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JoeIac
Premium
join:2009-03-02
MA

[HVAC] Thermostat in remote cottage - controlbyweb x300?

Hi Everyone,
This is my first post in this forum, but I've been following it for a while, and had a quick question.

My family has a cottage in New Hampshire we go to on occasion, its a pretty nice place, though its shared between 6 families (siblings / their spouses / kids), and we all share the responsibility for it.

I just purchased an IP thermostat unit (the controlbyweb x300 unit) because I believe that it will be highly effective for keeping an eye on the place in the winter, and preheating it, since we usually leave it at 48-50 degrees when we're not there to save on oil. (its a 35 minute hike to the closest grocery store, but for some reason we have cable internet up there)

So, basically I am wondering:

1) Has anyone used these modules before? any successes? any horror stories?

2) I bought the wall mount thermostat cases, if I run 24awg solid cat-5 to those, will I be ok? I'm thinking two indoor on separate floors, and then an outdoor unit using a hole already in the house from an access box. Also, if i did that, the unit would be down in the basment very close to the oil burner, and the 12 (or 24) volt thermostat signal would not pass through the cat5, just +5vdc, gnd, and data.

3) Should I trust the x300 with the entire place's heat, or should I be more skeptical and go for the "remote user controls the relays, and not the temp" approach? (for instance, having two simple thermostats, one set at 50, one at 68, and just using a relay to pick A or B)

4) our neighbors had an incident where an absent minded oil tech left a shunt on a thermostat when he was finishing up a regular cleaning, the cottage got to about ~160 for an entire week before they ran out of oil, candles melted and their exposed beams and hardwood floors dried out and cracked, so I'm a little paranoid about giving a little device like this total control over the heat. Is this too paranoid? should I put in a cutoff thermostat just in case?

Also, I should mention that the cottage has oil heated hot water baseboard heat, so all thermostats are just two wires (red / white), which will make either solution fairly foolproof for me to wire.

Thanks in advance for your help,
JoeIac


TheMG
Premium
join:2007-09-04
Canada
kudos:2
Reviews:
·NorthWest Tel

3 edits

1 recommendation

[HVAC] Re: Thermostat in remote cottage - controlbyweb x300?

If you were really paranoid, you could put two regular thermostats in. Connect one in series with everything, set to a temp higher than the max you wish to allow. Connect a second thermostat in parallel with the remote controlled unit, and set that one to a temp lower than the minimum you usually allow.

Should one unit get stuck on, the series thermostat will disconnect. Should the remote unit fail to call for heat, the parallel thermostat will kick in once it gets cold.

I think these remote controlled things are pretty reliable though if installed correctly. They don't actually depend on the internet connection for operation. The connection is only for remote monitoring and configuration. Once it's set, it'll operate without a connection.


JoeIac
Premium
join:2009-03-02
MA

Thanks for the quick reply!

The unit came in today, and i have just been playing with it, it seems to work pretty well. i set the threshold at 80, and the room barely crossed 80 when the high relay went off. then i stuck the thermometer probe in the freezer and it clicked right on as it crossed 50, and stayed on all the way until it hit -5 when i took it out.

that setup is a very good idea, and might be what i end up doing, i just know that having two thermostats and a thermometer in the hallway isn't exactly going to buy me many brownie points (and certainly isnt going to be a pleasure to wire either)

So, going off on a slight tangent, With this setup i will need:
3 wires for the thermometer
2 for high temp thermostat
2 for low temp thermostat
(the relay unit will be remote / centrally located, and not right at the thermostat now)

what kind of wire would everyone recommend i use for this application?



anon

@comcast.net

Also to let you know, Schlage now offers a Lockset that you can control through a Internet connection. The cost is $12.99 monthly, but it may be worth it, especially if wanting to know who enters the cabin, when family is not there. Also, remember, that if power goes out, or Internet service gets interrupted, is there any way to still get a signal to control the unit via Cellular Radio?



jack b
Gone Fishing
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-08
Cape Cod
kudos:1

1 edit
reply to JoeIac

Use standard 18 AWG solid conductor thermostat cable.
Also, the high and low manual override thermostats don't necessarily have to be in the exact same location as the main temperature sensor, as long as they are in the conditioned space they'll do their job, if needed.


TheMG
Premium
join:2007-09-04
Canada
kudos:2
Reviews:
·NorthWest Tel

1 edit
reply to anon

said by anon :

The cost is $12.99 monthly, but it may be worth it, especially if wanting to know who enters the cabin, when family is not there. Also, remember, that if power goes out, or Internet service gets interrupted, is there any way to still get a signal to control the unit via Cellular Radio?
Wow, that's a good way of making money off the fact that most people don't have static IPs, and aren't savvy enough to set up a dynamic DNS or forward ports. So have the web enabled device talk back to a server and charge users a monthly premium for the service...

