Author Archive

Kitchens and a New Take On Style

We’ve all been there, and asked ourselves, “what color should I paint my cabinets in the kitchen ?” Well if you are looking for the new trend that is dominating the cabinet color discussion today in design circles than you know that gray is the new white and the industries leading say that while white cabinets will continue to be the big dogs on the block in terms of overall units and general popularity, grey is close on their tail. If you consider something by Wellborn which pairs soft gray cabinets and a richly stained wood which showcases yet another big time trend you are in the money. What is great about the grey and why I tell all my clients why they should hop on board for them is the fact that white looks great for about 2 weeks then you have your first pasta sauce back splash or its just the general decay of all things and you see that the white that looked so clean and fresh in the beginning is always only ever going to be kind of dingy and warn looking.

Another thing you can always do is opt for new functionality. I know this is a trick that is always going to be easier said than done. You see that not only is the color is your kitchen cabinet changing something like its hardware manufactures such as the people over at Blum are trying to change the way the cabinet doors and draws function in the first place and that is really a cheap way to get a lot of play in the kitchen if you know what I mean.

These are things such as hydraulic or easy close changing the way cabinet doors and draws can move in the first place. With new technology materials and building techniques there is a lot more today that we can do that we really never dreamed about before and our homes are now starting to look like something out of the Jetsons. Not to mention if there is one trend that I think is going to take over every kitchen in America over the next decade it is going to be the advent of all things hands free and all systems dynamically integrated to increase your productivity as well as comfort and security.

Another nice bit of advice is that you should consider going for something that boasts some really nice lighting fixtures that are bold and take the room by storm and say, “look at me world, I’m beautiful.”That being said when you consider what the light is going to look like and how it is going to interact with the space you are inevitably lead to consider how you will be perceiving the shadows. This is often a really neglected feature of design but you can really do a lot with shadow that is beautiful so its worth considering where you set things up and ensure the light moves with them to create the feel and aesthetic you want from your home cook place.

 

The Hidden Danger in Your Fridge

You may not be aware of it, but there are some pretty powerful and toxic chemicals lurking in your home. Where is lurking you may wonder, well there are many culprits unfortunately, but the big ones I am going to discuss here today can be found in your refrigerator and air conditioner and, pose as big of a threat to, “life on the planet,” as the threat of terrorism according to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry was recently in Vienna negotiation with other nations in regards to our global warming needs moving forward and how to deal with the phasing out of chemicals that are used as refrigerants in basic household and commercial appliances such as our air conditioners and our refrigerators. The culprit in all of this is a chemical called hydroflourocarbons, or HFCs. The chemicals are a robust source of greenhouse gas emissions that many scientist are blaming in a big way for the contribution of greenhouse gasses.  Kerry came out in what can be seen in may ways as a kind of pep talk for negotiators who are working through the weekend to amend a 1987 treaty called the Montreal Protocol to deal with similar chemicals.

Kerry remarks that, “Yesterday, I met in Washington with 45 nations-defense ministers and foreign ministers as we were working together on the challenge of (islamic state) and terrorism. It’s hard for some people to grasp it, but what we are doing here right now is of equal importance because it  has the ability to literally have life on the planet itself.” 

So no doubt the stakes are high and we need to act fact in understanding what is in your refrigerator and finding alternative means of achieving an ideal end. This is not the only product which poses great threat to your health and you should definitely be aware if your home was built before the 1970’s there is a very high chance that your home is insulated with asbestos which is a chemical that has a very high rate of causing mesothelioma and other cancerous diseases. Anther thing to be aware of is the fact that most paints had a high rate of lead in them during this time frame as well and should be taken into consideration before any renovation or removal of paint that may be older than this period.

The Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy is one of the U.S.’s lead negotiators in the discussions in Vienna. She reassured the people there that her goal is to move the HFC agreement into force by the end of this year. This deal could be monumental and would match new EPA regulations and ban HFCs in the US and promote alternative chemicals for the use in appliances. Until then you should be vigilant of your own refrigerator usage and if it is damaged or other ways punctured it is a good idea to avoid direct bodily contact with any liquid inside, and it should be avoided from injecting any food it came into contact with. Better yet just throw out the whole lot, you don’t need it.

