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Sunday, November 15, 2009

To Tank or Not to Tank

It's Sunday evening, and Steve is watching I Am Legend, about which I had a very bad feeling early on, so here I am over in the corner writing my blog and listening to Baroque Dreams for Flute to drown out the violent noises coming from our surround sound system.  I got the ear plugs in not a moment too soon, I must say, because the crashing and thrashing noises started almost the second I got them in.  I will never understand why this stuff appeals to him.  I really like Will Smith too, but I can't stand violence, or worse, suspense.  Yeah, suspense is the worst.  I can't even handle the suspense in a comedy where you just know the outcome in a scene is going to be super embarrassing for one of the characters. Train wrecks are definitely not my thing.

Today I got the cookbook shelves stained, and now they are in the kitchen finishing drying. Tomorrow I'll put a coat or two of varnish on them.  I've been using water-based varnish of late, because I can clean up the brushes in the kitchen sink with dish soap. It also dries hard enough to sand in two hours, so with diligence I could probably get three coats on them.  I also got a start on tomorrow night's dinner (frijoles refritos) because I pretty much had the wood stove going all day long.  It was a damp and dreary day, and it took nearly all day to get the house up to sixty-eight degrees F.  Because I had the stove going all day, I also got a start on tomorrow's laundry. In both instances, I figured I should be taking advantage of the heat off the back of the stove.

Steve and discussed our next largish purchase this past week, which will be a new water heater.  I've taken to keeping a large soup pot of water on the wood stove for washing up the dishes, in order to save on the gas for the water heater.  If I can use the stove for heating water, I will. I hate forking out money for utilities.  I even made the experiment this week to pour a soup pot full of boiling water (heated on the wood stove, of course) into the tub to see if I could run a bath that way.  It cooled off immediately.  So yesterday when we were at the fireplace store buying Bear bricks, Steve noticed that they sell a tankless water heater by Navien.  We took the brochure home and Steve read up on it. He also read up on what other folks were selling (Lowes sells Bosch, Home Depot sells Rheem, others in the area sell a bunch of others) and researched what kind of features they sported.  Then I asked him, so what does Consumer Reports say is the best one?  He looked that up too and discovered that they recommend a regular tank water heater, because the tankless are so expensive, that you don't really have any savings over the old kind which are much, much less expensive when you factor in the cost of the tankless, versus running the gas all the time on a regular tank heater (although he did find a distributor in Portland that sells a smaller Bosche for around $1100).  Steve also found the receipt for the water heater that came with our house; the old guy who owned it before us paid $159 for it in 1999, so it was cheap and it's now ten years old.  Armed with that information, we're still not sure what we're going to do when the old one goes.  Ultimately, I'd like to have an evacuated tube style solar water heater, but we can't think about that until it's time to replace the roof.  In the meantime, though, I'd like to be using less gas for heating water.  One of the things that the Consumer Reports doesn't seem to take into consideration is what the cost of the gas will be in the future. When you look at the cost of running an appliance on the nice yellow Energy Guide sticker, they tell you how much you can expect to pay a year to run it, but that's based on average gas prices at the time they printed the sticker.  It doesn't factor in increases in gas or electricity prices  Our current water heater is supposed to be around $162 a month.  Well, that was back in 1999.   Ten years later, it could be a whole lot more than that if the price of gas keeps going up.   Steve pointed out that natural gas is something of which the US has a lot. Then I reminded him that we still don't know what the cost will be going forward, lots of it or not, because if we (as a nation) move transportation and industry over to natural gas, the demand will obviously be higher, so the price will have to go up.  If we had a solar water heater, we could lock in the cost. Theoretically. We'll have to consider how much it will be to buy and install a solar water heater, and then maintain it. And replace tubes that are broken in hail storms (had one of those yesterday).  We'll have to see.

I'm just glad that we don't have to replace it immediately.  Now watch it break tomorrow just because I wrote that.  That would be okay with Steve because he extended the home warranty for another year, and he wouldn't mind if they helped out with paying for it.  But it would force a decision that I'm not sure we're ready to make.

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