Archive for January, 2012

The Green Trend : Not so New

We like to include humorous posts that are related to the initiatives of going green, alternative energy and reducing your energy foot print every once and awhile . It points out that our green trend that everyone talks about is something that is dealing with a recent trend that only started in the last 30 years were we tend to throw everything out and not reuse stuff. Read on, you will enjoy it.

This is one that we read not too long ago that we thought our readers might enjoy:

THIS IS SO TRUE!!!!!!!

Green Trend

In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized to him and explained,“We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.”

The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today…….

Your generation did not care enough to save our environment.”

He was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. 

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building.

We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But he was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that clerk is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana .

In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.

When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But he’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water.

We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service.

We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

I grew up with patches on my knees and elbows so that we could continue wearing clothes instead of throwing them out. Now people tear the knees so that they can look cool. If there is a rip somewhere else, they throw them out. We have too much money and do not embrace the reuse approach to save our environment.

 


Estimating Costs for Solar Power Installations

Our last post discussed whether we would be a good candidate for solar power. This post is discussing estimating the costs for solar installations. From our previous post I think we concluded that we are probably good Solar Power Installationscandidates in the summer time, but winter time with snow on the roof it will be an entirely different matter. Never the less we need to figure out what the cost will be and how much energy will actually be generated to help pay for the cost of the solar panel installation. Solar Power Installations also depend on the size of the panels used.

Solar Power Installations – Roof Condition

One of the questions deals with the condition of our roof. It is in good shape and should last another 20 years. We just replaced the shingles 5 years ago and they are supposed to be 25 year shingles. Will they really last that long? Well for the purposes of this analysis, we are gong to assume that they will and that we will also have a payback period of less than 20 years. In other words the solar generation system will pay for itself in less than the 20 year time frame, other wise I need to replace the roof and the solar panels before they have generated enough power to compensate for the cost of installation.
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Winter Tires 101 – What you should know!

Many people do not worry about having winter tires on their car, preferring to go with all season tires instead. The fact of the matter is that Winter Tires 101winter tires will provide a better grip in snow and ice conditions and provide a safer ride for you and your passengers. All season tires are made of a harder rubber that is great for dry conditions but lose elasticity in colder weather.  They have to adapt to all kinds of conditions and a wide range of temperatures from hot weather to really cold weather conditions and as a result you are not going to get optimum performance at the wide temperature extremes. Most consumers would be better off to own both a set of winter tires and also a set of summer tires.

Winter tires on the other hand are made from softer rubber compounds that stay flexible even in the extreme cold conditions of the northern US and Canada. They are also designed to deal with snow covered roads and icy conditions and are more optimal for temperatures below freezing. Snow tires have been optimized in another way as well. They have deeper tread patterns  than regular summer tires and also all season tires. They are designed to get a better grip on the road in heavy snow and they also provide better grip to prevent skidding. these same tires combined with anti lock braking systems provide better braking as well.

Winter Tires 101 – Four Winter tires, Not Two

Many people believe that two winter tires are all that is required. The experts agree that 4 winter tires are much more desirable for traction as well as braking.  They provide more stability in snowy conditions.  If you only place winter tires on the front of a front wheel drive car, you will get better traction in the snow, however when it comes to braking the rear tires with less traction will cause you to spin out of control. Four winter tires will provide optimum control for traction purposes as well as braking in ice and snow conditions.

The same applies to rear wheel drive cars, but differently. If you place snow tires on the rear wheels of a rear wheel drive car, again you will have good traction, however when breaking or trying to steer you do not have the same level of traction with the front wheel tires, unless they are winter tires. You can easily lose control and not be able to steer out of it.

Winter Tires 101 – Mud and Snow Winter Tires

Tires that are designated as all Season tires have a label M+S on the side of the tire indicating that they are ok for light snow conditions. These narrow treads are not sufficient for harsh road conditions that many people deal with in heavy snow areas.  They are useful and save money for consumers who do not experience a lot of snow. However some jurisdictions are going so far to enshrine in law that snow tires or winter tires must be on the car from Nov 1st until Mar 31st of every year. Mountainous areas also require snow tires and some even require chains to be added to the wheels.

Winter Tires 101 – Winter snow Tires

Winter tires have a symbol of a mountain and a snow flake on the sidewall. The treads are wider and deeper than all season tires. they are also designed to disperse snow and ice more effectively. they perform as much as 130% to 150% better in severe snow conditions. Also handling is much better  as well for steering and braking situations.

If you have driven in snow conditions with and with out winter tires, then you already know and appreciate the difference.  If not and think you can get away with all season tires,  try it once or twice in heavy snow to see the difference in handling and control. Try a friends car who has snow tires vs. your own to really appreciate the difference.

Comments are welcome especially from drivers who know the difference and have a story to tell about the difference winter snow tires can make.


Space Heaters for Your Home

oil filled space heatersLast month we did a post on Heating with Electric Ceramic Space Heaters and we wanted to follow-up with another post because we just saw this same heater at a reduced price at Cosco for $39, down from $69! This particular heater has not only a thermostat on it, it also has a built-in timer so that you can set the start time and the finish time. They are perfect for bedrooms when you want your room to be warm when you go to bed and then turn off sometime during the night.

My wife just loves this heater, since our bedroom has always been cold and now she finds it far more comfortable. Before we purchased this heater, we had to crank up the thermostat so that downstairs was too hot , just to get a bedroom to a proper temperature. You can read more from the original post at the following link: http://rhucs.com/heating-with-electric-ceramic-space-heaters/

We are very happy so far with this particular space heater. Set the thermostat, set the time and plug it in, your done. It is that easy and the only time you really have to check on it is if the power goes off and the internal clock must be reset. It is also on wheels so if you need to change the position of the space heater, it is very easy to do. Simply unplug it and mover it to another location and plug it in again.

Positioning of Space Heaters

Regarding positioning of the space heater, the instruction booklets indicates that it should be placed under a window. Cold air from the window is descending to the floor and moving across the floor normally. With this heater in place, the air is heated as it falls and begins to rise again. No more cold drafts with the heater placed in the correct position!

I almost purchased a second space heater of this type to go in one of the bathrooms. Wouldn’t it be nice to walk into a really warm comfortable bath room in the morning? At $39 we are seriously thinking about buying one more just for the bathroom. I have a second smaller ceramic space heater for my den to keep my legs warm in the morning. Now before you think I am some kind of softy, this is all about comfort while saving some money at the same time which is what this web site is all about.

We turn the heat down at night now to save energy and use these space heaters to heat just the room we are in. Sometimes I will get up really early before the furnace comes on to warm the house up. I have this small space heater in my den. I make a coffee, close the door to the den and turn on this small space heater. Within minutes, I am very comfortable and warm. We save a lot of energy this way and avoid those higher heating bills.

Reduce your overall heating costs, while at the same time remaining comfortable in the rooms you work in most of the day. Why heat the entire home, when you are only in one room? If I was by myself, I would definitely consider just heating the rooms that I spent the most time in. I would turn down the thermostat on the central heating system and just heat the rooms I use most of the time during the winter.  This would save on the overall heating costs during the winter, plus provide me with comfort when and where I needed it. No need to keep a big house warm all of the time.

We love to hear from readers about other ideas for saving money and staying warm in the winter time. Leave us your comments and if they are constructive and informational we will be happy to post them. If you leave a constructive well written related  comment, we will even give you a link back as well.

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Inexpensive Property Management Firms Ottawa

Vacant Home Property ManagementIn our last post we talked about someone who is leaving their home vacant for a month while they go on vacation.  This post is about hiring Property Managers to manage your home as a rental property. There are specific things you should do to make sure that your insurance is still valid while you are away. You do not want to have a big surprise when you get back, find damage of some sort and then find out that your insurance does not cover it because you did not have someone checking your home while you are away. What about the person who wants to find a property management firm to manage their home as a rental?

Property Management Companies

There are many firms that offer property management firms in most cities and most offer their services to home owners who wish to rent their homes out while they are out of the country or have an investment property. Picking an inexpensive property management firm that provides you all of the services you need is a tough thing to do. These companies try to offer the best price, however supporting a single home in an area is much different that managing an entire property. As a result the costs are going to be higher for a single property vs. a mutli unit building. Still you can negotiate a relatively  inexpensive deal if you take the time to understand all of the services and focus on the ones that you require. (continue reading…)


Get A Good Deal On A New Hardwood Floor

Good Deal On A New Hardwood FloorMost people would like to get the best deal they can on anything they purchase. That includes hardwood floors.  When we wanted to put a new hardwood floor in our house , we did not take the first offer that came along. We wanted to get a good deal on a new hardwood floor. We spent a lot of time getting to know the various kinds of wood and what we wanted to install in our home. We also discuss warranties and installers. How many installations they had completed, when would the start and when would they finish. We wanted to make sure that once they started the job, they stayed until the hardwood flooring job was completed.