Podo Takes the Market by Storm

In recent years there rise of the selfie has become a phenomina that we have not seen on this scale or interest. Although there is the selfie demand we have since neglected any real innovation in this regard, and we are in a kind of selfie infancy. We Barely have stepped into selfie adolescence with the rise of the selfie stick. This gets the job done but it is cumbersome and has actually accounted for several deaths a year since people wondering off cliffs or into oncoming traffic. But you got to imagine if this is the way you die, it was probably just a matter of time until something similarly embarrassing accounted for your down fall. That said we may be ready step into full selfie adulthood with the creation of the podo camera which is the first stick and shoot anywhere camera. When I mean stick anywhere, I mean just that, it can stick to any surface with ease and can be re-stuck with ease after a quick rinse and wipe.

This all started in a small startup in Oakland California where the founder, with no background in tech or really anything, was a kid who became aware of the material behind their success. It enables them to stick it anywhere and knew, this needs to be a camera. It was not until they acquired electrical engineering hot shot John Fitz that they were able to push production into overdrive and make something that would actually take pictures. John Fitz was a kind of knight in shining armor and was able to save this company from floundering on several different occasions.

Podo is trying to combine their experiences as a tiny camera and launch on kick starter which raised nearly a half a million dollars. While its about the size of a GoPro you can easily fit it into your pocket or purse. That is the point, they are trying to fundamentally disrupt the way we take our pictures and the world. Think about you have a nice gathering and you want to capture it, you pop out your podo stick it to the wall and it don’t have to seek the help from anyone else to aid in your photo taking en devours. This seems to reflect the general trend that things are changing in the industry and we are all going to be keeping an eye on where this goes. Another really cool feature is that you can stick it to the wall and have a time lapse video made easier than ever before.  Podo has had a lot of trouble getting to market and as you can imagine the competitors are hot on their tail. The thing is that they are trying to get in the price point of 99 dollars that said their competition is going around 50. True they have an inferior product, but when it comes to that price point people usually don’t really car and will most likely just go for the cheaper option.

What Appliances Should Cost

Every day, consumers get ripped off buying home appliances during end-of-year sales. While it may seem like a good idea to jump on any opportunity to buy an appliance for less than what it typically costs, it’s also important to make sure you don’t waste any money on a lemon just because a sale seems enticing.

appliancesConsumer research company Canstar Blue recently released the results of their studies on top-rated appliances in all categories, demonstrating how much shoppers tend to pay on average and how that correlates to how long you can expect an appliance to last.

“It’s easy to get lost in the moment when you’re surrounded by all those sales signs and low prices, but before you splash out hundreds of dollars on new household appliances this June, ask yourself whether you’re really getting a bargain,” advises Megan Doyle, head of Canstar Blue.

“Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean you’re getting a deal,” she continues. “It’s always tempting to buy the cheapest washing machine, dishwasher or clothes dryer you can find, but if that appliance end sup giving you grief a few months later, you might come to regret your decision.”

Canstar Blue surveyed over 30,000 people and in doing do found the standout brands that lead in customer satisfaction: Fisher & Paykel and Miele. Both brands topped two categories each.

“The fact that two of the more premium brands have stood out in the ratings speaks volumes. It’s quite often the case that you get what you pay for,” concludes Doyle.

That’s not to say that all cheap appliances are garbage, but customers who spend a little extra upfront are generally more satisfied with their purchases in the long run.

“That’s something to keep in mind when you’re out bargain-hunting.”

bargainsCanstar found that another reliable way to ensure that you’re getting a good price is to research and keep in mind what the average shopper pays. For example, for front-load washing machines, the average shopper pays about $879. Top-loading machines tend to cost a little less, somewhere in the ballpark of $680. Clothes dryers average $531, while dishwashers are closer to $848. Refrigerators are by far the most expensive appliances, tending to cost an average $1224 each, while ovens stay in the $878 range and microwaves typically cost a measly $223.

“These are just the average amounts” reminds Doyle, “but they give you a good idea of how much you can expect to pay for these appliances… Really it’s a trade-off between cost and quality. Generally speaking, the more you’re willing to pay, the better quality you’ll get, and the longer your appliance will last.”

It’s worth noting that front-loading washing machines tend to last between six and seven years, while top-loading machines last nine or ten years. Clothes dryers and dishwashers each last somewhere in the seven- to eight-year range. Refrigerators last about a decade, and ovens last a little longer than that, scoring around 12-13 years.

“When you’re bargain-hunting this end of financial year, this is great information to go armed with,” assured Doyle. The better informed you are, the happier you’re likely to be with your new appliance.

Weather Proofing on a Budget

When it comes to home maintenance there is nothing more vital and in need of your constant vigilant attention then being on top of your weather proofing. The reason being is that weather proofing is in a constant battle with the elements they try to protect against. And for those who know that nothing is ever water proof, and we can only ever have water resistance. In a world where the costs of housing is sky rocketing and peoples most valuable assets is their home it is important to know the cost effective ways to DIY some solutions to your weather proofing needs, to ensure you are doing them right. These home improvements are easier than you think. 

