Mouse!

MOUSE!!” I yelled out.

Immediately I could hear feet shuffle upstairs. I yelled a few more times for good measure but I knew they were on their way. See, the number one rule in mousing, for people at least, is to always keep eyes on your target no matter what. Because a mouse can move fast and a house like ours has an infinite number of hiding spaces. We don’t hunt our mice to kill, we prefer a live capture and release outside. If I kept my eyes on him, I knew our chances were good to catch him alive and get him out of the house.

‘Cause we’d done it before.

An Unwelcome Visitor

Early in December I went down to the storage room to clean the litter boxes and noticed some wall insulation fluff on the ground by the water treatment equipment and litter boxes. Looking up I saw a big ball of fluff on top of our foundation wall. My first thought was that our little cat, Daisy, had gotten up there and was pulling out insulation or maybe there was some lose insulation from when they built the house and she knocked it down. Daisy has gotten into the basement ceiling joists before so it was no surprise tome. I called up to the wife to come down. I was thinking I’d share Daisy’s latest escapade with her, then clean up the mess.

What neither my wife nor I expected to see was movement up there. We both about jumped out of our skin (me more so) when we saw a small, yet plump, brown body dart from one bay to the other, followed by a very long tail.

Holy crap it’s a mouse!

This stunned me because our house is suppose to be air tight, relatively speaking. But it obviously got in somehow. I know I was bringing some things in from the garage over the past few weeks. So maybe as a stowaway in a box. On the other hand the weather had just gotten cold; we had our first snowfall. It is the time of year for mice to infiltrate our homes.

How the mouse got in was secondary to how to get the mouse out though.

Mouse Hunt

I set a humane mouse trap up next to the fluff on top of the shelving unit I had made just a few months prior. I baited the trap with peanut butter. It’s a lever so when the mouse goes inside, its weight tips the lever and the door shuts behind the mouse, trapping it.

I checked that trap for five days and nothing.

Meanwhile our two cats were spending a lot of time in the storage room. Obviously they could tell we had a new visitor that week. My personal policy was that if the mouse got in the trap, great! I’ll let it go in the yard. Now if the cats got the mouse that would be okay too. In fact, with a certain degree of pride, I was hoping the cats would get the mouse. Poor mouse, but then at least the cats would finally be earning their room and board. I recently read though that well fed house cats usually don’t make for good “mousers”.

Well, during those five days the cats didn’t catch the mouse as far as I could tell. They’d sniff around the storage room. Daisy seems like more of the mouser than Dixon. She’d be in there every day but seemingly nothing. If the mouse was dead, she’d hid it’s little corpse deep in the stacks of crap in the storage room.

Point of Entry

There is an air intake and exhaust port on the back of the house for the air exchanger. I thought one of those might be the culprit, but upon inspection both looked fine. Though, as a side note, the exhaust vent was clogged shut with lint so at least the mouse-ca-pade prompted me to clean that vent before any more long term damage was done.

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The air exchanger exhaust vent after I took a wire brush to clear it.

One day, after the snow melted, I was outside setting out our live Christmas tree. I noticed along the foundation in the back yard, blue foam debris on the ground. The debris corresponded with where we’d seen the mouse inside the storage room. There you go, I now knew that the mouse was not a stowaway, rather he had broken and entered the house illegally.

I used a mirror to see if I could figure it out. As best I could tell, the mouse slipped between the siding and the termite flashing, then gnawed its way through the blue foam and from there somehow into the house through the rim joist apparently.

I put investigating the entry point and sealing it up on my “to do” list and went about my business for a few more days. I figured maybe the cats got the mouse or he left on his own accord.

Things That Go Bump In The Night

It was about midnight. I had just settled into bed and was dozing off. Dixon was asleep next to me. All was quiet.

Then he perked up.

A pause.

Then he jumped off the bed.

A moment later I could hear him by the window sill fussing with something. I knew right away what was going on because I’m pretty attuned to my cat (best friend really). Clicking on my bed light sure enough.

Dixon had the mouse cornered on the window sill of my bedroom.

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Dixon corners the first mouse on the bedroom windowsill.

I texted my wife, hoping she was still awake. I wanted to keep my eyes on the mouse and I needed backup. A minute later she was on the scene. The mouse darted into the closet. We closed the bedroom and bathroom doors. With her a one end of the closet and me at the other, Dixon in the middle spotting the mouse’s location, we had it pretty well contained.

