Category Archives: Review

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Picture of the mantle in the main lobby of the Great Escape Lodge, Queensbury, NY

Six Flags Great Escape Lodge Waterpark

In February we went to the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark in Queensbury, NY. Again. This is the second time we’ve gone to the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge in as many years because it’s the second time we managed to find a major discount code online! We will probably go back again next year if we find another discount code.

As mentioned in the previous post, this time we stayed for two nights instead of only one and the experience was much less hectic. We weren’t in as much of a rush to get to the waterpark to take advantage of the early entry for hotel guests this time.  This allowed us to enjoy the wonderful drive through the Adirondacks. Ironically, for February, there was more snow back home than there was in the mountains!

Once we arrived at Six Flags Great Escape Lodge, we were able to check in early. As February appears to be a bit of a low season and we were checking in on a Sunday, it seems they had time to have our room ready for us. Posted check in time is 4PM but we were into our room just after 2PM.

One thing we tried to catch this time was the 8PM bedtime stories by the fireplace. This is a neat little thing where one of the characters comes along with a companion and the companion reads a couple books for the kids. Well, stress that we tried to catch the bedtime stories.  The first night we missed them completely as we got there at about 8:12PM and the girls caught the last pages of the last book and woosh, off went the character and companion. The second night we made sure we were there early and that worked much better but still, the whole thing doesn’t last very long. There was a decent crowd of people there both nights so coming sort of early makes getting a seat easier.

The waterpark itself was good again this year. We convinced friends of ours to join us this year and our kids were all old enough to do many of the attractions on their own. Lots of fun.

Picture of the indoor water park at the Great Escape Lodge, Queensbury, NY

One big difference this time was the water temperature was much better this year. I don’t think we ever found out why but last year when we were at the waterpark, the water was really cold and made things like the lazy river not enjoyable. This time the lazy river was much better as you could actually stay in the water without shivering.

Spending two nights really made for a much more enjoyable time. The downside was the discount only applied for Sunday-Thursdays when we booked so we stayed Sunday and Monday night. Not a huge problem as this also had the advantage of the waterpark being less crowded most of the time. As mentioned in the previous post, the logistics of checkout time are a little tricky. This time we skipped getting a locker and I just didn’t go swimming on the checkout morning. This is much easier as one parent can manage two older kids without too much difficulty and the second can manage getting the clothes, etc. from your car when you’re done swimming. Of course, we also had an infant this time that one of us had to look after so he and I enjoyed the, uh, scenery.

For a quick winter break only a few hours from Ottawa, ON, we will likely go back to the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge again next year. It’s well worth it to watch for the discount codes from the travel sites as long as you have a flexible schedule because they are rather short notice (like 3-4 weeks in advance for us and we booked the last possible dates at that time).

Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark

We recently went to the Six Flags Great Escape Lodge & Indoor Waterpark in Queensbury, NY and had a fantastic time. This indoor water park is only about 4.5 hours from the Ottawa, ON area so it’s quite reasonable to go for a weekend or a few days during the week.

On this trip, we only went for one night and looking back, that was a mistake on our part. Next time we will go for two nights to get more “bang for the buck”. More on this later.

The way it is setup, you book a room at the Great Escape Lodge and it includes passes for the White Water Bay water park (which is attached directly to the hotel). The base rate is about $200/night – seems steep until you see that a day pass to the waterpark is $39/person. So, with the 4 included passes ($156 total), the hotel is only $44/night! They also have a set of deals on their website that are worth checking out.

It’s even better when you stumble across a coupon code for 50% off like I did! More later on this.

I don’t think it would be worth staying at a different hotel and buying the day passes unless you were getting a really good deal somewhere else or you were dropping the (older) kids off for the day while you go somewhere else.

