Thursday, August 30, 2007

Current Tank Update- Not As Bad As I Thought

Earlier this week when I passed the 3/4 mark on the fuel gauge at way
less than 150 miles, I was very concerned.

This morning, the tank passed through the halfway mark, and I had gone
about 266 miles. It appears to be back on track.

Last week my trips were longer than average, and so far "knock wood"
this week's trips have been shorter than average, which may be helping
with the overall mileage.

So fear not, it looks like this tank will provide decent mileage,
although the starting part was pretty ominous.

I may not update this blog until Tuesday, as I am looking at a 4-day
weekend and usually don't post things over the weekends...

Check it out, it's a wootoff! www.woot.com

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lawnmower Efficiency Matters

For the last several years, one 2.5-gallon tank of gas has lasted the
lawnmower all season. Yesterday, we had to refill it because we ran out
of gas. This was the first time we needed to refill our supply of
lawnmower gas.

Coincidentally, this was also the first year I failed to perform
"routine maintenance" in the Spring. The mower is using the same
sparkplug as last year, the same blade as last year, and the same air
filter as last year.

As I waited for the refill of gas to arrive, I spent a good five minutes
sharpening the blade, using a sharpening stone and oil my brother gave
me fro Christmas a few years ago. The blade sharpened right up, and my
wife appeared with the extra gas just as I was finishing up this small
project.

I have also been the primary lawnmower this season. Normally, my wife
enjoys mowing the lawn, but is out of commission for lawnmowing duties
for the foreseeable future. Maybe my lawnmowing style is less efficient
and uses more gas than hers?

My strategy for mowing the lawn this season has been to never water the
grass and delay mowing the lawn for as long as possible. I figured this
would result in fewer mowings. Maybe the extra-long grass meant the
dull blade had to work harder and thus use more gas to perform the same
job.

Perhaps the dirty air filter caused an inefficient air/fuel mixture. Or
the old spark plug was wasteful.

The cost for a new air filter and spark plug is more than a couple
gallons of gas, but using less gas would probably be the "better for the
environment" choice. Although my quest to use less gas is primarily my
frugal (maybe even cheap) desire to spend as little money on gas as
possible, I haven't thought much about the expenses needed to reduce
spending on gas, and if those expenses actually reduce the expense on
gas by the same (or more) amount of dollars.

Normally I justify the expense for maintenance by the knowledge that
less gas will be bought. This Spring, however, I just was too lazy to
perform the maintenance on the lawnmower.

A good lesson learned was that I can totally sharpen my lawnmower blade
for next year, and save that expense outright.

Hopefully things will cool down and I will only have to mow the lawn two
or three more times this season.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Current Tank Update - 28 August

This morning the fuel tank needle passed down through the 3/4 tank mark.
Normally this happens at about 150 miles, but today it was only 130
miles. This is discouraging because I was all happy and thrilled at my
mileage of 42.01 mpg on my last tank.

Why am I passing through the 3/4 line so early this tank?

This MAY be due to my long, stop-and-go trip home last Friday, and an
unusual morning traffic jam yesterday.

Or, it MAY be because the Woodbridge Costco fuel pumps are calibrated
differently than the Fredericksburg Costco pumps.

But, if the Woodbridge Costco pumps were calibrated wrong, wouldn't they
have said that MORE gas was pumped than actually got in my tank? I
suspect that nefarious gas station calibration would obviously favor the
store, which would mean the one Costco would have given me LESS gas but
indicated it pumped in MORE. This can't be, because I allegedly only
pumped in about 10.5 gallons and my fuel economy was great as a result.

If evil activity was going on, the pump should have SAID it gave me 10.5
gallons but GIVEN me less.

Oh, maybe it did, and that's why my needle has fallen so quickly...

Or maybe it's just because I drove home in hot weather on Friday
stopping and going in fits and starts...

A larger consideration is maybe I should start calculating average fuel
economy over two or three previous tanks, to account for variances of
gas pump calibrations.

