What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)


Monday, December 31, 2007


Garden Gnome
© 2007


Monday, December 24, 2007



Garden Gnome
© 2007


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Winterizing Project #4 - Door Snakes

Door thresholds can be chilly even if the door is well sealed and insulated. Not only does cold air fall to the threshold area, thresholds are often made of metal that is a good conductor of cold. The simple solution to this problem is a door snake aka draft stop. I prefer to not call these draft stops because ideally there will not be any drafts around the door or at the threshold.

Door snakes can be purchased to fit average sized doors. Some are plain Jane but there are some really cute ones that have faces on or are made to look like animals. However, finding door snakes for patio doors or off sized doors can be a problem. The easiest solution is to make your own. That way you will have a custom made door snake that meets your needs.

Method

This is an ideal project whether you own your home or are renting. It is one of those things you can easily take with you when you move. The first step is to measure the spot where you are putting the door snake (1). If it is an inside application as here, add 2 inches to the end plus the seam allowances to give a bit of bend to fit both doors. If the application is for a single door, measure from the edge of the trim furthest from the door. Cut a length of fabric this length and 16 - inches wide. Fold the fabric in half along the long side.

You will need a sewing machine for this project. Mine happens to be a very loved, well maintained, older Brother (2) that my Mom gave me for my thirteenth birthday. It works as well as the day I got it. The only thing that has changed is the skill of the user! Start at one open end and working along the long side, sew a seam 5/8 - inch wide (3), reinforcing at each end. Repeat along the bottom open end and up the remaining long side. Cut across from the short end to the long end about 1/4 - inch from the reinforced corners to reduce the seam bulk when you turn the tube. Turn the tube and fill leaving about 2 inches. Turn 5/8 - inch inwards. Sew the end closed.

Filling the tube is rather easy but choose your filling based on your circumstances. Dried corn, rice or peas are cheap fillers but should not be used if you have a rodent problem or a potential rodent problem. If the door snake will be in an area where it may get wet, grains my mold too. Aquarium gravel can be used that will eliminate both problems but is more expensive. I decided to use kitty litter that will eliminate any rodent problems and is less expensive but can be a slight problem if it gets wet. Drying out well should solve any wetting problems. A layer of plastic can be sewn into the tube if moisture is a concern.

Finished Door Snake

The finished door snake for a patio door is quite heavy. It is higher than a store bought door snake so it comes up higher on the door. The extra length allows for a bend for patio doors. Using the door snake is quite easy. Lay it along the doors creating any bends as necessary. Once in place, lightly kick the snake to snug up against the doors.

On an unused patio door, the door snake will not get dirty enough to worry about. At the end of the season, gather up the snake and store as is. If the snake has become dirty, you can remove the end stitches, empty and wash the covering or you can simply make a new slip covering for the snake to fit into, much like a miniature, elongated pillow case.

DIY Skills: beginner level with beginner level sewing skills

Materials:

length of firm woven fabric
filler

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Winterizing Project #3 - Window Sill Insulator

Window sills, especially wider ones, can be cool even if the window is well sealed. The reason this happens is because the window pane itself is always colder than the frame or wall. Cold air is heavier than warm air so falls to the window sill where it pools. If the window frame happens to be metal, the sill can be even cooler. On narrow window sills this effect is counteracted by using window treatments however on some windows, heavy window treatment is not desirable during the day, usually because of a great view. These include bay windows, picture windows and larger sliding windows.

Our walls are about 18 - inches thick on the lower level so we have deep window sills. We would prefer leaving those widows with the water view uncovered. We've all seen it where the homemaker tries to compensate this cooling effect by rolling up a towel or sheet and placing it along the window sill. While this can be low cost and effective, aesthetically it isn't very appealing. I came up with a simple window sill insulator that is inexpensive, easy to make and looks nicer than a rolled up towel. With care, it can be used for several years. The fabric covering is optional but I think it will protect the insulator and it can easily be changed to suit your decor.

Before (1) & With Foam (2)

Measure the area you want to insulate (1). Transfer the measurements to the sheet of foam. Draw the lines in using the Sharpie marker. Using the utility knife carefully cut outside the line. This way you will be able to make small adjustments as necessary. Fine cut along the edges until the foam fits snugly into the spot (2).

Attaching Fabric

Remove the foam and lay good side up on the wrong side of the fabric you are using . Working on the wrong side of the fabric cut around the foam leaving 3-inches on each side (3). Along each edge of the foam, fold the fabric up and secure at intervals using push pins. The corners need to have a square cut out then one side of the corner folded and hot clued before gluing the other portion of the corner (4). This eliminates too much bulk on the corners. Once the corners are secured, hot glue each short end. Then glue one long end, working from one push pin to the next and removing each push pin as the fabric is secured. Repeat along the other long end but pull the fabric slightly and secure by hot gluing (5). If you wish, you can cut another piece of fabric to fit just the bottom then secure by hot gluing but this is not really necessary. Now turn the insulator over and pop into place.

Finished Insulator

The finished insulator in place looks quite nice. I like that it can be popped in and out when needed and can be customized with other fabrics. Slight wrinkles may occur at inner corners if you have them. It will take a day or two for these wrinkles to flatten or they can be carefully flattened using a medium warm iron. If using this method you may have to weigh the insulator down for a few minutes after ironing.

DIY level: beginner level skills

Total Cost: approximately $10

Materials

1 half sheet Styrospan R 5 foam board
piece of firm material of your choice
Sharpie marker
measuring tape
utility knife
straight edge
scissors
push pins
hot glue gun
multi-temperature glue sticks

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Monday, November 5, 2007

Winterizing Project # 2 - Easy Window Cover

Many of us have a window that has no real view and the only values are air filtration or light. Often it is for light only and quite often is in a location where conventional window covering isn't quite appropriate. So what is needed is a covering that can give added insulation for the winter yet can be removed for the summer. Ideally the window covering is inexpensive and easy to install.

The Window

We have two such windows. They are good quality windows that are well sealed so could be left as is but I want a bit more insulation factor. They are at ground level meaning if we have any amount of snow they will be covered. I could not find any air leaks on either window but if you have a window like this check the spots marked by the arrows. If needed caulk these with clear silicone if wood stained or paintable caulk. On older windows check all weather stripping on the windows to be sure you have an air tight seal. Finally, lock the window to ensure a tight seal.

I adapted this idea from winterizing my greenhouse in my previous garden. This is an effective, low cost and energy efficient solution for some windows. Bubble wrap lets the light in while adding insulation to the north wall. When done properly on house windows it give the effect of frosted glass while adding insulation value. It is easily removed and if you store properly you can re-use for a couple of years. This is a project that can be adapted for any sized window.

Materials

Materials:

clear silicone caulk
latex caulk
indoor shrink window film
bubble wrap
weather tape
scissors
caulk gun
tape measure

Clean the window pane with a 1:1 vinegar solution. Dry well. Seal the window as necessary with the caulk. Cut the two sided tape in the window kit to fit the window. This should leave you enough tape to attach the optional window film if you choose. Carefully place the tape around the window. Do not remove the other protective side. Cut the bubble wrap to fit. Remove the protective side and carefully attach the bubble wrap to the tape, keeping taunt and wrinkle free. Press the bubble wrap firmly into the tape. From there you can leave as is, add a finish edging or for added energy efficiency hang a curtain if desired.