I can get a static IP for exactly $8.99 less than that.


cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse
reply to JoeIac

I'm using a controlbyweb unit (temperature module) and it works fine. Just make sure you put it on a UPS. I've had mine locking twice in 6 months (unresponsive to anything) so I'd go with a "normal thermostat" approach. My unit needed a power cycle in order to come back on... How long does it take to heat up the place once the heat is turned on? Maybe just have your unit bypass the relay and turn on the heat on demand like TheMG suggested



JoeIac
Premium
join:2009-03-02
MA
reply to TheMG

yeah, im not looking for anything that costs me money every month too, i can certainly handle dynamic dns setup, and don't particularly care if i loose connection for a week, as long as the temp stays where its supposed to, its all good.

I'm thinking that i might keep the current thermostat where it is, run a thermometer up to there, and then have people use the thermostat the same way they always did, and just keep the controlbyweb to remotely turn the heat on / monitor. Its sounding like the low temp is worth keeping an eye on, but the high temp is more of a non-issue.



JoeIac
Premium
join:2009-03-02
MA
reply to cowboyro

when your module locked up, did it lock any of the relays on? or was it just sort of frozen with everything off?

if it freezes and everything stays off, i'm fine with that. but if relays and heat get left on, then i have a problem.



cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse

said by JoeIac:

when your module locked up, did it lock any of the relays on? or was it just sort of frozen with everything off?

if it freezes and everything stays off, i'm fine with that. but if relays and heat get left on, then i have a problem.
It froze in the state it was - once on, once off... not responding even to a ping. Since mine was used for a solar pool heater control - more like a temp acquisition/remote relay (all controls done by a computer according to temperature gain) I don't know if the logic in it was still working and was doing nothing because it wasn't receiving commands or it was simply frozen... Also worth mentioning that at some point a temperature sensor died and they all stopped working (the unit was responding to commands though, just not reading any temperature)


JoeIac
Premium
join:2009-03-02
MA

Good to know, i guess i will be using high and low cutoff thermometers then. I also was planning on having the unit on a UPS along with the router, but then again, if the oil burner looses power, having a unit to control it isn't going to be all that much help.

also since the place is going to be kept at 50 all winter, i'm not too worried about the thermometer getting too warm and freezing up, as the manufacturer says may happen if its used in a warm environment (or is set on full duplex 100mb instead of half duplex 10 mb).



fireflier
Coffee. . .Need Coffee
Premium
join:2001-05-25
Limbo
reply to JoeIac

I've not used the specific model to which you refer, but I currently use several ControlByWeb modules (8-input analog, 5-input digital, 4-output relay, and temperature sensor). In fact, I'm using one of the 5-input digital modules with a signal conditioner to monitor the status of my HVAC equipment (blower, compressor, reversing valve, auxilliary heat, humidifier). I do not use any modules for HVAC control because I've got a fairly complicated zoned system setup with dual-fuel that would be tricky with these modules, but I can at least see what the system is doing!

They've all performed flawlessly over the year or so I've had various ones in service.

If I were in your shoes, I'd have no concerns about buying that unit provided I confirmed its capabilities match with the HVAC I've got installed.
--
Tradition: Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid. --despair.com



fireflier
Coffee. . .Need Coffee
Premium
join:2001-05-25
Limbo

1 edit
reply to JoeIac

4) our neighbors had an incident where an absent minded oil tech left a shunt on a thermostat when he was finishing up a regular cleaning, the cottage got to about ~160 for an entire week before they ran out of oil, candles melted and their exposed beams and hardwood floors dried out and cracked, so I'm a little paranoid about giving a little device like this total control over the heat.

Given you already have the infrastructure, if you're worried about temperature problems, the following modules (also from ControlByWeb) can email you when things they're measuring get out of specified range. Then if your x300 loses its mind (and I really don't expect it would), you'll get emails before something goes horribly wrong. I use mine to do that.

»www.controlbyweb.com/temperature/

or for more versatility in environmental measurement, one of these:

»www.controlbyweb.com/analog/

I personally prefer the analog module because they're much more versatile allowing you to connect sensors for humidity, temperature, pressure (water or other), voltage, light, etc. (anything that can give you 0-5V or 4-20ma output). If you go that route, I can give you part numbers from DigiKey for the humidity, temperature, and water pressure sensors as well as a schematic for a simple house voltage transducer.

Alternately, the x300 appears to have email capability on its own (see page 36 of the manual). The only advantage to a separate ControlByWeb unit would be if you're worried the X300 would lock up and be unable to email you.



fireflier
Coffee. . .Need Coffee
Premium
join:2001-05-25
Limbo
reply to JoeIac

Do you have a phone line at the cottage?

