Monday morning, when I walked from the bedroom end of the house to the other, I noticed that the temperature seemed unusually low. The house has two zones of hot water baseboard heat, sourced from a fuel oil boiler in the basement. I had walked into the other zone. I checked that thermostat, which had a simple LCD display and buttons for Up and Down. The screen was blank. I managed to take the front off, found the two AAA cells, and changed them. Still blank. It was dead.

Not tool long ago my electric utility had great prices on fancy new thermostats. I bought two. They were still in the unopened boxes. So I began the process of installing them. Step 1? Install the app! Which I did, followed by creating an account. Next step, have the app take me through the install. The base of the old unit was still on the wall, and the strip of connectors were well labelled; one red wire, one white W, and a little sticker that said C was not needed because the unit had batteries. So the app asked about the old wires, and I told it what I had, and the app raised a special message that it had to have a C wire, and sent me off to an explanation of what to do about it. Suggestions such as put an unused wire to use. Of course I had just two, nothing extra to put to work. The suggestions after that one were a lot more complicated - new wires from the burner control. No, not happening any time soon. (The reason the new thermostat needed the C was to power the WiFi. Of course.)

At that point I remembered I had bought another thermostat a year or two ago and never opened that one either. A brief search turned it up. No WiFi, just two AA cells. No need for a C wire. Based on the holes in the wall when I removed the base of the failed unit, I was putting up the third one in that spot, which of course meant two more holes. One found a stud, the other air and so that one got a plastic anchor. I finished the install and got the heat on in time to make my eleven AM doctor’s appointment.

That thermostat is programmable. Four time periods, seven days. I tackled that this afternoon. Reading the instructions that came with it, when I reached the part about programming, it referred me to the company’s web site for the complete owner’s manual. That pdf now resides in my Download folder. The process itself proved not to be too onerous, mostly because there is a Copy function to make the next day like one before it.

Remember when there was a glass capsule and the end of a bi-metalic spring, that made an electrical connection when tilted one way, and broke the connection when tilted the other way? Toxic stuff, to be sure, but no batteries, C wires, apps, or pdfs.

I’m sure the other thermostat I want to replace has no C wire either.

(Unrelated, but when I was getting a haircut today, mounted on the wall at the workstation was a gang of four duplex outlets. All but one was occupied. Six of the seven were wall warts. The seventh looked like one, but it was apparently something else, like a breaker, as the wire running out was not some skinny thing.)


I’ve been thinking about this recently. Lots of “standards” were fine in their day, but don’t really make sense. The QWERTY keyboard is a famous one, designed to slow down to a rhythm so typewriter keys wouldn’t stick together at the platen. I would guess that “passwords” is another that will have a shorter shelf life than originally expected.

But the one I’ve been thinking about lately is 110v electricity. There’s not a lot of things we can’t do with lower voltage electrics these days, from lights and lighting to TV sets to chargers for cell phones and tablets, to telephone sets, alarm systems, stereos, alarm clocks, to… well, the list of things that don’t need to suck so many electrons is quite long. There was a time when TV sets and radios were full of tubes that needed to warm up, and when vacuum cleaners couldn’t run from an internal battery, but those days are gone.

Well, certain appliances still require a lot of juice, but then we’ve always wired kitchens, refrigerators, and washer/dryers differently, like water heaters and heat pumps.

Not a lot of savings wiring a house for lower voltage probably, especially if you have to double it over to also run 110v at the same time. Just seems unnecessary, mostly, these days.

1 Like

This is actually not that simple. Sure it is possible to say power everything in my house with 12 or 20 volts. But the physical size of the wiring would be huge. We often pull 30 kilowatts. With say 20 volts, the current would be 1500 amps. And in addition to that there would be some transformers whose size would be measured meters – to drop the 26,000 volts to 20 volts.

In a short search, I could not find the size of wire for 1500 amps. But the size of copper wire for 1000 amps is 1.060 inches in diameter plus 0.080 for insulation. Total diameter for each wire in the pair running to a house 1.220 inches or larger. (Aluminum would be larger)

The weight per foot for 1 foot of 1.060 diameter copper is 3.41 lbs.

1 Like

I”m saying I expect the vast majority of that ends up in just a few places: kitchen, HVAC, maybe electric water heater & dryer. The rest of the house I would think accounts for very little. The wiring coming out of a wall wart is quite small, no?