Finished

The first thing you will notice about my window covering is there is a seam. The seam is joined with weather tape. I don't mind the seam because I am likely going to be the only one seeing the window and I am using up bubble wrap left over from winterizing the greenhouse. This picture was taken after dark but during daylight hours there is the same visibility of lightly frosted glass but the insulation value is greater.

As mentioned this window is already very well sealed but if you have a leaky window and can't seal with caulk, then after the bubble wrap is installed place a layer of shrink film on the inside window trim. Shrink for clarity with the bubble wrap between the window and inside surface. This will cut any draft unless it is coming from around the trim. You now have an energy efficient, low cost window treatment that allows the light in at the same time.

DIY: a novice DIYer could easily do this project.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Hallowe'en



Garden Gnome
© 2007


Monday, October 22, 2007

Winterizing Project #1 - Creating a Windbreak Enclosure

Sheet plastic is a good way to winterize three season sunrooms, porch areas, entrances and under decks. It is an inexpensive DIY project that can save considerably on your heating costs by blocking the effects of cold winds. While this is an inexpensive, one season solution it need not look cheap. Take your time to do a nice finishing then enjoy the energy savings.

This project is especially useful for creating air blocks, keeping the cold air from cooling poorly insulated walls and entrance ways. It will not provide insulation but the enclosed area can act as a solar heat sink depending on the location. You can maximize the heat gain by adding home made solar heaters. I'll do an article shortly on how to make these yourself. The entire area need not be enclosed to get a benefit either as long as the portion where the winter winds hit is blocked. You can also modify the application for providing a wind block for problematic windows. You can add another layer of plastic on the inside of the closure if desired. This will create a somewhat sealed air enclosure giving a little insulation value. One roll will be enough for applying for two or three years. You will need to use a fresh application but the plastic from the previous year can be used as drop cloths or recycled in other ways. Material, tools and method follow.


Interior Before & After

Our house is a two level, semi-earth bermed house on waterfront property. The first level enclosed sunporch faces west, spans almost the entire upper west wall and covers the lower level open patio. We suspect there is little insulation in that wall that will be corrected when we renovate the sunporch. We wanted to use this room for entertaining as a smoking area during the winter months. At the same time we wanted to preserve the view (1) but want to wait until spring before we start any renovations on the sunporch. So we really wanted a temporary, inexpensive winterizing solution.

We enclosed all three sides of the sunporch including the door on the outside. Once the plastic was up (2) there was a small effect on the view but for the most part it isn't intrusive. We may put a second layer of the plastic inside that would affect the view more if we feel it will help. Essentially this was installed as an effective windbrake to prevent the cold winds from hitting the upper west wall. This wall will get the late afternoon sun so the space will provide solar heat gain for that area. The patio doors leading to the sunporch can be left open during sunny spells allowing the heat into the upper level.

Outside

The plastic (green arrow) was installed around the outer three walls of the sunporch using a staple gun. The door was covered separately so it could still be used during the winter months. Once the plastic was secured, strips of 1" x 2" (red arrow) were screwed around the perimeter of each wall of the sunporch. This will prevent the plastic tearing from the staples during higher winds and give the plastic a finished look.

The overall effect was immediate. It was a very windy day when the guys were on ladders installing the plastic. The games room opens into the sunporch via patio doors. Just by blocking the wind, the games room warmed up even though the furnace wasn't on. However, the real effect came when the sun hit the sunporch. We opened the patio doors to let the free heat pour into the house. As the temperature drops we will be able to enjoy the free solar gain and energy savings.

DIY: A novice DIYer could complete this project.

Materials:
1 roll medium mil clear plastic
1" x 2" x 8' wood strips
1 ¾" screws

Tools:
utility knife
screw driver (cordless works nicely!)
ladder (depending on location)
hand saw
pencil
tape measure

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day - The Environment & Windows





Today over fifteen thousand blogs with twelve million readers will be blogging on one topic - The Environment. Each of my blogs are participating, each from a different perspective so be sure to read them all.

As mentioned in a previous entry, I will be focusing on DIY winterizing projects that are inexpensive yet effective ways of saving more energy. Every time we reduce the amount of energy we use, we reduce our personal carbon footprint. This is a measurement of the impact human activities have on the environment. This measurement is determined by the amount of greenhouse gases produced in units of carbon dioxide (grams of CO2 equivalents).

On a personal level, we can do something to reduce our especially in and around our homes. All the energy saving activities you do like turning off lights and using compact fluorescent bulbs reduce the amount of energy you use. Not only are you saving money but you are reducing your impact on the environment. So as I get the winterizing projects posted, please consider using one or more of them. I'm sure you will enjoy making and using them as well as the additional energy savings.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Well Stocked Pantry

Even though I can year round, this is the time of year where I begin to see my efforts from preserving over the busier canning season. There's new foods that I haven't canned before put up along with the old, tried and true. I'm no where near finished yet but progress is being made.

The first reaction I get when someone first sees my pantry is sheer surprised usually followed by why? Keeping a well stocked pantry is important to me on many levels. First and foremost, it is a way of putting wholesome foods that are not laden with excess salt, preservatives and refined sugars. Many of the vegetables are home grown so storing the excess becomes a concern. It is a huge money saver because the food is right there ready to use instead of having to run to the store. This was very convenient when the kids were small and now we live in a rural area even more convenient. The pantry also saves money because I only stock up on certain foods when in season or on sale. A well stocked pantry is environmentally sound practice as well. Finally there is security in knowing there is enough food to feed ourselves comfortably for extended periods of time as well as help others if needed.

My goal is to maintain somewhere between a one to two year supply of food in the pantry. I'm pretty much on track. So here are a few pictures of my pantry as it is as of yesterday. There will be a few changes as the canning continues and we stock up on apples, potatoes and root vegetables to be eaten fresh. We will also be doing a restock on a few things from Sam's Club

The pantry is on the lower level under the stairs. It is a nice size room but the ceiling is low and has duct work running through it. The open beams will be perfect for hanging drying herbs next year! To the right as you enter the pantry there is a small supply of beverages (1). The paneling slide hides a nice storage area for empty jars. A small metal shelf unit beside the freezers (2) holds miscellaneous odds and ends. The space between is just perfect for cases of bottled water. The two freezers hold mainly meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and make-ahead meals I prepare in bulk. As you can see, I even use the floor space. In front of one freezer is a box of salsa, flour and rice (3). The shelves hold a wide variety of home canned foods with every thing from beans, fruits, vegetables and meats to soups and stews. The smaller white shelf unit will be replaced shortly with an industrial version of the smaller metal shelves giving me more storage space. A smaller shelf unit (4) holds more home preserved foods along with a few of the commercial items I need. In front are potatoes, squash and pumpkin waiting for processing.

A microwave stand (5) fit perfectly just inside the door facing the entry. It was ideal for storing cookbooks and some necessary equipment the the essential pressure canner. Hanging racks increase the storage. Pasta is temporarily being stored in the breakfast island base cabinets (6) on one side and spices (7) on the other side. The pasta is waiting to be vacuum sealed as soon as I have time. Then it will be moved to the pantry as well. My dried pasta supply is on the low side right now so I need to do a restock. A good supply of spices along with other seasonings like hot sauce (8) make food interesting so I keep a good store on hand.

