Friday, 16 August 2013

Sometimes, things really are too good to be true

Recently, while staying with my parents in the US, I was persuaded to purchase a 64 gb micro SDHC card from eBay.

The price seemed too good to be true (around $20), but the seller had a good rating, and maybe the card was legitimately this size, so we ordered it, and it arrived quickly.

Then the problems began.  I tried to format it to NTFS, and Windows reported the card could not be formatted, but formatting back to exFat yielded a 64 gb card!

A little digging turned up a small utility named H2testw v1.4, which is a burn in test program for SD cards.  Here’s the result on this “bargain” card:

The media is likely to be defective.
1.9 GByte OK (4091392 sectors)
60.5 GByte DATA LOST (126972416 sectors)
Details:0 KByte overwritten (0 sectors)
0 KByte slightly changed (< 8 bit/sector, 0 sectors)
60.5 GByte corrupted (126972416 sectors)
0 KByte aliased memory (0 sectors)
First error at offset: 0x000000007abc0000
Expected: 0x000000007abc0000
Found: 0x0000000000000000
H2testw version 1.3
Writing speed: 8.48 MByte/s
Reading speed: 5.67 MByte/s
H2testw v1.4

A little more digging turned up an article on counterfeit sd cards:

Naturally we returned the item, and the seller refunded, but they also attacked other buyers who reported the fakes. 

So, my advice:  Stick to a reputable seller, like Amazon, and do make sure you check the actual seller.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Winter 2013 Heating

This winter seemed to be longer and colder than previous winters.

My normal mechanism defines the heating season as being when we use more than 50 kWh of gas on average a day.  This year, the winter by that definition was  175 days long, running from 22 October to 15 April.

Using our MetStats program to analyze our weather data gives us a reading of 2090 degree days, which means it was pretty much the same as every winter except for last year (see last years calculations).

Our baseline gas usage appears to be about 12 kWh/ day, and our electricity usage about 8 kWh for high rate, and 4 kWh for low rate.

Below is the table with units of kWh per degree day, once the base line is removed for the 175 days in the heating season.

  Low Rate
High Rate Electricity
10-11 0.307 1.024 4.772 6.104
11-12 0.193 0.958 4.983 6.134
12-13 0.176 0.973 5.111 6.261

So a 2% degradation over the previous years, this despite getting our hands on a thermal imaging camera and putting a curtain over a single glazed door which is at the top of the stairs by a radiator.

In addition, we pretty much stopped heating the very back room of the house this winter.  However, the temperature differences were greater this winter, so that possibly contributed to more losses.

Solar generation was also down this winter, generating only 0.245 kWh of high rate electricity per degree day.  In addition, there would obviously be less passive heating available.

Fingers crossed for the results next year, when there will be two fewer members of the household for at least part of the winter, as the children both head off to university.

Energy prices-here we go again

Well, my fixed deal with Scottish Power is coming to an end, and the price hikes I described last year seem still to be with us, with the increase on the total bill at 18%, a 15% hike on daytime electricity, a 16% hike on night electricity, and a 19.7% hike on gas.

And then they’ve also cut the discounts offered, and hiked the price on the first units.

So, this is fixed until August 2014.  They do have a cheaper tariff, but there’s an exit penalty.  This special offer has to be chosen by the end of June, and may be withdrawn at any time.

So, my reasoning is that it’s best to lock into this price, and then see if any cheaper deals appear as we approach the winter, as we don’t actually use much energy during the summer anyway.  Fingers crossed for some price drops.


Electricity prices Your current prices* Your new prices1
1st July 2013*
Your alternative
Offer prices2 from
1st July 2013*
Online Fixed Price Energy
July 2013 Offer
Standard monthly Direct Debit Online Fixed Price
August 2014 Offer
Daily Service Charge   27.39p  
First 225kWh used each quarter 20.785p   23.906p
All/Day remaining kWh 10.926p   13.436p
All/Day Units kWh   14.256p  
Night Units per kWh 5.448p 6.742p 6.354p
Gas prices Your current prices* Your new prices1
1st July 2013*
Your alternative
Offer prices2 from
1st July 2013*
Online Fixed Price Energy
July 2013 Offer
Standard monthly Direct Debit Online Fixed Price Energy
August 2014 Offer
Daily Service Charge   27.39p  
First 670kWh used each quarter 7.099p   7.294p
All/Day remaining kWh 3.156p   3.778p
All/Day Units kWh   4.009p  

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Updating to Windows 8

Updating ought to have been easy, but I found it incredibly frustrating.

First, I went to the upgrade site, but after getting all the way through the purchase process, it stated that the upgrade wasn’t for commercial use.

OK.  Off to Curry’s to reserve a DVD which also prevents me having to download the whole thing: Get Windows 8 upgrade on DVD from Currys at £49.99 and apparently doesn’t have the commercial restriction, a premium of £25.00.

When I got there I started looking at a new laptop as well, but that’s another story.

So, I’m now installing from the DVD I purchased.

The first thing I need to do is uninstall the incompatible apps (some Dell stuff, an Intel USB3 driver?, and Security Essentials!?) followed by a reboot.

I chose to keep my existing, files, programs and settings.

After quite a long delay, my machine installed devices, then spent quite awhile longer preparing. 

Another reboot, and “Moving your settings” was the next task.

