Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Don't Fall for Woodworking Gimmicks (Mighty Putty)

There's a lot of woodworking tips out there but I prefer the ones that meet two criteria - they are easy to implement and they save money. After all, there's a huge market re-selling an item as a "miracle product" when in fact it's just a regular product with new marketing.

Take TV hawker Billy May's newest offering, for instance. "Mighty Putty"? I don't think so. The only new thing about that product is the name. It's been around for a long time, and at a much cheaper price than he sells it for. It's just been a low-key product.

So don't just grab the phone when you see one of these goofy ads. Do your research and avoid the ginzu knife syndrome. Always do your research.

Monday, February 11, 2008

More on Deck Building - Setting Posts

My series of articles on deck building that I anticipated going, maybe, three articles, has taken on a life of its own! Have I created a monster? You decide. The latest installment (the fifth) is on the fine art of digging the holes and setting the posts in concrete.

Outdoor Construction

The timing of these articles was deliberate. I knew there was a lot of material to cover and that many DIY'ers haven't done much outdoor construction. It's important that all the info gets out there so that once spring arrives, my readers won't have to sit around drumming their fingers waiting on my lazy self.

And it's a good thing that I started early - as I said, there was more material than I thought. For instance, all my outdoor construction has been done here in sunny South Texas. It came as a surprise to me that things such as the frost line had to be considered when determining post depth. (Yes, I do research; I don't just make this stuff up!)

Readers Clamor for Deck Embellishments

Yes, reader feedback is a good thing. I've received, via email, some good suggestions for topics. For example, a surprising number have asked for embellishments like fancy railings, bench seats with storage compartments, and options for hot tubs. All of this is coming after the basics have been covered.

A few readers have commented that I've put in too much detail but better too much than too little, as Shrek would say. So keep the suggestions coming. Contact me via the Home Reno & Repair site or my email, kelly.smith.1@gmail.com. Until then, keep your powder dry!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Fluorescent Lights and Ethanol

I've blogged about the wisdom of tweaking your home for energy saving in the past. I guess I'm just kind of a nut on the issue. Something to do with keeping more of my own money, I think. But now it seems it's not just a suggestion. The most recent energy bill put out by President Bush mandates it.

The Energy Bill Tightens up Energy Conservation

Just how does it do that? For one thing, incandescent light bulbs are being phased out. Of course, you don't have to run out and do it tomorrow; the time period is four to twelve years, whatever that means. Sounds a bit ambiguous and vague to me. Oh wait, that's government talking to us.

So what do we replace them with? Either fluorescent lights, low voltage halogens, or LED bulbs. They're making some good progress on LED light bulb clusters. I changed the bulb in my Mag light to LED and it's kind of cool. (Yes, the color is too!)

Another change is taking a stronger stance on Energy Star-rated appliances. That just makes sense. If you're going to replace something anyway, you might as well do so in a way that saves you money down the road. Otherwise, it's kind of like buying dull razor blades!

Speaking of Energy, Ethanol Stinks

Ok, I probably riled someone up with that statement - but it's true. At least it's true in the good 'ol USA. That's because we use corn. It takes more energy to produce a gallon of ethanol than it delivers on the road. And it delivers 10% fewer MPG! So in this case the government is asking us to waste energy. But I guess that's political correctness for you.

The Brazilians nailed it though. They use sugar cane which is a tremendous ROI. We just can't grow as much of it here. And speaking of using so much corn to crank out ethanol, the organically raised cows aren't getting their fair share.

So what are organic cowboys supplementing with? Soy beans. We can't keep up there either. So we're importing them from our favorite trading partner, ahem, China! It's ironic that given all the poison toothpaste and lead-painted toys they send us, that we think the cows are staying organic.