The Electricity Quandary

The Electric Power Suppliers of North America (and Europe) are in an interesting quandary these days, in that they are trying to get consumers (and businesses) to limit their power usage, because the power grids may not be able to deal with the growing load being put on them.

In Ontario there is a program to get a new “Smart” Thermostat that claims it will lower your power costs, because it can lower your usage during peak hours, but those kind of “Smart” thermostats have been around a very long time (in fact there are now two new “Even Smarter” thermostats from Nest and from Honeywell, which allegedly “think” for you, and you can use from your “smart” phone).

The big difference with the Hydro One peaksaver PLUS® thermostat is the following interesting feature:

On hot summer days when electricity demand is highest, peaksaver PLUS® signals your thermostat to slightly reduce your central air conditioner's energy demand so that it safely uses less electricity.

So Hydro One now has the option to turn off your A/C, if there is a heavy load on the grid? I think this is actually a very good thing (since most of the time they are going to want to do this, I am going to be at work), and it will save consumers some money too (unless there is a charge to do this?).

There are even tweets outlining how to behave with your Air Conditioning:

This wasn't that long ago either

This wasn’t that long ago either

The whole electric power equation is an interesting miasma of many orthogonal goals, which are counter to each other:

  • Old power plants are thought to be very dirty and bad for the environment, so new energy sources are needed, but we seem to be jettisoning our old power sources faster than we are creating new power sources.
  • A reliable power source is never cheap (the word reliable always means more expensive) because there is a need for backups, and over arching control to deal with fluctuations in power.
  • Green power is new(er) and is less reliable (for now). If you count Hydro Electric power as Green then this argument is mute, but for some reason Hydro electric is not “Green”.
  • New Power sources are still being improved on (photo voltaic cells being an excellent example (i.e. Solar Power)).

No-Fee Scotiabank Value Visa

All of this to say here may be some of the reasons that your Electric bills are starting to go up a great deal. Keep this in mind this summer as the temperatures rise and the possibility for BlackOuts due to system overload become a possibility. Is it really 11 years since the black out of 2003 ?

What is the demand in Ontario right now? Click here and see the pretty demand graph we created today.

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The Perils of Home Ownership

This past weekend, my wife and I had a small crisis with our house, which made me again wonder if renting a home might not have been simpler at the end of it all. Every year you must to turn off the spigot in the garage (and maybe in the back of your house) in the fall, or it may freeze up and crack. Last year I forgot to do this and sure enough something in the pipes split and we ended up with a fair amount of water in the basement. It wasn’t enough to worry about an Insurance Claim, but it was one hell of a mess.

I Should Have Turned THIS off in the Fall

I Should Have Turned THIS off in the Fall

Michael James has railed and lampooned me for what a huge mess I have in my basement, well, I can assure him that there is a lot less mess, because we have had to throw out a great deal of stuff that was in cardboard boxes  (and that should have been thrown out a long time ago).

It’s interesting the things that I found down there, such as:

  • Tax Returns going back to 1981 (I am destroying those not of this century).
  • Lots of art work from our kids (who are all at University). Strangely for my 8 year old son we don’t have any art work.

Anyhow, the moral of this story is many fold so let me count it (as is my love of numbered lists):

  1. Turn off the interior faucet (if you have one) for your outside faucets (and if you don’t have an interior cut off, you might want to get one).
  2. If your basement is full of cardboard boxes sitting on the floor, you mustn’t care much about what is in there because it doesn’t take much water to destroy those.
  3. Go through your records and only keep those things that are needed (32-year-old tax returns are not needed, except for a good laugh about how much I made as a co-op student).
  4. If you hear water running in your house, but you can’t find any open faucets, check your basement FIRST.
  5. Always know where the water shut off is for your house (and if you need a wrench or vice grips to shut it off, have one near by).

My, that was an interesting weekend.

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Tire Storage the Business

So in the fall I wrote a slightly off colour piece Do You Store Your Tires, where I bragged about my wife’s rack (the tire storage rack that I include in this post, because I am very proud of it), but after retrieving my tires from my mechanic I learned something more interesting about the ever growing business of “storing our stuff” (to quote the Late George Carlin from Brain Droppings).

A very Nice Rack

A very Nice Rack

Someone at my mechanic’s shop pointed out that they stored over 1600 sets of tires this past winter, and I thought, “WOW! That is a lot of stuff!”.

That is more than 6400 tires stored somewhere (actually it was being stored in a set of storage containers (a big (but not huge) place to keep your stuff) beside his property.  I guess if you have the space, storing your customers tires is a service that is in high demand, but I was just floored by how many tires that was.

Will I be storing my tires next winter? I am hoping I don’t because I plan on putting a shed on my property where I can store that kind of stuff (tires, lawnmower, snow blower, bikes, etc.,), because I have a lot of stuff . Is it cheaper for me to store my own stuff, or to pay someone to keep my stuff somewhere else (where I might have to call to go look at my stuff)? I don’t know, but I don’t feel safe leaving my stuff somewhere else, I like having my stuff close by, to make sure no one is fooling with my stuff.

Every time I turn around when I am driving in a rural area there is yet another “store your crap here” business popping up, so storing your stuff must be a growing business. Where I live in Ottawa storage is a booming business where folks store their stuff, their RV’s (which are places with wheels to store stuff, which then need to be stored when you aren’t using them), and other stuff.

At the end of it all, Mr. Carlin had it right when he said, “A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”, do you store your stuff, or do you not have enough stuff to worry about it?

