The Caffeinated Penguin

musings of a crackpot hacker

Saving heating oil

| January 6, 2008

Our last fill up yesterday cost $3.25/gal. Our previous fill up 6 weeks ago was $3.05. Based on the cost of the previous delivery, and the consumption in the two weeks following (75 gallons per week), Liz and I decided to re-evaluate the set points of our digital thermostats in an attempt to reduce consumption.


  • For the first two weeks (before modification), we did not burn anything in the wood stove, and outside temperature was about 30F.
  • For the second two weeks (after modification), we were burning wood in the wood stove, and outside temperature was about 20F.
  • For the first two weeks, the unused upstairs bedrooms were open. For the second two weeks, they were closed. One should note that these rooms are very “loft like”, in that, with the doors open, they are open to the main floor as well, so the heat from the main floor can easily go up there.
  • The upstairs thermostat was off the whole time.
  • The digital thermostats have weekday and weekend programs, with 4 set points per program. Both the time and the temperature are settable.

Anyway, here are the before and after setpoints:

Basement – Weekday
Old New
Time Temp Time Temp
6:00 AM 65 6:00 AM 50
8:00 AM 65 8:00 AM 62
6:00 PM 65 6:00 PM 62
11:45 PM 60 11:45 PM 50
Basement – Weekend
Old New
Time Temp Time Temp
6:00 AM 62 6:00 AM 50
8:00 AM 62 10:00 AM 50
6:00 PM 62 4:00 PM 62
11:45 PM 60 11:45 PM 50
Main floor – Weekday
Old New
Time Temp Time Temp
6:00 AM 62 6:00 AM 55
8:00 AM 62 8:00 AM 50
6:00 PM 62 5:00 PM 50
11:45 PM 60 11:00 PM 55
Main Floor – Weekend
Old New
Time Temp Time Temp
6:00 AM 60 6:00 AM 55
8:00 AM 62 9:00 AM 60
6:00 PM 62 5:00 PM 60
11:45 PM 60 11:00 PM 55

The core tenets here are:

  • If we are not likely to be in a room, set it to 50.
  • If we are likely to be in a room and sleeping, set it to 55.
  • If we are likely to be in a room and moving around, set it to 60.
  • If we are likely to be in a room and sedentary, set it to 62.
  • If we are in a room, and it is too cold, we are free to turn it up. It will return to the previous level when it hits the next setpoint.

So, since most of the night is spent sleeping, the main floor is set to 55 and everything else is 50. Since most of our weekdays are spent in our offices, we set it to 62.

Additionally, I have been wearing a sweatshirt around the house and have been wearing pajamas to bed. Liz, of course, couldn't be happier, because it would be 50 in all rooms all the time if she had her way.

The end result – we have lowered our consumption to about 40 gallons per week, a 47% reduction in oil. We will continue to monitor this and make sure that these numbers stay the same, but it really represents a major cost savings. I mean, at $3.25/gallon, that's $455 a month which we are not paying. That's a lot of ammo!

Good interview

| January 6, 2008

Interview with Naomi Wolf where she discusses her new book The End of America. It is somewhat tainted by a pile of “I hate Bush” rhetoric, but she also has the correct view that “If Hillary or Obama has these powers, we are just as screwed as if the Republicans are in power”. We need to restore the rule of constitutional law; this means no more “special considerations” to fight the war on terror – suspension of habeas corpus, declaring people as enemy combatants, etc. She also touches on the point of the second amendment + prohibition against a standing army were the founders' ways of safeguarding against tyranny, and mentions that Ron Paul has introduced a legislative agenda which will attempt to correct these issues. She also mentions that Ron Paul is on the right, but it doesn't matter, because this is about liberty, not partisan politics.

In a similar thread, the Libertarian party has authored a position paper about Ron Paul, essentially saying that they are above partisan politics as well, and they sincerely hope that a pro-freedom candidate gets the Republican nomination. As of right now, they are still planning on running a presidential candidate, but I don't know what they will do if Ron Paul gets the nomination (they may not run a candidate and endorse Ron Paul, or they may run a candidate and split the vote – which I hope they do not do). If Dr. Paul doesn't get the nomination, they have invited him to throw his hat in the ring for their nomination.

I like this play. I'm tired of people worried about winning. It's not about winning. It's about liberty. If Paul gets the nomination and the LP runs a candidate anyway, that's just crap.

On being smart

| January 5, 2008

This article in Scientific American had gotten me thinking about intelligence and “being smart”.

When I was younger, I viewed being smart as a “natural aptitude”. You either had it or you didn't; you were either good enough or not. It couldn't be changed, and it was what it was, like the color of your eyes or the shape of your fingerprints. This was likely the result of my parents' repeated admonitions that “you are smarter than that”, which imply that it is an intrinsic talent.

In high school, this view started to change, with the view becoming more of a “farming” allegory – intelligence must be cultivated. You need to read, debate, learn, and grow your mind. Now, in college, I still held to the idea that extra help, study groups, etc. were tantamount to cheating. You should be able to solve the problem with the assets provided to you (books, lecture notes, etc.). If you cannot, then your effort is not good enough. This view has changed somewhat working in industry. In school, I was partially treating it like a game, and partially was hampered by the “no cheating, no collaborating, individual effort” which is a fixture of current education. The problem is that this isn't the way industry works – you are much more free to collaborate with others and figure things out in a group.

My current view is that intelligence is the result of work. Smart people work hard. Dumb people are lazy. I do well with computer bits and bobs because I spend a lot of time poking, prodding, and learning things. I do well with complex rules systems because I spend a lot of time reading complex rules systems (board games, RPG's, etc). To my view, being smart is just like being good at shooting. The only way to be good is to practice.

Presidential candidate matching quiz

| January 5, 2008

Hat tip to .

66% Ron Paul
60% Fred Thompson
59% Mitt Romney
54% Tom Tancredo
53% Bill Richardson
52% Mike Huckabee
50% John McCain
49% Mike Gravel
46% Chris Dodd
46% Dennis Kucinich
43% John Edwards
42% Barack Obama
42% Joe Biden
40% Rudy Giuliani
38% Hillary Clinton

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz