Archive for July, 2011

Solar Powered Outdoor Security Lights

There are many new solutions that are coming onto the market that provide solar powered outdoor security lights for consumers to provide lighting in situations were it is just too expensive to provide regular wiring and pay for the electricity to run the lights. This can be a very economical solution compared to hiring an electrician and paying for installation of regular lighting.

Other consumers are only interested in providing a decorative solution to line garden walks, to provide a dim light to help people avoid going off a Solar Powered Outdoor Security Lightssidewalk or just for pure decoration.  Some sit on top of posts like the one shown on the left, while others are stand alone and come in a multitude of shapes.

They have spikes that allow consumers to place them into the ground just about anywhere as shown below on the left. Both of these pole mounted and stand alone along the grass are charged during the day and provide light during the dark evening using this same power as the batteries discharge.

These lights pretty much all work the same way. They consist of a solar panel that generate electricity, there is a rechargeable battery to store the electricity that has been generated by the solar panel and there is the light. Solar Powered Outdoor Security LightsThe light is usually manufactured using LED’s to generate a bright enough light for any given situation and draw so little power that a small rechargeable battery can power one of these lights for the entire night.

This type is usually decorative and are provide a nice effect when they line a garden path or outline a fence along the edge of your property. They save money in the sense that it would be quite expensive to duplicate the same thing with standard lighting powered by an electricity system.

Solar Powered Outdoor Security Lights

There are other types of  lighting systems that provide more security for homes and businesses.  These are larger systems that generate more electricity, have larger storage batteries and brighter lights, some with motion sensors and some that just stay on all night.

These security lights are ideal for situations that have lots of sunlight and are difficult to get to in terms of electrical wiring. They can be installed almost anywhere that you have access to sunlight for a period of time long enough to charge up the battery and the only cost you have is the initial system cost. There are no ongoing electrical power costs.

These systems also use LED lights which give off a bright light without generating a lot of heat. This makes them very efficient and allows the battery to last a long time.

Many systems are configured this way to enhance the use of solar panels and LED’s as a practical means of delivering light in locations that otherwise would be dark. Not having to introduce permanent wiring saves a great deal of money and also eliminates electrical usage.

These are perfect for cottage use, the side door of a home and even in the backyard where it would be difficult to introduce electrical wiring.  One couple we are aware of only uses solar powered lights for their cottage and they have several similar lights around the outside of their cottage.

Most of these devices can also have the light located were you obviously need
the light and the solar panel can be mounted on a roof or post or even the side of a house a few feet away were there is more access to sunlight during the day. There are many solutions such as these for consumers to consider in using solar power to generate light and minimize the impact on the electrical system.

Camping Sites, RV’s , Tents and Cabins

We have talked about using these kinds of lights for home use either in the backyard or around the side of the house to provide a security type light or to illuminate the back yard.

Campers, RV owners and Cabin owners have long found that solar powered lights are a great way to make their excursions more comfortable. Although these smaller systems are only suitable for one lamp, they help to provide light in mobile situations and locations without any electrical power.

Larger systems are available to power lights in an RV for example, to Solar Powered Outdoor Security Lightscharge up batteries during the day for use at night and to reduce the load on electrical generators.  Before purchasing solar panels for this kind of application, it is best to design a system based on need and application.

In other words how much electrical load do you have in terms of lights, TV, fridge etc, how many batteries do you need and how many solar panels of a given size do you need to hook up to ensure the batteries are fully charged in a single day.

We will talk more about these in a future post, however we wanted to introduce this subject in this post as part of our solar panel security light discussion. Regardless of the application, consumers should go through this process of estimating the power needed and then design a system to deliver this power.

This is the only way to obtain and idea of cost and equipment needed to meet your needs. Otherwise you may end up frustrated due to the cost or the lack of sufficient power.

More to come in this are , comments are welcome.

Home Burglar Deterrents

Home Burglar Deterrents – What do burglars look for when they are casing a home for illegal entry?

Home Burglar Deterrents  – If you have solid doors and windows that have been upgraded to make it difficult to break into by a burglar, chances are they will just move on and look for another home that is easier to break into! Burglars are looking for the easy score and will avoid difficult to enter places. Unless they specifically are aware of valuables that you may have they will just move on.

Check and Secure Your Doors

Someone who wants to get into your home is going to come through the doors or the windows. It is going to be quick and efficient unless your door is solid Home Burglar Deterrents and is dead bolted to a secure door frame. Our neighbors had their home broken into. All it took was a solid kick by the burglar to the door right at the lock location. The kick broken the  door jam and they were in with in 10 seconds. The door was then closed and no one knew the difference from outside. the moral of the story is

  • Install a solid steel door
  • Make sure your door has a solid lock on it
  • Make sure that the door jam is also made of solid material that cannot be easily broken
  • Install several locks on the door
  • Remember they may come in the front door, but they can easily come in side doors or the sliding glass door at the back of the home.

If you want to strengthen these doors you can also  install 2-1/2 to 3 inch stainless steel or nickel plated screws in all your exterior door jams. Be sure screws go at least 1-3/4 inch deep into the underlying framing lumber.

While you are  at it, consider getting heavy duty strike plates or a door reinforcement kit sold in many larger home improvement centers.

Home Burglar Deterrents

Sliding Glass Doors

Sliding glass doors are  a favorite target. All you need to do is lift the door  up and out and your burglar is inside your secure your sliding glass doorhome. No noise and no fuss. You can prevent this by

  • By installing several screws into the door’s upper track to allow just enough of the screw’s head protruding to allow free movement without allowing the door to be removed.
  • Several devices can be installed into the door’s upper or lower track that acts much like a dead bold by running a heavy pin through the door track and deep into the frame.
  • A length of old broom handle at a 45 degree angle in the door track also prevents the door from easily being forced open and works nearly as well!

Burglars Also Like Garage Doors

Electronic door openers make it very difficult for burglars to break in through your garage door. They cost around $150 and make it practically impossible to force open the overhead door from the outside without breaking through the actual door panels. Yes, it is possible for burglar to punch in the right code and gain access, unless you did not change the pre-installed settings.  Today’s remote controls have so many possible combinations, the odds are very slight, and the burglar won’t waste the time trying all the possibilities.

The key as we have mentioned is to  change the security code from the pre-installed settings which are almost always set to zeros.

Keep Windows Secure

Burglars will break windows as a last resort – or by accident. The preferred method is cutting an access hole or slipping in a thin stiff wire and undoing the locking device.

Most double hung windows have cheap locks which should be replaced. Use heavy duty sash locks or even keyed locks, if you can put up with the inconvenience. An old trick is installing a small eye bolt in either corner. If done correctly the window can’t be opened, with the eye bolt in place from the outside. Of course you could screw the window shut by drilling a hole through the frame. But it defeats the purpose of having a window, and presents a fire hazard. Not recommended.

Many people install roll-a-way electric security shutters, or decorative security grates. The main negative is they can prove to be a serious fire hazard and prevent your escape, especially if you lose power. Newer models install on tracks or can easily be pushed open from inside. This decreases their danger in the event of fire and the thick smoke sure to accompany it.

Inventory Your Home

The above steps can go a long way to protecting your home. But no matter how secure your residence is, if a professional burglar has targeted your home the unthinkable may still happen. To aid law enforcement agencies and greatly assist in insurance claims you should maintain a detailed household inventory of all your valuables.

It is impossible for you to recall all of the items you have in your home. The big things are easy, but do you know the model number of your electronic items. How about the year you bought them and the value of them. Probably not and this is were having a detailed  inventory can be a big help

Mark important items with some permanent identifying mark using a variety of simple tools. You can rent some of these that will engrave serial numbers. Engrave driver’s license number or some other unique marking into your valuables.

  • Detailed inventory
  • Mark items with an identifying mark
  • Video or picture inventory is helpful
  • Close up videos of important or valuable items
  • Tie them in with a family member in the picture
  • Update the tape or pictures each time you add items to your home
  • Keep the pictures or tape somewhere off site so they are available in case there is fire. Or your home is destroyed by a tornado or hurricane

Travelling with Smart Phones

Travelling with Smart PhonesAnyone who has traveled and used their smart phone will already know about this huge issue. I you have already received a bill for the time you used while out of the country then you know it is expensive. If you have not received your most recent bill yet, that covers the time you were out of the country when you used your phone you could be in for a big surprise. Travelling with Smart Phones can keep you connected, but watch your phone charges.

Roaming charges for both voice, text and data are incredibly high for anyone without a roaming plan outside their home country. The charges can be as much as $3.00 a minute or more in some cases just for voice calls. This can add up very quickly even if you are on a 10 minute call and will spend $30 for that call.

Travelling with Smart Phones

Many customers will turn off their data plans while they are traveling just to protect themselves from data charges. Even if you are not checking for email, your smart phone can be checking for up dates, syncing and receiving alerts to the various apps that you have on your phone. All of this data adds up and can amount to a significant charge if you are not careful.

Text messaging is the same. Most smart phones do not let you block the text messaging service. You have to call the carrier to stop the service from sending text messages to your phone. If you open them you will definitely be charged at international rates which can again be very expensive. Check with your carrier to find out just how expensive they are. Some will levy charges just for sending them to you even if you do not open the message.

Buy a Local Phone

Many customers will purchase a local prepaid phone in the country they are traveling in. Although the per minute charges are higher than what they might currently be paying for their service in their home country , the rates for prepaid service are often much lower than roaming rates.

You can do all of the same things you do on your regular phone depending on the phone and the prepaid package you subscribe to. Text , voice, and data are possible, although if you are traveling for a short time, voice and text messaging are probably ok.

