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Houston, I’m Feeling Can-tankerous

Houston 311 in PixelYes, it’s true. I’m feeling cantankerous. In this instance it’s because of the City of Houston department of Solid Waste Management. They broke one of our  trash cans. And after over a month, I’m still struggling to get it repaired or replaced.

There’s a bit of tale to this. It started on February 29th. On this date, the driver made the routine pickup, but proceeded on down the street before putting the can back on the ground. To our security cameras this looked like they were taking the can with them. They just drove out out of frame.

In reality, they put it down about 10 yards to our North. However, it was damaged. The wheels had broken off. They must’ve gone into the truck, because they were nowhere to be found.

Strike 1

I used the Houston 311 mobile app to open a ticket with the city. The 311 app requires that your select a category for the ticket. There was no category that corresponded to repair or replace a trash can. So, I had to choose “Other” and put in some notes.

I attached this very snippet of video to illustrate what happened. As well as a picture of the damaged can sitting at the end of our driveway.

There was a flurry of automatic email resulting from the ticket. One noted the ticket had been “Reclassified From Other to Container Repair Referred to Solid Waste.” They projected it would be addressed within 10 days.

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Parallel Kits for the Predator 9500 (or similar) Inverters

Our strategy for whole house backup power involves a portable inverter generator connected to the house using an inlet and mechanical interlock. As is my habit, I did quite a bit of research to arrive at this strategy. Now that we have a couple of years experience with its use, I am happy to share that knowledge with those who are following down the same line of thought.

One of the most common questions I see in various online space involves how to deliver more power by connecting a pair of inverters in parallel. On the surface, it’s a simple question, but as ever, there’s some detail to the answer.

Five Inverter Generators

For the sake of this discussion I’m going to consider the Predator 9500, AIVolt AT20-2100001E, Duromax XP9000iH, Pulsar 9500, and Genmax GM9000iE. These five popular models are all made in the same Chinese factory. They vary only slightly from one to the next. They all have a built-in facility for parallel operation.

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Holidays Lights 2023: How Much Power?

As I’ve noted many times recently, instrumentation is addictive. Or perhaps it’s just my latest affectation? As I went about putting up our usual outdoor holiday lights, it occurred to me that I should change up how they are powered. In so doing, I’d collect some data on how much power is used by the festive presentation.

Holiday Lights 2023

The lighting design is the same one we’ve used for years. Its has a 5-pointed wooden star mounted to the top of the porch, with a cascade of mini-lights falling from the base of the star to the fence line. It was inspired by the fact that, long ago, Stella’s father had a 5-pointed metal star that he put atop their homestead in Thorndale, TX.

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Central Air Conditioners: Variable-Speed vs Soft Start Kits

Some time ago I detailed our 2021 decision to upgrade to a variable speed central air conditioner, the various features and benefits underlying that decision. That was the same year, after the Great Texas Freeze of 2021, we went about implementing a practical strategy for backup power.

We had been planning for these projects for quite some time, setting aside the necessary funds. Things might have been quite different if the old air conditioner had outright failed unexpectedly, requiring immediate replacement. We probably would have opted for a single-stage replacement purely on the basis of cost. After all, that’s what happened in 2002 when, as new homeowners, we were more-or-less forced into buying the American Standard Allegiance 12 system.

Single-stage systems certainly get the job done. They’re standard, builder-grade equipment. They simply don’t fit into our current strategy for backup power. At least, not without some fiddling. What follows in an exploration of that fiddling.

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Unexpectedly Handy Gadget: USB A-to-C Adapter

Stella &I have been carrying Google’s Pixel phones since their introduction. Each time we bought new phones they came with some accessories. The Pixel 6a we currently use didn’t come with power supplies, but they did ship with a USB-C cable and little USB A-to-C adapters.

Google USB-A to C adapter

In earlier times we needed an A-to-C adapter to facilitate migration from the older phone to new model. Thereafter the wee widgets collected in a junk drawer. That is until recently. I’ve stumbled upon some uses for them.

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The World’s Most Expensive Domestic Hot Water Heater

I’m struggling. You see. For about a year now. I’ve been smitten. With what is quite possibly the world’s most expensive domestic hot water heater. Yes, I’m simply entranced by the the SanCO2 heat pump water heater. I want one. Badly. Precious.

We’d like to renovate our kitchen. It’s not a large house. So, not a large kitchen. Part of the available floor/closet space is taken up by a rather dull, traditional, 30 gallon, natural gas-fired water heater. I’d like to use that space to enlarge the pantry.

So the question becomes how to move or eliminate the standing tank water heater. I’ve surveyed alternatives. As is my way, I’ve done research.

Traditional, on-demand gas water heater

Traditional, tankless gas water heater

On-Demand Water Heater

I had a local company quote us on a natural-gas-fired on-demand water heater that would mount on the outside wall of the house. This is quite common here in Houston. The gas meter is at the northeast corner of the house, essentially at the corner of the kitchen. That makes this arrangement eminently practical.

The quote was for $4,900 all-in. It was enough to give me pause.


Twice in the past few years we’ve had unusually hard freezes. That sort of thing imperils an exterior mounted, on-demand water heater. They must be drained or a hard freeze will literally destroy them. That means there is the potential of not having hot water should we experience the equivalent of another Winter Storm Uri.

Call me crazy, but the possibility of a hot shower on an otherwise freezing day seems like a good thing. Not something that should readily be given up.

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