Christmas Lighting With LEDs
I started an experiment this weekend. A local hardware store had LED lights on sale at 50% off a few weeks ago. I decided to change over my old, glass bulb Christmas lights to LED lighting. LED is an acronym for light emitting diode. A LED is a small electronic component that radiates light. LED light sets look very similar to traditional glass light sets and have many advantages. Here are a few benefits of using LED Christmas lighting:
Bulbs covering LEDs are virtually unbreakable
Safe and cool to the touch
Ultra long life (over 10 years)
All-weather / water resistant
Bright color (see below about white lights)
Use up to 90% LESS energy than traditional incandescent bulbs
Connect many more strings together than traditional light sets
I put up my LED Christmas lights this weekend and I am very impressed. I only used one extension cord for over 300 feet of lights and there is no danger of blowing a fuse. In the past I would need 3 extension cords to light my house in the same style. The LED lights look just like traditional lights but were much easier to put on the house because I wasn’t afraid of breaking them. No one can tell the bulbs are plastic. They look very nice! I plan to use extension cord reels to wrap the light strings and then store them in a moving box when I take them down. I think that will avoid tangles and make it much easier to un-wrap the lights for next year.
I can think of only a few drawbacks to using LED lighting. First is the initial expense, as LED lights are more expensive than traditional light sets. I think the energy savings and the ruggedness of the LED light sets more than make up for the cost, especially if they can be purchased on sale. Second, LEDs are not individually replaceable. I recommend plugging in the lights, before hanging, to ensure all of the LEDs light. That way the set can be returned, if there is a problem, before hanging the lights. Granted, LEDs seldom burn out but if one does, it cannot be replaced like a bulb. The way to overcome the inconvenience of a burned out LED is to slide the next LED over next to it. At night, no one will notice. Third, I noticed with my lights that there are 2 different colors of “white”. Read the label carefully because “LED white” lights look bluish when turned on where “warm white” lights look white. If you really prefer white lights get the warm white set.
If you are interested in using LED lights this Christmas, I recommend looking for sales or trade-in promotions to maximize your dollar. I think you will be very happy with this new style of lighting.
Autumn Home Maintenance Tips
The leaves have nearly all fallen and it has turned cold and rainy this weekend. If you haven’t already, is a good time to make sure the house is ready for winter. The following is a list of items anyone can perform:
Make and practice a family fire escape plan
Ensure windows and doors operate smoothly
Change the furnace filter
Inspect, dust and change batteries in smoke detectors and Carbon Monoxide detectors
Have a professional check the heating system
Clean the gutters and downspouts and make sure they are in good repair
Rake the leave away from the side of the house
Check and replace any faulty door and window seals to keep drafts out
Run lawn equipment until all of the gasoline out of the tank
Take down bird nests from the chimney flue, electrical fixtures and downspouts
Have a chimney sweep inspect and clean the chimney, especially if wood is burned
This past week has been named Fire Prevention Week 2009. The week long observance of fire safety was established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 when over 250 people died. My children’s school sent home a lot of good information about keeping children safe from fires. The local fire department also visited their school to reinforce the fire safety theme. Some topics the fire department shared with the kids were: stop, drop and roll, stay away from the charcoal grill when your parents are cooking, practice a fire drill with your family and never play with matches or lighters. It is also a good time to make sure your house has a properly charged fire extinguisher. Another good idea is to change the batteries at least once a year in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. I usually change the batteries in our alarms each year in the fall when the time changes. One last idea, if you use an electric heater, it is a good idea to keep it at least 3 feet from anything flammable.
This time of year is perfect for getting your lawn in shape. A little bit of work now will greatly benefit your lawn come springtime. Now, around Labor Day, is the time to dethatch your lawn to remove dead grass and stems that may be reducing the amount of water reaching the lawn’s roots. It is also a great time to over seed your lawn. Cool nights and warm days help the lawn grow fast. It is best to over seed and apply starter fertilizer after dethatching so the dethatching process doesn’t disturb the new seed. That way the seed can contact the ground and have a better chance of growing quickly. Dethatching and over seeding around Labor Day ensures the seed will be growing before the ground freezes and the leaf raking starts in late October. If you only fertilize once a year, the middle of October is best. It is highly recommended to use a winterizing fertilizer in the middle of fall before the grass is dormant, come Thanksgiving time.
