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.

burnt-out-lights

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.

Philips-BR-30-trim-lights

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.

kitchen dimmer

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.

Green-Creative-BR-30-LED-bulb-review

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).

GE-BR-30-LED-bulb-review

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)

Philips-BR-30-LED-Bulb

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

 

 

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Framing The Basement – Steel Studs

Here’s my recap for framing the basement. It’s probably a good thing I’m writing this a few weeks after the actual work, because it wasn’t as easy a chore as I would have thought.

In a previous life I rough framed houses, so framing is probably what I’m best at when it comes to home DIY projects. Had I chose to use wood framing I’m sure partitioning the basement would have been uneventful. Well because of my concerns with flooding down there, should the sump pump ever fail, I was leery to use pine 2×4’s that could become water-logged and moldy in a water event. There’d be the risk that I’d have to rip everything out and start over if that ever happened.

I could use all pressure treated lumber, which would be impervious to rot, but I was thinking of a more contemporary solution.

Steel Framing

I knew about steel framing, having seen it used at my corporate job. It seemed like that might be a good option: use galvanized steel framing. If it got wet it wouldn’t rot, mold or rust. So I did my homework.

From what I gathered steel framing would be less expensive and go up as quickly as lumber. You can’t use it for structural walls, but none of my basement walls are structural. They just have to hold up drywall. Steel framing is also resistant to fire, which is a good thing around mechanical systems. And steel is 100% recyclable, so it’s a good choice from an environmental standpoint.

I got a quote for having someone else install the walls, but I decided to try to save some money, as well as learn a new skill by doing it myself. Here is an article from The Family Handyman magazine that explains how to install the steel studs (click here). I’ll let you look and learn on your own. Instead of going through the steps again, I’ll hit on my thoughts and highlights regarding using steel framing (compared to wood framing).

Cost

From what I read steel was supposed to be cheaper but I’m not sure that’s the case. If anything it’s a wash. Studs were $4.17 for 10′ lengths. Pressure treated wood is more. Regular pine / fir is less. I looked at both Lowe’s and Home Depot and both stores had steel in stock for similar prices. I bought at Lowe’s because I get a discount there.

Fastener wise you have to buy screws, four per stud. That cost is likely the same as nails so that’s a wash. The same goes for the floor anchor bolts.

Advantage: it’s a draw

Material

Steel is great because it’s straight and light weight. I did the entire project single-handedly. I’m not sure I could have done wood alone. Also we haul materials on the roof rack of the RAV4. Lightweight steel means more studs per trip to Lowe’s. Wood is renewable. Steel is recyclable, fire resistant and doesn’t rust*.

Advantage: steel*

(*make sure you get galvanized steel. I bought mine at Lowe’s and I’m almost certain it’s not galvanized, other than one batch of studs. I asked the associates on two occasions and they said the product I was buying was galvanized but I’m pretty sure it’s not. What I got will likely rust over time potentially. I’ll keep an eye on it (I have access to nearly all the walls from  the back side via mechanical rooms).)

Installation

Wood is easy. Measure and cut. Steel studs are a pain in the ass to cut to length. Our ceilings are 9′ tall. Turns out the holes for electrical wires to go through the stud fall right at 9′ from the end of our 10′ studs. So I had to cut each stud two times.

Actual installation was nothing short of maddening. A drill holster is an absolute necessity since you have to screw each stud four times, twice each top and bottom into metal channels. You also have to clamp the stud to the track every time you go to fasten a screw. I nearly had the entire basement framed before I learned that you just gotta jam the drill on full blast and hope the screw bites.

The worst part is trying to fasten a screw where the track butts up against an obstacle such as the I-beam running down the center of the basement. I finally figured out you need to install the fastener from the inside of the stud, not the outside, first. Then do the subsequent other fastener on the other side of the stud, from the outside.

Steel stud install easily took 2-3 times longer than wood would have.

Advantage: wood

Utility

Steel studs can’t bear weight. So if you’re going to hand cabinets or shelves you likely have to frame those areas with wood. Doorways need to be trimmed in wood anyway because finish trim won’t attached to steel unless you use decorative small profile head screws. I plan on putting in a barn door for the storage room and I know I’ll have to block the heck out of that area to support a sliding door.

For electrical, my electrician is saying steel will cost more because of the boxes and whatnot that he’ll have to use. Also I’ll need to block in with wood mounting points for outlets and more.

