Loud Garage Door Opener – Fix it!

Our garage door opener motor was LOUD! The whole room above it vibrated far more loudly than being in the garage with the motor. This is due to the mechanical connection of the motor to rigid metal straps which are then bolted to the ceiling beam.

straps

I spent a few weeks studying how other people and companies try to solve this issue. Some methods would probably work but appeared kind of dangerous (such as hanging the motor housing from rubber straps). The point of vibration isolation is to have an insert of some kind that will absorb the energy of the vibration without transmitting it to the beams and walls of the house. Most solutions seem to use rubber or Sorbothane pads to sandwich the metal frame, with the idea that the two pads will jiggle and absorb the energy of the vibrating metal.

KEY IDEA: A rigid structure will always transmit the vibrational energy; a flexible insert before the ceiling will absorb the vibrational energy and transmit far less.

I looked at using rubber or Sorbothane washers between the metal and the ceiling, but in order to seat the lag bolts properly, I would have to squish the washers which would drastically reduce the vibration-absorbing ability of the material (it needs to be able to jiggle to absorb the energy). I thought about bolting rubber pads above and below the metal straping to help absorb the vibrations. But the stiffness of the pads which would directly touch the ceiling and the bolting seemed counter-intuitive to me (it just didn’t seem like it would work).

I looked at all kinds of vibration absorbing pads and other vibration isolators, but finally settled on a hanging neoprene isolator (Mason 2LVR8). They do make spring versions, but those are really made for large heavy motors instead of a lightweight garage door opener. I needed something that would easily jiggle, and these neoprene isolators were rated at 0-30 pounds, which sounded perfect. I also chose to add neoprene washers as an additional damper on 2 spots where loose metal was going to touch. I bought the Mason isolators online from a vendor named Grainger for $9 each. Amazon actually wanted $6 more per unit! I used three isolators to hold the motor. That may be overkill for the light weight, but I wanted three anchor points on the ceiling like the original installation.

Isolator

 

NOTE: The center track for the garage door is fairly level to begin with. This means that after I installed the isolators, the motor had to move up a few holes in the metal strap. That was easier than cutting the strap metal.

To mount the isolators, I used “hanger bolts” to replace the lag bolts that originally held the metal straps to the ceiling. Hanger bolts don’t have a head. Instead, they have a wood screw side for anchoring to wood beams, and a machine screw side to accept nuts. In order to drive them into the ceiling (into the existing holes from the current lag bolts), I used the two-nut method (a jam nut and a regular nut tightened together). I used 5/16 inch bolts because that is what was currently installed in the ceiling beam. The current lag bolts were 2 inches long, so I used 3 inch long hanger bolts to leave some bolt hanging down from the ceiling. See the pic below.

Two-nut

They do make a special driver made just for the purpose of installing hanger bolts, but such a driver only works to install, not to remove, so it has a very limited purpose. It is difficult to remove a hanger bolt but the two-nut method is usually used for that also. The next picture shows the whole thing installed. I used a nylon locking nut on the top of the isolator housing (shown on the bolt pic above), and another nylon locking nut and washer to hold the housing rigidly tight to the ceiling. The purpose of the top nut was the regulate how much of the hanger bolt was allowed inside the housing. As you can see below, there isn’t much room for the top and bottom bolts to coexist without touching, but they must not touch. I ended up with about a 1/4 inch gap between the two bolts. You can see the gap between the ceiling and the two other units in the pic below.

Installed iso hang

KEY IDEA: The concept of the hanging isolator is to put vibrations from a hanging device into the jiggly and squishy neoprene. The jiggling action uses up the energy and keeps it from being directly transmitted to the rigid metal above it. If the bottom bolt were tight against the bottom of the unit, a lot more energy would be transferred to the housing and then to the ceiling beam and that would defeat the purpose of the isolator.

I set a ladder and a box underneath the motor to keep it from sagging very far while I worked on the straps. The weight of the opener motor and track was apx 20-25lbs. I used another ladder to move around and work. This picture shows the installed isolators with the ladder under the motor unit. I had to have an additional box to keep the track from sagging and possibly bending.

Ladders

The next picture shows the order of assembly of the top pieces:
(DO NOT assemble this way prior to install. It all has to be installed piece by piece on the ceiling. This is just to show how it is all assembled.)
1. hanger bolt
2. nylon locking nut (need pliers to hold wood screw part while installing nut)
3. isolator housing
4. metal washer (optional)
5. nylon locking nut
6. lower bolt
7. nylon locking nut
8. neoprene washer
9. 5/16 metal “fender” washer
10. the neoprene isolator (built into the housing)
11. neoprene washer at head of lower bolt

Assembly

Any place where I was going to have loose metal touching metal, I put in a neoprene washer to absorb energy that would otherwise become a rattling sound.There is about a 1/4 inch gap between the ends of the bolts. Plenty for the amount of jiggling of this motor.