This is my actual herb and spice cabinet. I consider this part of my pantry stores even though it is not stored in the actual pantry. It houses a host of dried herbs, mainly home grown. The top shelf holds a range of dried vegetable powders to be used as flavour boosters or in the case of dried zucchini as a natural thickener. The other shelves hold a variety of home dried and dried herbs and seasonings.

There are two more food cupboards in the kitchen, one for teas and coffees the other for commercial products like tuna, oils and mustards. I didn't take pictures because by now this entry is getting long and you are likely getting bored. As you can see from my pantry, the emphasis is on homemade and buying in bulk. Both will save you a considerable amount of money while they put good, healthy food on the family table. You can also see that a well stocked pantry need not be fancy but it does need to be well organized.

Well, my jars of ground beef are almost ready to take out of the canner so I best end this lengthy entry. Hopefully this has helped my readers understand the importance of a well stocked pantry. I do hope you will set up a pantry of your own. You won't regret it!

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Friday, October 12, 2007

Winterizing Begins


Snow Over the Water
February 2, 2005

Beautiful scenes like this will be common here shortly bringing with them howling winds, below freezing temperatures along with snow, ice and higher energy bills. The ADFF has passed and while we haven't had a frost yet, the air has turned cold. We have had the gas fireplace on a couple of times to take the chill off the family room so it won't be long before we have to put the furnace on. This photo was taken a couple of years ago at our old house. The house had virtually little wind block, was poorly insulated and received the full force of the north winds. A lot of winterizing was needed to make the house as energy efficient as possible. This house is well protected from the wind, is partially earth bermed and in general a much sturdier, better sealed house that appears to be fairly well insulated. This house benefits from the cooling effects of the water in the warm months and will also benefit from the warming effects of mainly open water in the winter. This will be our first winter in this house so I've already been busy looking for and sealing air leaks.

The heaviest canning season is almost finished. The pantry is well stocked as are the freezers so I will be able to focus on winterizing both indoors and outdoors. My husband will winterize the vehicles and boat which is being lifted out of the water the week of the twenty second. We will be removing lawn furniture and garden decorations. These will be cleaned then stored. We are debating doing the same for the solar lights as they not withstand the freezing temperatures. This is the time of year when it is very important to make sure bird feeders are kept full to encourage the birds to return to your gardens the following spring. We will also be mulching and making necessary preparations inthe gardens for the cold weather.

Why should we winterize our homes? Winterizing is an important way of getting the most for your energy dollars. It makes our homes more comfortable as well. The main energy savers are to insulate, caulk, weatherstripping, replacing old windows and replace old heating systems with energy efficient ones. Do check for rebates and grants if you need to replace your furnace, air conditioning or major appliances. The Home Energy Retrofit Program (Canada) offers a maximum $5000 grant on qualifying purchases. Natural Resources Canada lists details and links various rebates and incentives for selected Energy Star® qualified products in Canada. For one reason or another these may not be possible especially for those living in rented accommodations or those on fixed incomes making it difficult to keep the rising energy costs in check. Landlords in particular often frown upon tenants making permanent changes even if they will help save energy. This is where winterizing can help, Winterizing involves more than the basics to make your home more energy efficient. They tend to be frugal DIY projects and versatile projects that improve your home's energy efficiency. Many of the winterizing projects can be used in rental units as well. They can be taken with you if you move making them ideal.

Windows can present several problems that result in thermal heat loss even if they are energy efficient sealed double pane. The first step of course should be stopping all air leaks either by caulking and/or weatherstripping or using the popular shrink plastic. The second step is creating a barrier to thermal heat loss through the window pane itself. This is where you can have a little fun! Doors can also give a cold zone at the threshhold even if they are insulated and properly weatherstripped. Patio doors can be worse at thermal heat loss because of their large expanse of glass. I'll be making a few posts over the next couple of weeks with some easy to make, inexpensive sewing projects that I will be using for our windows and doors. I also have a couple of easy DIY, inexpensive non-sewing projects for windows. So check back over the next couple of weeks for these projects.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Monday, October 8, 2007

Thanksgiving



Garden Gnome
© 2007


Monday, September 10, 2007

Creepy Crawlies

We have creepy crawlies! This is to be expected living on the water in a house surrounded by lush vegetation. Given our house is earth bermed with at least three windows at ground level and patio doors, the conditions are very favourable for insects getting indoors. For the most part I do not mind creepy crawlies in the garden but I do mind them in the house. As with any pest whether in the garden or house the first step is identifying to determine if they are beneficial or harmful. The second step is removal if harmful, poisonous or invading the house. The third step is prevention.

Creepy Crawlies

There are several spider species here ranging from very small to a couple of larger, ominous looking ones. Daddy Longleg and Cobweb (Pholcus phalangioides) spiders are quite abundant as well (not pictured). I think the smaller one on the right is a Domestic Spider (Achaearanea tepidariorum) a common but harmless spider found around the home. I haven't identified the larger spider on the left yet. We also have centipedes that do have a poisonous bite, menacing looking earwigs, pillbugs and numerous smaller beetles.

For the most part, identification has been made. This is important when mounting a plan of attack with prevention being a key part of the attack. Spiders almost always construct their webs in areas where there is a draft. Centipedes are predators to spiders so eliminate the spiders and the centipede go away. Earwigs and centipedes like moist, dark areas. I'm not sure what attracts pill bugs as they just seem to march along. Ants are generally attracted by a food source.

My plan of attack after identification starts with elimination. This means removing any and all creepy crawlers usually by manual methods. Any heavy infestations may need to be controlled by chemical means. The next step is prevention which includes eliminating food sources, hiding spots, nesting areas, along with any other attractors as well as sealing entry points. The following highlights some of the measures I'm taking for our situation. It will be an ongoing project that will require constant vigilence but less action over time.

Materials Needed:

  • glass jars with lids
  • paintable caulk
  • caulking gun
  • expandable spray foam
  • broad spectrum insecticide (Bio-Mist by green earth)
  • specific insecticides (Spider Ban by CIL, Raid Max by Johnson)
  • pressurized sprayer
  • safety equipment - mask, disposable gloves

Elimination Methods:

If the insect is something harmless like a cricket then the easiest thing to do is catch it an release. It is quite helpful to mark any entry points if you can see them. In the case of spiders I always tag the area with a post-it note before removing the spider. These are areas where air is infiltrating so need further attention. A vacuum cleaner is ideal for sucking up these kinds of critters too whether dead or alive. If need be use a spray like Raid Max to quickly kill off larger numbers of the creepy crawlies but only use this method if you can't eliminate them manually without chemicals. One creating but satisfying gadget is the Bug Zapper.

Bug Zapper

I have a hand held bug zapper as one way to manually take care of creepy crawlies. This is a nifty little gadget When the button on the side is pushed the wires electrocute the insect that can then be vacuumed up. Warning: This gadget looks like a toy but should be kept well away from children. It can do serious harm. Never touch the metal wire whether the unit is on or not. For your protection ground the unit before storing. Ok, so that's the high tech, slightly sadistic way of dealing with creepy crawlies and it does work.

