Life Span of a Toto Toilet Handle

How long does a Toto toilet handle, a/k/a trip lever, last? I think the answer is 7-8 years. I replaced the first one last September. The second one got swapped out in November. Now, six months later, I’m ready to replace the third and final toilet handle. When three fail within six months, I’m quite confident that I’ve hit the life span of the product.

Curiously, the third failure exhibited a different symptom. Unlike the first one that which left the water running, this one would flush when the lever was first depressed. Takes a couple flush attempts for it to work. Since the other two failed, I don’t need to take a look at the handle and wonder what’s wrong. It’s just time for this one to be swapped out as well. When the part comes in, I’ll take apart the old handle and see if it failed at the same spot.


New Battery for Roomba

After two years, the Roomba started breaking down. First, the Roomba would not charge even when seated in its dock. The orange light would not pulse. The other behavior was that it would approach the dock, when the dock button was depressed, but it would twist, turn and collide with the dock as if it could not detect it. I finally called tech support, and we went through all the typical steps: resetting the Roomba, making sure the contacts touched the dock, etc. The odd trick that got the Roomba working again was to spray compressed air into the battery charging outlet.

So, the Roomba was charging again, but it would not return to its base. It would run out of juice before the cleaning cycle ended, which tells me that cleaning cycles are timed, instead of based on the remaining charge in the battery. After a few more weeks of delay, I finally ordered a new battery.

Installing the new battery was easy. Just remove a few screws. I also cleaned the Roomba at the time. With the bottom panel removed, I could see dust everywhere. So, the Roomba has been working like new again. On one hand, I’m disappointed that the battery only lasted two years. However, it was working every single day during that stretch, which is more work than all the other vacuum cleaners I have owned have put in to date.


Garage Organization

The garage was a terrible mess and in desperate need of organization. It didn’t start that way though. At first, all the Costco supplies were packed into the pantry. But, in a bid to clean-up the house, all that got dumped into the garage. And, one by one, the boxes multiplied until they occupied a fair amount of space.

I had always intended to pick up some shelving. However, every time, I spotted a stainless steel shelving rack at Costco, the size and weight of the box was just enough to dissuade me. Finally, I just ordered the shelving rack online from Costco. It took one business day to deliver, and one hour to assemble. If I had to put together a second one, I should be able to cut down on the time dramatically, especially if I started with a tape measure in hand. Mount the shelves at the same height on each leg!

After I assembled the shelving, I organized what I needed and disposed of the rest. Now, I have a mini-Costco in my garage.

Costco Shelving


Toto Toilet Doesn’t Stop Running

After seven years of service, the handle to the Toto toilet started failing. After flushing the toilet, the handle would not return to the up position. It just sagged on the side of the toilet. At first, I thought it was loose, but tightening the washer inside the tank had no effect. Next, I unscrewed the washer and took the handle off the tank. Ah, there was a screw. That must be loose. But when I grabbed a screwdriver and tried to tighten it, that wasn’t loose either. Puzzled, I took a closer look.

That oval slot holds the rod which hooks to the flapper. Despite the all metal construction, this part had worn out from daily use. So, the search for a replacement part began.

Toto Toilet Handle

I quickly determined that I had a Toto Carlyle toilet installed. But, while looking for the product manual under discontinued models (the Carlyle was replaced by the Carlyle II), the odd interface asked for a SKU number. Thankfully, I still had a receipt that listed the SKU, so I was able to look up the parts manual.

The official name of the toilet handle is the trip lever. Rather than hunt around at the local hardware or plumbing supply store, I just ordered it from Amazon for $23.44. When it arrived, took all of five minutes to easily replace. Flushed the toilet and the trip lever swung back up. Nothing beats success on the first attempt.


How Much Money Can You Save By Switching to LEDs?

LEDs keep getting less and less expensive. Cheaper? No. Less expensive? Yes.


With a PG&E instant rebate, Costco was selling PAR30 spot lights for $13.99. I’ve phased in a number of LED lights as some incandescent bulbs faded to black, but I really haven’t seen any dramatic cost savings. The packaging suggests that I may save $165 in energy costs based on 11¢ per kWh compared to using a 75-watt incandescent lamp for 25,000 hours.

25,000 hours at 3 hours/day is 8,333.33 days or 22.8 years. If you divide the $165 in savings over 22.8 years, it comes to 60¢ per month per bulb. That amount of savings is completely masked by seasonal energy usage.

Right now, I’m paying 10.7¢ per kWh so I’m saving even less than the assumptions. The bulb I am replacing is a Sylvania Capsylite PAR30 75W 120V flood. I have to note how much a replacement incandescent will cost me. But at $13.99 a bulb, the break even point will come a lot faster than when expensive LEDs were selling for $40.

Maybe the problem is that I’m switching to LEDs in a haphazard approach. If I commit to switching 20-75 watt incandescent bulbs to 15 watt LED bulbs, that’s 1.2 kW that I will be saving for each hour the lights are on. At 3 hours per day for 30 days, I’m up to 108kWh for the month. The only problem is that I don’t think I have 20 bulbs that are on for 3 hours a day, but I’ll go all in and see if it makes a measurable difference. Stay tune.


