Home Energy Audit

I was part of a 12 month pilot program that my electric company sponsored. For no charge, they gave me a GE Nucleus system which basically provides me with a desktop application so I can see my real-time energy usage.

For example, here’s a screenshot I just captured:


It’s a pretty cool program. For some reason, the actual dollar amounts stopped showing up as soon as the pilot program ended, but the energy usage is still accurate because it is pulled from my smart meter.

As part of this pilot program APS gave me a free home energy audit (paid for by my power company, APS).

The home energy audit was really cool, but in my case, I think I’m already rather efficient.

Here’s an email I sent to the company that did the home energy audit.


I did a little bit of sleuthing on the APS site this morning.

It looks like my actual energy usage cost is only about 41% of the APS annual cost estimate of $5,680. that you included in the APS document.

The data I exported, which was 24 months of billing history, looks like the following:

Most recent 12 months: 11/7/13 – 10/8/14


The previous 12 months: 11/6/12 – 10/9/13


Next, I looked at some of the solutions you suggested, and adjusted the estimated annual savings to reduce them to 41% of their previous totals. I believe the efficiency gains are probably accurate, at least I’m assuming they are. So, this feels like a fairly accurate way to figure things.

Here’s the updated efficiency improvement numbers:

Cooling system (new HVAC on west side): Since I already need this, not even worth calculating. Just need to determine when to do this.

HVAC System Efficiency – Air Duct Sealing: $154.57 / year

If it costs me $1,200 for the Aeroseal (that includes the $400 rebate), then it’s a 7.7 year ROI (it’s 10 years without the rebate).

Windows: $116.44 / year

If this costs $245, then payoff sounds like it would be only 2.1 years (ROI).

Pool pump: $154.16 / year

Your document said $376 per year in savings, so I’m figuring if I reduce it to 41% of that, then I’m figuring maybe $154.16 in annual energy savings due to a new pool pump.

The trouble is, the new pool pump costs $1,695 (oh, only $1,545 when you include the rebate) and that means my actual payoff is around 10 years. Ouch! Sounds like it’s definitely a worthwhile investment if you already need one, but the current pool pump works just fine so tough one to swallow.



Variable speed pool pump: I did some basic math on the pool pump to get an approximate idea of annual savings. It came to around $216/year in savings (see attached) if I were to get a variable speed pool pump. At $1,545 for installation of a new pool pump it averages out to around a 7.15 year ROI. Considering the existing pool pump will likely fail in that time frame anyways, it just feels like the sort of thing I’d be better off doing after my current pool pump bites the dust.


LED Lights: I did replace about 25 or so incandescent light bulbs with LED ones I got at Costco. According to the math I did, that should have an ROI in about 12-18 months. I was pretty impressed with this. All of the LEDs work great, and I am actually quite impressed. So far, I haven’t gotten an electric bill to compare, though.

HVAC System Sealing: Based on a $59/year HVAC system efficiency improvement to do the duct sealing, I think that’s not really useful either. That actually has a 20+ year ROI, so not really even worth thinking about.

Window Screens: The windows… will probably do that once summer hits. Send me photos whenever you get some and I’ll show them to my wife. At $37/year it has a ROI after 5 years so it’s not that much of an efficiency boost. But, I do plan to move my office into that back room. So, it’s also a comfort thing… so that seems wise.

New HVAC: Yeah, thinking about this. Right now, I’m thinking about just doing it in the first quarter of 2015. No major reason in particular, but my wife is due for a baby in the next 2 weeks so I wasn’t really rushing. I’m going to get 1 other quote on this. The $1,000 for the roof repair is what throws me off. It feels like I could get a roof guy out here for much less, so it made me wonder. I think that number is a guess on your part… the estimate says “Need pricing for foam repair” and since it’s a cool $1,000 it seems like it’s a guess.

I thought the updated APS report was useful. I think the overall audit was a real learning experience for me and it helped me realize my home is pretty energy conservative. It’s something I’d recommend to other people, but I also slightly realize that it is the big energy devices that end up really using lots of electricity.

The best loan customer is someone who has no passion whatsoever

This is a fascinating point from Scott Adams. I’m going to be thinking about this for a while.

But the most dangerous case of all is when successful people directly give advice. For example, you often hear them say that you should “follow your passion.” That sounds perfectly reasonable the first time you hear it. Passion will presumably give you high energy, high resistance to rejection and high determination. Passionate people are more persuasive, too. Those are all good things, right?