Prevention:

The first rule of thumb is to keep the invaders out. Build up your defenses so they can't get in and if they do the environment is such that they will want to move on.

little things: I'm very careful to hang anything that is wet or damp whether it is for the laundry or not. If left on the floor or laundry hamper it provides the perfect spot for earwigs. I store all dried foods in sealable glass containers that prevent any pests from getting into. The kitchen floor and countertops are kept squeeky clean. Garbage is taken out nightly. I also careful to vacuum regularily something that would be done anyway.

sprays: Once you have the creepy crawlies out of the house you want to prevent more from getting in. I use a few methods for this. Spiders can be controlled indoors and outdoors by using a product called SpiderBan by CIL, a rapid knock-down product. This product contains Permethrin and while it has low mammalian toxicity, caution is needed. There is a residual effect so it keeps working after dry. To use dilute 20 ml into 1 L of water. Put it in a sprayer and spray areas until wet. Indoors focus on baseboards, cracks or other areas where spiders hide. I decided not to use this product indoors if at all possible but I did use it outdoors spraying liberally the areas around windows and doors as as any areas that I found spiders on the house. I plan on repeating this treatment at least once before the cold weather sets in. Bio Mist, a broad spectrum and rapid knock-down product by earth green is ideal for controlling centipede and earwig infestations. It is used much the same way as SpiderBan is used except it is for outdoor treatment. Remove any decaying vegetation. Mulched areas near the house should be sprayed as should bushes. Special attention should be paid to cracks and crevices. If the infestation is bad, call in a pest control company that will do a knock-out then proceed to preventing further infestations. Note: When using sprays follow the instructions and use safety equipment.

sealing: Cracks, holes and gaps allow insects and other pests to enter your home. At the same time they cost you money by letting causing drafts and letting heating air out. So it makes good economical sense all the way around that these entry points need to be sealed. The easiest way to do this is to caulk. Keep a tube of caulk ready to go so that you can seal cracks as you notice them. Outside, remove old caulk and re-caulk. Pay special attention to gaps around pipes or wires entering the house. For larger cracks or gaps, use and expandable spray foam.

We have already noticed a dramatic decrease in spiders and centipedes in the house using these methods. I'm sure I hit at least one breeding spot for the centipedes as since spraying we've found two dead and two alive. The last one is thought to have come in through the kitchen window left open at night. It's at ground level and the centipede was in the sink. I've since sprayed the area around the kitchen window again and so far no other centipedes have been spotted. With diligence I'm sure we can keep the creepy crawlers out in the gardens where they belong!


Garden Gnome
© 2007


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Let's Talk Sod

When we decided to by this house we had the main goal of buying waterfront property for family use. If you have read any of my other blogs you will know what a strong emphasis we put on family. We loved the look of the new backyard aka our outdoor living space that ends at the water's edge and has a park-like setting but we knew we would have to make some modifications. While during the week it is my husband and I at home the kids are home so there are usually nine of us but with the soon to be new additions that number will be thirteen. We do a lot of entertaining that includes extended family members and friends so we often have thirty or more for weekend outdoor events. Since the water plays a large roll too, it was important to use to create a comfortable and useable outdoor living space.

Before

Unfortunately the backyard was quite overgrown. The larger picture shows part of the backyard and deck after we removed a large forsythia bush that prevented entry onto the dock (1) and raise the tree bonnets so we could see the water. Removing the bush made the dock useable but we needed to repair the area in front of the dock. Under all the trees there were small, overgrown gardens (2) with five cedar bushes surrounding one (3) silver maple. The cedar bushes were mosquito and spider magnets. An old and neglected pathway of stepping stones (4) led to the dock but we decided they had to go as well.

Prep work including removing all of the overgrown gardens, cedar bushes (3) and stepping stones. Not shown in the picture is a circle about 6' diameter at the start of the stepping stones that originally was paved with a fountain the original owner somehow forgot to leave behind. Removal of the vegetation took a few days and a few trips to a relative's burn pile. The cement was recycled for errosion control by a friend. The cleaned areas were raked well and topped with top soil just before laying the sod.

The sod came in rolls on a flatbed trailer and yes it is heavy (5). This is a DIY project but because of the time factor getting the house ready for the anniversary party, we hired it out. The weather was working against us, very hot and humid. Once part of the sod was laid where the cedar bushes had been (6) we knew we had made the right decision. New picnic tables (7) were assembled for the party (more on that later).

The sod was looking rather sad during the installation process (1). The temperatures were blistering hot and the summer had been unseasonably dry that I think the only thing that saved the existing grass was the copious amounts of shade. I took a picture from the upper sunporch of our newly gained yard space that hopefully would be ready in time for our anniversary party.

The sod went in on the Thursday before the anniversary party so we kept the water going until late Sunday afternoon. The sod was practically swimming! We let the ground firm from then until the party. While it did not look like a pristine, well manicured lawn it was considerably better than it had been and held up well with the extra traffic of almost seventy people. The following day we watered in the morning only then continued doing that for the following five days.

Now

This is not the best picture as it was taken from the upper level sunporch through the screen. The numbers show all the areas where we sodded. As you can see the space is now expanded to fit our needs. The sod is doing nicely and thanks to Mother Nature we haven't had to water as much. Oh and just up from 5 we removed an entire small garden something I forgot about when preparing the picture.

It is always very important to us to create an appealing outdoor livingspace for our family and friends wherever we live. We are very pleased with the results so far. In the spring we will be working in more vegetation, mainly herbs around the perimeter but keeping the centre portion open and user friendly. An overgrown sloping garden with English Ivy ground cover will more than likely be replaced with an herbal garden since it is close to the kitchen. We've decided to keep what vegetables we are growing out of the backyard ares and while that is proving to be a bit more challenging it fits in our scheme of creating a warm, welcoming and functional area to entertain larger groups of of family and friends.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Welcome Back



I want to express my apologies to my faithful readers. For some reason the Blogger robots flagged this blog as a spam blog. Despite several attempts it has taken me almost seven days to get this blog back online. I will be mirroring this blog at another location so this type of thing does not happen again. In the meantime, welcome back!

So many things have happened since I was locked out of my own blog. The house is progressing nicely so watch for several posts as to what we have done. I'm not even sure where to begin as we have done a lot. The most exciting is I now have satellite internet (aka high speed) instead of dial-up. I'll make a post explaining the costs and why this was our only immediate choice. Please stay tuned for tomorrow's post.


Garden Gnome
© 2007


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dishwasher Installation

Over the past eighteen months, we have replaced all of our major appliances. Energy efficiency and function have been the top deciding factors. In an earlier entry on Shopping for a Dishwasher I indicated we had narrowed down our choices for the new dishwasher. After considerable reseach we decided on the Bosch SHE44C02UC instead of the SHE44Co5UC. The installation was a planned DIY project with the help of our son-in-law who recently installed model SHE33C in their home.

