Archive for April, 2011

Idling Your Car – Save $

Idling Your Car - Save $One of our big concerns about using energy and in particular wasting energy is when we see people sitting in their cars. They are waiting for someone idling their car. This is such a huge waste of energy. With the price of gasoline going up so much we thought it was time to write a post about this very common occurrence, idling your car. Perhaps a few people will read this post and think twice about idling their car again and maybe even save themselves some money as well as help the environment.

Idling Your Car – Save $ A Time and Place

There is a time and a place for idling your car. For example, if you live in a cold climate, you need to have your car warmed up so that the windshield is not covered with frost and so that you can see. If you are pulling a heavy trailer, you want to give your car’s engine a chance to warm up before placing it under a heavy load. Starting from a cold start and flooring the gas pedal on a cold engine is never a good thing to do, since not all of the engine parts are up to operating temperature.

We decided to list some of the issues and reasons why you need to warm up an engine, but not let an engine idle for any length of time. If you agree or disagree or have other ideas about engine idling, please leave your comments at the end of this post.

New electric cars and the Toyota Prius solve this problem of idling since the engine is shut off while stopped at stop signs and at the curb.  Traditional powered vehicles still have this issue and we could all reduce our cost as well as pollution by allowing our vehicles to idle less.

Driving Warms the Car Faster than Idling.

If your concern is not the health of the car, but simply your own creature comforts, it warms up faster if you just drive it since the engine is under load and working harder than it would while idling.

Ten Seconds Is All You Need.

After about ten seconds, you waste more money running the engine than restarting it. Switch the car off at the curb and you’ll be leaving money in your wallet and protecting the air in your community. If you live in a cold climate, obviously it will take longer for the car to warm up and clear the windshield of frost, however once it is warmed up there is no need to keep it running while waiting at the curb.

Idling Hurts the Car.

Idling forces an engine to operate in a very inefficient and gasoline-rich mode that, over time, can degrade the engine’s performance and reduce mileage. Engines that idle a lot and are only driven in city traffic tend to build up more carbon deposits and sludge. You should change your oil more often to keep engine performance up.

Idling Costs Money.

Over a year of five minutes of daily idling (which causes incomplete combustion of fuel), it is  estimated that the operator of a V-8-engined car will waste 20 gallons of gasoline, which not only produces 440 pounds of carbon dioxide but costs at least $60. Many people allow their cars to idle much longer than 5 minutes sitting at the curb waiting to pick someone up or even in line at take out fast food restaurants.

Idling in the Garage Can Kill You.

Idling a car in a garage, even with the door open, is dangerous and exposes the driver to carbon monoxide and other noxious gases. If the garage is attached, those fumes can also enter the house.

Block Heaters Beat Remote Starters.

Remote starters can too easily cause people to warm up their cars for five to 15 minutes, which is generally unnecessary. A block heater, which is designed to heat the engine and can cost under $30, on a timer set to start one to two hours before driving does the trick in very cold climates.

Quick Errands Aren’t Quick Enough.

We have all seen those people who leave their car running while they run into a store to quickly pick something up or drop off. Leaving your engine running is hard on your pocketbook, produces greenhouse gas emissions and is an invitation to car thieves.

Idling is Bad for Your Health (and Your Neighbor’s Health)

One of the problems is that cars idle close to the curb, where pedestrians are walking. And when you have a child in a stroller, they are particularly close to the tailpipe. Studies show that children’s IQ levels are lower when they live near major roads with lots of traffic.



Your Tires Condition counts

Your Tires Condition countsThe Automobile Club of Southern California has recently stated that as long as your vehicle has tires that are in good working condition, you would be able to have good fuel economy and extend the life of your vehicle as well. This is in accordance and with regards to the National Tire Safety Week which started just last April 23rd and would be continuing to the end of this week. The tire shown in this picture is definitely not in good working condition.  Your Tires Condition counts.

The front end needs to be aligned and maybe some tie rods replaced. This tire has severe wear and tear on the left hand side and the car probably pulls badly to the right as you are driving. Never mind about fuel economy, this driver needs to be concerned about the safety of his vehicle. He should be concerned about being able to stop quickly with out causing an accident.

Tires in Good Working Condition

So exactly what is “good working condition”? We have listed a few items that would be necessary for your tires to be considered in good working condition. They are as follows:

  • Proper tire pressure, not over and not under inflated
  • All four tires balanced properly
  • No cuts, tears or obvious damage to the tire
  • No premature wear and tear on one side of the tire or another
  • At least 1/8 of an inch of tread on the tires and this is considered low
  • Proper tires on the car, fitted for speed rating, size and width
  • Tire age is not more than 6 years

The National Tire Safety Week was launched so as to assist drivers in understanding the basic tire care. Aside from this, the fact remains that there is still that need for proper tire maintenance.

From research completed, the statistics have shown that around 85 percent of drivers do not actually check their vehicle’s tire pressure properly or even at all.

Engineer Steve Mazor who is the Auto Club’s principal automotive engineer states, “Not knowing the condition of your vehicle’s tires is equal to pouring money down the drain. Proper tire inflation is necessary to for safe driving and to reduce gas costs.”

Your Tires Condition counts – Under Inflated Tires

He continue-s, “Under inflated tires can cut fuel economy by up to two percent per pound of pressure below the recommended level. They can cause your tires to run hot and they can prematurely wear out as well.

After every fill up, motorists should walk around their vehicles and check tires for uneven or excessive tread wear and proper inflation. Drivers can refer to their vehicle’s doorjamb or glove box for original specifications or the manufacturer of the replacement tire for tire pressure.”

As per statistics that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has, nearly one out of every three vehicles on the roads and highways has a significant under inflated tire. Aside from this fact is that there are some 600 fatalities and around 33,000 injuries that happen every year. These are results of low tire pressure related crashes.

Make it a Habit

It is an easy habit to get into. Before you start the car every morning, take a quick walk around the car. Check the tire pressure by observation, and if a tire looks low, check it with a tire pressure gauge. Once a week use a gauge to check the actual pressure and top up if needed.

Never over inflate since the tire pressure will increase as you use the car at high speeds. After you have done this a few times, you will quickly be able to assess whether a tire is low or not.

Benefits of Tire Maintenance

Although we have focused on tire condition and checking the inflation of tires, there are two primary reasons to check your tires. One is to gain better gas mileage. Your car will get the best gas mileage if your tires are properly inflated and balanced.  In addition tires that are well maintained have less tendency to have a blow out. If this happens at high speeds, you might lose control of the car causing far more serious consequences.

Feel free to leave comments about tire maintenance etc, to help our readers avoid accidents and gain better gas mileage.

Hardwood Floor Nailers

Hardwood Floor NailersHardwood flooring really does add beauty to any home. Along with this, the durable surface will last a lifetime and is a great investment. Installing a hardwood floor can take a little hard work. But with some planning and tools, like a hardwood floor nailers, the job can be much easier. Hardwood floor mailers are also dangerous. Make sure you follow all of the proper safety features when using them. The picture on the left is a typical hardwood floor nailer. There are many on the market. You should select one based on price and function. Take into account the amount of time you will use one. Sometimes renting a machine will be the less expensive option.

Should you Hire a Professional

Here is a little information about hardwood installation and the necessary tools to get the job done right. first we do want to point out that if you are uncomfortable with laying a floor and do not do well using tools or renovations, you probably should hire an expert. The job will be done well and it will be done quickly.  Spouses tend to get a little frustrated if you take weeks or months to get the job done and even more so if it is not done well.

Let the Wood Acclimatize

Anyone who has worked with wood before knows that humidity and moisture cause expansion. For this reason, it is important to let your wood accustom to their new environment by storing them indoors for a few days. This will give you a little time to prepare the work area and make sure you have all the right tools.

Preparing the Work Area

When you are installing hardwood over a large area, a hardwood floor nailer is essential to save time and effort. Ensuring a level, clean and dry sub-floor area is also a must. Mark the position of floor joists, the room centerline and a line marking the edge of the first boards along your starting wall on the vapor barrier you have laid down ahead of time. About 3/4 inch of expansion space should be left between the starting wall and the first row of boards. Wood will contract and expand. This expansion space will allow the floor to expand and you will not get buckling in your floor as a result. Then you are ready to begin.

Rent a Hardwood Floor Nailer

Most consumers who are doing this kind of work themselves will only need a hardwood nailer for a few days and you may need it only one time. It does not make sense to purchase one. There are many equipment rental locations that will rent out power hardwood nailers at an hourly or daily rate. Take advantage of this service and save yourself some money.

There are manual nailers and powered nailers which drive the nails into the wood along the tongue and groove. Always rent a powered nailer. You will be exhausted after a few thousand nails other wise.

Get that First Row of Boards Right

The first row of boards is the most important row. If you have done your measuring and marking correctly your floor will be lined up properly with the walls etc. Take the time to measure several times to check your work.

The first row of boards can be fixed into place by either using nails about 1 inch from the side of the starting wall or glued into place at six inch intervals. The glue used should allow for the natural expansion of the wood. This first row is also held into place with nails driven into the tongue at 45 degree angles by the nailer. Some people prefer to do this first row by hand but you can use the hardwood floor nailer if you prefer.

Check for Proper Alignment

Subsequent boards should be fixed into place and secured using the hardwood floor nailer. Always check for proper alignment along the way. Continue this until you reach the last few boards which should be secured by hand since the hardwood floor nailer will not be able to be used that close to a wall. After all this you will now be able to enjoy your beautiful new hardwood flooring.


Upgrading Your Smart Phone, iPod

Smart Phone SecurityI recently starting considering whether I would upgrade my iPod to the latest version. It got me to wondering what are the issues associated with an upgrade. Also what about upgrading my cell phone to a smart phone at the same time. The costs that are pretty high. But I can also sell my existing iPod to recoup some of the expense of upgrading.

This Is What I Currently Have

First let me tell you what I have at the moment. I have an older Samsung flip phone which works well although the battery only lasts about three days before needing a charge. Other than that it works very well. I also have an iPod touch which is a year old, so it does not have the built in cameras. I purchased it with 32 G’s of memory and even with loads of pictures and music on it I am not even close to using all of the memory.

Now you may wonder why I just don’t upgrade to an iPhone. Well we live in Canada and the rates for cell service plus data service is ridiculous. That’s why with the iPod, I just use WiFi and the data does not cost me anything. Sure I have to find a WiFi site, however I have discovered that there are so many around that I always have access when I need it.

I am currently paying about $85 a month for 500 minutes of local and long distance service shared between two phones to Bell Mobility. I know this is high by USA levels, but that is what we are stuck with in Canada. This includes voice mail and text messaging. It does not include any data at all.

The best part is that I am coming to the end of my contract and I can now negotiate with Bell, my current provider and with Rogers who are the main competitors.

What Should I Upgrade to?

What I would like is a new iPhone 4 as an upgrade with data and voice at a much better price that what I am currently paying. I am used to the iPod and really like all of the current apps that I have. I would like the current configuration that I have on my iPod plus voice.

I have to wait another month for my contract to end and then we will see what kind of deal Bell and Rogers will offer to me. Bell to keep me and Rogers to transfer me and pick me up as a new customer.

If I can get a new iPhone 4, then I will sell my iPod. I have seen them going for roughly $140 to $170 on Ebay and considering I have had it for one year and I paid $300 for it, this is not a bad deal.

Can Anyone Suggest a Better Approach?

If anyone has a better suggestion about how to get a better deal or what I should expect for a proposed offer for service, I would really like to hear your comments now. The end of May is my drop dead date for making a decision on a new phone of some kind. If they will not give me a good deal, then I might just keep what I have?

For more iPod touch information, click here.



Reduce Cooling Costs

Reduce Cooling CostsReduce Cooling Costs : Most people these days will run their air conditioning at some point or another during the summer season. Your season will start early if you live in the southern US and that is one of the reasons we are writing this post today. Air conditioning uses a lot of electricity and with prices rising everywhere this is a great place to look for cost savings and ways to control your electrical cost.

