Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Easy Fix for Natural Gas to LP or Vice Versa.

As if there wasn't enough to do in one day, the office sends me one more service call. The customers switched propane suppliers and get a little more than they bargained for. The technician found a leaking gas control and promptly shut the works down. "At least the hard part is done," I sighed as I went to the supply house to pick up the part and my newly repaired set of manifold gauges. Famous last words anyone?

DISCLAIMER: Follow ALL directions that come with the gas control and the conversion kit and when in doubt consult the services of a competent HVAC technician. This is serious stuff, and propane can asphyxiate, burn violently, and tends to settle in basements. Injury, death, or property damage in any combination can result from taking shortcuts. I have no control over the quality of your work, so perform this and any other fixes at your own risk.

The furnace was old enough to drive and had an electronic ignition with a separate pilot burner. These are pretty much obsolete, but many strive to keep these furnaces running well past their prime, as cars, plasma TVs, and the tablet computers have more visual impact. These furnaces are a ticking time bomb in may ways. Any money the customer saves on these is being wasted in higher utility bills and some monstrous repair bills that will arrive without any warning. The customer expected to pay about $200 on a gas valve, but ended up with one in excess of $520. If your furnace is over 10 years old, start saving for its replacement. If it's over 10 years old and needs over $250 in repairs, consider replacing it ASAP. Off my soapbox.

The gas valve went together in the usual way, but when I went to install the conversion kit to get this to run on propane (liquefied petroleum gas or LP) things got hairy. The propane kit on a Honeywell gas valve has a spring, adjusting screw, instructions, a black cap and a sticker. The adjusting screw is made of soft plastic with Torx or slotted screw molded in. They also have plastic teeth that make it tough to get it into the valve. This means that you use more force to screw it on top of the spring and the screw will promptly strip out. The fix is this: Follow the directions, but reuse the adjusting screw off the valve rather than the one in the kit. Just be sure to adjust the manifold pressure with a manometer to the proper setting. Be sure to use the spring, cap, sticker, but reuse that screw. That's it. Maranatha!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Amana 90% Down Flow Furnace Fix

This post deals with furnace repair. This is best left to a competent service technician and in fact this is a technician tip. If you're inclined, remember that improper repairs can cause injury, death, or property damage. Doing this repair can expose you to some nasty cuts from the burrs on the heat exchanger or the drill bit, electrical shock, burns, asphyxiation from improperly tightening the screws or breaking a vent pipe. Breathing in the acetic acid from the silicone isn't exactly healthy either. You can break parts on these in a New York minute, and I have no control over the quality of your work. Do these and any other fixes at your own risk.

A few days ago, the office sent me to a maintenance call on a second story Amana 90% down flow furnace. The inducer motor was noisy as a cat trapped in a rain barrel and the collector box resembled Niagara Falls.  The first picture is the burner box. Good thing the control board was above this mess. The furnace was made in 2005 and has the green cabinet.

The picture is off my camera phone, so it will never do the situation justice. Note the hole with the gasket in the center of the black plastic collector box. Someone replaced the inducer prior to my visit and reused the old gasket, hence the water tracks. A better idea would have been to scrape this mess out and use a high temp silicone, but I digress. Do you see the screws all around the outside of this mess, and the PVC elbow in the upper left hand corner? This is going to make getting that screw out a pain in the butt. The elbow was glued in at the factory. Because of the wiring next to same, a jigsaw was out of the question.

Here's a little better shot of the elbow and the wiring. I could have lopped this off with a PVC cutter in retrospect. However, the wiring was in the way and mine wasn't quite big enough to get around that pipe. My socket wrench was also a bit awkward and my hands aren't what they used to be. Since I was out in the middle of nowhere, my options were limited. I do have a drill, and more than a couple bits, so here's what I did.

