Family Room Problems – Signal & Power – Part 3

Added to this wall:

  • A second AC outlet just to the left of the fireplace to power all the expected electronic components.
  • Conduit (white conduit) to offer HDMI runs.
  • AC above the fireplace to power the TV set that will be mounted over the fireplace.
  • Nail plates to thwart drywall screws from going into electrical and conduit runs.

Note that blue paint tape is used to expect to show the bottom of the TV set when it is mounted.


Next Part >

Family Room Problems – Lessons Learned. Part 1

Customer had to have the ceilings scraped of popcorn due to asbestos.  In the family room they also had the paneling removed.  Over the fireplace was a drywall box installed that needed to be removed.  When the paneling was removed termite damage was discovered.  Fortunately, the termites had only eaten the paper covering of the drywall.  The ceiling and walls were not finished.  Drywall tape and mud was missing on the walls.  Ceilings were not finished.

Next Part >

Family Room Problems – Lessons Learned – Examine and Plan – Part-2

Family room remodel – problems and planning:

The drywall box was removed on top of the fireplace.  All drywall on the termite walls was removed.  Decisions needed to be made.  The client wanted to mount a TV over the fireplace.  In my mind this required that power, antenna, optical audio and HDMI connections needed to be provided above the fireplace, out of sight and run to the left side of the fireplace where the support electronics would be placed:

  • Cable TV Tuner
  • Onkyo surround sound amplifier.
  • Play Station 4.
  • Other HDMI devices.

Next Part >

Hard Wire A Broken Malibu Light Instrument Trick.

My daughter loves to decorate for Halloween every year.  Her boyfriend brought over a lot of decorations that were pretty good.  One category of items was plastic pumpkins.  The pumpkins came with a large hole on the bottom, perfect for placing over a Malibu light.

We have a planter along the street of our house that I wired for Malibu power years ago.  The main power line was sunk under the lawn and then threaded under the sidewalk from the house to the planter.  I then created an electrical T network where a new Malibu electrical cable ran along the length of the planter.  I purchased a connector to marry the two main power lines in the middle.  Now take note that I had two ends of the top of the T wire that became important years later.  Each end of that wire ended at each end of the planter and this is where I placed my Malibu lights using their squeeze and penetrate a pin method.   The lights in this planter over time failed and I did not make the effort to repair them because we keep our Malibu lights on all night and I wanted to cut electricity costs.  I decided to switch over to LED bulbs to save money but they were hard to find at that time and expensive.  My bulb source, when I started this switch over, was charging over $20 per bulb so I only did the switch over for the most important instrument locations.  This planter was not that important.  The Halloween 2015 season I noticed that Philips offers a 20 watt LED replacement bulb that only uses 2 watts for less than $7.

  • Manufacturer: Philips
  • Model 9090011318
  • Voltage 12
  • G4 capsule
  • Brightness 195 lumens
  • White light
  • Estimated length of service: 13 + years.
  • Estimated yearly cost $0.24.
  • The problem with this bulb is that it sticks out from the socket too far for some of the Malibu instruments.

Home Depot also sold a nifty Malibu filter kit consisting of three colored glass filters and a metal clip for MR16 bulbs.  I used these glass filters in other light fixtures.  They really to the ambiance, the Halloween theme my daughter was trying to convey.

The main point of this post is to share with you a trick I used to save money and make a much better electrical connection to two of my Malibu lights and ensure ease of troubleshooting if a problem occurs in the future.  This all started when I found out that a few of my Malibu light fixtures had bad electrical connectors where the cable connects to the main power line.  I decided to hard wire this planter and not by the normal push pin method.  This really works for the planter because lights were only placed at the ends of the top bar of the T.  This trick only works at the END of the main power line.

In the image below I show one end of the T line that rests at one end of the planter.  I separated the main power line so I could deal with each power line separately.  I intentionally cut one line much shorter than the other.  The reason is I do not want the two wires to ever short out.  Look at the image below and in your mind see if there is any way one wire can ever touch the other. They can not.  I stripped the insulation from both the main power line and the instrument. I then twisted the instrument wires to the main line wires as shown below.

