Friday, May 30, 2008

Kill A Watt

Well the P3 Kill-A-Watt showed up today. Pretty nifty gadget. I ran around and checked a couple of appliances today. As a result of this, I am putting my main computer into standby mode after an hour, this change alone may save me 5$/month. I checked the other computers, and they were already automatically going to standby mode after a period of time, so no real gains there. The Tivo and satellite receiver consume about 47 watts together - these pretty much need to be on all the time. I have 2 of these, for a total of almost 100 watts going 24/7/365. Thats about $4.75/month. The stereo was taking about 30 watts as well, and we don' t use that one very often. I'll just manually turn that sucker off when we are not using it.

I have updated my spreadsheet to reflect these readings, but there is much more to be done.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Big Spreadsheet

I did some math last night based off some guesses as to my power consumption. I modeled my power usage in a nice spreadsheet. The model is telling me that my savings are going to be much less than I initially thought. It is also telling me I am using more power than the utility company is metering. I decided to order a kill-a-watt meter so that I can get a more accurate power model.
This only solves part of my problem because my biggest power loads are 240v hard wired appliances. This includes an electric clothes dryer (maybe 5500 Watts) and the central air conditioning (about 3500 Watts). I need to know my peak power profile in order to have an accurate cost model. A good solution is an optical meter reader which just reads the spinning disk on the power companies meter. I have never used one or know anything about these. The theory is sound. The formula to compute instantaneous power consumption from Wikipedia is: Power=(3600*7.2)/t where t is the amount of time one revolution of the disk takes. I am thinking about making my own meter reader, but it might be a little tricky as my meter cover is not very clear. Would be fun tho.
I'll update again when I get the kill-a-watt and post my power numbers.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Electric Company

I consume a lot of electricity. I have recently been trying to come up with ways to save money on my utilities. My saltwater aquarium is partly to blame. My koi pond is also partly to blame. Turning off the pumps and lights and such would unfortunately kill the livestock. It turns out that Fort Collins probably has one of the best electrical rates in the country, so I shouldn't complain. Still, it turns out I have some good options.

The default electrical rates are a straightforward computation of dollars per kilowatt hours consumed plus a nominal connection fee. In Fort Collins this rate is a very reasonable 6.498 cents per KW. One neat option is to go to demand based rates. This cuts the price per KWh by more than half down to 3.085 cents. The catch is that they also track your PEAK energy consumption each month. The peak watts (on a 15 minute running average) gets multiplied by the demand rate of $4.293 per KW. So if you have a lot of relatively low power devices which run all the time (like, say, pond and aquarium pumps, computers, and wall warts) then you can save a significant amount of money. If you have a lot of high wattage devices which can potentially run all at the same time then you have to watch out. I happen to have a very high efficiency central air conditioner, a high efficiency washer/drier and a high efficiency dishwasher. I also have a gas range and a gas water heater. I figure I can cut at LEAST $20/month on my bill by going to demand rates. I am going to have my rates changed this week after I check my nighttime power and peak daytime power and do some math. There is a $20 fee associated with the change, and I can only do it once a year.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


My employer is sending us to see Indiana Jones today.
I am not as excited about this one as I was for Iron Man. Every time I have seen Harrison Ford in the last 10 years, I tell myself that he should be retired or something. Still, the reviews are fairly positive. How bad could it be?

Oh, and the photo is from my cell phone. It has given me spectacularly poor images every time I have used it. The phone is a Nokia with what I think is a 1MP sensor. What a piece of junk. The camera on my wifes iPhone is a 2MP unit, and gives excellent results (for a cell phone anyway).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Dear Santa

I would like to get a Sleeping Beauty DVD for Christmas. And I want a Pricess scooter. And Jadan wants the Batman movie. I want a Dora Car That I can drive which is just my size that other red car is too small for me, I want a bigger one. Savannah wants a kitchen

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oh brother

You don't mess with my brother. He messes with you.

Vomit producer

This is my dog. I have cleaned up her vomit way too many times. We call her Apollo, just like one of the dogs from Magnum, P.I.

3D Ultrasound

The first kid is always the most exciting. We were so excited we decided we couldn't wait for her to be born before we got a decent photo. My wife found an add somewhere for a place which performed 3D ultrasounds. The sample photos were cool, the price wasn't outrageous, so I said sure, why not? For some strange reason we had to get a doctors note before they would do it. It turns out that at our next doctors appointment we had our least favorite Dr. He pretty much laughed at us and told us not to bother and save the money for the kids college fund. He signed it anyway.

We had to drive down to Denver for the procedure. I was expecting something like a medical experience with doctors and nurses etc. What I remember was pulling into a place which more resembled a strip mall. The place appeared to be run by high school kids. It was somewhat alarming, but what harm could an ultrasound do? Still it was kind of fun. They turned on the big machine and started taking pictures.

They look just like her. Disturbing but cute, an interesting mix.

San Juan Mountains, June 2001

I got married in 2001 and went to the San Juan mountains in southwestern Colorado. It was June, and it snowed. Gorgeous. This shot was taken with our medium format camera. My wife probably shot this one. Our photos from this trip kick ass. I took a couple of others with my 4x5, but had a hard time getting the vantage point I wanted. I might post one of them later.
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I have lots of kids. They seem like good ones, but I am biased.
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Saturday, May 10, 2008

1991 Audi 200 Turbo Quattro and the Instrument Cluster

Once I owned such a beast. I really did love this car. It was a blast to drive. It did almost everything I asked of it. It really was very mechanically reliable. The electronics on the other hand were abhorrent.

I bought mine when it was probably about 9 years old. About a year later the instrument cluster back lighting was not working properly. I couldn't find much information on the intertubes about it at the time, but these dashboards were notorious for other issues. After buying my first digital camera, I took the opportunity to rip the dashboard out and trace the failure. I posted my results on my wifes web site in a corner not directly navigable. That old web page is long gone, but I still see people pointing to it from time to time. I decided to go ahead and re-post my results to anyone who may still have one of these cars running around.

Notice the narrow region near the upper right corner of the spedo cutout. This weak area flexes and can cause cracks in the solder joints. This joint supplies ground and power to the spedo. The high beam indicator and the blinker lights will glow when the ground is broken. You will also loose some dash board illumination. These symptoms can be intermittent.

I soldered a jumper wire from the ground pin from the main connector across to the next via on the ground wire. I also re-soldered the power junction to repair the crack which had formed. I did the same thing for the adjacent power pin. This repair was completely successful for the entire time I owned the car.

Here are some more shots of the PC board for those of you who are interested.

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Who has time to write these things

Who has time to write these things, much less come up with a good name which isn't already taken.