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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 11:33 AM   #21
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Downsizing home to one of these,

http://www.inhabitat.com/prefabhousing.php

with solar power, a wind turbine, and a well.

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 11:46 AM   #22
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by brewer12345
I've used compact fluorescents for years (...)
Since they use about 1/10th the electricity ...
It's my engineering duty to point an exaggeration in your claim (marketing spin maybe?
The equivalent lumen output compact fluorescent use about 1/4th electricity of typical incandescent bulb and if not carefully designed could be even 1/3rd (if the power factor is lousy).
Nevertheless for highly used fixtures the economics of running it are pretty good.

sailor,
whose half of the lights in the house are CFs

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 11:49 AM   #23
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles
Looking into solar cells for the house, but so far, hard to pin down true cost / payback. *Anyone else had luck with photovoltaics?
You've read these threads, right?
http://early-retirement.org/forums/i...13342#msg13342
http://early-retirement.org/forums/i...60544#msg60544
http://early-retirement.org/forums/i...70916#msg70916

http://s11.photobucket.com/albums/a1...ltaic%20array/

Last January we expanded our 1100-watt "starter system" to 3000 watts. *Now that the winter rains have ended, I think we're finally going to have our first 350-KWHr month.

http://s11.photobucket.com/albums/a1...y%20expansion/

I have a somewhat overly-complicated spreadsheet comparing the payback to just investing the costs in a mutual fund paying 6% after-tax. *I manually enter the tax credits as well. *The rosiest projected payback is about eight years. *For someone paying retail prices for new equipment (especially at today's higher $$/watt panels) it's probably closer to 15-20 years. *However that payback still exceeds the dividend rate of most equities, and my spreadsheet doesn't do a good job of assessing the effects of inflation.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scrinch
I've bought all the components for a solar water system, so now I just need to find the time to put it together and install it.
There are three things I wish I'd done differently in our solar water system:
1. *When the pump is off, the reverse natural circulation flowrate is astounding. *The return leg from the panels to the tank (the hot water) needs a reverse-flow preventer like a check valve (which I'm not convinced yet will seat tightly) or a temperature-sensitive float ball check valve ($$). *The alternative is having your pump cycle all night for 30 seconds every 20 minutes to pump down the backflowing hot leg. *Admittedly that's not a mechanical/electrical issue but I'm getting complaints from the bedroom adjacent to the pump flow noise.
2. *A DC pump with its own foot-square PV panel. *I've been told that DC pumps have brush issues that make them much less reliable than AC pumps. *However our AC pump won't be much help if the hurricane trashes the power grid. *I bet the DC pump brush issues aren't as bad as originally presented, and I never took the time to check into them more closely.
3. *We overbuilt our system with two 4'x8' panels supplying an 80-gallon tank. *We used plenty of isolation valves to be able to take either panel off-service for days when the tank would exceed 160 degrees. *Now that the summer sun is shining I'll have to shut down one of the panels, and I wish I'd added a couple extra valves on the panels to make it easier to drain them.

BTW I strongly recommend using a thermal-limiting (mixing) valve on the hot-water supply to the house. *Ours is set at 140 degrees but they can be dialed in to as low as 120 degrees. *

It takes a long time to adjust a lifetime of water-user's habits. *I still cringe when I turn on the kitchen sink hot-water faucet just to rinse out a pot, but hot water does the job more quickly than cold so free hot water costs less. *I even fill the coffeemaker with hot water. *I guess a truly hedonistic gearhead would connect his car-washing hose to the hot-water supply. *Spouse kids me that we should have the toilets flush hot water. *At least I think she's kidding!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles
For those installing photovolaics, how did you find a good vendor?
Some utility companies will only work with authorized contractors for net-metering systems. *See if they have a list.

If your utility doesn't have a list (or if you're going totally off the grid) then look for a local solar-industry advocacy group that lobbies the county/state govts. *The contractor we used had a great rep with the group. *

An installer can only control his costs by using cheaper materials or by working more efficiently, so ask the contractor what specialized tools & installation training they use to make the labor go faster. *(Component availability is very tight and prices have gone through the roof.) *A specialty contractor might be even better. *Although the company we used is a fully-capable electrical contracting firm, they only do photovoltaics-- they don't even do solar water.

Compare your contractor choices to this guy's website:
http://www.islandenergy.net/monitoring.htm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poundkey
Just curious........Has anyone changed their incandescent bulbs for fluorescent bulbs? * If so, what did you look for in a fluorescent bulb? *I see several different types on the shelf. *Any feedback on savings using the fluorescent?
We've been using CFs for about 10 years and I've only had to replace one. *Now we have a drawer full of useless leftover incandescent bulbs. *Have you ever seen the commercial where two 10-year-olds are joking around and one kid asks the other "How many grownups does it take to change a lightbulb?" *The punchline is "Why would anyone have to change a lightbulb?!?"

We use CFs wherever the light is likely to be on for more than an hour a day--livingroom, kitchen, diningroom, familyroom, bedroom nightstands, all hallways. *We haven't replaced the globes over our bathroom sinks since those bulbs are still pretty expensive. *We look for the smallest bulb that'll fit the fixture. *Sometimes we raise the equivalent lumen output but usually it's the same.

CFs really cut down the heat too. *Our house is much cooler without all the incandescent lights heating up the fixtures, especially in the bathroom ceilings.

We look for cheap because we've been unable to distinguish any difference in quality. *This is especially true for hallway lights or any lightswitch operated by a teenager.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 12:02 PM   #24
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailor
It's my engineering duty to point an exaggeration in your claim (marketing spin maybe?
The equivalent lumen output compact fluorescent use about 1/4th electricity of typical incandescent bulb and if not carefully designed could be even 1/3rd (if the power factor is lousy).
Nevertheless for highly used fixtures the economics of running it are pretty good.

sailor,
whose half of the lights in the house are CFs

Fair enough. I usually just slap a 7W bulb in for a 75W incandescent and don't worry too much about equivalent lumens and such (except for the planted aquarium). If you assume that CFs use 70% of the electricity of the incandescent they replace, first year savings in my example are $13.80. Still makes that $3 CF look good.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 12:22 PM   #25
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

I installed solar screens on the south and west windows and the effect was dramatic. Previously it was unbearable in the summer near those windows.

I got in on a free solar panel test from the city. They installed 300 watts and wired it to the grid. I'd like to get more but I'll wait until I replace the roof.

To get the energy federal tax credit, I'm going to add more insulation this year.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 12:28 PM   #26
 
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

We're almost totally flourescent. Many of the lights have gotten a lot dimmer over the years, and some take a while to come on/get bright. I think the newer ones are better.

I've violated the rules by using them in the bathroom (not supposed to use them in a humid environment) and in automatic light fixtures (e.g. with motion sensors) with no problems.

BTW, I've found that putting a motion sensor light by the door from the house into the garage is a nice bother saver.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 12:43 PM   #27
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
I've violated the rules by using them in the bathroom (not supposed to use them in a humid environment) and in automatic light fixtures (e.g. with motion sensors) with no problems.
Somehow I'm not surprised that a man with a stuffed beaver violates light fixtures.

Al, have you tried CFs in dimmers? Supposedly you shouldn't do it, but the dimmer compatible CFs are absurdly expensive.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 12:47 PM   #28
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poundkey
I belong to an auto maintainence discussion board and there are members who routinely get 300K miles from Toyota/Nissan/Honda engines. These guys normally run a synthetic oil with a good filter. By good filter I mean anything but Fram.
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Poundkey, could you give a link to that board?

