After experiencing one too many power outages, we decided to install a small gas generator at our home. (We chose a 3200 Watt model with 4000 watt peak). Since we have a detached garage – it made the most sense to mount the generator on an elevated wooden shelf (our home is in close proximity to a bay which can flood during severe prolonged storms). Next we decided that porting the exhaust outdoors so that we could enter the garage while the generator was running (for re-fueling etc…) Note: do not install a generator in an attached garage – many people die each year from inadvertent carbon monoxide poisoning from generators placed in the wrong area.
I drilled out some 2” plumbing cast iron threaded end caps. One with muffler port clearance (7/8”) and the other end cap 1 -1/4”, which allows clearance for a zinc plated EMT conduit threaded fitting. I also needed to drill an access hole in the side of the end cap on the muffler side so I could tighten/loosen the internal clamp collar on the muffler port. I then connected the two end caps with a piece of aluminum flexible tubing. (The generator’s engine moves around on its rubber mounts and thus requires a non-fixed exhaust hose.) Support the middle of the aluminum hose with a piece of metal wire, to further reduce stress on the hose. Clamp collars hold everything in place.
Next we decided to get a 30’ long 220v extension cord so that we could power our breaker panel. On the outside of the house, we installed a 30 amp outdoor rated quick disconnect box to a piece of Azec. Next we ran some 6 gauge wire (though only 10 gauge is required) from the disconnect box to a 30 amp double pole breaker mounted in the upper right most position inside of our panel.
Lastly, we fabricated a mechanical breaker interlock out of ¼” Lexan. The interlock ensures that you will never have the main breaker in the on position while the generator is in the on position. There are kits available for purchase online for almost any panel if you are not feeling ambitious. In order to make the Lexan, you will need to make a slew of measurements and make a template out of cardboard. Lexan is much easier to cut and trim than steel, so it is totally doable. The kits that you get online come with UL certification sticker, a homemade kit does not. So proceed accordingly. The tricky part of making the Lexan for our 150Amp Cutler Hammer panel, was getting the generator lockout tab to fit in-between the 30 amp double pole handle and the breaker below when in the “generator on” position. The slots and where you drill the holes in the dead front panel are also key - take your time and measure twice.
When switching between main breaker and the generator power, ensure that you switch off the branch breakers to eliminate damage to your electronic devices.
In order to fit the double pole breaker, I had to move some circuits from singles to tandem breakers. Tandem breakers are very useful for times like this, when you need to get more circuits into a panel that is maxed out. Another note I picked up from an electrician - I always label each black wire going into a breaker with a small piece of Romex, it makes your life much easier when it comes to identifying circuits and labeling the dead front panel.
Our home has lots of LED lights, a high efficiency fridge and a tankless water heater – so fortunately, the 3200 watt generator has enough power to keep our whole home running. Keep in mind, running an oven, microwave, and other high wattage devices simultaneously will not work with a 3200 watt generator – you will need a generator with more power and a larger input breaker.
Good luck with your generator installation project. Witnessing your home running off generator power for the first time is pretty sweet. If your budget permits, you might consider a natural gas generator or an automatic transfer switch – but we wanted to show you how to get a system up and running as simply as possible.
Remove damaged flooring sections. In our case four planks were buckled by water from the Sandy storm. Either pry up against another damaged plank, use a circular saw with the depth set such that you create a slot in the center of the plank, or use a 5 in 1 paint tool and a large flat blade screw driver to lever up the damaged plank without damaging adjacent planks.
Remove all old nails - use channel locks, mini pry bars, hammer claw. Any nails that won't cooperate, hammer down flush.
Use multi tool sander to get area flat and smooth, make sure to sand the sides of the old planks as they will have build up from years of gunk collection.
Use shop vac with brush attachment to clean all debris from sanding and nail pulling. Run fingers to feel for any bumps that might need further smoothing.
It is critical that the sub-floor is as flat as possible.