Image shows the main power lines was staggered cut so the two bare ends would not short out.
End of main power line has been staggered cut so the two sides of the circuit will not short out and the light fixture wires have been twisted to the main lines.


After I twisted the instrument wires on to the main power lines, I used plastic twist wire nuts (I used “Greenie” because they might blend in with the surrounding plants).  As you can see in the image below, the instrument is very old, still working though which explains why this is saving me money.  I do not have to buy a new instrument.

Image shows an old Malibu light base being connected to the end of the main power line.
An old Malibu light fixture base is shown being connected to the end of the main power line. Twist connectors were used.

Below is an image of the repaired light fixture ready for the plastic pumpkin to be slid over the light.

A very old Malibu light fixture model 8301-9300-01 which had bad electrical connector is shown hard wired to a main power line and a plastic pumpkin ready to be placed over the fixture.
A very old Malibu light fixture model 8301-9300-01 which had bad electrical connector is shown hard wired to a main power line and a plastic pumpkin ready to be placed over the fixture.

Lock and Key Bumping.

Lock Bumping and Key Bumping

Pertains to:

  • Home
  • Business
  • Storage facilities
  • Other

Lock bumping is a silent, undetectable method of home, business or storage facility invasion. The perpetrator can walk in though your front LOCKED door quite easily and quickly! Because this method of invasion leaves no evidence, insurance claims might be denied. This method of crime is currently being taught on web sites to anyone who looks for this information. The tools used to perpetrate this crime are readily available for purchase from Internet sales and are cheap to buy.

Search words to use when conducting Internet research on this subject:

  • Lock bumping
  • Key bumping

There are three types of locks available today, electronic, mechanical and a combination of both electronic and mechanical. In reality, electronic locks have a mechanical component, a latch, pin or bolt that moves in or out of place to allow a door to swing open.

Typically, quality locks are purchased from good locksmith establishments. Many of the locks listed below are not sold at Home Depot or Lowe’s.

Look for a lock that meet the Underwriters Laboratories UL437 standard.

“For those of you that are not familiar with UL437, this is the “higher security” standard for cylinders that are employed in government, business and by some consumers. These cylinders are by definition supposed to be resistant to covert and forced methods of entry for specified minimum times. UL437 is touted by high security lock manufacturers as one of the primary criteria to assure certain minimum levels of physical security in their rated cylinders.”

Following is a list of lock sets offered by manufacturers that claim they are bump proof:

Videx Cyberlock This system is electronic, sophisticated, and expensive (about $200 to $300 for each lock and keys can cost $100 each). This is a high end product with capabilities most home owners will not need. Their low end product should be considered for the home owner looking for top end solution.

This is a lock system intended for businesses. The key holds the power source for this lock system. The key holds a battery that needs to be replaced once a year. The key is more bulky than the typical house key. This system is pick and bump proof due to its inherent design. The system can offer the following options (at higher cost):

  • Scheduled open and close times.
  • Lost key deny access.
  • Delayed access.
  • Multiple key required to access.
  • Audit trail

Evva MCS The company sent us this e-mail: “We don’t have any distributor in the US, our products are
produced for the European market, according to the European standards. As the US market requires different standards we are not able to supply our cylinders for your market.
Our standards are Europrofile, oval or swiss round cylinders, Scandinavian cylinders and some special profiles for European countries.”

Abloy Protec A very complicated mechanical key and lock system.

  • A statement from one of their sales persons:

“Abloy lock works on a rotating disc principle similar to a bank vault tumbler, when you insert a key it has no effect on the lock it’s the 90 degree turn of the key that unscrambles the discs, if the combination is wrong it will not turn any further then 90 degrees. Pin tumbler locks when your key is inserted the combination is either correct or incorrect, the pins are always ready to be bumped up to align them, Abloy Protec locks are also Pick-Proof and we are the only lock manufacturer to make completely hardened steel locks with drill protection as opposed to brass with drill protection like our competitors.”

Mul-T-Lock The web site for this manufacturer is located here: Cost for the lock is around $100 and a key might cost close to $20. This lock is mechanical. Quite close to being comparable to Medeco. Key bumping video can be found here:

Farpro CX-5 (Scorpion)The web site for this manufacturer: This lock is mechanical and is thought to be comparable to Medico but much less expensive for lock and key.
Medeco These locks are expensive but have a very good reputation. There are two sets of pins, each set offset from the other to foil the bumping process. They are drill resistant.