Or maybe I ought to start pumping my gas into a 5-gallon carrying tank
and filling my tank with a previously-validated amount of gas.

There is a lot for me to think about.

The good news is that it's not supposed to be too hot today, and there's
still time for me to drive smartly and work to increase the fuel economy
of what appears to be becoming just an average tank.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Library is Almost Better than Redbox

I have recently started checking out books on CDs from our local library. I found a pretty large selection of audio books, and one time as I walked a different way back to the checkout counter, I noticed several racks of DVDs.

The library has DVDs to let me borrow for free!

I should have realized this a couple months ago when I bought the "banned cover" VHS tape of The Little Mermaid for $1.00 during their annual book sale.

In the last couple of weeks, we have borrowed "Superman 4: The Quest for Peace," and "Breakfast at Tiffany's." I can honestly say that I got my money's worth from them.

Not only are there piles of classic films on DVD, bur relatively new releases as well. I saw Cast Away (Tom Hanks on a desertrd island) there, and others that I cannot remember right now.

So borrowing audiobooks has opened up this new venue for seeing movies. The one problem is that the DVDs from the library are due back in one week, and some audiobooks take me longer to listed to than just a week. I suppose that's one argument for getting in more traffic, to increase my listening time so I can return the book and movie simultaneously.

Here's an unrelated image just to put a picture in the body of this note:


Tank 129 - 24 August 2007

42.01 MPG!?

Filled up this morning at the Woodbridge Costco, after driving 432.5
miles on this tank. The low fuel light had not come on yet. I felt I
would have been able to get home, but filled the tank anyway because my
last commute home on a Friday took 113 minutes.

Better safe than sorry.

So I put in 10.295 gallons (the second click), which made for the best
fuel economy I have ever achieved in the Mighty Corolla.

I think this is due to many factors, including lighter than normal
traffic, smoother driving, and my increased attention to far-away
traffic conditions up the road.

The weather has been cooler than normal as well this week. I need to
think more about this "hot gas" issue, but right now as I think about
it, I think it's a wash and a bogus myth.

Over the weekend I ought to be able to think about it more.

A better bet is that the cooler weather meant less use of the
mileage-sapping air conditioning.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tank 129 Update - 22 Aug 07

This morning's commute to work drew the needle down past the halfway
mark. This notable event happened at 274 miles. Usually I am pleased
when this happens around 250 miles, and now I am curious if it is
possible to go 300 miles on just the first half-tank of gas.

In order to make the jump from 275 miles on half a tank to 300 miles on
half a tank, my fuel economy must jump by a bit over 9%,or about 3 mpg
over my year-to-date fuel economy average of about 37.5 mpg. If my
recent fuel economy is more indicative, this means I must average closer
to 43 mpg to accomplish 300 miles on the first half tank.

I might be able to cheat and just squeeze in more gas after the filler
clicks off the second time. But this would clearly make my collected
data useless, as I'd be forced to start filling the tank until it
overflows each time, and I just don't want to do that.

The past few days have been much cooler than normal. Perhaps this is
having an affect on my fuel economy. But if that is true, then there is
support for the "hot gas theory," which I have recently declared
worthless based on recent and historical data. But now that I collect
temperature data as well, I expect to somewhat analyze heat vs. mileage
at some point down the road. But generally, I still don't believe a
word of the "hot gas myth."

My main explanation for being able to go 274 miles on the first half
tank is that my afternoon commutes since the last fill-up have averaged
about 50 minutes, compared with the average of 65 to 70 minutes over
previous trips home on the same days of the week.

I have noted before that it appears my travel times to get home appear
to have more of an impact on my overall fuel economy than anything else
so far.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rush Hour Driving Tactics

The last few days I have had the opportunity to drive not just on the
Interstate, but also on a major secondary road lined with shopping
centers and office buildings.