Ha
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 12:50 PM   #29
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
We're almost totally flourescent.
Must be tough to sleep in the same room with you folks

Pretty much all fluorescent here, as my wife has transformed me into a 70 year old guy with his pants pulled up to his armpits yelling "turn off these damn lights! And you kids get the hell off my lawn!". Bought some more expensive ones early on, then the costco/sams club humungo pack that came to a couple of bucks each. Never had one break yet. The original ones from about 10 years ago (long tubes about 5-6" long) are garage lights now in the garage door openers with the newer curlique models in the house fixtures. Only thing I dont have them in is the fixture with the dimmer, which apparently requires a special dimmer bulb as they require a certain amount of current to 'start' and a lower amount to continue running, and a dimmer may take you below those thresholds, which might cause the bulb to die. Have had two of them with a low 'hum', which I relocated to the patio or the garage where I dont care.

Looked at the solar thingamabob. California has some very nice rebates. IIRC it was going to cost me about 15-20k to install the system and it'd save me about $700-800 a year in electricity tops. I was looking at about 12-15 years to pay back the original investment, and some projections said the panels would need to be replaced around that time, maybe a few years past. Realtors were mixed on the benefits of having a solar system...a few said it would actually detract from the value of the home due to cosmetic features and that 'people dont understand them'. At best they said the value would be neutral, so no capital benefit when selling, maybe a loss.

Theres also the problem that about 85% of my roof faces east/west and the big piece that faces south is on the east side of the house, below the central ridge, so it'd lose sun at about 2-3pm.

I decided to wait until the systems are less expensive and produce more electricity per square foot. I like the looks of the pva cells that replace concrete roof tiles. When I can install most of it myself, except for the main electrical connection that requires an electrician, and it starts paying for itself in a couple of years, i'm there.

Same thing with the hybrids. No payback with the current models unless you drive a lot and keep the car for a long time, then you're breaking even and possibly buying some unknown long term reliability problems. Even presuming gas keeps going up.

I read a fascinating story about a guy who used a two prong solution to cheap heat. He set up a large solar water heating system, and it pumps the hot water underneath his flooring, sort of like the radiant heat systems. He also put in a large solar room/greenhouse at the south side of the house with a circulation fan to rotate air from that through the house.

He installed a small wood stove as a backup, but says he's never needed it for heat. The system also provides all of his hot water. I'm betting he lives in a warmer climate though, I cant imagine this setup working well in new england.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 01:04 PM   #30
 
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Al, have you tried CFs in dimmers?
No. I'm sure that won't work.

Quote:
...with a circulation fan to rotate air from that through the house.

... I cant imagine this setup working well in new england.
Right. I've spent a lot of time trying to move heated air around the house but with only limited success. I have a fan for getting the heat from the wood stove in the living room into the upstairs. It only works well if there's a big temperature difference (for example, 78 in the living room and 64 in the upstairs rooms).

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 01:08 PM   #31
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Wow! Quite a positive response on the energy saving lightbulbs.....will be looking into those for sure.
eridanus mentioned solar screens. That's something else I've been curious about. The ones I'm seeing around town are a dark screen material (almost black) and supposedly reflect heat and UV.....I think. I've never talked to anyone about whether they've actually run the numbers on cost effectiveness. Summers in Texas are brutal!!

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 01:10 PM   #32
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by HaHa
Poundkey, could you give a link to that board?

Ha
Sure...

http://theoildrop.server101.com/cgi/ultimatebb.cgi

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 01:11 PM   #33
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Other thread reminded me of a good one...

Pick a utility, say phone, cable, high speed internet, satellite, etc. This doesnt work with electricity or water where there is no competitive option. Find a suitable replacement for them. Call the existing provider and tell them you want to schedule a disconnection. 95% of the time you'll be connected with a 'retention specialist' who will give you a better offer to stay.

When they finally just unhook you, go to the competitor for their 12 months at half price or three free months deal, then when you've been away from your original provider for long enough to qualify for their 'new customer deals', which is usually anywhere from a month to a year, go back to box one and repeat the process.

