Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Renovations - updating the fundamentals


While updating the bathroom is fun, there are more serious decisions to make about fundamental maintenance. Our home is over 20 years old and while we built the best we could afford at the time, as our furnace, windows, and water heater age, it's time to take advantage of the Greener Homes evaluation to include energy savings. Because heat pumps don't really work in our area, any upgrades other than windows won't earn rebates so we'll have to make do with saving on utilities.

One focus is the windows. While we went double-paned we didn't go high-end; with this being a rebate we do qualify for, we went for the best possible windows. We also replaced only the glass so we saved a lot on the total cost. For instance - we got a new bathroom window w/casing for $2K+ while a similar-sized window cost under $900 to replace just the sealed units. In the end, we got the triple-paned units that will reduce heat transfer and windows now have a much longer warranty. There should be no drafts and little condensation in winter. Cool.

Water heaters are an ongoing maintenance issue. A lot of times they are run until failure which means dealing with a leaky heater. We don't do that but our water heater is well over a decade old so we're on the edge. We didn't go heat pump or tankless but did source an energy efficiency ng unit and our priority here was water waste. In Alberta, you are charged /m^3 for water and we find we waste a lot of water waiting for hot water to get to the kitchen so we're getting a hot water recirc. pump installed.  

The system update we're most excited for is our furnace. We have a mid-efficiency furnace and this is our opportunity to update to a high-efficiency unit and add a heat recovery ventilation unit. We've been having problems with humidity in the basement so it will be great to have better air circulation. Furnaces have been resized and fan sizes optimized to run quietly so it will be on most of the time without (in theory) using more energy. The HRV will seal the house better and replace all the exhaust fans. One cool thing we're getting is a UV light (replaced every 2 years) that will sanitize air as it passes through - great for allergens and microbes.

It's been a fascinating process and I'm happy to be able to support local businesses. I've used companies that did jobs for me when I was working or who've come recommended by others. Prices have been within our vague budget and wait time is pretty reasonable. 

When we built our home, maintenance was a fuzzy dream. Life passes quickly and owning a home for 20 years is no different than purchasing an older home - there has to be a maintenance budget. Luckily a lot of equipment has improved in efficiency without costing as much of a premium as it would have been when we first built.

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Home ownership and renovations

 A lot has been made lately about housing affordability. I live in a community with decent affordability - there's a good inventory of rental units, condos, and single-family homes. Since we don't believe in purchasing homes to rent we missed our levering our home into a home in the Vancouver area. With the drop in home values in 2016 and the acceleration of housing prices out there, even with an extra $400K (buy out and inheritance) we could not enter the housing market without taking a huge downgrade.

So renovations it is. Luckily this is a custom home. We got the plan we went with inexpensive finishes to keep our mortgage down on the understanding we could upgrade later if we didn't move away. It's later. We did round one renos and have finally admitted this is our forever home.

This round we're doing windows, the ensuite bathroom and furnace/water heater. There is a green rebate but it will only cover some windows (better than a kick in the teeth). The windows are the most important for energy conservation, the water heating system important for water conservation, and the bathroom for PLEASURE (and accessibility as we age).

The process was kickstarted when I found a tile that I L-O-V-E for the shower. It has some of the beige on our walls and blue as an accent colour and will be the "feature wall" that has the shower components. The rest of the walls will be a large (8x20") white mix textured tile that really echos the lightest colour in the feature tile. The floor will be navy 2x2 antislip tile (safety first🙂) 

Here's the completed palette; I'm getting a quartz countertop with a white vanity and linen closet. I'm pretty sure I'm getting a blue tile backsplash for the vanity but the tile guy said to wait and see.

The problem with the new bathroom counter is Fred's always talked about doing the kitchen as well. Now I'm on board with that sooner than later. New cabinet faces, same countertop, and a new kitchen sink...after doing the energy conservation upgrades. 

I still wish I could have moved home. The only way we could have done it was if we did it before we retired so we could replenish our funds. This is something to keep in mind for younger people moving to affordable housing.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

Bennie is 4 today 🎂- the perfect dog age.

Bennie is 4 today. We don't usually remember on time to do anything but we got him right after I retired and we spent his first month with my Dad. Bennie is the first dog we've had that's gotten this old with only us for company. All of our others had companion dogs to keep them company while we were at work.

I say 4 is perfect because they're old enough for us to all understand expectations but there's energy and less illness - we're between the eating of random junk and organ failure. 

He's been a gift. He slept through the night from the day he arrived and is very solid on house training. We've always wanted a dog that we can just leave at home without setting barriers and he's it. We've never come home to random destruction.

For his birthday we got lots of treats and he got a bone...his first. I was expecting him to hoard it or maybe cover it to keep for later. Instead, he ate some of it, came to hang out by us with his bone while we ate ice cream, and eventually left it on the deck under the stairs when he realized it didn't get to come in the house.