Once we knew exactly what we wanted, the next step was to find the deals that were available for both the hardwood as well as the installation. While it takes more time, look at it this way. The money you save is after tax dollars that you are paying yourself. The money you save can be used for something else that you really want to get as well. In addition and even more important, making sure that you hire a great hardwood floor installer is vitally important. A good deal is not a good deal when the floor is not installed properly. Some consumers will try to do their own installation work. For information on general do it yourself issues, consider reading more about, Do It Yourself Projects.

Good Deal On A New Hardwood Floor – Contractor Sales

We started looking  for ‘contractor sales’ at places like Home Depot and Lowe’s. This is a great little tip that we’re able to come up with through a little research. The real question is whether these are really ‘contractor’ sales or whether they are closer to ‘extra inventory’ sales events which are used to get people into the stores to buy other products.

Guess what? Who cares? Discount sales are your friends no matter how they are labeled. The larger the discount you can get on your new hardwood floors, the better. Use these sales to your advantage and call the stores directly to find out when they are being held or just check often with one of the guys working the floor.

If you do take advantage of one of these sales and it is the end of the inventory, make sure you buy enough to do your complete floor to avoid not being able to buy that last piece to finish the floor or to buy flooring with a slightly different stain. Ask for quotes that are written down and if another store has the same flooring you are looking at let them know you have a quote and even show them your quote. They know at that point if they want to obtain your business, they have to give you a better price or lose the deal.

Look for Online discounts

Read up on “discount hardwood floors” on the web.  There are literally a ton of different data options available for people who are looking for discount hardwood floors. Personally I like to talk to a real person when I am making these kinds of decisions, however the web can really help to educate you so that you know all of the right questions to ask.

One thing to remember when you are negotiating a combined price for the floor and installation, is to go with a fixed price so that there are no surprises once the work is completed.

In fact, just because something is discount doesn’t necessarily mean that it is of substandard quality. It just means that you are getting a better deal due to extra inventory, the store trying to drive sales or discounts the store received from the supplier who is trying to drive sales up. Discount is your friend when shopping for anything including different parts of your house.

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Are You a Good Candidate for Solar Power Generation?

As we do research for this blog, we come across interesting tidbits which we think will be useful for us as well as our readers. We are investigating how we can get on the solar or wind power generation wagon and possibly reduce our own carbon footprint. So far I am finding that although it is technically possible, the costs make Solar Power Generation financially not viable. But we have to begin with first steps and we came across these questions which I thought were good questions to address to see if we really qualify as possible solar power users or generators. These are general questions and if you get through these, then talk to an expert.

Here they are:

  • Would you like to reduce or even eliminate your electric bills?
  • Does a good portion of your roof get unshaded sunshine for most of the day throughout the year?
  • Are you interested in making your own electricity, pollution-free, with fuel provided free of charge by Mother Nature?
  • Would you like to lessen our country’s dependence on fossil fuels?
  • Do you want to take advantage of LIPA’s Solar Pioneer cash rebate?
  • Is your roof in decent condition?
  • Do you own your own home?

Solar Power Generation

We will try to answer each of these based on were we live and our situation. They are looking for yes or no answers, however I thought it would be a good idea to put a little bit of explanation with the answers we give and why the questions are important.
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Affordable Property Management Firms Ottawa

Affordable Property Management Firms OttawaWe  have found over the years you get what you pay for. Also you cannot assume that a specific service will be provided unless it was specifically discussed. It must be included in the contract. Too many people leave their homes for the weekend or a week with out proper over site. They end up with problems with their insurance companies, because they thought that the cost of property management was just too expensive. If you place yourself in the shoes of a property management firm for a few minutes, you will quickly see that the cost to run a company and to visit your home on a regular basis can be expensive.

Affordable Property Management

Types of Property Management Situations

There are many different types of property management situations to consider. The one we will look at today is the consumer who will be away for a month and needs someone to check on his or her vacant  house once every 3 or 4 days. This time frame was chosen because that is typically what insurance companies require, however it does vary by company and location and circumstances, so check with your home insurance company before you agree to a property management contract.

What Should a Property Management Firm Do

Basically you need some one to collect flyers or mail items at the front step, check that the security of the home has not been compromised, check that the furnace is working during colder months and that there are no water problems of any kind. You may also get them to water a few plants or add extra services such as lawn care or snow removal. Basically the property management employee should be in and out of your home in less than 15 minutes including the time it takes to fill in a brief report and also send an email confirming his or her visit and the status.

Travel Time

Travel time is an issue that must also be considered. We are assuming that it will take an average of 15 minutes to get to your location. Anything more than that is considered extra costs. The price of gas and the wear and tear on a car must also be considered.  Let’s assume 10 miles of driving and an average cost of $.50 cents per mile. It may vary in your location.

