Storage container season begins today

storage containersI like to think of it as the cycle of consumerism. People buy “stuff’ to give as gifts during the holidays. We all get gifts. Some will sit in a drawer for the rest of our lives.

If you go to a big box store today like Target, you will see displays of storage containers. Some are red or green or both and those are for Christmas decorations. There are clear plastic tubs and a large assortment of baskets and boxes.

Don’t buy the storage containers. Sure there are a few things we need to store like holiday decorations and seasonal clothing.

Rethink what goes into the containers and why. Most of us have too much stuff which is why I think of storage containers as the enemy. I have a tall stack of empty storage containers in my basement. They were all full at one point. I have no memory of what was in them.

I gave some of the stuff away and donated some to charity. Some of it was recycled and some of it ended up in the trash.  I do enjoy looking at the empty containers.

Resist the temptation to buy storage containers for items that you do not want or need. Get rid of the excess stuff that sits in storage. Make some space for nothing or for something that matters.

Home energy use – is it up or down?

Light bulbAccording to Xcel Energy, we use 7 times more natural gas than our energy-efficient neighbors. When I saw the report I was concerned about a gas leak. I looked back at natural gas usage in prior years and our consumption is about the same. Apparently, we have a lot of neighbors who either stopped heating their homes or are no longer using natural gas.

The report from Xcel Energy also suggested replacing the frig with a more energy-efficient model as a way to use less natural gas. Interesting suggestion considering the refrigerator is electric. 

I think it is safe to ignore the energy consumption reports from Xcel. Besides, there is no point in comparing ourselves with others. I would rather work to beat my personal best. That way we are comparing current energy consumption with past consumption rather than reading a report that is likely comparing our old house to a newer smaller condo.

There are some simple ways to use less electricity. We can turn off lights when we leave a room and turn off office equipment at night. We can program the programmable thermostat and turn the heat down at night and when we are away.

I like to program the dishwasher to run in the middle of the night when energy costs are lower. I do the same with the wash and put it in the dryer as soon as I get up in the morning.

St. Paul storm windows

windowIf you look closely you may see windows covered with plastic. For many of us, insulating window film is a temporary answer to an expensive problem.

I live in a very old house and most of the windows leak. The worst windows were installed in the late 1980’s. Some of the windows are good but they were not installed correctly. We have replaced a few and those windows do not leak cold air into the house.

If you feel a breeze in your old St. Paul house go to your local hardware or home improvement store and pick up some window film. It is fairly easy to install, inexpensive, and can mean a more comfortable winter.

I have heavy construction plastic on my basement windows and window film on two bathroom windows on the West and northwest sides of the house.

Also, consider insulated drapes or shades. They can help keep the house warm on those cold winter nights.

New windows can help too but they are expensive but will pay for themselves after a couple of decades.

Pro homeowner tip: Do not buy cheap replacement windows. They are not worth it.

Pro homebuyer tip: If you are buying an old house in St. Paul expect it to have old windows. If you want new windows buy a new house.

When to call a pro

drain cleaner strip
Used to remove hair from a clogged drain

It makes me smile every time I see posts on Facebook from people who are looking for advice from “friends” on how to solve electrical, plumbing, and heating problems in their homes.  Sure some folks have friends who are licensed plumbers, electricians, or HVAC experts but responses usually come from people who had similar but not identical issues.

As a homeowner myself I just want to say that I like to use Google to do a little research before I call a professional. I do that so that I can get an understanding of what might be wrong. I have a rudimentary understanding of all of the mechanicals in my house and can sometimes perform minor repairs myself. Those repairs usually involve replacing gaskets or washers or maybe cleaning out a drain or a hose.

I generally won’t touch anything that is electrical and always call a pro when the furnace or AC is not working correctly. With appliances, it is a crap shoot. Often in makes sense to replace older appliances rather than trying to get them repaired.  Again a little research online can help diagnose common problems with major appliances.

Hiring a pro can be expensive but in the long run, it can also save money.  I have seen my share of botched home repairs over the years.

If you live in an old house like mine it is important to always have an emergency fund available. At a minimum that fund should have $1000 in it.  The holiday season tends to attract costly repairs. I can not remember a time in my life when I did not have to pay for an emergency car repair or household repair in December. Last year it was the car battery on Christmas Eve.

Getting ready for winter

April 15 2018

It is time to put the hoses away and turn off the water to the outdoor spigots. They will freeze if the temperature stays below freezing for a day or two.

Last weekend I put some plastic on a couple of the windows. They need to be repaired or replaced but for now, a little plastic will go a long way. There are window kits at your local hardware store. The plastic can be put on the inside or the outside and it can make a big difference.

This year it snowed before I got the shovels out and the snow brush for the car was in the trunk. Now is the time to gas up the snow blower and test it to see if it works. Gas-powered snow blowers do a great job if they start. If I were to replace mine it would be with a battery-powered unit.

I like those stuffed snakes for stopping drafts under doors or windows.

Boot parks are handy, especially in houses like mine with hardwood floors. I got the boots out and on the boot park by the back door.


The scariest noise in your house

water faucetIt is Halloween once more. Any house can be scary even if it isn’t haunted. For homeowners, one of the scariest noises is dripping water, especially if it isn’t coming from a faucet. A small water leak can cause a lot of damage.

Most water meters can detect a plumbing leak. If you shine a flashlight on your water meter and see a faucet icon you may have a leak. Some water meters have stars that turn red if there is a plumbing leak.

Some leaks won’t show up on the water meter. I had a leak in the water supply line for a toilet. The water dripped through the floor and into the basement and ruined a few items on a shelf. The water line has been replaced and I keep the shelf empty.

Plumbers can be expensive but not as expensive as repairing the damage from a small water leak.