Slage Primus claim to be bump proof but are not fool proof. “…if the bad guy can get a Primus-type key blank from the same region or dealer as your locks, the side-cuts are effectively neutralized”

Quickset Smart Keys (we have yet to confirm their method for preventing lock bumping). Allegedly, not a fully UL437 rated lock.

One question to ask when comparing locks to buy is the cost to buy a new key. One local locksmith claims that Farpro Scorpion keys only cost about $6 to make while a Medico key might cost close to $15.

Another factor to beware of is the warranty period of the lock. Some locks come with only a few year period while other locks extend the warranty well beyond. Know what exactly the warrantycovers and get it in writing.

One option for you to consider is having special bump resistant pins installed into your existing locks. If you take the cylinder into a lock shop the cost will typically be less than $20 for each cylinder. Call the locksmith first to see if they offer this service. For a locksmith to drive to your home or business and change out the pins will typically cost around $110 or more.

We recommend that you consult with a local reputable locksmith for advice to protect your home and business.

After you buy a lock, keep all documentation, warranty and receipts together in a folder for future reference.

Disclaimer: We in no way, endorse any lock manufacturers or model locks listed above. We do not make any guarantees that locks we have listed are actually bump proof. That is up to you to determine. We do recommend that you contact a good locksmith for advice. We do not guarantee the information written above is accurate. We have tried to present the information on this page only as a step to help you to find the best product for your needs.

Fabricating And Installing A Small Home Irrigation System – Cooper Work.

This article will share one method of fabricating and installing a small irrigation addition to a home. The problem faced with this project are as follows.


  • Three front yard planters were not provided with an irrigation system.
  • The existing anti-siphon valves were old and leaking (but still functional).
  • The anti-siphon valves were too low to the ground and probably violated code requirements.
  • There was no provision for just adding another anti_siphon valve to the existing ones. The whole valve system would have to be torn out and all new valves put in.
  • The irrigation shut off valve would not work and needed to be replaced.
  • Multiple patches were visible in the PVC pipes. I wanted to remove all the patches and provide a smooth pipe system.

The rest of the front and back yard were already irrigated with an electronic timer and valve system. The first problem was that the anti siphon valves for the front yard were old, leaking and there was no provision for adding another valve. The valve controller did offer wiring for one more valve, so no new wiring needed to be run. The image below shows what the existing valve looked like. Code specifies that the anti siphon valve be 6 inches above the highest sprinkler head.

Image shows old existing valves

In the above image you can see three PVC patches, quite ugly. There are more patches along the water lines from the anti_siphon valves (beyond the image edge).

In the image above, look at how close the three anti-siphon valves are to ground level. The new valve assembly would be mounted higher. The new valves will be level with the porch top.

We were fortunate that an extra wire was in place for a fourth valve to receive power from the timer.

In the next image the cooper work to connect the valves together is shown.

Cooper pipe fabrication

Soldering cooper pipe is not all that difficult. The tools you need are as follows.


  • Propane or oxyacetylene torch to heat the pipe. I picked up one at Home Depot for about $12.
  • Flux
  • Flux brush. One flux brush might come with the flux but for a decent size project it simply will not last. After a short while I noticed any brush began to fall apart.
  • Method of lighting the torch. I used a BBQ lighter.
  • Pipe cutter, rotating wheel type.
  • Deburring tool is necessary to cut out the ridge that will be felt on the inside of the pipe after you use the pipe cutter. If you use a hack saw, this tool might not be necessary. Carefully run a finger in and out of the cut end of the pipe and feel the ridge inside. Use the deburring tool until that ridge has disappeared.
  • Cooper pipe wire brush for inside pipe cleaning.
  • Cooper pipe wire brush for outside pipe cleaning.
  • Welding gloves (optional) but I love using them to pick up hot pipes.
  • Clamp to hold the pipe in place. A lot of devices can work for this purpose (i.e. wood vise, metal vice, vice grips, etc.).
  • Wire brush (optional). I use this to clean up my ugly soldering by removing all the burned flux. I can thus better inspect the solder job after cleaning the joints.