1 Paint:

This is such an important one which is constantly over looked. For one there is no better defense against water and UV damage of your building materials more than the application of paint or stain in the case of decking. More over, the cost of hiring professionals in this field is astronomical so we we often put it off. This is a danger, because once you start to feel the affects of water damage it quickly snowballs out of control and only makers the problem much kljiworse. The reason being is that you will likely have to have much more time and money devoted to the issue than if you just took care of it in a regular time frame to begin with.

A good way to do this is set up some kind of calendar reminder system to ensure you are doing your painting and exterior wood maintenance in regular time tables to ensure that you don’t have any guessing work, and can do it when it is still very easy. Whether you are going to do it yourself or hire an outside party to do your water proofing make sure that it gets done by someone. If you put it off in the hopes of saving money in the short terms you are going to be hurting in the long term and paying for it some day. Not to mention, doing your own painting can be an extremely satisfying en devour. You can have a high level of success even without training or practice if you follow instructions on line and above all take your time and clean up any problems or misses as soon as they happen. Its not a bad idea to keep a wet rag ready to hand for the rookies.

2. Fixing Drafty Windows and Doors

This is another huge money pit. No matter what your house is like your door ways and windows are going to experience change and movement in some sense. Whether its the hardware that supports their function or the frame or material of them deforming over time, you are going to have to deal with a drafty home at some point. Again this is jkhyttrone you should get on right away when noticing. This is a major culprit for high energy costs as well so time is money when seeing to these repairs. With simple gasket materials or the application of chalk or insulation you can remedy these problems in an afternoon. If this is beyond your comfort level, it is wise to seek a pro, because you will save in the long term.

Install Your Wall Oven

It may seem like a daunting task, but even an idiot can install a wall oven with proper use of the internet. Here is an article to teach you how to install a wall oven.

install oven2Wall ovens are usually designed to fit within a limited number of cabinet dimensions, so the first thing you need to do is measure the cabinet opening and compare it with the oven dimensions available to you. Oven dimensions should be documented on boxes at major appliance retail chains and on the internet. If you need to enlarge the opening for your dream oven, you’re going to be much happier knowing that going into the procedure (so you can be prepared before installation) than being surprised by the unforeseen complication and potentially going without an oven until you can make the proper adjustment.

Once your dimensions are all lined up properly, you can make your way through the following steps one by one and before you know it, your oven will be installed and your mom will be impressed.

First, turn off the circuit breaker that supplies electricity to your oven. You may even want to put some tape over the circuit breaker to prevent it from being accidentally turned on, just in case another house member some how gets it in their head to flip that particular switch or your dog likes to chew on your circuit breaker.

Now you’re ready to remove the doors of your old oven, followed by removing the anchoring screws that keep the oven in place. At this point you should be able to slide or lift your oven out of its space. If you’re not a big heavy lifter or if the oven is awkwardly large for you to maneuver with, you may want to get some help with this part of the procedure.

oven installOnce the oven is removed, cut the electrical wires going to the old oven and look for an electric junction box in the back of the cabinet. In some homes the box is inside the wall, in which case you’ll have to break through the dry wall in order to access it.

Measure the dimensions of the cabinet opening and make sure that, like I stated earlier, those dimensions are going to work with the dimensions listed for your new oven. If the required opening is larger than the opening that’s been left for it, divide the difference by two and then mark and cut half that number from each side of the opening in order to make adequate room for the new hardware.

Place the new oven near the cabinet so that you can attach the armored cable to the electrical junction box but not so that the cabinet is in its final resting place. Attach a right angle clamp to the cable and twist each house wire and corresponding oven-cable wire together, securing the wires with a wire nut. This is not a good step to be sloppy with; you want to make sure you’re not doing this again or starting any fires at home.

Is Your Household Ready for Ham Radio?

If you haven’t heard of Ham radio but you want to know more, you’ve come to the right place.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ham radio is a rewarding mixture of fun, public service, friendship and convenience; amateur radio can bring you this and much more. Although no one is really quite sure where the term “ham” came from, most assume it comes from the first syllable of the word “amateur.” All in all, the amateur radio society is composed of people who enjoy communicating with each other using a wide frequency spectrum and a variety of types of wireless transmitting modes. There are over 675,000 amateur radio operators in the United States and more than 2.5 million around the world, so once you get involved, you’ll have plenty of people to talk and listen to.