We then spent the next half hour working to capture the mouse. I created barricades at both ends of our otherwise open closet. Dixon eventually lost interest but I kept putting him in there. We called for Daisy and eventually she came on scene. We placed her in the closet. She’s definitely the more aggressive mouser of the two. She hunted up the mouse quickly and gave it no room to escape. Almost to the point where we thought she’d hook it good if given the chance.

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Daisy and the mouse in our closet

Eventually we were able to chase the mouse into a paper box. I then scrambled to the front door, out into the yard and dumped the mouse out into the freezing cold night. I don’t know if he survived or not (he ran off but it was cold and he was surely scared), but I didn’t really care at that point.

Congratulations were given to Dixon for discovering the mouse in the first place, and to Daisy for hounding the mouse to the end.

Mouse Hole

For the couple weeks after the successful mouse capture things returned to normal. The cats didn’t spend as much time in the storage room. I didn’t notice anything out of place. This past week Daisy has been spending more time in my office, which is adjacent to the storage room, while I work but that didn’t seem out of the ordinary. After all I feed the cats treats regularly when I’m working.

Finally an open Saturday came around so I decided to clean up the fluff and see if I could discover the mouse hole. I gingerly poked around and vacuumed up the mouse debris. The last thing I wanted was a mouse jumping out at me. I hate how they dart around and I will easily scream like a little kid should one get within my proximity unexpectedly.

I looked up by the air exchanger outlet and I could see a cobweb moving in the “breeze”. Sure enough there must be a hole to the outside up there. I got up my ladder and “voila!”. Mouse hole.

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I could feel, see cold air coming into the house through this 1″ round hole in the rim joist.

I then hopped over to the big fluff pile on top of the wall, above the water filtration system. The fluff was from my actual walls. The mouse had gone up into the wall through a hole between a heating duct and the plywood floor above. I’m not too worried about the loss of insulation in my wall. There’s not much I could do about that, but I could clean up the fluff and seal the opening with some expanding foam. I vacuumed up the fluff after poking it a bit to make sure there wasn’t a mouse inside the fluff ball.

After everything was swept up I grabbed my trusty expanding foam and sealed up the hole where the heat duct went up into the wall. It looks like this after:

Then I don’t know what the heck I did, I think I stepped out for a second then back into the storage room. But as I went to reposition my ladder to spray foam the mouse hole at the other end of the foundation, I saw this:

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Mouse number two. He has wet spray foam his side. I had just cleared out the area and was foaming the vent, not sure where he came from.

I don’t know where he came from but there was another mouse, or maybe the same mouse from a couple weeks ago. Anyway, actually I know where he came from because he had wet spray foam on his fur. He had been hiding out near the vent duct while I was spraying it. That’s when I yelled “MOUSE!” and the wife and kids came down with the “mouse box”; the same paper box from the last time we did this.

The mouse went back and forth on top of the work bench then inadvertently fell to the floor about six feet. I was able to corner him and in about five minutes got him to run into the paper box. He was covered in debris. I felt bad but there was absolutely nothing I could do for him. There’s nothing that will take that stuff off, short of taking the mouse to the vet and having the vet shave the mouse fur off. I’m crazy, but not that crazy.

My kids and I took the box outside and let the mouse go on the porch. The mouse scurried under the porch, out of sight.

I went back inside and spray foamed the mouse hole. I put everything back the way it was in the storage room. I’ll keep an eye on it but my fingers are crossed that our mouse encounter is over.

To fix the hole on the outside of the house, I really think I’ll have to hire a handyman or siding guy to take the siding off, and figure out exactly how the mouse got it, and seal it up. Also have to close that gap between the siding and the termite shield. There needs to be a gap but it needs to be just a few millimeters, not a full inch.

I’m definitely over the excitement of having rodents in our house. Having a tight house was always a source of pride, so when a mouse gnawed its way in, it sort of dinged my pride. More importantly though I was able to figure out where the mouse or mice were getting in at, and I am hopefully able to prevent it from happening again.

Now I just hope Dixon isn’t waking me up like that again.