Cut the pipe to size. Just remember that any straight section of pipe will slip into or disappear into a joint so calculate that amount when you design your project. I want to know for sure how long EACH pipe segment is, its exact length. I decided to cut all my segments to 4 inches. The reason for this is that I only need to use a tape measure and measure how much is showing beyond the joint as a double check as to the depth the pipe was soldered.

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Aside: I have a funny story to tell where I forgot to calculate the amount of copper pipe what would disappear into a joint. It will be explained later but I added Sharkbite® joints to this project. My first cooper cut was a 2 inch section, which you will see was a stupid length. I was fabricating the irrigation shut off valve part of the system. Without thinking, I slipped a straight Shark Bite to one side of this 2 inch pipe and an L joint on the other side. I then realized that the pipe would TOTALLY disappear 1 inch each side into each Sharkbite®. I ended up with NO space in between the joints. Shark Bite offers a special tool that makes the joint a quick release. Problem is the tool is about one half inch thick. I had NO room to slip the tool in between the joints to take the joints apart. Boy I felt stupid. The solution was to use two thin blade knives and slip them in between the plastic collars and picking one collar pull the collar back while pulling on the pipe. It took two people and all of our hands to make it work and about five minutes of struggling but we got the pipe out. You can see this in the next photo.

Image shows two Sharkbite® fittings with no gap.

– – – – – – – – – –


Cut the pipe to length but allow for the amount of pipe that will slip into any joint.

Deburr each cut end especially if you used a wheel pipe cutter.

The area you will be soldering must be real clean! wire brush the joint ends until they shine. Pay attention. Typically, it is the outside of the pipe and the inside of the joint that needs to be wire brushed.

Take a flux brush and sweep it into the flux. Next wipe the parts of the metal that will be touching one another with the brush.
When using the propane torch, it took a LOT more time to get the joints up to temperature than using an oxyacetylene torch. Just remember to heat all around the joint first and then bring the heat into the joint area last. Apply enough heat to sizzle the brushed on flux and then add even more heat if you are using a propane unit. I dip the end of my solder into the flux and touch the copper pipe from time to time to see how the flux reacts when I touch the pipe with the solder. When the pipe is hot enough, the solder will melt as soon as you touch the cooper pipe. You want to put the solder up against where the two copper pieces meet. The solder will be sucked into the joint by papillary action. I run the solder around the joint to make sure it gets sucked in ALL AROUND the joint and I do this quite quickly, remove the solder and then the torch. If I think I overheated the copper too much I remove the torch earlier. Just remember that applying solder cools the metal joint. This does take some practice.

I decided that I wanted to be able to remove the anti-siphon valves for easy replacement. I decided that I must be able to unscrew both the supply side and the exit side to the valves. The most elegant solution was realized when I visited Home Depot. I spotted a new product called Sharkbite®. These are metal fittings that are simply wonderful. They meet all the code requirements for use INSIDE a home. I was skeptical of this new product and using it outside seemed a perfect first application to test this new product.

– – – – – – – – – –

Aside: You might ask, why not spend the extra money and buy Sharkbite® connectors and not bother with attempting to solder any copper pipe. Well the down side of this product is the pipe ALWAYS rotates. The fittings are NOT locked to the pipe for rotation. They are locked for being pulled apart! I guess it would work, using all Sharkbite® fittings, but all your pipe pieces would be swinging around until you got the valves attached to the PVC pipes in the ground.

Actually it was the ability of the Sharkbite® fitting to rotate that drew me to using this product. I will put threaded 3/4 inch Sharkbite® connectors at the end of each feed pipe going to each anti-siphon valve knowing that the connectors will allow me to rotate them for attachment and detachment of the valves.

With any project, I find there is at least one thing that I did NOT predict. When I decided to put a 90º Sharkbite® fitting in the feed water line after the shut off valve, I did not predict that the four anti-siphon valves would not be held in position, would not stand up straight, until I screwed in the PVC side of the lines.

– – – – – – – – – –


Cooper pipes for the anti-siphon valves soldered together.