My wife thought of this topic: “How should a person dispose of old medicines”? The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy came up with the first consumer guidelines for the proper disposal of prescription medications in February 2007. The recommended disposal of expired, unneeded, or unused medications is to take them out of the container and throw them in the trash in a bag with coffee grounds or cat letter. Medicine should not be disposed of by flushing down the toilet as most water treatment plants are not engineered to remove potentially harmful drugs from sewage. Here's the full article.
I recently saw a local TV news story about criminals “lock bumping” doors to gain entry into houses. Lock bumping is a technique where a specially cut key is put into the front of the lock (keyway). Then the key is struck “bumped” with a plastic mallet while being turned. If performed properly, this “bumping” makes the tumbler pins in the lock jump up slightly and the special key can then turn the cylinder and unlock the door. I researched the idea on Snopes. The Snopes article said key bumping is an effective way of opening a lock IF the proper key and technique is used. It also noted there are other more desirable ways for criminals to enter your home because the technique is difficult to perfect and can be a bit noisy from the mallet striking the key. If you have any doubts of the security of your locks, it is best to consult a locksmith for a consultation.
It is spring here in the Midwest, it that means tornado season. My family lives in the Kansas City metropolitan area and we have a few supplies stored in the “safe area” of our house (the basement). We have a plastic storage bin that we store a battery operated radio, flashlights, batteries, first aid kit, 12 water bottles and some snacks. We move to the basement when the situation warrants during severe weather and take our cell phones, wallets and purses. We also store our important papers in a safe. I found a lot of useful information about family preparedness kits on the American Academy of Pediatrics website. Our family reviewed all of the suggestions listed on that website and chose the applicable items for us.
It is the time of year that lawn weeds start cropping up. As it is now the middle of April, I would recommend a good ole fashioned weed fork or some “Weed-be-gon” spray to control the errant dandelion or other weed mixed in with your lawn. If you have more than a few weeds, maybe a hose end sprayer bottle of broadleaf lawn weed killer would do better. The best way to control lawn weeds is to feed your lawn regularly so it is healthy, full and robust. Weeds only grow where the seeds can land in bare spots. I have some weeds and I use the weed fork and “Weed-be-gone” spray to keep the weeds at bay. Later in mid- May, an application of lawn weed control/fertilizer applied on a dewy morning (so the weed killer sticks to the weed leaves) would be your best bet. Weed control lawn products need to be applied to moist lawns and NOT watered in like other applications. And remember, if you mulch mow your lawn, all of the fertilizer in the cut blades of grass will help the lawn grow as it settles into the ground. If you bag the lawn clippings, you are taking away some benefit of the lawn treatment and adding to the landfill space.
The spring time critter situation is in full force. I have been catching mice for a couple weeks. I use a regular wooden mouse trap and peanuts and the sticky pads. The best way I have found to trap the pests is to place the peanut end of the trap ( or the long end of the sticky pads) near a wall. Mice tend to run along walls so their wiskers can feel the way in the dark. Mice are more active in darkness. If you want to repel mice, the best way I have found is to use a cotton ball and a couple drops of pure peppermint oil. Mice really avoid the smell of peppermint. Mothballs are also a good deterrent for mice and ground squirrels. I usually put mothballs near the foundation of my house (under the mulch) so they will stay away. If I find a ground squirrel tube, I fill up the hole with a dozen or so mothballs.
A lot of people have asked me how to dispose of Compact Flourescent (spiral) lightbulbs. Most people know they contain the element Mercury (Hg) which is a hazard to the environment. I did a bit of research on the Government's "Energystar" website so I could share some disposal tips for CFLs. The most recently made CFLs contain approximately 1.5-2.5 mg. of mercury. For a comparison, old mercury thermometers contain about 500 mg. of the element. Most of the mercury in a CFL is bound to the inside of the spiral glass as the bulb is used. The most eco-friendly way to dispose of a CFL is to recycle it. I looked at www.earth911.org and found that all of the Home Depot stores in my area (Kansas City, MO) as well as local recycling centers will accept the used, unbroken bulbs for recycling. If you have a CFL that has broken, I recommend visiting the Energystar website to view the recommended cleaning procedures.