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Furnace Humidifiers

Ensuring that the humidity is kept at satisfactory levels during the winter time in colder climates is actually a huge issue for many people. There are many people who do not worry about it at all and suffer as a result from the dry air in their homes.  There is a physical impact on humans when exposed to dry air as well as  furniture and the home in general tends to dry out, causing cracks in drywall and even in wood floors.

The following topics are covered in our post in more detail.

  • Why You Should Have a Humidifier
  • Types of Humidifiers
  • How they Work
  • Cleaning
  • What Happens in the Summer Time
  • Installation
  • Maintenance

Why You Should Have a Humidifier

There are multiple reasons why the humidity in a home should be managed.  If the humidity is too high, you may risk the generation of mold and condensation on windows and window sills. The mold can be very harmful to anyone who is allergic to mold and the moisture generated by condensation on the windows can damage window sills, the drywall and even the window covering if they are in contact with the condensation.

On the other hand if the humidity level is too low in a home, especially during the winter, static electricity can bother humans as well as disturb electronic equipment to the point of damaging them. Wood based furniture will dry out and sometimes crack, hardwood floors will contact leaving gaps between strips, Humans may have dry throats and lips and your skin may feel dry.

Experts suggest that the humidity in a home be kept in the range of 30% to 50% depending on outside temperature and your own personal comfort level.

Types of Humidifiers

There are many types of humidifiers. A common type of humidifier found in many homes with forced air systems is a drum type (sometimes a wick) that is attached to the furnace and will add humidity to the entire home while the furnace is running.

Apartment dwellers often have electric or hot water heating and therefore cannot rely on a forced air type of humidifier. Stand alone drum type humidifiers are common in this environment, however they typically will only provide humidity in the room they are in. There are various types of stand alone humidifiers – drum, steam, impeller and ultrasonic to name a few.

How they Work

The drum type of humidifier, whether on a furnace or a stand alone unit operates by causing a sponge to run through a water reservoir and then air is forced through the sponge picking up water droplets and spreading the vapor throughout the room or the home. Most will have a sensor that measures the relative humidity level and when the desired level is reach will shut the humidifier off until the humidity drops below  the setting desired.

Impellers and steam humidifiers tend to run continuously until they are out of water and then they shut off. However there are many different varieties of humidifiers on the market so it is important to read the instructions prior to using them.

Cleaning

Cleaning a humidifier is very important for many reasons. First all water unless you are using distilled water, water contains various minerals, including calcium. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind these dissolved minerals causing a scale to build up on the wick or sponge and on the reservoir as well. Cleaning once a month is mandatory to maintain the efficiency of your humidifier.

Also during early fall and late in the spring, your humidifier may not operate as often due to increasing natural humidity in the air. The water tends to stagnate in the reservoir and mold can develop. When the humidifier does operate, not only are you adding water vapor to the air, you are also adding mold spores to the air in your home . Anyone with allergies will find this very unpleasant. Clean your humidifier regularly and remember to shut it off during the spring and summer.

What Happens in the Summer Time

Humidifiers with water left standing in them over the summer, may dry up and they may not depending on local conditions. Most will develop mold which is spread though your home as mentioned previously.

In addition if you leave the humidifier in operation and run the air conditioner at the same time this additional humidifier may even make your air conditioner less effective, especially on forced air systems. Turn off the humidifier, shut the water flow off and clean the unit every spring to avoid these issues.

Installation

These units are relatively easy to install. Stand alone units only need to be unpacked, filled with water and turned on usually. Humidifiers on forced air systems with connections to the return air and water intake require a few more tools and handy man skills.

Most come with sufficient instructions. You will need plumbing tools to connect the water supply, tin snips to cut the required holes in the return and hot air pipes and an electrical outlet to connect to. After reading the instructions that come with the unit, if you are uncomfortable doing this work you may be further ahead to hire a plumber to complete the installation for you.

Many new homes come with systems already installed, however be sure to review this requirement in your list of specifications.

Maintenance

As we have mentioned previously, regardless of which type you use in your home, regular maintenance and cleaning is mandatory to maintain a healthy household. Here is a short list that we have put together:

  • Clean the unit a minimum of once per month
  • Replace the wick or sponge if it is calcified
  • Completely clean the unit at the end of the winter season
  • Shut the water supply off at the end of the season
  • Place a new wick or sponge in the unit at the beginning of the season
  • Keep the humidity level between 30% and 50% depending on the outside temperature.

Comments are appreciated, especially those that have tips and suggestions for keeping the humidity at the right level in your home.