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Garage Door Opener Bulb

Okay, so this probably isn’t my most exciting written piece, but I’m kinda jazzed I got light bulbs for my garage door openers. We were placing an order on Amazon and I noticed they now offer these great Genie brand garage door opener LED bulbs. I had worked on a project designing several displays for these bulbs and my interest was piqued.

The reason you need a special bulb for your garage door opener is one, they need to be vibration resistant for obvious reasons. And secondly the garage door opener can cause interference with regular LED bulb electronics.

These gems were about $10 apiece and are a 10w bulb (60w equivalent). So they’re not the most efficient bulb but then again how often are the going to be on. They put out an amazing 800 lumens each. They are 3000K, so fairly warm for a garage, and will last 22+ years. The bulbs are also rated for cold weather (it’s 60 degrees in January today so maybe that’s not as much a concern anymore in Ohio), and damp locations, so no worries with their garage environment performance. I believe the bulbs are also smaller than a typical light bulb; I think they are considered A19.

 

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Update on my upstairs hall LED’s: one of the bulbs flickered and went out. I think I need to remove the CFL ballast and direct wire the bulbs. I call the store I bought them from and they referred me to MaxLite. I left a message at MaxLite but haven’t heard from them yet. I may just try and do it myself and use the bulbs I have as opposed to sending them back. I’ll keep you posted (yes, I know, it’s all so thrilling).

August 2016 Bee Check

It’s been a busy, exhausting summer for us. Thus not too much desire or time to write on my part. But I will fancy you with an update on our bees, whom we haven’t checked in on in a few weeks.

Both hives are doing surprisingly well. Hive No. 3 is very strong with lots of eggs, larvae, and capped brood. Their honey stores are looking good. There are two boxes above the queen excluder that are filling up with honey, but nothing is capped enough for us to extract so we’re leaving them be.

Hive No. 1 is bouncing back slowly from it’s fight with the mites. It’s a dark vacant feeling hive, but there are enough bees and honey for them to rally in late summer. And there are brood and eggs so there’s still a queen in there. This is the hive that tried to kill us. In a way it’s sad to see them so tame and “knocked down” so to speak. We won’t take any honey from them this year.

Earth Day 2016

Today is Earth Day! For our household it’s a holiday or at least a reason to celebrate. It’s also the anniversary of when we moved in to our new home, four year ago. A happy coincidence if you ask me.

I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed this morning – planning on writing then getting to work on my regular day job work. But of course here I sit, an hour and one cup of coffee later, and I’m already way behind schedule. I got off on a tangent finding a source for what tree we want to buy this year to celebrate earth day. This year I’d like to order some hazelnut shrubs from the Arbor Day Society. And later today I’m thinking we’ll go out to to pick up a small cherry tree or three.

We try to plant a tree on our property every Earth Day (April 22) and Arbor Day (last Friday in April). I’d have to look at our landscape plan to see if I’ve been keeping track. I know we keep track of the Christmas trees we plant every December (we’re up to four). On the other hand I think I’ve been keeping track on the blog every Earth Day so I can go back and look that way.

I need to get to work, so I’ll leave you with these five tips for living a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle:

5 Earth Day Tips for Better Living:

  1. Be an informed and responsible consumer – I freaking love shopping, that’ll never change. But I, and you can be a responsible consumers. Ask your self: do I need this? If so, what are my options – like who can I buy it from and how do they manufacture it? Is the price a fair price or is it too low to cover the actual cost of social, economic and environmental implications of me buying this thing (think fairness)? What will happen to this stuff when I don’t want it anymore? Be conscious and informed; vote with your dollar to support goods and services that are fair to our planet, people and economy. Yes it requires research, thinking and weighing pros and cons, but it’s no different than shopping for the best price, which you probably do already.
  2. Plant native trees, shrubs and plants – As I said, we’ve gotten into a routine where we plant major trees on holidays and life events like anniversaries or birthdays; trees make great gifts by the way. Search the internet to find out what plants are native to your area. Native plants require virtually no maintenance which frees up your time and money. And it’s something the whole family can get involved in.
  3. Recycle paper and cardboard – 99% of the paper and cardboard we consume in our household gets recycled. We gather it up and about every other week I drive it all over to one of those green and yellow collection dumpsters at our local school. Many communities’ curb side recycling will accept paper and cardboard as well. Recycling paper is easy to get into your routine, and it cuts the amount of trash we throw out significantly – some weeks we don’t even bother taking the trash down to the curb.
  4. Switch to LED light bulbs – the cost of LED’s has finally come down to where they are affordable for ANY household. LED’s last a lot longer (20 years+), so you won’t be storing and changing light bulbs anymore, which saves you hassle. Also they will reduce your electricity consumption which saves you more money in the long run than the bulbs cost.
  5. Spread the word – if you find something that works for you and our environment, share the info with friends, family, strangers…anyone, even if it’s just one thing to one person. Energy efficiency, electric cars, LED light bulbs, honey bees, recycling….they were all things “crazy hippies do” years ago, and they’re all mainstream stuff people from all walks of life do regularly to help our planet. It is all really common sense stuff. The system has just been set up the wrong way until now, but now we’re recognizing that as people, we have the power to do things the right way.

