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Door Hardware

Upgrading your door hardware inside your home as well as on entrance doors can make a huge difference to your home’s decor. In our case, the door knobs and the hardware for our entrance door were made of yellow brass and had become pitted and black from use as well as the weather. It was looking pretty bad and we decided to replace this hardware, including the hinges. Little did we realize that this would lead to a wholesale change throughout our home of all hinges, door handles and including the knobs on the kitchen cupboards. We will discuss more on that later.

The good news is that we were able to purchase new hardware for our entrance doors which really enhanced the look of our home and made the entrance doors much more presentable to people visiting our home. They were easy to install and multiple keys were provided so that everyone in our family could have a key. We found that door hardware makes a huge difference to the look of our home and this is primarily why we decided to write this particular post. We wanted to share what we learned as we went through this exercise.

Where to Start

In our case we began on one of the entrance doors and then proceeded through the rest of the home. This actually worked very well for us; however we could have just as easily begun in one particular room and then continued throughout the house as we upgraded all of the door hardware in our home.  When we finished the entrance doors, we realized that it made such an improvement, we had to also upgrade the French doors in the entrance way , which them led to changing the panels on the electrical switches in the hallway and on and on.

Where to Stop

Each time we changed a set of hardware on doors or electrical outlet or switches we found that we needed to go to the next room and do that room as well. We have an open concept home and this makes it much more difficult to decide where to stop. Door hardware, hinges, wall plates and outlet plates for electrical plugs is expensive, especially when you are doing all of the rooms in your home. We would suggest that you plan ahead and purchase what you need in quantities that would make you eligible for a discounts. We finally decided to limit our upgrades to the down stairs area. We may upgrade the door hardware etc upstairs at some future time.

Maintaining a Theme

We also found that it is important to maintain a theme throughout, especially with an open concept home. As a result we selected a Venetian bronze product from one manufacturer for all of our hinges and door handles. This is very complimentary to our décor in our home and the white doors accentuate the bronze color of this door hardware. We are not trying to sell this particular design, but we happen to think that it is important to maintain a theme throughout when you have an open concept home. Upstairs doors etc could be handled differently for example.

Less Expensive Than a Total Upgrade

Changing your door hardware is much less expensive that changing your front doors or the kitchen cupboards for example. A little paint on the outside doors, new modern hardware and suddenly your doors are looking great. The same applies to the doors and trim inside your home. New doors can cost thousands of dollars and frankly in our opinion are not worth the investment unless you are changing the overall look of your home i.e. adding stained glass windows in your doors for example. This is really personal taste and we will leave it there.

What about the Kitchen Cabinets

Our kitchen cabinets were looking a little tired and the door knobs really were not looking nice. We changed the door knobs and also on the drawers as well. This helped a lot, but after years of use the wood was looking a bit tired. After talking with a paint and hardware specialist, they suggested that we lightly sand each door and then paint the doors and drawer fronts with the same color using a melamine paint and a sponge roller. The combination of new door hardware and new melamine paint did wonders and now our kitchen looks as if it is brand new. Although a lot of work it saved us thousands of dollars.

Can I find Door Hardware on Sale

The answer is definitely yes. There are two ways to get a deal on door hardware. Sometimes it actually goes on sale and is reduced in price by as much as 25%. You have to be careful that you can get enough door handles and hinges at that price in case the store or manufacturer is trying to move stock that they are discontinuing.

Another way to save money is to buy in quantity. Some stores will offer renovator specials or builder specials. In this situation you will need to purchase larger quantities to qualify, however if you are planning to change your entire inside door hardware there is no problem qualifying for this savings.

Installing Door Hardware, Hinges, Handles and Locks

Installing the new door hardware is pretty straight forward. Just follow the instructions that come along with the outdoor hardware. An extra set of hands is really handy to help balance the door as the hinges are being changed, however one person can do the job if they take their time and change one hinge at a time so that the remaining hinge holds the door in place. Occasionally you will have to make some minor adjustments which is fine considering the money you are saving by doing this work yourself.


We have tried to cover all of the major topics associated with changing door hardware in older homes, as well as demonstrating that you can spruce up your home without spending thousands of dollars. When you do the work yourself you save even more money and improve the way your home looks from the street by painting the door and adding new door hardware. This is a win, win scenario as far as we are concerned.



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Winter Pool Covers

Friends of ours do not bother covering their pool in the winter time. We have always put a cover over the pool as soon as we close it for the season. It stays on the pool until we open the pool the following spring once it is warm enough to start thinking about going for a swim. It is big, difficult to handle, hard to clean and frankly is a pain to install and remove. Are our friends taking the right approach to not using a pool cover and leaving the pool exposed to the elements all winter long? With all of the work looking after a pool, opening and closing the pool and dealing with a pool cover is just one more step that many of us could do with out.

