2016 – Year End Economic Review

Data Log Everything…

2016 ended and we now review how the savings & spending went.  Like any stereotypical older millennial, borderline traditionalist, that experienced an economic crash, we save as much as possible and try to spend in the most responsible method imaginable.  This means not living on my own, avoiding a car loan payment by keeping the old clunker running, and trying to plan for retirement…  Yes, spending 46% of my income on goods and services (insurance), squirreling away 38% for when I am old (or to lose in the markets), and keeping the rest for a rainy day and/or paying off any debts; this year turned out boring and financially responsible.

  • Interesting: Using the Amazon Prime membership, 30% of all tangible goods and services (not insurance) went through Amazon.  Including the membership cost, this had a net savings of $213 for the year when compared to purchasing the same items from a local store.  Oddly enough, average prices were about 15% lower from January through November, then flipped to being 13% more expensive during December.  Most of this reversal was caused by 3rd party vendors offering faster Prime shipping and charging a premium for the item.  Goals: Next year, don’t wait until middle of December to do holiday shopping.
  • Health Insurance reached 16% of all expenses.  Annoying… considering that I haven’t used the insurance since 2010. Over 6 years, the monthly premium has gone up by about 104% (yet only 2% over last year).
  • Priorities… Tech gadgets (ChromeCast, Arduino, 3D Printer, Photo printer, etc) consumed as many resources as Food.
  • I spent twice as much money on Coffee as I did on Cell Phone service.
  • Did I go on Vacation this year?  Not that I can remember. Spending was down 81% over last year.
  • And, Car Repairs were up by 31% as compared to 2015 (must have been those new tires and dead battery).


New Year’s Resolutions for 2017:
1. Reduce tech gadget spending
2. Increase coupon use
3. Increase the vacation allocation!
4. Drink less coffee 🙂

— Happy New Year!


2016 Spending Distribution.  Looks like Fuel and Health Insurance took the most.  Too bad I can’t reduce  either of those.



Diagram showing where the radiator and condenser are located

Car Air Conditioner Condenser Replacement – 2004 Impala

Some time before last summer, that is way back in 2014 the air conditioner on my 2004 Impala went out. And, I put in a can of dye to see where the leak was at. No luck, I could hear the leak, but I didn’t see anything… After toasting for most of last summer and roasting on a 4 hour 92F drive to my sisters house, I finally purchased a new condenser.  Actually, I wasn’t completely sure that I had found the leak.  You can hear and see the gas coming out, but I wasn’t able to figure out where… The hoses all looked ok, the compressor, filter, dryer, and such all seemed ok. So, I was assuming the leak was on the back side of the condenser.

In your car, your air conditioner contains 6 major parts. There is a compressor (usually belt driven, unless you have a Prius) that squeezes the gas (normally Freon 134a) into the condenser. The condenser is up front before the radiator and is air cooled with fans and by driving. It is here that the higher pressure freon vapor is being forced into a smaller space and tries to give up extra energy as heat as it becomes a liquid. Basically, you are making the gas into a liquid, the free energy that kept the molecules flying about needs to go somewhere – which is why iti air cooled. Then, the liquid goes through a filter-dryer to screen out solids and catch any impurities. Then it is pushed through a small restriction to make a sudden pressure drop into the inlet of the evaporator. This makes an adiabatic expansion, where the liquid is being forced into a vapor state with out any heat being applied. The compressor is sucking on the evaporator to make the pressure lower. The lower pressure causes the liquid to try and go into the gas state (forced boiling). This needs energy to keep the molecules moving about as a vapor, and so, the evaporator gets cold. A fan then blows air over your evaporator to cool your car, and give heat to the cold freon.  You get air conditioning!


To replace the condenser… it is simple.  I am assuming you have a good leak, and all the freon is out of your car.  If it is not, you need to have a technician reclaim it for you.  Technically, R143a is used as a canned dusters… so, releasing it is not that bad.  Still, try to save the ozone layer.

New Condenser: Almost OEM style…


New Seal Kit and Plastic Clamp

A/C Seals KitAC Plastic Clip Clamp

Step 1: Locate the parts. The condenser is typically in the front of the car, in front of the radiator. As shown in the photo, they are actually under the front frame of the car. We will need to remove all the parts that are in the way.

Step 2: Start by removing the engine mounting supports. These are held in with 4 bolts on the front and a single longer bolt on the engine. You might be able to swing them up on top of the engine and out of the way.

Step 3: Remove the two diagonal support rods on the right and left. These have two bolts at the front and one at the rear. These are for crash stability to deflect force outward to the sides of the car.Diagram showing where the radiator and condenser are located

Step 4: Remove the air intake. A large rubber hose connects from the right of the engine top (throttle body assembly) to the filter box. The rubber hose as a temperature sensor wire that needs to be removed first. Then pull of the hose with a twisting motion. The other side of the hose is connected to the filter box. There is a large hose clamp that can be removed to help free up mobility.

Diagram 2 - Engine Mount Removed

Step 5: Remove the air filter cover and take out the filter.

Step 6: There are two screws on the top of the air filter box (shown by the computer label  in In the photo below). Loosen these and open up the filter box. One of the control computers is hidden in this box. You will need to take out the computer (set is up on the engine – don’t damage the wires) and remove the plastic housing to get to the A/C lines.


Diagram 16 - Reinstall air box, pcm, hoses

Step 7: On the left side of the car, remove the battery. You will also need to loosen up the fuse box to help get the battery out of its little cubby.

Diagram 3 - Battery Removed


Step 8: Now unbolt the radiator assembly. There are two bolts (top right and left).

Step 9: Unbolt the fan assembly. There are three bolts (middle right and left, and top middle).

