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Fuquay Varina, North Carolina, United States
A guy finding out if life really does begin at 50.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Old Switch-A-Ru

By now I'm sure every home has 'a spot' reserved for charging our devices.   The spot was chosen because it's convenient and it has easy access to an AC outlet.  If that outlet was like mine it was pretty much dedicated to charging devices, so it makes sense to just replace a standard outlet with one that has a USB charger built it. No more power packs battling to find room to plug in.

USB charging is here to stay.  The 5V DC in the USB interface makes charging ~3V device batteries easy.  However a standard USB interface only allow 0.5 amp to be sourced which is only enough to charge lower capacity phones battery.  Today's tablets with larger capacity batteries require 2 amps or more in some cases.  There is no standard protocol on how to detect that a USB host (charger) can source that higher current.  However, since the Apple iPad is so popular suppliers are using it's charging protocol as the de facto standard for higher charging rates.

The USB charger outlet I installed is iPad (2.1 amp) compatible.   I picked it up at my local home improvement box store for $20. Click the image to view the album with the details of the install and some upgrades to my home automation.  I added some additional z-wave switches to allow automation to control the front and back yards flood lights. I also hid some wires using a cord cover.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Never Assume

My refrigerator is 30 years old this month. It's a Kenmore that I got when I bought my first house all those years ago. It's served me well. In the 30 years I've replaced the thermostat, the fan motor, and the ice maker (twice). The ice maker started messing up 5 years ago and I decided not to fix the ice maker a third time. I've been thinking about replacing the fridge ever since. I remember why I chose that Kenmore model all those years ago. It had a light in the freezer which at the time was a 'high end' feature, and the yellow Energy sticker showed that it was one of the most efficient models at that time. I knew that today's refrigerators would be more energy efficient, but I 'assumed' not so efficient to make it worth replacing the old one. I figured I'd keep the old one until it broke, and I couldn't fix it myself. That changed when I helped someone move and was rewarded with an 18 month old refrigerator;  COOL! Before swapping them I decided to measure how much energy my old fridge used, then install the new to me fridge and measure and compare the two. I used my Kill-a-Watt to measure the energy (every home should have at least one Kill-a-watt).
Well I got a nice surprise. The new fridge uses half the energy as the old one!  As the chart shows the old fridge costs $110 a year to operate, and the new one only cost $55.

I used Google Drive (aka Docs) to create the spreadsheet and chart. If you mouse over the columns the fly over text will show you the exact amounts.

The spreadsheet shows the number of hours and the average (winter and summer) cost per Kilowatt for my utility. The Kill-a-Watt has a timer, and it accumulates the energy used.  So calculating the KW per hour is simple.
There are several reasons why the new fridge is less expensive to operate.
  1. The new fridge is smaller than the old one
  2. The new one does not have an ice maker
  3. There is no light in the freezer
None of those are the major reasons. I suspect the insulation and possibly the motors are smaller and more efficient. I have another device that monitors the kilowatt hours, time (duration), and on time. I'll hook it up and create a profile of energy usage, run time, and room temperature.

I know now that I should have replaced my fridge sooner since at $50+ per year saving, a $1500 refridgerator will pay for itself in 30 years, assuming it lasts that long.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Phoenix Fence Project

While at Wally's and Carol's I helped them install 50ft of fence. We installed 6 fence panels and a gate using 8 poles. We set the poles in concrete and used 4 anchors per post. It took about 15 hours spread over 3 mornings and some early afternoon work. Highs were 102-105 in Phoenix, so about noon or so we stopped.

The fence panels themselves were only about 1/3 of the total project cost. The posts, anchors, attachment hardware and various other items (masonry bits, concrete) accounted for 2/3s the project cost so beware. But all said and done the results looked good.

We got it straight and nice and plum. Carol was very pleased.  Click the picture above to view the pictures of the project.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Anything that has to do with dirt is hard work

Handy Brush Grubber
Off and on this spring I've been pulling privet (brush) from my yard.  I've pulled most of the little stuff using muscle along with a hand held 'Brush Grubber.'  Anything too big for me I used a 1 ton electric wench on my riding mower. Anything too big for that I used the GMC to pull.  Maryann is up and doing well now from her 2nd surgery, so she took pictures and created a blog A Natural Yard Where Ferns Flourish.  You'll see the GMC in action pulling up one of the larger stumps of privet.  The clumps get big when you cut them off at the ground each year for a few years.  I've learned that it's better to pull them up than to cut them off.  I still have one more spot that requires the use of the GMC on and I'll be done with the pulling for this spring.