Bosch SHE44C02UC

We chose the Bosch SHE44C02UC based on energy efficiency, features and lack of features. This is a tall tub model with stainless steel interior and nylon coated racks. A flow-through heater heats the water temperature to 161ºF. One of the first questions we have been asked is does the additional cost of a Bosch warrant it? We think so.

The dishwasher is reported to be one of the quietest in North America. Our kitchen opens onto the family room so noise level was a consideration. We were impressed with the condensation drying freature that hygienically dries the dishes without a heating element making it very energy efficiency. If using a gas hot water heater this model uses 315 kWh/year. We pay 5.5¢ per kWh but with the service charges the total price per kWh is about 11¢. This dishwasher will cost us approximately $25.58 per year to operate based on the Energy Star rating based on average usage without factoring in the cost of dishwashing detergent.

There were certain features we were not interested in. Similar dishwashers had a delay start and china setting. We had both of these features on the dishwasher at our old home and never used them.

The manufacturer's instructions indicate that a rinse agent must be used even if you use a detergent with a rinse agent included. They also specify using powdered detergent but tabs can be used if desired. Powdered detergent has less packaging so environmentally is friendlier plus it generally is more economical. This dishwasher uses less water as well so you need less detergent. The recommended amount is 1 tbsp (15 ml) for most loads to a mizimum of 3 tbsp (45 ml) if you have hard water. Liquid, gel or using too much detergent can damage dishware and cause etching in glassware.

The Old

The old dishwasher was an ancient KitchenAid with a rusted through tub (1). The dishwasher is in this condition due to neglect by the former owner of our home even though when it was installed it was a higher end unit. We had considerable debate where to install the dishwasher. We had the existing location (1) and the location where the built-in oven (2) was. Finally we decided to install in the existing location. In order to install the new dishwasher the old dishwasher had to be removed. We removed the built-in oven at the same time.

Removing the old dishwasher proved to be a bit more difficult that the built-in oven. My husband and son-in-law spent a good couple of hours removing this beast. It was heavy as well. The electricity to both areas had to be turned off. The electricity to the dishwasher needed to be hardwired while the electricity to the old oven was disconnected at the panel then removed. Once both appliances were removed, it was time for the cabinet prep.

Cabinet Prep

The dishwasher connections can be seen in the existing cabinet (1). The cabinet from the built-in oven (2) is being turned into either shelving or drawers but the drawer idea is winning out. We have a cabinet maker who will make matching fronts. There was a little sealing work to do but not a lot in the existing cabinet.

A closer look around the window and patio door areas show the depth and the paint colour. The wall area by the microwave is the only real wall in the kitchen to be painted. The new countertop is scheduled to be installed hopefully before Aug 6. The backsplash is being tiled with an aqua glass tile as soon as the countertop is installed. I feel like I'm on one of those shows with a time limit for renovations!

Installed

The dishwasher installed (1) looks wonderful! The guys ran into a problem with drainage since the old dishwasher drainage was practically blocked. That had to be removed and replaced. The almost 1 foot deep windowsill and patio door trim (3) has been painted with Behr Tide Pools to create a shadow effect to the walls painted Country Mist.

I would like to address the much advertised quietness of this machine. It is quite quiet but there is still some noise so don't expect not to hear anything. Still it is very, very quiet. All in all, we are very happy with our decision of buying this dishwasher and installing it ourselves.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Monday, July 23, 2007

Electrical Problems


Hydro One Workers
July 17, 2007

The saga of our electrical problems continued...

In a previous entry I detailed how we tested an marked all the electrical receptacles for problems. Since most were on the rather old side we decided to replace all receptacles and switches. We had hoped that this would solve our brownouts and to some degree replacing the kitchen receptacles and switches helped but did not eliminate the brownouts nor did it help with the power surge followed by a brownout then back to normal whenever the dryer was started. The dryer is a gas Whirlpool Duet less than a year old that I talked about in a previous entry. Electricity is need for the electronic control of the dryer so we knew it should not create this type of problem.

Part of being a good DIYer is knowing when to hire professionals. There is a lot of household repairs my husband and myself can do many gained by renovating a turn of the century home several years back. One of the first things we learned with that project is sometimes it is better to hire a professional. It is certainly false frugality to attempt a repair yourself that is beyond your abilities and has the potential to put your family or property at risk. The brownouts and power surges were a concern so we called our electrician. He has worked with us for almost 20 years and did portions of the rewiring in the house previously mentioned. Whenever we run into an electrical problem beyond our abilities we call him. I showed him the problems and he said he needed to look outside.

Brownouts indicate a decrease in the voltage through the electrical lines while power surges indicate an increase in the voltage of electricity through the wires. Both can originate from outside the home. Power surges can enter through telephone, power or cable lines and can damage computer equipment, household appliances as well as heating and cooling units. Brownouts can be damaging to electrical motors such as your HAVC fan. In our case the power surge was of more concern than the brownouts since our HAVC fan wasn't being used but the brownouts could have damaged our refrigerator, freezers and microwave oven.

He was outside for a couple of minutes. When he came back in he asked for a hydro bill and immediately called Hydro One, Ontario's electricity provider. He explained what he found outside and what was happening. Workers from Hydro One arrived within 15 minutes! They had to access our roof from the neighbour's yard but that wasn't a problem. Apparently we had purple connectors on the main into the house that sparked as soon as the wire was touched. The workers said that we were very lucky the house hadn't caught on fire. Our electricity was off for about a half hour while they made the necessary repairs. We no longer have the brownouts or power surges and have eliminated a potential fire hazard.

Another problem our electician found and one that we would have found was a few burnt wires in the panel box. The simple solution was to trim these wires and reconnect them properly and install a new breaker. Our electrician did this repair while checking for other problems in the panel box. The burnt wires were likely due to an overloaded circuit and faulty breaker. This was another potential fire hazard.

Remember when working with electricity safety is first and if in doubt always call in a professional! Your life, your family's lives and your home depend on this.

As far as the rest of our electrical concerns, most are DIY projects that I will be posting on later.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Replacing An Old Central Air Conditioner

There are several things to consider when replacing and old central air conditioner unit. In our last two houses we had old units with freon as a refrigerant. However, despite having minor leaks we were told to continue using the air conditioner unit until it finally quit. Given the age of both, I'm sure this wouldn't have take very long. We knew before we move into this house that the old air conditioner unit did not work and would need replacing. That gave me a little time to do research on central air conditioner units before the actual move.

Note: We are quite competent DIYers but I would not consider installing a central air conditioner unit a do-it-yourself project. This is one we left to the professionals. Our installation took about 5 hours with them doing it and at least we can rest easy knowing it was installed properly.

Old

I'm usually very careful to take before and after pictures of any renovations we do. The air conditioner installers arrived just after 8 am yesterday morning. After a few long days of painting, unpacking and organizing I had completely forgotten to take before pictures.

The old unit was set in the corner between the front porch and house (1). I didn't even think to check for the brand or model number but the installers said it was as old as the furnace that was installed in 1983. The furnace will be our next major replacement but again we have been told to use it until it no longer works. With our luck that will be about mid-winter! As you can see, the old unit (2) while in still fairly good physical condition is quite old. It did not work and has not worked for the past 15 years. When it stopped working in 1992 the previous owners decided against a repair opting instead to use a couple of window air conditioners. The evapourating coil (3) is larger than the new one. Freon, and environmentally unfriendly refrigerated was the coolant.