Why Use a Pool Cover

Well it turns out that there are some good reasons for using a pool cover and this is what makes us install it every year even with all of the extra work. Our pool liner is vinyl and subject to aging like all pool liners due to the suns ultraviolet rays.  An average pool liner according to the pool companies should last around 15 years before needing replacement.

The vinyl  liner will become brittle and will easily crack as it gets older. Ultraviolet rays will only speed this process up and with the chlorine in the pool while it is operating aging will only speed up.   Covering the pool in the off season will limit the UV rays and since it is not operating, you are not adding chlorine either. All of this will help to preserve your pools liner for a few extra years. Anytime you can defer spending several thousand dollars to replace a pool liner is a good deal. We have had several rips in the line which we were able to have repaired. These rips were due to some construction going on around the pool and not natural rips caused by age. Our liner is now in its 24th year!

Types of Pool Covers

There are several types of pool covers. The most popular one is a large tarp that is spread across the pool and held in place by rectangular vinyl  tubes filled with water. The cover fits over the pool on top of the water and overlaps on to the deck. These covers are relatively inexpensive and do a great job of keeping the UV rays away from the liner and also limiting debris from entering the pool.

There are also safety pool covers which provide additional protection in addition to protecting your liner from UV rays. They are more expensive, however they will prevent debris from settling into the pool since the cover is suspended by steel connectors across the top of your pool and all debris will be blown away by the wind. These covers also prevent pets and children from falling into a closed pool.

How to Install a Pool Cover

Installation of the tarp style of pool cover is relatively easy. Once the pool is properly prepared for winter, i.e. the pipes, pump and filter are drained and plugged the cover can be placed over the top of the pool and the weights put in place to hold the cover in the proper position over the winter.

The safety cover will take a bit more work, however most people can install the safety cover easily to hooks on the edge of the pool. The cover is hooked to the pool deck using stainless steel single coil springs with d-rings for easy installation.

Removing the Pool Cover in the Spring

Removing the tarp style cover is usually more work in the spring. A great deal of dirty debris and water will be laying on top of the tarp, which most people will try to remove prior to dragging the tarp off of the pool. All of the weights must be removed first, and drained. Then the tarp is pulled off allowing a great deal of dirt and leaves to go into the pool. This all has to be vacuumed up and the pool cleaned before you can begin using it. Additionally the tarp and the weights need to be properly cleaned prior to storing for the summer season. Remember that if you do not use a pool cover all of this debris will be in the pool anyway.

The safety cover style of pool cover is typically much easier to deal with. It is spread over the top of the pool and all debris has usually been blown off of the safety cover by the wind. It is not touching the water so debris is never caught and left to sit on the pool cover. You should still probably clean the cover before storing it, but the job is much less. Sales people claim that you will not have debris such as leaves and other material in your pool to deal with, however we find that in addition to leaves, there are many worms that crawl into the pool in the fall looking for warmth. They obviously die and need to be cleaned out in the spring. The safety cover will not prevent this problem.

Storing the Pool Cover

All covers should be cleaned and allowed to dry prior to being stored for the summer. We wash our pool cover on the driveway, let it dry and then fold it up and store it in the garage. If you do not give it a good wash and allow it to dry, you may have a dirty smelly cover to deal with through the summer in your garage.

Is It All Worth It

Owning a pool is certainly more work with the daily maintenance, opening and closing in the spring and fall. Adding a pool cover increases the amount of effort needed, however as an investment of time and money, anytime you can defer spending several thousand dollars by several years or more, it sounds like a good deal to the writer. Placing a pool cover on your pool over the winter months will definitely prolong the life of your liner and defer the need to replace it prematurely.

Our next pool cover will likely be the safety type which will significantly decrease the amount of leaves etc that get into the pool over the fall and winter.

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Microwave Built In Trim Kits

Most consumers will have a microwave oven in their homes these days with many of them sitting on the counter or perhaps on a side table within easy reach of the kitchen table. Microwave ovens are extremely useful to rapidly heat up leftovers, cook a variety of foods and heat many different kinds of prepared meals that have been designed specifically for heating in microwave ovens.

Microwave ovens are also very energy efficient as well compared to heating foods in the oven  and they save a great deal of time. However they do take up a lot of room, particularly if they are sitting on top of the kitchen counter. As a result many consumers are installing their microwave ovens into their cupboards and treating them as another major appliance in the kitchen.

Placing the oven in a cupboard that is open with lots of air circulation around the unit is perfectly safe, since the fan in the microwave oven will disburse any heated air evenly without any surface becoming overheated.

Why Use a Trim Kit

Trim kits are required for safety and esthetic reasons when a decision is made to enclose the oven on all sides. If a solid surface with no gaps around the sides is used there is no possibility for air circulation  and therefor no cooling effect possible. Some ovens, particularly convection ovens can become quite hot and there is a distinct possibility overheating and fire without the proper precautions being taken.