 

Parts:
Mason 2LVR8 from Grainger.com $9 x7 ($63)
Hanger bolts x3
Machine bolts x3 (I chose 2 1/2 inch)
standard 5/16 metal washers x3
5/16 fender washers x3
3/8 (fit better) neoprene washers x6
5/16 nylon locking nuts x9
(I estimate the various little parts cost around $12)

Tools:
Tools

adjustable wrench, ratcheting crescent wrench, vise grips or pliers, impact driver and impact sockets, ear protection when using impact driver

The impact driver is handy for installing the hanger bolts. It is very quick, but does make a racket. The nice part is that there is no torque on the handle like there is with a standard drill motor. But a wrench or a socket driver can insert the hanger bolts also, it just takes longer.

I remounted the motor to the metal straps and used a level on the center track to verify that I had it pretty close to level.

strap diff

 

I measured the sound before and after the install using both a Realistic brand sound pressure meter, and an Android app called Spectrum Analyzer. Unfortunately, I forgot to squish the range of the Spectrum Analyzer to show the range of human hearing (~1KH to 4KHz), so I only got the default low end.

Spectrum_2017_10_13_upstairs-1st

Spectrum_2017_10_14_upstairs_after

Overall it shows about a 20dB drop. The other sound meter before registered about 66dB in the room above the opener. After the isolator install there wasn’t enough noise to even move the meter (range was about 60-80). There is an odd constant peak at about 130 Hz. Not sure what that is.

In human reaction terms that is “WOW! The noise is almost totally gone!” Originally, I was going to install these on the door tracks also, and install pads where the tracks attach to the garage wall. But after the decrease in noise, that became unnecessary.

This project is likely beyond the ability of many homeowners, but could be installed by a contractor easily. It did take several hours because I was still working out the details as I was going.

I don’t think that there will be any issue with the motor not having a rigid mount. It seems to operate normally and with very little visible jiggling except when it first starts or when it is about to finish.

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Google Drive – Find large files

I was trying to figure out why my Google Drive was claiming I had used 11GB of 15GB. I searched all my folders and only found small files, 7MB size mostly, and not that many of them. I quickly saw that there was no obvious way to search for large files on the drive. I assume this is in line with Google’s desire that you not delete anything ever but simply request more drive size.

But for now there is a link you can use to find out and sort which files are taking up your space:

https://drive.google.com/drive/quota

I found some very large video files that a co-worker had removed but not flushed out of her trash. I couldn’t see them in my trash, so they were effectively invisible to me, but still counting against my quota.

This will list all of your files from largest to smallest and allow you to remove them. Remember, after removing you still have to go to Trash and tell it to empty the trash to finally get the space back in your drive. Then go back to the quota link and it should show the new size of your drive.

HVAC Geekery

Today we are having record-breaking heat in the Portland/Vancouver area, and so my A/C unit decided now would be a good time to stop working. I checked various things like:
1. Is the thermostat set correctly?
2. Are there batteries in the thermostat that need to be changed
3. Are any breakers tripped?
4. Is the heat pump fan spinning?

The answer to that last one was No. The air-handler/furnace was blowing all of the time, but the heat pump outside was just sitting there idle. Every now and then I could hear a high voltage hum from it. The fan motor was hot, like it was trying to spin, but wasn’t.

I described the symptoms to my electrician and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) techs at work and they asked “Will the fan spin up if you stick a dowel in and spin it?” I went back and found that yes, it would! I called them and they said in unison “Bad capacitor.” They each had this very same issue last month. In the heat pump is a large metal can capacitor and a big relay called a “connector”. If the capacitor goes bad, the fan will still be able to spin, but the compressor that makes cold won’t work.

They gave me the address of a local vendor and I bought a replacement capacitor for $8. The numbers to match are the microfarads and voltage. It can be rated higher, but not lower. Best just to shoot for a match. Also you need to know if it is a dual capacitor with 3 terminals or not. Mine was.

NOTE: The next steps involve high-voltage (240VAC) and should not be performed unless you are comfortable and knowledgeable about handling such energy, have a volt meter, and the right tools for the job . When in doubt, hire an expert. Mine was a 45uf+5uf, 370VAC. I found this information by looking inside the back cover of the heat pump. I turned off the breaker that said it went to the A/C unit. I also removed the large fuse set on the wall right next to the heat pump. This ensures that no electricity will be going to the parts I’ll be working around. I removed the back cover of the heat pump and there was the large, hand-sized capacitor and a large relay.

