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Month: September 2013

Electrified Raccoon-Proof Bird Feeder

Fence Charger Bird Feeder

Okay so not quite 20,000 volts, but it’s a nice zap that makes raccoons want to get away, very fast.

One night last spring, a pack of raccoons broke into our basement & ate our baby chickens. I discovered the grisly murders at 1AM. Chicken leg stumps in pools of blood. Dripping red arcs spattered across our chest freezer. Feathers & raccoon paw tracks everywhere. A scene straight out of CSI: Hobby Farm. I spent the next 4 hours cleaning like Winston Wolf in Pulp Fiction.

Since then I’ve been on a personal vendetta to remove food sources, as the best way to discourage the cute little killers from living anywhere close by. I double-walled our compost bin with hardware cloth & ultra-secured the trash can. It wasn’t enough. They started eating the sunflower seeds from our bird feeders. Well played, raccoons.

For awhile I took the bird feeders in at night, but then the early morning birds miss out, all because of the evil raccoons. Can’t have that.

Enter the small-animal-safe electrified bird feeder.

For an electrified bird feeder to work, there needs to be a “live” part that’s energized by the fence charger, & another part that’s the “ground”. The live section needs to be electrically insulated from the ground, so the electricity goes nowhere while there are no raccoons around. When the animal touches the live & ground at the same time, they complete the circuit & feel shocked.

Here's the idea. The racoon touches the live wire stretched across the railing, & the metal pole of the bird feeder is grounded. ZAP.

OPTION #1: A length of exposed live wire runs along the railing, & the hanger is grounded.

My bird feeder hanger is mounted with screws into our railing post.

There are two ways to make this work:

  1. Ground the feeder hanger, & run an exposed live wire along the deck railing.
  2. Ground the deck railing, & make the whole feeder hanger “live”.

Bird Feeder MountI went with method #2 because the deck railing wires go flat on the railing & I liked how subtle that looked. The hard part is then the feeder hanger needs to be insulated from the deck & can’t touch the screws. I widened the mounting holes to fit short pieces of rubber (beer) tubing inside, & put the screws back through the tubing. I used a rubber spacer & flat washer on the screw head end, & a plastic spacer of 1/2″ PEX water line (which fit nicely over the beer tubing) to hold the feeder hanger away from the deck. Bird Feeder Insulated Mounting ScrewsThen I drilled another hole in the hanger & used a small bolt to attach the live wire. I ran a loop of ground wire on top of the railing with fence staples.

In hindsight, method #1 is MUCH easier. The feeder hanger doesn’t have to be changed around since it’s part of the ground — attach the ground wire behind one of the existing mounting screws. Run a short length of exposed “live” wire along the deck railing with a few insulators to keep it from touching. Pretty simple & a lot less work.

Few things to keep in mind: the fence charger isn’t waterproof so either stick it indoors or build a small box outside. The grounding rod should be within 20′ of the charger. I set up my charger just inside the cellar bulkhead & then ran the wires outside. Don’t hit anything when you set the grounding rod: sewer pipes, water lines, power conduit, large rocks…

Here’s the equipment list:

DO NOT use a charger with continuous output (not pulsed).

DO NOT use a charger with output over 0.7 joules (for livestock).

Those can kill small animals.

I used a low-power pulsed fence charger that’s specifically rated for small animals — squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, cats etc. It puts out 0.5 joules at a 1-second interval, with a 2-mile range.

Continuous-output chargers, even with low power output, are dangerous. They shock constantly, so sometimes animals can’t escape. It’s a never-ending taser — the continuous charge overpowers the animal’s muscles & eventually stops their breathing & heart. Pulsed-output chargers shock very briefly & animals have time to escape between pulses.

Some inexpensive continuous-output fence charger models to stay away from: SS-525CS, SS-725CS or EAC10A, which are branded Havaheart, FI-Shock, or Zareba. Amazon has reviews for those like “Good job keeping dogs in, KILLS kittens though” … or another one, “Kills small animals”.

Get a pulsed low-output (under 1 joule) fence charger like the Patriot model listed above. Other fence chargers will work if they have pulsed output, AND less than 1 joule. Here are some other models to consider: EA2M, EA5M, EAC5M. You’ll find these with -RS, -FS, -Z, -BL suffixes which are just the branding … Red Snap’r, Fi-Shock, Zariba, Blitzer.

The total cost is about $140.

Fix Whirlpool/Maytag Fridge Ice Buildup

Whirlpool Fridge Ice BuildupLast year we bought a shiny new Whirlpool fridge, french-door style with the bottom freezer. Eight short months later, water started leaking out the bottom of the freezer & pooling onto the floor. Apparently it had been leaking for awhile because when I pulled the fridge out, I found the water had been draining toward the back wall, quietly warping our hardwood floor. We don’t have the icemaker hooked up so it was definitely a defrost problem, caused by a little drain grommet. Thanks for nothing, Whirlpool.