A proper trim kit ensures that all hot surfaces have a metal protective shield between the oven and the wooden cupboard; they also ensure that hot air driven by the ovens fan is disbursed into the kitchen and not bottled up inside the cupboard. Trim kits can be installed by consumers or they can arrange for a professional installer to complete the installation on their behalf.

Trim kits also improve the esthetics of the microwave and the surrounding cupboards. Instead of a black hole with a microwave sitting in the middle, you have a tailor made matching trim kit that provides that professional look to the installation. There are often various colors and finishes available, however you must purchase the trim kit that is specifically designed for your microwave.

Tools That Will Be Needed

If you plan to install the trim kit and microwave yourself there are a number of tools that will be needed. these tools are pretty common and most home owners who tackle do it yourself projects will have them readily available.  In addition we assume that there is an electrical outlet in the compartment were the microwave will be installed. If not, you will need an electrician to install a new circuit to this location.  These tools include:

  • Screw driver, usually a Philips
  • Marking tool such as a pencil
  • An Awl or punch
  • Scissors
  • Drill with various size drill bits
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Straight edge
  • Jig saw if you need to cut a new opening or  enlarge the existing opening

Safety Considerations

There are a number of safety considerations that consumers should be aware of.

  • Wear proper protective eye covers
  • Turn the power off to the microwave before removal and installation
  • Ask a friend to assist in lifting the microwave into the opening once the kit is installed.

Practical Issues Regarding Installation of a Microwave Trim Kit

Many homes that are designed for a built in microwave will already have a shelf in place with the electrical wiring already installed. If there is an existing microwave in place that you are replacing, you will need to remove it as well as the existing trim kit. It is unlikely that your existing trim kit is going to fit the new microwave due to dimension changes.

You may also have to enlarge the opening to accommodate the new microwave and the new trim kit. Follow all of the instructions and wear protective eye gear while using the jig saw to enlarge the opening.

There is going to be lots of dust when you enlarge the opening. Most consumers will find that you will have to clean everything after you are finished due to the fine dust that floats through the air. If you rig up a vacuum to capture this dust while sawing you can reduce a lot of the dust.

Trim Kit Air Flow

Aside from improving the esthetics, the most important function of a trim kit is to ensure good air flow around the microwave with proper intake and outtake of air from inside the cavity were the microwave sits. This avoids heat build up around the unit prolonging the life of the microwave and protecting the cavity from overheating.

Once the Trim kit is properly installed, test the air flow by holding a piece of paper over the intake to confirm air flow. You can do the same at the outtake location to also ensure that air is moving properly.

Do It Yourself Installation vs. Professional Installation

Trim kits are fairly expensive to start with and the cost of installation can add quite a bit to the total cost of the microwave trim kit combination. As a result many home owners will do their own installations.

Do it yourself instructions are available with the product as well as online. Most consumers who are handy with tools can accomplish this task quite easily. However if you do not have the time or just do not want to install the trim kit on your own, your store were you purchased the trim kit can usually put you in touch with a handy man who can perform this task for you.


Trim kits for built in microwaves really make a difference in terms of providing an esthetic improvement to your kitchen. What we found surprising is the cost of these trim kits. Depending on the choices you make, trim kits can cost almost as much as the microwave you are installing in the built in opening.

They are relatively easy to install, however you may need to enlarge the opening if you are removing an existing microwave oven.



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Upgrading Your Kitchen Counter Top

Maybe your kitchen is a bit dated or you just would like a new counter top and you are wondering what type to purchase, how much it will cost and what is needed to install it. We will try to answer a few of these questions here and some  you may not have considered.

To begin with, it is not just about the counter top. In fact for most people as soon as you decide to make one change, you will quickly find out that the new counter top makes everything else look  really old or at least outdated. The cup boards need to be at least painted, re-stained or just replaced. The sink and the faucet will need to be updated since they will usually not match with the new counter top and then there are the appliances.  The existing appliances  may all work properly, but they just will not look good with that new counter top.

Consider that you might be thinking of a new built in oven and counter top heating system. As soon as you go for that change then the microwave, the fridge and the dish washer will need to be changed so that everything will match. While you are at it why not replace the floor and the lighting system. I know of two families who got started this way and ended up spending $32,000 and $40,000 each.  One even had to rewire every thing because the existing wiring was not up to code! We added this paragraph to warn people that it is not just a new counter top once you get going.

Types of Kitchen Counter Tops

There are five basic types of counter top that consumers can chose from, which are listed below. We will expand on each of these to give you a bit of a description. Within each type there are many colors and styles to choose from along with the back splash that goes along with them. They all have advantages and disadvantages which we will also try to cover to help you choose between one or the other.

