Good planning or hubris? Some time after our move to Toronto (2006),
and in consultation with my better half on the half-price sale of a
gas-powered 3kW generator at CTC ($250 - woo hoo!), I picked it up for
proof of concept - it was prior to me moving to a Toronto-based job in
2012, so probably in the 2010-2011 range. It was a bare bones
generator, and after using it to keep the refrigerator, freezer and
lights going following a heavy summer rain/thunderstorm power failure
event, it proved itself in the late December 2013 ice storm power
failure, when we lost electrical service for a day or so in very cold
conditions. We ran the generator successfully with a pretty ad hoc
arrangement of extension cords from the generator outside, through the
inactive mail slot in the side door to the usual refrigerator, freezer
and lights, plus the fan for the fireplace insert to keep the house
warm, and the modem/router/computer and other essential comm services
like the phone. Proof of concept confirmed, but it was available as
backup, so no big rush.
Regardless, after some discussions, the advantage of an alternative
power supply was clear, but the convenienceor lack thereof a basic
generator like the one we had was clear: it relied on me to pull it our
from storage, connect the power cords from the generator to the
appliances and lights on the inside, and pull-start it up. Being a
discount generator, I'd had to replace the pull-cord, and later the
recoil mechanism itself, and the carb (if you buy a gas generator, fill
it with premium fuel, and add stabilizer to extend the carb life). So,
alternative power rating high, implementation rating low.
On the basis of that analysis, we decided to go for an integrated
backup generator system late last year (2019). In early 2020
(pre-Covid-19) we booked a March installation, which was deferrd until
early June due to the circumstances. That workedout well for the plants
in Dawn's back-yard garden. So, the installation went ahead, and aside
from a few locational tweaks, it's seamless.
Fast forward to today. Bear in mind, since June I've been
second-guessing our investment. Not exactly hoping that proof of need
has been overdue,but I'll admit a certain pathological hope for my
risk-exposure acknowledgements to be confirmed: in short, I'd like to
see the power out, to support my investment in alternative power
Today, it hit home. The storm hit, the power dropped. Being the
ultimate techie, I'd already installed UPS devices on our internet
modem and router, along with the computers, to ensure they had power to
bridge when Toronto Hydro dropped out and our generator kicked in
(15-30 seconds).So,in a nutshell, there was no impact: our computers
and the interweb stayed up and active. I was able to keep working over
the entire 6-hour power blackout. That was a relief in this COVID-19
environment, where we're working from home, and I'm glad/relieved that
I can stay connected, despite infrastructure failures like these, and
get my job done. It's also nice to know that we can keep the home
warm,or cool, under the circumstances and as evidenced today keep my
son participating in his virtual summer camp. And that I could cook
dinner at the end of the day.
I'm hoping that we don't need to demonstrate this adaptive response any
time soon, but am relieved that we were able to maintain full
functionality under the circumstances, and we're ready to do so again.
Meanwhile, having had the integrated back up power system installed, we
sold the old generator (for better than our purchase price),and cleared
out a bit of garge space, so win-win.
2019-05-15 Now that winter is over, I've provided a summary on winter biking approaches and strategies.
A minor update on the new comib system: things are working well, though
there are occasional characteristics to figure out, like the hot water
tap can't be used for the hot water trickle effect. Hot water is on, or
not, and the flow-rate has to be high enough too trigger the heat. So,
I had to take out the aerator from the basement washroom and put a
lighter one in, to permit the flow. Likewise, I replaced our two shower
heads, as the waterflow was on the cusp, and led to tepid-hot cycles. I
con't complain much about long, hot showers.