So now before any profit is considered you have 30 minutes of someone’s time at whatever rate is paid and a minimum of $5 for car mileage. Add to this profit for the company that runs the business, overhead and taxes and you will be fortunate to find someone who will check on your home for less than $30 a visit! Sounds expensive, but there is the cost at reasonable rates and times. If you add requested services, that take a lot of time, look for increased expenses to be added.

Decision Time re Affordable Property Management

Many people will shy away from charges like these and will take a chance and not have their home checked or will have friends or neighbors check the home. As long as you have agreement on what is to be done, and it is written down and you can depend on the person or persons to perform the checks then you should be safe.  Remember you are paying something in the order of $30 a visit to make sure that your home which is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is monitored and action will be taken if there is break in or damage while you are away!


Secrets to Selecting Perfect Flooring

Selecting Perfect FlooringWhether you install the hardwood floor yourself or have someone do it for you is not the most critical issue for consumers.  Selecting perfect flooring can be a challenge for many people. The most important is to make the right choices in selecting floor coverings in the first place regardless of whether it is hardwood flooring or something else. We happen to think that hardwood and tile are by far the best things to use for your floors, but then we are bit biased.

Selecting Perfect Flooring

Here are a few of the issues we thing are important that you should take  into account when you are trying to decide on the hardwood floor you will purchase.

  • Overview
  • Design Styles
  • Situational Factors
  • Floor Traffic Expectations
  • Sub flooring
  • Humidity and Temperature
  • Installation
  • Warranty

Overview

Creating great looking hardwood floors in your home requires several important functional and design considerations to get it right. Whether you are considering natural hardwood floors,bamboo, or even laminate flooring – paying close attention to these7 tips will help you make sure that your home is just the way  you want it.

Design Styles

There are thousands of colors and styles to select from today. As a result  it can seem like a daunting task to make the right flooring choice. Narrowing the field down  is recommended to you select a flooring style that complements your home and your overall interior design style. Nothing will look worse that a glaring clash of styles,so make sure your new flooring complements your existing (or planned) interior design. Formulate a complete design style for your home and then select styles that will fit into this design.

Situational Factors

Almost every installation will have physical or functional requirements that may further narrow down the scope and selection of an appropriate hardwood or laminate flooring systems.

Floor Traffic Expectations

The quantity and type of traffic you expect on your floors will impact the flooring material you can choose. Laminates offer high durability, as well as wood species that have high”hardness rankings” on the Janka scale. Softer woods are generally not a good selection for high traffic areas. Take into account were you plan to place throw rugs as well to help with the traffic issues and look and feel of your home.

Sub Flooring

The quality of any new hardwood flooring installation can only be as good as the sub floor underneath. For the best outcomes,the sub floor should be dry, stable, and level.You may need to add a layer of plywood to provide extra support. At the minimum, screw nail any areas that may move or cause squeaks before installing your hardwood floor.

Concrete sub floors generally are only acceptable for laminate installations, but you should be mindful of installing a quality underlay that provides an appropriate moisture barrier as well as good sound installation.

Humidity and Temperature

To prevent warping and cupping of floors make sure there is adequate ventilation and regulated temperatures thought the year. Avoid any possibility of water on the floor or under the floor from leaks or from high humidity. Laminates work best in areas that experience higher humidity levels.

Installation

The time and cost of installation is an often overlooked factor in floor selection decisions. Obtain a separate quote for installation to help you decide if you will do the installation your self or hire a professional.

Glue less click-style floating laminate floor systems can be a weekend project for experienced do-it-yourselfers, and can save a lot of installation labor. Other flooring installation methods are generally more complex and may  require professional installation in most cases.

Warranty

Making a successful claim under a flooring warranty often requires that you can demonstrate the product was installed exactly as per the manufactures recommendations and that the damage is not a product of wear and tear or poor workmanship. Hiring a professional installer and dealing with a large brand name product that has an established track record is your best protection.


Tires for All Terrain Vehicles

All terrain vehicles are small motorized vehicles devised especially for off-road usage. The usually will seat one rider and can have from two to six tires depending on the type of machine. These hardy vehicles are designed to take on difficult terrains and are becoming increasingly popular nowadays as sports vehicles as well as utility vehicles in off-road conditions. Tires for All Terrain Vehicles are designed for off-road conditions for these vehicles and therefore are unstable at high speeds.