  • Laminate
  • Ceramic Tile
  • Solid Surface
  • Natural Quartz
  • Granite


Laminate is the most common material used by builders in all new homes as the basic kitchen counter top. In most cases this will be the base and everything else will be an upgrade if you are buying a new home. This is likely what you have in your home if you have never upgraded your home. Laminate is usually a plywood or particle board material with plastic laminate sheeting glued to the wood. This is the least expensive option for new homes as well as replacing an existing counter top. It is also the material that will wear quickly and may show marks from sharp objects and hot items unless you are really careful and use cutting boards all of the time to protect it.

There are lots of colors available for this material and is relatively easy to install and work with.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is just what the words describe. These are tiles that are glued to the wooden counter underneath with grout to fill in between the tiles. They are very durable, easy to clean and they resist heat, water, bacteria and also stains. Caution is needed regarding the grout you select since a light material will show stains etc easily. Also it is recommended that you seal the surface of the grout to protect it from food stains etc. Your local building warehouse experts can provide you with guidance on these issues and the materials to utilize.

Solid Surface

These materials are made from polyester or acrylic resins. They are durable, smooth and easy to clean. Apparently they resist heat, however personally I would always use a pad underneath anything that is hot. Water, bacteria and stains are no problem for this material and it never requires sealing.  Some people think it feels like natural stone, while having a more uniform appearance and lots of color choices. If you are opting for an under mount sink option you can do this with these materials.

Natural Quartz

These counter tops are made with a combination of quartz, resins and pigments. They are very smooth and durable and consumers find them easy to clean.Again these counter tops resist heat, however I would always use a pad under anything hot to avoid potential damage to the resins. Water, bacteria and stains are no problem and you do not need to seal the counter top to protect it. There are lots of color choices and you can also mount an under mount sink if this is something you are interested in.


Granite is the most expensive and the most durable. It is easy to keep clean, however consumers must realize that granite must be sealed and must be properly maintained.  Granite is smooth and resists heat as well as water and stains provided that is sealed properly. It also resists bacteria. With granite you can also mount under mount sinks. Everyone we know is upgrading to granite, but we are beginning to wonder why since it seems to take more maintenance and it is more expensive. For example, granite counter tops need to be cleaned and then re-sealed every two years.

Installation of Your New Counter Top

Unless you are a skilled do it your self handy man, most consumers will opt for the store to arrange for installation of the counter top regardless of which one you purchase. If you make a mistake, you have to purchase another counter top, while if the  installer makes a mistake, well it is the stores issue to deal with.

Coordination with a plumber and electrician will be required. The existing sink and faucet will need to be removed and either reinstalled or replaced with new products once the new counter top is completely installed. You will also have to provide the installer with the dimensions of the sink so that the proper sized hole can be cut to accommodate the sink you select.

The same applies to built in counter top ovens. The electrician will need to disconnect and remove the old one and then reconnect it once the counter top is installed. If you are installing a brand new unit, the counter top installer will need the dimensions of the counter top oven so that he again can cut the proper sized hole.

Once your kitchen is completed, even if you just replaced the counter top you will be amazed at the difference. It will add value to your home and a new life to your kitchen.


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Built In Refridgerator Ice Maker

We have always had a fridge with a built in ice maker, at least for the past 25 years and now it is one of those features in our home that we would not be without. When the kids were younger, they were always at the fridge getting ice for their drinks and we never really had to be concerned about whether we had lots of ice or not. The ice machine produced more than enough ice for us.

Many people however prefer not have a built in ice maker in their fridges for a variety or reasons. For some it is the extra cost of a fridge with this feature, while other worry about water leaking from the lines or the fridge itself. If you have to run a water line to your fridge from a finished basement, this also adds an extra expense that many people do not want to deal with. Even hiring a plumber to hook up the lines adds to the cost. So why would consumers spend the extra money to install a built in refrigerator ice maker?

Why Install a Fridge With an Ice Maker

For our family initially it was the convenience and the novelty of having an ice maker in our kitchen. As we said, the kids loved it and it really was a hit with the entire family. However, when we decided to replace our fridge, we decided to purchase another fridge with a built in ice maker and this time the reasons for doing so were quite different. Our kids are grown up, so that was no longer a reason we could use. These were our main reasons for buying a new fridge with a built in ice maker:

  • Wanted cold filtered water ( filter built into the fridge)
  • Wanted the convenience of always having ice
  • Wanted crushed ice for drinks
  • Wanted a light on the front of the fridge
  • Wanted a monitoring system with an alarm for power and temperature
  • Wanted a fridge with some contrast instead of a blank metal front
  • The grand kids will love the ice machine

That last criteria was not really a good reason, but we decided to throw it in there for those people that have grand kids. Note that all of these reasons are wants and not needs, which is very different and most people need to justify things for their own satisfaction. This worked for us and we were satisfied with these criteria.

How Does an Ice Maker Work in a Fridge

Ice makers in fridges require a water line connection to the fridge so that there is a ready access to fresh water. Today’s modern fridges will have a water filter built in, which the water will go through before being routed to the ice maker.

