Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DIY Keyboard and Mouse Lap Board

A while back I had to give up my office so our kids could each have their own room. That left me with trying to find an unobtrusive corner of the house to cram all of my stuff into. I wound up getting rid of a lot of stuff and consolidated big time. One point of consolidation was to take an old credenza and turn it into a wing desk for my laptop and game rig. It just tucks in to the right of my chair and shares a small bit of overlapping space with my "big" desk which is just a 3 x 3 foot corner desk itself. I'm making the most of a very small footprint these days!

Well, gaming is one thing I like the PC for. As such, I have usually a full keyboard and mouse in use. The credenza is a bit tight for getting comfortable so typically I wind up sitting back in my chair with the keyboard balanced on my left leg and the mouse pad resting on my right. This leads to some bad game play moments when the keyboard decides to slide out of place.

So, to solve this problem, I wanted a tray for both keyboard and mouse that would not be tied to the desk and could fit the way I use the devices specifically for game play. I envisioned a boomerang shaped desk that could take up the length of my left thigh and allow enough surface on the right for the mouse pad. What I came up with is this:

It's just two pieces of left over 1/4" sub-floor with a hole to allow a small nut and bolt with washers at a single hinge point to allow adjustments.  After making it and using it (and liking it) for a few weeks, I went ahead and made it pretty with some stain to match the majority of the wood-work in the office corner.  I keep calling it a butterfly keyboard tray so I guess that's as good of a name as any.  I think I splashed out about 30 cents on the hardware as everything else was just left over items.   I like quick and easy solutions.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Savings from Electric Water Timer

I can now quantitatively recommend the excellently placed investment in the installation of an electric timer for your electric hot water heater.  First let's get a baseline of data to support this statement.

Below is a table of data, the same used in previous charts graphing our electric bills for the past year.  I've added a column showing the kWh (kilo-Watt-hour) utilization and a cost in pennies per each.

Statement Dt Cost kWh Cost / kWh
09/20/09 116 959 0.12
10/28/09 117 968 0.12
11/20/09 127 1050 0.12
12/20/09 121 1013 0.12
01/29/10 139 1184 0.12
02/21/10 134 1155 0.12
03/25/10 117 978 0.12
04/28/20 137 1175 0.12
05/28/10 124 1033 0.12
06/21/10 131 1058 0.12
07/28/10 112 889 0.13
08/20/10 125 1010 0.12
09/23/10 108 847 0.13
10/28/10 86 655 0.13
11/20/10 85 647 0.13

As you can see, the cost per kWh has been creeping up.  Notice that this is for the past year back into 2009.  My wife found a note she'd made in 2004 when we were paying .09 per kWh.  That was way back before we used a lot of CFLs, timers, had better windows and power hungry CRTs everywhere and the average monthly bill was right around $100.

Notice the last two rows in the table above.  The October bill represents our first month of automatic switching of power.  The month preceding that we did our best to manually turn it on and off as we remembered, which was nearly every day but not as precise.  The automatic timer is set up to give us morning and evening hot water in enough abundance that we are fine with confining our showers to evening time and getting our wash done during the day.  Sometimes these switch where wash is done at night and showers in the morning.  No great discomfort is felt on our part.

So, an updated version of our chart (now rendered by Open Office on Mac OSX) looks like this.

 Now that, my friends, is quantitative evidence of a money saving trend, which justifies both the cost and effort to install as well as the mild inconvenience of scheduling your major consumption periods of hot water.  I should add, we are not without hot water during the day.  Our tank is a 75 gallon model and we often have enough hot water throughout the day for washing hands and the like.  

Updated 12/22/2010 (I finally charged my old camera phone)  Here's what the installation looks like.  The Orange wire is 12 gage 2-wire.  This is attached right next to our breaker box.
So, if you're on a budget (you are, aren't you?), go out, get a "little grey box" like device and install it or have it professionally installed.  It will be worth the cost if done right.  And do get it done right.  If you don't know how, ask a friend who does and pay them with a nice bit of food or a return favor.