I havent paid full price for phone, satellite, cable or HSI in the longest time. I've occasionally had to actually do a disconnection/reconnection thing, but its not that big of a hassle. My old house had a cable connection, and both a directv and dish network dish hung on it by the time I left...so changing was usually done with a phone call.

I also make a point of calling to complain about service outages or other problems and the CS reps are usually quick to give a free month or some lagniappe. I got six months of $20 off my directv bill when the installation got rescheduled.

I did the solar screens too, but in a slightly different way. A lot of folks just get the solar screen materal, box it into screen frames and screw or slide those into the windows. I found a bunch of "coolaroo" roll down screens that mount to the outside of the windows. I roll them down in the summer and roll them up in the winter. I had to drill a few holes in the stucco and mount some attaching hardware, but it only took about 10 minutes per window. I think I paid about $15 a pop for them on sale. Using these, the sun never even hits the window, stops 2" away and has the opportunity to dissipate.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 01:37 PM   #34
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
There are three things I wish I'd done differently in our solar water system:
Nords, thanks for the benefit of your experience. Sounds like you have learned a lot about solar over the past several years.
1-I'll be putting together a drainback system since we get sub-freezing weather in the winter here. So when the pump switches off, all the water drains back into the tank and there is no potential for convection.
2-I looked into getting a DC pump, but they don't develop enough head to lift water from the tank to the panels each time the pump starts up in a drainback system. Instead I'm using a 1/25hp Taco pump. It only draws about 0.6 amps (80 watts) when it's on. Taco now makes these pumps with integral flowcheck valves just for the purpose you describe (google Taco IFC).
3-I found 4 4x10 panels that a local farmer had in his barn for $200. They needed to be cleaned up, but tested watertight. I plan to use 3 of them with an 80 gallon storage tank. By using a lot of panel for the tank size I expect that the pump won't be coming on as much in the summer, but should still be fairly effective on sunny fall/winter/spring days. For $50/panel I can afford the extra collector area, and in this system taking the panel out of the system is as simple as shutting off the pump at a set storage tank temperature.
4-I'll definitely be using anti-scald valves in the system. I plan to use two....a primary and a backup.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 02:29 PM   #35
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

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Nords, thanks for the benefit of your experience. Sounds like you have learned a lot about solar over the past several years.
Thanks, but actually the learning has all been hypothetical until we've connected the last circuit/pipe and thrown the switch. Living with the system has been far more educational than any research. I never thought I'd say to our kid "Hey, if you're gonna use the water, use the HOT water!!"

Besides the experience, another reason to build incrementally is for the tax credits. If you install the entire $20K system in one year you get one $2000 federal credit. If you install a $10K system in December and upgrade it in January, you get two $2000 credits. (Perfectly legal.) If you can add in state, utility, & locality credits then it becomes a significant financial issue. It's also the reason that the installers are so busy the last & first quarters of the year.

Our biggest lesson has been that it's far more profitable to reduce consumption than to raise generation. Another surprise has been how hot our water heater gets-- insulating blankets & pipe wrap just move the hot parts out to the exposed relief piping & pump casing. The hot water may be free but our garage is probably radiating enough IR now to show up on satellites... if I ever decide to upgrade to a 120-gal model then it's going outside.

One final piece of advice that's rarely mentioned-- a water conditioner. That depends on the mineral content of the water in your area. We like them just for the reduced cleaning & soap use, and if you're already gonna rip apart your water system then it's not much more hassle to add a conditioner.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scrinch
1-I'll be putting together a drainback system since we get sub-freezing weather in the winter here.* So when the pump switches off, all the water drains back into the tank and there is no potential for convection.*
Yikes, from what I've read about those (and antifreeze) I think I'd decide to just give up and move south. ("Honey, does the water taste funny to you?")