Diagram 4 - Radiator Assembly Bolts Removed

Step 10: Unclip the power wires that go to the fan.

Step 11: Unclip the transmission lines at the bottom of the fan assembly.

Step 12: Unclip the 3-4 wire harness holders that are attached to the fan assembly.

Step 13: Lift out the fan assembly.  You might need to loosen up and remove the right radiator hose to help make space.

Diagram 7 - Fan Assembly Removed

Step 14: Unbolt the A/C lies from the condenser. These are on the right side, in the middle. There are two. One is held together with a screw/bolt thing. The other has a plastic snap clip (you will likely need to break the plastic clip to get it off). The photo below is before the fan was removed.

Step 15: Unbolt the condenser lines mounting bracket from the radiator. Save this bracket! You will install it on the new condenser.

Diagram 6 - AC Hoses Connections

Step 16: Pull the assembly forward and lift out the condenser. That is the front exchanger. The back exchanger is the radiator and is attached. The photo below show the condenser removed. The condenser sits in 4 small clips that hold it in place. You need to either pry them open or just pull up and it will come out.

Diagram 8 - Pull back radiator - condenser removed

Step 17: Install the new condenser. Slide the new one into the front of the radiator. Make certain the new one sits into the 4 clips. Diagram 10 - Insert new condenser

Step 18: Replace the o-ring on the lines. I only replaced the one, you may need to replace both on the other line as well.

Diagram 9 - Remove old o-ring

Step 19: Install the fan assembly. Bolt into place. Clip in the transmission lines. Reconnect the power to the fans. Secure the wires into their clips.

Step 20: Install the condenser lines bracket.

Diagram 11 - Connect condenser tube bracket

Step 21: Connect the A/C lies. One uses the bolt, the other has the plastic clip.

Step 22: Move the assembly forward and re-bolt to the front of the car frame. Shown below where the screw clip is at.

Diagram 12 - Connect condenser tubes, wires, etc.


Step 23: Bolt the assembly to the frame on the left side too…

Diagram 13 - Bolt on fan and assembly to front of car


Step 24: Reinstall the battery.

Step 25: Reinstall the engine mounting brackets.

Diagram 19 - Reinstall battery


Step 25: Reinstall the air intake box, filter, and hose. Be careful not to damage the wires on the PCM Computer.

Diagram 16 - Reinstall air box, pcm, hoses

Step 26: Reinstall the diagonal support rods.

Step 27: Connect a vacuum pump to the low pressure line and pull the air out of the A/C system. It should hold a vacuum. (Note: the photo below doesn’t have the diagonal support rods installed yet.)

Diagram 19 - Pull vacuum on system


Step 28: Add freon. The sticker shown in the photo above (front of the car frame) indicates the amount of freon to add.

Diagram 20 - Add Freon


Step 29: (Optional) If you removed your radiator hose, refill the coolant.

Step 30: (Optional) If you removed the engine cover, replace it.




Cooling A Flask?

So, you have a flask (maybe it contains some chemical) and you want to cool the flask. The obvious answer is to place it in a refrigerator. However, you want to keep it on a magnetic stir plate, which every well stocked kitchen has on hand.  You do have a few options, the first is to place the flask and the stir plate into the refrigerator, but then the power cables might block the door… Or, you can use a cooling water bath, like a kitchen ice cream maker, with ice in a container around the thing to be cooled (messy).  Unless you have a temperature controlled recirculating water bath, you won’t be able to control the temperature.

There is another option.  A Thermoelectric or Peltier Cooling Chip AND our previous temperature controller project.  These work by applying electricity to a series of electrical junctions. When the current flows it moves the heat with it – discovered back in 1834. It is moving entropy from one area to another, this change is reflected in the measured temperature – items at lower temperature tend to have less disorder.  So, we can use one of these cooling chips for our flask.  Now, how big of a chip to buy?

We can apply a bit of heat transfer.  Let us assume the room is a nice warm 23°C (or 74°F). There is not wind in the kitchen, so we can say the heat transfer coefficient from the flask wall to the room air is about 25 watts per meter squared per degree centigrade. This number indicates the amount of heat (25 watts) that will exchange to/from the air/flask for each unit of exposed area and degree of temperature difference.  So, the bigger the difference in temperature the more heat will want to move between the two items, and more area exposed the more active exchange points exist.

Since we are cooling the flask (lets pick 10°C or 50°F (a refreshing temperature) we can find the amount of heat (Qin) that will be coming into the flask from the warm air.  This is simple, make your units work. Qin equals the difference in temperature (23°C – 10°C) times the flask exposed area in squared meters (0.04 m2). Qin is about 13 watts.  So, we a chip that can move at least 13 watts.

Now, if we are using the chip to cool the flask the heat needs to go somewhere…. So, we can put the chip under the flask between the stir plate top and the metal/ceramic plate (use a bit of paper towel to form an insulator).  Question? is the plate the big enough to handle the heat from the flask with out getting too hot?  Let us assume the hottest we want the plate top to get is 50°C (hot bath water).  We can do the same calculations, Q to room equals the area of the stir plate exposed to the room air (0.04 sq meters minus the space covered by the flask 0.01 sq meters) times the coefficient of transfer (25 water per sq meter per degree C) times the driving force difference in temperature (50°C – 23°C).  This is about 24 watts… We can apply 24 watts to the top of the stir plate before it gets too hot.  Good!  We are only moving 13 watts from the flask.  If this number was too low, the project wouldn’t work or the stir plate would get too hot to be safe. If you have that that problem, you might need cooling fins, a fan, and a bigger stir plate.

Now we know that we can buy a cooling chip that can move at least 13 watts and keep our flask nice and cool.  Instructions about building the actual temperature controller are over here in another post.

Coolling flask calculations