Show Notes: Winter Products & Microwave Drawers
This week, the Carey Brothers discuss winter products & microwave drawers, USB outlets, and the lunar new year!
Missed our live show? Don’t worry! Because we have a podcast of the show. It’s the same thing we aired on the radio, but ready for you whenever and wherever you are! Check it out here.
9 Home Improvement Projects That Are Easier – And Often Cheaper – In The Winter
For starters, contractors have increased availability since it’s their slowest time of the year. They’re also generally more willing to negotiate on labor costs. Materials – everything from paint to appliances – are also deeply discounted to make room on the shelves for new spring inventory.
So, whether you’re selling your house in the spring – which is thought to be the best time to list – or you’ve just moved in, here are a few home improvement projects experts recommend doing in the winter:
Paint the interiors
Due to the decrease in demand for exterior painting December through March, painters are likely to offer far more discounts and deals than they do during the overbooked summer.
Paint the exteriors
Depending on the paint you’re using – and most manufacturers include a paint’s minimum and maximum temperature for application on cans – winter can also be the ideal time for exterior painting. This is especially true if you live in the south since paint doesn’t dry well in extremely hot and humid conditions. Similarly, it doesn’t dry well in cold temperatures. Rico de Paz, who oversees Consumer Reports’ paint tests, says it should be at least 50 degrees F during application and shouldn’t drop below freezing for several days after painting.
Install outdoor lighting
It’s only on the shortest days of the year that you fully realize how dark it gets outside and can see where you need light. Not only will installing outdoor lighting help your family stay safe, it may even allow you to entertain outdoors during the winter. In the latter case, consider investing in a heat lamp that will provide light in addition to heat. And if you add more outdoor lighting, the men and women who deliver your packages will thank you. It makes their job a lot easier.
Convert that spare room into a home gym
You don’t need to have a New Year’s resolution to lose weight in order to benefit from winter’s low prices on gym equipment. In fact, half of the eight items on Consumer Reports’ list of the best things to buy in January can be used in a home gym. Based on the organization’s research, expect to find “deep discounts” on ellipticals, treadmills, scales and perhaps the most important item for sticking with your routine: a TV.
Refinish hardwood floors
Refinishing hardwood floors in the winter is tough when you are spending more time indoors and need to be on your floors. Plus, you have to find room indoors to store your furniture. However, the inconvenience may be better in the long run. According to N-Hance Wood Refinishing, The Home Depot’s national partner, more humid temperatures can make the finish cure too fast. This results in a too-glossy, uneven finish. For a predictable finish cure, they prefer drier, heated winter air.
Professionally deep clean your carpets
Spring is peak season for professional carpet cleaners. However, that means that if you’re hiring someone to give your carpets a deep clean, you’ll likely get a cheaper quote in the winter when business is slower. And that’s not the only reason. According to the professional carpet and upholstery cleaning service, Chem-Dry, carpets dry quicker in the winter. Clean carpets are also thought to help keep families healthier during flu season.
Update your HVAC system
Dylan Murray, owner of Murray Builders NYC, knows from many years of experience that spring and summer are the worst time to need an HVAC contractor. That’s when their schedules are packed, and it’s not uncommon to have to wait weeks to get an appointment. Instead, Murray recommends hiring one in the winter when they’re more available and often when installation costs are lower. Plus, you won’t run the risk of making a decision based on the sheer desperation summer’s high temperatures incite. In winter you have plenty of time to do research and talk to technicians who aren’t being pulled in 20 different directions.
Why spend the first beautiful days of the year spring-cleaning when you could have done it on more dreary days? That’s why winter is the perfect time to declutter, or as the queen of decluttering, Marie Kondo, says, “tidy up.” According to Kondo’s tips, you should start with clothes, books, documents, miscellaneous and finally, mementos. She also doesn’t subscribe to the theory of starting in one room and finishing it first. Her method involves starting with one category and finishing that before moving on to the next.
Remodel your kitchen
“It’s better to tackle kitchen remodeling in the winter before lumber and cabinets see a large price hike in the spring,” says Doug Coyle, owner of House Doctors of Andover and Merrimack Valley. Coyle also explains that it can be easier to obtain the required permits this time of year. The government agencies that issue them, and ultimately give the green light for anything having to do with changing plumbing or electric, tend not to be as backlogged in the winter months. (Furthermore, January is also the cheapest month to buy a new wall oven, according to Consumer Reports.)