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LED Christmas lights

Our last post talked about whether consumers should purchase artificial Christmas trees or go for the real thing. We thought that it would be appropriate to discuss Christmas lights in this post since it is so near Christmas. Over the past few years, LED Christmas lights have become very popular replacing the old incandescent lights and also the small C7 and C9 lights. We will do a quick review of each type and then talk about decorating your tree.

  • Incandescent
  • C7 and C9
  • LED Christmas Lights

Incandescent Christmas Tree Lights

These lights have been around for the past few years and many people will know them as mini lights.  The bulbs are quite small and utilize less energy than the larger C7 or C9 bulbs. They can get hot at times, so anyone handling them should be careful and also placement on the tree needs to take into account that they can get hot.

They come in strings of 25, or 50 bulbs and have various colors. They are good for outdoor and indoor, however it is important to read the instructions since some manufacturers designate were their strings can be used. Finding which bulb is burnt out can be a problem with some strings since when one bulb burns out, they all go out.

More expensive strings will stay lit making it easy to find the burned out bulb. One problem with these strings is that as bulbs burn out, the others share the same voltage and burn slightly hotter reducing the overall life of the string. Replace burned out bulbs as soon as you notice them. I have spent hours sometimes trying to get them to work only to give up and buy a new string, since they are so inexpensive.

C7 and C9

These are the traditional Christmas tree lights and are the size of small light bulbs. They come in a variety of colors and screw into a socket the same way their larger cousins do. They do burn hotter than the incandescent bulbs and use more energy as well, so be careful were you hang them to avoid any possibility of fire.

These bulbs are ideal for outdoors as well and if a bulb burns out, you just replace it with a new one. While the bulbs give off a pretty color, they have been falling out of favor recently due to the new LED Christmas lights that are now on the market.

LED Christmas Lights

LED Christmas Lights or Light Emitting Diode Christmas tree lights have been on the market for the past 3 or 5 years and in the past two years have offered many more colors and combinations for both indoor and outdoor use. The primary advantage of these lights is that they use far less energy than other types, so consumers really do not need to be concerned about electricity rates and the cost of turning on their lights over the Christmas period.

Consumers do need to purchase the correct lights for indoor and outdoor use and you will need to be careful about handling them. The LED Christmas Lights work by turning on a diode to give light, however they are protected by a glass or plastic cover which can break if  not handled properly.They are cool to the touch, even after having been on for many hours.

You will probably have to add more strings to get the same effect as you do with other lights and some of them are more difficult to see in natural light when they are turned on. They look beautiful at night and are advertised to last many hundreds of hours.

One negative is that they are more expensive then the older style of lights and depending on the color you choose, your LED Christmas Lights will vary in price as well.  Although they do cost more, they are supposed to last 4 or 5 times longer than regular lights and they use far less energy as well.

Every season, companies are coming out with more configurations and options with LED Christmas Lights.

Decorating your Christmas Tree

In our house hold, I have the job of getting the Christmas tree in place and then adding the lights. My wife will then add all of the other decorations. We separate these tasks due to past years frustration with the incandescent bulbs burning out and trouble finding the burned out bulb. Basically we could not be in the same room together when placing the lights on the Christmas tree.

Now with the LED Christmas Lights it is a simple task, since all of the bulbs work, they are easy to handle and obviously it goes much more quickly with an extra pare of hands helping.

We probably have enough strings to place about 700 lights on our tree and we start at the top with an angel, then going around the tree in circles adding lights gradually descending until the entire tree is covered. As you go along you may have to make adjustments in terms of spacing, however this is a great way to ensure that all of the tree is covered and there are no gaps. A quick check from outside with the lights turned on and we are ready to add all of the other decorations. I really like these new LED Christmas Lights even if they are more expensive!

Outdoor LED Christmas Lights

LED Christmas Lights come in several sizes. We use the small ones for indoor decorations and the larger ones for outdoor. We place them on a few of the shrubs around the front of our home to create that festive Christmas look to our home.

One negative that we have come across with the outdoor LED Christmas Lights is that if it snows, you may have to dust off the shrubs. The LED Christmas Lights do not generate any heat and as a result do not melt the snow around them. If you get a lot of snow, they will be buried and you just will not see them any longer.

Since they draw so little electricity, you can afford to place many LED Christmas Lights around your home both indoors and outdoors. I have them all on timers and so they are turned on and off at the correct time. Just set them up , set the timer and there is no further work to them! Have a happy festive Christmas season!