 

Happy Earth Day everyone! Hoping you get out there and do something good for the planet, but really it’s about doing something good for you. Be selfish about it, and most importantly, have fun.

Country Lane

It’s 2am and I can’t sleep because I’m stressed out. I’m stressed out because I can’t seem to get ahead. I can’t get ahead because life keeps throwing bullshit obstacles at us. Nothing the average person would care about or hand out any sympathy for. After all, we’re very well off considering all the poverty, war and injustice there is in the world. But it’s my blog so I get to do the ranting. You get to decide if you want to do the reading.

I work four jobs (the wife works two) trying to make ends meet. Anytime we get close to seeing any light at the end of the tunnel, it always turns out to be another train barreling down the line. Do we stay or do we go? Getting tired of asking myself that question every day. At some point we get to relax right? This keeps up and I’ll be dead before I’m fifty.

I can remember the conversation we had when we first walked our land, where our house sits now. My wife referred to it as “happy friendly land“. What we saw was a quaint meadow and brush with a slight rise in the middle perfect for a home. All the plants, bugs, sunshine, water and wildlife…you just got a happy friendly vibe.

One of the primary things I told our architects when we were planning our impact on the land was that I wanted them to think about the entire experience of driving up to our home, all the way back to the street, across property we don’t own. Our driveway is over a quarter mile long. It’s all gravel, with rises, twists and turns. Driving along at 12-15 miles per hour, there’s a lot of time to decompress and transition from the hectic world “out there” to the meditative calm of where our home sits.

Ours is the last house; we share it with two other homes. As you come over a rise, and past the second house you get that sense of a country lane. You’re almost surprised it keeps going, it sort of beckons you to explore. Fifty feet further you start to see our home, in summer, earlier in winter because of leaves or rather the lack thereof, …our home emerges around a bend in the lane.

That’s the effect I wanted.

A country lane, subtly revealing a gem in the middle of nowhere. No one ever knows what’s “back here” unless they’re specifically coming to our home. I would argue it’s one of the most beautiful homes in the area; masterfully designed to fit its site, a sculpture nuanced to bring a sense of internal familiarity from all who see it. There is a scale about the structure…it looks both small and large at the same time. It’s a building that makes you think about your place in this world. Coming around that corner you get what you’ve been waiting for throughout that long drive up a country lane.

It’s an experience.

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First glimpse you get of the house in early spring. Look at the diagonals…the length and angle of the lines. The horizon, the drive, the main house…the colors…tan on the house, tan in the dried brush. The charcoal of the trees, and the main house body.

 

 

Maintenance on a gravel drive isn’t that bad. Over four years the worst we get are some pot holes. Last year we had an excavator come out and straighten things up in terms of improving water runoff and roughing up the pot holes. We were going to get a cinder driveway but he said the surface we had was fantastic, and just needed some grading. And regular “roughing up” would help too. This is something we’d never done before (or since).

For whatever reason our mild winter still resulted in some rough patches on the driveway. I was thinking for a grand per household we could get the drive fixed up again this spring. At the very least I was going to fix my portion of the drive, but the cost at $750 was more expensive than I had budgeted for what would have been a simple gravel drop.

Eventually the neighbors got in touch and their plan is to asphalt from the street to the second house. Cost would be $12,000 per each of the three households. I had to laugh a little inside as I heard the news on the phone today. I just can’t catch a break. With tax season requiring me to write a check the equivalent of a decent new car, here I have the potential for a driveway bill, conjured on a whim, that will cost me twelve large. With only one house, I have little to no power in this situation, the other two houses are related so they dictate everything basically – something we knew going into it, but you know…how can you deny happy friendly land when it speaks to you. We felt it was worth the risk. Fast forward five years and I lie awake at night stressed out about life…getting out of bed to write because it’s the only thing I can think of to detox my mental system.

It’s not only the money, but I have a real problem with the material, asphalt, as well. Ethically and aesthetically I just don’t think it’s an appropriate solution for our situation. I checked with my real estate agent, and yes, a hard surface would improve home values but she recommended cement not asphalt. Asphalt is cheap looking and higher maintenance than cement.

Personally I think it ruins that charm of living in the country, and destroys that country lane experience we get now. No more walks to the mailbox kicking stones, or listening to the gravel under foot or tire on a hot summer evening.

Environmentally, the type of asphalt likely to be installed would be impervious to water, creating a greater water runoff issue than is already present. Asphalt can also be salted in the winter which means that there will be salt runoff from our driveway into the ponds and creeks that surround our property. In the summertime asphalt retains heat and creates a hot spot that leads to higher air temperatures. Not to mention the chemicals in the actual material. I just think it’s nasty stuff that does nothing to enhance our quality of life. From my perspective, asphalt is just a typical knee jerk reaction to a problem. Everybody does it. It’s cheap. Why are you fighting it?

The whole thing really ruined what was supposed to be a good day, week and month.

So here I am stressed out, contemplating my options…moving, going bankrupt, offing myself…the dread of having to pay money I don’t have for a solution I don’t condone…losing sleep I desperately need.

Who knows what we’ll ultimately end up doing. But in the meantime I suppose I need to become an expert in pervious and porous driveway solutions which are basically the most environmentally and aesthetically pleasing options. These are in addition to the current gravel driveway option, which I think is perfectly fine if maintained properly.

I’ve started finding some really awesome options online, I just need to start figuring out the costs. If it were up to me, I’d research all of the options, assign a cost to each and then make the decision. My challenge is buying enough time to make this happen. As far as I can tell we’re dealing with one quote from a contractor who’s ready to start laying down black tar and stone, and neighbors who are fine with the cost and asphalt solution.

At the very least I don’t think it’s unreasonable to put it a decision off for a year. Try the gravel maintenance program idea.

Do I have time to do this? No. Why am I doing this? Because I have no other choice. I need to do everything I can to salvage the current experience that is “happy friendly land” (and maybe not go bankrupt in the process).

And I need to be able to sleep at night.

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Asphalt would end at the driveway on the left on continue towards the horizon. Foreground would stay gravel.

A few random links and images I found on the internet when I searched for “earth friendly driveways”. I’m not saying any of these will be cheaper, but I feel like I’d rather save up for one of these solutions than throw down my hard earned money this year on unaesthetic and environmentally damaging asphalt. I also feel like some of these solutions could even be installed by ourselves potentially saving money…the biggest challenge will be changing people’s mindsets. We’ve grown up in a cookie cutter suburban world where these types of common sense, nurturing solutions are foreign and scary to the average consumer.

NOTE: From the http://www.BuildLLC.com website, this interesting note on gravel…it’s impervious, so not as eco friendly as I was thinking.

It’s worth noting that gravel is considered an impervious surface by many jurisdictions and its inclusion on a project will count against the impervious surface calculations. From the King County website:

“Packed gravel prevents or impedes the entry of water into the soil as compared to natural conditions. Scientific studies show that once gravel is compacted (from cars or heavy equipment, for example), the gravel acts like paved surfaces and surface water runs off it in greater quantities than compared to natural conditions. In addition, if cars or heavy equipment are traveling on these gravel surfaces, pollution such as dissolved minerals or residual petroleum are washed off into our waterways.”

 

Permeable Paving – The Environmentally Friendly Driveway

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Image of a permeable paved drive from:  www.scgh.com

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Image from TerraForce.com

Permeable Surfaces 

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Image of open cell pavers from http://www.buildllc.com

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Image of porous asphalt from http://www.buildllc.com

A project to install 4×4 tracks that reduce erosion 

Core Driveway – permeable plastic honeycomb system that can be used with gravel

Article on porous driveways from The Chic Ecologist

Green Driveway articles from Franke James blog

Invisible Structures grass driveway sub-straight 

Some info on porous asphalt and porous pavers from BuildLLC.com:

Porous Asphalt:

“Think of it like Rice-Krispies treats with a higher compressive strength and not quite as tasty.