As I look ahead to see the traffic in front of me, it is absolutely and
painfully obvious that a significant number of drivers accelerate
heavily in open spaces only to step on the brakes at the next stoplight.

If I can see the upcoming stoplight, and see that it's been green for a
while, and see that there is cross-traffic piling up to go east/west, It
doesn't make much sense to me to try and speed up to get around the guy
in front of me to try and make it through the light that likely will
change to red in the near future.

Indeed, many cars (Acuras, souped up Honda Civics, and VWs mostly) like
to speed up as fast as they can, just to stop at a light to let me
cruise on up to be near them.

How do these people not notice this is happening to them?

There must be the one time out of five or six chances that this mindless
accelerating actually pays off and they slip through a yellow light to
keep on going while the rest of us stop and wait. The payoff must be
worth the embarrassment they get when they slam on the brakes and the
rest of us catch up.

Likewise, I see almost every day that the "fast lane" is not fast at
all. I usually cruise in the slow lane and notice, almost every day,
that in stretches of heavy traffic the fast lane turns into a line of
stopped cars far more frequently, and for longer stretches of time, than
I do in the slow lane.

Usually, I catch up with the speeders as they wait in the fast lane to
start moving again.

I think this is because so many people want to get into that fast lane
that the slow lane is freed up for steadily moving traffic like me.

I just hope that people don't figure this out. I like my sensible
secret. It's a lot less stress.

The exception to prove this rule is to get into the middle lane around
interchanges that are known for large neighborhoods and other
entrance/exit activity. Moving over at big interchanges is the polite
thing to do, so press the gas pedal and move over to allow smoother
traffic flow around these interchanges. Hitting the gas is better than
having to brake and accelerate multiple times while passing through an
interchange.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tank 128 - 16 August 2007

Went to Costco and filled up with 11.388 gallons after going 439.9
miles. Made for fuel economy of 38.63 mpg.

The streak of going more than 400 miles per tank continues, although the
general fuel economy numbers remain stable around 38 mpg. I think this
is because I am more confident that I will not be running out of gas
when the needle gets close to "E."

My gas tank allegedly holds 13.2 gallons. Even if one gallon is
required just to keep things going, that leaves 12.2 usable gallons.
The absolute most gas I have ever put in the tank is 11.755 gallons,
leaving at least half a gallon, or more than 15 miles, left before
things reach critical conditions.

I can probably go even farther.

Perhaps one day I will keep a small lawnmower gas tank in my trunk just
so I can see how far I can go until I run out of gas. Sort of like that
old Seinfeld episode.

But I suspect running out of gas will cause odd damage to the innards of
my car, more than the satisfaction I'd get out of knowing how low that
needle will go.

Still, consistently going over 400 miles per tank is, I believe, quite a
feat.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Redbox

I heard about "the Redbox" on a number of occasions and thought it odd
that a vending machine that distributed DVDs would be seen ase useful.
But today, I stand here before you to admit my initial thoughts were
wrong.

Redbox Rules.

I found there are two of them in grocery stores within 1.5 miles of my
house, one of which is practically on my way home. There's even one I
can walk to during my lunch hour at work. I hear there are some in
McDonald's stores as well.

And it was quite easy to rent a DVD from the Redbox. I swiped my credit
card, entered my email address, and the ZIP code of where the credit
card bill is sent, and BAM! I could get a movie.

I have only rented a few movies so far, but each has been "widescreen"
and not "full screen," which is nice because I prefer the "widescreen"
format.

The cost is $1.00 (plus tax) per day. If you keep it 25 days, the
movie's yours (for $25 plus tax that you have been billed during that
time). As long as you remember to return the movie the next day, I
don't think it's possible to rent a DVD for less money.

Even if I were to keep the movie for a couple or three days, that's
still less than what Blockbuster charges, and I can satisfy the urge for
an instant movie faster than Netflix or Blockbuster.

And as I thought about it, I realized that the Redbox helps the stores
where they are located, because an impulse DVD rental usually results in
a repeat visit to the store that otherwise wouldn't have happened. That
could result in another quick buy at the main store where the Redbox is
held.