The ice maker will automatically fill the ice reservoir, freeze the water into cubes and then expel the cubes into a reservoir until needed. When you depress the ice trigger on your fridge, ice will be expelled from the reservoir into your glass.

Ice makers in fridges also hold water in another reservoir inside the fridge to keep the water cold. You will also be able to fill your glass with cold water as well, directly from the fridge without having to open the door. Press a button and you can also have crushed ice for special drinks.

On modern fridges, there will be controls to monitor and set the inside temperature of both the freezer as well as the non freezer portion of your fridge, a light to turn on, on the outside for night time operation and controls to turn off/on the ice maker. In addition alarms will sound when the door is left open too long or the power is turned off for some reason.

How to Install a Fridge With an Ice Maker

Most people will hire someone to install the fridge in their kitchen and to also install the water line to your fridge. Basically you need to run a water line from a suitable cold water line, usually from the basement up through the floor to the back of your fridge. Installers will use 1/4 inch copper pipe and they will leave a coil at the back of the fridge to allow for expansion as you pull the fridge away from the wall.

If your fridge sits beside the dishwasher or kitchen sink, you may be able to run a short line from one of  the cold water pipes that feed these units in your kitchen instead of having to go into the basement. Consumers with finished basements will appreciate this solution. Make sure that there is a shut off valve to the 1/4 inch pipe were you tap into  the cold water pipe. You will need this if you ever plan to disconnect the fridge from the water line or you have water problems.

Cleaning The Ice Maker

Over the years we have found that you will need to give the reservoir that holds the ice cubes a cleaning once and a while. There is not a lot of dirt in our water, in fact it is pretty good, but somehow there are small bits that seem to find their way into the reservoir.

Making Extra Ice for Parties

Whether you are going camping or just need some extra ice for a party, all you need to do is pull the reservoir out of the fridge and dump the ice into a cooler or a plastic bag. Once you replace the ice make reservoir inside the fridge it will automatically begin making more ice. We find that you can actually make quite a bit if ice by starting a few days in advance of your camping trip.

Turning the Ice Maker Off While You are Away

Most ice makers will automatically shut off if there is any kind of problem, however we like to shut the water source off to the ice maker when we are away and that means that you should also shut the ice maker off as well so that it is not trying to draw water while the water line is shut off.  This is just a safety precaution to prevent any possibility of leaking water. We have never had this problem, however when it comes to water in your home, we believe you can never be too cautious.


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Home Air Purifiers

Most people are familiar with the standard air filter on their furnace. These filters should be changed fairly often, sometimes each month depending on were you live and the amount of dust or animal dander / hair that may be in your home. For many consumers this level of air filtering or air purifying is sufficient. However for a large number of people who suffer from allergies to pollen, dust and other things that float through the air, it is important for them to have a home air purifier installed either on their furnace or a room air purifier that keeps a specific room clear of pollutants that may bother them.

Why You Would Want an Air Purifier

For most people, the air filter on their furnace is sufficient. It removes the larger particles that are sucked into the cold air return vents such as lint, animal hair and miscellaneous items. As long as the air filter on your furnace is changed at regular intervals , your home will be satisfactory.

You can tell when to change these air filters by removing the air filter and examining it to see how much dirt and lint is on the filter. Also hold it up to a light and you will be able to ascertain how clean or dirty it is. As a general rule the air filter should be changed at the beginning of the season and then several times a year depending on your home and the number of animals you have in the home. A very clean home will require the filter to be changed less often than one that is not.

For those people who have allergies or suffer from asthma and other breathing ailments,  or folks who just want to know that their living space is super clean, they will turn to air purifiers that can be installed in a room to cover only that room. They may also prefer to have one installed on their furnace so that the entire house is kept clean of odors such as smoke, pollen and other bits of micro dust particles such as mold and pet dander that seem to find their way into our homes.

Central Air Purifiers

Central air purifiers are installed on your furnace and take advantage of the forced air system provided by your furnace to remove air blown particles from your home. These systems will deliver cleaner air to your entire home unless you happen to have turned off any vents or cold air returns in your home. The furnace fan should also be running even if heating or cooling is not required to keep the air circulating. You will find that there is a lot less dusting required with the furnace fan running and the air purifier in operation.

There are several different types of air purifiers that can be installed on a central air circulation system. Electrostatic air filters can be installed on your furnace cold air return system, just after your existing furnace filter. The existing furnace filter will continue to collect all of the larger particles. The electrostatic system will capture up to  97% of the particles missed by your regular furnace filter.

They next type of air filter is a HEPA based filtration system which is rated at 99.97% efficiency against a 3 micron sized particle. While this may not mean a lot to many people, rest assured that those folks who are susceptible to smaller sized allergens will notice the difference. A micron is .0000004 inches in size and these particles are small enough that they can easily penetrate into your bronchial tubes and lungs to cause irritation for those people who are susceptible to this sort of thing.

