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  • 3D Printing: Cupcake Farewell

    Posted on October 31st, 2016 admin No comments

    We pay really low electrical rates at our little cabin in the woods – an average of about 9 cents per kilowatt hour.   So we started wondering why our power bills are are so high.  There were months when we never even went out to the cabin, and used Cottageabsolutely no electricity at all, yet we paid almost the same as for months when we did use power.  Couldn't figure out why we were paying for not using power.

    When I phoned to ask about this, our electricity provider explained that the charges are "our share of the distribution costs".  In other words, they charge us a bit each month for the use of their power poles and wires, as well for a share of salaries, maintenance, etc.

    Seems fair enough in a way, and clearer than rolling it into the cost of electricity.  Our bill shows that, beyond a few bucks a month for electricity,  we also pay for

    • Administration - for the cost of billing us, I guess
    • Distribution - poles & wires, I suppose
    • Transmission - a small fee for shoving electrons along the wires?
    • Riders - various little charges and rebates that come and go

    Now, here is our average monthly electrical consumption for each of the past four years, along with all the surcharges, and the totals:

    YEAR kWh Usage Energy Surcharges TOTAL
    2012 128.63      11.30 74.48 85.78
    2013 74.33        6.91 74.55 81.46
    2014 43.75        3.56 83.60 87.16
    2015 30.83        1.43 90.23 91.66

    Notice that the power usage (kWh) and energy costs have declined substantially over the past four years, while the Surcharges have gone up, especially during the past three years.    We're approaching $100 a month, just for having the power lines come to the cabin.

    With power costs over $1000 a year, even when we don't use any electricity at all, off-grid solar is starting to look more attractive.  A couple of years ago, I looked into it.  A simple system could pay for itself in 5 to 10 years.  Will we be using the cabin for that long?  Would a solar system add any resale value to the place?

    The main power guzzler is the water pump; a solar system to handle that would cost a lot.  I can get a small auto-start generator to run the pump (and recharge the batteries if needed) for a few hundred dollars.   But the biggest issue was the size and mass of storage batteries; I would have to build an addition to the cottage, specially heated and ventilated, to hold a dozen stinky acid-filled batteries.

    Now, with the release of Tesla's PowerWall, I'm revisiting the idea.   Good to -20 Celsius, the thing is only about 3' wide, 4' high, and 7" deep, it has internal temperature controls, is maintenance free, and would mount inside or outside the cabin.  Pricey (about 4 years worth of power bills), but dang, it looks like a sensible alternative to standard bulky batteries.


    Cupcake 3d Printer

    Cupcake by MakerBot Industries

    Some years ago, capsule my son and I partnered to purchase a Cupcake 3d printer by Makerbot. It was one of the first kit printers for home use.

    Fun to assemble but a bit of a bear to use, it was fiddly to calibrate and finicky to operate.   Still, we made a lot of stuff with it.

    In the fast-moving field of additive manufacturing, the Cupcake quickly became old-tech; in an attempt to keep it up to date we hacked it, modified it, tweaked it, added new parts,  loved it, hated it.

    It recently found a new home at a local high school, a donation to their Fabrication Program.   The teacher was excited to have it. (My son said, "Poor kids!")

    If nothing else, they have a bunch of parts, and can rebuild the printer to more modern standards.

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