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Artificial Christmas Trees

Christmas is just around the corner and many people are starting to think about whether they should purchase an artificial Christmas tree or go with a traditional live tree that has been grown for this purpose. There is a tradition in many families that they must have a real tree, while other families are ok with an artificial tree  and in fact prefer to have one of these pretend trees.

Our post today is going to review some of the pros and cons of both and why you may want to chose one type of tree or the other.

Here is our list of reasons you may want to consider purchasing one tree or another. Every person will have different reasons and put different importance to each of the items below. At least if you review these ideas you can make a decision based on what you feel is right for you and your family!

  • Choosing Your Tree at the Tree Lot
  • Tradition
  • Charity
  • Allergies
  • Price
  • Lights
  • Decorating
  • The Environment
  • Cleanup & Disposal

Choosing Your Tree at the Tree Lot

This can be fun for the family especially when you have young kids. Whether you pick up a tree at a tree lot or go out and cut one down at a Christmas tree farm, the kids really get a kick out of it and so do the parents. Everyone gets a say in which tree and  believe me it takes a while before the family can agree on the perfect tree. Patience dad!

Tradition

This is probably the biggest reason of all, tradition. If your family has always had a live tree or an artificial one for that matter, then you may not give it a seconds thought. You are just going to purchase the same type of tree every year! No problem with that, but let’s consider some of the following ideas.

Charity

Many tree lots that are selling live trees in the Christmas season are actually charities. They have purchased these trees from a grower who has delivered them to a lot and members of the charity group will be out there in the cold weather selling these trees. This is a great way to raise money for local charities and it is not easy work, especially if it is cold and snowy. You can support these charities by buying one of their trees.

Allergies

One reason that many families purchase artificial trees is allergies. This is true of my own family. For a long time, we had a real tree and almost as soon as we brought it into the house, we all began sneezing! Apparently the pine trees do not agree with us at all. In fact when my wife was a little girl, she would spend Christmas in bed with an asthma attack brought on by the Christmas tree. Needless to say we have had an artificial tree for many years.

Price

Price can be a big factor in which type of tree you choose. Live trees have gone up in price, however they are still less expensive than artificial trees from an initial cost perspective. However if you reuse your artificial tree and this is the whole point of buying one, then the cost per year goes way down the longer you continue to use it.

Properly packing the artificial tree at the end of the season will ensure that it will last for many years and continue to look great at Christmas. I think the current one we have is now about 10 years old which brings the average yearly cost down to less than $10!

Lights

Lights are not much of an issue in terms of which tree you purchase. They look great on either type of tree. However there are some artificial Christmas  trees that you can buy that come with the lights already on the tree, which is a huge thing in our family.

I have the job of getting the lights sorted out, making sure that they all still work and then placing them on the tree. My wife leaves the room during this process, since I find it particularly frustrating when some lights work and others do not. Sometimes it can be very difficult to figure out which light is actually burnt out when they are all off!

Anyway this will happen whether you have a real tree or an artificial one. If you do purchase a tree with the lights already on it,  and the lights begin to burn out, you have the option of adding more lights or just getting a new tree!

Decorating

Decorating is about the same for either tree, however with a real tree there may be areas were a branch is missing or there is a gap of some kind. Many people will argue that this is the charm of having a live tree. After all nature is not perfect and we should accept that not all Christmas trees grow exactly the same no matter how well we chose at the lot.

Artificial trees on the other hand are always perfect with a branch in all of the right places.

The Environment

This is a huge issue for many people. Christmas trees are grown for the purpose, so there is no deforestation type issue. Disposal can also be a good thing if done properly by the city. In our neighborhood, special trucks will come around after Christmas picking up the trees and chopping them into sawdust to be used for mulch in the spring and summer.

Artificial trees do not fair as well in this case. Even when sent to the dump they are going to be around for a long time since the needles are plastic and they just do not degrade well.

Cleanup

Sometimes cleaning up can be more of an issue with real trees. Most people will place the stump of the tree in a pail and fill the pail with water. If you do this it keeps the tree from drying out and losing it’s needles. picking up thousands of needles off your carpet is not a fun job. So keep your tree from drying out. Of course artificial trees do not have this same issue.

Have a Merry Christmas and enjoy the season with your family.

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Fluorescent Lights or CFL’s

Fluorescent lights or CFL’s as they are known in the industry fall under the category of energy saving devices. We thought that since the days are getting longer and we tend to have the lights on in our homes for longer periods at this time of year, writing about fluorescent lights would be a timely thing to do since they reduce the amount of energy that you use and they save you money in the long run.