WiFi Locations

Free WiFi sites are becoming more and more predominant and these sites are great to sync up and check emails, markets , apps such as Facebook, twitter etc. You can use your existing smart phone in most cases if it allows wi-fi connections. Again do not forget to shut off the data when you leave the wi-fi site to avoid a nasty surprise.
Changing countries

Each time you change countries, you need to pay attention to these issues. Traveling in North America, you only have to worry about Canada, the US and Mexico.  However in Europe you can travel across several countries in several hours, so keeping track of mobile phone plans can be difficult. Again buy a phone that is prepaid and covers the countries you are traveling in. Only buy enough minutes for what you think you will need. You can always top them up if you need more.

We would love to hear about your experiences traveling with your mobile phones and smart phones. Any tips and tricks that you can pass along will be much appreciated. For more details about smart phone security, click here.


Getting Better Gas Mileage

Getting Better Gas MileageThere many ways to  save  money while operating  your car. It is becoming more and more important to make sure that your car is in perfect working condition. If you are going to limit your costs at the gas pump make sure it is well maintained. Many of these things can be completed by the driver with no need to take your car into the dealer or to a local garage. And, these things do not cost a lot of money either. You can easily save money and get better gas mileage by following a few simple steps. We will try to capture a few of them in this post.

Getting Better Gas Mileage

Keep Your Tires at Full Pressure

One area of maintenance that will help to maintain gas mileage with your car is to keep the tires at the optimum air pressure as specified by the manufacturer. Tires at low pressure will not only deliver poor mileage, the tread will also wear off more quickly. The tires can also over heat at high pressure  potentially causing an accident if they were to explode at high speed. If your tires are filled with nitrogen, which more and more cars are you will need to go to a some place that can handle nitrogen filled tires. The good thing is that tires filled with nitrogen require less topping up!

Change your Car Fuel Filter

A blockage in the car fuel filter can rob the engine of power, causing it to run lean and actually hurt the engine over a period of time. The fuel filter is designed to remove deposits in the gasoline and prevent them from entering the engine. Over time it will become clogged so change it as per the manufacturers instructions.

Good Quality Tires

Tires  that are well balanced without excessive wear can give you better fuel consumption as well. Ensure that they are always balanced and as mentioned earlier are at full pressure.

Clean Air Filter

Replace the air filter in your car on a regular basis. As a minimum check it each time an oil change is performed on the car. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve the mileage that you get with your car by up to 10 percent.

When you calculate that 10 percent into gasoline savings, you’ll be saving up to 45 cents per gallon at current prices in North America. You can ask your mechanic to check the filter and recommend if it needs to be replaced. The mechanic can then replace the air filter in your car or you can do it yourself.

Wheel Base Alignment

Improper alignment will cause bad tire wear on one side or another and a certain amount of engine drag,. This will also increase the amount of gas that you are using.  If you notice that the tires are wearing on one side or another, talk to your mechanic about your next alignment servicing.

Another way that you can tell if your car is due for alignment is if the car pulls to one side of the road or another. You may also feel this  pulling on the steering wheel when you are driving.

Rotate Your Tires

Regularly rotate your tires and check them for uneven use and wear. Rotating your tires ensures even wear across all of your tires. This step will extend the overall time that you can use the tires on your car as well as  you will find that you are saving in  gas costs.

After you have an alignment done on your car most mechanics will also rotate the tires. This doesn’t by any means mean that you should wait until you need an alignment to get those tires rotated.

Balding Tires

Not only are they not safe to drive on especially at high speeds They are far more dangerous in snow and rain conditions, since they will not grip the road at all. You may lose control causing an accident.

Comments are welcome. Look after your car and keep it well maintained to ensure that your driving is safe and you get maximum gas mileage. For more information about getting better gas mileage, click here.


Hardwood Floor Sanders

Refinish Hardwood FloorsAn important part of resurfacing or refinishing an existing  hardwood floor is sanding. A professional sanded floor can add immense value to an old floor. Sanding can remove gouges and scratches, bring out the true beauty of your floors, and also allows you to change the stain if you wish to enhance the floor. This is work that can be completed by the average person, provided that you take the time to learn the proper way to sand a floor and also use the right equipment. If you make a mistake and ruin your floor it can be very expensive and depending how bad the mistake is, you might even have to replace the flooring with new flooring. Take your time, learn what you need to know and talk to experts. Experiment on a small area first to make sure that you have the proper procedure nailed down. Select an area that is out of the way and perhaps hidden by furniture.

Sanding is necessary to remove water marks and other damage that may have occurred on the floor. When you have  large surfaces to cover, a hardwood floor sander is the only way to refinish a hard wood  floor. We have gathered some information regarding hardwood floor sanders along with some tips on their operation for those interested in taking on the task. Sanding the floors yourself can also save the consumer a lot of money, however care is need to make sure it is done correctly or you could actually ruin the floor completely.

