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Tag Archives: aroundthehouse

June started with a trip to Korea for a couple of days for work. Like the previous trip, it was pretty uneventful and short – I did get a morning of sightseeing in before having to fly back though.

This month, we tried to eat dinner a little bit earlier and then go out for walks & stuff afterwards. We didn’t do that as often as I would like but did go a couple of times. We also finished our backyard (more or less). Deck/fence has been stained and our patio furniture is assembled. That provides a good alternative to going to the park if we don’t have a lot of time – we can just let the kids loose in there. I think the only thing we need now is an umbrella. It’s also better to let them in the backyard as the weather gets hotter and hotter in the summer, they can quickly come back in for some A/C or a drink; although the drawback is they can’t ride their bike there.

June also saw the end of all of Apollo’s extra-curricular programs and pre-school. He’s on to his summer schedule (read: no classes) so gets to spend a lot of time around us now. Jovian celebrated his second year old birthday this month! He’s now older than Apollo was when Jovian was born – therefore, supposedly an independent toddler now!

This month, I didn’t have Canada Day long weekend because I was working on a US schedule. Instead, I had a four-day Independence Day long weekend, which I suppose is better, and we spent two of those days in Pennsylvania on a road trip. It was a good break because at that time, Toronto was going through a heat wave and our AC was “broken”. Also, at the same time, we didn’t have hot water. You would think those two things would cancel themselves out, but it didn’t. We ended up fixing both ourselves – the AC was “broken” because the Direct Energy guy that came in turned off our furnace to test things but never turned it back on (plus, he didn’t fix the hot water either – I don’t know why I pay these guys $37 a month).

After a week reprieve, we were again without hot water or AC because a flash thunderstorm dumped an ocean on top of Toronto and took out the power for the evening. Other parts of the city had it much worse, being without power for a couple of days or having to swim out of a GO Train that was stuck in the Don Valley. The DVP completely flooded for the second time this year! Not sure whether this happened because the floods followed us from Calgary.

I went to NYC for two days this month, and they were some of the hottest days in the summer. The forecast for my first day there was 40°C! I had never been anywhere that hot before – and I had a BBQ to attend. Luckily, I didn’t end up being barbequed, nor did it reach 40°C. I think it maxed out at 38°C.

This month, we bought a lot of stuff. We planned our upcoming vacation and I bought a bunch of stuff in conventional stores and DealExtreme to plan for it. I bought a new computer and various other hardware. But all-in-all, July, the first month of summer, seemed to pass by relatively quick even though we didn’t spend a lot of time outdoors to do summer related activities.

A few months ago, I received a flyer in my Toronto Hydro bill about their new peaksaver PLUS program. For free, they would install a meter so that I could monitor my energy usage. Since it was FREE! I signed up and they came by to install it last week. But just as how the upgrade from CFL bulbs to LED would have been a net loss in savings, I think this program is running a net loss and doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The device is a couple of wireless transmitters that were attached on my energy meters, and a in-home display. The transmitters transmit energy usage and the display summarizes and aggregates the information. Basically it works like one of those screens that display the weather. It’s made by Blue LIne Innovations which is a Canadian company and retails for $109. Add in the cost of sending a guy to install the device and various overhead, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the cost per household is about $150 – $200.

On the product’s website, the promotional materials say that these devices help homeowners reduce energy costs by 9%; and another page says it will reduce energy costs by $250. That seems to pay for the product by itself, but naturally I am skeptical.

After observing it for a week, the device estimates that I have used about $3 in electricity. So doing some quick math, it would help me save a whopping (52 * 3 = 156 * 0.09 = ) $14. In ten years, the device might pay for itself!

Secondly, this number seems plain wrong. I pay approximately $60/mth for electricity (which includes delivery and other miscellaneous charges). That number doesn’t map correctly to $3/week. I think this is either because the device is in sleep mode (and thus not receiving data) or not hooked up correctly. In any case, it is difficult to find incentive to reduce energy usage when it is only a few pennies per hour!

Finally, there is only a single device (which we currently have in our kitchen). Seeing the device may remind us to save energy – but only when we’re in the kitchen. There are a lot of other energy sinks so where are the reminders for those items?

I think Toronto Hydro received or allocated an amount of funding to energy reduction, and this is one way they are using their money. It’s certainly fun to have one of these devices for free; but I don’t think they will recoup their investment in energy savings.

I was browsing around Chinese web sites the other day and came upon some LED light bulbs. I like LED light bulbs and am waiting for the day when all my CFLs will be replaced by (cheap) LED bulbs. I already use a few, but their main problem is that they are expensive, have limited luminosity and have a narrow beam. Of course the more you pay, the better they are and I was looking at a couple that were $15-$18 for 60W equivalents.

In the end, I didn’t buy any for two reasons. The first was that $15-$18 isn’t that cheap. If you buy at a North American brick & mortar store, an LED bulb will cost over $20, so buying from China is cheaper; but they are not cheap compared with CFLs which are only a couple of bucks each.

The second reason was because those 60W-equivalent LED bulbs weren’t actually that much better than CFL bulbs. 60W-equivalent CFL bulbs are rated at 13W and these LED bulbs were rated at 7W. The change to CFLs gave a much bigger bang for the buck than this change would have. Plus, while LEDs are supposed to last much longer than CFLs; I haven’t needed to change my CFLs yet either, so the longevity is inconsequential.

So I didn’t upgrade. I “saved” but didn’t save a little bit more energy.