In fact in some areas of the country with in Canada and perhaps the United States as well, some governments have begun limiting the sale of the incandescent light bulb to encourage consumers to purchase fluorescent lights and save energy. With electricity companies faced with building new electrical generation plants and upgrading existing, they can avoid significant expenditures if consumers can reduce their footprint in terms of electrical energy used for lighting their homes.

Purchase Price

But many people will say, myself included, that the cost of buying a fluorescent light is prohibitive compared to buying an incandescent light bulb. A fluorescent light will cost as much as $8 to $10 dollars while a regular incandescent light bulb can be as low as a dollar.

The difference is, and this is were you have to do the math, is that the CFL (Compact florescent light) will last much longer than an ILB ( incandescent light bulb).  CFL’s will last up to 10,000 hours while you are lucky to get a 1000 hours out of a ILB.

So if you compare them on a cost per operating hour basis, you quickly see that they are very close in cost per operating hour. The real savings come from the operating cost which we will discuss next.

Operating Costs

Comparing like rated bulbs in terms of wattage, CFL’s consume about one quarter of the power that ILB’s consume. To calculate the amount of energy that you will save and the cost you will save, you need to know what your electrical utility is charging you for electricity were you live. It will be based on cents per kilowatt.

For example if you are being charged 10 cents per 1000 watts of power consumed, then a 100 watt bulb will consume one cent of power per hour that it is turned on. A CFL will consume approximately 1/4 of that or approximately 1/4 of a cent. Doesn’t sound like much does it!

Lets assume you have 10 lights in your home that are on for an average of 5 hours per day.  Doing the math that gives you 5 times 365 days times 10 lights times 1 cent for a total cost of $182. 50 for the entire year. Replacing all of these lights will cost you 10 times $10 or $100 and the cost of operation will be approximately $45 since they take 1/4 of the power. You save $38 in the first year.

Note that 5 hours a day average times 365 days is 1,825 hours which means you will have to replace the ILB’s during the year while the CFL’s will continue to operate. We did not add this cost into the above equation.

For the individual home home owner saving $38 over a year is not too much money, however you should do the math for your area and for your personal usage. Also consider if a million homes across the country made the same conversion, how much power would be reduced in terms of demand and how much coal would not have to be burned to generate so much electrical power! We all should do our part to reduce our energy consumption.

Types of CFL’s

There are many more types of CFL’s today than there used to be. Not too long ago you could not purchase CFL’s for many applications such as situations were you wanted to operate a dimmer switch or use them outside. Now new bulbs have been developed for these applications and many others.

Today fluorescent light bulbs on the market include:

  • T-16 –  2-inches in diameter and  60 inches long.
  • T-12 –  diameter of 1½ inches and  available in a variety of lengths including a 15-inch (14-watt), an 18-inch (15-watt), a 24-inch (20-watt bulb) as well as a 36-inch and a 48-inch bulb.
  • T-8 –  1-inch diameter and available in a variety of lengths including a 12-inch (13-watt), a 15-inch (14-watt) and an 18-inch (15-watt).
  • T-5 – is currently used in some commercial locations and throughout Europe.
  • U-tube – This is a tube in the form of a “U” shape.
  • Circle tube –  either 8 inches or 12 inches in diameter
  • Miniature bi-pin sockets – The bulbs to fit these sockets are 5/8-inch in diameter and 6, 9, 12 or 21 inches long
  • Compact fluorescent light (CFL) – a tube reduced to the size of a pencil, folded or twisted into the size of a light bulb.
  • Screw-in bulbs – uses a CFL and has a screw in contact, making it the most popular energy-saving light bulb.They cannot be dimmed.
  • NEOLITE™ low-mercury – This is one of the smallest CFLs available, so it fits most lamp sockets. The bulb is ENERGY STAR qualified and contains only one milligram of mercury.
  • Flood lights – using only about 25% of the energy used by regular incandescent flood lights. They cannot be dimmed.
  • Dimmable lights – These bulbs offer energy savings and they can be dimmed to 20% of their full light output.
  • Decorative torpedo bulbs – used for decorative bulbs for chandeliers and light fixtures.
  • Colored light bulbs – used in restaurants, bars, nightclubs or in homes – to add various colors such as  red, green, blue, yellow and pink.
  • 3-way bulbs – They can be used in any lamp with a three-way switch. They cannot be used in touch lamps.

Precautions

As you can see there are many different types of CFL’s and other fluorescent bulbs that fit various applications. It is important to read the instructions and the applications to ensure that the bulb you purchase will work in your lamp.