Steel is great for partitions but not much else. By the way, all my soffits are made from wood, as well as the ceiling in the bathroom.

Advantage: wood

Final Verdict

So it’s no surprise that I can’t recommend steel framing for any project. I love the look, and steel is definitely easier if you’re working all by yourself, like I invariably am. I suppose the learning curve is there: I now know what to look for and I’ve made many of the mistakes. But regardless I probably should have just stuck with lumber, even if I used pressure treated sole plates and risked wet wall studs.

Check out my photos below for more info and details.

Shoot me any questions in the comments section.

 

My Garage Organization Project

Over Easter weekend I tackled a project that I had been looking forward since we moved in: organizing the garage. And while it’s not 100% all good, it’s a huge improvement. I’m loving it.

I rummaged around the garage and came up with a few hollow bi-fold doors that would make perfect shelves. I also had a couple of pieces of 2’x4′ pegboard that I brought from the old house. I supplemented those items with 12′ worth of Gladiator brand organization track, and accessories, as well as premade metal shelf brackets from Lowe’s (~$125 worth of stuff).

First up was putting up a shelf and pegboard above the gardening area. I located the studs at 16″ on center in that area. There is an electrical box and a window in the way so I had to scratch my head a little bit as to where I wanted to mount the shelf brackets. Also I didn’t want to lose vertical height; mounting the shelf brackets above the pegboard, so I decided to mount the brackets ON TOP OF the pegboard.

Pegboard requires 1×2 furring strips so the panel stands off of the wall, allowing the peg hooks to have clearance and work properly. I cut the strips and mounted them over each stud location using my favorite screws: SPAX #8 2-1/2″ wood to wood screws.

1x2 furring strips where each stud lies behind the drywall. I will attach peg boards to the strips, notching it for the windows.

1×2 furring strips where each stud lies behind the drywall. I will attach peg boards to the strips, notching it for the windows.

I then mounted the pegboard panel, which I had to notch to clear the window, using smaller 1-1/2″ SPAX screws. On top of the pegboard I then fastened the metal shelf brackets using 2-1/2″ screws, through the bracket, pegboard, furring strip, drywall and into the wood stud.

I mounted the brackets over the pegboard and drywall, where the wall studs are.

I mounted the brackets over the pegboard and drywall, where the wall studs are.

Once that was done I was ready for the shelf. Like I said I reused some old hollow bi-fold door panels that were about 6′ x 12″ for the shelf. I had to cut the one end down, at a 45 degree angle to fit, and to make sure we didn’t hit our head as we came and went through the garage man door.  Because the door is hollow, the cut end looks weird but form follows function, and the door, er, shelf material was free after all. I used 1-1/2″ deck / drywall screws to attach the bottom of the shelf to the metal brackets. I also ran a 2-1/2″ screw through the top of the shelf into the top of the furring strips – the doors have solid would all along the perimeter so by running a screw through there where I could was an added measure of security.

Lining up the 45 degree cut on the hollow bi-fold door. Measure 12 inches up on both sides of the square along the same edge.

Lining up the 45 degree cut on the hollow bi-fold door. Measure 12 inches up on both sides of the square along the same edge.

The door are hollow and my SPAX screws proved to aggressive to attach the bottom of the bracket to the shelf. So I used some small deck / drywall screws that worked just right.

The door are hollow and my SPAX screws proved to aggressive to attach the bottom of the bracket to the shelf. So I used some small deck / drywall screws that worked just right.

Here you can see the 45 degree angle I cut on the end of the hollow bi-fold door that is now my garage shelf.

Here you can see the 45 degree angle I cut on the end of the hollow bi-fold door that is now my garage shelf.

Well we're a little more organized now.

Well we’re a little more organized now.

Here you can see I added another piece of pegboard and shelf to the other side.

Here you can see I added another piece of pegboard and shelf to the other side.

It was nice to have the added organization space above the garden work area and my work bench. I mirrored the set up on the other side of the window and was good to go.

Next up I quickly added a 1/2″ plywood shelf over the toy area per the wife’s request. I used up some scrap material and mounted that to three simpler metal brackets.

I added this quick simple shelf, made of 1/2" plywood and store bought brackets.

I added this quick simple shelf, made of 1/2″ plywood and store bought brackets.