Finally there are hospital grade air purifiers, which most residential owners may not be concerned with. These systems will help to control the formation of mold, bacteria as well as remove odors from cooking, pets and also from smokers.

Regular maintenance is required on all of these systems to ensure they are clean, all dust is removed and that they are delivering maximum efficiency.

In Room Air Purifiers

There are many air purifier products on the market that will be suitable for individual rooms in your home. Many people will adopt this solution if they do not have a central forced air system such as electric baseboard heating or they just wish to focus on one room in the home.

Since we spend up from 7 to 10 hours a day in our bedrooms, a lot of people want to have an air purifier in this room to provide them with clean air while they sleep.  Since most of these systems are portable, they can also be moved from room to room as well.

In terms of air purifier efficiency, they follow the same basic filtering capability as the central systems do, however their capacity to provide purified air is much reduced and is suitable for a room size space. Always verify the capacity of each system before you make your purchase to ensure that it can handle the air space that it will be positioned in.

Installation of home air Purifiers

For most central air purifiers it is usually recommended that you arrange for an expert to assess your needs in terms of capacity and to also complete the installation. There will be electrical work as well as mechanical work to be completed on your furnace’s return air vents. In addition you will want the system installed to guarantee maximum efficiency.

Room air purifiers on the other hand are designed to be plugged into a regular room electrical outlet. Always position the air purifier to give you maximum air flow and coverage for your room. Once plugged in and turned on, only regular cleaning of the system and change or cleaning of the filters is required. Follow the systems recommendations  to ensure that you derive the maximum benefit from your in room air purifier. They can be moved around or additional units can be purchased for other rooms.


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Updating Your Water Heater

The first sign that there was something wrong with our water heater was that the water coming out of the taps had turn a rusty color. Our home at that time was 15 years old and I thought that it was premature for the water heater to stop working, however that is what the technician confirmed when he came to look at it. In fact the tank was rusting and it was only  a matte of time before it would begin leaking.

Our water heater was leased from the gas company. That is the way they are all installed in new homes in the area we live in, so when they stop working all we usually need to do is call the company and they will install a new water heater. Unfortunately it was not as simple as that as you will find out later in this post.

I might have never gone ahead with buying my own water heater if the technician had not said t me that they would replace the water heater free of charge, but I would have to pay $400 to bring the exhaust pipes up to code. Now when that happens, I do not know about you, but I immediately start looking for better deals as well as second opinions and I was able to find one.

Exhaust Pipe Code updates for the Water Heater

I can understand that the building code can change. It is often for the better, but to charge $400 to change a couple of pipes! That was ridiculous in my mind. Basically what they need to do in our case is extend the length of the double insulated pipe by a couple of feet which interfered with the pipes from the furnace. So they were going to charge $400 for this change, install a new water heater and take the old one away, and charge me $15 a month for the new one plus sales tax! Not a good deal for a water heater.

Decisions You need to Make

If you are in this situation or even just replacing an existing water heater that you own, there are a number of decisions that you will need to make. I learned these going through the process and felt that readers could benefit from this knowledge that I gained. The list below is the basic set of decisions that I arrived at. I did not include price, however that is an obvious one to every body.

  • Buy vs. lease
  • Water Heater Size
  • Gas, Electric or Tankless
  • Disposal of Your Old Water Tank

Buy vs. lease

Leasing a water heater is a good deal for the water company and may appear to be a good deal for the consumer, however when you do the math, you may change your mind. Simply divide the cost of installing a new water heater including installation and taxes by the monthly lease cost including taxes. In our case it would take 6.5 years before the water heater would be paid off in terms of monthly savings if one were to purchase the water heater.

Most water heaters will last much longer than 6.5 years, so for me there was no decision. we decided to buy the water heater. Ten years later it is still running and I am saving $15 a month or even more. They probably have raised the rental price in the past 10 years!

Water Heater Size

Obviously the larger the water heater the more they cost. There is another cost factor as well and that is that if you have a large tank you are keeping more water hot and that takes energy.

If you have a large family, you may want to opt for a larger water tank so that you always have lots of hot water. If there is just two of you living in the home a small water heater may be just fine. Another point to consider is that if you are planning to sell your home any time soon, having a small water heater may be a negative for anyone planning to make an offer on your home, particularly if they have a large family and are worried about enough hot water.

Gas, Electric or Tankless

There are countless solutions for you, however the main categories are gas, electric or tankless. The least expensive will be to replace like for like. No need to make major changes to your plumbing or electrical wiring or in most cases changes to the vents to the chimney.