I took photos of the old capacitor to show clearly where the colored wires connected. replaced the capacitor, but had to make the previous bracket fit since the new capacitor was larger diameter. Somehow during the whole process I managed to cause a spark on the “connector” relay. I didn’t think much of it until everything was installed, but not working. The thermostat was blank, meaning no power to it. It turns out that I blew a fuse on the furnace circuit board that is controlled by the thermostat and which controls the “connector”. I spoke with my work techs and they said to look for a small fuse, which turned out to be an automotive blade-type fuse rated for 3 amps. I went down to an auto parts store and bought a few.

Once that was installed, I replaced the main fuse to the heat pump and powered on the breaker. The air-handler fan turned on and the thermostat turned on, and then the heat pump began working! I learned quite a bit from this project, and likely saved hundreds in a service call. Keep in mind, I did have experts right there (well, over the phone) to guide me. Don’t try this unless you have such guidance. It is really easy to throw the wrong breaker and think things are powered down and get a bad shock or worse.

project

 

Firefox 54 Where’s my checkboxes?

I am on Firefox 54 on Ubuntu and just noticed that any implementation of the HTML checkbox shows up as a tiny dot instead of a checkbox. Chromium browser is normal.

I first noticed when I went to check my settings in FBP (Facebook Purity add-in for Firefox). But I confirmed it on an HTML test site:

https://www.w3schools.com/tags/tryit.asp?filename=tryhtml_input_checked

Firefox looks like this:

CB_FF

Chromium looks like this:

CB_CH

I tried searching for a solution, but only got a zillion unrelated results.

UPDATE: I found that starting Firefox in safe-mode (Help, restart with addons disabled) turned checkboxes back to normal, but disabling them one-by-one did not have the same effect. So something in a setting somewhere in FF is doing this, I just have to narrow it down.

UDATE AND FIX: Shawn made a comment that pointed me to the fix. I went into /home/jw/.mozilla/firefox/xs0s2w1w.default-1385691302373/chrome/ and edited the file “userContent.css”.  I put a “/*” at the very beginning and a “*/” at the very end to make it all into a comment. Saved it. Restarted Firefox and the checkboxes have returned. Note that your exact path will be different. Look for the hidden folder .mozilla in your home user folder (CTRL+H to toggle seeing or hiding hidden folders).

Ubuntu 17.04 with Gnome

I spent the day Saturday upgrading from Ubuntu 14.04.02 to 17.04. I always know that there will be hours spent tweaking things, reinstalling programs, cussing a lot, and wondering WHY DID THEY DO THAT?!  Once I had it installed, I installed the gnome-session-fallback to get out of the restrictive Unity shell. I just don’t like it.

Gnome has been a nice environment for me for years. Except this time they have moved some of the button locations. I don’t mean the Minimize, Maximize, Close buttons for which everyone and their uncle have fixes. I mean buttons like the final SAVE button when saving a picture from a browser. It used to be on the bottom right, now it is on the top right and the bottom right has a dropdown list of image types that used to be in the lower left. Grumble, murmur, @#$*%&!

When users become used to using windows a particular way, it becomes a royal pain in the ass when developers move things around because THEY think it is better and fuck you users for thinking differently. At least give us a straightforward way to move things around where we want them so our productivity doesn’t suffer for your whims of design fancy.

Another thing is that any time I copy a file from one disk to another, BOTH disks have a popup telling me the progress of the transfer instead of the old “progress” window that was an unconnected popup. And get this – the popups both STAY ON THE SCREEN UNTIL I MANUALLY CLOSE THEM!!!

I tried the gnome tweak tool, gsettings many keys and values, and haven’t yet found a way. I figured if there is a setting for those three buttons in the upper right, then perhaps there are settings for the rest of the window layout. Not so much, it seems. I even installed Gnome 3.24 and no change.

Oh, and you can’t just resize windows by dragging the edge like we’ve been doing for the past 27 years. Now you have to press a key combination to enable that first. Alt+F8 for me. Who thought that was a good idea?! Stupid shit like that… I did find that I can do Alt Middle-click and drag.

So, if any of you knows how to tweak this, please let me know.

Other gripes:
Themes that look decent are apparently hard to find. The default icon theme Adwaita makes folders and documents look the same in this shell. The default orange icons used in Humanity are gross. Orange? I am settling for “Tango” icons now that are blue, which is at least tolerable.

