Friday, April 19, 2013

GE Geospring Hybrid Water Heater

One of the biggest electric expenses we face as a family is water heating.  It is the second highest use of electricity in the home, next to heating of course.  Last year, I looked into replacing the water heater with a more efficient model.  My friend has a tankless water heater and loves it.  Unfortunately, we are an electric only house, being out in the county and having no supply of gas.  To get an electric tankless, I would have to bring in 50 to 60 more amps for the water heater, plus the expense of the tankless water heater.  With another panel, additional wiring, an electrician to wire it and permits, this would run $3000-4000 and even more if more line is needed from the pole.

Another option is a hybrid water heater that uses a heat pump to heat the water in addition to the electric element.  Heat pumps transfer heat from the air to a heat sink then disperse that in some manner to the water.  Our home uses a heat pump for its heat and it is very efficient, so I like the idea.  Unfortunately, I didn't really want to spend another $1200 for a water heater.  According to estimates a hybrid water heater would save $200 to $300 a year in energy costs for a 4 to 6 year pay back.  Because the heat pump water heater is using heat from the air, I am not sure what the performance will be in the winter versus the summer.  Our garage runs 40 to 50 degrees in the winter and in the summer it gets into the upper 80s.  My assumption is we will have more savings in the summer than in the winter and will not realize the full $300 a year in savings.

At the end of 2011 Sears combined with Smart Water Heat to offer a $600-700 total discount for heat pump hybrid water heaters.  The best water heater I had researched is GE's Geospring water heater.  This water heater normally retails for around $1200, with the instant rebates from Sears I was able to purchase it for $600.  There is also a $300 federal tax credit that I didn't qualify for because I had spent the allowance already on energy improvements.

Most of the reviews on the Geospring water heater were 4 out of 5 stars with failure of the heat pump being the main problem.  Of course, this was on the older models, and the only reviews I found on the newer model that looks like the one I was purchasing was 4.8 out of 5 stars.  GE offers a 10 year warranty on parts, but service is slow according to the reviews.  Sears' extended warranty on the water heater was $450 and who knows if getting parts would be faster, so I skipped it.  For $450, I could almost by a second one.  My backup plan is to keep my existing water heater around and if the Geospring water heater fails and parts take 2 weeks to get, I will just put the old one back in.  That will be some work, but probably worth saving $450.

I picked up my water heater on December 22nd and installed it on the 23rd.  I have never installed a water heater, but the installation was pretty easy.  I cut the power to it at the breaker and turned off the stop valve going into the water heater.  Then I disconnected the water connections, this helped it drain faster.  Draining the water heater took about two hours.  My dad helped me take the old one down off the pedestal and put the Geospring heat pump water heater into place.   That is when the fun began.

I wanted to get it in before Christmas, so I could run out and get parts if I needed them.  Need them I did.  The first problem was that the Geospring water heater is taller than the old water heater.  While this shouldn't be a big problem, bending the existing flexible copper pipes that connect to the hot and cold lines to the new position was a pain.  It felt like I was going to break them they were so stiff.  I decided to replace them with something more flexible.   I had planned for maybe having to replace one but not two, so I only had one on hand.  Off I went on a drive to the plumbing store, 10 miles away.

When replacing the hose to the cold water line I found out, well subconsciously knew already, that a part of the connection to the cold water line was going to have to be replaced.  During the inspection of the house this was pointed out.  The leak went away; therefore, I thought the rubber washer in the hose connection was re-wetted so it fixed itself.  I had no intent to replace it with this water heater.  Before attaching the new connections, I tried to clean up the stop valve as best I could. Cleaning all the deposits out took 15 minutes.  When I turned the water back on, the valve began to leak.  In cleaning the valve I removed the deposits that were stopping it from leaking, opps.  This is when I knew that I need to do the job right and back to the plumbing store I went.

Getting the valve off was a pain.  I turned off the water to the house.  The line drained into the water heater since my connections were still in place.  I used a crescent wrench and lock jaw pilers to crank the valve off.  Of course, I had to take out a piece of drywall around the inlet because the nut was half way into the wall.  Because, I didn't have a pipe wrench I had to use a lot of force and cussing to unlock the value from the inlet. Frustrated and drained, I made a trip to the plumbing supply store again for a new valve.

Replacing the valve only took a few minutes.  I used plumbers tape on the brass threads and attached the valve. It took the next few days to get it to seal up.  I had slight seeping, maybe a drop every few minutes from the fittings.  My dad brought me over a set of pipe wrenches, which made the process so much easier.  I was able to crank on the connections and got them to seal.

I was ready to post this blog entry a week later, but decided to wait for my first bill to share the great savings I was having.  Then I got January's bill which covers the first 10 days in January and the rest in December.  From the previous year I had only saved 1 kW per day.  I assumed this was because end of December was colder than the previous year and I really hadn't had the water heater in very long, plus I had to fill the water heater and heat the water up. Therefore, I decided to wait for the next bill before posting.

February's bill came which included most of January and my bill went up from the previous year. We had a colder January then the previous year, so again I was assuming we were burning more with energy with heating.  Even with this assumption, I was starting to get kind of worried.  I was realizing that my suspicions were right. We were not going to get great performance out of the water heater in the winter because the garage is too cold.

Finally, I got March's bill and the savings were there.  My kW per day used dropped from 65 to 54 from the previous year.  This dropped the bill by $38 over the previous year, though some of that is the difference in days billed.  A few days ago I received April's bill.  The bill was $44 less then the previous year.  I dropped from 59 kW a day to 41 kW a day.  Some of the energy savings came from the fact the weather was warmer this year in February and March.  Below is a table of the my energy bills and the weather since I've had the water heater.  Each bill covers from about the 10th of each month to the 10th with a few days variance.

Daily kW
Total Bill
Avg Temp
Daily kW
Total Bill
Avg Temp

Now that the weather is warming, I am extremely happy with the GE Geospring water heater and happy I made the investment.  

Monday, April 8, 2013

Save Aging Bananas

We tend to buy a bundle of bananas and eat a most of them, but it seems the last two or so will become very brown.  They have to be thrown away before we can eat them.  Our kids also seem to only eat half of a banana leaving the other half to go to waste.

In order to stop wasting food and money, we peel our bananas when they get too ripe.  Then we put them in a Ziplock bag and freeze them.  This works great with the half eaten banana from our kids.  Cut the bitten end off and freeze the rest.

After a few months, the freezer will have a few bananas in it.  This is enough to make some banana nut bread.  Of course, banana nut bread requires a bit of effort.  A simpler idea to use the bananas is in a smoothy. My wife and I found this recipe with a cleanse diet that involved a lot of bananas.  Take a cup of milk, 2 tablespoons of honey, and 1 to 1 1/2 frozen bananas.  Cinnamon or nut meg can be added for some extra spice.  Put the ingredients in a blender and puree them into a nice smoothy.  The whole recipe takes a few minutes to make.  The banana smoothy is very filling for a breakfast and can be taken on the go.

Bananas are simple to freeze because they are simply placed into a Ziplock bag.  Other fruits like raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries are also easy, but involve a place in the freezer for a cookie sheet.  We have a chest freezer where we can set cookie sheets on top of other items.  To freeze these fruits, wash the fruit and lay it out on a cookie sheet.  I put wax paper down so the fruit doesn't freeze to the cookie sheet.  Next, put the cookie sheet in the freezer for about 12 to 24 hours.  The fruit is frozen but not stuck to each other.  It is then placed in a bag and put back in the freezer.

The idea of freezing produce doesn't just apply to fruit that is going bad in the kitchen.  Stores and farmers markets throw deals on fruit that is very ripe or in season.  Buying food on sale and freezing it is very economical and a good way to feed a family healthy food.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Save Energy by Cleaning the Freezer and Fridge

This weekend I performed some maintenance tasks around the house.  One of those tasks was to clean dust out of our refridgerator's vents.  Fridges and freezers have air intake vents, on the bottom back and/or front.  The vents becoming full of dust and the fridge has to work harder to blow air over the coils inside.  The coils will also become caked with dust reducing their efficiency.  A less efficient fridge uses more power as it runs longer to pull the same amount of air through its fan.  Sometimes the condition becomes so terrible, the refrigerator fails to cool and food can go bad.

Every year I like to clean out these vents as well as the coils.  I have an LG refrigerator and my vents are in the back.  I pulled the fridge out to find huge dustballs behind it and in some of the vents.  I took the vacuum cleaner out and sucked up all the dust.  I then unplugged the refrigerator and removed the back plate at the bottom.  I vacuumed out the fan which was caked in dust and the coils.  I then put the plate back on and shoved the refrigerator back. It took a total of 15 minutes to perform this task.

