18W PAR38 LED Reflector Flood

During the weekly Costco trek, I spotted a Conserv-Energy 18W PAR38 LED Reflector Flood selling for $29.99 after rebate. Of all the light bulbs in the house, the ones in the home office have gone out the most: incandescent and CFL. The bathroom CFL is second.

I haven’t had to replace the living room flood lights yet. However, when that time comes, I’m willing to give LEDs a chance because the flood lights give off a bit too much warmth and really heat up the dimmer switch such that it is hot to the touch. While the package states that the bulbs are dimmable, I think incandescents are the only bulbs that offer a satisfactory performance when dimmed, which leads to two issues.

Dimmers Suck. First, 99% of the time, the dimmer is set to full blast. So, the government is imposing an extra cost without much corresponding benefit to me or anyone else. Second, dimmers work with incandescents, and not so well (or even not at all) with CFLs or LEDs. By mandating the installation of dimmers, I am pretty much locked into using incandescents. So, unless I want to change out the light switches, it’s incandescent from here on out.

4 Pin CFLs Suck. What is even worse than the dimmer debacle is the requirement of high efficacy luminaires. Even if I wanted to switch to mercury-less LED, I cannot unless I also wanted to change the entire light fixture. The twist-on light base ensures compatibility to future lighting innovation. The custom 4-pin interface–not really.


Clearing a Slow Sink Drain

During a visit to Home Depot for other purposes, I spotted a BrassCraft Zip-It. Seeing that I had a slow bathroom sink, I was willing to give the product a test, especially since it only cost $2.50.

First, I filled the sink with 3 cups of water, measuring carefully with that precise, scientific instrument otherwise known as a Legoland cup.

Three Legoland cups of water yields about this much water.

Next, I measured how long it took for all the water to drain from the sink. A disappointing 24 seconds, per iPhone.

I could insert the Zip-It really easily down the drain, but pulling it back up took some wiggling. I think all the notches were catching onto parts of the drain. The Zip-It didn’t pull up a hairball or any large masses, but it did pull up a lot of black gunk.

After wiping away all the black gunk and rinsing the sink clean, I refilled the sink with 3 cups of water. The time to drain was a much-improved 9 seconds.


Filing a Record of Survey Map with the County Surveyor

After performing a field survey, does your surveyor need to file a record of the survey map with the county surveyor? In California, Business and Professions Code Section 8762 answers that question. In general, “after making a field survey in conformity with the practice of land surveying, the licensed surveyor or licensed civil engineer may file with the county surveyor in the county in which the field survey was made, a record of the survey.”

However, in certain situations, the record of the survey must be filed with the county surveyor. These relate to the discovery of material changes or discrepancies from subdivision maps, official maps, or records of surveys previously recorded, as well as the establishment of new points or lines.


How to Kill a Tree

You really don’t want to kill a tree. This is more of a do as I say, not as I do post. Anyways, I’m pretty sure that no one actually flushes a water heater, at least until a problem arises. Well, that day arrived a few months ago when the water pressure suddenly dropped. I tried draining the water heater just in case some sediment was clogging the pipes. Turns out, that wasn’t the problem.

So, how would you dispose of 50 gallons of hot water? Living in water-starved California, draining the water straight into the sidewalk gutter would be the sub-optimal answer. So, I thought I should re-use the water for watering the garden. At first, I tested the water on some weeds. Showing no ill effect, I dragged the hose to the base of a cherry tree and allowed the water heater to drain completely.

Turns out, this was not the win/win solution I envisioned because when spring finally rolled around, a certain cherry tree was not sprouting green buds and flowers like the other trees in the garden. Yes, that is how to kill a tree. If you want to flush a water heater and re-use the water, empty it into a clean trash can or storage container and allow the water to cool first.

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Removing a Baldwin Door Lock

I’ve changed my share of Kwikset and Schlage locksets before. These locksets install and uninstall quite similarly, so I’ve never had to drag out the manual whenever I had to re-key a door.

Tonight, I tackled my first Baldwin lockset and it was quite a challenge. So, what exactly happened? Well, I had an interior door lockset that had been jamming for quite some time. Even when the door was unlocked, I would feel resistance when turning the knob in one direction. When I started wiggling the door knob, it went from bad to worse. The knob was now stuck off-center and no amount of turning could get the knob unstuck. The real bad news was that if the door were to close, there would be no easy way to open the door again from inside or out. Thus, this was not a repair that could wait until the next morning.

From a visual inspection, I found the set screw that held the inside knob in place. A couple twists with a screwdriver fitted with a hex head freed the screw as well as the inside knob. Next the rose plate. I tugged at it. I looked for a slot to pry the plate off. I got absolutely no where. Thankfully, Baldwin’s online installation guides bailed me out. I would have never guessed that the rose plate was a screw-on. Really different from a Kwikset or Schlage.

With the rose plate removed, the rest was fairly straightforward. During the reassembly stage, I did notice that getting the screws to affix the inner assembly to the outer assembly was remarkably easy. With other brands, I occasionally get stuck for a few minutes while trying blindly to insert the screw into the corresponding hole. All in all, not a very difficult challenge if you have access to the instructions. I am not sure how anyone managed to perform home repairs pre-Internet. Even if you meticulously kept all your installation guides and operating manuals, you’ll still have to sift through boxes of documents to locate the right one, that is if the contractor who performed the original install kept it for you.