Effective permeability range: 16-25%
Compressive strength: up to 4,000 psi
Required thickness: 4″ – 8”
Technology: The deletion of fine aggregate allows for connected voids while the coarse aggregate is coated with enough cementitious paste to hold it all together
Application: Areas with light traffic, driveways, pedestrian walkways, bike paths
Cost: $3 – $10 per square foot (extremely dependent on size of job)
Other considerations: Typically requires additional layers of sub-base material or filter fabric”

Porous pavers:

Because the technology here is ceramic-based, these systems are typically proprietary. We like the Aroura Klorostone product for its clean aesthetic, simple color options and versatility.

Permeability: The Klorostone is capable of infiltrating up to 2 inches of stormwater per minute without relying on mortar gaps. The exact permeability is difficult to determine with these products because each company has its own protected recipe.
Compressive strength: 6,000 psi
Thickness: 2-3/8″
Technology: Each individual paving unit is porous (as opposed to interlocking concrete that relies on aggregate gaps for infiltration)
Application: Driveways, sidewalks, courtyards, patios
Cost: $7 – $10/sf delivered
Available colors: 4
Other considerations: The joints around paving units will provide an additional 5-15% of permeable area”

 

 

The LED Light Bulb Review You Need to Read

Okay, you need to know one thing about me…okay two things about me, for today’s post: 1) I love buying things, 2) it’s virtually impossible for me to buy anything without over analyzing it.

When we built this house, almost four years ago, we had a ton of 6″ ceiling light fixtures installed. To this day I’m not even sure why, but we did. They are everywhere in the main floor’s living spaces.

Twenty non-dimming, and ten dimming 6″ BR-30 light fixtures in the family room, dining room, hall and kitchen, to be exact. That’s five for every man, woman and child.

The dirty fact is: half of them are burned out because I want to replace the incandescent bulbs with LED’s. But I can’t replace them with LED’s until I complete some mind numbing amount of research.

My wife literally asked (begged) for light bulbs for Christmas.

If you go to cut veggies in the kitchen, better bring a flashlight.

Alright, so why do you need to read this review? Because you probably have some recessed lights in your home. You also probably enjoy saving money in the long run, which switching to LED bulbs will definitely do just that. Most importantly, I’m going to hopefully save you the trouble of researching bulbs yourself.

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Lights on different circuits? Nah, just burnt out light bulbs in the hallway.

Bulb vs. Integrated Trim

One quick note, for recessed lighting you can purchase either just a bulb, or an integrated bulb and trim for you 4″ or 6″ recessed cans. I wanted to do this, I absolutely hate the 80’s look of our 6″ cans, but didn’t for two reasons. First I couldn’t find ANY useful reviews of bulbs with the integrated trims. Secondly the cost of the integrated style can be up to twice that of a regular BR30 LED bulb. With our need for new bulbs being immediate and our budget being microscopic, I had to forgo the integrated bulbs.

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These integrated trim LED light bulbs are slick, and go a long way to eliminate that annoying old school 6″ recessed can look, but the cost is a bit prohibitive when you have thirty cans to outfit.

A Note About Our Dimmer

Our dimmer is whatever the electricians put in when they built the house. I really need to replace them with something a little higher tech to get the most out of our LED bulbs and their dimming capabilities. So keep this in mind as you read.

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Our old school, non-LED friendly, dimmer in the kitchen.

Green Creative Titanium Series 4.0

I was attracted to the Green Creative bulb because of it’s sexy as f*ck good looks, and the great review it received on CNET (click here to read for yourself). I order my sample bulb directly from EarthLED.com and received free shipping with my order.

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Green Creative LED BR30 light bulb, with it’s beautifully cool flying buttress like supports, and smooth plastic cover

The looks of the bulb and the packaging didn’t disappoint. It’s a shame to hide them away in a recessed ceiling can.