But even if you live in southern Canada and only run your AC for two weeks during the year, you may still want to read this post, since you can always save some money by reducing your AC usage and reducing your electrical costs. Whether you use a window air conditioner or a central air conditioner to coll your home, they both use a lot of electricity. Some people will also use AC during even the relatively cooler times in an effort to reduce the amount of pollen in the air coming into their homes in the spring if they suffer from allergies. During windy days, if you keep your windows closed you may want your AC on as well.

This web site is all about saving money and with the cost of electricity going up so much in many states and provinces, it is becoming more important to control consumption.

AC uses a lot of electricity when it is running, so controlling it and maintaining it well can save you lots of money or at least reduce your monthly electrical bill. The cost of AC in the summer time for people living in the southern US can be as high or higher than corresponding heating costs for people in Canada!

Guide to Reduce Cooling Costs

The following list includes the standard approach to reducing your AC electrical bill and some others you may not have thought of. Let us know if we have missed any by leaving us with your comments. We will be happy to add them so our readers can benefit. Here we go:

  • Obviously, turn up the thermostat several degrees especially during the day
  • Don’t use AC until you absolutely cannot stand it any more
  • Turn on the AC for evening hours while you are sleeping
  • Let evening breezes cool your home
  • Keep window shades drawn on the side  of the house that the sun shines in the windows
  • Use ceiling fans to keep the air moving, even if the air conditioning is running
  • Also Use regular fans to keep the air moving
  • Use fans in your bedroom at night to circulate the air
  • Cook outside on the barbecue instead of using the oven
  • Use the Microwave to heat or cook foods, it generates less heat
  • Go for a swim, private or public

More Tips

  • Clear any debris away from the outside AC unit
  • Keep plants and shrubs from crowding the outside AC unit
  • Clean the inside of your furnace once per year
  • Change your filter at the beginning of the season
  • Change your filter or clean your filter once per month
  • Turn off any humidifier on the furnace or otherwise
  • Have your AC checked to make sure it is working efficiently
  • Adjust all vents to ensure proper distribution of air through the house
  • Close bottom cold air returns
  • Open ceiling level cold air returns
  • Cool only rooms that you use
  • Avoid using your AC during high rate hours during the mid day
  • Make sure there are no open drafts from outdoors
  • Plant trees to provide shade on the west side of the house. This will shade the house from the hot afternoon sun
  • If you are away on vacation for a few days, either turn up the temperature or turn off the AC while you are away

Following all of these items mentioned above, will help to keep your AC costs for electricity as low as it can possibly be.

Let us know if we missed any. Both us and our readers want to know all possible ways of keeping our AC bill to the lowest level possible.




Teenagers and Smart Phones

Teenagers and Smart PhonesI just watched a short documentary about the use of smart phones with cameras by teenagers and how much trouble they get themselves into. Teenagers and smart phones can be a lethal mix. It was so interesting and a huge concern that I just had to write a blog post about it. My wife and I discussed it at length and I wanted to include some of our thoughts about this subject. Almost every one under 25 has a smart phone these days. With the deals that can be had from the various companies offering data plans and phones, virtually anyone can have a smart phone these days.

Teenagers and Smart Phones – Unintentional Porn Movies

The story was about a young girl, approximately 15, who was asked by her then boyfriend to make a little movie showing her undressing for him. Apparently they were already having sex, and he wanted something to remember her with when they were not together which was most of the time.

So she uses her smart phone, makes a little video showing her taking her clothes off and posts it on Youtube for only him to see. Some girls just send the file to their boyfriends as well. As with most young relationships they last for a few weeks or months and then they break up to move onto another relationship.

The former boyfriend now felt no ties with his old girlfriend, may have even felt a little rejected due to the break up, He decides to share the video with his buddies. In the case that was shown on TV, the entire school including the teachers saw the video. She was given the nick name – Porn Star, around school. Now how difficult and bad can that be for a young girl who is still developing physically and emotionally? She was devastated and learned a really tough lesson! This is an extreme example of teenagers and smart phones getting into trouble.


