Tag Archives: electricity

Picture of LED Christmas lights that are missing one bulb

LED Christmas Lights Should Be Taken Down Before Spring

I’ve often read that you should take your LED Christmas light down before spring comes but I always assumed it was one of those things to not be “tacky”. Well, here is a good reason to take your LED Christmas lights down before spring.

Yes, one of the local squirrels appears to have decided to take one of the bulbs off of the string of LED lights. This string of lights was on the tree in our front yard and I guess it looked nice and tasty. Too bad the lights weren’t on at the time the squirrel ate through the wires.

Oh, and don’t worry, the lights have been off the tree for a few months now. If they were really still up at the end of June, they may as well stay until the next spring.

The good part about this is I had been contemplating a conversion of one of the sets of lights into a solar LED light set. Now I don’t have to “sacrifice” a set as the squirrel did that for me already.

Picture of a pink Ikea flower shaped light for kids.

DIY Kid Wakeup Clock

Do you have a child that doesn’t quite understand that 5am isn’t an appropriate time to wakeup and come jump on Daddy? I do. Last spring, our 3 year old learned that when the sun came up, Daddy typically was also getting out of bed. That was a highly unfortunate coincidence at the time. As the spring became summer and the sun came up earlier, Daddy was woken up with “Daddy, get up – the sun is up” earlier and earlier. Things actually got worse as the days got shorter as she started waking up before the sun was up (out of habit) but then had no way to differentiate between 7am and 4am.

The quest for a simple clock she would understand started in the fall and was only satisfied about a month ago.

There are a lot of commercial options for children’s sleep clocks or children’s wakeup clocks. The problem with most is that they are really frickin’ expensive. I’m not paying >$50 for a specialty clock that doesn’t even have the actual time on it. The cheapest one I found was still $35 + shipping and was basically a light that turned on at a set time. Well shit, I can do better than that!

On a trip to Ikea, The Boss picked up a simple kids flower light for ~$10.

I then snagged a digital programmable timer for $10 from Canadian Tire.

Image of a programmable timer made by Noma

The brains of the DIY Kids Wakeup Clock

$20 later and we have a light that is programmed to turn on at the same time Daddy’s alarm clock goes off and then turn off again soon after (no need for it to stay on wasting electricity!).

Now when the 3 year old comes and jumps on me at 4am I can at least ask her if the light is on and if it wasn’t she will usually settle back down and go to sleep again. Small improvements are golden!

Oh, and I nearly forgot the best part! My $20 solution supports up to 20 on/off combinations and even supports a different wakeup time on the weekends! That’s worth way more than the $35+shipping option we had found online.

This version DIY Children’s Wakeup Clock cost a bit more than the initial one. I originally took an unused block heater timer to turn a light on and off. While it worked, it didn’t have the option of multiple programs and the light we used wasn’t that exciting from a kid’s point of view.

I think the $20 solution is pretty damn good and the best part is I can re-use both pieces once we get past this silly wakeup time issue.

DIY Time of Use Clock

Every now and then we find ourselves wondering what Time of Use period we are in. Usually this happens just as we’re getting ready to hit start on the electric clothes dryer. So I came up with an ultra simple Do it Yourself Time of Use clock. Here’s how you can make one yourself.

Taking an old wall clock, I popped off the plastic cover and made a circle out of a piece of paper that would fit inside the clock (without covering the numbers). Then I simply marked the hours along the outside edge of the paper and drew some guidelines to allow me to make the overlay. The one complication is that a wall clock is only 12 hours whereas a typical day has 24 hours (damn daylight savings time screwing stuff up twice a year!). To get around this, you simply make two sections to your overlay. In my example, I used the outer ring for AM times and the inner ring for PM times.

It’s only sort of confusing. You can see the two rings in the picture below.

Picture of a clock with colour coded sections indicating the current Time of Use period.

Quick and dirty DIY Time of Use clock. Maybe the kids will let me use markers next time.

Then I begged the kids for some markers but they said I could only use crayons so I just coloured in the appropriate sections based on the current Time of Use winter schedule. Then you just stick the overlay on top of your clock face, close it all up again, set the time and marvel at your ingenuity.