Installed, the bulb gives off a super bright, warm glow similar to an incandescent on steroids. It’s definitely the brightest. Where the bulb fell down was with our dimmer. It didn’t really dim at all. But as with all the bulbs, I really need to test with a new dimmer, designed with LED’s in mind. There was a slight flicker when the bulb was dimmed all the way. Noticeable, but not bothersome.

GE Reveal BR30 LED

Once again, I relied on CNET (click here) to throw the recommendation my way for the new GE Reveal BR30 LED bulb. I found the best price on Amazon.com, and ordered up a sample bulb for $16.99. They’re actually closer to $15 as of this writing today (12/30/15).

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Blue stripe accent and curvy body of the GE Reveal BR30 LED bulb.

The bulb is pretty pleasing to look at, and has a blue stripe accent which is a nice touch. The bulb gets high marks for color rendering, which I cannot measure with other than with my eye, and I can say it appears to deliver. Everything looks clean and colorful, but not to cold. All the bulbs I tested are definitely close to that 2700K range, so no problems replacing your old bulbs with these from a “mood” standpoint. The GE also wasn’t as glaring white as the Green Creative. Seems like this would be a great bulb for the kitchen or the art studios.

Where it disappoints though is with dimming. It doesn’t dim very far down with our old school dimmer.

Philips 9.5w LED BR30 Indoor Flood w/ WarmGlow 

Alright, the Philips was recommended to me by Tom my electrician. Normally I rely on online reviews, but he spoke highly of the bulb so I figured I’d give it a go and include it in my impromptu kitchen test.

I ordered one bulb from Amazon.com, with my free shipping the cost was $11.19 plus tax (not sure why it’s showing so much higher in cost today 12/30/15…shop around for the best deal, unless they’ve discontinued the bulb)

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I’m a fan of Philips’ industrial design on most of its LED light bulbs, this BR30 is no exception

Philips-BR-30-LED-Packaging

The Philips packaging was refreshing because it was all recyclable and renewable kraft corrugated material. This is what packaging should be.

The packaging on the Philips bulb was fantastic. I was so happy to see they created a simple to make, and open corrugated box to house the bulb in. Too often, mostly at retail, LED bulbs and other products are encased in hard to open plastic clamshells. Not so with this bulb.

With skepticism I installed the bulb in the kitchen. And wouldn’t you know it…the damn thing dims brilliantly with our old school dimmer. The bulb is warm looking at full blast, and then does this cute trick as it dims down: it gets warmer. Where as the other two bulbs only went down about 50% and were both white looking when dimmed, the Philips bulb performed basically just like an antiquated incandescent light bulb that we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing.

The Philips is rated at 730 lumens, compared to the other bulbs 650 lumens but I’m not sure I see a discernible difference with my well trained eye. If anything the other bulbs are brighter over achievers, and this Philips is generous in saying 730. Regardless, all three bulbs are plenty bright enough for any home or application.

dimmed-bulbs

Here are all three bulbs dimmed down all the way. Green Creative is in the foreground, Philips in the middle and GE in the back next to a turned off incandescent bulb.

lights-full-bright

Same three bulbs turned all the way up with incandescent bulbs way in the back by the cabinets.

Winner: Philips

The bulb we chose is the Philips bulb. The GE was our second choice. Our decision is based on overall look and feel when the bulbs are at 100% and when they are dimmed. All three bulbs will save us money, and other than the GE, they’re reasonably priced.

In fairness I should try them with a new dimmer, and I will. In the meantime I feel confident that we can migrate to the Philips LED BR30 bulbs for our home.

I will actually use the sexy Green Creative bulbs in my art studio because I like the look and I don’t need to dim anything.

And I may still use the GE’s in the non-dimming kitchen or studio areas for best color rendering.

The Other Philips Bulb

I was at Home Depot today and noticed they had a slightly different Philips WarmGlow bulb for sale that looks interesting and presumably performs as well as the one I tested. If in fact they discontinued the Philips bulb I tested, then this one at Home Depot may be the route to go. It uses less energy and is Energy Star certified. (Our winning Philips is inexplicably not Energy Star certified).

other-Philips-BR-30-LED-bulb

An alternative Philips bulb I saw at Home Depot with WarmGlow technology, costs less and uses less energy.

the-other-Philips-BR-30-LED-bulb-at-Home-Depot

The back of the Philips BR30 WarmGlow bulb I saw at Home Depot.