New

We settled on a Carirer® Comfort Series with Puron® Refrigerant Model 24ACA (1) for reasons I will discuss further. This unit qualified for a $50 rebate from the company but not our provincial rebate. The unit that did would have cost us $500 more for a $350 rebate but based on our usage and space limitations, it wasn't feasible. Carrier was the first company to use this environmentally friendly, energy efficient refrigerant that won't deplete the ozone layer. We had the following criteria:

  1. environmentally friendly
  2. energy efficiency
  3. size restriction
  4. effectiveness
  5. quiet operation
  6. cost
Air conditioner energy efficiency is measured by SEER, the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio. SEER indicates the relative amount of energy to operate provide a specific cooling output. Had the existing unit been operational it likely would have been about a SEER of 7.0. The new unit is a SEER 13.0 giving at least a 30% savings over the cooling season. We could have gone to a higher SEER rating but were restricted by location. The more efficient units are larger and for our use did not warrant the additional costs. Based on your location and usage and higher SEER rating may be desireable.

Our house is earth bermed on the lower level making that level a fairly consistent temperature. The house is well shaded from afternoon sun almost to a fault. We are also on the water so get the cooling effect from that. A good portion of our cooling is through the earth berm, shading, water and ceiling fans. So in terms of cooling, we could go with a lower SEER unit given that it will only be running a few days a month early June to mid September. We've estimated the unit will run about 21 days per cooling season. However, we live in a very humid area so when the temperature soars it can get quite uncomfortable. Our previous house cost approximately $350 to cool for the season without an earth berm, very limited afternoon shading and massive windows resulting in a lot of solar gain. Projected cooling costs for this cooling season is about $120 or less.

The new evapourator coil (2) is a bit smaller but higher than the old one so the furnace had to be modified (3). Once the coil was installed in the furnace, the installer cut a custom made door. When we replace the furnace the duct work will be modified to fit but the coil won't need to be replaced. The new air conditioner unit fits in the old spot perfectly (4). It is a bit quieter than the older models we've had but I don't think by a lot. I trimmed back the boxwood shrub on the side closest to the unit. While the installers said that shouldn't be necessary, one of them said a 10" clearance around the unit was desirable so I did so. Anything that impedes the air flow will result in lowered energy efficiency.

As part of the installation an energy efficient, programmable thermostat was installed (not shown). There was a $50 rebate on the thermostat even though it is stamped with the company's logo with no other documentation. Total cost was $2,980 CDN less $100 in rebates including full installation. Installation included the removal and disposal of existing equipment and re-installation in the same location, re-connection or revision of gas piping, electrical and venting system along with necessary duct work modification. It also included new copper lines and 'A' coil. I would have liked to see a little discount for paying upon invoicing that I assume to be 30 days even though I wanted to pay upon installation. Their installers are not allowed to accept payment which I don't really understand and we have to pay either cash, money order or cheque as credit card payments have a 2% surcharge. At any rate the price was well within our budget. We were very pleased with the quality of the installation as well so will be recommending this firm to our friends.

Stay tuned tomorrow to learn about our fun with electricity!

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Reviving Sheet Flooring


We do not wear shoes indoors so clean floors is very important to me. The bathrooms, utility room and walk-in pantry in this house have older sheet flooring. My husband took one look at the utility room and in an appeasing voice promised new flooring. But I had other plans! The floor itself was in good condition just very dirty looking. It wouldn't have been flooring I chose but it works well for the room and besides we have enough to do that the money for new flooring would be better spent elsewhere.

So I pulled out my trusty bottle of household ammonia and tested a small area in the corner. Just as I suspected, the area came up considerably cleaner so now I knew what I was up against. Sheet flooring can become dirty looking from dirt or wax build-up or a combination of waxing over not quite clean floors and trapping the dirt in between layers of wax. I suspected in this case it was several wax layers trapping dirt combined with surface dirt. I decided to do a larger patch to see if my suspicions were correct. I picked up another bottle of household ammonia and a stiff scrub brush from the dollar store*. Armed with a large bowl of water and rags for wiping down the area after cleaning I set to work (1). The ammonia solution thickened as I scrubbed the larger patch so I knew for sure there was a heavy wax build-up.

There is no doubt about it, this is a hands and knees cleaning job. Ammonia is hard to work with for any length of time especially for those like me with respiratory problems. It is essential to work in a well ventilated space for short periods at a time when using ammonia full strength. My method was to pour the undiluted ammonia onto the floor then scub with the brush spreading the ammonia in about a 2 square foot area. I had the ceiling fan on as well as all windows in the area wide open. As the ammonia became thick with the built-up wax and the ammonia smell dissapated somewhat, I wiped down the the section with clean water. Wiping the section well with clean water is very important to prevent any wax from resettling on the floor. The edges of each section remain sticky for quite some time allowing the next section to overlap and remove all the wax and grime. Then I would take a ten to fifteen minute break and do another section. By mid-afternoon almost half of the room was finished (2) and by the time my husband arrived home only a large strip in front of the utility room door remained (3). I was very pleased with my frugality and the outcome so proudly told him to come and see what I had done. He could not believe how the floor came out looking like new! The next morning I finished up the large strip with the final picture taken (4) at the entrance between the family and utility rooms. Once the entire floor was cleaned, I went over it again with clear water checking for any sticky spots. This particular sheet floor still has a wonderful shine to it even though I did not wax it but some floors will come up dull after cleaning so will need a coat of good quality floor wax. For a total cost of $4.50 and a little elbow grease the floor ( ~ 10' x 10') looks like brand new! Not bad, eh?

*Watch for a post on dollar stores shortly as many available household items can really help stretch the dollar when renovating, decorating or simply cleaning a new to you home.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kitchen Reno Phase 1 - Installing the Stove

Tomorrow will be the second week mark since we officially moved into this house. There are so many things we have done, some minor and some a little more work. I want to share all of them with you as we turn this house into our home. Today I'm going to focus on the work it took to get our JennAir slide-in stove installed.

Installing the stove was a DIY project that involved removing an existing range hood, built-in stovetop and cabinet. This project involved capping off existing wiring and running a new line from the main. If you are not familiar with electrical wiring how-tos, hire an electrician!

1. The ancient and likely never cleaned range hood was the first to go. It was hard wired so we shut the breaker off, removed the hood then taped off the wires using wire connectors on each wire then covering well with electrical tape. The covered wire remains showing because we haven't decided whether we want a light over the stove or not. If so, it can be wired here. If not, we will pull the wire through and disconnect it from the electric panel.

2. The built-in stove was direct wired as well so had to be disconnected before being removed. This thing was grotty to the max! At one time it was a higher end appliance but because of neglect became a cesspool for bacteria and grease. As you can see, the sink is very close to the stovetop making me question whether the contractors who obviously installed this expensive kitchen actually knew what they were doing! Talk about a poor kitchen design.

3. Removing the stovetop took a little more work than anticipated. We had hoped to save the lower cabinet for another location. That ended up being impossible due to the way the cabinet had been installed. These were obviously expensive cabinets that had been professionally installed. We salvaged the two drawer covers and doors but the cabinet unit and frame was damaged beyond salvaging. The countertop had to be cut as well. We were not concerned about precise cutting as the countertop will be replaced as soon as the sink is moved

4. With the cabinet removed it was time to secure the new stove receptacle. The new wire (220 volts) goes to the main with the box secured to the wall behind the stove. Older electric stove plugs didn't have the nice cover like we bought for this wiring job. We like the idea of the cover plate even though it is behind the stove.


Here you can see the new plug in a little more detail. Before putting the stove in place, the downdraft system had to be installed. It will not be connected to the stove or to the outside until after the new countertop is installed but it was essential to be in it's proper place for the stove installation. This allows for the stove to be slid out easily for the counter installation. To vent to the outside we have to drill through a thick cement wall. We also had to add wood shims to raise where the stove would sit on the old flooring to the level of the ceramic tile.

We ended up removing the backsplash from the countertop for the stove installation. We had hoped the main backsplash covering the walls extended lower so we wouldn't have to remove it but that wasn't to be. As you can see, the cuttings a the counter level are rough but that is fine as this countertop is being removed as is the matching back walls. I hung a Strippa from IKEA for my hotsauces to see if I liked the look. I do but am not sure if it will match what we intend to do for the walls so it is likely only temporary. At any rate the stove is now operational and ready to use.

The only painted wall in the kitchen is where the patio door is. The other two walls are covered with flat laminate the same as the countertops. The painted wall runs without any barriers into the family room. It is wood tongue and groove real wood paneling with the top half originally wallpapered. We removed the wallpaper and are painting with Behr 480E-1 Country Mist. We found a wonderful glass tile that would match this colour at Home Depot for the other two walls. We've tiled before but only a small area and not using glass tiles so this should be interesting!

Stay tuned,

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Correcting Electrical Receptacles



We have now been in this house officially for one week regardless that it was past midnight last Thursday that we finally finished the move. If you look at the list from yesterday you will see we have noticed a few problems. Some of these problems are a little more pressing than others and so it was with the electricity. We were experiencing brown-outs.

Brown-outs occur because of a dip in the voltage along the electric line resulting in the opposite of a surge. This results in lights dimming or flickering especially during heavy loads. If the brown-outs are occuring because of the electric company there is little you can do about it. In our situation, the brown-outs were occuring because of plugs that were not properly wired. This happens often in older homes where a plug has been added without the proper knowledge to do so. For this reason you need a household tester kit with GRT-500A. This tester detects common wiring problems in standard outlets. It uses a series of light patterns to test for wiring conditions. In 1 this kitchen plug was showing the hot and neutral contacts were interchanged. As each plug was tested the result was noted with a post-it note as seen in 2. It is easier to test all the plugs then correct room by room later. The electricity was turned off to the plug then tested to be sure it was off. The plug was replace and wired correctly then retested after the power was turned on.

We are replacing all plugs and switches throughout the house. Most of them are quite old and even if wired correctly are likely faily to some degree. What we want to see is the two orange lights as indicated in 3 as this indicates the wiring is correct. This is the method we will be using as we go from room to room. We redid the kitchen and switches in two rooms. We have already seen a reduction in brown-outs!

The majority of the electrical problems we found were hot/neutral reversed. However, we found one bathroom and two bedroom plugs with an open ground reading. The bathroom plug is easily fixed using a GFI plug something that would be needed anyway. A new ground will have to be added to the bedroom plugs.

Materials Needed: receptacle tester, wire cutters, flat head screw driver, builder's package replacement plugs, builder's package receptacle covers, electrical tape

Now I would be remiss if I did not give a warning. We are very comfortable working with most electrical issues. This is NOT a DIY project if you do not have the working knowledge for wiring and electrical problems. If in doubt, hire an electrician.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Our New Home


Our New Laneway

This is a picture of our new laneway. I really love it! So we are now all moved in and the fun begins. Now we start finding the problems the previous owner neglected to tell us or maybe didn't even know about. The property itself is divided into three major areas. The portion from the garage to the deadend road is the laneway and official front yard. The portion from the garage to the house is grassed surrounded by mature landscaping. The side yard is minor but leads to the back (aka our front) yard that is maturely landscaped ending at the breakwall on the water's edge. A dock completes the setting. The house is bermed slopping to ground level on the lower level with one foot thick walls making it quite energy efficient. It is a beautiful peaceful setting but not without problems. I will be discussing a lot of these problems as we remedy them.

Here are some of the problems in no particular order that we have discovered:
  1. rodents - there is evidence of an indoor rodent infestation at some point but we have no idea if it is recent.
  2. electrical - there are obvious brownouts
  3. an ancient freezer with no ground
  4. outdoor lighting issues
  5. AC not working
  6. aged furnace
  7. in need of caulking and sealing
  8. vegetation trimming for view and pest control
  9. kitchen retrofit
  10. indoor lighting - very minor, mainly upgrading some fixtures
  11. gas line to grill is very wobbly
  12. gas line to dryer is non-existent
There are likely more problems but we will deal with them as they arise. The next few posts will be before and after shots of how we solved the problems plus a bit more since there is decorating and other non-essentials to consider. So watch for them shortly.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Sunday, July 1, 2007


Happy Canada Day



Garden Gnome
© 2007


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Kitchen Packing



I chose this cartoon by Jeff Bucchino of The Wizard of Draws because for the past few days I've been juggling in the kitchen trying to cope with packing kitchen items in preparation for the move in two days. Out of necessity the kitchen is the last room to be packed and the first to be organized at the new house. It is very important to me that we eat homemade meals as long as possible before the move. This move is different in that we have to do kitchen renovations immediately after moving in order for our JennAir to fit in the kitchen. That means removing and ancient built-in stovetop, built-in oven, and non-working dishwasher. This will free up counter space while replacing the countertop and dishwasher. The kitchen is top priority once moved as a month later we are having quite a large gathering for our anniversary.

Talk about a juggling act! I've been packing the kitchen for the past few days now. There is nothing like seeing a growing stack of boxes to realize you have too many recipe books, too many herbs and spices, too many gadgets and way too much food. It's a great time to purge but unfortunately besides a few outdated by my standards homecanned foods, very little in the way of food was tossed. As far as small appliances and gadgets goes, I purged those a long time ago so nothing went out the door from that category.

It's also a great time to rely on freezer, refrigerator and pantry stores. Not only does this save on the cost of eating out or take-out foods, it reduces what you have to move. It's surprising the meals you can come up with just shopping from your food storage. This helps rotate the foods as well. I'd just about kill for some fresh fruit or a salad about now! We used the rest of the salad fixings on Sunday so I haven't had my daily salad fix since then. We are pretty much out of dairy with the exception of a few cheeses Money I would have spent on these items is in an envelope so I can replenish after the move. We grilled filet mignons last night as a final toast to this kitchen. It's been good to us. From now until we move in two days, we will likely eat out. That gives us a break from the chaos as well.