As far as the
economics go, we got our first natural gas bill: previously, it
averaged ~$52-$55 monthly, albeit with a hot water tank rental of $22
or so. First month, minus the tank, plus the combi, was $100. It was a
cold month, and would have been in the $300 range for the oil . So far,
Redux on the statistical analysis of our
heating consumption for the winter of 2018-2019, this time. Once again,
the reiterative query on why, aside from the narrative below? As of
early February, we swapped out the 1946 coal-converted-to-fuel-oil
furnace for a combi, of the Veissman 100-W variety, which provides
on-demand hot water for the radiators and taps. It will take time to
work on the stats, and will likely involve some convoluted conversion
of energy values to compare natural gas with fuel oil
consumption, but that will wait for another season or two of heating
stats (given that we did a mid-season switch). However, we did drain
the tank with heating consumption just before the installation (to the
point where I was enthusiastically using the
fireplace insert to heat the house once the cold weather hit after
I cancelled the refills and the tanks was going below10%
the draining of the tank (didn't quite run out!) probably demonstrates
something close to the final performance test of the insulated house
versus original fuel consumption with the un-modified baseline of
2006-2008. There is no doubt some fudge factor as there was some oil
consumption in the 2018-2019 season leaking over from the
last 2017-2018 refill, but that is likely a pretty minor factor,
given the light end-of-season load on consumption in the late spring.
Anyhoo, the net numbers from this last heating season indicate at
minimum a 50% reduction of consumption on oil consumption, and likely
more (60% by my reading, but I'm an amateur).
I finally caught up to finishing the statistical analysis of our
heating consumption for the winter of 2017-2018. Why, do you ask? Well,
I've tracked these data in a table just to keep up with what we're
using since we bought the house in 2006.
Last summer we did a big reno and, at my urging I
got the inside of the exterior
walls done on the 1st and most of the 2nd floor (the rest having been
covered by earlier renos), replacing the strapping with early gypsum
panels), having absolutely no insulation, with drywall on 2"x"3s on the
strapping (resulting in 2"x4" depth), in exchange for new floors, ceiling, French pocket doors, main drain, and unleaded plumbing. Give and take.
my prior year-over-year fuel consumption numbers were unprocessed.
I wanted to compare numbers as normalized by the type of winter it was
(cold, warm, etc).
I did this by calculating the degree-days
as measured at Pearson airport by Environment Canada, and measuring
fuel consumption against that.
worked out pretty well - even
taking out the first few years here, before we did any real insulation,
fuel consumption was down by 41%: for all years , 45%, and 52%
from before we started insulating some parts of the place .
could normalize that a bit further by taking into account the
maintenance of a higher interior temperature (ca. 2C): another
compromise, but manageable given the overall increase in efficiency,
clemency, and my sloth in not wanting to go through another round of
I'll use these data to determine our needs when
we replace the original furnace (coal, converted to fuel oil) in the
next few years, probably with a combi boiler/on-demand water heater.
Being also too lazy to label, y-axis is litres of
fuel oil per degree day averaged over the winter season of the
respective years (x-axis).
2018-06-13 Well, tonight I received acknowledgement for my 200th (now 202nd, next one is on Saturday) blood or platelet donations to Canadian Blood Services.
I was hoping to make this double century on my personal half-century of
life year, that didn't happen (being 52 for much of last
year). What can you do?
However, it does seem poignant that
I received this recognition on the 40th year after I first
(probably) needed blood, following a multiple-fatality car crash I was
involved in as a passenger.
Did I receive blood then?
Probably, as in my critical medical condition I wasn't aware of much
for the first few days, and progressing from there to serious then
stable, didn't really come to ground for the first few
Regardless, over the course of time, by my
late teens, I started donating whole blood for a decade or two, then
made the grade to platelets and haven't looked back.
doesn't cost anything but a bit of time, the staff are most excellent
at not making you feel those needles, and it's a bit of forced rest on
a comfortable chair, where I can read and wile away an hour or so to my
heart's content. I'd highly recommend it, as would those who are
A few weeks ago, and this Tuesday (the 19th), I'm
making a donation for a specific recipient, which makes it all the more
Think about it. Next time, it could be you.
archaeology - biking
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