Size is a factor. Not all CFL’s will fit in existing lamps due to physical specifications.

Also if you are using a dimmer, only specific bulbs can be used with dimmer switches. Same thing applies to 3 way lamps were you have several different power levels based on the position of the switch.

In most major stores there will be an expert who can assist you to help make the correct purchase.

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Auto Undercoating

I recently took my car into have an oil change in southern California. The mechanic took the car in, raised the hood and took one look at the engine compartment and came quickly back out to see me with a very worried look on his face. He Said, “Sir, I think that someone has forgotten to tighten the oil filler cap on your engine, there is old oil all over the inside of the engine compartment“!

I had to explain to him that I was from Canada, eastern Canada were we put lot’s of salt on the roads in the winter time and this causes our cars to prematurely rust, sometimes as quickly as in 5 or 6 years. We spray the underside of the car and the engine compartment, but not the engine, with oil to protect the car from the salt and from rusting. He had never seen this before even though he had worked on many Canadian cars from western Canada. Apparently this process is not as popular in western Canada as it is in eastern Canada. ( If readers are familiar with this process in the US, please leave a comment in the comment section)

Anyway this conversation made me wonder if the $80 I spend every year getting my care coated with a special undercoat is really worth it or not.

Cars Driven in the South

Since we were in California, you get used to almost never seeing a car with rust damage on them. In fact you see many old cars on the roads, some of which are in pristine condition. Many cars require a new paint job because the direct sun has burned the paint or caused it to fade over the years, however the metal is still protected and not rusting at all. The only difference between our roads and southern California roads is that there is no salt spread on the roads in the winter time!

Where You Live

Where you live really seems to make a difference in the amount of salt on the roads. With temperatures that are just below freezing, salt spread on the roads will melt the snow quickly and keep the roads from icing. If the temperature is well below 20 degrees Celsius or  zero degrees Fahrenheit, salt does not work well. This may explain why the western part of Canada does not use as much salt as the eastern part of Canada and the north eastern portions of the US since their temperatures are cooler than us.

Salt on the Roads

The salt on the roads can be really heavy. If you have ever had to follow a salt truck you will know what we mean. It is just pouring out and it gets inside every nook and cranny of your car waiting to begin the process of rusting your cars steel frame. This is were auto undercoating can really help. If you spray your car thoroughly and get the oil into these small places, the salt cannot get in there and the oil will protect your car.  Spraying the car every year before the winter season begins will ensure that your car is well protected.

Waiting until after your car has been exposed to the salt may mean that it is not worth it to spray your car since the oil will lock in the salt mixture that is already on your car  in all of the wrong places. Get your undercoated every year in the fall before the first salt application on the roads.

How Long You Keep Your Car

It costs from $70 to $120 every year to have your car sprayed with under coating depending on were you go and the type of vehicle you drive. If you are only going to keep your car for 4 or 5 years then it may not be worth it to spend this money since most people buying a used car are more interested in whether the car is mechanically sound and how many miles are on it. Undercoating may make it more competitive in terms of pricing, however it is unlikely that you will get your money’s worth out of it.

On the other hand if you are one of these people who like to keep a car for 7 to10 years or even longer, then undercoating may be worth the money. Anything that keeps the salt away from the body of the car is definitely worth it. You just have to look at cars that have not been driven in winter conditions to see how well the body of the car stands up.

Stone chips are everyone’s menace, from cracked windshields to chipped paint. You can see the chips on the fenders and the hood of your car. You cannot see the stone chips on the underside and that is were the salt is going to get in and start the rust action on your vehicle as well. Undercoating every year will not only stop the entry of the salt, but will slow the rusting process down if does get started at these spots.

It is Messy

As my mechanic said to me, it looks as if the oil cap on the engine was off. There is no doubt that it is messy and every time you open the hood of your car you are going to get some on your hands. The point is that you should be careful especially if you are wearing good clothes, but it is there for a reason and that is to help you get the most out of your investment that you can. Some  people cannot stand their car being coated with oil and if you look at any show type car, there is not a spec of oil on them. However if you use your car every day during the winter you want all of the protection you can get, mess or no mess.

Resale

We talked about whether auto undercoating enhances the sales price of your car when you sell it. Most people think that it helps to sell the car, however you probably will not get much more money for the car, undercoated or not providing that there are no rust spots showing anywhere on the car.

Once rust begins to appear, then the value of the car drops very quickly. In this respect, if applying under coating prevents rust from appearing or at least delays it, then the increased price you can get for your car definitely pays for the cost over the years you will have had the car.