Bennie had been a challenging pup in many ways. We'd forgotten what it was like to have a puppy when he came along and we forgot, oddly enough, how reactive cairns are to other dogs. I used to have two dogs tangle at the end of a leash when another dog looked at them funny and now I have just one. It's a little more manageable and there is less excuse for not being proactive and recognizing when Bennie's at the end of his tolerance; clicks and treats are the coin of the realm. 

If you have a challenging pup, take heart. They do grow up.

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

One Month with the Cayenne E-Hybrid - I regret nothing

With gas prices so high a lot more people are thinking of EVs. Just want to say, to save money on gas NOW - slow down your speed and carpool if you can't take transit. That said. we did plan for our vehicle to be a hybrid and we've had our Cayenne E-hybrid for over a month now. I did a first impressions post and, after a month of typical driving - we made the right decision.

One thing I would definitely advise is getting a home charging station if you can. We got a Level 2 charger installed in our garage and it's great. We can charge at up to 40A which will fill our small (19 kWh) battery in a couple hours.

The battery may seem small but it's great for limiting my driving - without it, I'd be driving all over just for fun, which was one of my fears. Usually, I'll walk if the weather is good and I'm not carrying things. EPA gives 4.2 L/100km and the only way we can think to get that is by a mixed city/highway commute. With ICE you have the worse consumption during city trips, EV or hybrid is reversed. We did a ~1000km round trip and got 8.5 L/100km averaging ~ 105 kmh. That included a full charge when we started and no more charging. We did top up the gas at one end but that's more of a range anxiety thing since we got home with over 1/2 a tank and have just left it.

I loved my Macan but the Cayenne really upped the experience. I'm surprised to say the Cayenne feels more refined. It doesn't feel any larger to drive, I park it a lot better, and with the higher ride I have better visibility overall🤷‍♀️ Handling is smooth and steering is responsive. I didn't think I needed any PCM upgrades but that was a lack of imagination. Porsche uses Google Maps for nav and now that we've had more chances to use it there are ups and downs. We drove into the city and the instructions included things like "turn after the gas station on the right" - nice. On the downside the day the maps updated before our long trip, there was a road closure so we couldn't set the nav to take that route. The back seats are, naturally, more spacious but they also can move back and forth so you can get more cargo space without flipping down the seat OR accommodate people with long legs more comfortably.

So what would the wrong decision look like for me?

Less fun driving experience than the Macan (other than brapp noise), unable to find a seat position with good visibility (happened with the Panamera), variable handing depending on road conditions, not feeling solid on the road, handling like a truck, OK Porsche not handling PCM directions (I don't expect it to be able to tell me the population of Nutavut), no Android Auto support (it's wired which sucks but is manageable), not having enough EV range for our short hops in winter (touch and go but it is a hybrid so ...).

Like I said in the title - I regret nothing.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

New Tech is in the house...Hybrid Cayenne


It's been an exciting week - Saturday we picked up the Cayenne, Monday my S22 Ultra arrived and Friday we got the charger installed. Phew - let's do the small stuff first.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

Things living rent free in my head - I hate this!

You know what I mean. Much like how your hands move to the nearby bowl of potato chips without thinking my brain cycles through unresolvable annoying topics.

This is year 3 of not being able to go on our tropical holiday and this winter has been brutal. A month-long spell of weather so cold that outdoor activities were out of the question. Like many, I am done with this pandemic. We've limited travel to heading out to the coast for family emergencies and running to Edmonton for service appointments then coming right back home. I need to put on my selfish hat (and mask🙄) and get out in the community and do things...except I really don't want to run into convoy supporters and if I do any kind of group activity, that's likely to happen.

And speaking of convoys - what the actual f*ck is their problem. Vaccines were mandated for Federally regulated industries ages ago and trucking got an exemption that expired. Still, they can work across Canada unless the companies they want to access require vaccination. This would be horribly discriminatory if the vaccines weren't widely tested before being provided for free from a bunch of places you don't have to have an appointment to get. Booster, whatever. I really don't like getting sick so I'll take it. Other countries want me to be vaccinated to visit - okay, it's your health system. I could be sympathetic to anti-maskers - it does feel awkward to be the one out of step - but I have yet to hear news reports of insisting people wear masks to the point of assault but I do see videos of non-mask wearers spitting on people and trying to remove masks from people wearing them. From the start  (in the mid 2020s) it's seemed like people being thwarted who are not used to being told no. 

This thing with Trudeau is just irrational. He's a leader in a recently elected minority government.  During a pandemic, as a responsible employer, the Feds are reducing health risks by requiring vaccines - just like a lot of large companies. He got a vaccine supply and distributed it. He's mostly followed the recommendations of PHAC (mostly because wildly changing test requirements is...wild and quarantining was lax) and really left provinces to themselves when doing their pandemic response and vaccination distribution. There's been no Federally mandated lockdowns - all there have been is essential travel recommendations with no questioning of what people decide is essential. No mass testing like Hong Kong no lockdowns like China, just gradual lessening of quarantine and testing on arrival. I know this is mentally difficult - see the third year of not traveling thing - but in spite of hyperbole, this is not forever.

