Search found 320 matches

by brianH
Sat Nov 16, 2019 12:00 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Anyone switch from oil to propane?
Replies: 30
Views: 1333

Re: Anyone switch from oil to propane?

A colleague at work just had a new hybrid heat pump/propane system installed. The heat pump systems have come a long way in cold-weather efficiency. We did the math on the economic breakpoint and with $0.20/kWh electricity and $2.00/gallon propane it is cheaper the run the heat pump down to 10 degr...
by brianH
Fri Nov 15, 2019 2:59 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Anyone switch from oil to propane?
Replies: 30
Views: 1333

Re: Anyone switch from oil to propane?

In general, propane has a lot of advantages over oil. You can get a propane boiler that is 96+% AFUE (efficient). Best you can do with traditional oil boilers is typically around 80%. To be fair, the AFUE of the oil boiler he's mentioning is more like 85-87%. Worth remembering, of course that propa...
by brianH
Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:42 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Question for Car experts - how urgent/important are these maintenance items
Replies: 36
Views: 3324

Re: Question for Car experts - how urgent/important are these maintenance items

I recently went by my local dealer to get wiper blade inserts for my '07 4Runner. When the parts counter guy brought them to me he said they were the last ones they had, and the weren't gonna re-stock them anymore. Depending on the blade, I can understand this. I tried to do the inserts on an older...
by brianH
Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:59 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Weddings - The good? The bad?
Replies: 47
Views: 4278

Re: Weddings - The good? The bad?

Having attended at least two dozen weddings and my own, my biggest factor for determining if I enjoy myself is how the venue handles the 'cocktail hour' before the main hall opens up. I've been to a few weddings where the cocktail area is far too small for the number of guests, and everyone is crowd...
by brianH
Thu Nov 07, 2019 11:37 am
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Mortgage to prepay or not prepay
Replies: 82
Views: 6186

Re: Mortgage to prepay or not prepay

This is offset by your bond holdings. If you hold equal amounts in bonds and a mortgage, and there is inflation, you pay back the mortgage with deflated dollars, but your bond values are in deflated dollars, so you break even from inflation, and gain or lose according to the difference in interest ...
by brianH
Tue Nov 05, 2019 9:55 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: payoff period for viable solar ?
Replies: 17
Views: 890

Re: payoff period for viable solar ?

I just looked at our address on Project Sunroof. Unfortunately the analysis shows 20 year savings with solar of -$1700. 😢 Likely a combination of cheap electric rates and relatively low electrical utility usage locally. (Avg $80/month on estimate and that’s probably a bit higher than our actual cos...
by brianH
Mon Nov 04, 2019 7:04 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: payoff period for viable solar ?
Replies: 17
Views: 890

Re: payoff period for viable solar ?

There are a bunch of variables to consider, many of which may change over the life of the panels (20 years, give or take.) Google's Project Sunroof (https://www.google.com/get/sunroof) has many of these variables figured into the equation you're looking for: net present value. The 20-year NPV for me...
by brianH
Fri Nov 01, 2019 9:16 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: How often do you allow your dentist to x-ray your teeth?
Replies: 19
Views: 1711

Re: How often do you allow your dentist to x-ray your teeth?

If your dentist is using modern equipment, the radiation exposure from a bitewing x-ray is much lower than the normal background radiation you are exposed to daily. The panoramic x-rays are higher doses, but still less than you experience from taking a cross-country flight. In other words, almost ce...
by brianH
Tue Oct 29, 2019 2:00 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Low water pressure/flow in house
Replies: 52
Views: 2721

Re: Low water pressure/flow in house

Running three showers at the same time is not going to work almost anywhere. You can look at charts like this: http://s3.supplyhouse.com/product_category_files/11448-Flow-Rate-Chart.pdf to see that even in an ideal situation, if your upstairs main line is 3/4 copper, that only gives 3.2-6.5gpm. Mod...
by brianH
Sun Oct 27, 2019 6:07 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: HVAC check ups?
Replies: 46
Views: 2975

Re: HVAC check ups?

" It only takes a few seconds on Ebay or various online supply houses to see what refrigerant, even R22 for now, is going for. R22 is around $10-20/lb and 410a is maybe $5/lb. " That's just peachy if you know how to properly evacuate the system and add the correct amount of refrigerant. I don't kno...
by brianH
Sun Oct 27, 2019 12:58 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: HVAC check ups?
Replies: 46
Views: 2975

Re: HVAC check ups?