Hardwood floor sanders come in many shapes and forms and each will perform their task in a different way. There are drum sanders, belt sanders, orbital sanders and disc sanders. Along with this there are still edge sanders to deal with not to mention the sand paper itself.

These machines are helpful tools when used properly, however if placed in the hands on someone lacking experience they can cause a lot of damage with expensive repairs required.

Hardwood Floor Sanders

Drum Sander

The most common of all the hardwood floor sanders is the drum sander. These sanders are meant to get right down to the bare wood and they do a good job. One problem with the power of drum sanders is that if you are not careful you can sand a groove in your floor. This means you should have some previous experience with the machine before you try it out on your expensive hardwood floor. It is a good idea to take a scrap piece of wood and try it before moving to the real floor.

Remember to use these sanders in the direction of the wood grain. This is also very important. Sanding across the wood grain will leave scratches that the stain and verathane will enhance leaving you with a non professional looking floor.

Belt Sanders

Belt Sanders are the next most seen of the hardwood floor sanders and are somewhat easier to use. These sanders do however require control and strength in order to do the job well.

Other Hardwood Floor Sanders

Orbital Sanders and disc sanders are more suitable for small jobs or for sanding specific areas. These however are known for their tendency to leave circular marks in the floor.

With hardwood floor sanders, everything comes down to what you feel comfortable with and what you are capable of handling. Gaining experience before you use the sanders on your floors is highly recommended since a good sanding job will revive your floors and add value to your home. Some of the larger chain stores will offer training courses from time to time on the use of equipment. these are definitely worth the time and you can then approach the job with more confidence.

Cleaning and Caulking Shower Tiles

Cleaning and Caulking Shower TilesCleaning and caulking shower tiles is potentially a big money saver if you follow a regular maintenance schedule. Showers are exposed to regular moisture contact and as long as the grout between the tiles is complete, no water will penetrate through to the drywall behind. The moment that even a small pin hole is created, moisture starts to penetrate through the pin hole, causing the drywall to swell and once it penetrates the drywall behind the tile, this also expands as well. We have added a couple of pictures to show the kind of damage that can result from just a little bit if water getting behind the tiles and causing the drywall behind the tiles to expand.

Cleaning and Caulking Shower Tiles

Expansion of either the grout or the drywall will cause the tiles to begin to shift and be pushed outward, which may cause them to crack or to even fall off the wall in particularly bad situations. Once this happens you are into a major repair which can cost thousands of dollars. This is why it is so important to check your tiles and the grout between them at a minimum of once every 3 months. Look for small areas were the grout is loose or has fallen out and replug with new water proof grout. Patching like this will prevent water from penetrating behind the tiles causing damage to your shower walls. Consumers can patch these small holes with a show patching compound sold at most hardware stores. It only costs a few dollars and yet it can save you thousands of dollars in repair costs.

Checking Your Tile Grout in Your Shower

This is an easy job and only takes a few minutes to check your shower. I use a toothbrush to rub any suspect areas and also clean the grout if needed. Most times there is nothing to do, since the grout is solid and there are no observable gaps. But every once and a while, I have found areas were the grout has actually fallen out from between the tiles. They can be as short as a quarter inch long, while others are as long as an inch. Either way you must plug these immediately to avoid long term expensive damage.

Repairing the Missing Grout

I use a tube of silicon grout that I squeeze into the hole were the grout is missing. It is the same color as the existing grout, however because it is silicon, it does have a different texture from the existing grout. I am ok with this, since I am mainly worried about the leaks more than the look. Besides there is not that much difference in the grout that is there from the silicon grout that I put in. You can pick up a tube of this silicon grout from most hardware stores as well as plumbing stores. A $5 tube is infinitely better than many thousands it will cost to repair a shower. Of course once you start the shower, it usually means that you redo the entire bathroom, tub, sinks, toilet, mirrors, flooring and paint.

Delaying this huge cost as long as possible is a no brainer as far as I am concerned! Follow the instructions on the tube, making sure that you dislodge any grout that is loose between the tiles first. Let it dry for 24 hours and you can use your shower again.

What are the Costs to Fix the Show Tiles

Let’s assume that you don’t bother to perform this routine check and repair every 3 months. Your tiles are dislodged and about to fall off. It looks really bad and there is also black mold forming on the grout and even in the tiles. Your spouse decides that not only do they want the shower fixed, they are going to update the entire bathroom! What will this cost.

Of course the cost will be design dependent and also dependent on whether you do the work or you hire professionals to do the work for you. My neighbor is the type that does not do the 3 month check ever! He also does not do anything himself, so he is forced to hire people all of the time. He has estimates for updating his bathroom that are in the range of $25,000 to $30,000! Can you imagine spending this much money on a bathroom?

Get off your chair and check the bathroom shower tile right now and make the repairs immediately. You will save many thousands of dollars by doing this simple activity!

Comments are welcome about this subject and others.



Smart Phones, TV & Holywood!