Over to the far end of the garage I had a pile of yard tools leaning up in a pile in the corner. My plan was to put a Gladiator brand track up, then a bi-fold door shelf above that, and then way up high use a couple hooks I had lying around to hang up the extension ladder.

It took some time but I decided to run all 12′ of track in one line, even with the bottom of the window. The stud layout worked out perfectly – I didn’t have to cut any of the tracks. I decided not to temp fate though, and I predrilled all the tracks, in prep for using more 2-1/2″ wood screws to mount the them to the wall. I used a level, marked my studs and the tracks went up without any cause for concern.

Drilling pilot holes in the Gladiator track before mounting them to the wall.

Drilling pilot holes in the Gladiator track before mounting them to the wall.

A detail of the Gladiator track installed. I used 2-1/2" long SPAX screws.

A detail of the Gladiator track installed. I used 2-1/2″ long SPAX screws.

I then mounted shelf brackets above the track, the door shelf to the brackets and eventually the ladder hooks way up high. I intentionally tried to stagger how much I was screwing into each stud to try to keep the load distributed across the wall. The track goes into every stud obviously. Shelf brackets, I mounted those higher and tried to skip a few studs. Then the ladder hooks higher up on lesser used studs.

In addition to the Gladiator track I added another hollow bi-fold door shelf and even hung up the extension ladder way up high, out of the way.

In addition to the Gladiator track I added another hollow bi-fold door shelf and even hung up the extension ladder way up high, out-of-the-way.

I spent some time noodling over the Gladiator accessories I had purchased, but eventually got a set up I liked. Just above the electric trimmer I mounted the battery charger, using my favorite wall anchors and screws.  The charger is conveniently located near an outlet.

I mounted the recharger for the trimmer just above the track, near the timmer and an outlet.

I mounted the charger for the trimmer just above the track, near the trimmer and an outlet.

Now our garage is organized. For the most part. And I can start enjoying it. I can’t wait to work in the garden, or make bird boxes, with all our tools, and supplies easily accessible. The best part is I was able to use many materials that we had on hand, so it kept costs down.

Have any questions?

Know any tips or tricks?

Share in the comments below.

Ranking Movies My Kids Watch – Part 2

Lorax. photo from IMDB.com screenshot.

Lorax. photo from IMDB.com screenshot.

Well the wife and I never connected to arrive at a consensus on the top ten list, so I’ll take a stab at it with my thoughts. I’m not sure I can rank them in order, so consider this our top ten (plus some more) animated movies that our kids (and we watch) but not necessarily in this order. Because they’re all kind of different, I’m not sure we could rank them anyway; sort of like comparing apples and oranges. Besides, even if we’re on a deserted island, we could grab more than one DVD for entertainment, I bet.

Drum roll please….

The Lorax – We saw this gem at the theater while on vacation with our oldest. I believe I liked it then but the wife luke-warm. For whatever reason we bought it on DVD and it grew on us. I love the environmental message. For the non-tree hugging crew there are plenty of great songs and the Dr. Suess inspired story line is fast paced, cohesive and illustrated very nicely. If it’s not our number one, it’s definitely in the top five.

Despicable Me – I didn’t know what to expect when we first saw the movie, but turns out it’s one of our favorites. It’s hilarious, heart warming and there are plenty of one-liners, memorable moments and subtle distractions to keep you coming back for repeat viewings. The animation is artfully fantastic.

Despicable Me 2 – The sequel is nearly as good as the original, and in our top ten regardless. New characters, new story but the same great animation, humor and action to keep the whole family engaged.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs – I suspect this might be Christine’s favorite set of movies. Cloudy does a nice job, despite a departed mom, of keeping things upbeat. The movie is a cornucopia of visual delights and requite subtle dialogue details that we seemingly see or hear something new every time we watch.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 – Another sequel makes our list. It’s more of what we love, including all of our favorite characters. Probably the only reason I might like this one less than the first is a couple of the new characters, but all in all the movie comes through with more visual delights and snappy one-liners.

Tangled – This newer classic is my favorite Disney movie of all time. ‘I’ve Got A Dream’ is the best song in any animated movie, ever. Bar none. There’s more to love than just one song though: a good story, funny characters and even a cute little chameleon make for a wonderfully good time.

