Tag Archives: energy saving

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.

Direct Energy Rental Terms Change

It was recently announced that Direct Energy was changing the rental terms on their hot water tanks. While this isn’t normally a cause for concern for existing customers, Direct Energy decided that they were going to try to move all existing rental customers onto the new contract, without their consent. A form letter was mailed out to all existing customers (basically, anyone who started renting before September 2010 which is when the current rental terms came into effect). This includes some customers who have had the same rental hot water heater for 15+ years!

The biggest problem with this whole fiasco is that they were planning on moving customers without their consent. Basically, a form letter was sent to customers (I don’t seem to have received one yet) that could easily be confused as “addressed junk mail”. Apparently, buried somewhere in this letter is wording that states you will automatically be moved to the new contract unless you call and state you want to remain on the old contract. Well shit! Most people have already tossed the letter as it seems to be about new terms. If you are already on a contract, why would you expect the terms to change on you – it’s a damn contract!

OK, so aside from the shady contract change, what’s different in the new contract? It’s going to be a whole lot more expensive to get out of your rental contract.

The minimum to get out under the new contract is $274. On the old contract it was $75.

But that all depends on the actual water heater you have and it’s age.

User Belfour on the RedFlagDeals.com forum posted the Direct Energy 2012 Buyout Schedule. According to that and using my ~8 year old Polaris 34G as an example, it would cost me $3153 to buy out my tank. That’s insane! I can buy and install a brand new Polaris for not much more than that. On top of that, the buyout prices are going to increase each year.

Ellen Roseman (From The Star) wrote a post Direct Energy curbs competition with new contracts and the first comment from Dave indicates that according to the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule (which is no longer available online) to buyout a 15+ year old Polaris 34G tank it was only $100. Under the new 2012 Direct Energy buyout schedule it is $1092! WTF? What was a 15 year old tank in 2009 is an 18 year old tank now and it’s suddenly almost $900 more to buy it out?

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

And now it seems Direct Energy has realized that they may have just derailed their gravy train with this idiotic attempt to grab more money. According to CTV Toronto, Direct Energy backs down on water tank contract changes.

“We have not communicated this initiative as well as we could have.” – Rob Comstock, senior vice president of Canadian services for Direct Energy

Well, frankly Rob, NO SHIT SHERLOCK!

There’s one big problem with trying to fleece consumers this way – they tend to not forget. I know I won’t forget. I am going to be exploring my options soon to see what I can do about my rented Polaris 34G water heater. While it has been nice having the “included insurance” due to the number of issues we had with the tank, I’m confident now that if a competent installer had been involved (and not Direct Energy installers) I would never had so many problems. Direct Energy has already collected almost $3500 from me in rental fees since we bought this house and you can be damn sure I’m done renting tanks. As long as the “old” contract terms remain in effect, they may get some more rental money while I look but the replacement tank will NOT be rented from Direct Energy.

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.

Polaris Water Heater Error Code 2

Polaris Water Heater error code 2, also known as the Pressure Switch Open failure.

The Polaris Water Heater has an onboard diagnostics system that will flash a red LED to indicate a fault. This LED is visible through a small window on the access panel near the bottom of the hot water tank. By referring to the Polaris manual, you can discover what each of the error codes mean and there’s also a nice flow chart that suggests what to check/fix.

Basically, the Pressure Switch Open (error code 2) indicates that the Ignition Control Module (ICM) is unable to test the air pressure of the incoming fresh air to the unit. This is because it is unable to close the pressure switch to perform the test. Without fresh air coming in, the Polaris Water Heater cannot start a burn cycle as it needs oxygen for combustion. It also needs to ensure it can exhaust the gasses of combustion to prevent Carbon Monoxide (CO) buildup in the house.

The Pressure Switch Open failure is supposed to be a soft lockout (SL) fault. The IGM will try again in 60 minutes and if successful, the unit will resume normal operation.

There are three noted sources of this failure:

  1. There isn’t 24Vac across the pressure switch (no power)
  2. The clear PVC tubing is cracked or has some sort of leak
  3. There is a blockage in the inlet/exhaust air venting

There is now also a fourth possibility. As discovered by Steve, error code 2 can also be caused by frost buildup in low temperature environments (~ -28C or -20F ). There is a technical bulletin available for this issue which describes how to correct the issue. Steve was kind enough to forward the PDF to me that he received from the Polaris Technician.

Polaris Water Heater Technical Bulletin #5002 – Frost Buildup (PDF)

If you have a Polaris Water Heater from roughly June 2008 or newer, error code 2 can also be caused by a dirty air filter. The air filter is located in the air inlet pipe and can be removed for cleaning. An addendum to the Polaris Water Heater user manual is available on the John Wood Water Heater website:

Polaris Water Heater Addendum – Inlet Air Filter (PDF)

If you are still having problems, John Wood provides a form you can use for technical support questions. If you are a US customer you should use the American Water Heaters technical support form. Also note that American Water Heaters has a listing of some Technical Service Bulletins on their website.