If you don’t want to completely remodel your kitchen, but you’d like a fresh look, consider replacing the hardware. It’s amazing how far a few shiny new knobs and handles can go.
Stuff We Love: Home Winterizing Products
The Smoke Pencil is a handheld draft-detecting tool often used by energy raters, HVAC technicians, auto mechanics and contractors. It’s very easy to use—just pull the trigger near an area you want to check for draft or leakage and see how the smoke moves. The tiny burner in this unit uses a nontoxic glycol-based fluid and runs on six AAA batteries (not included). You can lock the trigger for safe storage and a 3-oz. bottle of fuel is included. This is a very useful tool to see just how weathertight your doors and windows are.
Black & Decker Thermal Leak Detector
This Infrared thermometer will help you spot hidden energy leaks. As you point the detector at your walls, the LED spotlight changes from neutral green to blue for a cold spot or to red for a hot spot. The LCD display screen actually indicates the surface temperature of whatever you are pointing at. If you have recessed lighting, which is often notorious for air leakage, this is the perfect tool to investigate without climbing up on a ladder.
This super-quiet booster fan is designed to help in those rooms where your HVAC system isn’t quite balanced. This fan comes in standard floor and wall register sizes and is an easy install. The magic with the AirTap is it’s LCD thermal controller that you program so the booster fan kicks in your home’s thermostat calls for heat. If you’ve got a room that is typically cold in the winter, or too hot in the summer, this booster fan is a great solution.
Duck Foam Socket Sealers
Only recently did building codes start to require airtight electrical boxes on exterior walls, so most of us live in houses with drafty switch and outlets boxes. These socket sealers are an easy solution to the problem. They come in all common configurations and install behind your cover plates in minutes. It’s a rare occasion when home maintenance is fast, easy and affordable, so don’t pass these up!
Dap Seal ‘n Peel
If you have drafty windows that you want to be able to open in the summer, this removable caulk is the way to go. Cut the tip of the tube just right and it’s easy to apply a nice smooth bead with a caulk gun. This product cures in about 24 hours and provides a temporary weatherproof and waterproof seal that won’t damage your paint when it’s time to peel it off.
Homeowner’s Guide to Buying USB Electrical Outlets
Tips for Buying USB Wall Outlets
Now that you know you want to upgrade to USB outlets in certain areas in your home, here are some tips to take with you to your local hardware store when you’re ready to buy them:
Price and Quality
- Don’t go cheap on any electrical upgrades! Among the other more obvious negatives to opposing that rule, cheaper products typically consume more energy. Low-quality electrical products are simply never worth the risk, so don’t be overly swayed by saving $10 on a new USB receptacle.
- Avoid uncertified products. All electrical wall outlets, including USB, should be both UL certified and compliant with NEC code.
- Buy Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) products. (In a nutshell, this means: buy equipment that is designed for use with your device.) OEM products can also provide an added level of protection against a surge when your device is charging.
- USB receptacles come in two general designs: either they combine a120-volt outlets with two or more USB ports, or they have only multiple USB ports. Buy USB-only receptacles for a home office when the desk is near a regular outlet. For bedrooms, the combo USB outlet is more convenient for overnight charging.
- Look for USB outlets with sliding shutters that cover USB ports to keep out pet hair, dirt, and dust. Some covers are even designed so that the shutter trips a switch when you open it to power the USB outlet.
- USB outlets with on-off switches are also good ideas for areas in your home where they will be less often in use. You can save energy by turning off power to the outlet until it’s needed.
- Amperage is king, especially for newer devices; the higher the amperage, the faster your device can charge. Note: “amperage” is the strength of an electric current in amperes (or amps).
- The two ports you see in most USB outlets have different amperage. The port with 2.1 or 2.4 amps can more quickly charge newer devices (often, the other port is 1 amp; most devices will take longer to charge using this port, so it’s best used for overnight charging and for older devices).
- Be aware that USB-C is a new port standard that many of the latest devices now use.
- USB-C supports the faster USB 3.1 spec, so you may want to purchase a USB receptacle with ports for both the older standard (USB-A) and USB-C, and be ready for the future.
- USB-A supports up to 2.4 ampere (12 watts); USB-C supports 3 amps (15 watts), but this newer standard was designed with room to grow as bandwidth increases.