We have seen numerous comments on various web sites for and against auto undercoating.  We would appreciate yours as well on this post.

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Electronic Thermostats

If you do not already have an electronic thermostat, this is the right time of year to consider installing one, especially just before the heating season begins in northern climates. There are so many advantages to having an electronic thermostat for both heating as well as cooling seasons, that it is hard to know were to begin.

Basic Features

The basic features of most electronic thermostats ( Note that these will vary depending on the model so it is important to read the specs before you make your purchase ) include control of both heating and cooling systems; ability to set the temperature in your home at least four times during the day; monitor the humidity level in your home and display on a small screen; monitor the current temperature and display the temperature on a small screen; ability to set your furnace fan to run only when the furnace heat is on or to run constantly at a slow speed. The same applies to cooling cycles in the summer time.

Advanced Features

Obviously the sky is the limit here as is the price, however features such as additional setting times during the day for the temperature; control the humidity level in your home; remote activation / control via the internet; set the degree drop or rise  before the furnace or air conditioning kicks in;  auto switch from cooling to heating;  control of your thermostat by your electrical utility. ( we will discuss this last feature more in a later section)

Convenience and Saving Energy

Today’s modern electronic thermostats are designed to provide convenience to consumers as well as enable them to also save energy and reduce their electrical and heating costs.  Not everyone is perhaps familiar with these advantages so we will spend a few paragraphs discussing this particular topic.

With a manual thermostat you must constantly adjust the temperature for your own comfort as well as remember to adjust it downwards during heating seasons when you are away. The same is true for cooling seasons except that you must increase the temperature. Most of us are forgetful and will only remember that we should have adjusted the thermostat after we have left. We do not receive the energy savings as a result and our energy costs are increasing every month.

With an electronic thermostat you can set the temperature based on your schedule for each day and then forget about it. If your schedule changes, just manually change the temperature for that period to a comfortable level. during the next period the electronic thermostat will revert to the regular schedule that you have set for it. This is perfect for people who go to work every day. Who needs to heat or cool the house when no one is home?

Not only will you save heating fuel such as natural gas, oil or electricity depending on what your home is heated with, you will also save on electricity since your furnace fan will not run as often as well. The same principles are true for the cooling season when you run your air conditioning systems. All energy sources have been increasing their rates  recently so this is becoming more and more important as consumers look to stretch their hard earned dollars a bit further. It is not unheard of for electrical rates to be increased by 10 or 20% in some areas, so reducing usage is becoming even more important.

Electrical Energy System Banding

In several Canadian provinces and in some US states as well, the electrical utilities have begun charging for electricity used based on the time of day it is consumed. The idea is that more electricity is consumed by industry and consumers during the day causing maximum peaks around 11 am and 2 pm. By charging higher rates during these time periods the utilities are hoping consumers and industry will move their consumption to evening hours when demand is usually way down and also when electrical rates are much lower.

With this billing system in place, consumers can actually save money if they cause their electrical systems to be turned off during these peak times. Reducing  your furnace and air conditioning use during the day as well as clothes dryers, dishwashers and other appliances that consume electricity will definitely reduce your electrical bill.

Electronic thermostats are perfect for this energy reduction initiative, since consumers can adjust their thermostats to take advantage of the lower electrical rates offered by the utilities during non peak hours.

Electrical Utilities Controlling Your Thermostat!

We said we would come back to this subject in this post. Can you imagine that this is even  possible? And why would you allow it?

Well it seems that some utilities are so worried about meeting peak demands for electrical energy, they are offering all kinds of programs to help them reduce electricity consumptions and control peak demand load. If they cannot meet the electrical demand on any given day, consumers may experience brown outs which are dimming of the lights all the way to electrical system failure. Brown outs are also bad for computer systems and many other devices that need to have a stable electrical system.

Anyway, some utilities are offering to provide you with a brand new electronic thermostat complete with all of the bells and whistles and one more feature that most do not have. These special thermostats give the utility the ability to adjust the temperature in your home to reduce the electrical consumption during peak demand times. Apparently you can manually adjust the temperature yourself to over ride the change they make, however for many people it can be an excellent way to upgrade to a new thermostat and save money at the same time.

These programs do not exist in all jurisdictions and it is optional were they exist. The major advantage is that you receive a new electronic thermostat and they will install it for you as well. A great way to contribute to energy savings, reduce your costs for heating and cooling while still having control over your systems.

 

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Updating Bathroom Light Fixtures

Why Update Your Bathroom?