I wonder in new construction if they’re including outlets that have a self-contained 5v USB, like the ones you can buy aftermarket now? I suppose not, because that standard will probably change again soon, maybe to USB-C, so now we’d have a tangle of old USB, new USB-C, and whatever somebody dreams up next year.

1 Like

Sure most high power usage are in a few items.

I purchased some of those outlets with USB build-in. I quickly found the max USB output was 10 watts. Kind of like those initial iPhone charging cubes. Also those outlets would not meet code for use in kitchen, bath or exterior. Our Sony Bravia TV (65 inch) plus 469 watts. At 5 volts you have some serious current. My HP Laser printer 550 watts printing. The iMac I am writing this post on 295 watts. The only way such low power output would work is if devices had both lower usage and batteries to store power.

The only changes comparable to what you propose I know of happened in a single industry - automotive. The change from 6 volt to 12 volt systems and from leaded to unleaded gasoline. A small number of companies had a financial motivation to change the voltage standard. Leaded gasoline change was forced by the EPA largely on a health need.

In my view the 110 volt system in this country is not going to ever change because so much of the economy is geared toward it. Any new system will be additional, not a replacement. You may not be aware, but Japan has two different electrical system. Roughly half the country is on 50 cycle electricity and the other 60 cycle electricity. Even with the massive rebuilding after WW2, they did not consolidate.

1 Like

I did not know. That’s bizarre. The weird one for me is that most of Europe is on 220v. I remember having to carry the converter around hotel to hotel to use my hairdryer and such. I was a little nervous, because 220v at the wrong moment can seriously impair your day.

See attached.

When I asked in Japan, I was told early in the 20th Century Japan was unsure if the American or the English power standard was better - so they decided to try both. One based in Tokyo and the other based in Osaka. Both were so successful nobody was going to let their power system shut down for replacement by the other.

Not to mention what it can do to one’s hair (if you have any left).

Perhaps they would if they were downstream from a GFCI outlet? That’s how regular outlets work in such places, as the upstream GFCI covers the rest.

A very annoying footnote to my thermostat story. The other zone, comprising the bedrooms and bathrooms, was working yesterday but not this morning. (Outdoor temp when I got up, -4.1 f.) From everything I’ve been able to figure out it must be the circulator, which is getting power based on its LED, but is not circulating. A call to my HVAC/furnace guy went unanswered. He may be in FL. I’ve got an electric heater burning up some kWhs.

At least now I know where on the furnace controller I can find 24v power.

(It started working again before bedtime. Go figure.)


When the circulators (aka Taco valves) start failing/sticking like that, perhaps due to hard water buildup, you can try manually opening the valve for that zone to put a hot water draw up there - temporarily or occasionally.

FC made the mistake of letting the builder put antifreeze in the HWH system. In the first 5 years I replaced 5 tacos destroyed by corrosion.

Thanks. I do have hard water, but I also have two softener stages. Then again, there is no way of knowing when the water entered the heating system. There was a period shortly after I bought the house when, knowing nothing about the softeners, I bypassed them. That was a couple of years ago.

I found the instructions for the specific TACO circulators (pumps, not valves) and found things a bit confusing. Under the category of circulator not running, the first choice was between the LED being off or RED. It was orange. RED was for the rotor being blocked, for which the fix starts with disassembly. I’ll leave that for my heating guy. When I eventually spoke with him he expects the problem is air in the system. The diagnostics say this causes a flashing white LED, but I have solid orange. It also says “Loud noises of water circulation” for that, but it was silent.

Anyway, my heating guy is returning this week and might get here around Friday. Meanwhile it is all working. And my fingers remain crossed.

Sorry about your water - but keep in mind distilled water is corrosive to common plumbing metals. The common low level of salts among other things helps keep pure (distilled, deionized, etc.) water’s pH from moving into corrosive regions.

Interesting, but I am confused. On the one hand distilled is corrosive. Then, in the second part, shouldn’t that be impure water being non-corrosive?

People (or at least Americans) seem to want a black and white world. The world is gray. A good example would be in food. We have it in our minds vitamins are good and arsenic is bad. Well absolutely remove arsenic from our diets and we will slowly get seriously sick and die. Several of our vitamins are toxic in large doses. Most of us would not consider a bar of soap to be a safe but bad tasting item – yet the toxicity of a bar of Ivory soap is close to the toxicity of aspirin. (Soap is not label/considered a poison because it is an emetic – it causes us to vomit before it can get into our blood streams. Rats can not vomit, so they will die if feed much soap.