One problem I ran into was that the clock mechanism wouldn’t easily disconnect from the hands for me and I didn’t want to risk breaking the clock. To get around this, I simply cut the overlay and slipped it under the hands. A little bit of tape and it’s all good.

When the Time of Use summer season starts, I’ll just flip the overlay over, beg for crayons (or markers) again and put the summer season schedule on the other side. And that’s an Ultra simple DIY Time of Use clock to stick on the wall beside the electric clothes dryer.

Air Conditioning Hydro Usage

The hot weather started here in Eastern Ontario over the last couple weeks and up until this past weekend, it was usually quite manageable. Unfortunately on Sunday, with the humidity really high at 7am, I caved around 9am and turned on the air conditioning until about 10pm.

Thanks to the Time of Use meter we have and Hydro One’s nifty online electricity usage tool, I’m able to see how much electricity we used to keep ourselves cool(er) for the day.

Graph showing hourly electricity usage for a 24 hour period when the air conditioning is on.
Yeah, that’s a whopping 46.05 kWh used in one day. We are normally around 10-12 kWh/day. Ugh.

Now, the graph above shows the cost per hour to run the AC (and I think the dryer must have been on to cause the spike around noon) but let’s remember that these rates are not the real rates we’re paying per kWh consumed. The real rate for the 2011 Summer Season for Off-Peak is more like 12.00892¢/kWh (based on Urban High Density and before tax).

So, 46.05kWh is going to cost $5.53 (plus tax) and not the $2.72 shown by the graph. Guess we’ll be selecting our cooling days a little more diligently.

The best part of this whole deal is that it was a Sunday and thus the whole day is at the Off-Peak rate. We would have just hidden in the basement all day if it was a week day. :)

Natural Gas Standby Generator

I was recently looking at natural gas standby generators on the Costco website. Given the current electricity rates during peak Time of Use hours, I then started wondering what the cost per kWh was for a natural gas standby generator. Especially considering how low the natural gas prices have been.

So let’s do some math. Fun!

According to EnergyShop.com, natural gas is currently 25.04¢/m³ in my area. That includes all of the “add ons” that are over and above the posted natural gas rate. It excludes taxes though. As we saw before, your real electricity rate is not the same as what is “advertised” by Hydro One. We need to add in a number of extra charges to get the real rate. With the recent switch to the summer Time of Use pricing, the advertised rates increased.

Based on the current Hydro One Residential Delivery Rates, the real Time of Use prices are (based on Urban High density) 12.01¢/kWh for off-peak, 15.24¢/kWh for mid-peak and 17.18¢/kWh for peak usage. Again, these are the rates without taxes added (and minus some monthly charges that don’t translate well into a per kWh price).

So, let’s take the Generac 17 kW Standby Generator that is available on the Costco website, and figure out the cost per kWh. According to the website, it is capable of producing 16kW using natural gas and consumes 6.9m³/h at full load. So, that translates to 2.32kWh/m³ at full load. Given the current natural gas rate in my area, that means the standby generator costs 10.80¢/kWh.  WHAT?

Well, hang on, let’s not get too carried away with this. Natural gas prices are currently at all time lows.  Let’s see how much it would cost with the ~50¢/m³ that we were paying a couple years ago.  At that price, the generator costs 21.55¢/kWh to run.

Let’s not forget about the cost of the generator – $3699.99 plus around $1000 of installation/other costs (based on some rough numbers I found while Googling). To cover that, you’d have to run the “standby” generator at full load during Time of Use on-peak time for about 67142 hours all while hoping that the natural gas price doesn’t go up. Oh, and don’t forget that peak time is only for about 6 hours a day and only 5 days a week.

Oh well, that satisfied my curiosity.

Well, almost.  I poked around a bit and found a couple industrial natural gas generator sets. Unfortunately most of the large scale (2500kW – 3000kW) units I found didn’t have fuel consumption values. The $500k for a used (with no warranty) 3000kW generator set was interesting. (Yikes!)

I did manage to find the Kohler Power 400RZX which is 400kW natural gas generator. It’s capable of around 3.3kW/m³ at full load or a cost of 7.5¢/kWh. Of course, no price is listed so I’m going to assume its payoff time would be greater than the 67000+ hours of the Generac unit.