Wirelessly control power strip/adapter?

jaxoJuly 20, 2013

I have a 13 amp misting pump that has been relocated from the patio to the garage because the pump motor noise was annoying when we are outside with the misters running to keep the patio cool. I would like to be able to turn the cooling misters off and on without having to walk back and forth to the garage and flip the on/off switch on the pump and I don't want to have to pay an electrician hundreds of dollars to install a wired switch in a convenient location near the patio.
I went Lowes and bought a Utiltech photocell timer with wireless remote. The photocell was not needed, but that's all they had. I set it to be always off (ignoring photocell) and used the wireless remote to wirelessly turn it on and off.
It worked OK from the patio for the first two days I used it as long as I pointed the remote through the house in the direction of the garage. By the third day, it would not work until I walked inside and was under 10 feet away from the garage. While that is still better than having to go into the garage and flip the switch on the pump, it is not what I wanted. Not sure how or why it worked from the patio the first two days, but apparently this device does not have the power/range I need to use it from the patio and send the signal through three walls and any closed doors inside the house between the patio on one side of the house and the garage on the other side of the house.
As an experiment, I just tried pressing the fob to my chin (like extending the range on a car door remote fob) and it worked from outside again, but I don't want to get cancer from doing that long term.
I am going to return it to Lowes before the return period expires and try to find something I can order online or from Home Depot with a stronger signal so I don't need to use my skull as an antenna.

I have heard of Insteon and X10 wireless appliance modules, but I think they may be overkill since I don't need "Home Automation," I just need a dumb on off switch that has the power to go 40 feet through 3 stucco and wood walls using a wireless remote.
I will look at those if nothing else will work. Apparently, with Insteon, you can get repeaters to boost the signal if you have range issues.

Any recommendations?

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Ron Natalie

Insteon is SmarHome's rework of X.10 to repeat it with RF. You can get a pretty simple X.10 system: one appliance module and one transmitter for not much money. It cares not what the walls are made of as it superimposes it's signal over the power line. The biggest issue is if your controlled circuit and where you plugged the transmitter in aren't on the same leg but sometimes it works and you can try just moving the transmitter to a different cricuit.

Before you do any of that, I'd try putting a new battery in the remote you have. Lowe's utilitech branding is absolute crap with regard to batteries. I've had brand new 9volts that came dead.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 3:48PM
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Your pump is 13 amps. Double check the amperage capacity of the control device you are using. Some are less than 6 amps.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 6:05PM
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Ron Natalie

The utilitech photocell with remote claims 15A. It does have a mechanical switch in it so I don't think the pump should be a problem for it.

I'm still betting on dead battery in the key fob thing.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 6:21PM
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I agree about the Utilitech batteries but I'd also include the Costco "Kirkland" batteries as well - already pre-corroded, and dripping acid, for your convenience.

Getting back to the FOB issue - I'd replace the battery too, but I do have a few of these remotes that work or don't work, with no rhyme or reason.

Just make sure if you try something else, that it has an actual relay closure, rated for at least 15 amps, and not an SCR (silicon controlled rectifier) which will work for incandescent light bulbs, but not appliances.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 8:00PM
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Maybe it's the battery, but I decided I didn't want to waste the time and money on getting a non-refundable replacement specialty battery for the fob when there is no guarantee it will fix this issue.
I found a Belkin Wemo switch in a local Coscto this afternoon and just set it up. Since I can receive the wifi signal from my home network from both the garage and the patio, it is working so far. The wifi signal to the garage is quite weak, but it's working fine so far. I can try moving the wireless router a bit closer towards the garage if there are connection issues.
Wemo uses a smartphone app, so I don't have to deal with a separate fob and it is also rated at 15 AMPs so it should handle the pump's electric load fine.
I'll hang on the Utilitech for a few days before returning it just in case there are any major problems with the Wemo that make we want to give the Utilitech another try with a fresh battery.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2013 at 8:58PM
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Around Christmas time most CVS and Walgreens sell wireless remotes for Christmas lighting. Most of those seem to have a substantial relay inside them so probably will carry the current..usually only $10.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 9:33AM
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Ron Natalie

I believe that is exactly the kind of unit the OP has. I've got a similar timer (sans the remote control) that I use for my xmas lights.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 9:58AM
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I doubt a $10 device would have the range I need. They may also only support 8 amps or less like many remotes intended for table lamps that may only have a 60 W bulb.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 12:21PM
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