Smart Phones TV HolywoodSmart Phones TV Hollywood are popular subjects among teens these days.  Our last post was about teenagers and their use of smart phones and how they get them selves into trouble by posting content and videos of themselves that previously was only seen in the porn industry. This post is about another topic that is about what is influencing our teenagers and causing them to do some of these plainly stupid things.

We all got to see Charlie Sheen’s implosion and the silliness of his life with the goddesses. There have been numerous stars before him that have gone through the same sort of thing, all on the front page and carried across every TV network. It got to the point it was sickening. To top it off, Charlie Sheen was able to garner approximately three million twitter followers in 3 days which was previously unheard of. This is the tie in with the Smart Phones TV Hollywood.

Smart Phones TV Hollywood – Teenagers Following Charlie Sheen

Not only were teenagers following Charlie Sheen, some of my senior adult friends were also following him. I am not sure if he is such a freak and they had to watch this weirdness or they actually like the guy. Either way the smart phone has made it possible for people all over the world to stay in touch with their friends and their followings.

So is this a good thing. Charlie Sheen is not exactly a role model for our kids to follow. Yet it shows a few, very few people getting rich and making a name for themselves both on TV as well as online. How do we put this in perspective and what should we tell our kids about this entire ridiculous event?

Follow the Money

My wife and I have had numerous discussions about the entire Charlie Sheen affair and some of the other actresses that have exploded and then been able to recover. She has a very negative view of the actors, the industry and anyone who follows them. And I guess that is the point. If no one followed them they would not be famous and they would not get the attention, nor the money that comes their way as a result.

It used to be that talent brought great movies and TV shows and fame and fortune. Now today, there is more interest in notoriety which generates juge followings and money as well. Just look at Paris Hilton who gets paid to show up at a club or special event. Do you think she really wants to go to one of these things. Not really. But due to the fan base she now has, she can command huge sums of money every time she shows up at some event.

The Kardashians are the same and Charlie Sheen as demonstrated that he can do the same. Some of his concerts, if you can call them that, were sold out in 18 minutes. Unbelievable! That’s why he is doing this entire thing. Sure he is pissed at CBS and Chuck Lorrie, but the real reason is to generate such notoriety that he can command a huge sum of money for his tours as well as his show when he returns to Two and a Half Men!

The Smart Phone Connection

We digressed a little bit on this post to talk about Charlie. Well the connection is that he is all over Twitter, all over face book, probably all over face book and there are thousands of posts like this one talking about him and they are all available to our kids on their smart phones.

This is the new role model parents and they are glued to that thing at meals, on the bus, at school, and at night in their bedrooms. You cannot take it away. But I believe you have to talk to them, get them involved in family things, make it fun and more interesting than the content on the phone to keep them from being swayed by the  latest smart phone craze!

Comments are welcome. Do you agree or disagree with what I am saying. For more on teens and smart phones, click here.


Home Security Checklist

Home Security ChecklistFollowing from our previous post we are listing a number of steps you can take to try to make sure that your home is secure while you are away and also how to make your home less attractive to burglars looking for a vacant home to break into. This is a Home Security Checklist must read for anyone who is going away for any length of time.

Home Safety and Home Security Checklist

General Areas that You Should Pay Attention to for Home Security

  • Arrange for a  member of a law enforcement agency do a professional survey?
  • Can anyone hide behind trees and shrubs near windows that are not pruned and well maintained ?
  • Can anyone climb trees, down pipes, or lattice-work to obtain easy access to upper floors?
  • Check to see if you have windows or  skylights that can be removed from the outside or easily broken?
  • Remove ladders and tools that are kept outside to assist any potential intruder?
  • Is there a  hidden house key outside the house where it’s sure to be found?
  • Are all exterior doors  well lighted with particular attention to exterior entrances?
  • Are there shrubs blocking the main entrance and can it be seen from the street?
  • Exterior doors should be at least 1-3/4 inch thick and made from solid wood or reinforced with metal?
  • Exterior doors should  have heavy duty dead bolts and reinforced door jams?
  • Could anyone gain easy access through a mail slot, dryer vent, or pet entrance, side door or through the garage?
  • If doors have glass panels can someone break through and defeat the locking mechanism?
  • Can sliding glass doors be easily lifted out from their frames?
  • Exterior lights and security devices are in good working order and protected from breakage?
  • All doors including from the attached garage leading to the house have a dead bolt?
  • Does your overhead garage door have a working electronic door opener?
  • Does your overhead garage door have any loose, broken or missing door panels or hardware?
  • Always  keep the overhead doors closed, and
  • Always keep your car locked inside the garage?
  • Windows should have reinforced locking devices that can be secured in the open position?
  • All screens and storm windows should have reinforced locks?
  • Ground level windows should have guards or grates?
  • Basement windows that are glass should be  protected by grates or security devices?
  • All valuable  items should be kept in a high quality fire resistant safe or in off-site safety deposit box?
  • Prepare a complete and current video tape or pictures of your home and all your valuables off-site?
  • All firearms should be kept secured and apart from ammunition?