This module (»www.controlbyweb.com/temperature/) has two relay contact closures in addition to temperature monitoring. You can configure the device to open or close those contacts if temperatures get out of range.

Connect an auto-dialer to your phone with a pre-set message so the temperature module will call you as a backup if temperatures get out of hand?
--
Tradition: Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid. --despair.com



fireflier
Coffee. . .Need Coffee
Premium
join:2001-05-25
Limbo
reply to JoeIac

Pages 17-20 of the manual diagram how to use series and parallel thermostats with the X300 to maintain absolute min and max if the x300 stops working.

As with the other modules, Xytronix will tell you there's no tangible benefit to configuring them for 100 Mb/s (unless you're using a hub or switch that can't handle different speed devices simultaneously). Even the specs show the units use more power at 100 Mb/s than at 10Mb/s which will typically translate to more generated heat. So unless you have a special reason, just run it at 10Mb/s.

You could also purchase multiple sensors and attach one sensor directly to the x300 so it could email you before it got too hot.
--
Tradition: Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid. --despair.com



cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse

said by fireflier:

Pages 17-20 of the manual diagram how to use series and parallel thermostats with the X300 to maintain absolute min and max if the x300 stops working.
Not very encouraging for a thermostat...


John Galt
Forward, March
Premium
join:2004-09-30
Happy Camp
kudos:6

1 recommendation

said by cowboyro:

Not very encouraging for a thermostat...
That's SOP for industrial control systems. You -always- have local control backup in case there is a malfunction with the telemetry.
--
The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.


fireflier
Coffee. . .Need Coffee
Premium
join:2001-05-25
Limbo
reply to cowboyro

I paraphrased. The manual didn't actually say "in case it stops working", it just demonstrated the schematic--presumed by me for the instance where it might stop working.

Guess I should have clarified that I didn't take the wording verbatim from the manual.

For all I know, they may well have some auto-reboot feature on the thing in the event it did suffer some kind of problem. I didn't get through the whole manual.

Having said that, I'm working on a project to run all my Xytronix devices from a pretty hefty SLA battery and some DC-DC converters (I didn't want to do it with a UPS) but that's because I have an internal system that still talks to them and logs information from them even if my power--and internet connection goes out.
--
Tradition: Just because you've always done it that way doesn't mean it's not incredibly stupid. --despair.com


HarryH3
Premium
join:2005-02-21
kudos:2
Reviews:
·Suddenlink
reply to JoeIac

Just a heads up... Before setting the temp to 50 degrees, check with the furnace manufacturer to make sure that is safe to operate at that temp. I was looking at furnaces for my garage when I lived in Colorado a few years ago and found that they had warnings to never set the thermostat below 55. Something about flue gases condensing in the heat exchanger and causing accelerated failure when operating below that temp. This was for natural gas fired furnaces. I don't know if the same applies to oil fired, but it wouldn't hurt to check it out.



Dennis
Premium,Mod
join:2001-01-26
Algonquin, IL
kudos:5
reply to JoeIac

Bumping due to request by controlbyweb to comment on this older thread.


ik_cbw

join:2013-03-25
Logan, UT

2 recommendations

reply to JoeIac

I work for ControlByWeb. Thank you for your comments. We really appreciate your business! I saw this post and wanted to address a few things that are not entirely accurate in the previous comments:

First of all, our units should never, never, never lock up! We build the ControlByWeb devices to be operated at remote locations and locking up is not acceptable. There have been a few very rare occasions where users have reported our devices to be 'un-responsive;’ however, in those cases, the problem actually turned out to be the Ethernet switch. Some switches seem to 'forget' that devices are connected to it when the devices don't generate much traffic, and the switches shut down that port (I believe this is to save power). By resetting the ControlByWeb device it 'wakes' the switch and everything works again. The fix in this case may be to change settings on the switch (on smart switches), replace the switch, or upgrade the firmware in the switch. We go to great lengths to make our products extremely reliable. If there is ever a problem with our products, please contact us and we will fix it.

I also wanted to explain why the users manual illustrates how to connect the X-300 to existing thermostats. This is not for the purpose of providing a backup system or additional protection. The X-300 is meant to be used as a stand-alone device and backup is not necessary for most applications. The reason we included information about how to connect the X-300 to an existing thermostat is because some users have asked how they could use the X-300 in conjunction with an existing wall mount thermostat for the purpose of limiting local thermostat control or for remote override (when a building becomes vacant). For most applications we recommend just using the X-300 as a stand-alone device.

Again, thank you for your business and your comments. We really appreciate it. If there are ever any questions about our products or your specific applications, please don't hesitate to contact us (»www.controlbyweb.com/contact.html) ... we are happy to help.