Using the Nest Thermostat: Turned On for Winter

tippytoes-nest

It’s weird, but it started when I was a kid and my dad would argue with us whenever we used the heater. The heater was never to be turned on before Nov. 1, but even then, that day was only a baseline minimum. The goal was to try to hold out days longer before turning on the heater. This year, we’d been cruising along, cold, but not that cold, until this morning when I lost hope that the sun would eventually warm the house above 62 degrees. It was time to fire up the Nest.

Our Nest was installed six months ago at the end of our remodel, and our builder kept pushing me to relocate it to somewhere more visible because the interface was so pretty. He wanted it to go where our alarm panel is located, and while the Nest is prettier than the alarm panel, when entering the house with kids and groceries, I’d rather the alarm controls be in the easy to reach location. Because of that, our Nest is nestled into the dark hallway in the kids’ wing. (I’m using wing about as loosely as it can be used. Nook may be a more accurate word.)

I was certain the Nest was trying to cook us alive during the first few weeks while it got to know our schedules and temperature wants. I’d check and the heat would be set to say 69 degrees, but later after feeling flush, I’d see the Nest was cranked up to 90 degrees. It wasn’t the kids playing with it, even though I may have accused them of that. It was just the Nest figuring it out. After many temperature adjustments and cursing at it, it’s regulated itself. We turned it off in August when the air conditioner was no longer needed, but I changed that this morning, turning it back on and switching it to heat.

It is possible to have both hot and cold systems operating at the same time, but we overrode that option in the beginning when the a/c switched on a few times when the house temperature was low enough to require heat. Running the a/c needlessly bothers me more than turning on the heater before Nov. 1.

The Nest goes to sleep, but pops awake when someone walks closely by, displaying the temperature for all to see. I love to wave my hand near it to see the temperature appear. I just did it – the house is 77 degrees with the heat set to 64. The Nest heated the house to 66 degrees this morning, which was the target temperature until 3 p.m. The sun finally warmed us up the rest of the way, but if the hallway temperature dips below 64 degrees before 7 p.m., the Nest will kick on. The night time and overnight temperatures will be lower than 64. The worst thing about the learning curve is that the Nest will sometimes kick on during the night. We never had this with the a/c, but it happened with the heat in the spring. When I’m fast asleep and snug in my bed, I don’t want 90 degree heat blowing in my face. That’s when the cursing happens.

We’re happy with the Nest, especially now that I no longer think it’s trying to cook me.

How to Make Everyone Happy on a Long Flight

This is how the kids fly:

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Nintendo DS, new books, candy, Tegu Blocks, a Pluto pillow pet I managed to wrestle into his backpack, and on Virgin America for TVs.

This is how I fly:

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Giants game, Pringles and Blue Moon. Best flight ever.

ActivityHero to the Rescue for Easy Camp and Activity Planning

Tippytoes-activityheroRecently it dawned on me that I am an unpaid project manager. This isn’t my job-job, but it’s how I spend a majority of my day, from carpool updates to monitoring our remodel to getting kids to lessons to making sure library books get found and returned. This doesn’t include lessons or camp or guilt for lessons they should be taking. I mourn martial arts more than my kids care to do it.

So much about planning kids’ activities is connections – whether that be getting a review from a friend or coordinating plans to ensure you child goes to camp or class with a friend. ActivityHero bridges the current connection gap by putting everything in one place.

Information on all kinds of camps and classes are in one place, and can be filtered by interest, age, and distance to end the burden of searching. Users can see recommendations from friends, and reviews from other users, plus, ActivityHero will help you register. Coming soon is a calendar tool to help coordinate kid activities with friends. Best of all, it’s all free.

San Francisco summer camp: 2012 facts
San Francisco Summer Camp

Prior to school vacations or minor holidays, the local parents club message board is filled with lists of people looking for short-term camps. Or, my favorite, the requests for recommendations based on the most specific interests, like a morning program learning to bake for gluten-free dogs, or camps that are both about learning to mime and horseback riding. ActivityHero has the answer. I ran searches for possible activities in a 10-mile radius, and each time, found many options I’d never heard of before. Winter camp options look tempting. (There wasn’t a gluten-free baking class for dog lovers, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be offered soon.)

Things popped out at me without searching. There was a photo tab for baseball, and upon clicking, I got information on nearby skills clinics. Also, there’s a little map with arrows letting me know exactly where the activities are located. The options seem endless, and by using the specified search, I can find the programs perfect for our family. Searches that would have taken days are now finished in minutes, leaving more time for the rest of my project management job.

Giveaway: Sign up for ActivityHero by Feb. 28 for a chance to win a free week of camp in either the San Francisco Bay Area or Philadelphia.

Spotivate: Where the Local Families Go for Fun

Spotivate-homepageThis year, I'm optimistic our remodel will eventually finish. Not as optimistic as I was in November when I wrote on our Christmas cards that it would be complete in early January. I was so naive that I shocked myself when I reread our finished holiday card last week. So naive! But it will end, someday. I think. With a brand new house that sucked up all of our money, we're not going far this coming year, which puts more emphasis on local activities to add fun and excitement to our schedule. My goal is to create memorable experiences with my family that are memorable in a good way. Not memorable because we are all sharing one bathroom without a sink or because we sleep among dry wall dust. Those memories can be forgotten, I hope, without tons of therapy for post traumatic stress disorder. 