Fire Safety and Fire Prevention

  • Heating system is in proper working order and is inspected by a professional,  for dangerous leaks yearly?
  • Is there sufficient air circulation around appliances that are might overheat?
  • Avoid overloaded circuits, long extension cords runs, and too many devices plugged unto one outlet?
  • Fireplaces and  chimney are free of dangerous build ups that could catch on fire and are cleaned regularly?
  • There is  a protective grate in front of fireplace to prevent sparks, hot logs from rolling into room?
  • Kitchen oven hood is kept clear of greasy build-up that could cause a fire?
  • Smoke detectors are installed on each level and tested weekly?
  • Smoke detector batteries are replaced every 12 months or less?
  • There are working fire extinguisher in kitchen, basement, garage, auto?
  • All family members sleep with bedroom door closed to prevent spread of fire, smoke?
  • All family members practice fire drill, known escape routes, designated meeting pace to go outside?
  • Children know how to use the  phone to get help in an emergency?

Checklists While You are Away

  • Check with your insurance company concerning frequency of visits to your home by someone who is looking after your home
  • Security system is armed?
  • Automatic timers for lights, radio are turned on?
  • Phones are  turned down?
  • Arrangements  for neighbors, a family member or a professional home sitter have been made to watch house, cut, water grass, give house that lived-in look?
  • Avoid any change in normal pattern of opening, shutting drapes, dead give-away lighting patterns?
  • Make arrangements to stop the mail, and newspaper delivery or have someone pick it up daily
  • All regular  yard work is performed ?
  • Arrange to have local police give “special attention” for area beat car if offered in your area?

If you do not see something that you think should be on this list, please let us know by leaving a comment. For more checklists associated with vacant homes, click here.




Solar Panel Pool Heaters

Our last post was about solar blankets as a means of keeping your pool warm during the summer months. So we thought we would follow it up  solar-panel-heater-for-poolwith a post about solar panel pool heaters  for pools. They also will heat your pool, however they work very differently and cost a bit more. Again you are minimizing the impact on energy use and therefore reducing your cost as well as impact on the environment.

Solar Panel Pool Heaters – How Do They Work

Solar Panel Pool Heaters involve pumping water from the pool to the solar collectors where the water is heated by the sun. The warm water is then pumped back into the swimming pool allowing you to enjoy your pool for many months, and in some areas all year long depending on your location.

The basics of  solar pool heating systems include the following major items:

Solar collector — the device that pool water is circulated to be heated by the sun

Flow control valve — automatic or manual device that diverts pool water through the solar collector.

Filter — standard with all pools and removes debris before water is pumped through the collector

Pump — also standard with all pools and circulates water through the filter and collector and back to the pool

Solar panel pool heaters system can be as complex or as simple as you want them, all it costs is money. Manual systems are the least expensive and require the operator to manually turn a valve to cause water to be circulated through the solar collectors. solar roof panel pool heaterAutomated electronic systems will monitor the temperature of the water coming from the solar collectors and when it is warmer than the pool water, will open the valve automatically. It will also shut the valve to stop water from going through the collectors if the water from the collectors is colder than the pool.

Solar Panel Pool Heaters System Types

Solar panel pool heaters collectors are made out of different materials. The type you’ll need depends on your climate and how you intend to use the collector. If you’ll only be using your pool when temperatures are above freezing, then you’ll probably only need an unglazed collector system.

Unglazed Solar Pool Heating Collectors

Unglazed collectors are far less expensive than glazed collectors. Unglazed collectors are generally made of heavy-duty rubber or plastic treated with an ultraviolet (UV) light inhibitor to extend the life of the panels. These unglazed systems can even work for indoor pools in cold climates if the system is designed to drain back to the pool when not in use.

Glazed Solar Pool and Water Heating Collectors

Glazed collector systems are generally made of copper tubing on an aluminum plate with an iron-tempered glass covering, which increases their cost. In colder weather, glazed collector systems—with heat exchangers and transfer fluids—capture solar heat more efficiently than unglazed systems. Therefore, they can be used year-round in many climates.

Either system should be protected from freezing if they’ll be used in colder conditions.

Selecting a Solar Pool Heater

An unglazed solar pool heating system usually costs between $3,000 and $4,000 to buy and install. This provides a payback of between 1.5 and 7 years, depending on length of time you use the pool each year and  your local fuel heating costs.  Compared to a solar blanket, solar collectors are much more expensive. They also typically last longer than gas and heat pump pool heaters. Your actual cost and payback depend on many factors.