This is the perfect time to clean all those appliances! Why move dirty appliances? As we are setting up the new kitchen, I want everything ready to use. I washed all the small appliances before packing them. Today the oven is being cleaned (self-cleaning), the fridge washed out and the microwave cleaned. The small freezer is being moved filled while the larger freezer is being emptied to fill the freezer the previous owner is leaving. The dishwasher will be run for the last time today so I can clean it good for the new owners. We'll use disposable from now on as the dishes will be packed today as well.

So that is how the kitchen packing is proceeding.





Garden Gnome
© 2007


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Dishwashers



Dishwashers are great time savers but they can be problematic as well. As I mentioned in my previous post, the payback period for most dishwashers will exceed the lifespan of the machine. So a dishwasher shouldn't be bought with the idea that a newer model will save money in terms of operational costs. There are measures you can take to reduce operational costs that I will discuss later in this post. The two key factors when buying a dishwasher tend to be does it clean and how quiet is it but the key question should be what is the environmental impact.

A dishwasher impacts the environment during its manufacture, its useful lifetime and at the time of disposal. You have no control over how your perspective dishwasher was manufactured but you can do the research and choose a manufacturer based on its environmental track record. If you come across a manufacturer where you like their product but not the way they manufacturer it, write them to explain why you are not buying their product. The energy efficiency of a dishwasher is critical regardless of the payback period. Choose a dishwasher with the environmental impact of disposal in mind. The stainless steel interiors are wonderful during the useful lifespan but not so wonderful when disposing of a dishwasher.

Dishwashers use energy not only to operate but water has to be heated. So those are two areas where you can save a bit. The hot water heater should be set to 140ºF for dishwashers however since most dishwashers pre-heat the water it could be set to 130ºF, the safe temperature to prevent bacterial growth in the tank. Be sure the pre-heating function for the dishwasher is turned on. When it comes to loading, follow your manufacturer's guidelines. Improper loading leads to frustration when dishes are not cleaned as expected and wastes electricity. My rule of thumb is to never run less than a full load if possible. The only exception is during the heavy canning season where I may end running the dishwasher two to three times a day on water miser mode mainly for preparing jars.

Since we have been in this house, I have been using Electrosol 2 in 1 Gel. This detergent often goes on sale for about $2 per bottle so we stock up. Unfortunately stocking up is not always beneficial as we saw when we had an abundance of laundry soap that cannot be used in the front loading washer. This time it is not as bad as I only have 2 1/2 bottles of the liquid dishwasher detergent. Every sales person we have talked to has said to use powdered dishwasher detergent only along with the rinse agent. I don't really mind changing back to powdered as quite often it is less expensive. My only reason for using liquid was humidity both natural and kitchen generated causes the powdered detergents to clump. Some on the various frugal groups are using washing soda (Mule Team Borax) instead of detergent in their dishwashers. While this may not save money it is a more environmentally friendly choice and it is unscented to avoid polluting your indoor air. Finally on the topic of detergents, many on the frugal groups have also indicated using less than the manufacturer's recommended amount of dishwasher detergent. This may be false frugality if the dishes do not come clean and you end up washing them again so you may have to experiment to get the right amount.

One thing I do monthly to keep the dishwasher running smoothly is to run a short cycle using white vinegar. The clears any water deposits build-up without damaging the valves or seals like bleach will. In fact bleach should not be used in a dishwasher because of this problem. Vinegar is an inexpensive way to keep your dishwasher cleaning to its potential.

The final way to save is soon to be available here and already available in other location is called the Smart Meter. This meter replaces your normal electric meter then determines the time of day you are using electricity. The electric company rewards you by giving lower kWh rates for using electricity outside of the peak daily times of electricity consumption as determined by the electric company. An added bonus for rural residents is the smart meters will eliminate estimated billing as well. Now by running your dishwasher during the lower kWh times you will save on the operational costs. It's a win win situation in terms of energy usage.

Garden Gnome
© 2007


Wednesday, June 20, 2007



Despite our best laid plans we found out the day our purchase was signed that the existing dishwasher wasn't working. The real estate agent wasn't very pleased but I wasn't concerned. While it would have been nice to have a working dishwasher in the new house, I had been struggling for quite some time with the dishwasher in our old house so buying a dishwasher was pretty much a given. I've been married a long time, raised kids, do a lot of cooking and canning and a fair amount of entertaining so I knew what I wanted in a dishwasher.

My wants and needs are fairly simple. I want a dishwasher that cleans the dishes, period. I want simple, easy to use controls. Sorry guys 14 dishwashing cycles does not impress me! Here's what I want to see: wash, dry, done. Simple, right? I wanted a stainless steel interior. Those white vinyl interiors stain to high heavens. I really don't want another dishwasher with a vinyl interior. I've heard all the hype about super quiet dishwashers and even though the new kitchen opens into the family room, this is not a real high priority. The reason being is quite often we run the dishwasher when we go to bed not while we are entertaining or watching television. I want/need an energy efficient dishwasher. During heavy canning sessions the dishwasher will be run two to three times in the day. I need that energy efficiency! The canning sessions have also dictated that I need a tall tub unit. Price is a factor as well. I want the best value for my buck, thank-you very much.

Thank goodness for online shopping! I narrowed it down to the Bosch SHE44CO5UC, Whirlpool GU2700XTS and Maytag MDBH975AWW. All are EnergyStar® qualified and all are reported very quiet. All are tall tub modes and they are in the approximate same price range. I really liked a lot of the features on the Whirlpool and because I'm a happy consumer of their other products that started swaying me a bit. Now this is a nice dishwasher but there were two things I found potentially problematic. First the inside finish was something called slate. I've dealt with vinyl interiors that turn orange as soon as anything tomato goes through the dishwasher. The slate to me just seemed to be a darker colour to mask this problem. This dishwasher also had an Anywhere silverware rack meant to be in the door. My husband didn't like this idea at all. Still the Whirlpool was in the running. The Maytag had a stainless steel interior and was in close running. Perhaps we would have considered it further if their website was just a little more user friendly. In the same price range, the Maytag offered a delay function not available on the Whirlpool. The Bosch offered everything we really wanted. It has the energy efficiency by using condensation drying so there is no heater. Why pay for a heater you won't - I never put my dishwasher drying cycle on! Then they eliminate both electricity and noise by using filters instead of a disposal. So all of a sudden I'm really liking the Bosch but my husband doesn't like the idea of no food grinder. Well after much discussion, the Bosch is going to be delivered just after we move in. It is the most frugal choice for our needs.

Dishwashers fall almost into a grey area as far as energy efficiency so you really need to shop wisely. They aren't like going to a front loading washer where you can do three loads in one wash. They aren't like a hot water tank where you can turn the temperature down. But they do use electricity to operate and electricity or gas or heat the water along with the cost of water itself. The problem is going to higher end models that promise savings may not warrant the cost in terms of pay back. Unlike other appliances with quicker pay backs, a dishwasher will maybe go from operational costs of $30 per year to $20 in electricity. Unless the newer model uses less water you will save nothing. Most dishwashers have a heating function to bring the water up to temperature so you are paying to heat the water regardless. The bottom line is a new dishwasher is likely going to save you at the most $15 per year total. At $800 that's 60 years and I doubt the dishwasher is still going to be working. So my advice is to buy as energy efficient as possible for that sake alone but only if you really have to.

Garden Gnome
© 2007