It seems that in North America at least, bathrooms and kitchens are the most important rooms in the home when it comes to buyers deciding on buying a home. We are focusing on bathrooms in this post and specifically on lighting which is a major part of how your bathroom looks to prospective buyers as well as being functional while you are living in your home. Everyone loves to have a bright and attractive bathroom, and lighting plays a huge part in how your bathroom looks.

Consumers spend thousands of dollars every year on remodeling their bathrooms, however if you can do some or all of the work yourself, it really does not have to cost that much. Add a new mirror, repaint the room, upgrade the toilet and the lights and you have a room that looks great as well as being modern. Of course you can go all out, replacing the cabinets, the counter top and the shower / tub, the floor, however these are big expense items.  Labor is a huge part of the cost, while the cost of the materials is relatively small and this applies to bathroom lighting as well.

Cost of Bathroom Lighting

Of course the sky is the limit when it comes to purchasing lighting systems for the bathroom, however there can be really attractive bathroom style lighting that can be purchased at Lowe’s and Home Depot as well as other stores that specialize in lighting. You can often purchase lights for under $100 complete with all wiring and even the light bulbs which include either energy saving fluorescent bulbs or halogen lights. Personally we like the fluorescent lights since they are cooler and they save energy as well, which reduces your long term operating costs. With the recent increases in electricity rates in most areas, saving electricity is becoming more important.

Installation can be expensive unless you can do it your self or have a friend that can install the new lights safely. Note that if you are going to do this yourself, make sure you really know how to do this work so that there are no possible fire or shock hazards created. Always make sure that the power is turned off before you start to protect yourself from any possibility of electrocution. If in doubt talk to an expert or hire someone to do the work for you!

Selecting the Right Style and Color for your Lights!

This is probably the most difficult aspect of remodeling your bathroom. Most decorators will tell you that you have to have an overall plan for your home and specifically each room. The bathroom is no different of course. Coordinating your lighting selection with your choices for all of the other decor in the bathroom is very important. Decisions on color – black, copper, stainless steel etc is one aspect. Will you go traditional or modern and matching with the faucets and counter hardware is also important.

You may not be able to afford to do everything at once. Having a plan and completing some of the work as you can afford it will help you make sure that your completed work meets your overall objective.

Whatever you do, don’t chose your lights based on price alone. Make sure that your overall decorating plan works for you home and your bathroom. Otherwise you may be spending money for nothing, when it comes time for you to sell your home. Your bathroom could be perceived as a negative by potential buyers unless you have done a good job decorating.

Lots of Light

Some people really like to have a bright room with lots of light, while others may want something more subdued at times. Both can be accommodated by installing a dimmer switch in place of the on / off switch that is usually installed in most homes. Make sure that your fixture as well as the light bulbs you will use are compatible with dimmer switches.

Halogens are usually fine , however fluorescent lights do not work well with dimmer switches. Check the fixture and the lights before you make your decision. Most stores will have an electrician on staff who help you with any questions regarding installation as well as with the correct type of bulbs to use.

Hire Experts

You may not want to do the job yourself or are just uncomfortable with even being around bare electrical wires. A good friend of ours does not even want to be around when I am helping him. He is just that nervous about touching the wires and getting a shock. In situations like these, hire an expert to do the work for you. Although it will cost more, you will have peace of mind and the job will be done properly as well.

If you do the work yourself, always make sure that the power is turned off to all areas of the bathroom. Turn the lights on in the bathroom and then go to the breaker box, usually located in the basement, and switch off the appropriate breaker. When the lights go off you know that you have selected the correct breaker switch.

You may also want to hire a decorator to help design your bathroom, make sure that everything is coordinated and give you ideas about what to change and what not to. As we mentioned earlier in this post sometimes just updating the paint, the hardware on doors and drawers, the wall plates and the light fixtures can make a huge difference to your bathroom. These things do not cost much in comparison to completing a total remodel involving the toilet, the shower, the tub and the counters with new faucets and sinks. People have been known to send $25,000  on a total remodel of a bathroom. Not everyone can afford this, so doing cosmetic things can be a much better alternative.

Finally it is important to remember that everyone’s taste is different. If you are updating with the idea of selling your home, most real estate sales people will tell you that it is important to update tired bathrooms, however avoid spending too much money, since it is unlikely you will be able to increase the price sufficiently to cover the money you put into remodeling. Cosmetic updates vs. major updates is often the correct way to proceed.

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List of Sewing Machine Brands and Manufacturers

This is our quick list of the different companies that make sewing machines – all types (serger, embroidery, standard, all-purpose, quilter, industrial/commercial, or hobby level). We have endeavored to include links to all of these as well in the sewing machine list below. So without further delay; (note: we are not reviewing sewing machines in this post, or selling them – for further information and reviews see our main sewing machine home page here)

List of Sewing Machine Brands and Manufacturers

The links in the list above provide you with direct access to the most popular sewing machine makers in the world, and as well , we provide a list of a sample of the sewing machines links within Zazbot.com.

Above is a picture of a typical serger machine in a work setting.

 

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Should You Purchase Snow Tires

We are writing this post in mid September knowing that winter is only a few months away and wondering if this year we should put snow tires on the car or just use the all season tires that we have been using for the past couple of years. There is no question that snow tires provide better traction on ice and snow, however with a front wheel drive car, purchasing four new snow tires is an expense we could do with out.

Should you purchase snow tires?

But let’s get back to the main issue of whether we should purchase snow tires or not. Many people will drive with all season tires on their car all year round. In most situations all season tires will do a great job, however there are times during the winter when you might be stuck at work late or at the mall and it is snowing hard making driving conditions very treacherous. All season tires are designed to do a good job in all driving conditions, while snow tires will do a great job in icy conditions.  Would you rather drive on all seasons through six or eight inches of snow or would you rather have snow tires on your car?

There is no question, your car will perform much better in the snow with snow tires and you and your family will be much safer as well. We all know people who say they will just not go out in their car when there is a lot of snow on the ground. For most of the time they may get away with this approach, however sometime during the winter they will get caught in a snow storm and then it is a really scary time on slippery roads.

Snow tires have tread patterns that will grip better on snow covered roads. They are also made of softer rubber which makes them more flexible even in cold weather so that they can actually place more surface area on the ice and snow to get a better grip. Since the rubber is soft, it is not a good idea to continue to use snow tires in warm weather. Soft rubber will wear off the tires more quickly in warm weather.

For the sake of a several hundred dollars why take the chance?

New Rims or Use the Existing Rims

A lot of people will purchase new steel rims to mount their snow tires on so that when it comes to changing tires, they can even do it themselves if they wish. The other main advantage is that you can have the auto shop mount and balance the tires well ahead of the rush that always happens when the first snow falls.

Many people will wait until the last moment so that they can avoid having to pay for the tires until the last minute.  When that first snow comes, they not only risk their vehicles on slippery streets, they also have to stand in line to purchase tires and have them installed.  Purchase them early and store them in your garage for when you need them and install the new rims with the tires already mounted and balanced yourself. Installing four snow tires already mounted on steel rims is no worse than changing a flat tire four times!

Another advantage of using steel rims is that they also protect the more expensive rims that came with the vehicle when it was first purchased  from the salt and slush of winter driving.  Also, every time a mechanic changes tires, there is always some damage to your rims due to scratches from the tools etc, so avoiding tire changes also preserves the shiny new look of your OEM rims.

Legal Requirement

There are some jurisdictions in North America that now require all cars of owners residing in that jurisdiction to have snow tires on their cars during the winter. The Province of Quebec has recently made this into law and a year ago there was a huge rush on by anyone living in Quebec to have snow tires installed on their cars. In fact there was a general shortage of snow tires for a short period since they were in such huge demand.

There are some states and provinces that require snow tires on mountain roads and in some cases chains on tires as well due to the slippery conditions. It is for your own safety, so put them on.

There may be other jurisdictions that have the same requirement for all vehicles however the writer is not aware of any with this requirement. If our readers are aware of any, perhaps you can leave a comment about any that have this requirement for snow tires. Readers should note that visitors are not required to have snow tires on their car.

The province made this significant decisions based on the fact that it would reduce accidents, damage to cars and reduce health costs significantly as well as potential deaths due to slippery roads. Much like the seat belt laws which have been proven to save lives, running snow tires on your car will also save lives and damage.

Snow Tires on all Four wheels?

Some people feel that all they need to do is place snow tires on the drive wheels of their car, even on front wheel drive cars. While it is true they will have better grip when accelerating with snow tires, stopping can be a problem. Application of the brakes on snowy or icy roads may cause the non drive wheels to spin out since they do not have as good a grip and you may find your car spinning in the middle of the road. All dealers today will recommend that you purchase snow tires for all wheels on your car to ensure that each wheel contributes to controlling your car equally on icy roads.

If you are still in doubt about snow tires, just watch a few news stores when there is a major snow storm. Reports of many accidents, with people hurt should be enough to convince you to spend the money on adding snow tires to your vehicle!

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