Cleaning Crayon From Wall

Last night, an elf had stopped by to re-decorate the house with a nice, red crayon. Fortunately, the elf focused on the baseboard with a semi-gloss finish instead of setting her eyes higher on the wall with a textured, flat finish.

What Worked. A wet sponge with a touch of Bon Ami was really effective in removing most of the crayon markets. Scrub, rinse and repeat. For the edge, I located an old, but clean toothbrush and brushed away the remaining art work that the sponge could not reach. Good for those hard-to-reach corners.

What Didn’t. I had a bottle of orange-colored degreaser spray that stated on the label that it could remove crayon marks. I sprayed some on the colored surface and rubbed away with a paper towel. I think the towel turned slightly pink, but was not particularly effective. I tried scraping away with a plastic Play-Doh knife. I was able to remove some crayon scraps, but that was not helpful either.


Costco Garage Doors

When I shop at Costco, I expect to receive a quality product at a competitive price. Usually, I am extremely happy with my purchases, but that garage door I purchased from them has turned out to be quite a doozy. Mind you, the garage door itself is fine. The problem is with everything else attached to that garage door.

So, three years in, one of the torsion springs broke. Only three years? So, I found another contractor to replace both of the torsion springs and I didn’t think much about the garage again until a few months ago when the garage door opener started failing intermittently. Sometimes the door would not open all the way. Other times it would not close all the way. I had not problem with the opening, because I could always click on the garage door opener a second time. However, the closing was a serious issue because unless you monitored the garage door every time to make sure that it closed completely, there was always a chance that the garage door was not securely shut.

Long story short, I replaced the Chamberlain Whisper Drive 1/2 HP Belt Drive garage door opener, which was not all that quiet, with a LiftMaster 3850 DC Motor Belt with EverCharge Standby Power System. After I changed the garage door opener, the problem completely disappeared and the new opener is amazingly quiet. No more rattle and shake when the door is opening or closing. Just solid and quiet.


Interior Door Not Aligned Because of House Settling

As a house settles, doors that used to open and shut smoothly start sticking. And, sometimes the door falls so far out of alignment that strike plate no longer catches the door latch. So, how can this be fixed?

Well, adjusting the strike plate is not the answer. First, look at where the latch is hitting the strike plate. Is the latch passing above or below the hole in the strike plate? This tells you which door hinge you have to adjust to rotate the door. In my case, the latch was passing above the hole in the strike plate. To correct this, I needed to push down top of latch-side of the door down so that the hole in the strike plate would catch the latch again. To rotate the door in that direction, I needed to push out the top door hinge a bit. Originally, the door hinge was flush with the door jamb. However, I loosened the screws holding the hinge to the door jamb, placed a piece of cardboard behind the hinge, traced the outline of the hinge with a pencil, and then cut the cardboard to obtain a pad. With the pad, I placed it under the hinge, and tightened the screws. So, in the photo, the top hinge now sits a bit off the door jamb. However, this slight adjustment was just enough to push down latch such that it now catches whenever the door is shut.


LED Light

Through a generous discount, I was able to purchase a pair of LED lights from a local hardware store. So, for the past few months, I’ve been waiting for one of my incandescent or compact fluorescent light bulbs to burn out. Tonight, my opportunity finally arrived and the incandescent was the victim. So, in its place, I installed a Pharox LED Light 60 Bulb. Since I have a mix of incandescent, fluorescent and now LED bulbs installed next to each other in my ceiling lights, I can easily compare all of them. The LED light appears dimmer than the other bulbs and has a bit of a blue/green cast. Of course, the warmth of the light is only noticeable when I stare at the ceiling. When I am normally working, the problem is not obvious.

At 6 watts, the LED light should be more energy efficient than a CFL. What remains to be seen is whether it will last the promised “25 years.” My CFLs generally do not last the 10,000 hours promised, so I would be very surprised if the LED bulb lasts until October 2035.


Pull-Out Waste Baskets

When designing or redesigning a kitchen, you will be confronted with a variety of design options. I love slide-out shelves, which offer a combination of convenience and accessibility. For storing pots and pans, slide-out shelves let you use the entire shelf–front and back–and you can access any pot or pan regardless of its location. Some cabinet manufacturers also offer built-in waste basket and recycling bin options. The upside of a built-in waste basket or recycling bin is that such a cabinet can hide the mess that open trash cans present. However, the downside is that you can only replace a trash can or recycling bin with one of similar size.

After a few years of use, the rim of our waste basket started to break off. I thought that finding a replacement waste basket would be easy. But, after visiting Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart, OSH and Bed Bath and Beyond and not finding a similar waste basket, I discovered that I was in trouble. How do you find a replacement for an unlabeled rectangular white plastic waste basket? Fortunately, I found a label on the white waste basket in the other built-in cabinet and easily ordered a replacement online. Actually, I ordered quite a few because shipping large plastic trash cans apparently is not cheap. When the trash cans finally arrived, I discovered that the white trash can I was using as a recycling bin was not the same size as the white trash can I was using as a waste basket. Doh! This time, I carefully measured the trash can and bought something similar in dimension. Hopefully it will work out.