Turbo – We had no interest in ‘Turbo when we saw the previews. I’m not even sure what prompted us to rent it. But we’re glad we did. It’s a really cute upbeat movie, which is important with any kid movie that you’re likely to watch over and over again. The action is non-stop.

Hotel Transylvania – Another movie that we didn’t pay much attention to. And another one that delights the whole way through, from start to finish. Once again there’s a missing mom, but that doesn’t bring us down as the movie is humorous and the animation is fantastic. Well worth checking out.

Ratatouille – Who would have thought a movie about rats would be good? Well turns out this one is more than just good. A Disney / Pixar combo means the animation is top-notch. The story line stands out and is heart warming. One of my personal favorites.

Cars – I have a love hate relationship with cars. The animation is great and our one son watches Cars…..actually Cars 2, all the time, so it deserves a showing in our top ten. It’s an emotional roller coaster with funny moments, sad moments and heart-felt moments. At some point I probably well up every time I watch, even to this day. I have issue with the fact that cars don’t have arms and hands so how do they take care of themselves in a decidedly human centric world, devoid of actual humans. Regardless, ‘Cars’ earns it’s spot.

Honorable mentions (or the movies beyond the top ten)

Rio – we just saw this gem about a blue parrot a few weeks ago when it was on TV for free. For me, I have it a 9 right out of the gate, in fact I’d put it in my top 5 quite possibly. It’s upbeat, cute, and has a fun story. And it stays away from being too annoying at times, when it easily could have been. After ten minutes, I was smitten.

How To Train Your Dragon – I don’t know how this isn’t in the top ten. It’s a delightful movie. Though yet again, the mom is missing – what the hell is it with people who write these kids movies. Anyway, the main dragon reminds me of my black kitty which that alone earns it extra points. The animation is good, and the story packs plenty of interest and top-notch animation.

Cars 2 – It’s been on almost every day for the year. I’ve never actually watched it start to finish, but have seen it all. Same great animation, car crashes, and some new characters.

Ice Age 1 & 2 – The first two installments, of this four part series are likely the best in terms of music and one-liners. The other two are okay, but the return on investment dwindles with every subsequent installment.

There you have it, our top ten plus list of animated movies for our kids.

What movies would you add to the list?

What’s your favorite?

Share in the comments below.

 

Ranking Movies My Kid’s Watch – Part I

Screen shot from the Disney 'Tangled' website - used without permission because I'm a bad person. Visit them at http://movies.disney.com/tangled

Screen shot from the Disney ‘Tangled’ website – used without permission because I’m a bad person. Visit them at http://movies.disney.com/tangled

As any parent knows, once you have kids in this day and age, you tend to watch a lot of animated movies. You can be as idealistic as you want but there’s no way around it. We always have something on in the background. And if we like a movie (we rate them on a scale from 1-10), we’ll bestow the greatest of honors upon it: we’ll buy it on DVD. Yes, I know you can see most of this stuff for free through streaming video, but really it’s just easier to put a physical disc in the player. We are old-fashioned I guess. Heck we even have quite a few VHS tapes as well.

I love movies. I love going to the theater or watching them at home. It’s probably one of my most favorite things in the world to do. Call me an escapist I guess. But with two small children in the house I, my wife as well, get to watch very few grown-up movies. I can count on one hand the number of dramatic, scary, violent movies I’ve seen in the last several years. Maybe if we’re “lucky” we sneak in a romantic comedy on a rainy Saturday afternoon. If I do want to watch something R-rated, or even PG-13 I have to wait until after the kids are in bed. By then it’s usually 10pm and I’m exhausted from watching my wife raise the kids all day long.

So when life give you lemons, make lemonade. In fact there are plenty of kids’ movies that we throughly enjoy. Could be that I’d even watch one or two in my studio by myself if I was painting or needed background noise.

Over dinner last night the wife and I made a list of our favorite animated kid movies. We then listed the qualities we would use to rank the movies. In this post I’ll go over our not-scientific-at-all criteria as well as the list of nominees. In the next post I’ll share our rankings for the our top ten (maybe twenty if I’m feeling frisky).

Our Criteria For Liking A Kid’s Movie

Music – Off the top of my head I think all these kids’ movies have music, either songs written specifically for the movie, like that non-sense they keep playing from ‘Frozen’ on the radio, or regular songs such as ‘Send Me On My Way’ by Rusted Root in ‘Ice Age’. If there is at least one catchy tune, and not too many bad ones, rest assured it will increase our chances of liking it.