It may be mentioned that motorcycles, jeeps – land rovers and similar other vehicles capable of off-road usage are available as well. All terrain vehicles can be taken  over all kinds of rough terrain to places that most jeeps and land rovers cannot operate. All terrain vehicles or ATVs can be used for pleasure purposes, for hunting and for work or travel on off-road sites. Some ATVs are also called 4 wheelers or quads because they have 4 big knobby tires. However, some models of ATVs will also have 6 or 8 wheels. All terrain vehicles come in a variety of makes, models and sizes from many different manufacturers.

Tires for All Terrain Vehicles

There are many different types of tires for all terrain vehicles or ATV’s . Some are meant for higher speed, some are meant to protect the grass on golf courses for example, some have big knobby tires to provide extra traction in slippery conditions and some are large balloon like tires for use in muddy or wet conditions. Before you purchase an ATV, discuss your planned use with the sales person so that you have an ATV and tires that match the conditions you will use your ATV in.

Types of ATVs and their usage

All terrain vehicles may be very basic with skid steering, balloon tires and no suspension. There are also more sophisticated models too featuring track conversion systems for use on a variety of terrain conditions for all seasons. Using these you can get around just about any terrain and at any time of the year. These vehicles enable carrying out a number of activities effectively in punishing conditions which no other vehicle could get to.

The utility models of ATVs are appropriate for range land or farm projects. The four by four units of ATVs provides good grip over rugged terrain while automatic transmission simplifies operation. Again, the two by four ATV units with 250-300 cc four stroke engines are easier to maneuver over long periods of operations at slow speeds such as  spraying. Whether it is fence repair or getting into the bush to cut trees, ATV’s can usually go were other larger vehicles cannot.

Things to remember while on ATVs

Kids as well as adults will drive ATV’s over uneven ground at sometimes a very fast rate of speed. They are easy to tip and ATV’s have been known to flip on their passengers, sometimes severely injuring them. Drive at a speed that matches the conditions of the track you are on.

Use safety equipment and wear a helmet. Carry an electric air pump and tire-plug kit with tire sealant (for helping seal tires while operating in thorn infested or rocky landscape). These will come of use in repairing flat tires in difficult uninhabited terrain.


Save Money – Pay your Bills after the Holidays

Save Money - Pay your Bills after the HolidaysWell the holiday season is pretty much over and the bills are starting to come in for all of those gifts you charged to your credit cards. It does not matter if it is Christmas, Valentines or just a big birthday party, if you do not pay these credit card bills right away, the interest is going to start and the credit card companies charge a lot!  Their interest rates can be as high as 29% for store based credit cards and 19 to 20% for bank based credit cards. Of course, the best way to avoid these expenses is to not buy them in the first place, however for most of us this is just not realistic.

This site is about helping people save money and we usually do not talk about credit cards. It is more focused on do it yourself projects, and methods to reduce the operating costs for your home,  however given the time of year we thought it would be appropriate to introduce this subject. You might have worked all year long to save money on various projects, kept the heat low or turned the air conditioning off only to pay a lot of  interest on a credit card balance you really did not anticipate.

Credit Card High Interest Rates

Many bank credit cards will charge up to 19% interest on unpaid balances, while store credit cards sometimes charge as much as 29% on unpaid balances. That is a lot of interest and it can take a long time to repay even a small balance especially if you only make the minimum payment each month.

In keeping with the objective of the web site, we would like to encourage our readers to really make an effort to repay your credit card balances as quickly as possible to avoid losing all of that money in interest charges. You can reduce your heating cost, your air conditioning and your hydro usage only to lose all those savings in a few months to added interest charges. Even if you have to take out a small personal loan to repay your credit card balances, you will be ahead of the game since you will pay a much lower interest rate than what you will pay with your credit card. We cannot emphasize this enough.

Pay Your Bills on Time

One last thing about paying your bills after the holidays.  Make sure you pay them by the due date or a few days before the due date to make sure you do not trigger interest charges as a result of missing the due date by one or more days. I have had this happen to me. I missed the due date by one day because the bank I deal with took 3 days to transfer the money. I ended up paying an additional $30 in interest charges, because they calculate the interest due on the full amount for the full time period since the item appeared on my credit card. If you get caught like I did, you can try to get the bank to refund this charge, however it did not work for me.

You might think that the bank was in error and they should have refunded the money to me. Well if you read the fine print, it says next business day for most transaction and a specified period to transfer funds to an external company from your bank. I always allow 3 business days now to transfer money to pay bills I have and this is the minimum.

If I am concerned that it might take longer due to holidays and increased business, I will send the money even sooner to pay my bills on time. Paying bills around Christmas time and other holiday periods mean that it takes longer to process payments. Always allow for this extra period when you are paying your bills to ensure you meet the due date and avoid any penalties or additional interest charges.

 

 


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