The Redbox is great this time of year because there is precious little
to watch on the TV, and $1.05 for an overnight rental, and the
convenience for me to drop it off as I'm going on my way to somewhere
else anyway, just can't be beat.

www.redbox.com

I am not a stockholder, nor do I have any financial interest in the
Redbox. I just like it that much!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Halfway Through Tank 128

Tank 128 is seeing lots of stop-and-go and in-town travels. Last Friday
my trip home took 113 minutes, most of which was idle speed or less. I
am certain this is just devastating my fuel economy. And over the
weekend, we made many short trips around town to and from stores for
"secret" birthday shopping for almost everyone in the family.

My average trip home on a Friday is about 80 minutes. Recent trips have
been higher, at 81, 90, 110, and last Friday's 113 minutes. I chalk it
up to people taking long weekends and going out of town on Friday
afternoons. Luckily, I usually only have a Friday commute every other
week, so one terribly long drive home every two weeks is okay for now.

This morning was back to normal, with a routine trip to work. I was
encouraged that the fuel tank gauge needle passed by the halfway mark
right about 250 miles. Although I have no data that indicates reaching
this milestone leads towards pretty good mileage, my gut feeling has
been that if I can get 250 miles in half a tank, I'm doing pretty good.

I should be able to make it to Thursday morning before needing to refuel
again. It will be interesting to see how the 113-minute trip home
affected my overall fuel economy.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Data Collection Galore!

I recently added two more pieces of data to my fuel economy collection
process: outside temperature at time of fill-up, and miles driven before
the low fuel light comes on and stays on.

Right now, it may bee a bit too much to track the times that low fuel
light comes on, goes off, comes on again and stays on. But perhaps in
the future I will become more retentive and start tracking that as well.

My starting to track temperature is a direct response to the several
reports I have heard about the consequences of "hot gas." The radio, TV
and newspapers have each reported this summer that gas is metered to
flow one gallon at 70 degrees (or thereabouts).

Allegedly, gas expands when it gets hotter, so during hot days the one
gallon you pump will enter your gas tank and presumably shrink as it
becomes cooler in your gas tank.

Also, hot expanded gasoline allegedly provides less power and therefore
worse fuel economy.

Immediately, I wonder if my gas tank is cooler than the storage tanks at
the gas station. I think not, as the storage tanks are usually
underground. My basement's underground and is consistently nice and
cool, even on hot days. If this holds true for underground gas tanks,
then much of the "hot gas" story evaporates.

There may be truth to the story that extra gasoline hangs out in the
hose after you pump it. If that's true, then that gas conceivably could
expand and victimize you. Solution: buy gas on a hot day right after
someone else at the same pump, so the gas in the hose doesn't have a
chance to heat up.

Regardless, two recent tanks of gas have been pumped at hot
temperatures, well over 90 degrees. My fuel economy did not appear to
be harmed in any way.

I wonder if news reporters experimented to see if this was true before
they reported it, or if it's just one of those stories that comes over
the wire on slow news days.

From my experience and hard data, "hot gas" is not a problem to be
concerned about. This is why I will continue to track outside
temperature at the time of my refueling, to see if any major variances
occur due to extreme heat. Or cold, for that matter.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

pay per post - is it for real?

So I signed up for this program called "pay per post." I believe there are links on or around this entry. This organization promises to put money of various denominations in a special account in your name, if you blog on particular topics of interest. Some of the topics of interest are things I have a personal interest in as well, so here I am expressing this decision today.

I am interested to see if this is a legitimate "business opportunity" or if it turns out to be along the lines of "use your car as a rolling billboard" idea that everyone signed up for but no one ever got to do.

So there appears to be a wide array of topics to choose from, and my task would be to write up a little blurb about it (positive tone/negative tone/neutral tone) and shortly thereafter a deposit is magically made into my account.