Finally the Emergencies Act. From the start, the CPC and their provincial counterparts wanted to provoke the Feds into doing something that could be used in the next election and I think they wanted it to echo the FLQ crisis and G7 head bashing. But it didn't. After weeks of having their lives further interrupted by the squatters, Ottawans got to see overwhelming numbers of law enforcement move stoically to contain their tormenters. Yep, that's my take. I can't imagine having people from another town set up a block party in my neighbourhood while the police look the other way. The Act has a limited term and any actions will be scrutinized by people hostile to invoking the act.

One reason I'm writing this is to force myself to check into background elements to ensure I'm being fair. I have a CPC MLA. Other than donating to the convoy, which according to its memorandum had the secondary aim of overturning an election, and decrying gun control the last thing she wrote about was to defend fertilizer use by farmers as part of resisting climate change initiatives. I agree that there metrics have to be reasonably set but, we've seen under Conservative-led (CPC, UCP, PC) government, it's a lot of talk and encouragement of making things worse by kicking the can down the road.

Anyway, hopefully just writing it down will get everything out of my system. I think Canada's governmental COVID response was pretty good. Individuals got support, we had pretty decent movement and not huge swaths of deaths although there were some - it's a pandemic after all. I have to admit, I hope the Emergencies Act spawns some better financial laws that prevent money laundering and tax dodging so the Feds can focus on things like affordable housing in major centers and inflation.

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

COVID - how far we've come!

In 2020 as we were getting ready to cancel our trip I wondered how things would shake out. There's always a range of people and at far ends are the ones who will never comply with public health measures and the ones who never want the health measures lifted. How will our levels of government manage that? 

In many ways, the Feds have it the easiest. Timely vaccine and medication supplies, with backup personnel along with health mandates for Federally jurisdiction workers. The Federal government seemed to think something would be resolved by September 2020 so they could end the CERB program that gave almost anyone to applied $2K/mo to meet expenses along with a program for small businesses for the same purpose. At that time the virus had been identified and sequenced but weird public health things happening. Even though it seemed obvious to anyone who watched the news that this was an airborne thing...choirs, restaurant and cruise ship infection events...doctors seemed pretty intent on emphasizing surfaces. I always thought if a surface was that contaminated, no way would I touch that but mask for something that goes through the air - yep.

After one year - thanks to operation WarpSpeed we had vaccines available. Amazing what having enough money to explore multiple streams, while completing all the required documentation for ethical testing, can do to propel health🤔Even though the companies who brought the earliest vaccines to market didn't use those funds they did benefit with access to things that didn't work and a lot of science developed can be used for other vaccines. Feds did their job by ensuring vaccines supplies for Canadians.

After only two years we have several vaccine options, enough for boosters, 2 medications (also procured and available in Canada) for early stages of infections and the medical profession has established effective treatment protocols. The swiss cheese layers seem to be numerous enough that we need a strategy for lifting COVID restrictions

But should we?

Being tired of wearing a mask and showing you're vaccinated is not enough reason to abandon health care workers. Being angry because you can't go places because you don't want a vaccination is, again, not enough. I don't know why the idea of "bending the curve" became so onerous but I suspect it has something to do with politicians promoting vaccination as THE end rather than a tool to ending. Have you thought about what would make you feel safe to resume activities? Is there anything that makes you not want to get COVID?

Vaccines that get us to the point where even if most of us are exposed we are unlikely to get infected - even asymptomatically - is huge. I would look at publically available lagging indicators like hospitalizations. When hospitalization at the point all other hospital treatments are resuming and ICUs are at the 80% full level (80% is arbitrary as I don't know how full they were before) for 2 - 4 weeks. At that point attempts to reduce exposure have been effective enough.

As for getting it? Do not want. We don't talk enough about how long people suffer with symptoms after infection much less long-COVID and we don't know the long-term effects of a virus that damages the vascular system. I would not be surprised if we get a slew of unexpected strokes, aneurysms, and heart attacks from people who recovered from COVID (like Bob Sagat). A lot of people now have COVID as part of their medical history.

I just hope we don't move on without learning lessons. We really need to work on HVAC systems to ensure cleaner air for indoor spaces, whether by increased air exchange, sterilization, filters or a combination...and communicate those changes so everyone can understand what it means. More "pop up" facilities to handle overflow patients and perhaps even a corp of medical adjacent professionals that can keep up their skills monthly or annually and be pulled in for emergencies.

As for the pandemic/endemic thing? With the ability to travel widely, endemic viral disease is not small thing.