One Liners – Witty, clever, memorable dialogue can make a kid flick stand out. If we watch the same movie forty-two times in a row and we still chuckle at the same line every time, then that movie definitely “Snailed it”.

Plausibility – Ok, this is mostly my criteria and it’s hard to explain. See, most…okay all of these movies are not realistic compared to the real world. And I don’t have a problem with that. Fast snails, talking birds, monsters going to school…I’m down with all of that. What I’m not down with is a world made up solely of ‘Cars’, where everyone has very human like qualities and needs. They don’t have opposable thumbs…how do they manage doing anything remotely human without actual humans or even small helper robots. How do they apply their rear bumper ointment? Do other cars have to do that for them?  Gross. Usually in sequels and whatnot the producers will back off a little and start to apply fixes for this sort of thing, such as a fork lift that can mix drinks, after they realize the insanity of their ways. How do they pick up a martini glass though…

Animation – This is the eye candy part. Technology has gotten to the point where everything is essentially photo realistic. Regardless though, the look, style and quality play into how well we enjoy a movie. Back in the old days, like when ‘Bugs Life’ came out, animation was pretty good. Movies like ‘Open Season’ lose out because the animation isn’t our cup of tea. We need to be immersed in another world, and balance tech wizardry with cuteness and plausibility. Pixar is likely the gold standard for animation, but now days almost everyone has got their act together, unless they’re trying to be edgy or arty.

Feel Good – It goes without saying, the story has to make us feel good and be happy. If I want to be depressed I’d pay Disney to animate my life story. We didn’t even bother watching ‘Toy Story 3‘. And ‘Up!‘ may as well have come with a bottle of sleeping pills and a bottle of Jack. Look, I’m likely to cry even during a happy movie, I don’t need to bring an entire box of Kleenex with me. Beware of movies that transcend generations or time periods – death is unavoidable.

Storyline – As with any movie a good storyline is a must. All the other stuff doesn’t matter if the story isn’t engaging. We need a start, middle, ending. We need good characters, heroes, bad-guys, and preferably a cute sidekick or animal. Bonus points for a car crash.

Who’s Dead Or Dying – No one should be dead or dying, but if someone must, we’ll factor that in subconsciously. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, like when Paul Newman died between ‘Cars’ and ‘Cars 2’ they had to knock off his character but it was handled nicely – the kids would never pick up on that, just us old farts who miss the actor. Other times they knock off a character, usually a wife or mother, much to the chagrin of my wife. Usually dad’s are okay in kids movies.

Kid Friendly – Some animated movies seem kid friendly but if we feel uncomfortable watching them for fear we may have to explain something messy, like death, to our kids; or if the animation is scary, we likely will stop the movie or at least not watch it again. I think we watched ‘Frankenweenie’ and I spent the whole movie asking myself what have I done as my kids watched in mild horror.

Watch-ability Over And Over – After all, my kid is likely going to want to watch the movie a few thousand times. Which means we’ll have to listen to it over and over again while we hide in the other room. I’ve never actually sat down and watched ‘Cars 2’ from start to finish, but I’ve seen it 37,659 times already.

Previews – One other note, a movie trailer or the name of the studio making the film will sway our decision to watch it or not initially. Some movies got good reviews but we’re just not interested. Others we felt that way and stumbled upon them for free on TV and loved them.

There you have it, those are the general criteria we use. Below is the list we compiled of contenders for our rankings. If movie isn’t here then we don’t even consider it to be close to the top ten for the reasons stated above, or we simply haven’t seen it.

Add your favorites in the comments below!

Also, parents, what’s your criteria for evaluating kids’ movies?

The List Of Nominees For Our Top Ten (maybe twenty)

Turbo

Tangled

Despicable Me

Despicable Me 2

Lorax

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

Frozen

Finding Nemo

Over The Hedge

Ice Age

Ice Age 2

Ice Age 3

Ice Age 4

Toy Story

Toy Story 2

Rio

Horton Hears A Who

Cars

Cars 2

Ratatouille

Hotel Transylvania

Megamind

Monsters vs. Aliens

Monsters Inc.