Since I can control the topic selection to some degree, I hope to incorporate issues of interest to the blog here.

And if I am really good, I may be able to include subliminal messages, like "drive sensibly to conserve fuel."


Overall, I trust pay per post will treat me fairly. The Internet remains a wide open opportunity for us all, and I'm encouraged to see not only how this company performs, but also how I may be of service or assistance in their efforts.

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Tank 127 - 8 August 2007 (Hot Gas Myth -- STILL BUSTED!!)

440.0 miles on 11.593 gallons = 37.95 mpg.

If I had stopped refueling after the second click, as I usually do, the
fuel economy would have jumped to 38.77. But for some reason this
morning the first shutoff click occurred right after the second gallon
finished it's delivery. I knew it wasn't near full so I didn't
officially count that one.

This is the fifth tank in a row that I was able to go farther than 400
miles, and eight of the last nine tanks have taken me more than 400
miles.

When I put the gas in this last tank, it was 98 degrees outside. Again,
this is a clear indication to me that those who cry about the rip off
that is "hot gas" are just blowing hot air. I do not and have not seen
any significant decrease in my fuel economy of a tank that was filled in
hot weather.

If anything, my fuel economy is worse when I fill the tank in COLD
weather, but that is easily explained by the fact that it takes the
engine longer to heat up and achieve better efficiency in the winter.

With this tank, I have almost caught up to the number of total miles
driven as last year at this time. However, the Mighty Corolla was used
for a family trip last weekend, and over 700 miles were put on the car
that wouldn't have been put on there had we chosen to drive the minivan.


I have also travelled about as far as last year at this time on fewer
tanks of gas. This really doesn't mean much, as last year I refueled
earlier for most every tank.

My fuel economy for corresponding periods is almost 1 mpg better this
year than last (0.98 mpg better), which is about a 2.8% improvement on
my fuel economy.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hot Gas Myth - BUSTED!

On August 2, I filled up my gas tank with "10.873" gallons of regular
unleaded gasoline. It was 95 degrees outside. The heat of the day.

Recent media reports want you to believe that because of complex
physical properties inherent to gasoline, I may have actually put in
much, much less than 10.873 gallons into my gas tank. These reports say
that gasoline expands as it warms up, and your fuel economy could
suffer, AS MUCH AS 30%, if you fill up your tank with "hot gas" instead
of gasoline that's been stored at closer to room temperature.

The news said this is such an obvious problem that our friends in Hawaii
have attachments to their gas pumps to adjust for the "hot gas
phenomenon."

This is a bunch of baloney.

I travelled over 400 miles on that tank of gas that was pumped in 95
degree heat, and achieved fuel economy of 38.55 miles per gallon, which
is more than one mile per gallon better than my 2007 average, and more
than two miles per gallon better than my overall average fuel economy.

Had this "hot gas" really held less power than regular gas, if it shrank
in my gas tank, my fuel economy should have been hurt. In fact, a 30%
decrease in my fuel economy would bring it down to 27 mpg. Certainly
I'd have noticed that. Indeed, I notice as little as a 10% difference
in my fuel economy from tank to tank.

Once I had a tank of gas that served my 10% lower mileage. It was a
tank in February, in the dead cold of winter. That was likely due to
driving in the cold, and the engine had to work harder to get warmed up
and more efficient.

The facts based on the data I have kept since I purchased this Corolla
tend to indicate that summer fuel economy is a little better than winter
fuel economy.

As this tank shows, "hot gas" is really just "hot air." It does not
have an affect on fuel economy, and it is not a rip off.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Corolla - 737.5, Minivan - 0.0

Tanks 125 and 126.

August 2 and 4, 2007.

Weekend Trips to Mountain Lake and Raleigh, NC.

We decided that it would be a good idea to take the Mighty Corolla on
our weekend trip, since two of the three legs of the trip would be just
the two of us in the car.