Here’s a chart I threw together to compare the bulbs I looked at.

Light bulb test-01

You can download and print it here: BR30 LED Light bulb comparison

Okay kids, there you have it: my LED light bulb comparison. Hopefully I’ve saved you some trouble in deciding which bulbs to put in your home. Whichever one, or “ones”, you choose, you can not go wrong with this group. What’s most important is that when your incandescent, AND florescent, bulbs burn out: REPLACE THEM WITH LED’s. These bulbs will save you a ton of money in the long run, add value to your home (in my opinion), and because the use less energy, they reduce our reliance on non-renewable fossil fuels.

Speaking of energy use, it’s imperative that you get your home energy use down to the bare minimum to make it easier to transition to renewable energy. Eventually all of us (or our children) will have to make the switch from non-renewables. Why not make that transition as simple as possible.

One last note, these bulbs last over twenty years. Just think, the bulbs I’m putting into this house right now may very well be the last light bulbs I ever have to change.

That means one less thing on my “to do” list, and more time to write (or eat and drink).

Cheers!

 

-Chris

 

 

Christmas Tree Day 2015

It’s Saturday early evening, I’m sitting down with a beer and listening to Christmas music. For the next half hour or so I will have the equivalent of a day to myself, to relax and write.

In the spirit of the season, we went out and bought our Christmas tree today. It’s a live Norway spruce tree, or at least that’s what we think it is. They weren’t labeled at the tree farm. As is our tradition, we get the tree a few weeks before the holiday, then bring it inside a few days before Christmas and decorate it. After the holiday we plant the live tree in a pre-dug hole somewhere out in the yard. This year the tree will go out on the pond dike. Previous year’s trees can be seen just off the driveway. Once a tree graduates from home to yard, the following year it gets a string of colorful solar lights. The idea being that, let’s say we’re here twenty years. Visitors would be able to see twenty trees in the yard with colored lights on them. Fun.

Back inside the house, I’ve been slowly continuing work on the basement. I’ve started tiling my office area, and I have also essentially finished the full bathroom.  Tiling is going slow, but I think I’m doing an okay job. I got a new tile cutter at Lowe’s and I’m very happy with its performance. I haven’t really ruined any tiles yet. I think it’s got a good sharp wheel and easier action, and that makes a difference. I do need a grinder though to angle cut some tiles around a doorway. But there’s no reason to spend $80 on a tool I probably won’t ever use again. I’m going to see if I can make a Dremel tool work or, worst case, rent a grinder.

In the bathroom, all of the accessories are hung. It took me a while to figure out where the blocking was for the towel bar. In the process of discovery I drilled about a half dozen holes in the drywall, all of which I had to patch up and repaint before mounting the bar.

While figuring out where to hang up the toilet paper roll holder, I discovered that you’re supposed to mount it about 8″ in front of the toilet bowl, off to the side. Well I don’t have a wall in that location. I could have mounted the holder on the adjacent cabinet, but the wife and I both voted against that. So, behind and to the side of toilet the holder went. I think it’s fine. I don’t see how just putting the roll in a basket or a freestanding holder does anything. It’s fine back there.

As time allows I’ll continue to tile. I want to make sure I get all the tile down as soon as possible, in case they discontinue the tile style. I don’t want to be left short of tile. Then I’ll really be in trouble.

Earlier today I extracted honey from hive No. 3. As I may have mentioned in a previous post, this hive died late this autumn. We got nine frames of honey. I haven’t weighed it yet.

Next year we’re just going to manage one hive. If it gets large enough we can split it. Otherwise, we’re not pouring any more money into beekeeping if we can help it.

Actually we’re not going to pour any money into any projects for the foreseeable future. I’ve got the materials to finish the basement, except the ceiling. That should keep me busy DIY-wise for a while.

One interesting side note, I’m finally selling my trusty Rabbit. The wonderful VW that kept me company throughout our new home build, and was mentioned in many a post, well it’s time to say goodbye. We need more space and more doors in a vehicle. If you know anyone who’s looking for a great, clean car for commuting, running errands, or just starting out, let me know. I’ll make you a great deal on our good friend.

Ok, here’s today’s pictures. Time for me to go back to the real world and all of its responsibility. Cheers!