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.

The future of portable energy?

The following link is to a BBC News Online article about how certain microbes can consume almost anything, and their “waste” output is electricity.  Of course, if there will ever be a battery made using this technology, it is not going to happen within the next 5 years.  Still, it’s something to think about.

 

http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160613-there-are-microbes-that-eat-and-poo-nothing-but-electricity

Another window update…

After the frustration of not reaching the nearest office for over 3 months, calling the office in KC, KS, and getting passed up to the regional sales manager, I still couldn’t place my order.  The company I’ve been so frustrated by is Window World.  If possible, I’m not going to do business with them ever again.

After talking with the regional sales manager for Window World, I called the local Home Depot.  I called them because I remembered getting a flyer in the mail a few weeks ago touting their replacement window business.

It only took about 4 minutes for me to be talking one-on-one with the local sales manager in their replacement windows/doors department.  I described our situation and told him what the replacement windows we’ve already installed look like, and he was confident that he could replicate the windows with high-quality facsimiles from 2-3 different companies he orders windows through.  According to the website, one of those companies is a subsidiary of the Anderson windows company.

Someone should be arriving within a week to measure our next replacements.  We’re confident of getting at least 3 windows with this order, but that could be 5 or 6 depending on the price differences.

Schedule tug-of-war

It never seems to end.  In the interest of trying to keep our monthly expenses under control, it seems the best time to do laundry is in the middle of the night – either in the winter when it helps heat the house during the coldest part of the day or in the summer when running the dryer doesn’t over-tax the air conditioner.  The major problem with that is that all the people who do maintenance on our house (mowing, tuck pointing, window replacement, plumbing, electricians, etc.) all work during the hours I’m more used to sleeping.  Oh, and let’s not forget those long-haul trips to VA health facilities that always throw a monkey-wrench in my schedule because that isn’t just one or two hours – it’s an all day trip.

Well, I’ve got another VA trip coming up, and we thought it would be great if I could, just this once, actually have my schedule adjusted to where I’m used to being up the hours that I need to be awake for that trip.  I was going to try to stay up until noon (local time) today.  It’s almost 8am right now – and I’m burned out.  Oh well, I stayed up 2 hours longer than usual – it’s a start.

New window today . . .

I got a phone call yesterday afternoon, and the people installing our newest replacement window will arrive this afternoon to do that.  It may happen as early as 1pm (1300 hrs).  This brings us to 2 replaced,  11 upstairs windows left to go.  We’re considering spacing them out a bit more, and ordering 2 at a time in the future, so each visit makes more of a difference for us, and they don’t have to drive as much.  Well, it’s something to think on.

A big day . . .

One down – 16 to go.

Four years ago, my wife and I bought the first house we’ve owned together, after 15 years. Since then, we’ve mainly focused our house “maintenance” budget on replacing the guttering and downspouts, and updating the tuckpointing – the mortar was so bad that in some places bricks were barely being held in place.

Today, we moved in a new direction. After getting all of the tuckpointing done on the South side of the house, we’re getting our first double-pane, low-e, energy saving window installed. The installers are still at it, almost finished. We’re doing the windows one-at-a-time to avoid having to get a loan. It means we’ll actually have more money to spend on the windows if we don’t finance them. By the time we’re finished, we’ll have spent roughly $7,000 just on the windows. But, it will be worth it to help reduce the energy used and cost of heating/cooling our home. Of the 16 windows to still be replaced, we’re thinking that 4 or 5 of them will be replaced with glass blocks since they will never be opened anyhow, and glass block will allow light in while preserving privacy.