New, our floor circa 1926 was made from 5/16 x 2" slats of red oak. We sanded the floor in 2010 and it was now around 1/4" thick. We were able to find some new 5/16" x 2" planks at Dan Higgins flooring
in Medford, NJ for a very reasonable price, as they had some left over from another order. In order to reduce manual labor, I took the 5/16" pieces to D.P. Millwork
in Hatfield PA. They ran the planks through the sanding machine and got them down to around 1/4" thick.
Next, lay the strips down and mark for length trimming with a fine pen - always have a few extra pieces on hand in case you forgot to measure twice and cut once.
Once you have the length right, it is time to make sure the width will work too… back in the day, things were less precise. In our case we had to sand/plane the sides of two planks as it was a little tighter than 2". One area needed some heavy razor cutting/planing/sanding to fit properly. Use a metal t-square to act as a guide when you need to remove material from the sides of the planks ( if you need more than 1/32" or so of material gone), otherwise you will be sanding all day. Having the planks too tight is bad and will cause problems in the summer, they need a little room to expand and contract. Now that you have dry fit your pieces (and they fit properly), it is time to drill your pilot holes for the hold down nails. Use a slightly smaller size than your nail to add a little more holding power. (vacuum again after you drill your pilot holes, sand the underside of the planks again too as pilot hole wood chips get in places that will create gaps.) Next, lay down a bead of construction adhesive. I went with a tight squiggle so that it did not leak through the seams. Walk on the boards to press down firmly. Use a nail set to drive the nail heads around 1/16" under the surface.
Now feel the boards from the old to the new - I still had a 1/32" or so height difference that needed to be reconciled. Use a plane with a sharp blade - sharpen prior to beginning or you will have trouble. Make sure that nails in the adjacent old planks are sub flush with your nail set. If you make contact with the plane, your blade will be damaged. Get the wood so that when you run your finger from plank to plank there it is smooth. Finish off with a medium course grit sand paper and vacuum once more.
Use wood filler to cover the nail heads and make the surface flush. Sand once more to get it smooth. Vacuum one last time.
The old wood and new wood are the same material but completely different colors, even if your original had no stain. This is due to wear/tear and sunlight. First take a damp rag to remove any residual dust. This damp rag also wicks up the grain and enables the wood to absorb more stain and polyurethane. I would recommend applying 1 or 2 coats of gel stain to the new wood in a slightly sporadic pattern to give the appearance of old wood. Don't worry it does not have to be perfect, just close. wear gloves or your fingers/nails will be brownish for 3 days. Allow to dry.
Apply 3 coats of oil based polyurethane. I kept two fans blowing at the wet planks in between each coat so that it would dry faster and an exhaust fan to draw fresh air into the house - as the vapor is very toxic. Each coat takes 3-4 hours to dry completely. Very lightly sand in between the first two coats with 200 grit paper to ensure maximum absorption and smoothness. I put some chairs over top of the wet planks in-between each coat to keep us from walking on them and ruining the poly. You can apply some poly to some of the adjacent planks so that the new blends in with the old. Lastly, it is very difficult to naturally reproduce the oxidation marks left from the old nails on a flat faced floor. The new nails we used are galvanized, so they will likely not oxidize. Sharpie to the rescue. Try to match the black marks from the old planks to the new planks - at eye level, you won't be able to tell the difference. The floor may need a touch up every year or so to keep it looking vintage. Once the floor gets walked on and cleaned a few times, it should blend in nicely.
Good luck with your floor patch project!
Often times, rooms in a home will be under or over heated when compared to other rooms. When a central hot water baseboard radiant heat system is utilized, this is due to either too few or too many heat fins in a given room. The second floor of a home will often see the largest number of rooms that are too warm (when other rooms are at a comfortable temperature.) The movable vent on baseboards can be closed or opened to accommodate for the temperature variation, but sometimes a more aggressive method must be implemented to achieve the desired results.
This small bedroom was too hot in the winter due to too many feet of baseboard heat installed for the space.
Here are instructions on how to remove heating capacity in a room.
