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.


Baldwin Doorbell Lightbulb

I have a Baldwin Oval Bell Button installed by the front door. A few months ago, I noticed that the doorbell was no longer lit. I’m not entirely sure when the lightbulb burnt out, but I finally decided to do something about it.

Unfortunately, the Baldwin website didn’t list any replacement parts for the doorbell. But, after a quick inquiry to support, I received a e-mail notification that a new doorbell was on the way.

Here’s how the replacement doorbell appears:

Even without instructions, the replacement was straightforward and only involved four screws. The most difficult part was inserting the new doorbell back in the bronze finish since it was tight fit.


HDTV Reception Problems

I’ve had an HDTV television since 2008. I could pull in most channels, but I’ve always had problems with NBC and ABC. Since I don’t watch TV all that often, missing two major stations has not been a big problem.

But, after three years of spotty reception, I finally tried to solve the issue. First, I removed the existing coaxial cable, and installed a right angle (90°) coaxial connector. The coaxial outlet was located right behind the HDTV, and I suspected that the sharp bend in the cable was somehow affecting the reception. Actually, this was all guess work since I discovered that moving around the cable affected the reception, at least on the two channels that did not come in clearly. I still do not understand why the same cable that can carry all the other channels crisply could not do the same for ABC and NBC.

Next, I installed a new coaxial cable. I was at Orchard Supply Hardware for other reasons, and picked up a new GE RG6 Quad Shield Coax Cable, that supposedly offered “maximum signal quality.” I was skeptical a coaxial cable, even one branded “Ultra Pro® Digital – HD” could make a difference, but for $10.99, it was worth a shot. Much to my amazement, it worked! ABC and NBC now works, probably much to the delight of those who will be visiting during Thanksgiving.