Before you install a solar collector of either type, evaluate the following:

  • Evaluate your site’s solar resource, location, hours of direct sun , etc
  • Determine the correct system size based on your pool and site selection
  • Determine the system’s efficiency
  • Compare system costs
  • Investigate local codes, covenants, and regulations
  • Contact a local company for additional information /assistance

Installing and Maintaining

The proper installation of a solar pool heating system depends on many factors such as :

  • Solar resource,
  • Climate,
  • Local building code requirements, and
  • Safety issues.
  • Ability to do it yourself vs. hiring an expert

Your solar collector should not require a lot of maintenance, other than cleaning once in a while and draining in cold winter months.

Benefits of Solar Pool Heating

  • Can extend swimming season up to 12 months depending on location
  • Ave. temp. rise up to 15-20º
  • Has no operating costs
  • No pollution, no fuel needed
  • Usually last 20+ years, with proper care
  • Relatively Quick and easy installation
  • Minimal maintenance required

Common Questions

How does the weather affect the performance of the Panels?

Cloudy days and rain will typically reduce the heating efficiency of the panels.

For more articles on solar heating, click here.



New Tires for Your Car

new tires for your carAre you as confused as I am when it comes to searching for new tires for your car? There are so many different options and marketing buzzwords that really do not mean anything in the English language. It is tough to make sense out of any of the offers and to compare tires. Lately I have been doing some research online to see what tires fit my car and which ones are recommended for my own car. There is lots of marketing buzzwords to get to know. But it really comes down to price, how many miles they will go before needing replacement and whether they are good all year around or not.

Many / some retailers have their own special tires and this makes it even more difficult to compare. Should you just compare the tires or should you compare the services a retailer offers? These are all factors that consumers must take into account.

New Tires for Your Car – Price

Is price your main criteria, then you will care less about services such as warranty period, service from one store vs. many stores across the country.

Total Value vs. Price

I personally leaning towards the total price including basic services:

  • Installation & balancing
  • Valve stem
  • Tire disposal
  • Life time wheel balancing
  • Tire rotation

I am less interested in extending the warranty. Tires are so good now that you seldom have problems unless you are a wild driver that drives at high speeds.

Type of Tire

I am also looking for a tire that is good in dry conditions, wet conditions and also in mud or snow conditions. I may install snow tires later on, however lately we have not needed snow tires on the car so all season tires are probably ok for my car.

Tires rated for my Car

The tires I am looking for of course must be rated for my car, the load and speed rating of the car and the recommended tire size and type for my car. When you go to the tire dealer they can quickly look up this information and confirm that several tires will meet these requirements.

Price vs. Total Miles Rating

Next it comes down to how many miles you should expect to get out of the tires that you purchase. You can go for low rated tires, say 40k miles for example and pay a lower price. However tires that are rated for 75k or 80 k can be as much as double in price but will last much longer and presumably be much safer on the road as well.

Our Choice

We are going to go for tires that are rated mud and snow, all season, with an 80k rating and a speed rating near the top of what is rated for our car. We are also going to go for tire balancing for as long as we own the car which will include tire rotation and we will not take the extended warranty or sidewall damage warranty. With my type of driving I am not too worried about needing this type of coverage.

Were you Buy

We can purchase tires in Canada or the US and it looks like that we will purchase  the tires in the US this time. The reasons are:

  • Sales tax of 8.75% vs 13%
  • Tire disposal – $1.50 vs. $10.50
  • Tire price – substantially less
  • National provider – Looks like Walmart for the simple reason , they are almost everywhere.

We still have a few places to check prices, however the services and support are important for someone who travels a lot across the country. If you have other areas that we have not thought about please feel free to leave a comment. It will help me as well as our readers.

For more info about the right tires for your car, click here.


Check Your Bills for Accuracy

Check Your Bills for AccuracyHow many of us have their utility and bill payment on auto payment with our bank? Do you check your bills for accuracy? More and more people are doing this and there is a good argument for having all of our bills paid automatically so that we do not miss a payment and risk a hit on our credit rating. After all if you miss a payment then there is also an automatic report to the credit rating agencies and your credit rating is lowered!

There is nothing wrong with taking this approach and it means you no longer have to worry about missing a payment and also having a penalty fee assigned to your account as well. But we believe that consumers should still review their monthly invoices to ensure they are accurate and they are not paying more than they should for everything.

Check Your Bills for Accuracy

This is a potentially huge issue however, especially if your invoice is incorrect, since there are many invoices that could have small changes or additions that cause more expense to be added. If you do not look at your invoice and your bill is automatically paid, you may be paying too much.

Some will say that this is not a problem, we have generally 30 days to review the accuracy of the invoices and get back to the company who issued the invoice. This is usually correct, however if you miss that 30 day window, then you have lost your chance to dispute the additional charges.

The message is in this post is check all of your bills that you pay every month. This includes credit cards bills, utility bills, phone bills and bank account statements. All of these are potential areas for consumers to lose sometimes hundreds of dollars without even being aware of it.

Look for anything that might be considered abnormal on your invoice. An extra charge, an extra service fee, fee’s that were negotiated to be removed and credits that you might be expecting.