Is Ham radio for you? That depends- do you like to communicate with others wirelessly and experiment socially and with technology? Are you willing to do the paperwork necessary to become a licensed amateur radio operator? If so, you may be ready to communicate with others in your county, across the country, and maybe even in outer space.

But how does it work? Amateur radio DJs (called “hams”) use a wide spectrum of frequencies to communicate, and non-hams can then listen to those frequencies using their own receivers or radio scanners. The frequencies allocated to hams are managed by the FCC for amateur use; their allotted frequency range tends to start from just over the AM broadcast band all the way up to the microwave region (in the gigaherz range). There are even ham bands tucked in the frequency range that goes from above the AM radio band (1.6 MHz) to just above the citizens band (27 MHz). These bands are often called “short-wave bands”, in reference to their short wave radio frequencies. While FM radio stations and TV stations use frequency modulation to transmit radio waves and therefore can only broadcast out to a 40 or 50 mile range, short-wave frequencies are said to “bounce” off the ionosphere from the transmitter to the receiver’s antenna- that means short-wave bands can actually broadcast at long distances.

hammSome ham radio operators aren’t trying to broadcast anything nearly as complicated as music- there are a few out there still using Morse code. Others use their voice. Then there’s those who use digital modes of communication and ham radio modems to allow that communication to reach various networks.

While a more professional radio DJ might broadcast out to 1,000 listeners, Ham radio DJ’s tend to conduct two-way conversations with another ham or even a group of hams in an informal “round table” not unlike an internet chat room. The hams may be from the same town, state, country or continent, or they may even come from a mix of any of these. Hams even form into networks, called nets, at predetermined times and frequencies in order to exchange messages. Some even exchange emergency information in case of disasters when cell service may not longer function. Wouldn’t you like a HAM radio set up in your next home?

Should You Get a High-Efficiency Dryer?

Nowadays, energy efficiency is a major factor when it comes to choosing a new home appliance. However widespread green ethics may be, it’s true that technology has taken time to develop to the point that it’s actually cost effective to purchase a resource saving device (which is when the real change is going to start happening). We’re getting close to the point that some appliances, like water-saving washing machines and energy-efficient water heaters, have started to completely beat out any of their less efficient market competitors. Are dryers the next appliance to make the list? Read on to find out.

high efThere is such a thing as a high-efficiency dryer, and the appliance’s efficiency is directly based on its ability to remove moisture from clothes using a given amount of electricity. This is generally measured in terms of how many pounds of clothing can be dried per kilowatt-hour (kWh). A number of factors affect a dryer’s efficiency, including how wet the clothes are to begin with, the air temperature inside the dryer (it works best when it’s like an oven in there, the humidity inside the dryer (which is prone to change as clothing dries) and the air flow across the clothing.

All dryers manufactured in America have to meet particular minimum efficiency requirements set by the Department of Energy. For a dryer to be labeled as energy-efficient, they must exceed those standards. You’ve probably heard or EnergyStar, the program that ensures that energy-efficient appliances are properly certified. According to EnergyStar, for an dryer to have the energy star label it must be at least 20% more efficient than a regular dryer.

And to have a dryer that’s 20% more energy efficient than the standard is actually kind of a big deal, energy-savings-wise. The dryer is the second largest energy consumer after the refrigerator, so limiting its sap of electricity is going to make a difference in your utilities bill.

Unfortunately, there’s a fair amount of ground to cover before a dryer earns that EnergyStar label. All dryers in the U.S. today use practically the same amount of energy, to the extent that Energy Star doesn’t even rate clothes dryers; it’s just a waste of time at this point in dryer technology. Until Energy Star finds a cost effective model that is at least 20% more efficient than standard models, it won’t be rating any dryers any time soon.

maytagAnd yet, surely you’ve seen dryers and even washer/dryers be advertised as energy efficient. GE, Maytag, Kenmore and Whirlpool have all claimed that their dryers are valued for their efficiency.

However, this is almost always the case with washer/dryers, in which case the washer part of the washer dryer is actually the highly efficient half. Engineers have figured out how to make washers use much less water and electricity to perform the same job, but the dryer is likely still pretty similar to one purchased decades past.

That said, there are a few models developing in Europe that might turn a few energy-efficient dryer-lovers’ heads. These are generally outfitted with heat pumps and sold in Europe.