Following that, a personalize choice, followed by connecting to the network via wireless (I’ll do that later).  I then chose express settings, and entered my previous admin password, and chose sign in without a Microsoft account.  After “Finalising your settings” a disconcerting black screen before “Hi” Finally appeared along with the W8 intro stuff.

It eventually booted into W8, so after the initial confusion about licensing, not too bad.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Be careful when buying new tyres for your car

I was advised at my last service that I needed new tyres on the car, and was given 3 different prices.

I asked about fuel economy, and was pointed toward the most expensive offer, with the statement that they’re what you have at the moment.

So, I called around a few places and got quotes, and eventually the dealer matched the quote, so I had the tyres fitted this morning.

However, when I got back to the car, I noticed that the new front tyres weren’t Michelin Energy like the rear tyres, and so my hunt for the difference began.

Bridgestone has a good document that describes the efficiency.

tyre efficiency 

What I cant determine is if the increase in consumption is per tyre or per set of 4.   Let’s assume it’s per tyre (as that’s the worst case).

My new tyre is rated E, and the tyre available elsewhere is rated B, so that’s a difference between them of 0.04 l /100 km.

On this set of tyres, I drove 43,000 km (or 26,500 miles) so that looks like it will cost me 43,000 km * 0.04  l / 100 km = 17.2 l which at the current price of fuel for diesel at £1.42/l = £24.42.

That’s £100 if the rating is for each tyre, which is quite a difference for just fitting a different tyre to the car.

So, look for the label and choose wisely!  Clearly if the price per tyre is more than the savings a lower rating may be a better choice, though at the same price, it’s a no brainer.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Solar PV a year on and some illuminating thoughts

At the beginning of September, our 2100 kWp Solar PV array had been installed for an entire year.  The output was 15% over what had been predicted by the installer, generating  just under 2000 kWh in the year, and the investment is still looking to pay off in just over 7 years.

I also noticed that for the price I paid, you can now get a system that’s twice as big, so even though the FIT rate has halved, you can still get your investment back in 7 years, while generating twice as much as I am.

However, in the Northern Hemisphere, the days are getting shorter (watch it change on your PC’s desktop with Terminator for Windows Desktop) and it’s got me thinking about how we can shave bit more off of our consumption.

Ikea have an offer on in the UK for the next few days, giving you £3 off each LED bulb you buy.  This website also looks promising:

Should I replace all my CFL bulbs?

For example, this 60W replacement (at £11.95) replacing an 11W CFL bulb to a 5W bulb will pay for itself after 100 kWh at 11p/kWh, or about 20000 hours.  Assuming the light is on for an average of 3 hours a day, that will take 18 years to pay for itself—maybe not worth it just yet, as you can currently get CFL bulbs for about 10p each in the UK (heavily subsidised).

What about CFL downlighters?

We do however also have 8 CFL downlights that are probably reaching the end of their life (they’re on many hours a day in the kitchen), and the best price I can find at the moment for them is Pack of 3 - Megaman BR0711i Ingenium GU10 Spot Bulb 11W Warm Whitefor £14.99.  Where these apparently direct replacement GU10 LED 4.5 W  lamps are £9.95.  If the lights are on 4 hours a day, I save 10p every five days, saving £7.30 per year.  Replacing all 8 bulbs (£40 difference in price) will take just over 5 years to repay the investment, so this probably is worth doing.

How about Fluorescent Tubes?

We also have some fluorescent tubes in our bathroom placed beside a large mirror.  Three of these at 30W uses quite a lot of electricity, and I actually don’t like them very much anyway.  Also, the seem to light up a lot of the box they’re in and not so much of the mirror.  But, these IP68 LED Tape Lamps look like they might be exactly what I need.  5 meters of tape should be enough for the job at 24W and output 1800 Lumens, and again will cost just under £40, and I’ll also need a driver for the LEDs that costs about £20.  Every 15 hours these are on, I’ll save 1Kw of electricity, so they’re paid for in 9000 hours, which at an hour a day for a bathroom will take around 24 years to pay back.

That’s not a great return, but I might do it anyway.  I can probably build it in such a way that if they don’t work there, I can repurpose the strip of lights for use somewhere else.

Monday, 19 March 2012

More energy price hikes

I just got notice that my current tariff for electricity is set to end.

Lo and behold!  Prices are now going to go up 12% for electricity, and 6% for gas for me if I switch to their cheapest deal.

Or I can opt for a fix until July 1, 2013, at about the same levels as I’m currently paying.

Does anyone think prices might actually drop over the winter period before then, as that’s the period where we use the bulk of the electricity?  If so, let me know.  At this moment, I’m tempted to go for the fixed rate based on the cynical winter price rises we’ve seen for the past few years.

By the way, for anyone interested in the existing rates from Scottish power.

Your energy details at a glance

Electricity prices Your current prices Your new prices from
1st May 20121
Your alternative Offer2

Online Energy Saver 13* Standard monthly Direct Debit* Online Energy Saver 18*
First 225kWh used each quarter 21.006p 22.267p 20.975p
All/Day remaining kWh 9.777p 11.706p 11.027p
Night Units per kWh 5.174p 5.837p 5.498p

Gas prices Your current prices Your new prices from
1st May 20121
Your alternative Offer2

Online Energy Saver 13* Standard monthly Direct Debit* Online Energy Saver 18*
First 670kWh used each quarter 6.730p 7.606p 7.164p
All/Day remaining kWh 2.992p 3.382p 3.185p