Garage Torsion Spring

Back in September 2009, I had replaced two torsion springs for my garage door. These springs lasted all of 4 1/2 years.

A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to leave in the morning when I heard an ominous sound in the garage. It’s never good to hear strange sounds from the garage. Before long, I managed to put that sound out of my mind until I grabbed my backpack and pushed the button on the garage door opener, only to see the opener futilely attempt to open the door. That’s when I remembered the sound.

After a quick check of various parts, I spotted the crack in the spring. I made a same-day appointment with the contractor, who quickly replaced both springs. Asking about the life expectancy of a garage torsion spring is a trick question. Like the expensive fluorescent light that promises a lifetime of savings in exchange for a steep initial cost, the economics all depends on the frequency and type of use. Turn the light on-and-off, like in the bathroom, kills the life expectancy. I have light fixtures in the kitchen where the fluorescent lights have never been changed. I also have light fixtures in the bathroom where the light has been changed 4-5 times. Some day, I might figure out the math and see whether it is cheaper to just leave the bathroom light on instead of replacing the bulb so often.

Anyways, if you use the garage door like a main door, the springs will not last 7-10 years. Let’s see if this new set lasts to Fall 2019.


Gutter Dripping Sound

This morning, I stopped by the local Orchard Supply Hardware store. This has been an unusually dry winter. However, the recent storms have woken me up in the middle of the night. I don’t mind the soft sound of rainfall. What I do find maddening is the drip, drip, drip sound once the rain tapers off.

I had previously used The Silencer, which is a sponge glued to a magnet. I don’t believe that the price has changed in six years! It was still $2 and change at OSH. But, for a product that last a season or two, I was open to trying a different solution.

Beside The Silencer, OSH also had RainQuiet for $6.99. Each box contains two pads. So, that is $3.50 per gutter versus $2.39 for The Silencer. If RainQuiet lasts for more than a season or two, it’ll be worth the extra buck.


So, what you get this about a 1/2-inch course mesh pad affixed to a plastic backing. This pad can be cut to size. I ended up trimming about 3/4-inch from the long side of the pad. It attaches to the gutter via a standard office binder clip. It’ll probably rust over time, but should not wash loose like the magnet.

In a few hours, I’ll be able to tell if RainQuiet delivers a good night of sleep.


LED Bulbs

I’ve changed out some PAR38 bulbs from incandescent to LED, and the savings have been unnoticeable. Running the air conditioner to battle a hot summer can mask any energy savings that LED bulbs present.


Costco is currently selling 20 watt (90 watt equivalent) PAR38 bulbs for $22.99. I think there was a instant rebate earlier, but I don’t have a reference photo. Two years ago, Costco was selling 18W (75 watt equivalent) PAR38 LEDs for $29.99, after rebate.

However, I did notice that the floor space devoted to CFLs have diminished. Even chandelier bulbs, which Costco previously sold in CFL format have changed over to LED.



Hot Water Dispenser Leak

After six years of service, our Franke Little Butler hot water dispenser started to leak–from the bottom of the heating tank itself. I should have placed the rimmed baking sheet under the hot water tank a lot earlier.


When the hot water dispenser worked, it was convenient. But, I guess this is no different from a regular hot water heater. It has a set life span and when it fails, it leaks. Except the water heater leaks on the concrete floor of the garage and the hot water tank of the dispenser leaks on the kitchen cabinet. Big difference!

If you look at the reviews on Amazon, many people got less than six years of use from their Franke Little Butler hot water dispenser.

I am not sure if I will replace the Franke Little Butler hot water tank with another one. However, looking around at customer reviews of other brands, I see a lot of similar complaints. When searching for a new hot water dispenser, the keyword is “leak,” as in “[brand x] hot water dispenser leak.” Google that! Nothing stands out at this point.


iRobot Roomba Review

After much hesitation, I picked up an iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaning robot at Costco. The popular warehouse retailer was selling the iRobot Roomba 595 for $299.99.

I was a bit apprehensive about this purchase. Sure, I had already outsourced the dishwashing and laundry to robots, but I had been acclimated to those appliances all my life. A vacuum cleaning robot seemed different.

Turns out that the critical question isn’t whether the Roomba will clean as good or efficient as a human. The Roomba doesn’t follow a grid pattern when vacuuming, so it may cover the same part of the room multiple times. However, what it lacks in efficiency, it makes up in effort by tirelessly vacuuming every single day without complaint.

Now, most people probably do not vacuum their own house every day. I certainly did not. But, the Roomba will if you set up its schedule to vacuum daily. I thought that would be excessively and was prepared to adjust the schedule until I saw the Roomba pick-up a dryer’s worth of link every single day. And all this time I thought the floor was clean.

Once you have an Roomba cleaning your house each day, I don’t think you can go back because now you know how dirty the floor is.