Keep in mind that most receptacles with multiple USB ports will have a total charging capacity of 5 amps max. Consider upgrading more than one outlet to USB if you need to charge more than one tablet in addition to phones. Many USB outlets cannot charge two tablets at the same time, for example, so adding multiple USB outlets in your home to handle the heavier charging load of different devices will make life easier for everyone in your busy household.
Microwave Drawer Pros and Cons: Is It Worth the Cost?
Kitchen trend alert: Microwave drawers are the new hot-ticket item. But some can cost upwards of around $1,800, not including installation. Is it worth the investment when you can own a traditional microwave for a fraction of the cost? Let’s look at the microwave drawer pros and cons.
Pros to owning a Microwave Drawer
Aside from the fact that you don’t have to stare at the large, out-of-place box when you walk into the kitchen, here are some other pros to installing the drawer:
- As mentioned previously, you gain countertop, under-cabinet and above-stove space.
- You’re lifting items up, not out, preventing you from potentially spilling hot coffee or soup (or anything else that may pour out) on yourself in the removal process.
- Kids and shorter adults can operate the microwave more safely, considering they don’t have to climb on a stool.
- On the flip side, you can lock the control panel, to prevent your kids from using the microwave.
- Because it opens as a drawer, you don’t need to crouch down to put your food in it; simply place it in the drawer.
- It adds a sleeker, cleaner, more modern look to your kitchen, since it doesn’t require a bulky trim kit.
- With some models, you have the option of installing it flush with your cabinets, so it doesn’t protrude.
- As opposed to the standard hinged-door microwave designed for right-handed cooks, the microwave drawer is easily accessible to everyone.
Cons for owning a microwave drawer
Unfortunately, it’s not all roses when it comes to a microwave drawer. Before purchasing one, consider the following cons:
- Sure, you don’t have a microwave on your counter or below your upper cabinets anymore, but it’s still taking up lower cabinet space.
- The price of a drawer microwave is considerably higher than a traditional-style microwave.
- Your kids can now easily access the microwave (if the control panel is not locked), which can be scary.
- Because of where it’s installed, a microwave drawer lacks the option for convection cooking.
- Similarly, because the magnetron is located on the roof of the microwave instead of the side wall, it doesn’t have a turntable function.
- It’s harder to install. You may need to have a licensed electrician install a dedicated 120-volt plug for the microwave, and you’ll need a supporting shelf or platform within the cabinet for the microwave to sit on.
- To open it, you have to push a button. If you force it open manually, you’ll have broken tracks and potentially other problems.
- Most microwave drawers do not provide a comfortable depth for larger casseroles and food items.
So, it’s a toss-up. If you need the countertop or upper-cabinet space, you appreciate the safer handling and you can afford the cost, installing a microwave drawer may be a good call. If, on the other hand, you’re content with your existing microwave and turned off by the price and trickier installation, it may be wiser to simply save your money.
2020 Chinese New Year Parade
Cost: FREE* | Chinatown
Named one of the world’s top ten parades, the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco is the largest celebration of its kind outside of Asia. It was started in the 1860s and takes place the weekend of the Chinese New Year Community Street Fair ..
Nowhere in the country will you see a lunar new year parade with more gorgeous floats, elaborate costumes, ferocious lions, exploding firecrackers, and of course the newly crowned Miss Chinatown U.S.A. and her court.
A crowd favorite will be the new and spectacular 288-foot Golden Dragon (“Gum Lung”). It takes a team of over 180 men and women from the martial arts group White Crane to carry this dragon throughout the streets of San Francisco.
This year’s Southwest Airlines® Chinese New Year Parade promises to warm your heart and electrify your senses, come rain or stars.
The Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade, celebrating the Year of the Rat, will be on Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 5:15 pm, stepping off at Second and Market Streets.
~ Thank you~
A very special thank you to all of our callers! We live to answer your questions, so keep them coming!
Thank you to our Technical Support:
- Danny Bringer – Chief Engineer
- Carol “Remodeling Babe” Carey – Executive Producer
- Sam Reed – Associate Producer
- Rico Figliolini – Digital Master
Thank you for tuning into On The House with the Carey Brothers this week! And check in next week for more cool tips!
“Winter Products & Microwave Drawers” Show Notes for On The House with the Carey Brothers aired February 08, 2020.