This story prompted a huge discussion with my wife about todays state of affairs and why girls would feel that they need to do these sorts of things to be accepted by the male in their community.

This is a very sensitive topic in our household since we have two girls and we have a new grand daughter and we worry about what they have to face in the world and what pitfalls they will fall into as they go about their lives.

Emotions vs. Logic

Lets face it, today’s kids are thinking with their emotions and their hormones and not with any logic. If they stepped back and thought about it for a moment, they would realize that anything they post on the net is going to be made public by some idiot. But instead they have only thoughts for their boy friend of the day and what they have to do to keep them or attract them.

If they could see into the future and see what was going to happen to them with the release of the video, do you think for an instant they would still release this video of themselves? Not any half sane individual.

What can parents do?

Kids are going to do what they want to do for the most part. They are smart and most are intelligent, although somewhat misguided. They are going to have all of the toys and if you try to prevent them from getting s smart phone they will just find another way to get one. This is when parents really have to be aware of the issues for teenagers and smart phones.

The best approach we believe is to discuss things with them, the ramifications of taking specific steps, the pitfalls of certain actions and what can happen. Some of this is really difficult conversation, and sometimes you may think that they are not listening. In our experience we were sure that we were not getting through to our kids until one day we overheard them quote something that we had said to them about a subject we were really concerned about.

Communicate with your kids about every possible subject. Arm them with information so that they will not be so naive as to make a video of them getting undressed which then gets sent all over the school.

Hope this helps, comments are welcome. Our next post will be about the impact of TV and Hollywood on our kids. For more on teens and smart phones, click here.





Tire Maintenance is Critical

Tire Maintenance is CriticalMaintaining your tires  could potentially help you avoid uneven wear and poor performance. Possibly even a blowout that could cause a serious accident. Your tires will last much longer if properly maintained. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Tire Maintenance is Critical. Tire failures or blowouts are believed to contribute to over 400 deaths and 10,000 injuries in the United States every year. All of these injuries could easily be avoided. Simply maintain your tires.

Tire Maintenance is Critical – Why Check your Tires

Even with those figures being made public, the surprising factor is that statistics have shown some drivers still fail to follow the basic tire maintenance guidelines that could help to prevent such occurrences. These simple maintenance procedures only take a few minutes each week. They could save your life as well as thousands of dollars in damages. One way to determine if your tires need maintenance is to always look at your tires every time you get into the car. A fast glance will tell you if the tire is under inflated and need more attention. Get into the habit of checking your tires each time you drive the car and you will not usually be caught by surprise.

In addition to overloading, under-inflation or over inflation is one of the leading causes of tire failure. Simply put, this means putting too much air or not enough into the tires. Either of these can cause stress and excessive heat to be generated by the tires further weakening the tires, which can lead to tire problems and may even result in a blowout or a car crash.

Change in Temperature can Affect Your Tires

Many do not realize how much the change in outdoor temperature can actually affect a car, but it can. In fact, it can even affect the rate at which tires lose air and this is especially true during the warm spring and summer months. During a normal month, tires will lose approximately one or two pounds of pressure. In the warmer months, that number is even greater.

During the winter time, air contracts and tires can also lose air. When there is a cold snap I have noticed my cars tires losing more than 5 pounds pressure in a week.

The best way to avoid any tire-related mishap is to check your tire’s pressure every time you fill up your car’s fuel tank. At the very least, tire pressure should be checked once every month and prior to leaving for a long road trip. If you can check your tires every week even better. You will quickly get to know just how good your tires are at retaining their air pressure.

Get the Professionals to Check Your Tires

If you are uncomfortable checking the tires yourself, simply stop by the local auto repair shop and ask for assistance.

If you do have a blowout while driving, it is critical that you not panic and slam on the brakes. This may be the first instinct, but it is a very bad move and can cause you to lose control. In doing so, you may end up causing your car to swerve into the ditch or worse into oncoming traffic and potentially put you at risk for a much more serious accident. Instead, take your foot off the gas immediately. The car will begin to slow down and then you can  gradually apply the break until you have regained control over the vehicle. At that time, slowly guide your car to a safe area as far away from the road as possible.

