Friday, October 31, 2008

end of quite a month

Well, God saw fit that my mission work would move up the road a little ways. I changed shifts twice this month, took a little road trip and now I have gotten transferred to a different section of the corporation I work for.

A few more miles to drive, and many new people to meet. I guess that is what being a local missionary is all about. I should have seen it coming. For several months, I was getting more questions from the Christians (and the christians) around me, but lately I have been seeing no change in those whom I was sent to. Now I am sent to others. And my bosses think it was their idea. :)

This month I just scratched the surface on batteries, generators, and energy. While lighting is really the least of the energy debate, it makes the news so often that I have written several articles on compact fluorescent lights and LED's. Maybe in the near future I will get around to more important issues of heating, air conditioning, and transportation.

I also opened, but didn't follow up on corporate misbehavior of Bank of America. My ire at them tends to spike from time to time, but I guess I should expect no less than the lowest base behavior, since they are a multinational multibillion dollar corporation (read: national government) interested only in making a lot of money for a few rich people (read: despotic).

I also touched on some of the problems with our elections, with ACORN buying votes, and both parties treating us like we are mushrooms. I did the latter in the blog of one of my main spiritual mentors.

This election will soon pass, but that only means we have more years (Lord willing) ahead of us to prepare for future elections. Hopefully, I will be able to post here some wisdom on how to make our voices heard by our nation's leadership.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Trip Report

I celebrated my apparent miscalculation on gas prices this fall by taking a trip to see some people that I don't get to see very often. The massive downturn in the economy, sparked by some slimeballs in the politically driven lending business has had an upside. Lower gas consumption has led to (rocket science alert) lower gas prices.

While the road trip was largely uneventful (praise God), a couple of things did stick out. First, I stayed at the M-Star Motel, formerly known as the Royalty Inn in Searcy Arkansas. While this place is rated as only one star, I would give it at least two stars because it has so consistently delivered good quality service.

The other thing I noticed is that while it has become more important than ever to keep your tires inflated, it seems to be getting harder to find an air hose to do so. Not a good commentary on our society.

Monday, October 13, 2008

paying for voters

Seems I need to make another one of my "off the cuff" rants, this morning. I just got through reading a couple pieces about ACORN, and a light popped on in my mind. Something rotten hit me that maybe should have dawned on me long ago.

Reading this piece from Fox News, I noticed two small, insignificant attempts to stop using federal dollars to fund ACORN . (I say small cause they totaled less than a dozen congressional voices)

Using federal dollars to fund ACORN? Yes, we seem to be using federal dollars to sign up voters - mostly liberal voters, of course. (Wonder if we are using federal dollars to fund get out the vote drives for conservative voters, too?)

In a statement defending itself ACORN all but admits that it actually pays workers to get filled out voter registration cards to the registrars. Of course, its aim was to keep us from seeing that, by saying they pay by the hour, but it seems they have a criteria that so many cards need to be filled out in each hour. ACORN is "proud of this unprecedented success" (their own words) at using taxpayer moneys to back liberal interests.

The mere fact that we are spending taxpayer money to sign up voters should be very disturbing. It is only one small step from using taxpayer money to pay for votes.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Cost of Electricity - Batt and Gen

There is simply no way to discuss energy, whether alternative sources of energy or ways to conserve it, without an understanding of what energy costs. The cost varies dramatically, depending on what kind of energy, where it is coming from, and what it is being used for. This is why I advocate for LED's for flashlights, but not for my living room light.

There is also no way for an individual to predict the exact costs of their energy use, but reasonable calculations can be made. Here I will make some reasonable calculations for different kinds of electric power sources that might be available during power outages, camping, working outdoors, or other times when the commercial power is not easily available. (As we shall see, commercial electricity is one of the most cost effective sources of energy available to the individual.)

To make this survey more readable, I will make calculations for all costs in US$ per Kilo Watt Hour (KWH), just to limit the use of very small numbers. (So I will say commercial power is $.15 per KWH, rather than $.00015 per watt hour)

One of the most expensive sources of electricity is the common, throw away battery. Using a reasonable cost per battery of $.35 for AA and $.80 for D cells, and a reasonable power yield of 2 watt hours for AA alkaline Batteries and 15 watt hours for D-Cell alkaline Batteries will automagically provide:
$175 per KWH for AA cells
$53.33 per KWH for D cells

(You don't even want to think of the cost for the coin shaped cells used in watches and hearing aids, which I have also seen in headlamps that fit on the bill of a cap)

The most common small rechargeable batteries today are NiMH based. AA sized batteries of this type can reasonably put out 1.5 watt hours for each of over 667 recharge and discharge cycles. It typically takes 50% more electricity to charge them than you get back each time, so these numbers add up to 1 KWH for ($.23 in electricity and the $2.27 cost of the battery) $2.50. This of course ignores the cost of the battery charger, but that might not be too much of a factor if you are using several batteries. This is not really the ideal for this kind of battery, so really judicious use of rechargeable batteries, or use of larger ones could make the cost much less. It does require a commitment, however, to use the batteries throughout their (typically two year) life span.

A 3kw Honda generator set, providing 2KW continuous, uses about one gallon of gasoline every 3 hours, and requires 1/2 maintenance ($15, including oil and spark plug) every 50 hours. After 900 hours this would be $135 for maint and $1200 for gas (at $4/gal) = $1335.
Generator cost about $2000, and after 900 hours could be worth $1000
1800KWH for $2335 = $1.3 per KWH

This is an almost ideal usage pattern for a generator set, and normal use would be intermittent and variable loads. True cost per KWH for a small gasoline powered generator would likely be two or more times as much.

Typical throw away flashlight batteries . . . $50 to $175 per KWH
Typical gasoline generator electric power. . . $1.30 or more per KWH
Typical rechargeable batteries . . . . . . . . . . . . $2 to $3 per KWH (or less)
Typical household electric power . . . . . . . . $0.15 per KWH

Now, knowing somewhat, the cost of energy, it is possible to begin discussing ways to reduce energy costs and return on investment for various energy saving or energy producing products.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

car and credit scammers

There are some calls going around, mostly to cell phones, but also to land lines.

They care not about the do-not-call-list

I found some interesting intell on them.
Approach with caution, everything is not as it seems.

Thanks, Cameo, whoever you are.


UPDATE: The calls just keep coming. They spoof the caller ID to show various numbes. I found a web site cataloging the caller ID numbers, and there are hundreds of them. I just cannot be convinced that, with CALEA and other technologies, the FTC cannot track these people down. Especially when Cameo (above) was able to, and found they are operating inside the US.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Efficient lighting pt 3

In the first two articles, I promoted the virtues of the newer CFL's. But, while they have come a long way, they are still not perfect. After much searching and measuring of CFL's, I am still not satisfied with the state of the art.

This is not to say I don't think they are a good idea, I do think we should be heading that way, but we (as a society) are not there yet. The best "green" products should put "green" in our pockets. If they don't, we need to rethink them. CFL's put green in our pockets, but only when they fit in the sockets and when they get a lot of use (like my desk, stove, garage, and reading lamps). A quick count says I have about 10 CFL's and 10 regular light bulbs in use in my home. These numbers probably won't change much for a couple years.

LED lamps for household use are not really ready for prime time, yet, but there may be exceptions. Several kinds of Christmas lights (and I assume similar lights for other functions or holidays) use LED's. Also, a standard night light uses over $5 a year in electricity. I have found some LED night lights that cost less than $3 each (and use about $.25 a year in electricity) making them worthwhile if you just need something so you won't stub your toe in the dark. The problem I had with the reading lamp was the cost, which was in excess of $30, making even a single failure unacceptable.

I tackled efficient household lighting because it seems to be on every body's mind. Talked about in the press, and advertised on TV. But in reality, it is a pretty small part of the picture, dwarfed by the costs of air conditioning, construction, manufacturing, and transportation. This is one reason cost of the light bulbs is so important - it represents energy use in manufacturing and transporting the light bulbs to you. And if there is no payback on that, there is no payoff in energy conservation.

Some useful links:
usatoday 2008-02-28-light-bulb_N.htm

EnergyInvestmentStrategies dot com 2008 cfl-problems coming to light - good news for leds

energystar partners/downloads/meetings/Karney.pdf

Scientific American - the switch is on

stupidevilbastard-comments (the days of the incandescent light bulb in the US are numbered)

forums CNet message thread

BuildersSquare dot com Light Bulbs Buying Guide 45