Tankless systems provide hot water on an as needed basis and do not waste energy heating water waiting for it to be used. A separate post would be needed to discuss the relative merits of each system. Issues to consider are:

  • Changes to electrical wiring
  • Changes to gas plumbing
  • Changes to chimney vent
  • Changes to plumbing system

Disposal of Your Old Water Tank

If you already own your own water tank, you will need to negotiate the removal of your old tank.  It might be surprising to learn that if you rent your water heater and plan to purchase a replacement, your current provider may not be willing to remove their water heater tank!

In our case we even arranged for the old tank to be placed on the driveway and had to pressure the gas company to come and pick up their water heater. We would suggest that you should not pay for this removal since it is really their water heater.


Every one must do their own evaluation, however in our case we went for the minimum cost solution which for us was to purchase our own water heater, we replaced a gas water heater with another one so plumbing of water pipes and gas pipes was minimal. We negotiated the change to the vent pipes as part of the total price and saved a great deal over the initial $400 cost we discussed earlier.

Our gas water heater is a smaller version so we also saved money on the initial cost and it takes a little less energy to keep the water hot until it is needed.


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Water Softener

Most older homes that need to have a water softener will already have one installed and will be part of the installed appliances that you purchase with the home. As an aside it is always a good idea to specify this in any offer you are making on a home, in case the present owner is planning to take it with them when they move.

New homes on the other hand will not have a water softener installed unless you specifically negotiate this item to be installed by the builder. It is often less expensive to purchase a water softener  separately and arrange for a plumber to install it for you if you need a water softener to soften hard water.

How Do You Know You Even need a Water Softener?

There are several ways that you may find out that you need to install one of these devices. Someone who lives in the neighborhood or a family friend or the real estate agent may suggest that you need one. The other most visible way is that when you try to take a shower, there will be limited or no suds at all when you try to wash your hair for example. Soap does not react well with hard water and will not produce a lot of suds or lather.

You may also notice a white scaling material build up in your kettle, tea pot or coffee maker. This scale, next to a lack of suds, is the most noticeable way that you will be able to tell that you have hard water problems.

This scaly material is actually calcium that was dissolved in the water as it peculated through rocks underground. When the water passes thought pipes or is boiled in a kettle for example a white scaly mineral deposit is left on the sides of the pipe or at the bottom of the kettle. Use a solution of vinegar and water to remove this scale in kettles and coffee pots.

Even white scaly deposits can be left on glasses washed in the dishwasher if your water is hard. There are various chemicals you can add to the dishwasher when washing dishes that will prevent spots showing on our glassware.

How to Get Rid of Hard Water

The best way and most efficient method to rid you and your family of hard water is to install a water softener  in the basement of your home. There are a variety of chemicals that can be added to the water in your dishwasher, your laundry etc, however these chemicals do not solve the problem throughout your home.

If you are moving into an older home in an area were hard water is prevalent and there is no water softener in the home, have someone check the water pipes to make sure that they are not clogged with calcium scale. Water pipes have been known to be reduced to a trickle due to this scaly buildup in the pipes.This can be an expensive change if you have to pay for this after moving into a older home.

The only solution is to replace the pipes throughout your home and then add a water softener to your water line to prevent further scaling of the water pipes and other appliances in the home.

How Does a Water Softener Work?

Water softeners are usually installed by a plumber and they are connected to the main water line that comes into your home. All water runs through the water softener with the exception of pipes that are connected to the outside of the home.

Water softeners work by exchanging calcium ions with those of salt ions and then washing both the salt brine and the calcium ions down the drain. Operating costs for a water softener consist of salt that is added to one of the tanks on the water softener and water that is used to cleans the tanks. The frequency of this cleaning depends on the amount of water use in most cases, but can also depend on manual or automatic triggers to run the softener through the cycle.

You may also need to have an electrical connection as well.

Usually water softeners are located close to basement drains or the clothes washing machine since there are drains and electrical power located nearby. If you do not have electrical power nearby you may need to have an electrician install an electrical outlet near your water softener.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Using softened water on your lawn will cause the water softener to go through the cleaning process more often causing more salt to be utilized and also more water will be used in the cleansing process. In addition the higher salt content of the water may also harm grass seedlings as well. Some states are in fact banning water softeners for this reason and to also reduce water waste.

Do Water Softeners Harm Septic Systems?

In the research we found the answer to this question is inconclusive. However looking at this situation from a common sense perspective,  if your septic system is nearly full or not draining well, it may overflow with the additional water that is purged through the system when the softener is cleansing and discharging.

There is no known impact on bacteria in the septic tank from the salt however if you were to run the backwash often, there may be a build up of salt which may impact the efficiency of the septic system, as well as potentially causing an overflow.

What Does it Cost to Run a Water Softener?

In most cases running a water softener is pretty reasonable and when you consider the soap you save and the long term impacts,  it may not really be that expensive. Cleansing and purging  usually uses about 25 gallons of water for a domestic system and bags of salt are generally not too expensive to purchase. Compared to some of the long term impacts, this is not expensive at all.

