Installation of Programmable Thermostat in Few Easy Steps

•October 18, 2007 • 5 Comments

Here is it. A great webpage talking about replacing your thermostat by programmable one.

“Installing a programmable thermostat is one of the simplest things you can do to save energy and money in your home. You’ll save one percent on your heating bills for every degree it’s set back over an eight-hour period!

  • Time: 15-20
  • Cost: $25-$100
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Tools: Screwdriver, wire cutters/strippers, pencil, level, drill, 3/16” drill bit,”

To continue reading, click here.

As I have shown in other articles on this blog, this investment will easily pay back in less than a year.  Saving money and saving the world, in one shot.

Usually it is easy to convince to homeowners, but apartment renters are hard to sell this stuff to. For that purpose, an attachment like described in this post of mine could be useful.

USB Beverage Cooler + Microcontroller = Programmable Thermostat?

•October 15, 2007 • 6 Comments

 usb beverage chiller  +  oki microcontroller   = Cheap Programmable Retrofit Thermostat

I have been thinking for a long time about this idea.

The air conditioner in my office keeps running even on nights and weekends, just because the system is old and it is difficult to fit it with a programmable thermostat. It would require several changes and would incur considerable cost.

Once I opened the thermostat in my apartment. Inside there was nothing but a thermocouple on which a glass with mercury bubble was mounted. Depending on the location of mercury bubble, the circuit would be complete or disconnected, turning the a/c on or off.

When I saw the USB beverage cooler, I thought I could  hook it up to my laptop USB port and using microsoft Devcon utility and writing a batch file or something, I can turn this device on and off at a specified time. The cooling produced by this device can be used to fool the existing thermostat to turn the air conditioner off.

But glitch 1. This device is not registered as a device at all in the USB devices list. It powers up when connected to USB and starts cooling, but does not show up in USB devices list.

Then I connected it to a USB hub. Then it did not start at all. On reading the documentation, I got that this will not work with USB  hub because this device eats the max power provided by USB port and thus hub cannot support it.

This is the last option I have. I have already posted it on halfbakery and got some good feedback.

Don’t have time to make this hack happen right now, as some other things are keeping me busy. But as soon as I get some time, I will give it a shot.

As suggested in halfbakery discussion, this could be a big help for rental apartments.

Any comments?

Slashdot Story On Solar Power

•August 28, 2007 • 4 Comments

Slashdot is carrying a post on solar power growth, 45% per year according to the article. Discussion and comments are interesting as always.

The biggest advantage of solar power- the power availability curve closely follows power usage curve. Meaning the maximum power is available mid-day when maximum power is being used.

A big reason why we need coal fired power plants is that they can start cranking power at the flick of the switch, when we want most. But Solar power gives that to us naturally.

No moving parts, no emissions, light to energy year after year, 25-30 years.  So why it has not caught up so far?

One big reason I think is the spread of information technology and electronic equipments. That industry is competing with solar industry for silicon, thus driving silicon prices high. At some point in future this conflict can turn into synergy (say somebody figures out how to extract silicon from electronic waste), and then Solar Energy will enter Moore’s law curve.

Saving Energy and Simplifying Life – Throwing Away One Unwanted Thing At a Time

•July 24, 2007 • 8 Comments

After looking around, I found several devices in my house and at office that I could have easily done without. In fact the cost of having these devices around exceeds the benefit they offer.

For example, consider that label maker.

Agreed it saves you writing a few words. But you have to make sure it is filled with paper tape, ink, battery. If any of these is missing, you have to run to nearest Staples and get it. Isn’t it just way too much complication? Would things not be simple if you just had a few sheets of printed labels and use hand written labels instead?

Second thing is that wall plug in that spreads scent. Is it really required? Can’t we just use a room freshner spray once in a while?

Third thing is automatic pencil sharpner. We buy instruments like these to save moving our hands and fingers, and at the end of the day we spend 45 minutes on treadmill.
So is the case for number four,electric stapler.

Fifth – we have microwave to heat up anything we want within a minute. Then why have a coffee pot on forever?
I have mentioned somewhere else on my blogspot. If people stop printing directions, and write them down instead, there will be a lot of saving of paper and electricity.

For just one or two floors – avoid using escalator. provide energy consumption data

Instead of driving around to find parking spot, take the one you find quickest – hawl around the groceries. Make an exception if you are tired of course, but do this when you can. Slow driving is extremely fuel consuming.

I see a detailed blog post coming on parking spot. I can take pic from google earth and show how much distance will be traveled less and how much fuel will be saved.

Some reference links are as follows.

Earth 911 – A Nice Website

•July 23, 2007 • Leave a Comment

A nice website I came across.

You wanted to recycle, but did not know where to go in your town? Here it is. Log on to and insert your zip code.

Also here is your ecological footprint calculator.

Some Related Articles

•May 14, 2007 • 2 Comments

MSN has a nice article about saving money while saving planet

And also about how to reduce your cooling costs

 As I have previously stated in my post, space conditioning consumes about half of total energy consumed in USA and takes a big chunk out of post tax disposable income of USA consumers. So any effort of energy conservation and cost cutting should begin there.

Which Grade of Gas You Filled Today?

•May 11, 2007 • Leave a Comment

You are in rush, but your tank is almost empty. You pull up in a gas station, open the door, and get out. You pick the nozzle farthest on left and stick it in your tank. The gas starts flowing. Tank is full in a minute or two. You put the nozzle back, take the receipt (or not) and drive away thinking you filled the cheapest grade of gas. How could it be otherwise? Far left is always “Regular”, middle is “Plus” and far right is “V Power” or “Premium”. This is what we are used to.

Umm, not so simple. Look at this photograph.

Regular First

The places of “Regular” and “V Power” are swapped. If you wanted to fill “Plus” grade and you went by the habit , then you just filled costliest gas.

But no problem, we always fill “Regular” and we are OK as long as regular is on the left, right?

Not so fast. Look at the picture of pump right next to the first one.
Plus First

So if you did not not look properly, you will end up filling “Plus” grade of gasoline, instead of “Regular” grade. If you own a F150 with fuel tank capacity approx. 30 gallons, then with today’s gas prices ( difference of about 10 cents in regular and premium grades), you paid $3.00 extra even without knowing.

Remaining all pumps on this gas station followed the conventional sequence of “Regular”, “Plus” and “V Power” from left to right.

A sinister plot ?, or just couple of mistakes? Don’t know. But this “mistake” is in favor of the company or gas station owner. So I have a reason to be suspicious.

Check out pumps on the station next time you visit gas and if you find similar “mistakes”, leave me a comment here. Let’s see if this is one of a kind thing or a common practice.