Here’s the counterargument: When I was a commercial loan officer for a large bank, my boss taught us that you should never make a loan to someone who is following his passion. For example, you don’t want to give money to a sports enthusiast who is starting a sports store to pursue his passion for all things sporty. That guy is a bad bet, passion and all. He’s in business for the wrong reason.

My boss, who had been a commercial lender for over 30 years, said that the best loan customer is someone who has no passion whatsoever, just a desire to work hard at something that looks good on a spreadsheet. Maybe the loan customer wants to start a dry-cleaning store or invest in a fast-food franchise—boring stuff. That’s the person you bet on. You want the grinder, not the guy who loves his job.

Read the article here.

Business Cards

This just in… we have business cards! Track The Time is official now, and if you’d like a card just let us know and we’ll send you a batch. We’re using them at conferences, networking events, and with our friends to spread the word about our upcoming product.

business cards

P.S. Sometime in the future, this blog design will be updated to reflect the good style we have in our cards.

Web 2.0 Expo

Time Tracking ToolsThere’s a possibility that we might be attending the Web 2.0 Expo, and if we do, we’re planning to spend some time networking with potential customers of our product.

We’re going to be attending along with several people from Viddler. The show is on April 15th through the 18th in San Francisco. It will be the perfect opportunity to hand out business cards and meet potential “early adopters” of our product, while at the same time spreading the word about Viddler.

The Importance of a Good Demo

I suppose I am going to need to work on improving my skills at explaining our product. The last 3 times I have had to explain our product to someone, and have shown them screen shots, nobody has said “wow” or “when can I begin using it?”

What has changed? We have added extra functionality, extra features, and as a direct result the product takes more effort to understand. Plus, I don’t have a cohesive demo. I just have a bunch of screen shots and they don’t link together.

When the application was simply a time tracking tool with reports, people got it fast. Now that we’ve added messages, projects, and a project timeline, it takes people twice as long to absorb and evaluate.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to work on my presentation. I need to get better at explaining how simple it is to use. I’m also going to be evaluating our features. Can we drop any features that we have added? Are there any features that don’t add enough value? Can we remove them?

I think our product is very strong, and will definitely capture a large market share… things like this need to be sorted out now, rather than after product launch.

Live Chat as a Sales and Support Tool

We’ve installed several live-chat systems over the past few years for clients of our web consulting business. I never pondered the day that we might consider a chat service for ourselves. Now I am, as Roundup will require sales efforts as well as support.

To integrate such a system, I think we will likely experiment first with the meebo me widget. It is a free (currently) web based product that allows you to integrate live chat onto your web site — and the best part is that instead of having additional software, the instant messages can come in through AIM or MSN.

Depending on the results, we may choose to “upgrade” to a better product that is dedicated to this sort of thing. There are dozens on the market. I like the idea of experimenting, first, and seeing whether it is effective or not, and if we increase sales as a result.

Something I’m especially interested in trying, would be comparing sales data one month to the next, and using live-chat for sales and support in only one of those months. Given enough on and off testing we could determine if providing the service results in more sales or not (at least roughly).

Here’s a list of some of the live chat services we’re considering:

Completely free, with the drawback that it doesn’t have reporting built in, and works off of your existing chat client (AOL, MSN, Yahoo!, etc.). The ability to experiment with a free service is appealing.

This is one that I used about a year ago for a client’s project. It works well, and has a desktop application that can chime everytime you receive a chat request. The license fee is for 1-year and you have to renew, it otherwise it quits working.

BoldChat came highly recommended by a number of people in the 9rules Network.

Livehelper.com is a hosted service, meaning we pay a monthly fee to use the service.

LivePerson was to my knowledge the first company to do live chat. I looked into it a long time ago and it was much more expensive than all of the other services out there.

Update: Plugoo is another one that uses MSN, Yahoo, and Google Talk (similar to Meebome).

Other ways to handle support:

Mojo Helpdesk may be just the ticket we need, it only costs $49/mo and comes with a support ratings system that would enable us to see how well we are doing. The other option is to just use email and handle support that way.

Update: Mailroom from Sprout is a tool for handling email communication.

Update: SupportTrio sounds like a viable solution, and it actually combines trouble ticketing with live chat, which sounds great.

Update: Get Satisfaction is a new web service that a lot of companies are using which is a sort of distributed support service. Other customers can help people with questions, and you can also pitch in.

Update: UserVoice looks like a really great service. Simpler than Get Satisfaction which I mentioned above. Is a tool for support + handling suggestions. Watch this video and see an example.

Update: An interesting help desk web app is ZenDesk.

Update: WebsiteAlive has been recommended.