With regard to this discussion and water – water absorbs/dissolve carbon dioxide from the air. That in turn makes distilled slightly acidic. Acids corrode many ferrous metals such as carbon steel and cast iron. Water also dissolves a lot of things such as calcium and magnesium (these are the major causes of water hardness). I am not sure which common chemicals (might be calcium or magnesium) in water will be attracted to ferrous metals. This “coating” on the metal protects it from acidic attack.

I mentioned the distilled water corrosion, because the thread touched on a hard water location and problems with some heating system valves. It would not be unreasonable for a person facing such a problem to think about filling the heating system with distilled water.

1 Like

Thanks for the clarification.

Years ago I witnessed a sales pitch for water softening. It was simple. Get your hands soapy. Rinse with hard water until it all the slipperiness was gone. Then rinse with soft water and it feels slippery again, even though you did not use more soap. The explanation given was that the slippery feel was soap mixing with water. Hard water doesn’t mix well with soap, so rinsing with hard water doesn’t remove it and doesn’t make it feel slippery. Rinsing with soft water does mix with the remaining soap, thus the return of the slippery feeling. All logical, or so it seemed to me, but I’ve never been in a position to test it.

For centuries people only cleaned their clothes and bodies with water or in the last thousand or so year soap the common. That changed in the middle of the 20th century.

For a while I worked for Procter & Gamble and some of the product history is just plain odd. Ivory soap floats – that was a serious screw up. Somebody did not turn off a mixer and air was mixed into the soap - making the bars float. The people in the plant knew they had screwed up, but did not want to draw attention so their shipping the stuff. Somebody decided to mark the boxes with the screwed up soap with an X. A few months later the sales people started getting requests for the Ivory soap that floated – it came in a box with an X. Sales people knew nothing about it, but did ask headquarters.

Another item relating to water hardness – it turns out the most common chemicals in household water are calcium and magnesium salts – the caused of water hardness. Calcium and magnesium ions bond (chemically connect) with soap ions. The resulting chemical is not soluble in water - in fact it is a grease. A little of this calcium stuff reduces the amount of soap suds in a wash tub. Over the years people learned a certain amount of soap suds corresponded to enough soap to give clean laundry. Nobody wanted to many soap suds as that made a mess on the floor.

Some parts of the world have naturally very soft water. The Piedmont region of the Carolinas are that way. When people used the 1940s era laundry soaps (Dreft and Ivory flakes were the big brands) the clothes were not clean and suds were billowing out of the top loading washing machines. Indeed if more soap was used, the clothes would be cleaned - but there would be way more soap suds on the floor.

P&G knew a class of chemicals called detergents would not have this excess suds problem in soft water – so they decided to market that product in North and South Carolina - only the Piedmont areas. Huge success. Next when folks living say in Ohio or Tennessee visited relatives/friends in the Carolinas they heard about the amazing new cleaning product named Tide. When some got home they could not find and Tide in their grocery stores. And as folks say, the rest is history.

And as you might be guessing now, one of the problems if the water is 100% softened – trying to wash with soap as opposed to detergent is not a good idea.


To say nothing of enzymes.

I love when discussions veer into interesting information. :sunglasses:

I figured that, accidentally or on purpose, the soap that floats was a useful innovation when people bathed in tubs. You couldn’t loose the bar as easily.

(I use Dial bars. I stock up way ahead of time and open the packages to the air. This allegedly gives it time to dry out, making it last longer when used. I’m currently long ten bars, six of which are opened. At my age that may outlast me.)

My Mom used Ivory Snow for a few “hand washables”, but not in a machine.

1 Like

Did you notice when they cut out the back of the bars and retained the price? A very good example of shrinkflation. Been using Dial since high school. Many, many moons ago.

1 Like

It was the soap my mom bought for the bathroom, so I’ve been using it since I learned to wash my hands. The only change I’ve made is from the yellow/gold to white.

Have you noticed how the name is impressed on a new bar, but as it wears down that turns into bumps? I believe they press it into the bar, creating areas of higher density beneath the impression, which wear more slowly.