. (-:
It would be great if all home appliances (and maybe even cars) had a LAN jack and all basic setup functions and data analysis could be performed with a web browser. It really is a great modular design and all the standards are already in place.

When I first started to install CCTV around the house that I wanted to be able to see over the internet, the vendors all proposed solutions involving running all access through servers in China with javascript and all sorts of other security holes enabled. Uh uh. No way.

That's a clear indication your salesmen is way outside his comfort zone. If you pester him he might eventually find someone up the food chain that knows about these things, but you'd really have to pester him. Sounds like they want your remote access device installed *afterward* so they can blame any problems (which will most likely be related to their inexperience with the device) on you.
You can tell the pioneers by the numbers of arrow stuck in their backs. (0-:
-- Bobby G.
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wrote:

used,
temperature
before
used
was
have
I
home
the
daily
as
and
intake to

can
If
the
box
old
with
welcome.
(-:
<<Yes. And I've always been able to spot a fridge failure without a dozen sensors monitoring my fridge. After all, it's a fridge not a Boeing 777.>>
Even when you're traveling and away from the house? How do you do that?
-- Bobby G.
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What good does knowing do when you're away from the house? All that does is make you worry and ruin your vacation.
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wrote in message

<What good does knowing do when you're away from the house? All that does is make you worry and ruin your vacation.>
Well, I can have someone go and check to see what's wrong for one thing. YMMV, but if I was away and kept seeing news reports of the electricity being out in 100,000s of home in my area (as just happened in the DC area - thousands are still without power 5 days after the storms) it would be *very* comforting to know that my house still had power and I had nothing to worry about. The exact opposite of the situation you've envisioned.
-- Bobby G.
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When I'm traveling, I have much better things to think about than what the temp and operating efficiency of my fridge is. Do you have $20K worth of food in that fridge? So, if I lose $200 worth of food, big deal. Guess what. In 40+ years, living in many houses and apartments, it has happened exactly one time. That was when I was in college and since it was a dorm fridge, the college even paid us for the lost food. And it's not exactly a bad thing either, as when u clean out the freezer, probably 20% of the food has long been forgotten and should have been chucked long ago.
On the other hand, what's the cost, time, and maintenance involved in placing multiple monitors on a refrigerator over 40 years? How often do the sensors and other parts of the system fail compared to the fridge? In my experience, home electronics is far less reliable than the fridge.
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wrote:

became
why
temps
this
motor.
and
battery-backed
the
new
the
she
closely.
new
<When I'm traveling, I have much better things to think about than what the temp and operating efficiency of my fridge is. Do you have $20K worth of food in that fridge? So, if I lose $200 worth of food, big deal. Guess what. In 40+ years, living in many houses and apartments, it has happened exactly one time. That was when I was in college and since it was a dorm fridge, the college even paid us for the lost food. And it's not exactly a bad thing either, as when u clean out the freezer, probably 20% of the food has long been forgotten and should have been chucked long ago.
On the other hand, what's the cost, time, and maintenance involved in placing multiple monitors on a refrigerator over 40 years? How often do the sensors and other parts of the system fail compared to the fridge? In my experience, home electronics is far less reliable than the fridge.>
I keep the severed head of Jimmy Hoffa in my freezer. I wouldn't want it to go bad just because a breaker tripped or something failed. (-;
-- Bobby G.
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wrote:

used,
temperature
used
to
If
the
box
old
welcome.
Did you ever use a kill-a- watt meter, they are accurate, easy to use and record Kwh usage over several days. They are great for doing you own energy audit of most all apliances and devices.
Yes, that's what I was using to calculate the increasing power usage during the fridge's final days. I have four of them now - Fry's was selling out the old model (where you had to do your own math) for $12 each so I got three extra ones. One to leave on the refrigerator 24x7, another to leave on the window AC in the bedroom, a third to lend out to friends and a fourth to be perpetually lost somewhere in the house.
-- Bobby G.
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