Fixing the drain is easy & takes about an hour, although that’s mostly time spent watching ice melt during which you should eat all your ice cream. It’s probably 20 minutes of actual work. Here’s how to fix it — you’ll need a 1/4″ nut driver & a flat-head screwdriver. All the screws on my fridge had the slot in the top, so you could do it all with just the screwdriver.

Step 1: Don’t kill yourself. Unplug the fridge. You can wait until later but don’t forget.

Freezer DoorStep 2: Freezer door. It’s 4 screws, one in each corner. Just loosen them a few turns — don’t take the screws out entirely — it’s much easier putting the door back on when the screws are already in place. The door slides up & off.

Step 3: Lower basket. It lifts out, no tools required. Now’s a good time to start eating all your ice cream.

Drawer ScrewsStep 4: Upper basket. Remove the 2 screws at the front of the rails, then lift up the rails slightly on each side, to slide the basket forward.

Drawer Gear On the plastic pieces at the back sides of the upper basket, push in two tabs with your screwdriver on each piece & pop them up. This will let the upper basket slide out off the rails.

IcemakerStep 5: Icemaker. Remove the lower screw, then loosen or remove the two screws above the icemaker. Unplug the wire harness where it passes through the rear panel — squeeze the sides of the plug & pull. Lift the icemaker up & out. The water tube will slide out of the guide.

Center GuardThermostat GuardStep 6: Plastic guards. The thermostat guard is the skinny piece to the upper right. Push in (to the right) the tab on the left side in the middle. The guard opens like a door pivoting on the right edge, & pulls out.

The center fan guard has two tabs at the top on each end that push in toward the center, & another tab in the middle at the bottom of the guard that pops up.

Rear PlateStep 7: Freezer panel. Remove the 4 screws in each corner. Push the thermostat back through the slot at the top, & also push the icemaker plug back through its slot.

FAST/HARD WAY: Pull carefully up & out from the top middle edge. Be careful because that sucker is SHARP! The back panel will bend vertically in the middle as you remove it, but it’s flexible & will pop back into shape.

SLOW/EASY WAY: If you don’t like bending the panel around the drawer slides, you can take off the slides. The metal rails have tabs that push in to release the whole slide assembly, which pulls out forward. You only need to take the rail housings off one side — when you go to remove the rear panel, just pull that side first. To release the upper section (that you already unscrewed in Step 4), left it up, bend in & pull out — the back end has a tab through the freezer wall. The lower plastic slide housing unscrews with 4 screws.

Whirlpool Ice Buildup

Step 8: Ice Dam. By now you should see the ice problem. Typically the entire evaporator tray is completely iced, along with some of the tubing. MELT IT ALL. Warm water applied with a turkey baster works well. Be careful not to puncture the coils because … that will ruin your fridge.

Do all the ice melting while the drain is still plugged so it runs out into the freezer floor where you can sponge it up. If the meltwater goes out through the drain hole, it can flood the pan under the fridge — no big deal, just dirtier water & more mess.

Drain HoleThe drain hole is near the front of the rear tray┬áin the middle. It’s pretty wide (1/2″) & short, only ~2 inches long. It goes straight down into a rubber “duck bill” grommet that’s probably plugged up with gunk, that you access from the back of the fridge…

Rear PanelDrain GrommetStep 9: Drain grommet. Pull out the fridge so you can access the back side. Remove the screws (6?) around the lower access panel, pop the power cord up & tilt the panel out of the way. The plastic tray under the fan is the evaporator tray — that’s where the water SHOULD normally be dripping into & evaporating from.

Behind (technically in front of) the fan, there’s a black drain slide into the tray that leads up to your plugged drain. Push the slide aside to see the drain. There’s a rubber “duck bill” grommet on the end. Pull it off & clean it — it’s no doubt plugged with gunk. Better yet, trim the opening very slightly so the hole is larger — see this site for photos.

Step 10: Put it all back together. Some tips: if you lived hard/fast & didn’t remove the rails & rail housing, getting the freezer panel back in place can be a bitch. Make sure you slide the tray rails all the way out before you start trying to put the rear panel back. Bend the panel vertically along the middle so it springs back into place on each side. Again, wear gloves. Once it’s in place, don’t forget to run the thermostat wire & icemaker tube/plug out.

When you put the the top tray back, make sure it’s all the way to the front before you pop the plastic pieces on each side back down, so the gears on each side are aligned in matching grooves. Otherwise your drawer will be crooked & probably won’t slide.

Hope this helps. I have a Whirlpool GX2FGDXVY but these steps work on other models too including Maytag etc.

Here is an excellent video of this entire process.

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