Instead of getting frustrated, I took my drill and made two holes in the elbow. This allows me to get my nut runner in there to get the screw out. The one that was in there has a 5/16 inch head. To make life easier, I switched to one with a 1/4 inch head from the collector box. Rather than trying to use a gasket on these furnaces and risk cracking the plastic collector, use a good high temperature, room temperature vulcanization  (RTV for short) silicone gasket. Clear or aluminum silicone will work in a pinch, but never use black as this will inevitably fail. Get a 1/4 bead around the sealing surface and the screw holes on that box or plate. Peel off all the old foam gasket off the heat exchanger with your fingernail, or use a plastic scraper. Put the works back together, run it, check for leaks and you're done. Maranatha!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bersa Thunder Ultra Compact Pro .45 Review, First Impression

Note, I got this as a used gun.  Some of the points I make may be useful if considering purchasing one new, but many of us are on tight budgets and considering a used one as an alternative.  I don't consider myself a gun expert, but a gun realist.  Reality is that any gun is better than none at all.  I would, if I were you, take any gun you're considering purchasing to a competent gunsmith to make sure it's in good condition.  I've seen too many horror stories of people cobbling them together out of mismatched parts and selling to them to unsuspecting buyers.  These kinds of defects can cost you your life. Other than the aforementioned magazine release problem, the grip and some minor wear to the finish, the gun I got is in excellent working order.  Used guns will come with scuffs, wear on the finish, and other blemishes and these shouldn't discourage a potential buyer from giving one a good home.  Off my soapbox.

Three weeks after sending the gun in with a broken magazine release to Gander Mountain, I got it back with a new magazine release and grip. The work it needed was fairly minor, and even $20 shipping for Bersa to fix it wasn't bad at all. Yes, they actually fixed it. I'm impressed it only took three weeks.

The Bersa Thunder UC Pro .45 loaded with seven rounds weighs in at 33 ounces, is about 6 8/10 inches long, 5 1/10 inches high and nearly an inch and a half thick at the grips.  Other than the weight and thickness, it's nearly identical in size to the Ruger Sr9c which I also use as carry gun.  It's also about 3/8 inch wider, about 1/3 inch taller (and has one more round capacity) and weighs six ounces more than a Glock 36, which is about $200 more retail. Magazines are about $50 apiece and all are seven round capacity. The materials are forged steel for the barrel and slide, and all are treated with Tenifer. The finish on these has a reputation of fading out as the gun ages and wears, (but thus far rust hasn't been an issue). The frame is made of an aluminum alloy and the one piece grip is made of hard rubber. The safety features are a firing pin block, safety/decocker, and a loaded chamber indicator, as well as an internal lock that turns this weapon into a paperweight. There is no magazine disconnect, so it will go "bang" regardless if you press the trigger and there's a round in the chamber. By the way, I've seen this gun retail new for about $375 to $400. These, as Jack Webb would say, the facts and just the facts (and I'm dating myself big time, I know) The rest is a bit more subjective, so here goes.

So far I've carried this gun on and off for a month and in spite of its mass, carries comfortably with the right holster. It needs to be leather or suede if worn in the waistband. Synthetic materials will not hold up to the slide release or safety on this gun, with the result being a less than comfortable carry. Good news is you can get a decent suede holster for less than $50. Mine came with a Vega, but a Blackhawk tuckable will also work. Look for something that can hold a Glock 19 or 30 and you should be fine. As for fitted holsters, you'll have to wait as there aren't any as of this writing. There are also some you can custom fit out there, but the simpler ones seem to work the best and print less anyway. I've carried this gun everywhere and no one has done so much as toss a frown.

Operating this gun, despite the frame mounted safety, is very straightforward. All you have to do is point the gun, click the safety down, press the bang switch and provided there's a round in the chamber, it makes a noise and a hole. Because this is a double/single action using a hammer, the trigger pull on the first round is about nine pounds and rest are about four. Once you empty the magazine, push the release and push in a full one. All that's needed is to push the slide release and keep shooting in single action. If you don't want to shoot, use the safety to decock it. Unlike some writings saying that you can hold the hammer back and pull the trigger to do the same, I haven't been foolish enough to try. That decocker is there for a reason, so use it and save yourself some embarrassment at least or a lot of sleepless nights at worst. Enough said.