Tire Maintenance checks

The best way to avoid any type of tire failure is to take the appropriate steps to ensure they are in the best working condition possible. This would include

  • Regular inspections and
  • checking the air pressure often
  • Change your tires if the tread is low
  • Check the tread on your tires
  • Check for any bulges, nails etc
  • If your tire loses air regularly, have it inspected by a professional
  • Have the correct tires installed on your car
  • Always check your tires before a trip
  • Always do a walk around your vehicle before driving, checking the tires and any obstacles that may be around your vehicle

With the proper maintenance, a potential problem can be diagnosed before it occurs and will help to ensure you and your family will arrive at your destination safely. It only takes a minute or two to perform the tire check and it could save your life and that of your family.

For more details about tire maintenance, click here.


Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Hardwood Floor CleanerWith only a small amount of care, a hardwood floor will provide many years of service and look good in your home. Cleaning hardwood is an important aspect of the care and maintenance necessary to protect your investment. Placing throw carpets in high traffic areas is another way of protecting your floor as well. In this post we will discuss some of the ways to protect your hardwood floor as well as keep it clean. Using a hardwood floor cleaner makes taking care of your hardwood flooring even easier and there are products that  cover a variety of cleansing areas.

Protecting Your Hardwood Floor

Actually the best way to keep a hardwood floor clean is to protect it from dirt and traffic. For example, in the winter time we place salt and sand in a mixture on the driveway to prevent ice from forming and people slipping. Of course some of this material is tracked into the house on our boots and if we are not careful it ends up on our floors as well. This material will ruin your floors over time and rob them of that shiny new look that we all love to see. Keep them clean and vacuum often.

Sand is like a sandpaper to wood. Every time you step on it, small particles of the wood wear away and over a couple of years you will notice a difference. Always keep your boots on a mat and never wear your boots or shoes inside. Vacuum your floors regularly, at least once a week and more often in high traffic areas. We are not supporting one vacuum over another by using the above picture, just make sure that you use one that does not scratch your floor.

Some people will place throw rugs on the floors were there is a lot of foot traffic. This is an excellent way to protect your floors. Just remember to vacuum under the rug each time. If there is a lot of sun from a window in that area you may notice some discoloration over the years as well from fading due to the sun.

Cleaning your Hardwood Floors

Whether you have laminate flooring, or any kind of hardwood floor there are hardwood floor cleaners for the job. From basic floor cleaning solutions to all in one floor cleaning kits, there are  products that  will help keep your floors looking their best.

Avoid products that leave residue or are harmful on your floors with  hardwood floor cleaner products like basic coating squeaky cleaner, intensive floor treatment or Swedish formula laminate floor cleaner. A hardwood floor cleaning kit is also ideal as everything you need comes in one package including specially designed cleaning mops.

Taking Care of Your Floors

Along with the helpful cleaning power of  hardwood floor cleaner, here are some other steps you can take to care for your floors.

  • You should sweep your floors with a broom that has fine bristles that are soft so they won’t damage or scratch the surface.
  • It is also recommended to vacuum at least once or twice a week to keep dirt and sand from causing damage.
  • Water should always be removed from hardwood surfaces right away. Always wipe up and dry any spills as soon as possible.
  • For high traffic areas, rugs or mats can be used to avoid wear but these must also be kept clean and free from dirt or grit that may eventually harm your flooring.
  • Vacuum once a week or twice a week if there is a lot of people and pets in your family
  • Avoid dragging dirt and grit into your home as much as possible. Remove your boots and shoes prior to entering your home.

As long as you take some time and use a common sense approach to cleaning your hardwood flooring you can expect it to look as good as new for a long time. Using a  hardwood floor cleaner will help to make this cleaning even easier and will help protect your investment.

Obviously we cannot support one hardwood floor cleaner over another, so talk to your flooring representative to find out what they recommend to maintain your floor in optimum condition.


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