Jan 13 2011

when the inside of your house is colder than the inside of your refrigerator… [day 230]

Here in North Texas, we’re a little spoiled by the not-too-cold winter temperatures.  We get our once a year snowfall, but generally our low’s are still above freezing.  This was not so 2 days ago, when the low, including the wind chill factor, was to dip into the single digits.

I’m always cold, but it seemed unusually cold in my house.  I thought, “Great.  The heater is acting up again.”  This usually means a trip out to the garage, flip the breaker, mess with the thermostat, then up to the attic, all in efforts to find the right combination of flipping switches on and off to achieve heat.  This has been a ritual since I moved in the house 4 years ago.

This time, the ritual was to no avail.  The heat was out and it was not going to work.  I don’t know much about gas furnaces, but I do know a little bit about electric ones.  Mine’s gas.  And, of course, these things only happen during extreme temperatures.  I called my friend **Keith, as he and his twin brother own a heating and A/C repair company.  I knew it would be the next day before he came out and we decided to stay the night and bundle up warm.  It seemed like a good idea at the time…

My oldest decided to sleep in his room upstairs, the youngest in my bed.  A little after midnight, the fire smoke detector starts going off.  *I had turned off the heater before going to sleep, knowing something was seriously wrong with it.  The smoke detector turned off before I had a chance to get up and deal with it.  Again, a quirky thing in my house, this alarm has been malfunctioning for a couple of years now.  It’s in my son’s room, the one that’s sleeping upstairs.  If you think these smoke alarms will wake your kids, think again.  It’s right over his bed and did not wake him.  After it went off for the 7th or 8th time, and finally wouldn’t turn off, I figured I better go deal with it.  I moved my son to my room, got the ladder out and took it down, trying to shield my ears from the piercing sound.   And yes, I checked to see if it was also a carbon monoxide alarm, and it’s not.

Keith called me back in the morning, and just to be sure, I changed the batteries in the thermostat, cleaned the contacts and tried again.  Nothing.  Keith came out, and the culprit was the main circuit board.  You can see the spot where it blew out on the green side.  On the flip side, there was another bad spot which had started to burn under the resistors to the right.  So, which news would you like first, the good or the bad?

Bad news: The circuit board is fried and needs replacing.  This is not only the board for the furnace, but for the A/C as well.

Good news: My house didn’t catch on fire.   Continue reading


Aug 22 2010

solar panel dilemma [day 87]

I had a great idea!  Solar panels on my house.  They have some great tax incentives, and with the energy savings, that has to be a great plan, right?

I called to get some pricing and to see if my home is a good candidate.  I wasn’t sure if it would be since I have many trees.  The guy on the phone was a huge help.  He asked me some questions about the size of my house and my current energy usage.  He seemed surprised when I told him.  Apparently I use a lot less than other people with the same size house.  Some of that is probably due to my large trees.  He pulled up my house on Google maps, and it felt a little big brotherish when he asked if I had a trampoline and described my property perfectly.  Turns out I have a spot and am a good candidate.

Sit down.  The price for the basic system starts at $23,000.00.  I thought maybe he said it wrong.  I was thinking $10,000.00 maybe?  After tax credits and rebates, my out of pocket would still be over $11,000.00.  Ouch.  Way more than I can afford.  It would also be a while before it paid for itself.  Not to mention I will need a new roof in the next few years and it’s $1500.00 to move them and put them back.  Double ouch.

I did hear the technology is changing rapidly and these might be more affordable in a few years.  Maybe I should get a windmill instead?  I haven’t priced those yet.  And I don’t have an HOA.  If I did, that would require a new blog on how many days before I’m kicked out.  :)


Jun 16 2010

recycling the recycling conversation [day 19 & 20]

On day 14 of the challenge, I blogged about a recycling program I set up at our church building.  I have received some emails about my “free recycling program”, challenging me with the question, “Is it ethical?”

Let me start by saying these people have some very points, and I do take this very seriously.  If I in anyway thought this would be a problem, not only would I have not done it, but I also wouldn’t be encouraging everyone else to join in on it.  There’s something else you should know, these comments (as far as I know) are from people that don’t personally know me.  They were sent to me anonymously through someone I do know.  With that being said, I’m glad to see some opposing views, as it opens the door to some awesome conversations.  I encourage your feedback!  Please feel free to post your comments on my blog, good or bad.  I think debate about critical issues is a good and healthy process.

Issue #1: Confidentiality

Someone was worried that we were recycling confidential papers that might have information about people in our church.  We have a shredder and all of that type of paper is shredded.  No worries there.  :)

Issue #2: Residential vs. Commercial

Instead of trying to paraphrase this, I’m going to quote this person.

“The question of ethics still remains. The recycling program set up for a business is set up for a business. The recycling program for a home is set up for a home because they assume the volume will be less and there are typically more homes in a city than there are businesses so the cost evens out to a lower amount per home based on volume.  So by taking the business recycling to your home, you are circumventing the city regulations/rules/costs, etc. by using your home instead. If everyone starts to do this, then the cost of the home recycling item on residential bills would need to increase to help pay for it. Long shot that it would be a volume buster but you never know. I’m pretty certain the city wouldn’t really want for this to happen. Just not sure it’s an ethical thing for the church to be doing.”

I believe this person has a great point.  My thought is that we are simply filling up the leftover space in our bins.  Extra pick-ups cost more and nobody is bringing that much home.

Issue #3: Why bring it home?

Again, I’ll just share what I received.

“I don’t get why you have to take the recycling home when you can just take it to a recycling pick up place.  They have several in (our city).  Don’t they have those in other towns?  We almost always fill up our recycle bin, so I wouldn’t just take some home from church to throw in mine.  I personally think it’s in poor taste  for a church to suggest this, even though it does save them money.”

Again, I take these comments seriously and my intention was to be a good steward of God’s resources.  So after all of the feedback, I decided to take a little field trip.  My kids and I visited the recycling center here in Frisco.

The Scoop on Recycling

I looked around at the recycling center.  It’s been a while since I’ve been over there, and they still have the fun painted recycling containers.  We went inside and I found someone that could answer my recycling questions.  I told her where I work, explained in detail the program I set up and my reasons for doing it.  Then I asked the big questions, “Is this unethical?  Is it okay to utilize the extra space in our bins?”  She suggested that we bring it to the center and gave me the hours of operation.  The home bins are not a problem, however, due to the nature of our business type recycling, they have specific bins for paper and cardboard.  It’s not a problem to bring some of it home, but it does make their jobs easier if we bring it to the center.

The Solution

I will modify the program to bring everything to the center and only use home bins for small loads or overflow if needed.  Once this is in place, we will be able to expand our recycling to plastic, cardboard and other materials.  My son also decided to get a bin for recycling batteries.  We can bring those to the center as well.

Also, someone suggested I contact a few local schools.  Some of the schools have programs for recycling where they get credit or financial benefits for the amount the collect.  If any of those apply in our local schools, we will work with them.

One last thing.  I’m teaching this stuff to my kids, not only the recycling part, but the process of finding creative solutions to making our planet a better place.  I very much appreciate the people that gave their time to voice concerns.  Their input prompted me to do more research, and in the long run, will make this program successful in many ways.  If there are other concerns or questions out there, please post them.  This is my intended purpose for trashsociety.com.  I want to start people thinking creatively…   How we can significantly cut down our waste?   Why is that even important?  If you’re reading this, then you must be somewhat interested, or really bored.  😉

Here’s some  more pics from the recycling center…