Monsters University

Meet The Robinsons

Brave

How To Train Your Dragon

Wall•E

A Bugs Life

Planes

The Incredibles

Bolt

 

 

Lawn Mower Review

As promised I’m going to tell you about my Father’s Day present.  Yesterday we picked up a new GreenWorks 40V 19″ cordless electric lawn mower at Lowes. As soon as our old Troy-Bilt mower kind of gave up the ghost, and coinciding with a comparison test in The Family Handyman magazine, I started researching a new mower.  Our old one was gas powered, and was giving me quite a few problems as of late. It would guzzle gas, belch out smoke and had a tough time maneuvering over the rough terrain of our yard.  Even though I’d just changed the oil it sputtered to a slow intermediate death earlier this week.  I could get it fixed up again but thought maybe it was time to rethink the mower situation. After all, I had previously reattached the front wheel axle when it fell off last year, but the axle still flopped around. And just this week I took off the front safety shield so the mower could clear the rough terrain.  Maybe after 9 years it was time for a new mower. Christine was never a fan of the old mower because the “self propelled” feature never even worked very well which meant she couldn’t mow the lawn.

I was intrigued by the idea of an electric mower after reading the comparison in the magazine. So I went online to Lowe’s and Home Depot’s websites to see what they had to offer. Pretty much all the mowers in the article could be bought at one or the other store. I focused in on the 19″ models, as opposed to 14″. This would mean fewer passes back and forth when cutting our 4,200 sq. ft. front lawn. I also keyed in on lithium ion batteries as opposed to lead acid; both are rechargeable. The lithium batteries are like the ones you use in your cordless power equipment.  In fact you can use the lithium ion batteries in the mower and also other power tools. They are interchangeable. The weight savings is 20-40 lbs. by going lithium vs. lead battery.  The lithium batteries also charge in and hour or two vs. 12 hours for a lead acid battery. I’m not sure what the advantage of a lead acid battery is other than it’s tried and true technology.

I was leaning to the GreenWorks 19″ mower from the get go because of it’s size, light weight and battery type. And remember, I was not a fan of the GreenWorks tiller, as the wheels literally fell off when I used it, but since then I’ve come to terms with that unit, and am wiling to give GreenWorks another shot based on my research. When I read the reviews on Lowe’s website (Lowe’s is the only place that sells them locally as far as I could tell, plus we had a $25 coupon), the mower got 4.2 out of 5 stars.  Many of the reviews spoke highly of its performance and I was willing to risk any of the negative reviews which focused on a few minor quality problems with the ignition. The magazine listed the price as $449, but Lowe’s listed it at $349…plus our coupon and it was available at a local store. All and all I was satisfied and went to the store to pick one up. Now the one in the store is model 25223, which includes two batteries, one regular capacity and one half the capacity of the other. Model 25312 includes two regular batteries, but that isn’t offered at Lowes. Based on the reviews I was fine getting the one and a half battery set. I like the idea of two batteries regardless of size so I can charge one while I use the other. I can always buy another battery, especially if I purchase an electric trimmer to replace my gas trimmer someday.

At the store I examined the mower and its construction. I know where all the weak spot are on a lawn  mower – handle where it connects to the body (same on this unit but more on that later), the metal frame which is good and a rarity on electric mowers. I even picked it up to see how much it weighed (not a one hand task but lighter than a gas mower, it’s specs say 49 lbs.).  The height adjustment lever was head and shoulders in terms of ease of operation compared to my gas mower.  One other nice feature is the large back wheel, much better than regular mowers with small back wheels for going over rough terrain, which we have plenty of in our young yard.

So we loaded up the box and took our new friend home with us. It was to late to do anything last night so this mooring was “go time” to test out the new mower. I unpacked the batteries and charger, read the manual briefly and started charging the big battery. An hour or two later I switched and charged the smaller battery. Then it was time to give it a go. I unpacked the mower and lifted it out (it has a handle on top), it was light and new and oh so awesome.  Happiness.  Set up was a breeze, just unfold the handle and slide in the battery and insert the red key to complete the circuit.  With the wife watching and taking photos I depressed the button and pulled back the bail.  With a subtle “whirr” my little green machine came to life. I quickly mowed the tall grass in the walkway eliminating the chances that ticks could hide there while we got in and out of the car. I then pushed the mower to the front yard to finish what my gas mower didn’t.

Several of the reviews online commented that this electric mower actually made mowing “fun” and “enjoyable”.  After ten minutes of back and forth I was beginning to agree. The mower is so lightweight and quiet that it’s essentially like vacuuming your living room in terms of ease. And there is no belching grey smoke or loud noise like a gas lawn mower. The large wheels and light weight also allowed the mower to get over ruts and obstacles easily compared to my lumbering “self-propelled” gas mower. This mower is not self-propelled, but there is no need because it’s so easy to push with very little effort. One cool trick with an electric mower is you can flip it over to inspect the underside. I ran over some bird netting and got it all tangled up. I removed the key, literally flipped it over and extracted the netting, no problem and no worries that gas would come pouring out of the top of the mower or that the heavy mower would flop back onto my foot.

I had mentioned the handle attachment is the same as on other mowers. This area broke multiple times on my old mower. When you go to turn the mower at the end of a pass, so much torque is applied that eventually the handle snaps. I’ll spare you the details but take it from me, it’s a bad design, driven by cost savings. Well, with my new mower it’s so easy to turn because it’s light weight, there isn’t nearly the torque on this part of the handle so it should last for some time. My only complaint on the handle is the length isn’t quite long enough for my 6′-1″ frame, but I would have that issue with almost any mower I suspect.

I always cut in mulching “mode” and this mower mulched very well. It comes with a side chute and bag attachment but I rarely if ever use those.  Both looked easy to install though. The mower starts with a buildup “whir” then settles into it’s cutting rhythm. It will seemingly adjust the power if it starts to get bogged down. I did not get it to bog down so much that it stopped. Though when the battery runs out, it stops automatically, no perceivable wind down of power.

The great thing about the electric mower for our new yard is that is does not pick up rocks or branches. The old mower would just destroy it’s blade on picked up rocks and tree branches that I would “forget” to move. This electric one isn’t powerful enough to lift up the debris and rattle it around, which is actually a good thing. And if you do have to stop, you just release the bail to shut it off, move a stick or whatever and then just press the button and pull the bail back to start it whirring again. No cord to pull, or starter key to turn. This eager mower owned our uneven yard.  It cut even the gnarliest weeds and tall grass. For fun I even blazed a trial to the septic field and back with it; I just didn’t want to stop mowing plants, it was that much fun.  It did leave the occasional grass or weed sticking up but our grass was super long.  The regular mower did the same under these conditions. The damp grass proved no hindrance to our new green mower either. And I could even mow our mulch covered “paths” without throwing mulch everywhere. Awesome.

The sound was amazing. The mower becomes more of an appliance instead of this loud thing you have to fight around the yard. I mowed right around the bee hives (with my suit on just in case) and the bees didn’t bother me one bit. You could run this thing at 7am on Saturday morning and your neighbors wouldn’t mind a bit I bet. Heck you could have guests hanging out in your yard and be like “Hey, I gotta mow this grass real fast, carry on about your business” and you wouldn’t bother them in the least, other than them thinking you were weird for mowing the grass during a party.

I did go through both batteries, and had to take a lunch break to recharge one of them to finish the bee area. No big deal.  I wasn’t nearly as tired as I would have been pushing the gas mower and the forced break was good for my heart health too I suspect.  If I had two large batteries I would be fine. Plus with the gas mower I have to stop at least once to refill it with gas, so changing a battery out midway is no big deal. At the end of the day the handle flips down and you could store this thing on a shelf if you were so inclined.

Overall I can’t get over how much I like my new electric mower. No more messing with gas, and oil changes. It’s light weight provides it with several advantages and makes it perform better than the old mower on our lawn, which I have to say, our lawn is probably a harsher environment than any suburban lawn out there. We have weeds and ruts everywhere and the mower was perfect.  I’m pretty sure my four-year-old or mother could use this mower, it’s so easy to push. I don’t see any viable reason why I would ever go back to a gas mower.  Maintenance wise all I’ll have to do is replace the batteries every few years and sharpen the blade. This is the future of lawn care in my (virtually professional) opinion. It’s already great and only going to get better. I’m really happy with the mower, granted I’ve only used it once.  I’ll keep you posted if I have any issues but so far so good.

(Note: I have a video showing how quiet the mower is but I can’t post it on WordPress without paying $60 to post videos. If I post the video to YouTube (presumably for free) I’ll let you know.)