The amount of water and salt you use will depend on how much water you use, and whether your system is set to automatic or manual.

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Replacing Your Toilet

Whether you have an older home or just purchased a new home, chances are that you will have just a basic one flush toilet installed in your bathroom or bathrooms. If it is a brand new home you may have a slightly smaller watter tank which will conserve water usage compared to the older models, but that is about it. There are many new sleek and modern toilets available on the market and many people are spending a little more money to upgrade their toilets in an effort to modernize their bathrooms and save money at the same time.

The combination of a smaller water tank on your toilet and a dual flush toilet is attractive to many people who are interested in reducing their water bill as well as helping the environment. With dual flush toilets you have the option of a large flush or a small flush depending on the need at the moment.  While all of this is great, we wondered about the relative costs of installing a new toilet vs. the cost of water that we would be saving. Does it make sense from a purely economic perspective to change your old water guzzling toilet for a new water conservation device?

Toilet Up Grades in New Homes

Friends of ours moved to a new home were the builder installed the standard one flush toilet. It was a basic model, probably costing under $100 and although it did not look bad, they decided to upgrade their brand new toilets. The old toilets were discarded in the garbage, which seemed to us as not being very thoughtful,  however someone picked them up prior to the garbage collection the next morning. At least they were going to be reused somewhere! They also had to hire a plumber to complete the installation.

They had to hire a plumber to complete the installation although our friend is perfectly capable of completing the installation himself. he was forced to hire a plumber since the warranty on the home would be in jeopardy if any leaks were detected. Does it make sense to upgrade your toilet(s) based on the water savings  from an economic perspective or is it purely increased esthetic value?

A conversation we had with him  about his upgrades prompted us to write this post and look at whether it makes sense or not.

Costs to Upgrade

We are going to make a number of assumptions here to help us compare the economics of upgrading your water guzzling toilet. These assumptions are based on the location were the writer lives and the relative cost for water consumption in our area.

Make your own adjustments depending on the model you choose and local costs. You can plug these numbers into a spread sheet to compare your own costs based on your situation. Here we go:

  • Mid Range dual flush toilet – $200
  • Parts and fittings – $30
  • One hour labor for installation – $ $70
  • Clean up – $0.00
  • Sell your old toilet – $ $10.00
  • Total cost to Upgrade – $290
  • Water tank size :  2 gallons
  • Water rate:   $0.565 / cubic meter
  • Gallons/meter:  264
  • $/gallon (varies by location):  $0.002140152
  • Sewer rate surcharge:  1.66 times the water charge
  • Cost per flush:  $0.011385606
  • Flush per day:  10
  • Cost per day:  $0.1138
  • Days in year: 365
  • Cost per year:  $41.56
  • Number of years:  10
  • Tot cost:  $415.57
  • Saving per flush:  0.5 ( saves 1 gallon of water per flush)

Water Savings over 10 Years

  • Savings:  $207.79 over 10 years

The original cost of upgrading in our scenario was $290 which we can compare to the cost of water saved in our scenario. This leaves us in the red for approximately $82 based on the assumptions we made above.

Based on this simple analysis it appears that there is no financial advantage to upgrading your toilet. However there are still a couple of assumptions that we have not considered which could make a major difference in the results. These major assumptions include the following:

  • Local assumptions may vary a great deal
  • Water rates will increase over the next 10 years(In our case rates are estimated to increase by 75% over the next 10 years)
  • Upgrading from an old toilet may actually save more water than what was assumed(older tanks can have as much as 3 gallons of water in the water tank)
  • Esthetic value of a modern toilet adds value to your homes resale value(or at least helps you sell your house more quickly by making it more attractive)
  • Number of toilets in your home eligible to be upgraded

At best you may break even with any upgrade that you plan, however the good thing is that if you do upgrade you have a modern toilet that is pleasing to the eye and fits in with your bathrooms decor.

As far as my friend goes, remember the guy who replaced a brand new toilet with a dual action toilet, if he lives in his home for 10 years he will get close to breaking even on that single toilet.

He has three toilets that he replaced and must spread the water savings across them all, so it is unlikely that he will ever recover his money that he has invested in the new toilets. Our analysis was based on a single toilet situation.

Bottom line message from this analysis is that you should only upgrade your toilets based on improving the esthetic value of your bathroom. This is an excellent reason to begin with since it does improve your homes resale value. It also helps to know that you will recover some of the cost of installing your toilets from savings in the amount of water that you use.

We included the cost of a plumber in our assessment and we assumed a cost of $70 for installation of the new toilet. Many do it your self handy man are quite capable of installing their own toilets. Plumbers at local hardware stores will even provide you with instructions on how to complete the installation. there are also instructions available online as well as with the toilet you purchase. Removing the cost of the plumbers installation labor cost pushes the toilet upgrade into the positive area of cash flow and makes it all worthwhile!


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