More House Maintenance…

Well, we knew it was coming.

Nearly 7 years ago when we bought this house, we were told that the HVAC and water heater were both old. An average water heater has a life-span of 10 years, and the one in the house was already 18. I’m not sure what a normal life-span for an HVAC system is, but I’m pretty sure 45 is pushing it. This one was installed in 1973.

Anyhow, in the last 18 months we’ve had 4 service calls on the heater, so we knew it was about to go. Day before yesterday, we had to have another visit, and after spending 2 hours cleaning burners and electronic ignition switches, he stated that he’d done all he could and it was still uncertain. So, I asked him to have someone from his company come by to give us an estimate on a complete system. That night, the heat failed to light yet again.

The fellow who came to do the estimate was quite impressed that this old thing lasted so long, and said we’d definitely see some energy savings from getting the units replaced before summer arrived. As an added bonus, there will be an actual place to put the filters, so they won’t rub up against the blower motor anymore. It will be easily changed, too. After measuring this, that, and a few other things, he tallied the bill to – – – – $4600, installed.

So, my wife and I spent some time last night looking at how to juggle some plans and savings arrangements, and figured that it is doable. Certainly not the way we wanted to do it, but we can do it. Oh, and we got the bill in the mail for the water heater installation, too. It was just under $700.

So, a quick recap of the last 6 months of home maintenance:
$3500 Fireplace insert
700 Water Heater
150 Security light
4600 HVAC system

I certainly hope that’s enough for a while.

Shutting down . . .

Well, having accomplished what I set out to do with this blog, I think it is time to shut it down.

The reason I’m doing this now it simple:  I had 90 days to renew my domain registration when they informed me that WordPress has decided to force a 2-stage authentication process that requires a form of verification that I literally can’t provide – a cell phone number.  Since I do not have a cell phone, and wouldn’t tie it to my blog even if I did, it is time to quit WordPress.  Besides, I’ve done what I set out to do with  this blog, by laying personal claim to ideas that were hugely influential in the outcome of the 2016 election for the USA.  Everything else was gravy.

So, I’m transferring all of my files and blog posts to my original blog at:  http://mr-spock.livejournal.com/ and asking that if you want to continue to follow my journey of self discovery, you’ll bookmark that page or subscribe to it.  I’ve been blogging on that page since 2004.

Thank you, one and all, for making this page feel like a resounding success.

House maintenance update . . .

There are a few people reading this who probably remember earlier blogs where I described the house we live in and what challenges we deal with in trying to “go green” with it.  However, since I get about a new subscriber every week, I’ll do a brief recap.

First, our house was built in 1930.  It is solid brick – by which I mean that the exterior is brick, the interior is brick, and the only wood is the floor, roof, and interior paneling.  There is no insulation or dry wall.  The electrical outlets are almost entirely built into the floor, like they were an added afterthought – quite likely since indoor electricity and plumbing weren’t particularly common in 1930.  The house inspection listed our water heater as “approximately 18 years old” – and the HVAC system was installed in 1973.

So, one of our focus points on investing in our house has been looking for ways to improve the energy efficiency.  We’ve replaced about half of the windows with energy-efficient double-pane vinyl windows – with good results.  Every window we replace shows an almost immediate reduction in our utility fuel use.  We have also planted nearly a dozen trees around the east and south borders of our home, to eventually provide shade in the summer.

But, one of the things we’ve been keeping an eye on was that hot water heater.  Knowing that the average water heater lasts around 10 years, ours was nearly 2x expectancy when we bought the house.  So, we started a special savings account just for putting aside money against the day it would fail.  That day arrived – today.  I first suspected a problem when I went to make coffee at 0300 (3AM for those who don’t work with international time) and it seemed to take a very long time for the water to warm up at the kitchen sink.  Later, when my wife got up and started getting ready for work, she couldn’t get any hot water for her shower.  She tried 3 different water faucets with no hot water, and pronounced a state of emergency.  So, I called our plumber at 0800.  After I described the situation, he said that it did indeed sound like the unit had finally failed, and told me that he’d stop at the store on the way over to get a new one.  He’d be here within an hour.

He left here, job completed and all trash cleaned up, at 1030.  He didn’t even give me a bill – saying, “We’ll mail it to you.”

Then, completing the cycle of spending this year’s income tax refunds, we had our electrician come over to give us an estimate on upgrading our outside security light.  The one we currently have uses mercury-vapor bulbs, which (besides being an incredibly BAD idea for the environment) drink electricity like a drunk goes through beer.  We’re going to have him replace the fixture the mercury-vapor bulbs go in with one that uses standard light bulbs – which would be an energy savings in itself.  But we’re not going to use standard bulbs, which would still use about 200 watts.  We’re going to put in an LED bulb, which will use about 40 watts for the same amount of light we get right now.  He thinks he can get this job done within the next week.  His fee?  $35 plus parts.

Step by step . . .

Slowly, but surely, our move towards a greener lifestyle continues.

One of the things that we’ve been looking at is that our HVAC system has been in this house since the early 1970’s.  There is no doubt that it will someday need replaced, but in the mean time it is not the most energy efficient.  So, I had the brain storm that if we could come up with a more energy efficient way to heat the house in the winter (i.e. using the fireplace) we might save enough money over time to pay for the update.

Well, it turns out that the reason our fireplace isn’t safe to use is that the liner in the chimney is cracked – and there is NOBODY in this area who replaces cracked liners.  I’ve even used email to contact people in KC, Tulsa, and St. Louis – they won’t even consider traveling so far for the job. So, we started looking at other options.  Or, we thought it would be plural.  Turns out, there was only one option – get a gas-burning fireplace insert.

Of course, that isn’t as easy as just snapping your fingers.  A gas-burning fireplace insert actually needs a gas line to provide the fuel, plus it needs a plug-in to power the regulator.  So, we called our favorite plumber, and asked him if we could get a gas line to the fireplace.  Naturally, he needed to know where it should go, and the salesman who talked to us about the insert didn’t tell us where to put the line.  So, after a few delays over the telephone (the salesman took vacation while I was waiting for the plumber’s estimate) I got an answer on the location.  We got lucky – the best place for the line to enter the fireplace was also the easiest place for the plumber to put it.

So, now the gas line is in place.  The plumber even filled the hole around the pipe with a cement compound that was color matched to the brick, and painted the pipe to match.  We’re very happy with the results.  The next step is the insert itself – at a minimum cost of $3k – but I think we would actually want the $3.5k version.  We’re going to be living with this for a LONG time, if fate is kind.

13 year old inventor proves free energy . . .

A 13 year old inventor in Nevada has demonstrated on local TV an invention of his, inspired by the genius of Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein, which produces DC electric current literally out of thin air. Oh, and the parts to make it only cost him $15 USD.

13-Year-Old Invents Tesla Inspired Free Energy Device for Under $15

Weird updates . . .

  1.  The sidewalk is complete – well, except for the fact that they didn’t get the back-fill of dirt along the sides done, nor did they manage to get the new driveway cement to tie-in to the old driveway.  There is about 6″ of crushed rock filling the gap between them.
  2. Our refrigerator has been – misbehaving? – for about a year now.  We tried getting the thermostat replaced, but the freezer compartment just doesn’t want to keep things actually frozen.  So, Friday afternoon we went out to Home Depot and looked around, and bought an upright deep freeze to put beside the refrigerator to handle the freezer duties.  The old freezer compartment will now be used for cold food storage that doesn’t need to be frozen.
  3. Thanks in large part to the new windows – our electricity usage went DOWN by 1,000 kwh last month, as compared to the same month the year before.  Now if we could just get the electric company to quit hiking the usage rates every time we decrease our usage . . .
  4. We recently discovered that, after about 9 years without access to this type of service, there is a new chiropractor in town who specializes in functional medicine.

Improving the future of solar power…

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-32931928

A closer look at one of the projects going on to improve the efficiency of solar power collection – this one aimed at the more commercial solar power collectors, rather than the home panels.  But, once they get it out there, demand will probably put it into the home market as well.

Future solar power…

http://www.naturalnews.com/049880_solar_panels_fossil_fuels_electric_grid.html

Solar power has been around for quite some time, but cost has kept it out of reach of the average American household, let alone anyone in more humble conditions.  However, the trend has been that costs are going down, while quality and storage capacity have been improving.  See the article behind the link (above) for the latest.

We’ve been watching this – eventually we’d like to take advantage of the huge yard on the south side of our house to put in solar collectors (well, and a green house).  But, we’re taking baby steps.  There are so many other things to do to make this house stable for the next century!

Window progress…

We finally got the guy out here (Thursday, after two appointments that he no-showed without calling us) to measure the windows we wanted to try to get on this round.  We had him measure four windows, two on the north side and two on the south side.  If we got them all replaced, it would set us up for some nice straight-through ventilation on mild days.

Yesterday, Home Depot called and said they were ready to talk to us about choosing the windows we want.  We went out there in the early afternoon, and after looking at the options we chose the Anderson Low-E windows, and were able to afford three of them on this order.  We’ll still get the ventilation, because two of the replacements are going on the north side, and we already had two windows replaced on the south side.  This is huge progress – to the tune of $1,340 USD.

Oh, and another thing.  Window World took 6-8 weeks (that was the official estimate – the last window we got from them was ordered in early October and wasn’t installed until the end of January) to prepare a window for installation.  Home Depot is getting our Anderson windows in about half the time – 3-5 weeks.