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For Your Home

Repair or Replace Broken Appliances?

Posted by on Feb 23, 2015 in For Your Home | 2 comments

Repair or Replace Broken Appliances?

In the past year I’ve had to repair or replace many broken appliances and fixtures around my house. The bigger items include the dishwasher, refrigerator, and washing machine. Every time something breaks I try to take the most environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible approach to solving the problem. In the process I’ve made some mistakes, learned a lot, and come up with some pretty smart solutions that I’d like to share with you so next time an appliance you own has a problem you might approach the situation a little differently and with a little more knowledge than you had before. A Mistake: Repairing The Dishwasher My first major appliance to have an issue since I bought the house 8 years ago was the dishwasher. The dishwasher was older and within the first year of owning it both door springs broke, so I had to lower the door carefully and use the lock to keep it in the upright position. A minor inconvenience. Six years later the gasket around the door started leaking so I had to decide whether to repair or replace it. At first I wanted to get a new dishwasher with a sterilize cycle for canning, one that would match the refrigerator too. However, I looked online and saw a gasket and 2 springs would cost less than $40. There was also an instructional manual to show me how to do the repairs. The repairs were fairly easy and cost efficient, but in the end it wasn’t worth it. The dishwasher itself had slowly degraded over the years, and after another 6 months it was barely washing the dishes so I stopped using it. I was so focused on what was broken, and keeping the dishwasher out of the landfill, I failed to realize the whole unit was reaching the end of it’s useful life. The door works great, but that’s about it. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to replace an appliance, be sure to you recycle the old one. Most companies that deliver new appliances will recycle your old one for free. Some cities, including Pittsburgh, offer free curb-side recycling for appliances too. If these aren’t options for you, consider giving it away on Freecycle or Craigslist. Post an ad clearly stating it’s for parts or scrap. Lessons Learned: Tips & Tricks For Undertaking A Repair Buying Parts Shopping local has been a challenge. The parts stores in Pittsburgh are usually only open during normal business hours on weekdays, which is also when I’m working. I could leave work early one day and make a special trip, but none have their inventory online and my voicemails or emails inquiring about what they stock are never answered. These stores are mostly wholesalers and my search for a $15 part is not that important to them, so I opt to shop online instead. My favorite website is PartSelect.com. It’s easy to find what you are looking for, the selection is huge, prices are fair, and they have a lot of useful information and videos to help with the repair. It’s also a good idea to check the...

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Are Solar Lights A Good Choice For Your Yard?

Posted by on Feb 18, 2015 in For Your Home | 0 comments

Are Solar Lights A Good Choice For Your Yard?

This is a guest post from Tim Smith at Modernize.com.  Solar lighting is becoming a more popular way to light driveways, sidewalks, yards, and swimming pools. It is convenient, easy to install (no wiring!), and, best of all, it does not add to your electric bill. Before purchasing solar lights, however, it’s important to consider if solar is the right choice for your home by doing your homework to make the most of your investment. If your yard gets several hours of direct sunlight on most days, solar lights may be a great option for you. If your yard is heavily shaded or if you need lighting early in the morning during the winter when the lights may not get a full charge or the batteries may not be strong enough to last through a 12+ hours of darkness, solar lights may not be an ideal solution. Types of Lights The most popular types of solar lighting are solar path lights and solar spot lights. The solar path lighting is used to illuminate a walkway or driveway, and is self-contained. Solar spot lights,or any type of larger solar light, have a larger solar panel so they will gather more energy to create a brighter light. Battery Powered Each light contains a rechargeable battery, usually nickel cadmium, and has a solar collector panel. Most units use a LED bulb and the stored power is given off as light each night. The rechargeable batteries last up to two years on average. You’ll know when it’s time to replace the batteries because the lighting will be dimmer, flicker, or not stay light for very long. Both the batteries and bulbs are easily replaced when needed. Most hardware or home improvement stores carry the replacements. Some very inexpensive solar lights do not have replaceable batteries or bulbs, and are discarded when worn out. To minimize your environmental footprint, consider investing in a better quality lights that can be used for years to come. Placement Place your lights where they will receive some direct sunlight each day and where foliage or shadows from your house do not interfere with sunlight. Also, be aware that winter sunlight is weaker and so the lights are less likely to get a full charge, which means they will not stay on as long during winter months. Maintenance If you notice your lights dimming but the battery is good and it’s getting enough light, try cleaning any dirt or debris from the solar panels. Solar panels can be wiped with a damp cloth but they can be delicate so you should not brush the panels. Cost The cost of solar lighting for your home varies widely, from a few dollars for small, individual lights that are thrown away when worn out, to lights with reusable batteries, and larger lights that can be mounted to provide lighting for pools, yards, or security. Expect to pay around $50 for a set of 8 or 10 good-quality lights to line the walkway and...

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What To Do With Old Electronics: Recycle, Sell, Donate

Posted by on Feb 9, 2015 in For Your Home | 0 comments

What To Do With Old Electronics: Recycle, Sell, Donate

My vintage desktop computer was going to turn 10 this year. I turned it on occasionally (maybe once or twice a year) to access old files, but trying to do any meaningful work on it tried my patience. It was painfully slow. Alongside my desktop, I had an ancient flip phone and a new-er smart phone that I didn’t need. Together, the devices—along with their chargers, wires and other accessories—had created a pile of digital trash that took up precious space in our spare room. When I had a few weeks off around Christmas and New Years I decided to finally figure out what to do with these old electronics. Back Up & Delete Data I kept my old computer for so long because it had information I needed. Most of the files were backed up on an external hard drive but I never took the next step … putting them on my laptop so they’d live in two places in case one device failed. Backing up data is a crucial first step before selling, donating or recycling electronics. Failing to do this could mean losing all your contacts, photos and files. Only after all the important information from the device is backed up, is it time to restore the device to the factory settings. For cell phones, there are usually three steps to restoring the device to the factory settings: Remove the SIM card, which is often stored near the battery. If you installed a memory card in the phone, take that out as well. Reset the phone to the factory setting. The easiest ways to learn how to do this for your phone are to look at the manual or Google the directions. For computers, consider what will happen to the device. If donating, selling or giving away the computer so it can have a second life, reset the hard drive so it can be used again. The computer’s manual will have instructions on how to do that. If the computer is destined for the recycling center, there are a few options: reset the hard drive or remove and destroy the hard drive (which can be interesting and fun). The latter gives you the opportunity to take your computer apart without needing to worry about damaging it and, once you’ve removed the hard drive, you can take your aggression out on it if you wish. Some people decide to smash them with hammers. If that’s the road you want to take, use safety goggles and be safe! Resell One of my cell phones was an older Samsung Galaxy in working condition. It had some value so I chose to sell it to the online buyer/reseller Usell. Usell was offering the biggest paycheck and, by selling to them, I didn’t have to deal with listing the device myself on Craigslist or eBay. It was fast and easy. Usell mailed me an envelope that I used to send the phone to them. About a week later, I received a check in...

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Green-er Gardening: Repair A Garden Hose

Posted by on May 28, 2014 in For Your Home, Lifestyle | 0 comments

Green-er Gardening: Repair A Garden Hose

I needed to replace the nozzle on my garden hose, but it had rusted to the brass coupling and no amount of rust cleaner or brute force would separate the two. If you have a rusted or leaking coupling, there is a very quick and inexpensive way to repair it so you don’t have to send your hose to the landfill. To replace the coupling on your hose you need a: utility knife, screwdriver, male connector and coupling repair clamp.   The repair is as easy as: cutting off the end of the hose with the utility knife, slipping the clamp over the hose, inserting the connector and tightening the screws to secure the clamp. As quick and easy as this project is, there are a few lessons that I learned and would like to share. First, measure the width of your garden hose before you head to the hardware store. There’s nothing more frustrating than coming home with the wrong parts. Second, spring for the more expensive metal clamp style. There are many types of hose menders. The style I used is $6-10, but it’s the easiest to apply, creates a secure seal and will last longer than plastic fittings which are $3-5. Bonus Tip If it’s the opposite end of your hose that’s leaking, you probably need a new washer. Take the existing washer to the store with you to make sure you get the right size replacement.   Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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Product Review: Waring Pro Vacuum Sealer

Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in Food & Recipes, For Your Home | 5 comments

Product Review: Waring Pro Vacuum Sealer

Long, cold, snowy winters like this are often followed by the best fruit and vegetable seasons. Last year was my second year with a CSA share and buying produce in bulk for canning. Taking my learnings from the year before, I did a much better job of storing the extra food. Two years ago, berries I didn’t can were frozen for baking or smoothies, while the excess of vegetables were mostly frozen to cook with later in the year. I froze everything the cheap way, by putting the food in freezer safe bags or containers, packing them tightly and removing air to prevent freezer burn. This worked well until I opened the bag or container, removed the first portion and closed it back up. Then I would do it again and again. Each time more air would get in and ice would eventually build up in the container. I knew I needed a vacuum packer so, last year, I went shopping. I’ve been a fan of Waring Pro since I bought their immersion blender a few years ago. Frustrated with all the bad online reviews for immersion blenders (most are said to be cheap and break quickly) I searched for a company that makes kitchen products in the U.S., assuming they would be a better quality. That’s how I discovered Waring Pro. I’ve been very happy with the immersion blender, which is used constantly and works perfectly. So buying a Waring Pro Professional Vacuum Sealer was a no-brainer. Waring Pro Vacuum Sealer Review The price of the vacuum sealer ($66.99 on Amazon) is comparable to other vacuum sealers but this one comes with some major advantages: It’s a professional model so it will withstand frequent, consistent use. It’s a pistol, which takes up less counter space than the more common countertop sealing systems. The bags are BPA free. The bags are reusable so you can open a bag, use a portion and reseal it. This is the best part because I don’t have to waste time sealing individual portions or be wasteful throwing away single use bags. After my first year using the product, I’ve been thrilled with it. Tips For Freezing Food The taste of food that was frozen properly at peak flavor offers a little taste of summer in the dead of winter. Here are some tips for making the best quality frozen food with your vacuum sealer: Fruits and vegetables should be ripe. Food should be washed and dried. When freezing soup or other liquids, stand the bag up while sealing and store on a paper plate in the freezer in case there is a leak. For soft food, like raspberries, freeze them on a cookie sheet first so they don’t squish when you vacuum pack them. When you’re using a portion of the food, immediately reseal and place the bag back in the freezer. Eating locally is rewarding, but it can be challenging. We hope this review and these freezing tips will help you get the most out of your garden, CSA share and...

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Choosing Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

Posted by on Feb 28, 2014 in For Your Home | 1 comment

Choosing Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

Shopping for light bulbs used to be simple, you just needed to know how many watts. Today, there’s a whole new lexicon to be learned for energy efficient light bulbs. The first time I faced this new lingo I ended up making an uninformed – and bad – choice. I bought a CFL daylight bulb for my bathroom. It looked awful and I later learned that a CFL is not a good choice for humid areas. Ugh. At the time, I didn’t have a solid understanding of the difference between halogen incandescent, CFL and LED bulbs or what lumens and kelvins meant. So I did my homework. If you too need help deciphering the new language of light bulbs, this post should help. Why the change? Traditional incandescent light bulbs were very energy inefficient. They lost 90% of their energy to heat and accounted for about 20% of most homes’ energy consumption. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 set new standards for light bulbs with the goal of increasing energy efficiency 25-30% . Consumers started seeing the impact of the bill in 2012 when all 100-watt bulbs being produced had to meet the new standards. In 2013, the 75-watt phase-out began. Then, in 2014, 40- and 60-watt bulbs had to meet new requirements. If you didn’t feel the impact of the changes until this year, you’re not alone. 40- and 60-watt bulbs are the most popular types. 3 Types of Bulbs Currently, there are 3 types of bulbs on store shelves that are more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. From least energy efficient to most efficient and from shortest life span to longest, they are: halogen incandescent, CFL and LED. Halogen Incandescent Bulbs Traditional incandescent bulbs did not meet the new energy efficiency standards but they’ve evolved into halogen incandescents which are 28% more efficient than traditional bulbs. These bulbs emit the same type of light and have about the same lifespan as as traditional incandescent bulbs. While they are more energy efficient than traditional bulbs, they are not as efficient as CFLs and LEDs. CFLs CFLs are the middle ground in terms of energy efficiency and they have a lot of quirks. CFLs often have two telltale signs: a spiral bulb and a a short lag between the time you flip the switch and when the light comes on since the bulbs take time to warm up to full brightness. Recently, manufacturers have begun covering those spirals to make the bulbs look more like traditional bulbs which many of us find more aesthetically pleasing. The downside to covering a CFL for aesthetics is that it can take even longer to achieve its full brightness. Matching an energy efficient bulb to the socket and the environment is essential for getting the longest lifespan out of the bulb. CFLs are best for indoor lights that you tend to keep on for 15 minutes or more since turning them on and off constantly can shorten their lifespan. Only some CFLs are appropriate for outdoor...

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Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me! How To Make A Fruit Fly Trap

Posted by on Oct 12, 2013 in For Your Home | 0 comments

Shoo Fly, Don’t Bother Me! How To Make A Fruit Fly Trap

If you’ve ever had a fruit fly problem you know how pesky and persistent the flies can be. Luckily, there’s an easy, green fruit fly trap you can make. All you need is: a jar (a half pint or larger mason jar will do) a piece of paper a piece of tape apple cider vinegar, red wine or another liquid that smells like rotting fruit dish liquid How To Make A Fruit Fly Trap Pour apple cider vinegar into the jar, until there is 1/8 inch of vinegar covering the bottom of the jar. Squirt a few drops of dish liquid in the jar and stir. This will break the surface tension of vinegar so the flies will sink and drown when they land on it. Make a paper cone, tape the paper to help it keep it’s shape. Rest the cone in the opening of the jar, pointy end down. This will make escaping the trap difficult for flies who don’t drown immediately. Put the bowl on a counter and wait! More Ways To Combat A Fruit Fly Problem The fruit fly trap will be most effective if you’ve removed other temptations from your kitchen. Check your counters, cabinets and refrigerator for rotting produce and compost it. Take out the trash, compost and recycling and wash down the bins. Wipe down your counter tops and sink. Clean the inside and the seals of your dishwasher and refrigerator. Clean the sink drains. Keep a lid on all juices or other sweet drinks. Properly package produce. For example, put that half an apple in a sealed container, don’t just leave it on the counter for later. Prevent A Future Fruit Fly Invasion Fruit flies usually arrive on produce brought home from the grocery store or a plant brought inside for the winter. If you think the fruit flies are hitchhiking home from the grocery store on your produce, wash the produce immediately at home. It’s best if you have an outdoor sink or bring a big bowl of water outside to wash everything before you bring it into the house. When that’s not an option, the kitchen sink is fine. It’s also a good idea to add a Bluapple Ethylene Absorber to your produce drawer to prolong the life of your fruits and vegetables, so hopefully you will have time to eat them before they go bad. If the flies are coming in with your plants, it’s usually because they are in the soil. Repot the plant using a new bag of potting soil, which is sterile. When you store the leftover potting soil, close and seal the bag well so you can use it next time you need to bring a plant inside. Once the plant is repotted check the leaves to ensure any of the fruit flies that were disturbed aren’t hiding out on the plant. If they are, flick them away or squish them. Making your own fruit fly traps is easy, so try it and let us...

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Product Of The Month: 3 Inexpensive Energy Efficient Products

Posted by on Oct 3, 2013 in For Your Home | 0 comments

Product Of The Month: 3 Inexpensive Energy Efficient Products

If the cooler weather has you dreading those winter heating bills, consider taking these 3 easy and inexpensive steps to make your home more energy efficient. Whether you rent or you own, these small improvements are well worth the time and money. Insulate Your Outlets and Switches Several companies, including Duck and Frost King, make pre-cut foam insulators for outlets. Since it’s only necessary to insulate outlets and switches on outside walls, save yourself some time on this project by keeping it small and skipping the outlet and switches on interior walls. Get more information on this project, here.   Insulate Your Water Heater With A Blanket This winter, keep your hot water heater cozy with a thermal blanket . Hot water heater blankets only cost $15-$30 so most people will find that they pay for themselves within a year, sooner if you’re like me and have an old water heater that sits in the middle of an unfinished basement. Get more information  on this project, here.    Install A Programmable Thermostat The first month after I installed a programmable thermostat, my energy usage decreased by about 20% and I immediately regretted waiting so long. There are many types of programmable thermostats available for under $30. The one I have is a Honeywell 5-2 day programmable thermostat which allows me to set cycles for weekdays and weekends to raise the temperature when I’m usually home and lower it when I’m not home and when I’m sleeping. If you have an irregular schedule and/or travel frequently and want to be able to monitor and adjust temperature setting from your phone or computer, check out the Nest Learning Thermostat. It’s a bit more pricey, but my friends who have one say it’s worth every penny. Get more information  on this project, here. Like this post? Subscribe to our email list, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Pinterest for more green living...

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