 

Find Your Dream Oven

An oven is an oven is an oven… but you don’t have to be a gourmet chef to know that all ovens are not created equal. Here’s a guide for finding the type of oven that fits your lifestyle and will never let you down

oven3Dual Ovens; Pick a side

You may have seen your neighbors get a dual oven set up and wondered why you weren’t good enough to cook two things at once. It turns out it’s not actually a matter of personal value but of habit whether or not a dual oven is right for you. Have you ever wanted to cook turkey and pumpkin pie at the same time? You can’t do that in a single oven, you need two in order to pull it off. That’s why you should get a dual oven if you tend to make large multi-course meals all at once. If you don’t do that, then it would just be a waste of your money to buy another oven than the one you already probably don’t use that often.

2. What about Convection?

What’s the difference between convection and normal ovens again? Instead of using a radiant heat source like in a conventional oven, convection ovens use a fan to circulate the hot air in the oven for faster and more even heat distribution inside. That means you don’t have to worry about the top of the oven heating and cooking faster than the bottom, for example.

3. Have you considered Sabbath?

It’s not a weird religious ritual that will force you to give up eating live meat, it’s just a “hold” feature that some ovens come with that allows for you to keep your food warm for an extended period of time without accidentally cooking it or drying it out. That means if you need to hold dinner while you wait for someone to show up to your dinner party (Just one person, please god!), you have all the time in the world to wait 🙂

4. Doors.

A lot of cooks see it as a huge plus to be able to watch their food cook from outside the oven; that way they don’t have to open the oven doors and let out the heat just to check to see that something in the oven isn’t burning. You can also save money on wasted energy (since whenever you open the doors and let out the heat the oven then needs to reheat again, causing you to pay for extra electricity) by getting glass doors you can just peer through.

If you already own a glass door oven, consider getting the door replaced; they’ve changed the way to manufacture glass doors so that they’re easier to look through.

5. Timer features.

Wish you couoven2ld program in a delayed start that would keep your food from cooking until you’re sure you’ll be just a few minutes until you get back from the store? Or maybe you’d like to set your oven to shut off automatically when the timer goes off, making sure your fish sticks don’t incinerate if you happen to spend a little extra time on the email to your 9 year old. These are all things to keep in mind when shopping for a new oven!

A Global Take on Toilets

Different countries have different toilets, and you’d be surprised the level of variety that exists the world. If you’re American-born like myself, you may have assumed everyone uses the porcelain throne, but that’s not true. Turns out that the back-splashing seat-touching compromises that we take for granted have been avoided by other cultures with different types of toilets and, accordingly, different pro’s and con’s.

Take, for example, the squat pot (or squat toilet). This one’s a pretty simple design; it’s generally just a hole in the ground within some kind of structure made to shelter users and keep them out of sight. Toilet tissue is sometimes provided, sometimes not. Either way, the squatting stature is good for your intestines and allows to you avoid touching any seats, though it is less comfortable than sitting down.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s the bidet. This is more common in Europe, Asia and the Middle East and favored for its offer of high quality cleanliness and the absence of flushed toilet paper. It’s especially helpful for countries with antiquated pipe systems that can’t take huge amounts of TP clogging up the system. There are three types of bidets: one is built into the toilet and sprays a stream of water in the affected areas; all you have to do is activate a nozzle or button located on the bowl. Then there’s the shower/toilet combo that puts a shower head or hose in the wall above an actual toilet (which is often a squatter). Just clean and aim for the drain-like hole in the floor. Finally, there’s the old spigot and bucket. This system involves you filling up the bucket with water and pouring it over any area you want to clean.

Japanese toilets occupy perhaps the widest spectrum; it can be assumed that the most low-tech toilets occupy rural and out-of-the-way areas, but big cities have the Tesla of toilets (and advertise them as such). They tend to have Western designs, but with some impressive bells and whistles such as seat warming, body scanning, and remote-control position changing features.

Open-air urinals are becoming a thing in Europe, which has actually helped some cities tremendously in keeping their streets clean. They are generally free and often patronized as very straight-forward alternatives to the frowned upon public urination that unfortunately is commonplace in many overpopulated areas.

Then there’s the infamous on-board toilets that must be frequented at some point by any avid traveler. The bathrooms on Western airlines tend to flush using a vacuum and have no bidet option, while those on trains in Europe and Asia tend to cost money and be considerably less maintained.

pig pottyPig toilets exist in Asia, which are basically squat toilets except that the chute in which the waste is collected actually leads to a trough inside a pig pen. The pigs then eat the waste, which does work for them and allow for pig pen owners to avoid buying and growing food for pigs but is, if course, extremely disgusting to the literal and financial consumer.

Finally, there’s the shelf toilet, an oddity commonplace only in Germany, Austria and Denmark. A tiny porcelain shelf sits above the waterline in these toilets, allowing for users to examine their excrement before flushing. The shelf lowers when the toilet is flushed, allowing the waste to be eliminated.