Some crazy folks get rid of their stuff, but what if they needed it later? I like my stuff, but I am not sure I like paying to store it, maybe I just need a bigger house to put my stuff in?

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Things to Look For When Browsing for a New House

It’s been a while since Mrs. C8j and I purchased the Big Cajun Estate (actually about 13 years ago now), but I noticed that many folks are talking about what to look for in a house when you are out buying a house, so I’d like to pass on a few of the things that I (or friends of mine) learned while looking for the “house of their dreams“, or maybe just the “house of their reality“.

Being On the Level is Important

One of My Favorite Albums - Status Quo - On The Level


Mrs. C8j and I were looking at a very nice house one time, and the visit was going well until I walked into one of the bedrooms. I had been having a few late nights, so I suddenly felt off kilter, like I was about to fall over, so I sat down on the bed. Mrs. C8j wandered in and had this odd look on her face and said, “What is with the floor?”.

I stood up and realize that the floor actually sloped into one of the corners and that “off kilter” sensation I had, was the floor itself not being level.

Bring a level with you to a house viewing and start checking if walls are actually vertical and if the floors are level, you may be surprised what you find.

Look for a Flush of Success

Plumbing is really important in your house (anyone who says otherwise hasn’t had to snake out a backed up toilet) so the old trick of flushing toilets and seeing if the water pressure drops is a great tip, but I find if you simply wander around the house constantly turning on and off taps and flushing toilets you will annoy the vendors to no end (or at least their sales rep). Also look for water stains behind toilets and if you are in the basement see if you can see under bathroom floors to see if there have been any “floods” in the house.

Model Home Sounds Nice Doesn’t It?

Never buy the Model Home, I have written about this before, but seriously, this house was slapped up quickly and may not even be to code.

Bluffing Works in Poker and House Buying As Well

Definately NOT the Big Cajun Estate

More than once, I have made off-handed comments to my wife while looking at a house, which I thought were innocuous, but which has caused an outpouring of information from the vendor.  This won’t work with real professionals who know how to sell, but if you are dealing with folks who are “doing it themselves”, sometimes an innocent sounding comment can give you a lot of information.

An example might be a comment like “What is that smell?”, when you walk into the basement, if the vendor replies quickly with “What smell, I don’t smell anything, there are no smells here, not an odor to be smelled!”, and get very nervous, you should pursue this a lot more. If the vendor sniffs with you and shrugs their shoulders, then maybe there isn’t anything to worry about, but who knows?

Notice What is On the Walls

Mrs. C8j and I looked at a house once, and in the master bedroom, was a large framed photo, of a buxom woman, topless in the middle of a tropical lagoon setting, smiling at the camera. Mrs. C8j didn’t really notice, but let me tell you, I didn’t miss it. I smiled knowingly, and as we were finishing our viewing, the home owners came home and I was surprised to see that the buxom model in the picture was in fact one of the homeowners.

As we left Mrs. C8j asked me why I had that goofy grin on my face, so I explained what I had seen. To this day she claims I am making this story up. Yes, this story has nothing to do with buying a house, just a funny story I like to tell, but we also didn’t buy that house.

Microsoft Canada

 Photographic Memory

I don’t remember details much (even less as I grow older), but if you can convince the vendor, bring a video camera and tape your visit, so you can go back over the house later. We still have the video from when we had the house inspection done on the Big Cajun Estate, and noticed lots of things that were different, nothing big, so no point in calling the lawyers, however, good to know in case something bigger had happened. You may not be able to convince your vendor to allow you to videotape, but the vendor may also have a video they will give you of the house, either way, good to have a video of a possible future home.

Which House Did I Buy?

If you buy a house, or a town house, make sure you bought the house you want (and not another house accidentally). A dear friend bought his first town home, after seeing 3 different homes in the same housing complex, but it was only on the day he moved in that he realized that he hadn’t bought the house he thought he had. Saying on move in day, “I don’t think this is the house I bought” is a little late to notice your error. Before you sign anything make sure you are buying the house you want.

Who do You Work For?

I always have an issue if you end up using the same agent as the vendor for your purchase. Who is your agent really working for? I am sure most agents would “poo poo” my concerns, but I am a naturally untrusting person, this just seems wrong to me.

Hopefully your purchase will go smoothly, but remember to be thorough in your due diligence before buying.

 

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Do You Store Your Tires

My mechanic who installs my snow tires offers a service to store tires for $12.50 a tire per season (so about $50 plus tax for the winter). We store my wife’s tires, since they are on rims, however we don’t store the tires for my car (they aren’t on rims). My car’s tires are loose and tend to take up some space in my garage, and has been one of the reasons why my car would not fit into our garage (a double car garage).

Mrs. C8j noticed that Canadian Tire had a “Black Friday” (yeh right) sale on a wall mounted tire rack for $56 (around), and I had been dithering about how this was going to be the year we try to fit my car into the garage (my wife’s van fits with little work), so it seemed like this past weekend we were going to try to fit both cars into our garage.

Saturday was the day, thus we spent a good amount of time, throwing things out and then playing garage Tetris, but thanks to mounting my tires on the wall, and some judicious destruction, and decluttering, my car actually fits into the garage.

A very Nice Rack

The interesting part of all of this is that the cost of the rack is about the same cost as we paid for my wife to have her tires stored. So in some ways this rack paid for itself, if I had stored my tires (and as you can see from the picture, I actually have other stuff that I can stuff into the rack).

At the end of it we continue to play garage Tetris, to see what the optimal set up for the cars and the snowblower is, but Mrs. C8j also points out that maybe we need a backyard shed to store the remaining stuff (others might say, just have less stuff).

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