How To Home

Home Repair and Maintenance


I have been spending a lot of today around the house removing switches and outlets from the walls, and caulking the gaps between the boxes and the drywall. I am hoping to cut down the air leaks in our house. I am also replacing all of the almond colored switches and outlets with brass plates to white switches and outlets and white plates for a more contemporary look. Also it will help me keep track of which ones I have caulked, and which ones I haven’t done yet.
I even fixed some wiring in our bedroom closet. There are two doors into our closet and a switch outside of each. One switch would turn the light off and on. But if the other switch was turned off, the first switch wouldn’t turn the light on at all. So instead of either switch being able to turn the light off or on, the one swicth overrode the other switch. I first suspected that they weren’t 3 way switches, but they were. Then I mapped out the wiring to the switches and lights on paper, and figured out why it worked like it did. Then I figured out what I needed to change to correct it. It turned out that one of the two switches was wired wrong. I replaced the switch with a new white one, and changed how the wires were connected, and now I have two correctly functioning switches to control the closet light. Thankfully I had studied this type of circuit back in high school electronics class, so I knew how it worked. I am pretty happy to have it fixed.
The batteries in my headlamp died, so I can’t easily do any more until tomorrow. It helps to be able to see what you are doing. And since I have the breaker to the area I am working in, there are no other lights nearby.

When I started looking into buying some Andersen sliding glass doors, I first went to Home Depot. Andersen’s web site also listed some other distributers including 84 Lumber. Since 84 Lumber is right up the street from my work, I decided to try them for prices as well. I was also familar with 84 Lumber as my Aunt lived across the road from their original store in Eighty-Four, PA, and I remember them from when they were just a small lumber yard. I was kind of doubtful they would be able to beat Home Depot, but it couldn’t hurt to ask. I went in, told the guy I want to get prices on the Andersen Frenchwood Gliders with nickel plated hardware. (I wasn’t looking at the double French doors yet) He said he would have to look them up and get back to me in a couple days. About a week later he called and left me a voice mail. I returned his call, but he was on another line. I left a message to have him call me back. A couple weeks later he left me another voice mail asking if I was still interested in the doors. I am still interested in the doors, just not interested in buying them from 84 Lumber. I have had people tell me that they are more for contractors than end-consumers. I guess my buying four Andersen patio doors doesn’t carry much weight. I mean it’s only $5000-$8000.

Chase Pitkin’s (based out of Rochester, NY) is going out of business, and they are liquidating their stock. So they have things discounted 20%-40% or more off. I wanted to buy some switch plates, so I went to check them out. They were listed as 59 cents, and 25% off. I grabbed what I needed, and paid for them, and went out to my car. I double checked the receipt, and found they had each rung up as 51 cents. Excuse me? 59 cents with a 25% discount is 44.25 cents. So they should have rung up as either 44 or 45 cents depending on how they round it. I went it, talked to a manager, and they refunded the 60 cents difference.
If this was the only case, I might not be so upset. The last time I was there, I was buying a dryer vent, which rung up as close to $5 (before discount) when the price displayed was something like $2.98 (before discount). I thought maybe it was on the wrong shelf. I went back, double checked the numbers, and it was the right tag. I went back up, and talked to a manager. The manager agreed I was correct, and the computer had the wrong price. He did point me to another item that was better for I need and cheaper. It was listed as being $1.75 (before the discount). So I grabbed it, and wouldn’t you know that it rung up as around $2.50.
Check your receipts very carefully. I don’t know if these pricing errors are intentional, or if they are just really screw up. Intentional or not, it is still more of your money going into their pockets then should be.

Also, I have noticed that some items even with the discount are still higher in price than you can find elsewhere (Lowes, Home Depot, Target, etc). Make sure you are getting a deal to begin with! I have had people tell me that Chase Pitkins actually raised their prices before they instituted the discounts (ie raised their prices 10%, then offered a 10% discount). Be very wary of them! Shop around, and be sure to check your receipts against displayed prices. You might want to bring a calculator as the only price on the receipt was the already discounted price. Fortunatly I was able to easily do the math in my head to tell me the 25% off of 59 cents is not 51 cents.