The sights on mine are not unlike those on the fourth generation Glocks, although they're advertised as Sig Sauer type. The goal post setup is a bit controversial, but the sight picture is decent. If you want night sights, try a gunsmith or buy a light for the accessory rail. I usually carry a tactical light anyway, so this isn't a huge concern. Accuracy is decent for a .45 with a three and a half inch barrel, and I managed to keep all but two or three out of the 50 rounds on paper at 20 feet. The rounds I used were Independence (El Cheapo) and had one failure to feed. This could have been my technique, the ammo (as my dad suggested) or even the feed ramp. At any rate, it wasn't a deal-breaker, took just a second to clear out and I was back in action. Even though this gun has some mass, there is a little muzzle flip and it is a bit more than my 9mm Ruger. However, it isn't uncomfortable or unmanageable to shoot. Some shooters have indicated "hammer bite" but I'm more inclined to call it "hammer touch" and this is the hammer being pushed down as the slide is thrown back. It isn't any more than someone lightly touching your hand with their finger, but can be disconcerting for some. My advice as with any semi auto is to keep your mitts where they should be and personally, the slide hurts a helluva lot more. If it bothers you that bad, buy a striker fired pistol.

However, if you're in the market for a good, reasonably priced handgun in a .45 ACP, the Bersa Ultra Comnpact Pro may not look like much, it has it where it counts. It's a tough, sturdy and dependable firearm that's easy to shoot. Parts are relatively inexpensive and easy to get. Bersa also takes care of their customers to the extreme that's unheard of in a lot of products nowadays. It's also the easiest semi auto handgun I've seen to field strip in a long time. Just push the takedown lever and it's practically apart. Getting it back together is only slightly harder. Bersa proves that you don't need to spend a grand on a 1911 (and I like 1911's) to get a good piece in a .45. This gun is worth checking out, and even buying. Maranatha!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hunter 34407 Humidifier Review.

For the past few days, my boys have been getting sick with the drop in temperature. Even though the weather is breaking a bit, my older boy has gotten a bloody nose several times, including yesterday when he had to spend twenty minutes at the school nurse's office. I've got two devices to measure humidity in my trailer, both made by Aprilaire and usually come with a central humidifier, but I got mine courtesy of the salesman. Both were reading about thirty four percent relative humidity, even with the shower in the master bath with no bath fan. It was going to be a trip to the store to get this taken care of, as trailers cannot have a central humidifier due to the duct design. Naturally, my options are limited to a freestanding or maybe a steam one installed. Since I really don't want to mess with plumbing in a mobile home, the free standing was my only option. I went to Menard's to look at one, but the options and the prices were dizzying. You could spend upwards of $199 for one, with the average being well over $70. After nearly a half hour of looking at features, I got the Hunter model 34407 with the night light and the permanent wick. It's made for about 800 square feet, which is on the small side, but has brought the humidity level over forty five percent with ease. The only drawback is filling the thing several times a day, and with my faucet, can be a challenge. However, filling this at the bathtub or using a dustpan to funnel water in makes this a non issue. The tanks locks in very easily with no spillage whatsoever and the night light looks pretty cool through the water in the tank.

The controls are "child-resistant" and take a minute to adjust to. There's a water symbol for the humidity level you want, a fan one for the speed, as well as a timer (don't need it) a power button and one for the light (must be to keep from tripping over it in the night, but we have it on a desk). To change the settings, you need to hold the button until it flashes and press it incrementally each time you want to change it. In the interest of simplicity, these only go up and then start at their lowest level. Once you get used to it, this is not bad. However, the price is about $81, which is what a typical doctor's visit is or a day off work unpaid. If the price seems high, remember that central humidifiers superior as they are, can be upwards of seven times that installed. They will also use more water and in my neck of the woods water is expensive. For the price, this humidifier can't be beat and sure beats the alternative in my house, which is not having one or boiling a pan of water. Maranatha!