It is very important to maintain appliances so they stay energy efficient and to extend their lives; and most important save money.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Paleo Bloodwork Update

About a year ago I switched my diet over to a Paleoish diet.  I say Paleoish because I follow it about 60% of the way.  I have written about my results in the past but a few days ago I got my blood work from the doctor and want to share the results. I started Paleo to shed some excess weight, but found it really improved my health.  While I have more energy and eliminated the acid reflux issues, there was one piece missing.  Everything related to the change in diet was based on appearance and feeling.  There was no scientific information if my health was actually improving. 

Before going into results, I want to talk about the diet change.  I have elminated most ceral grains.  Wheat intake is down about 90%, as is corn and soy.  On occasion I have a bun on a hot dog or hamburger. Soda was elminated before I changed my diet, but I have also reduced other sugar intakes by label watching.  I replaced breakfast with yogurt, cottage cheese, fruit, eggs, bacon and sausage.  I have replaced margine and 50% of the cooking oils used with cocunut oil, butter and bacon grease.  That is right, loaded up on saturated fat.  Startches like potatoes are decrease by about 50% and when I do eat potatoes, I eat more sweet potatoes and purple potatoes.  Rice has been cut in half as well.  I vary from a traditional Paleo diet with the consumption of dairy. I love cheese, yet more saturated fat. I also eat legumes like beans. I also still drink beer.  One of the biggest things we as family did was cook home cooked meals made from scratch.  We stopped eating Rice a Roni and hamburger helper and made real food.  Paleo encourages cooking more because most things in a box have tons of carbs.

For the results, in January of 2011 I had blood work done for life insurance and will compare this to last week's blood work from the doctor.  Being healthy is a good way to save money on life insurance, unfortunately it does not work with health insurance.  Maybe that is a way to fix healthcare costs; encourage a healthy lifestyle with savings.  Currently money is saved on drug copays and deductibles for surgery but nothing direct.

Here are the two test results following results with signifcant change.  I left off numbers that were in a healthy range that hadn't changed all that much.

Test20112012Percent Change
Cholesterol143 mg/DL126 mg/DL11.9%
HDL Cholesterol (good)35 mg/DL44 mg/DL25.7%
Cholesterol Ratio4.02.927.5%
LDL82 mg/Dl71 mg/DL13.4%
AST (SGOT)133 U/L14 U/L57.6%
ALT (SGPT)228 U/L16 U/L42.9%
Glucose360 mg/dl96 mg/dl60.0%
Creatinine41.60 mg/dl1.21 mg/dl24.4%

  1. Liver function, protien produced by liver lower better, though acceptable range is 11-39 U/L.
  2. Liver function, lower is better, though acceptable range is 6-42.
  3. Glucose is sugar in the bloodstream.  On my insurance test in 2011 I was flagged as being too low (Hypoglycaemia).  The healthy ranges varied: insurance 70-125 mg/dl, doctors test in 2012 60-99 mg/dl.  One would think that eating less sugar would make this lower, but in reality my body is producing less insulin, which in turn keeps the sugar in my blood stream and doesn't convert it to fat. 
  4. Liver function, lower is better.  On my insurance test I was slightly outside the range of .5 - 1.5 mg/dl.  The doctors test has a max healthy range of 1.30 mg/dl. 
I am amazed by the improvement in my results.  The only thing I can say is that I feel a bit betrayed by all the low fat labeling.  I have drastically improved my health despite increase fat and cholestorol.  I would say to save money on healthcare, look at your diet and don't believe the low fat high carb beliefs.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Drink Water not Soda

Water is the cheapest thing a person can drink.  Staying hydrated will also enable the human body to remain at an optimal health.  There are many huge advantages to drinking water over sugary drinks like sodas, energy drinks or juices:

  • Water helps a body to detox from chemicals absorbed in food and the environment.
  • Staying hydrated reduces the chances of getting headaches (NYTimes). 
  • Water prevents dehydration which causes a person to lose focus and doze off (Water Benefits Health).
  • Drinking water speeds up the metabolism which can aid in weight loss (WebMD).  
  • Not drinking sugary drinks keeps a body thinner and prevents type II diabetes (WebMD).
  • Water out of the tap costs less than a tenth of a cent per 20 oz bottle and is free at many places like work and restaurants. Also, consider that restaurant will charge $2 to $3 per soda.