Some Examples of Extra Billing & Service Charges

I recently opened a bank account with Wells Fargo and was promised that as long as I made regular deposits to my savings account I would not be charged a monthly service fee. They also told me that I had two months to begin making regular deposits. Low and behold, I get my first statement and there is a $10 bank service fee. $10 is a large amount for a bank service fee! Turns out that the grace period for the service charge had been changed from two months to one month. After some discussion I was able to get this fee reversed, but it took my time and a long distance phone call to have this reversed.

Another example was for our local telephone company, Bell Canada. I had noticed that my long distance plan had gradually increased over time from $5.00 per month to $11.95. This plan gives me a package of free long distance each month. When I queried this charge and why it had increased, I was told that I was given an extra 1000 minutes for the additional monthly charge! I don’t even make 500 long distance minutes of calling a month let alone 1500! We changed this back to 500 long distance minutes and $5.00 a month , a savings of $6.95 a month.

Do you check your credit card bill every month to make sure that your charges and credits are accurate. Sometimes there is a duplicate charge or an additional fee. This has happened to us several time over the years and has saves us quite a bit of money after having these fees reversed!

Checking Your Invoices Each Month Takes Little Time

It only takes one or two minutes per invoice or even less to verify the accuracy of your invoices. If they are accurate, there is no problem, you have not lost much time and you have peace of mind that you are not paying more than you should.

On the other hand you might say why would I waste my time for $10 or $15 dollars, I can make more than that in the time it takes to call and straighten it all out. For some this may be true, however consider that if you pay an extra $15 every month, you have to earn approximately $25 before taxes to pay for this. That’s $300 a year, or a days pay for many people. It is worth following up on some of these expenses!

Send us comments on corrections or extra charges you have found on your bills and how you saved money. This is what this web site is all about , saving money for the average person!


Brazilian Cherry Hardwood Floors

Brazilian Cherry Hardwood FloorsHardwood flooring not only will set the tone for the style of your home but it will also add many years of value and enjoyment. Buyers are looking for hardwood floors that are in excellent condition. No one wants carpeting any longer when they purchase a home. This is a trend that has been going on for some time and if you are going to spend money on your home, spend it on hardwood floors. Today the trend is to have hardwood floors installed in new homes and to replace wall to wall rugs with hardwood flooring. There are lots of choices for the consumer and many do it yourself stores as well as venders that specialize in hardwood flooring can help you with selecting flooring that meets your lifestyle and needs.

Upgrading to Hardwood Floors from Carpeting

Many consumers are also moving to hardwood floors for another reason. Carpets inherently collect dust and over the years become quite dirty even with frequent vacuuming and cleaning. Hardwood floors on the other hand can be kept much cleaners since there is really no where for the dust to collect. Hardwood floors add value to your home and will ensure that you are able to obtain full price for your home whenever you plan to sell it. If you are dealing with allergies, a hardwood floor is much preferred with a central vacuum that exhausts outside of your home to reduce the dust and pollen that enters your home every day.

Brazilian Cherry Hardwood

No hardwood floor material is as stunning and rich as a Brazilian cherry hardwood floor. This material has such a great look it is often used for other applications such as exposed beams, door frames, furniture and anywhere else that its beauty will be enjoyed. If you are interested in installing new hardwood flooring here is some information about Brazilian cherry hardwood floor that will open your eyes to this great wood.

Brazilian cherry hardwood floor is the most widely imported hardwood flooring from Brazil to the US. This popularity is no coincidence. This species of wood is well known not only for its unique and dark color but for its hardness and ability to withstand use. This exotic species is over 2 times as strong as red oak. The color of the wood will begin as a tan or lighter brown color but darkens with age to become very deep reddish brown.

If you are considering hardwood flooring, and are uncertain about what to purchase there are tools available to assist you with your decision. Readers can develop a chart that lists the variables that are important to them in their decision choice and indicate which ones are important to them.

Variety of Grades

You will find variations in grade within this species of wood however overall this is an exceptional wood to use for flooring. As a guide, clear grade will have less character than other grades and consists mainly of heartwood. Select grades of Brazilian cherry hardwood floor have more character such as color variation as well as knots. There are also common grades 1 and 2. Common 2 will show more character than 1.

If you are looking for flooring that will stand out and also be very functional then Brazilian cherry hardwood floor is right for you. This species of wood is durable, colorful and has its own unique style. When you look at installing a new hardwood floor, be sure to take a good look at Brazilian cherry. Be different and use a hardwood that many consumers avoid just because it is different.

Floor Installation

Consumers can have hardwood flooring installed in their homes by professionals who can complete the job in less than a week depending on the size of the home and how many rooms are being completed. This is a job that most consumers would rather leave to the professionals so the job is done correctly and completed within a short period of time.

Visit our site map for other interesting articles on hardwood floors. For more information on Hardwood floor selection, click here.



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