More on point, has anyone else been following the rapid increase in R22/Freon prices? Since new Freon-using units were banned in 2010 and 2020 will be the last legal manufacture of Freon, having to replace just one pound of Freon in an existing system can run from $35 to $150 plus labor. If you sys...
by brianH
Fri Oct 25, 2019 3:35 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Home buying advice: Build new or buy used?
Replies: 76
Views: 5467

Re: Home buying advice: Build new or buy used?

On the pipes - "glued PVC" is NOT code approved for domestic water supply (I think CPVC may be?? be but Ive never seen it) . If you see plastic supply pipes they are most likely PEX and used crimped connections. In some areas, I believe PVC (no 'C') is still allowed for COLD water supply (never hot...
by brianH
Fri Oct 25, 2019 3:21 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Home buying advice: Build new or buy used?
Replies: 76
Views: 5467

Re: Home buying advice: Build new or buy used?

I’m glad to know your 40 year old home was well cared for. If I buy a home build in 1980, are there any key items I should keep an eye out for? Probably the two most important things are structure and water damage. Ideally, the basement and attic would be unfinished and easily accessible to an insp...
by brianH
Fri Oct 25, 2019 10:22 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Anybody use a battery-powered snowblower?
Replies: 33
Views: 1775

Re: Anybody use a battery-powered snowblower?

Don't cheap out on this item, that's my advice. Get a real, dual-stage gas powered snowblower. Yes it costs more and takes up more space and is loud, but when you need a snowblower, you need a real one. As a counter-point, your location matters dramatically to what type of snow-clearing device to g...
by brianH
Fri Oct 25, 2019 9:49 am
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Reduce roth 401(k) to just match to prepay mortgage?
Replies: 51
Views: 2582

Re: Reduce roth 401(k) to just match to prepay mortgage?

But most investors don't do this, because they have some level of risk aversion; they would prefer to hold some bonds yielding 2.22% to stocks, and thus should more strongly prefer paying down a mortgage for a 4% risk-free return to buying more stocks. This is my basic logic. Many people that would...
by brianH
Thu Oct 24, 2019 4:23 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Does the Average Homeowner Need a Water Shut Off Valve?
Replies: 56
Views: 5461

Re: Does the Average Homeowner Need a Water Shut Off Valve?

Do these smart valves replace the typical manual valve where water enters the house? If so, what constitutes a shutdown? I guess I am asking how long water flows before the smarts kick in. Yes, they typically replace (or are directly after) the main shutoff in the house. There are a number of diffe...
by brianH
Wed Oct 23, 2019 10:44 am
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: How many estimates do you get when you need work done on your house?
Replies: 43
Views: 2678

Re: How many estimates do you get when you need work done on your house?

If you can get them, 3-4 relatively detailed estimates should be sufficient to determine what the fair price is. I recently had over $3,000 worth of tree work done (removal of large maple and others), and got 6 estimates. There was one high outlier, but all the rest were within 10% of each other. I ...
by brianH
Tue Oct 22, 2019 1:54 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Home buying advice: Build new or buy used?
Replies: 76
Views: 5467

Re: Home buying advice: Build new or buy used?

A major factor in my decision to buy 'used' (1980 build), is to avoid an HOA. All new construction is required to form an HOA to manage common area maintenance, snow plowing, etc. In addition to HOA dues, new construction often takes what is effectively a loan out to run infrastructure (sewer/gas) t...
by brianH
Sun Oct 20, 2019 9:23 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: 2019 year end car buying experience
Replies: 46
Views: 5096

Re: 2019 year end car buying experience

The frustrating part is that PF people think of car salesman like crooks, when the reality is that their profession is largely not much different from any other commission sales job. Furthermore, Lowes and Home Depot have higher mark-ups and profit margins on their inventory than car dealers do.......
by brianH
Tue Oct 01, 2019 6:45 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: IT compensation comparison
Replies: 269
Views: 24788

Re: IT compensation comparison

This is absolutely true. Conventional wisdom in 2002, 2003 was that all software engineers were going to be outsourced to India and that it was a dead-end profession. It was tried, heavily, and most companies that tried it reluctantly declared outsourcing a total failure. Someone in this thread com...
by brianH
Tue Oct 01, 2019 2:42 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: HVAC advice - ac or ac + furnace
Replies: 11
Views: 977

Re: HVAC advice - ac or ac + furnace

*shakes my head* As I grew up with mechanical systems that lasted 20,30,40 years.. based on threads in this forum the life span of this new stuff appears to be truly poor (or for some reason normally frugal bogleheads love to spend money on mechanical systems...) The units themselves are generally ...
by brianH
Sun Sep 29, 2019 8:55 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: What is protocol for cleaning house when moving?
Replies: 49
Views: 3389

Re: What is protocol for cleaning house when moving?

In our case, a few days before closing on the purchase of our current house, our attorney who was handling the closing called me and said the seller was insisting on receiving (at closing) a credit for the value of the fuel oil in the tank. That never occurred to us. I think the only way I would ag...
by brianH
Sun Sep 29, 2019 7:50 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Salt-Free Water Softeners
Replies: 42
Views: 3275

Re: Salt-Free Water Softeners

Salt-free softeners don't work as well as conventional units.

What problem are you actually trying to solve? What is your current GPG hardness and do you have some medical reason to avoid salt?
by brianH
Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:51 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: IT compensation comparison
Replies: 269
Views: 24788

Re: IT compensation comparison

Again, none of that comes close to approximating what engineers are building at the top tier companies. I wouldn't describe any of that as "sophisticated." Some of it may have been, but there's nothing there I personally would consider especially relevant as a hiring manager at one of those compani...
by brianH
Wed Sep 25, 2019 8:35 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Solar panel advice & experiences
Replies: 64
Views: 2917

Re: Solar panel advice & experiences

Google Project Sunroof (https://www.google.com/get/sunroof) will run the NPV calc for you based on some variables they know about your location. Even with their highly optimistic assumptions, and a low 4% discount rate (threads around here recommend not even paying off a mortgage at 4%), my NPV is n...
by brianH
Tue Sep 24, 2019 11:00 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Where do you buy parts for DIY Auto repairs
Replies: 46
Views: 3393

Re: Where do you buy parts for DIY Auto repairs

It's worth noting that Harbor Freight has different lines (quality) of tools. Their basic $5 pliers are similar in quality to the Lowes (Kobalt) or Home Depot (Husky) house brands, or to the now revived Craftsman. However, HF has the Doyle line, which is double the cost, and can easily go toe-to-toe...
by brianH
Sun Sep 22, 2019 7:53 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Stump Grinder - Ridiculous Side Hustle??
Replies: 51
Views: 7417

Re: Stump Grinder - Ridiculous Side Hustle??

It definitely seems like the ROI would be decent if you could get business. As a homeowner that is willing to DIY, I'd consider renting a grinder myself, but for these few trees, the hassle isn't worth it to save $200 or so. I'd question why a tree service wouldn't have their own grinders and need ...
by brianH
Sun Sep 22, 2019 6:38 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Stump Grinder - Ridiculous Side Hustle??
Replies: 51
Views: 7417

Re: Stump Grinder - Ridiculous Side Hustle??

I can't comment much on the business plan, but I'm having a few trees removed in a few days, and the tree guy is charging $100/stump for 2 medium sized trees (say a 1-2' diameter stump) and $300 for the stump of a large silver maple with probably a 4-5' diameter stump and mound. This is in a MCOL ar...
by brianH
Thu Sep 19, 2019 7:29 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: 2 Year-Old Trane HVAC, 0 Refrigerant
Replies: 11
Views: 1088

Re: 2 Year-Old Trane HVAC, 0 Refrigerant

Since its a new unit, I'm assuming it is R-410A. Market price for R-410A is around 3-4 bucks a pound. It should not cost very much to charge the unit once the leak is fixed. Seriously. HVAC work is such a cabal of scammers. I can order a 25lb tank of 401A direct to my house for $115 off Ebay. The p...
by brianH
Thu Sep 12, 2019 10:11 am
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Bay Area budget for $350k family income
Replies: 94
Views: 7581

Re: Bay Area budget for $350k family income

No one should feel bad, it's just that reality is not the visions of wealth people making $50k envision when they think of $400k. I recall the days back when Obama wanted to institute higher taxes on those making over $250k, every article lead with a photo of a couple walking on a tarmac from a Rol...
by brianH
Thu Sep 12, 2019 8:36 am
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Bay Area budget for $350k family income
Replies: 94
Views: 7581

Re: Bay Area budget for $350k family income

If $350K is barely cutting it, then how is the median household income for San Fransisco $102K? Half of the population of the city is getting by on an amount that is less than 1/3 of the outrageous claim in this article. The issue here is clearly one of defining the term "middle-class lifestyle". Th...
by brianH
Thu Sep 12, 2019 7:23 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: What older products/tools are better than modern equivalents?
Replies: 54
Views: 4301

Re: What older products/tools are better than modern equivalents?

Dishwasher detergent. Man do I miss the phosphates... One can always buy a box of trisodium phosphate from Home Depot or a painting store (it's used as surface prep for painting) and add about a 1/2 teaspoon of it to the detergent cup. I've found that a very recent dishwasher combined with a water ...
by brianH
Sun Sep 08, 2019 12:28 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Vanguard/Yodlee for Aggregation
Replies: 52
Views: 2838

Re: Vanguard/Yodlee for Aggregation

Though not true in my organization's case, I understand that reasoning. However, from a security perspective, that means that they have to do some less-that-ideal things like asking the user for their 2FA code, and then storing the resulting cookie value along with the username/password. Under this...
by brianH
Sun Sep 08, 2019 9:34 am
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Vanguard/Yodlee for Aggregation
Replies: 52
Views: 2838

Re: Vanguard/Yodlee for Aggregation

I can't speak for other banks, but I am a software engineer at a financial firm, and we did provide an OAuth2-based token flow to access an API. However, the aggregators (many of whom are listed in this thread) had zero interest in it. [...] From this lack of concern over doing things the 'right wa...
by brianH
Sat Sep 07, 2019 3:33 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Vanguard/Yodlee for Aggregation
Replies: 52
Views: 2838

Re: Vanguard/Yodlee for Aggregation

I am not confident in the least. It flies in the face of sound credential management, and I personally refuse to do it either for budgeting or for tax purposes. Aside from the risk of the aggregator getting hacked, it forces you to turn off second-factor auth on the scraped accounts. Unfortunately,...
by brianH
Sat Sep 07, 2019 3:03 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Mensa membership
Replies: 90
Views: 7410

Re: Mensa membership

In college, I took the test just to see if I would qualify -- and I did -- but never actually joined. I want to say the test cost me $30 or so back then. Now, older and wiser, I realize that being a member and active participant in Toastmasters would add far, far more value to your life. Having a hi...
by brianH
Sat Sep 07, 2019 2:52 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: taxact 2018 tax year software price increase 100%?
Replies: 34
Views: 5746

Re: taxact 2018 tax year software price increase 100%?

Like many here, I am done with TaxACT. I used it for several years, but it's clear that it's now over. I'm also not interested in all the pricing and form availability games of the other two big tax software producers. Last year I looked around and settled on FreeTaxUSA I'll third this recommendati...
by brianH
Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:57 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: What's the most secure way to encrypt a PDF?
Replies: 9
Views: 606

Re: What's the most secure way to encrypt a PDF?

The problem with Adobe's implementation of PDF encryption is that it lacks sufficient (any) key stretching. The encryption itself is fine, as long as you set the compatibility to 'Acrobat X And Later', which uses AES256. Older versions/compatibility settings were weaker. However, the password must b...
by brianH
Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:51 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Any experience with Trim or Billcutterz?
Replies: 17
Views: 1178

Re: Any experience with Trim or Billcutterz?

Because what is recommended is saying that you are switching providers, and I cannot honestly say that. Many of the service providers are on to this game. The last time I tried this with Verizon, they sent me to the retention department, who proceeded to call my bluff and start the disconnect proce...
by brianH
Sun Aug 25, 2019 6:07 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Any males in their late 40’s recently shop life insurance?
Replies: 29
Views: 3351

Re: Any males in their late 40’s recently shop life insurance?

My husband, age 47, purchased 30 year term insurance around 10 years ago. He has 750,000 coverage for $1000/year. That was the preferred rate. My insurance cost $361/year for a million dollars for comparison. I do know woman pay less but I feel like we pay so much for so little but don’t really kno...
by brianH
Thu Aug 08, 2019 6:18 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: First time home insurance claim, help appreciated
Replies: 9
Views: 912

Re: First time home insurance claim, help appreciated

The experience really sucked, but the insurance company came through. I still have them, rates have gone up some, but so have others in the area. Who is your insurance company? I hear horror stories of HO insurance companies dropping after too many claims and threatening to cancel policies based on...
by brianH
Thu Aug 08, 2019 3:47 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Real Estate Negotiation Came to a Halt
Replies: 67
Views: 5481

Re: Real Estate Negotiation Came to a Halt

You got some really great advise in this thread. I just wanted to remark that this is why, as a seller, listing too high (dream price) can be problematic. Some sellers think that a high price is just the start of a negotiation, and that offers will potentially come in lower and they can adjust. Ofte...
by brianH
Tue Aug 06, 2019 10:57 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Are you getting rid of your gas appliances?
Replies: 43
Views: 3298

Re: Are you getting rid of your gas appliances?

Are properly working gas appliances really a significant contributor to carbon emissions? Not really, but one hugely underestimated and under-reported issue is the problem of methane (natural gas is primarily methane) leaks in end-use equipment, infrastructure and pipelines. This is actually a bigg...
by brianH
Tue Aug 06, 2019 9:46 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Are you getting rid of your gas appliances?
Replies: 43
Views: 3298

Re: Are you getting rid of your gas appliances?

I don't think you'll miss gas for any of those appliances. Induction stoves are great. Much safer than regular electric (cooktop stays cool, no burns) or gas (fire). Bay Area has the perfect climate for a heat pump. Now, if you are serious about cutting your carbon footprint rather than aesthetics,...
by brianH
Tue Jul 30, 2019 3:17 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: New Construction - Things to look for?
Replies: 13
Views: 990

Re: New Construction - Things to look for?

Ensure that the builder will allow *your* inspector to do inspections at various stages in the build process: after foundation pour, before the drywall is put up, and after finish work. Make sure he has a copy of the options/configuration changes you've made so that he can ensure things aren't missed.
by brianH
Tue Jul 30, 2019 3:08 pm
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: Wife (teacher) and I are trying for a baby. What are some "must-knows" and other tips?
Replies: 127
Views: 11194

Re: Wife (teacher) and I are trying for a baby. What are some "must-knows" and other tips?

Only buy pajamas that have zippers.

Every time I'm fumbling to snap the 6+ snaps on my son's (8 mo) PJs, in a dim room, as he flails around and screams because he wants me to finish and give him a bottle, I curse what a poor engineering decision snaps on Pjs are.
by brianH
Fri Jul 26, 2019 8:30 am
Forum: Personal Finance (Not Investing)
Topic: First Home Purchase - Disagreement on Appraisal Contingency
Replies: 81
Views: 3740

Re: First Home Purchase - Disagreement on Appraisal Contingency

Studies have shown that Realtors keep their own homes on the market longer, and get higher values for them. Most buyers/sellers only do these transactions once per 7-8 years and act out of emotion. To be fair, though, that emotion can act both ways. It's pretty common to see a seller list at a 'sho...
by brianH
Thu Jul 25, 2019 11:36 am
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: Oil to natural gas conversion anyone?
Replies: 43
Views: 2248

Re: Oil to natural gas conversion anyone?

slightly reduced electric cost. An oil burner has what's called a gun. It looks like a big industrial sized blow dryer. This is running and using electricity whenever your burner is on. It is necessary to take the oil from it's liquid state and atomize it so it can be burned. Being gas is already p...
by brianH
Sun Jul 21, 2019 5:01 pm
Forum: Investing - Theory, News & General
Topic: Strength training is like investment
Replies: 46
Views: 3689

Re: Strength training is like investment

Don't get me wrong, I love the compound lifts but my torn bicep tendon, sore hips and toe joints like them less. After several years I have learned to dial it back a bit. I'll turn 40 this year and now rarely squat or deadlift out of fear of further injury. I never made it past intermediate numbers...
by brianH
Fri Jul 19, 2019 7:47 pm
Forum: Personal Consumer Issues
Topic: finding transformer in attic with insulation (edited for correct name of component)
Replies: 36
Views: 2435

Re: finding junction box in attic with insulation

Another method I have used is to drill a small hole and stick a wire up through the hole into the attic. (recycled utility marking flags work great for this.) Then you just head up to the attic and find where the wire is sticking up. Patch the hole with a small dab of spackle. If you ceiling is whi...