To truly save money, stop buying bottled water and sodas.  It is silly to spend $1 on bottled water when a good water bottle costs $10 to $20 dollars and is refillable.  I bought a glass water bottle made by Ello from Target for less than $10, that I carry around at work and in the car.  Unfortunately, it is not listed on Target's site to link to, but Amazon has the Ello 20-oz Glass Water Bottle for $9.99. It has silicon surrounding the water bottle for drop protection and grip.  Obviously, when I am at home I drink out of a normal glass.  I prefer glass over plastic and aluminum, so I don't have to worry about leaching chemicals; plus, glass is easy to clean.
Personally, my health has improved after cutting out soda and energy drinks from my diet almost three years ago.  I have lost 15 lbs and am down to 180 lbs from 195 lbs.  I rarely get sick.  In full disclosure we eat dinner at home and rarely eat out now.  I also have switched to a "mostly" Paleo diet.  Improving ones health is one of the biggest money savers, now if only I could get a healthy person discount applied to my health insurance.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Half Principle

Anyone who has kids knows how wasteful they can be.  Whether it's taking too many paper towels, squeezing out half a tube of toothpaste or using half a roll of toilet paper; kids don't understand the costs associated with wasting resources.  The worst is a teenager that showers for 25 minutes and uses up all the hot water.

I have been pushing my kids to use half of what they think they are going to need for the task at hand.  Ironically, after pushing this half principle, it finally dawned on me to look inward.  I was in the shower lathering the luffa when I questioned the amount of soap I really needed?  Surprisingly it was more like 1/3 of what I was using.  I was able to suds up the luffa and the soap didn't run out during my shower.  I started applying this half principle all sorts of areas.  For instance, when using Shampoo I only needed about 1/2 and when doing the dishes I only needed about a 1/5 of the soap required.  I now rip paper towels in half before using and dilute hand soap with 1/3 water.

While applying the half principal to every day items will save money, it applies to much more than just little items.  The half principle is a mindset, a question, that is asked of everything a person or family spends money on.  For instance, a family that finds ways to reduce their driving by half leads to thousands of dollars a year in fuel savings.  A person that finds a way to collect wood from tree trimming companies and cuts their heating bill in half could save hundreds a year.  The ultimate savings would is a family that buys half the house they need resulting in savings of they hundreds of thousands of dollars living expenses.  True, it might be tight and some kids might have to share a room, but those tens of thousands could be put into college savings or retirement.  When the kids move out there is no reason to get a smaller place.

Next time you are at the store buying an item that is consumed or paying a bill, ask yourself how can I cut this in half and what the cost and effort is to do that?  If the cost and effort is very low, than apply the half principle.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Negotiate Prices at Stores

A few weeks ago my wife was out at the mall shopping for our kids upcoming birthdays on a Tuesday evening.  The mall was dead and one of the stores she wondered into was Journeys.  The store manager was so happy to have a customer, he offered my wife an employee discount on anything she bought.  She found some Yo-Gabba-Gabba toys for my toddler, but they were $5 off at another store Spencers; thus, a better deal.  She mentioned this to manager and he gave her $5 off on top of the employee discount. In all, my wife ended up saving close to $20 dollars.

A few weeks prior one of my friends brought a huge 96 mortar package to our 4th of July party.  The package was almost $200 from the fireworks stand.  My friend told us that when he offered to buy the package he asked the fireworks attendant if something would be thrown for such a large purpose.   He ended up getting $40 dollars of additional fireworks thrown in.

Obviously, negotiating doesn't always work.  My wife was in an antique store a few days ago and found an old Wagner cast iron pan.  The store wanted $35 for the pan.  I saw on Ebay, I could get the pan for about $25 for $30 with shipping, so I told my wife to offer $30 and buy it if they accepted.  Because the antique store was selling on co-signment for another party, they could not make the deal.  We simply did not buy the pan and I ended up getting a better deal on a set of cast iron pans on Ebay.

A brief background on cast iron and the reason I like it: The heat is even, it is non-stick, the seasoning adds foods flavor, food is given a nice sear, then can be placed in the oven or on a campfire, and instead of leaching aluminum and teflon into food, iron is leached instead.  The new cast iron pans, Lodge being dominant in the market, are not milled down.  They have little bumps on them that food sticks too sometimes.  The old "antique" models are milled down; thus, very smooth.  Since the pan is cast iron it will last for 100s of years if taken care of, so buying a used one is not a big deal.

Obviously, negotiating prices at a major box store is probably not going to work very well.  Therefore, buying from smaller shops is preferable for negotiating prices.  One thing that can be done with major box stores is price matching, even to their own website.  I did this at PetSmart when buying a dog bed for my new pup.  Their website had the bed for 25% off but the store did not.  I had my iPhone out and showed the cashier the price on their web site in my shopping cart.  She gave me the 25% off on the bed.

The key to any kind of price matching or negotiating is having the willingness to walk away from buying the item.  The store needs your money and odds are you do not need their exact items.


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