Get some gloves - razor sharp heating fins will slice your fingers more quickly than you can say band aid.
Remove the outer cover (pull up and rotate out towards you)
Get a sharp pair of scissors or tin snips, (I used Cutco shears, which can cut pennies in half)
Snip the top of each fin you intend to remove, (I like to stagger the cut zones to keep the heat evenly distributed)
with a good pair of pliers, rotate the top rear portion to the right, then pull the underneath part of the fin - removing it with relative ease.
Next, get some split foam pipe insulation and wrap it around the sections where you have removed the fins.
Also make sure you wrap the return pipe (if one exists like in these photos) as it too will conduct heat into the room.
You may want to try a portion at a time and test out the temp in the room - as the fins are not easily replaceable.
Once you are done, replace the cover and enjoy the room at a temperature that matches the rest of the house. The other plus is that the hot water can now heat other portions of your home instead of making one room into a sauna - this saves you money and wastes less energy.
Note: The aluminum fins can be recycled, turned in at the scrap yard for cash (if you have other items to make it worth your while), or given to drive by scrappers.
Moving a large quantity of items from one state to another several hundred miles away can be tricky and expensive. After getting several quotes from different companies, ABF U-Pack
proved to be the best option.
A truck trailer is dropped off at the packing location - when done, they send the cab back to pick up the trailer. The trailer can be dropped off at an unpacking location. (You can also bring/take items to an ABF transfer station and pack/unpack the truck to save some bucks.
Based on quotes over the phone, the ABF Upack solution saves around 50% vs. a PODS or similar type of storage container solution. Also, a POD holds a huge amount of material and may be too large for your move.
This example shows a large load of items being transported from Indiana to NJ. My brother in law packed it at a public storage facility next to their locker - I unloaded it into a rented 15 passenger cargo van. (I particularly like Just4Wheels
for their economical van rentals) if you are NJ local.
Mind the gap
Old man winter will look for the point of least resistance to enter your home. One often over looked cold air entry point is your electrical outlets. Take the back of your hand and run it over any exterior outlets. If you feel a chill, and want to save money then follow the steps below.
Turn off the power to the outlets you are working on at the circuit breaker panel. Remove all of the outlet covers that you intend to work on as Great Stuff has one reliable usage per can (unless you use the pro kit with spray gun) - pausing in-between sprays will cause problems and create messes. Wear thin gloves and old clothing also carry a rag to catch any fly away insulating foam (I guarantee you will get it on your clothing). Get an extra can or two, as it is inexpensive and a big hassle if you don't have enough.
Shake the can of foam vigorously for 30-60 seconds with the nozzle off and cap on. Use an old blade screw driver and pry the sides of the electrical boxes(if they are not plastic then you will have to create an opening in the drywall small enough to thread the nozzle through) so that you can get the spray nozzle in-between the box edge and the drywall. Fill all around as best as possible. It is ok if there is excess, we will not waste the material (as shown later). Allow to dry for around 2-3 hours.
Tear off the excess foam with your fingers. Use the torn off excess pieces and jam them into the side of the outlet and the box. Never spray Great Stuff into the box as it is conductive when wet/gooey but once dry it poses no threat. You do not want to get the foam stuck to the electrical terminals on the outlet should you need to replace it in the future)
Now install the foam insulation gasket, screw on the cover plate, and top off with the childproof outlet covers, they keep the air from coming through the slots in the outlets. Acetone removes the foam from surfaces but it is best to just take your time and don't overfill.
If you do this to all of the outlets (especially on your first floor) you will likely notice a significant decrease in drafty spots and your heating system will have one less battle to wage in Winter.