The image above shows the copper tube tree that will hold the anti-siphon valves. This part of the project took the most time. One of the pipes rotated on me, the second from the right and my daughter and I had to reheat it to rotate it around to line up with the other pipes. I suspect that an oxyacetylene torch would not have allowed that to happen as it tends to apply a LOT of heat in a closer space.


Cooper pipes for the anti-siphon valves soldered together with Sharkbite® fittings.

In the image above the Sharkbite® fittings were slid on to the pipe.


Cooper pipes with Sharkbite® fittings and anti_siphon valves attached.

The image above shows the anti_siphon valves attached, screwed, into the Sharkbite® fittings. At the end I put a Sharkbite end cap. I decided that I would NOT make the same mistake as the previous workers but add the capability of adding another valve at the end of the tree.


Cooper pipes showing irrigation valve and anti_siphon valves.

The image above shows how the irrigation valve would be fitted to the valve assembly. The image below shows how the dimensions for the irrigation valve were decided. Because the exiting tap off for the irrigation system was just over 9 inches, I had to make sure that when I swung the copper pipe assembly around, that it would clear the wall. For this reason, I made sure the valve had thread connections and not solder fitting. All of my thread connections, metal and PVC use teflon tape. I love to use thick teflon tape as I think it works a lot better on course threads. I even use gas pipe teflon tape.


Image shows distance allowed for the irrigation valve to mate with main water line.

In the image above you see the house wall to the right. The old existing cooper pipe comes out of the main water line at about 9 and 3/4 inches. That connection is a thread fitting. I will be making a complete replacement for this irrigation feed by replacing with a new screw fitting that will be soldered into a copper pipe and from a short length of pipe into a 90º cooper junction fitting down into a cooper pipe segment. From the cooper segment I will solder a pipe to thread fitting so I can attach a valve with thread ends. After the valve, a ball valve, I will go down to a Sharkbite® 90º angle. That 90º angle fitting is a slip fit, being a Sharkbite®, and all I need to do is slide the copper tree holding the anti-siphon valves into it.


Irrigation valve being installed.

The image above is a shot from overhead looking down toward the ground. It shows that the copper pipe was cut and soldered so this segment could be screwed into the existing main line fitting without hitting the house wall. Obviously, if the pipe did hit the wall, I could remove the valve because it is screwed into the cooper pipe.


Extension to irrigation valve is made so the anti-siphon valves can be attached.

The image above shows the segment of pipe that will be screwed into the bottom of the irrigation valve.


Irrigation valve rotated in the final down position.

The image above shows this completed section of the project: fitting to the main water line, water valve, and turn to offer a horizontal feed to the next pipe.


Horizontal valve tree is inserted into the 90º Sharkbite® fitting to join the master valve with anti-siphon valves.

The image above shows the feed end of the anti-siphon valve tree pipe having been slid into the Sharkbite® fitting. Note that I put a Sharpy mark about 1″ from the end to tell me how far the pipe slid into the fitting.

Because this story has been so long, I have decided to break up this story into segments. Please go to the next installment of this installation (soon to be posted). The next segment will show how to do the PVC connections. You will see an ELEGANT solution for removing the anti_siphon valves EASILY on the PVC side. When this project was done, any of the anti-siphon valves could be removed in less than 15 minutes and replaced just as quickly!

Sharkbite® product conclusion: Utterly impressive. This technology rocks! I highly recommend its use. Just pay attention to the fact that the pipe does rotate in the fittings. We tried to pull a fitting out of the pipe and it will NOT come out without the tool or using an improvised tool! I have not seen any of our fittings leak. I am so ecstatic that I found this fitting for this project.

Note that if you use a wheel pipe cutter, the ridge inside the pipe will prevent you from pushing the pipe into the Sharkbite® fitting. You must deburr the cut ends.

I personally would not put these fittings in the ground. I would worry that dirt would migrate into the plastic collar and make releasing the pipe difficult. If I decided to use this technology inside a house, I would tape any fitting that had a pipe running upward. My reasoning is that, over time, dust would accumulate into the plastic sleeve. It is the plastic sleeve that is used to release the pipe from the fitting.