So why more than one night next time? Logistics. You are allowed to use the water park from noon on the day you check-in until 2PM on the day you check out. That’s fantastic except that the complication is that you can’t check-in until 4PM and checkout is at 11am. They have lockers you can rent (for $10/day) so you can stash your valuables but that means someone has to leave the water park to go check-in and haul the rest of the stuff to the room. For check-out day, you really need to haul everything out of the room before 10am (when the waterpark opens) and probably get another locker to store valuables (or at least your car keys) while using the water park after you check out. Having a second night would just make the logistics headache a little more bearable. As it was, it felt like we were rushing to get into the hotel and rushing to get out of the hotel all in the span of ~18 hours (we only arrived mid-afternoon due to travel delays coming from our other destination on this trip).

The discount code! I nearly forgot! I stumbled on that completely. The day we booked the hotel, I did a quick google search and found a code that was expiring that day. Pure luck to get the room (and 4 passes) for $99. It does appear that they have similar offers from time to time as I saw some other codes for the same deal with different dates but they all appeared to be short notice. The one I used was posted on March 2 and expired March 9.

I’m pretty sure we will be going again in the future. It’s close, has a fair bit for our young kids to do and even without the discount code, it’s reasonably priced.

Direct Energy Public Relations

I recently posted about the impending Direct Energy Water Heater Rental Rate Increase that I was notified about in one of my bills late last year. As it turned out, the new advertised rate seems to only apply to new rentals. Our monthly rate increase was less than one dollar (which is still annoying but reasonable) which was no where near the $22 per month suggested by the bill insert.

A couple weeks ago I received an email from a person who works for the Direct Energy Public Relations team.  She wanted to make sure I was receiving the “correct” rental price and was willing to have my account checked to ensure it was correct. After exchanging a few emails, I declined having my account checked. History has taught me that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone. I didn’t need them to discover I wasn’t paying enough (or something like that). ;)

Now, the interesting part about this is I’m one blogger complaining about a potential price increase and Direct Energy has people in their Public Relations team who are actively searching the internet for just this sort of thing. That actually makes me really happy. I didn’t expect anyone to contact me when I wrote the original article, it was more of a complaint about a potential massive increase.  I fully expected to have to contact Direct Energy and complain (and of course, blog about the whole process) if and when the massive increase actually happened.

Anyways, thanks Crystal of the Direct Energy Public Relations team for contacting me. I can only hope that other companies (ahem, Bell, I’m looking at you) can learn from this approach.

Hydronic Heating System Information

In my previous Hydronic Heating Coil Replacement post, Jim asked about more information on my heating system. I’ve finally had the opportunity to collect some of that information and try to crunch the numbers. I can’t guarantee that any of what follows is correct – even after almost 5 years, I’m still learning about my heating system as it was installed by the previous owner of my house.

My house is a 1½ story,  approximately 1900 sq-ft of finished space and another 600 sq-ft of un-finished basement space.

My source of hot water is a Polaris Natural Gas hot water tank, model PR-100-34-2NV.  This is a 34 gallon tank that is capable of 100k input BTU per hour and 129 GPH recovery rise to 90°F.

To pull the water from the tank through my hydronic heating coil, I have a Taco 006 Cartridge Circulator.

It’s a rather cold day today so the system has been on a fair bit.  This is good for getting ballpark temperature readings. For all of my temperatures, I’m using a Mastercraft Digital Temperature Reader which happened to be on super sale last week. It’s supposedly accurate within ±2°F at room temperature. You do have to keep the reader as close as possible to the subject though or you will get poor results.  I tried to keep within 1 inch at all times.

The Numbers

The output air temperature is 100°F (37.8°C) at one of my main floor forced air registers.  This is probably the most direct run in the house and was also the hottest of the few I checked.

In the basement I took a few readings at different points in the system. Now, all of the copper pipe used in the system is ¾ inch and it appears that the heat does not transfer quite as much.

The new copper for the water to air heat exchanger coil

The Polaris hot water tank is set to 60°C (140°F). At the hot water tank outlet, the copper surface temperature is 120°F (48.9°C). Just before the Taco 006 circulator pump, the copper is 100°F (37.8°C). The circulator pump itself has a surface temperature of 160°F (71.1°C) (!).

