Prepping, homesteading and living the simple, green, independent life.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Control Your Home Thermostat On the Internet!

Today a fellow from our natural gas company came by to install a new thermostat as part of the Peaksaver program that we signed up for.
If you haven't heard of Peaksaver, basically what it does is allow the Ontario government electricity provider to turn off your central air conditioner for 30 minutes during periods of high demand.  This is supposed to help reduce demand and prevent blackouts (though considering the Toronto blackout that happened during the Queen's visit it doesn't seem to be working).
I had heard of Peaksaver years ago and was originally dead set against having the government controlling my air conditioner; however a few months ago more details and new incentives flipped me to the other side:
1) A Free Programable Thermostat
I haven't had good experiences with programable thermostats; they never seem to work properly!  We tried programming our current one but for some reason it never worked. In winter we had set it to go down to 20 degrees while we were at work and to go back up an hour before we got home.  A number of times when we got home however the thermostat was at 16!
Hopefully the one they installed will work properly.  At the very least it can't work worse than what we already have.
2) The Ability to Set Thermostat Over the Internet
This is really what sold me on signing up for this program.  I'd like to be able to monitor the temperature in our home while at work or on the road with my iPhone.  I can't stand hot humid days so it would be great to be able to come home to a cool home if we had forgot to turn on the AC before leaving.
3) Turning Off the A/C Won't Affect Us
According to the Peaksaver website, they only shut off the air conditioner for 30 minutes during which time your furnace fan will still run and blow cool air.
Secondly they only turn off the A/C during peak hours which are weekdays between 1:00 PM and 6:00 PM.  We don't get home from work until about 4:30 so we probably wouldn't notice it.
They also don't turn off the A/C during weekends and holidays either.
Lastly, we usually only use our A/C for a week or two the whole summer.  We've got two big maples that shade our house and we open the windows at night and close them during the day to trap in the cool air.
There are other minor incentives like a $25 credit on your utility bill and helping the environment but to be honest, these didn't really interest me.
I'll update later on how things are going and post any problems we have.  In the end the thing that really finalized my decision to try Peaksaver was the sentence, "You can opt out at any time".

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Happy Day!: The Water Bill Arrived!

After being shocked a few months ago with a water bill of over $240 I decided to do a few things to cut down on our water use.
We converted our main toilet to a dual-flush and installed a water saving device on the second (haven't switched it over to a dual yet). We also installed a new low-flow shower head and have generally tried to be more conscious of how much water we've used.
Since then I've been looking forward to our next water bill to see how much we cut down on our water usage and it arrived yesterday.
It went from 79 cubic meters to 46!
That's a big reduction.  Almost too big a reduction for just the few changes we made so this got me to thinking about what could be different between the two bills. 
After a few minutes it hit me...we had a new baby back in the fall during the period of the first bill.
The extra loads of laundry that had to be done separately with a gentle baby soap could be why the last water bill was so high.  The water for baby formula and baths probably didn't help either
With this in mind I checked our last water bill from before the baby was born: 58 cubic meters.
I think this amount of 58 was probably our average, but with the baby laundry no longer washed separately and the conservation steps we took, it dropped to 46.
So really our drop is probably more like 58 cubic meters to 46.  Still pretty good I think.
What will be very interesting is to see how much lower our bill will go with the new high efficiency washer and dryer set we got last week (which I'll post about later when I have a chance).