Saving Money on AC

In July I switched from my cost saving swamp cooler to the energy consuming air conditioner.  The savings I received from using the swamp cooler made up an earlier post.  Today I want to report on my reductions in energy consumption vs last year using the air conditioner.  The results of a couple lifestyle modifications really made a difference! energy use table

First off, my central AC unit uses about 4 kw per hour and during the APS peak times (between noon and 7pm) it costs about $1 per hour to run.  In 2013 I compromised my comfort by not using much AC during these peak times.  This year, I didn’t hesitate to run my AC, but I also planned my day so that if I had errands to run I’d be out of the house in the afternoon, not in the morning.  I also switched my work schedule so that I was working afternoons and evenings on two of the weekdays instead of days.  Further, in July, I spent time at the library on my days off and enjoyed their cool.

I think all these modifications helped reduce the bill, but I think the most significant reduction was due to the fact that I raised my thermostat to 80 degrees in 2014 vs the 76 degrees I used in 2013.  Here is the basic thermostat program I used this year:

midnight to noon:  82 degrees
noon to 7pm:  95 degrees
7pm to midnight:  80 degrees

Last year, I tried to keep my house cool by jacking the temperature down before the noon peak times.  This meant I was too cold half the time and too hot the rest of the time.  This year, I found 80 degrees perfect most of the time.  In the afternoon, 82 or even 83 would feel okay and occasionally, I would dial it down to 79 or 78.  I have found that the 76 degrees is just too cold.

AC units run most efficiently if they are allowed to run for at least 15 minutes each time they come on.  My AC unit is set with a tight window.  This means that if it is set at 80 degrees and the temperature rises to 81 degrees it will come on.  However, my AC only takes seven to ten minutes to cool down my house from 80 to 81 during the morning and evening.  There is a way to change the default temperature “window” setting, but I haven’t messed with it.  Instead I keep the default program on 82 degrees during the day and when I get hot I meander over to the thermostat and temporarily reduce the temperature down to 80.

In the afternoon the program is set for a temperature that ensures that the AC will not come on.  If I am not home it gets hot – sometimes up to 90 degrees.  If I am home I simply reduce the setting until I am comfortable.

I am also blessed with an uneven distribution of cool air.  The vent in my bedroom/office pushes out more cool air than the other vents.  Last year I covered up this vent to prevent getting too cold.  This year I have kept it wide open.  If the AC is running this work and sleep room is typically 4 degrees cooler than the rest of the house.  Indeed, when I’m sitting at my desk, as soon as the AC comes on I am bathed in cool air.

Some of the other energy conservation things I do (both 2013 and 2014) is close the vents in the two rooms I am not using and turn off the hot water heater in the summer.  I also use an outside burner to warm up my breakfast and cook some of my meals.  Why heat up the house and then have to cool it down?


Suffering over Suffering

My experience with thought addiction came a couple months ago.  I had been wanting to write about it, but I was waiting for something more.  That something more showed up a couple nights ago.

I am in the process of looking for a new roommate and a couple of men that had just landed in our state from Ohio needed a room.  They weren’t what I was looking for, but I’ve had good experiences with very short term rentals so I offered them the room for a couple of days.  Everything was fine and then this massive fan showed up.  Jon said he had some nasal problem and the only thing that gave him relief was blowing air.  Sure, no problem.

But it was.  I am used to a quiet environment and that fan was very noisy.  It was like a jet engine.   I noticed my mind begin to become agitated as I thought of reasons it was a problem:  “I can’t relax with that constant noise”, “He doesn’t really need it”, “People that use fans are ______ (stupid, intolerant, disillusioned, weak, etc)”, “Fans make nasal conditions worse”, “I am an expert on fans”, “He needs nettles”.  The thoughts were unending.  I am a very intelligent and creative thinker and I can come up with all the angles on why the fan was unnecessary and bad.

At first I decided that the problem was really all in my mind.  Clearly, if my mind wasn’t reacting with aversion to the fan and craving for silence then I wouldn’t be having a problem at all.  I was able to get a hold of the thoughts arising and not engage with them. I know from experience that when you stop engaging with the thoughts and believing them then the subconscious figures out that the thoughts are not needed.  My agitation diminished.

I was then able to decide what I wanted to do.  With further investigation I realized that I really did have a “reaction” to the fan and the constant noise that was biologically true and not just a patterned mental response.  It did agitate me even without the additional thoughts.  Originally my house guests had requested to stay a week, but I decided that I couldn’t last that long.  I decided that four days would work for me.  This would honor both my desire to help them and my desire to respect my body.

As it turned out, I got even further relief when they kept their door close.  I had assumed they needed the door open to allow fresh air circulation.  That turned out not to be the case.  This reminds me of the importance of clearly expressing my problem and allowing other solutions to present themselves. Since I was able to tell them what I was struggling with, they were able to come up with a solution that partially remedied my problem.

My physical reaction to fan noise is my “suffering”.  The habitual thought patterns that arose from that suffering had the potential to induce a far greater suffering than the original reaction.  It is the habitual thought patterns that we have a choice over.  I’ve hear say that “pain is inevitable but suffering is optional”.  I used to be the worse at suffering over my suffering.  I wonder how my friends endured my endless complaints.  Having freedom from the optional suffering is refreshing.  I love my life now.

I also would be amiss to not point out that even the pain goes away as we progress on the path to enlightenment.  Long term, the pain is optional too.


Thought Addiction

Yesterday we began a discussion of checking out reality by observing our mind.  One of the first things you notice when you begin to watch the mind is that you cannot find anyone in control of it.  It seems to “have a mind of its own”.  In reality the 90% of our mind that is subconscious is what is actually ruling the show.  The 10% that is conscious is what makes it through the filters of our subconscious. How to establish a unified mind will be the topic of a future post.  Today, lets talk about one type of automatic thought pattern.

This pattern I call thought addiction.  It involves repetitious thoughts that lead to chemical changes in the body. Here is a personal example of it in action.

About two months ago, my work settled down into a nice pattern.  I had lost a major client earlier in the year, but a second client showed up with additional work.  As I planned a summer vacation, I noticed that I was constantly thinking about how great my work was.  I also kept noting how for the first time in over five years I had enough money to cover my expenses.  These thought were quite pleasant, but also quite repetitious.

I realized how much energy was going into repeating these thoughts over and over.  The pay off was that they were pleasant and I imagined that they helped me release some happy chemical as I repeated them again and again.  This is why I called it a thought addiction.  In my case I was addicted to a happy chemical, but I imagine many people use obsessive worry to produce a similar change in biochemistry.  Other people find the chemicals released with anger to be stimulating as well.

The release of happy chemicals is one of the premises behind the power of positive thinking.  I was learning first hand how thinking positively actually makes one feel better.  I can appreciate that this practice releases a powerful endogenous drug, however, I’m actually trying to weed out all addiction and behaviors that are based on clinging to certain states.  I can imagine a better state beyond such petty addiction.

Yesterday, I noticed a similar thing happening as I performed my last massage.  I kept thinking about my day off today and what I was going to do.  Again, I can only see the purpose as creating “happy chemicals”.  I was avoiding the moment and the richness of the moment, perhaps because I was a little tired and the massage was a two hour one so the novelness of the activity was wearing off.

True freedom comes when I no longer distract myself from the moment by essentially meaningless thoughts.  True freedom comes with equanimity and equanimity comes from the insights that are gained by exploring and investigating how I think and act.