Enter Spotivate. This is good stuff that is happening now nearby. No hearing about what we missed over the weekend at school on Monday morning. I remember the depressed embarrassment I felt when I first learned about the May Fete parade in Palo Alto a few years ago. I was surprised I hadn't known about it when everyone else did. Spotivate's like an assistant who scouts out activities based on my interests that would have let me in on the May Fete secret. 

Spotivate comes to me, which is perfect for my new scatterbrained status (I blame the remodel). I follow Spotivate on Twitter and Facebook, which means that even when I am not at their site wondering what to do this weekend, tips come to me. Last night it was a tweet about how kids eat free at a local restaurant, which couldn't have been targeted better. Being kitchen-less, we eat out all the time and are thrilled anytime we stumble across family deals. 

I know what my friends are up to, not when it's too late after they check in on Facebook, but before, when plans are being made. The activity recommendations can be highly personalized. Spotivate knows which areas I like exploring best, and what we like to do, and highlights appropriate recommendations. It's not scrolling through a general calendar, looking for a golden nugget hidden among toddler activities. There's nothing wrong with toddler activities if you have a toddler. I don't. 

Find me on Spotivate as Silicon Valley Mamas to see what we've up to. I'd love to find out what you're got planned, too. Even if your friends haven't tried Spotivate yet, you can highlight great ideas on Facebook with the click of a button, rallying friends for an activity you discovered on the site. Maybe we'll run into each other at a place that isn't the zoo.

This post is sponsored by Spotivate. Want to learn more? Check out the
Spotivate Video

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PG&E + Opower = Highly Customized Energy Info for Free

Tippytoes-laundryinsullationIt blows my mind that as part of this remodel, we are adding tons of lights, speakers, and other energy-consuming pieces to our home, yet our total consumption is expected to go down significantly from what it used to be. It's not so easy for most people to add insulation (we had next to none) or put in a tankless water heater or add LED lighting. Before we were all about weatherstripping our front door, sewing up fabric snakes to cover the gap near the door bottom to keep out the cold, and adding layers when things were cold or keeping drapes shut when it was hot. 

For those of us in PG&E's service area (Northern and Central California) the addition of SmartMeters doesn't only mean utility workers no longer need to check your power meters in person, it also means that you can access your power usage in real time, sometimes in increments as small as 15 minutes. Wonder if your babysitter jacks up the heat or a/c while you're gone? Check your personalized energy report. Think you use next to zero energy while you're out of the house? Your report may say otherwise. All available online, you are able to look at your consumption, even by day with an hourly breakdown, allowing you to see your use throughout the day. You can even overlay your use with the weather to help explain spikes or dips in consumption. All you have to do is log onto your PG&E account online to get started and it's all free.You can get mobile alerts sent out when your use reaches certain thresholds, too, warning you that your potential charges are on the rise before it happens, instead of waiting for the shock of opening up an unexpectedly large bill. Our bill is automatically paid from our bank account, making the messaging option more helpful because I don't regularly see our bill. 

It's all about getting your attention, right? PG&E has teamed up with Opower, a San Francisco software company that uses behavioral science to determine how best to share information. In turn, Opower has come up with ways to not only monitor your own consumption, but for you to check on consumption in comparable home environments, and to compete against others. People do try to keep up with the Joneses, and if you know your neighbor is doing something, you're more likely to do it, too. Using Facebook, you can create groups to compete, which means you can compete against family, friends, schools, Girl Scout troops, whatever you wish to see who uses the least amount of energy. Honestly, I'm highly competitive and this is right up my alley. We've been freezing in our home without any source of heat, and recently, I had to explain that I grew up with this crazy mentality that says no heat until Nov. 1, but the real goal is Nov. 15. If you are tough enough to make it to Nov. 1, you can layer up and make it 15 more days, no? This year is freezing at our house and if I had the option of a heater, I would have used it. Without it, though, I would have rocked any friendly competition.

Let's be honest: PG&E isn't doing this out of the goodness of their heart. California has a long-standing decoupling regulation, which disconnects how much a utility profits from amount of product sold. PG&E's profits cannot be tied to higher usage. Instead the company receives incentives for efficiency, which means they need to encourage customers to use less of their product. Thanks to decoupling, California's per capita energy use has remained at 1970s levels, while the rest of the country has increased by 50%.

I cannot wait until this remodel is complete (for so many reasons…) to compare our energy use to that of a year prior. Also, I'll be able to use it to watch our new energy-saving technologies installed in the house to ensure they're doing their job. 

PG&E relies on their Twitter account to help aid customer service. It's a great resource for tips or if you need help. 

Disclosure: I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of PG&E and Opower. I attended an informational luncheon and received a promotional item to thank me for my participation.