Just before the hydronic heating coil in the plenum, the surface temperature of the ¾ inch copper pipe is 85°F (29.4°C) and after going through the coil the output is 81°F (27.2°C).

The hot water tank inlet is 90°F (32.2°C).

This is all in my unfinished basement area where the ambient temperature is 64°F (17.8°C).

Taco Model 006 Cartridge Circulator Flow Graph (click for the full PDF specifications)

Taco Model 006 Cartridge Circulator Flow Graph (excerpt)

Based on the data sheet (and the graph shown above) the Taco 006 Circulator is moving between 7 and 8 GPM in my installation (4 foot lift from the tank outlet to the ceiling where the forced air unit is mounted). The 006 is represented by the blue curve with the number 3.

Analysis(?)

This would suggest that there is a 30°F (16.7°C) drop in the water temperature. Unfortunately, that’s really just a SWAG because measuring the copper surface temperature is not going to be a linear delta to the water temperature.

Oh, and I’m really not sure why the Taco 006 circulator had a surface temperature of 160°F.  It does feel quite hot to the touch but it shouldn’t be more than the 140°F water going through it. Maybe the surface is too shiny for the temperature reader to get a correct value.

Direct Energy Water Heater Rental Rate Increase

Direct Energy Logo

UPDATED: I found my local copy of the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule. This is more relevant given the recent Direct Energy Rental Terms Change fiasco.

If you currently rent your water heater from Direct Energy, and you haven’t yet received your December 2009 bill, brace yourself. Direct Energy’s water heater rental rates are going up.  In some cases (like mine) – way up.  Currently I am renting a Polaris 34 U.S. Gallons natural gas hot water tank.  According to the pamphlet I received, my rental will be going from about $40/month to $62.34/month.  An increase of approximately $22/month!

Now, I know I have posted a fair bit about the problems I’ve had with my Polaris unit that I rent from Direct Energy. My only guess for Direct Energy’s 55% increase (is it really that much!?!) on my Polaris rental is due to the number of issues that they have had.

Here’s the 2009 Direct Energy Water Heater Rental Rates from their website:

2009 Rental Chart
Water Heater Type & Size Monthly Rental2 Hard Water Monthly Rental2
CV40 40 U.S. Gallons1 $11.64 $12.70
CV50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $13.00 $14.80
CV60 60 U.S. Gallons1 $15.48 $17.65
PV50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $20.81 $24.41
DV50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $20.51 $23.49
PV50 HI PV60 50 & 60 U.S. Gallons1 $22.97 $26.40
PV75 75 U.S. Gallons1 $27.63 $29.68
Electric 60 60 U.S. Gallons1 $10.25
Polaris 34 U.S. Gallons1 $62.34
CombiCor 50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $38.22 $41.55
CombiCor 75 75 U.S. Gallons1 $40.92 $44.45
Rinnai Tankless R75LSIN $33.50

1 Capacity in U.S. Gallons may vary, depending on specific manufacturer. U.S. Gallon = 0.8327 Imperial Gallons = 3.7854 Litres.
2 Rates are subject to change upon one month’s notice. Plus GST.

Ugh! From the same link above, I also found the 2009 Direct Energy rental water heater buyout schedule [PDF – no longer available]. According to that, my ~5 year old Polaris 34 Gallon tank would cost me around $3700 + tax to buy.  Double Ugh!

UPDATED: I found my local copy of the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule.

I managed to dig up the following 2008 rental rate information but it doesn’t seem to jive with what I am currently paying.

Direct Energy 2008 Water Heater Rental Rates

Direct Energy 2008 Water Heater Rental Rates

I guess that means I’m stuck paying $62/mon until my whole system craps out and I really have to replace something.  I had a furnace quote a while back and it came in around $8000 to replace my system (including a new hot water tank of some sorts).

Oh look, another shiny penny on the floor!  I should just bend over and pick that up…