1) Replaced three 300 watt halogen torchiere lamps with incadescent type torchiere lamps with 27 watt (100 watt equiv) spriral CFL bulbs. Lamps were $25 each. Bulbs were $2-3 each.

2) Replaced three 75 watt flood lights with 15 watt (65 watt equiv) CFL flood lights. These were in track light fixture overlooking living room. Bulbs cost $6 each.

3) Replaced four 65 watt flood lights with 15 watt (65 watt equiv) CFL flood lights. These are in recessed cans located in kitchen. Bulbs cost $6 each.

4) Replaced three 60 watt globe lights with 15 watt (60 watt equiv) CFL globe bulbs. These are in master bathroom. Bulbs cost $6 each.

5) Replaced 100 watt bulb with 18 watt (75 watt equiv) spiral CFL bulb (hanging light in kitchen). Bulb cost $2-3.

6) Replaced 100 watt bulb with 18 watt (75 watt equiv) spiral CFL bulb (bedroom closet). Bulb cost $2-3.

7) Replaced bed side table lamp with new lamp and 13 watt (60 watt equiv) spiral CFL bulb. Lamp cost $20. CFL bulb cost $3.

8) Changed switch in garage to motion sensor switch. Shuts off after about one minute forty seconds of inactivity. Switch cost $15.

9) Reduced on-time for exterior motion sensor lights (250 watt halogen floods) from ten minutes, to five minutes. No cost.

All of the CFL bulbs will use only about 25% of the electricity of the incadescent bulbs. The change from the 300 watt halogens down to the 27 watt CFLs is huge and will save about $10-20 each per year (depending on time used per day and based on our low electricity cost). These savings do not even include savings on bulbs. All of the CFL bulbs I have bought are guaranteed to last for 5 years (I am sure as heck saving the receipts and cardboard cards that came with the bulbs in case I need to return them). So while the bulbs are more expensive up-front, I should save money on bulbs in the long run. Most of the bulbs should pay for themselves in the first year or two. The rest of their GUARANTEED 5 year lifespan will be free money, or go to pay for the new fixtures.

Besides the lighting I have also:

A) Added a Watt Stopper power strip to my computer so that it shuts off power to my monitor, printer, scanner, and speakers after about 15 minutes when I am not around.

B) Replaced old leaky exterior door.

C) Sealed some of the obvious leaks such as where wires enter house with caulk or foam.

D) Revented dryer with tighter sealing vent, and improved sealing around vent.

E) Revented Jen-Aire grill with tighter sealing vent, and improved sealing around vent.

F) Temporarily plugged leaky bathroom vent until I can replace whole unit.

I have three 75 watt floods on a track light set up overlooking my living room. One of the bulbs is burnt out, and I decided to try some of the CFL floods. Lowes had some 2-pack of 75 watt equiv CFL floods for under $12. So at less than $6/each, I figured it was a good deal. I bought two 2-packs, and brought them home. The lights are about 18 feet off the floor. I tried to use a pole with a suction cup to remove the burnt out bulb. I managed to unscrew the bulb, but the suction cup wasn’t attached securely, and the bulb dropped and shattered.
Another thing I needed to do, was replace the dimmer switch that was wired to the floods. We don’t use the dimmer at all. In the same box was a multi-button switch for the old broken ceiling fan that we replaced with a Hunter Original. I removed that completely, and let the wire go straight through to the current fan.
The new CFL bulbs had a dimpled surface, so I couldn’t use the suction cup pole. I brought in my 24 foot extention ladder, and got it set up. I climbed up, and found the bulb wouldn’t fit into the tracklight fixture. Too large diameter. So tomorrow I will return them to Lowes and see if I can find something else. They had some 65 watt equivalent bulbs that will fit. Right now with one 75 watt bulb burnt out, we have plenty of light. So three 65 watt equivs should work fine. Many of the 65 watt equiv CFL floods at Lowes seemed like they were broken…the little spiral part that was inside of the flood seemed like it was loose, or off center. Interestingly, the CFL floods at Lowes said they will last UP TO 7 YEARS. The CFL floods I saw at Home Depot said they are GUARENTEED TO LAST FOR 6 YEARS. The ones at Home Depot are a little more expensive, but I like the guarentee.

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