Let me guess - you rushed out to the home store sometime in the past few years and bought some flourescent flood light bulbs for your home's recessed downlights. After installing them and realizing that the light quality stinks and also you have to wait for them to "power up" till they are bright - you broke down and re-installed incandescents anyway to replace the lousy flourescents. In addition CFL bulbs can pose a potential health risk - link here
Well I bring you great news. If you're able, head to NJ and pick up some of these retrofit LED(light emmitting diode) lights at the home store. (They are available elsewhere, but the tax laws in NJ currently make it less costly than other surrounding states). Alternatively get them online - see link below. (Note: The Cree CR6 have a 50k hr and 5 yr warranty vs. home store's version 35k hr and 3 yr warranty)
They are dimmable, instant on, and install in around 2-3 minutes. (though you need to ensure that your dimmer is compatible - link here
) The electronic low voltage dimmers work best with shared circuits. Combine these LED lights with an occupancy/daylight sensing dimmer switch and you have a real energy/time saving powerhouse.
They consume only 10.5 watts yet throw off an amazing amount of light. Another plus is that you can not tell they are LED. There are no visible dots of light like many screw in bulbs on the market. The transluscent lens on the fixture casts beautiful clean light. Challenge someone to come over to your house and tell which one is LED vs. Incandescent.
Instructions for the swap:
1. Grab some safety glasses as everything is overhead, and will likely fall in your eye otherwise
2. Make sure the light switch is turned off - allow bulb to cool
3. Unscrew old light bulb - donate or recycle. Don't trash old CFL's they have mercury vapor which is extremely toxic. (could also use/keep them for applications low use areas like basements or garages)
4. Remove the trim ring (pay attention to the springs and wear gloves if you have delicate hands)
5. The springs will want to destroy the drywall upon exit, so keep a firm grip.
6. Remove the ceramic bulb socket from the trim ring (on some cans lights, it is screwed to the top of the steel housing instead).
7. Screw in the new LED retrofit light
8. Rotate the (3) spring clips out all the way clockwise until they are locked
9. Test that the light turns on properly
10. Carefully bend down the 3 tabs simultaneously (wear clean thin gloves, as these three spring tabs can deliver a nasty finger cut if not careful) and guide them up into the recessed housing.
The force from the springs keeps the fixture lodged very tightly - (but it is removable if need be)
Based on 3hrs / day, these lights powered with a Cree chip should last for 22+ yrs or so… another benefit is less heat gain in the summer time, which translates into lower cooling bills.
The color rendering is phenomenal - even better than incandescents.
You can even pair black, brown and blue socks without difficulty!
The time to switch to LED is now - prices are down and quality is up.
Just say no to ugly flourescent lighting in the home.
Maybe your experiencing some stress from one of life's many challenges. Perhaps you walk down the street like a loose cannon ready to go off and would rather avoid being on the front page of the paper. Look at your physique, a little pudgy and have a severe case of office or car butt? When you walk down an alley at night are you a little scared or fearful of getting attacked or mugged? Maybe a joining a gym would be nice, but you lack the commitment or the funds required..? Sounds like it's time to install a heavy bag in your home.
First thing to do is find a suitable location. This is often the most difficult step of the whole process as the following criteria need to be addressed:
-spouse/roommates ok with location, as it does not fit in with most décor and is quite loud when in use
-ceiling joist in a suitable location
-enough room for bag to swing freely
Tools you will need:
stud finder(do not scan yourself till after you work out a few times), drill bits, large screw driver, chair/ladder
40-50lb Heavy bag, bag hanger chains w/ spinner, 1/2" Eye Bolt, boxing gloves, foot pads, foam mat system
Locate joist on either side using joist hanger, mark center with pencil. Drill with a 1/8" bit to create a pilot hole into the stud several inches, measure inner thread diameter of your eye bolt and find a drill bit 1/16" to 1/32" smaller. This will ensure that the eyebolt will be good and tight and not back out during use (don't go too small on the hole diameter or you will not be able to fully screw in the eye bolt and also risk splitting the joist above.)
Place a long screw driver through the eyebolt and use that as a lever to turn the eyebolt. You will also need to push up firmly in the beginning to ensure that the threads are engaging properly. Make sure that you completely thread the eye bolt all the way up into the stud so that there is only about 1/4" of shank left - punching/kicking a heavy bag can generate a large amount of force.
Hang the heavy bag so that the top is a little above your head - use a chair and a friend for support to figure out how low to hang the chains. It is critical to have a free spinning element, otherwise you will wear out the metal components above and your bag will fall on you eventually or unscrew the eyebolt - none of which are desirable or safe.
I obtained all my chain, spring clips, eyebolts, at the home store - but there are kits that are available which make the process a bit simpler.
By having a heavy bag at home, you will save on gym membership fees, stay fit, keep stress at bay, let out any inner demons on an inanimate object, plus train for any situations should you ever need to defend yourself.
So you have dug the mower out of the garage…. here are a few tips to make lawn care more enjoyable.
Get a new oil filter, spark plug, (air and fuel filter if required)
Remove the old blade and replace it with a gator mulching blade
Or sharpen your old blade. I use a bench grinder on the fine wheel side.
Using a hand file is a fools task and takes too long, balance the blade on a nail that is hammered sideways into a wall. As long as it's fairly close you are good.
If you have a yard that is larger than 1/4 acre, consider picking up a used 48" walk behind mower from craigs or the paper. I obtained a used zero turn belt driven Ferris mower about 9 years ago at a very reasonable price and it decimates my 1/3 acre yard in about 14 minutes! Driving tractors are slow and inefficient for most lawns. Mine also came with a steel mesh bag that is wonderful for chopping up and collecting the leaves in the fall.
Look at your yard - there are likely dandilions. Get a weed hound, some work gloves, a small trash can, and a large open ended wrench. The weed hound is much more efficient at removing the weeds than chemicals - and better for the environment. Chemical weed killers get into the sewer/storm drain system which is not eco-friendly. The weed hound has a series of nails in the bottom that grab the weed by it's roots - a quick turn and done. Use the open ended wrench to smack the top of the weed hound handle to kick the weed out of the jaws.
(not using the wrench leads to a sore hand)
I have found that by removing them physically before they can blossom and cast their seed - their proliferation has dwindled each year. Place the removed weeds into the trash quickly so that the buds don't scatter about. *Important: remove the dandelions before you mow, so you can spot the yellow flowers easily. Also, you won't cast about the seeds everywhere on your lawn.
When it comes to trimming - use an electric if you can or a small gas powered unit. I highly recommend replacing the stock line feeder spinning head with a Weed Warrior Pivottrim unit, it fits just about all trimmers. I also buy 100' spool of line, not the stock replacement pieces. Cut the line into 12" long segments with a sharp pair of scissors and thread them into the gator head. The rotating line holders all but eliminate line breaks due to the ingenious design. I have found this method to be the most efficient use of trimmer line and best performance. One set of strings lasts about 30 minutes or so, more if you avoid hitting the line against sharp edges.
One final note, I have used several types of gas cans in my life, the best one (for filling mowers only) is the style shown below by Blitz. Spilling gas is a big pet peeve of mine and these anti spill nozzles solve the dilemma. I even remove the nozzle and place it on a smaller blitz can with an oil/gas mix to fill up the trimmer tank - (they both have the same neck thread)
All season rain water collection system
I love rainwater in my basement!
Recently I installed a Rainwater harvesting system on a 1200 sqft ranch home in surburban Allentown, Pennsylvania. You can likely duplicate this system in your home or business.
The collection system stores water in a basement, filters it, pressurizes it and distributes it to the toilets, garden hoses, and washing machine.
The system should save about 5000 gallons per year per person in your household (if you size the collection vessel(s) properly.)
It may sound a little tricky to install, but I have included pictures, a YouTube video, basic instructions, and a spreadsheet of all the parts/ tools you will need to take on this endeaver. You can do this with minimal plumbing knowledge!
Collecting rainwater accomplishes several positive things:
1) Decreases your water bill by around 5000 gallons per person per year
2) Decreases load on the storm system in your neighborhood
3) Decreases the amount of water that will try to seep into your foundation
4) Decreases the amount of power consumed by your water utility, indirectly allowing them to keep costs lower for you.
5) Decrease costs associated with maintaining your water softener - as less water will need to be softened
6) Increase water softness so that clothes and vehicle wash more easily &you can use less laundry detergent / soap - thus polluting less
7) Eliminates sudden temperature/pressure changes in a shower when someone flushes a toilet, uses the washing machine, or a garden hose.
8) Increases anticipation of arriving storms - it's essentially raining free money for you to enjoy!
Fresh water will become more and more valuable as we progress into the future. Flushing a toilet with drinking water is really silly when you think about what is actually happening. Your spending money to treat water just to flush it down with waste - not logical. Our ancestors would likely look at us with head tilted wondering why we weren't using our gutters more wisely…
If you are feeling really ambitious and are able to collect the grey water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, and laundry - this water can be recycled and filtered one more time in an auxillary system to supply water to the toilets and the garden hoses - though you will have to ensure that all of your soaps are bio friendly. Depending on your location, installing an inline UV sterilization filter may also allow you to use the water you collect for consumption.
Note: You should not collect the water from a kitchen sink, toilet, dishwasher as this becomes known as black water and must be sent into the sewer or septic system.
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Electric Baseboard heater
Looking for a way to make your electric baseboard heated home more efficient? Why not consider swapping out your antiquated thermostats with a more modern programmable unit? Despite the bad rap, heating a home with direct resistance heat can be a bit de-humidifying, but it's actually a fairly efficient use of electricity. All of the energy consumed gets emmitted directly as heat, where as with a combustion heat (oil or gas) there are losses. Only a percentage (although significant) of the total energy of combustion is utilized. The only factor is really the amount of time the electric baseboard heat is on and the temperature at which the thermostat is set.
Typically when we sleep, temperatures in the house can dip down to 60-62F and we are still comfortable under the covers. When we rise in the morning, the temp should be around 66-68 F otherwise getting out of bed is not very tempting. Leaving for work or play? Have the heat ramp down to 60 till you get home in the evening. If you have a temperature sensitive pet, make sure they have an area where they can keep warm during the day. Coming home to a house that's comfortable temperature makes returning home that more enjoyable.
Here are some simple instructions for swapping out your old baseboard heat thermostats.
Turn off power at circuit breaker
Turn up thermostat to make sure the heater does not turn on
Use current sniffer / Volt alert tool to make doubly sure power is off.
Remove the old thermostat, typically only need a blade screw driver.
Note: Most homeowners do not remove the thermostats when painting. While you have the thermostat(s) off the wall, apply paint that matches the walls around the thermostat. Home stores will match the paint, just bring them a chip. Use a hair dryer to have it completely dry in a few minutes so you can get to the main task at hand. Painting around thermostats can be done, but often it gives you a very unprofessional looking result.
Wire the outer two wires to the black wires coming from the heater, wire the inner red to the neutral (white wire) coming from the heater.
Use wire nuts and make sure to use good quality electrical tape to secure wire nuts. (Baseboard heat due to it's cycling will cause wires to come loose easily through thermal contraction and expansion. Apply the tape and wrap it counter clockwise to make sure the wire nut will not come loose inside of the wall box.
Many job boxes are small, so take care to place the wires back into them carefully, I like to use the end of a screw driver for the final push to make sure they are pressed inall the way.
Do one last visual check on the wires to make sure none fall out or have become loose.
Screw on the baseplate of the new thermostat.
Install the 9V battery and program the unit based on your schedule and your requirements for the room.
Switch the heat slider on the right side of the unit to on, then place the control portion onto the base module.
Turn the breakers back on and then make sure the heater turns on properly, if not you have something mis-wired and will have to try again. (The usual culprit, is that you wired the inner black wire instead of the outer black wire.)
I have had good results with the LUX ELV4 unit. PPL electric will give you a 100% rebate
on these units (save your reciept) up to $50 each. So take advantage of this offer while it lasts.