Atomic Tanks 6.5 sucks shit compared to the previous versions. The fun has been sucked out of it and there is little chance of winning when they kill you with 1 or 2 perfectly accurate shots every time. I uninstalled it. I tried installing older versions from the Ubuntu software repository, but they choked on 17.04 and the lack of dependencies. I tried installing the dependencies, but no go. Boo hoo!

UPDATE: I installed XFCE4 as an alternate shell at login, and I love it so far. The save button is back on the bottom right, the appearance is nice, and things are mostly running smoothly. The thing that prompted me to install it was when a 1994 graphics program I was running under Wine locked up the Xwindow so that the mouse clicks and keyboard inputs were ignored. But this also happened in XFCE, so it looks like Wine 1.8.7 may have an issue with Ubuntu 17.04. (I know, I should get with the times, but PSP 4.12 works so damn well and has no bells or whistles.) I’m installing Wine 2.0.1 tonight, so I’ll see if that fixes things.

Audio hiss/noise on PC

Once again I’m having horrible sound quality on my PC and spent hours on forums searching for possible resolutions. I checked several software solutions and am convinced now that it is a motherboard or electrical issue. I tried a different outlet across the room, but heard the same noise. I tested the outlets wiring and they seem to be wired correctly.

The noise started very suddenly today after being quiet for a month or so. Even during the boot process, before any drivers can load, there is an odd hissing back and forth in the headphones with odd bloops and beeps now and then. This gets worse after the OS loads (Linux or Windows). Even when sound is muted on the OS, I still hear the hissing and blooping. I did test the headphones on a different device (battery powered) and they work fine. I also tried a much older PC on the same outlet and it only had a very faint rustling sound in the background, leading me to think it is a motherboard issue.

I may try the EB Tech HumX device, but it is around $70, so is an expensive experiment. Even a ground-loop isolator doesn’t change anything (I didn’t really expect it to on headphones).

I also want to get a UPS for the PC to further isolate the power source, but when I went to Amazon to get the one I wanted, the reviews for the last month say that the latest batch of CyberPower units have a terrible strong odor that doesn’t go away. So looks like I get to wait until CyberPower takes charge, forces some quality control on their China factories, and purges these bad units from the market.

In the meantime, I have to record onto a handheld digital recorder and listen to files the same way.

UPDATE: It did turn out to be the motherboard having a problem. I bought an inexpensive PCI-e audio card (ASUS Xonar DSX) and the sound is perfectly clear now. It took a bit of looking at settings to make it work in Linux, but it was recognized right away and was mostly a matter of adjusting settings in alsamixer and pulse-audio. Mobo is a 10yr-old “ASUS P6X58D Premium”. Still works fine for what I need, but probably time to look at building a new box. I disabled audio in BIOS so that nothing would interfere with the add-in card.

However, in Windows 7 64-bit, the card installed fine but has no sound at all. The only other sound device is the video card which has HDMI audio available, but which I’m not usning. Tried reinstalling the driver and enabling the HSMGR.EXE file and another similar 64-bit one that kept popping up asking for permission. Still nothing. I’ll have to work with it another day.

UPDATE: For whatever reason, after removing the drivers again and reinstalling, rebooting, the ASUS Xonar DSX now works in Windows 7 64-bit. This time it didn’t prompt me to allow any exe files. (I did notice how damn slow Windows boots. Maybe that’s a sign of the age of the motherboard. Linux boots fine.)

Uber – We don’t want to hear from you

A couple of days ago, I began receiving Uber (the private taxi service) emails for a guy named “Troy” to my gmail account that clearly has my own name, not his. I tried to find some kind of link in the email for “Hey, if this isn’t the right email, please let us know”, but there was no such link. If I reply to the email, Uber replies “Hi there. We’re sorry. You’ve contacted an address that does not accept incoming email.” Then they direct me to their FAQ. Oh, and I can sign up if I want to contact their tech support.

Hey Uber, since you didn’t bother to use email verification when people sign up, I could put anyone’s name in and have them receive annoying useless emails from you. Whee.

Same goes for Lyft. I started getting emails from them also, with no verification that they had the right address.

Then I got an email for a Jon White who purchased an Uber gift card, and he has an email address that bears no resemblance to mine at all. Yet I received it.

Uber, your technical abilities suck publicly. Start using email verification when people sign up like everyone else has been doing for 20 years. And make it easier for people to contact your tech support with issues without signing up for your service. I’m not only not a customer, now I never want to be one.

So for now, I will just block them and their gift card service.

Update: I stopped receiving Uber and Lyft messages, but someone named Ron White (probably not the comedian) is still trying to use my email to sign up for things. Or he’s stupid and isn’t checking his auto-correct.