Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The heating pad in our garage fridge

Just thought I would share this odd little battle with physics.

We have a standard fridge out in our garage. Its freezer compartment is in the bottom, although after a while I realized that made no difference.  The problem is that the refrigerator compartment was doing just fine, but the ice cream in the freezer kept melting.  I assumed it was the door not closing completely, which had occurred once or twice, so I order a remote thermometer with two sensors that would alarm at certain temperature settings.

Watching it for a few days, I noticed that the refrigerator compartment was holding around 36 degrees, which is just fine.  The freezer was varying from 3 to 20, which way too warm.  That in itself was a lesson for me.  I thought anything below 32 was freezing, so 20 would be dandy.  A freezer should really sit between -10 and 0. Not everything freezes at 32.

I set the temperature for the freezer to "Coldest" but that had no effect.  So I did what we all do and went to Google. It didn't take too long to learn that I was not unique in the world and that a GE service call would do me no good.  First, the speced operating temperature for the fridge starts at 60 F.  That was a clue that they weren't supposed to work at cold temperatures.  Then I learned that there is no thermostat in the freezer, only the refrigerator. When you change the freezer "temperature" setting, all you are doing is controlling a damper that forces more or less of the cold air into the freezer.

So, the problem with a fridge in a cold space is that the refrigerator stays cold.  Our garage is about 40, so that compartment is almost always happy. You could just leave the door open. That means the compressor never gets turned on.  The freezer then slowly heats to the same temperature as the garage.  Mystery solved!  Now, what in the world do you do about it.

Once answer is to buy a special garage fridge, which is controlled differently and costs about 3 times as much as a really nice fridge.  I went with plan B (cheap).  I bought this little $25 heating pad designed to keep your animals warm.  It is a 25 watt pad, giving about as much heat as a pair of night lights.  I plugged it in and stuck it in the fridge.  Now, every once in a while, it warms up enough in the refrigerator compartment to force the compressor on.  A little fine tuning and I have the freezer running right where I need it.  For a while, it was actually getting way too cold.  Come spring or summer, I will pull the heating pad out and let Mother Nature keep the garage warm enough.

Seems silly to stick a warming device into a fridge but this was by far the best of the alternatives.  If the compressor was running too much, I would have returned the heating pad and gotten one that was closer to 15 watts.

I wondered why I hadn't had this problem before.  Next door we had a full freezer, and it was in the house.  Back in NC, we didn't have too many days with lows below zero.  I guess if I lived elsewhere, I might have to worry about the compressor overheating.

Monday, February 08, 2016

U.S. Snowboarding & Freeskiing Grand Prix

It was a big weekend of competitive ski and snowboard events here in Park City.On Friday I went over to see the skiers hit the PCMR halfpipe and on Saturday I returned to watch the snowboarders.  These young athletes are incredible to watch.  In addition to their obvious skiing and gymnastic skills, they are obviously both brave and a bit of crazy.

I have always noticed that the snowboarders come further out of the pipe than the skiers.  Just the same, let's do some quick math.  The top of the pipe is 22' off the bottom.  Those are 6' guys standing on the rim. The skier looks to be another 15 feet above them.  That means he is about 40 feet above the base of the pipe.

A flyby.  It looks so static, but they are in the middle of some number of twists and flips.  Looks like they just stopped by for a visit.

Another view of how high they get.  At least this guy is looking down.

But sometimes bad things happen, like landing on the rim instead of dropping down the steep wall.  That means you stop suddenly and with a lot of force.  Fortunately he was ok.


The next day was the boarders.  Kind of like the skiers not going as high as the boarders, the women don't go as high as the men.

Until 15 year old Chloe Kim comes along.  She is the women's version of Shawn White.  When she does her run, she seems to be doing a different sport than everyone else.  Just amazing! And 15!

She had already won the event before she did her last run.  Sometimes they will just do some little tricks to show off for the crowd on their "victory lap".  Instead she did the first back-to-back 1080s ever done by a woman in competition, earning her the 2nd 100 score ever given.

For the boarding event, I was fortunate to get a Photo pass, which meant I was right on the lip of the pipe.  It is a bit unsettling to be looking through a viewfinder as they come flying by. This is a wide lens, zoomed all the way out.  Tough to make out the detail on anything but a full rez version of the photo, but I can see myself in her goggle reflection.

Just HUGE tricks and flying forever.

I love how the colorful boards pop against the sky.

One of the more stylish freeze frames.  I don't know how to capture the energy and motion without video.  I tried a few longer shutter speeds, but those looked like crap.

Quite the crowd for the event.  People were packed in all down the pipe and then tons at the bottom.

Now for the odd shots I tend to end with.  This guy looked like he was examining my camera as he flew by,

I normally would just toss this one.  It is hard to make out the boarder with all the background noise.  I liked it though, because with the flat perspective of the longer lens, he looks a bit like a giant about to squash all the little people.

And the cute prize goes to....

This little herd of munchkins.  Not sure how they got to the top of the halfpipe.  It is quite the steep hike.  Lord knows they were having a blast getting down though! Some were sliding, others rolling. If any walked it was only for a few steps before they decided the alternatives were much better.