Quote:
Originally Posted by scrinch
2-I looked into getting a DC pump, but they don't develop enough head to lift water from the tank to the panels each time the pump starts up in a drainback system. Instead I'm using a 1/25hp Taco pump. It only draws about 0.6 amps (80 watts) when it's on. Taco now makes these pumps with integral flowcheck valves just for the purpose you describe (google Taco IFC).
Good point, our system stays full. I was surprised at how little head our pump actually develops. I remember thinking "ruh-roh" when we tested it but it's worked fine.

I don't know whether our pump has an internal flow check or not-- and I don't care since it's the coldest part of the system at the bottom of the tank. The hot water is forced down into the tank from the roof and then simply rises back up the pipe through the temperature difference. Check valves in the pump don't affect that. But I am going to look into DC pumps again someday so I'll need a check valve that works when it's mounted right on top of the water heater's hot pipe.

Quote:
Originally Posted by scrinch
3-I found 4 4x10 panels that a local farmer had in his barn for $200. They needed to be cleaned up, but tested watertight. I plan to use 3 of them with an 80 gallon storage tank. By using a lot of panel for the tank size I expect that the pump won't be coming on as much in the summer, but should still be fairly effective on sunny fall/winter/spring days. For $50/panel I can afford the extra collector area, and in this system taking the panel out of the system is as simple as shutting off the pump at a set storage tank temperature.
I would think that more panels for a smaller tank means that the pump would rarely turn off! But it depends on your insolation & panel orientation. Our two panels would already heat the tank over 170 degrees if our controller didn't shut off then, and I'm sure we've been approaching the pressure setpoint on the panel relief valves. I don't know how old your panels are but I've seen new ones retail at $1600 each (plus S&H).

Quote:
Originally Posted by scrinch
4-I'll definitely be using anti-scald valves in the system. I plan to use two....a primary and a backup.
At some point the expense & mechanical reliability of a valve outweighs its safety features. Two valves give you twice as many opportunities to leak, although it makes for a very interesting soldering project...
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 03:54 PM   #36
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

I like good shoes. www.sierratradingpost.com has a lot of Birkenstocks on sale right now. http://tinyurl.com/rga9k

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 04:18 PM   #37
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Poundkey
Thank you.

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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 05:15 PM   #38
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

I drive a Prius. I wouldn't call it an LBYM vehicle, but it is surprisingly thrifty in some ways. Consumer reports recently changed their story on hybrids and admitted they can save money in the first five years:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11637968/

That report didn't consider the effects of the current tax credits ($3150 credit right now for buying a new Prius). That combined with the currently higher gas costs probably reduces payback to just a few years for most people. Since most of us keep our cars much longer than that, it's a pretty safe bet that it'll pay back even if gas prices go down.

Another cool thing: because of the regenerative engine braking in the Prius, the disc and drum brakes don't get much use and can last twice as long as in regular cars. I notice there's hardly any brake dust on the wheels when I clean it. I figure this effect compensates me for the increased maintenance costs from having to bring it to a dealer for major work.

I will be the first one to admit that there are cheaper ways to own a vehicle, and that my primary motivations for buying the Prius were the environmental and "that's cool" factors. It's a pleasant side benefit to save a little money on gas.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 06:59 PM   #39
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

We've recently switched over to fluroescent .. Poundkey, do be aware that some bulbs give off a yellowish light, others are the "daylight" version. Don't mix

BTW: Anyone tried using one of these bulbs in a lamp hooked up to a timer?

Other stuff: Woodstove, switched from cable to DISH, switched to cheaper pay-as-you-go cell phones. We did the promotional DSL price with SBC last year -- just renewed with AT&T for the upgrade, which is a couple of bucks cheaper per month.
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"
Old 04-28-2006, 07:09 PM   #40
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Re: Alternative, Reduced Expense "Investments"

Quote:
Originally Posted by VoyT
BTW: Anyone tried using one of these bulbs in a lamp hooked up to a timer?
Yes, no problem.

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