It would be better to save some dollars on gas and grind out the final
230 miles with the three kids lined up in the back seat of the Corolla.
This turned out to be a great plan!

On Thursday, we filled up the tank at 12:30 p.m., in the heat of the
day. Aside from the ozone warning and extra greenhouse gases we
contributed to the environment by filling up during the heat of the day,
it provided a great opportunity to if there's any truth to the new "HOT
GAS PHENOMENON."

The media has recently reported that you get less gas when it's hot out,
and thus are overcharged as well as get worse fuel economy. I will
share more detailed information in future posts as I consider the facts
and data gathered in these two tanks when compared with past and future
tanks at "cooler temperatures."

Tank 125 - 419.1 miles on 10.873 gallons. 38.55 mpg.

Tank 126 - 454.9 miles on 11.540 gallons. 39.42 mpg.

What is interesting is that tank 125 came on the heels of a 39.02 mpg
effort, and typically my fuel economy drops a lot more after a tank
where I get over 39 mpg. Tank 125 offered less than a
half-mile-per-gallon difference, which is notable.

Tank 126 is even more notable because the Groovy Mrs. Was at the wheel
for much of this tank. She has a reputation for being a lead foot, so
average speeds were closer to 70 or 75 mph on the highway, rather than
the normal 54-66 I drive on my commute.

However, there were fewer stops during tank 126, which likely helped
overall mileage as there were less 0-60 opportunitied.

I am still in the middle of tank 127, but the weekend trip covered 737.5
miles. A quick estimation of gasoline expense tells me that we spent
roughly $51.99 on gas for these miles by driving the Corolla (assuming
an average fuel economy of 38.5 mpg), and would have spent about $$87.02
on gas had we driven the minivan (assuming a "fantastic" fuel economy of
23 mpg in the van, which is a logistical stretch.).

So we spent at least $35.00 less on gas this weekend by driving the
Mighty Corolla instead of the minivan.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Travel Debate - Minivan vs. Mighty Corolla

This weekend we're taking a trip to a few places, and then picking up
our three kids from Grammie's house. Grammie and Pop-Pop took the kids
earlier in the week for an extended visit, and we intend to pick them up
over the weekend.

We're undecided as to whether take the Corolla, which will get very good
mileage, or the minivan, which is lucky to pass 20 mpg. The passengers
will be just the two of us for most of the trip, and five people for the
trip home from Grammie's house- about a five-hour trip.

Last night we were leaning towards using the Corolla, but the more we
think of five hours in the littler car with three kids across the back
seat, the more we think the added space the minivan provides would be
helpful.

I will continue to assume we will take the Corolla. This will mean I
must fill the gas tank today before I get home, which will mean a
refueling after 7 days instead of the 11 that it would be had I waited
until Monday.

But filling up in the heat of the day will help me a little bit to see
if there is truly a difference in fuel economy figures when I fill up
with "hot gas" during the hot afternoon instead of refueling with
"cooler, more dense gas" in the early morning.

Historically, I don't see any particular trend in fuel economy based on
heat. If anything, my mileage is better in the summer and autumn months
anyway, which doesn't lend any credibility to those who say "hot gas"
gives you worse mileage.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Tank 125 Update

Yesterday on my way home I watched as the fuel gauge slowly drifted down past the halfway mark. As a general guide, I like to believe that it'll be a good tank with good mileage if I am able to get 250 miles as the needle passes the halfway mark.

As the gauge hit the halfway point yesterday, the mighty Corolla had gone 267 miles. This bodes well for the overall fuel economy of the tank.

Of course, there are many other factors that con potentially have a negative effect on the rest of the tank. I could sit in 80 minutes of traffic over the next two days, instead of the averages of 57 minutes for Wednesday and 69 minutes on Thursday (although I will leave at lunch time on Thursaday and ought to avoid heavier rush hour traffic).

At the current rate, I'll refuel on Monday, August 6, giving me an eleven day tank life.

Please enjoy this drawing that has no relation to this post: