Skip to main content

Life in the slow lane?

My dearly beloved, a.k.a my wife has made me promise NOT to spend more than an hour per day blogging – problem: so much to say, so little time! With 20 plus, plus years of writing about everything from local politics to the greens to solar power versus nuclear power, to counselling, to short stories, to reading and researching Van Gough , i need an outlet for these remnants of thoughts and past memories. I have to say, that my practical side is coming out – i wired up a new switching system for our fish pond pump yesterday – all went well until i turned it on – you guessed -it – PUFF – not only did i burn the pump out but i blew the fuse on the switchboard – $400 later the electrician (read ‘sparky’) left, trying to hide his grin……

I am planning to get back into 12 volt technology and possibly install solar power in the farm out houses soon. No time for retiring i say. The dear Lady (capital ‘L’) is quite happy that i am so occupied in my retirement – i think she thoght i might cramp her style – no way!

Ramblings of a ‘retired’ blogging ex-writer…………..

Pennies and Power Bills – Oh Dear!

Well, after completing my last contract writing job i realised the pennies might not last forever. Life in the slow lane is expensive we have found. Last weeks power bill came in at $1200 – unbeleivable, as winter’s not yet here. My dear wife called my son in law who is an engineer (electrical) and energy auditor / guru(!). He sent his mate Brian around , who is a professional ‘ energy saver’. Very interesting as he  spent 3 hours conducting an extensive indoor and outdoor audit of my home and prepared a report which outlined recommendations for increasing the energy efficiency of my home, and reviewed it with me prior to departing.  I was extremely impressed with the professionalism and efficiency of Brian and his other offsider Tom.  They arrived on time, and after a cuppa, worked continuously examining the attic, basement, all appliances, doors and windows, while performing a number of technical tests i knew nothing about like a  blower door test.  He had asked for my electric and gas bills an she was able to provide me with graphs showing how I could reduce my utility bills if I implemented some strategies that she had suggested.  I was extremely impressed with the work performed by the company and the report prepared by the company will be a valuable tool for me as I make improvements to my property to reduce my electric and gas bills and very kindly , he did all this for free – what are friends for!


Thats the GOOD news, the bad news is what he found – this might get expensive!!


1. The insulation found in our home was less than EPA recommendation for the DC area is area and not up to the building code. Insulation in the attic pays for itself in 3 to 4 years, and also has an impact in the home’s comfort. We were recommended to install baffles to direct the air over the insulation and stop it from touching the roof, weather-stripping and insulating the attic hatch, and adding more insulation.

2. The gaps around the plumbing penetration under the kitchen and bathroom sinks were allowing cold air to seep in. We were recommended to plug these leaks with foam – a ten minute project.

3. He found cold air seeping in where the brick meets the siding outside the house. Sealing these areas with caulk or foam can make a big difference in utility costs and comfort..


Ok, i am getting boring i know – my first post , but i am VERY proud to say , by watching this youtube clip that i fixed the window seals my very self! – Not bad for a 60 year+ journo eh?



The 12 Volt Man Arises!

When my uncle came home from WWII, he moved with his wife, to a small farm in Sylacauga, Al. He mounted a surplus airplane fuel tank on tower and at the the end of the day there was plenty of hot water to go around. Imagine, solar hot water, raised-bed organic gardening, and self-sufficiency in the 1940’s. These ideas aren’t new, they’re just still right. Anyway this got me thinking (oh dear, you say!). My uncles journal that he kept for 50 years had an amazing story of his love of electrical stuff and 12 volt applications – he wrote, for example:

“Everything I have, lights, radio, tv is powered by rechargeable AAA, AA, C or D batteries EXCEPT the laptop which has a 12 volt “car adapter” which is recharged via a 100 watt panel. I recharge the batteries with small solar battery chargers that are one complete self contained unit. I don’t use refrigeration or air conditioning. I use propane for cooking.
I am thinking about checking into small solar powered fans if i can find one packaged as a unit and has enough storage to run a few hours after dark. I am also looking into home made genorators that ae human powered for those bad weather days that you have to stay in and get restless.  Most of my lights are three led lights that i picked up at big lots for $9 for a package of three and they use AAA batteries. So far i have used one more than the others ( 90 % of the time ) and it still hasn’t drained the first set of batteries that came with it. I also use them for flashlights as they do throw a good beam.
My radio and television are small portables and i would like to get another am/fm/sw/tv combo again that runs on 12vdc, batteries or ac. I think i’ll pick up a couple of the wind up led flashlights that run $14 to $20 and run one hour on one minute’s cranking.” Amazing!! – well on 12 volts at least he wont look like this:



Anyway, this got me thinking about cutting our power bills and how a 12volt house could be a possibility – my dearly beloved is somewhat doubtful i have to say! There seem to be very few LCD monitors and TV’s that can run off 12 volts DC natively. I specifically looked for this with an eye towards being able to run off batteries. I have one monitor only, don’t think it has a composite input, and a TV/Radio/Monitor that has composite, S Video, and SVGA inputs. It may beable to receive HD TV as well, not sure. It says HDTV on the front. Drawback with it is cannot get it into SVGA or Radio (FM Stereo) mode without it’s own remote control. Regarding 12 volt DC satellite receivers, there are very few of those, and hard to find. the few I did find were very overpriced. It does not make as much difference now, but I was planning on living where I would have needed solar/wind/generator for power. But plans change…When I looked for the monitor, and later the TV, I looked at many, and only some had an external power supply, and some of those were higher, likearound 18 volts. Hence many people will need an inverter of some kind to run from a 12 volt battery system, and others could run from a 24 volt battery system, though running an 18 volt unit would mean power loss in a dropping unit/voltage regulator system, or back to the inverter system. I am also a ham radio operator, and all of my ham gear will run on 12-14 volts DC, so no problem there. Computers become another matter. I have one laptop that should, considering the power supply is about 14 volts, and the battery in it is less than 10 volts. I could try it from a 12 volt battery, but am planning to give it away. Might try that anyway. The other two laptops use something like 16 or 18 volt supplies. I have yet to open up one of my satellite receivers. Could be interesting tracing the power supply section. That’s for another time…   Still awake? The next post entry will be more exciting – promise!!