Shark Rocket Professional Makes it Fun to Clean Carpet

Shark Rocket Professional
Shark Rocket Professional

The Shark Rocket Professional Performance Plus replaced our old, ‘beat-up, falling-apart’ Dyson DC14 Animal Vacuum. About eight years ago, we paid around $500.00 for the Dyson after being told these were the best vacuum cleaners money can buy, hands-down. The Dyson was okay, but not once, not even right-out-of-the-box,  was I ever wowed by its features and performance. On the other hand, we paid only $179.00 for the Shark Vacuum  vacuum cleaner. At less than half the price, the Shark Rocket has already left a much more favorable, initial impression on me than the previous, Dyson Vacuum Website. Here are some of the things that stand-out about this new vacuum cleaner, and how it compares to the Dyson.

How do you Rate the Shark Rocket Professional Vacuum?: 

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Shark Rocket Professional

Suction, Power, and Performance

The first time I powered-on the Shark Rocket Professional, it had noticeably more power than my old, Dyson DC14 Full Kit, reviewed here.  The brushes on the Sharp Rocket really dig into the carpet. In fact, the brush rollers are so strong that they practically propel the entire vacuum unit along the carpet by itself. After vacuuming our entire, my wife took the Shark Rocket over to my parent’s house to demonstrate. The carpeting of both houses look significantly better than they ever did with the Dyson. The Shark Rocket Professional advertises that it has more suction than the latest Dyson DC50 vacuum. The results leave little doubt in my mind that this is true.

Features and Operation

Lightweight Sleek Swivel Performance

The Shark Rocket Professional is only 14lbs. The low, sleek swivel-based vacuum head makes it a breeze to vacuum underneath beds, sofas, chairs, and other furniture. The vacuum head includes nice bright, LED lights so you can see what you are doing as you clean up under those dark pieces of furniture. As I wheeled the Shark Rocket around our living room for a while, I immediately noticed that less effort is required of my back and legs.

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Instant Screen Door by QuikScreen

QuikScreen Instant Screen DoorI used to think the only place for a mesh, instant screen door was odd-sized doorways or areas with no doors at all.  Since purchasing and installing the QuikScreen Instant Screen Door a couple of weeks ago, I am fully sold on the benefits they provide in place of traditional screen doors.  Besides having an odd-sized door where a conventional screen might not fit, the most obvious benefit of the mesh screen is that it lets pets in and out of your house during mild weather when you leave a door open. If you have cats like me, you’ve probably experienced ugly holes in your screen door from the cats climbing up and hanging on it all the time. That is one good reason to consider an instant mesh screen.

How to Install the QuikScreen Instant Screen Door

I happen to have double, french doors with two screens. Both screens were badly damaged by cat claws. Rather than replace the screens again and suffer the consequences all over again, I decided to get a QuikScreen from Home Depot for around $20 bucks. I removed one of the screen doors entirely and replaced it with the QuikScreen in about 20 minutes. There are no nuts, bolts or tools required. The tubular bar on top expands as you twist it and fastens itself inside the door frame. IN the middle is a magnetic latch and on the sides are double-sided adhesive squares for strategically sealing the mesh screen from gaps. You can improvise with this part to get it just right.  I had to meddle with the sides and adhesive a few times before I was satisfied with the fit. Once I was able to get in and out of the mesh screen easily myself, I decided to let the cat have a turn.

Using a Mesh Instant Screen Door as a Pet Door

Habits are hard to break with both cats and dogs. My cat’s first reaction to the QuikScreen was to stare at it and meow. At least she was not digging her claws into it. The slack, loose surface does not give cats anything to grip into, so there is very little concern for an instant screen door incurring damage anytime soon. After some training and coaxing, our cat, Noche, was soon able to get out the door. Two weeks later, she still goes to where the old screen was attached and attempts to dig her claws into it, but there is nothing but glass there now. It still takes her some nudging to use the QuikScreen, but she is getting better. Overall, it works very well as a pet door and the problem with screen damage is completely resolved. The one obvious problem is that instant screen doors do not work when you choose to keep your door closed during cold or hot weather. However, the QuickScreen is not unattractive and looks completely normal when our door is open on nice days. It keeps us from getting up and down to let the cat in and outside.

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Tasin TS-108 Meat Grinder

Tasin TS 108How do you rate the Tasin TS-108 Meat Grinder: 

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Sometimes I get so excited about a product that I have to review it before I even try it. After some exhaustive research on electric meat grinders, I just ordered the Tasin TS-108.
I am looking forward to this as much as a kid looks forward to a Playstation 3 for Christmas. One of the top reasons I chose this particular electric meat grinder over all the others is that it seemed to the very favorite of those who are actually using it for my very same purpose: Making homemade, raw cat food or dog food. I viewed a very detailed video demonstration of how this meat grinder could be used to make a raw cat food recipe with the same ingredients I wished to use. (You can view this You Tube Video of the TS-108 in action at the bottom of the page). As demonstrated by the video, this electric meat grinder makes quick work of whole cuts of meat and bones. This Tasin meat grinder easily handles and grinds-up the bones in raw meat like turkey, chicken, hen and other poultry products. This is perfect for making a delicious raw food recipe for cats or dogs. Dogs and cats need the nutrients from the bones and skin on raw meet. We tried buying our own raw cat food in a brand called, Rad Cat. This is an excellent product, but shipping, handling and the middle men who bring it to the pet stores make it cost prohibitive  as a long term solution for feeding our two cats. I knew there was a better way, but it would require a high quality electric meat grinder to make it possible. Of all of my research, this is the one that comes out on top for a few reasons:

Benefits of the Tasin TS-108 Electric Meat Grinder

Meat and Bone Grinding Horsepower

The Tasin has a 1200 watts motor. This is 3-times as much as some of the other brands that our selling for under $100 at Walmart, Amazon and other retailers. The meat grinder is built with the quality you’d expect from electric meat grinder. I didn’t want to go with an under-powered, cheap home-style meat grinder. The strong motor is what sold me first on the TS-108 model.

Quality Materials Workmanship and Properties

Unlike other other electric meat grinders, the parts are not all cheap plastic.  The Feed Pans are made from aluminum alloy and the mesh plates and blades are made from sturdy carbon steel. More importantly, the internal gears are made from metal rather than plastic on some of the other electric meat grinders, which will eventually wear out. The body and functions of the Tasin is made from heat-resistant ABs Plastic, so you shouldn’t have to worry about any cheap plastic parts cracking or breaking off.  The TS-108 weights 16 lbs and comes with #12 sized Grinder and a 2.5″ diameter mouth.  Having compared other models, the #12 and 2.5″ diameter mouth seems to be the perfect size for an electric meat grinder.

Features and Accessories

There is not a whole lot of room for bells, whistles and technological gadgetry on an electric meat grinder.  The TS-108 unit is equipped with an on/off switch as well as a reverse setting for un-jamming. One nice little touch  is an internal storage compartment for extra plates and cords.  The TS-108 does come equipped  a kubbe, sausage stuffer and a plunger. I’m not sure what either the kubbe or plunger are, but I will definitely be looking up some sausage recipes.  For the reasonable price of $150, I also got an extra, stainless-steel blade which is reportedly worth $15.00. I did not one small complaint about the Tasin TS-108. The parts are not dishwasher safe, though they advertise the detachable cap, worm and head as hand-washable for easy cleaning.  The motor is CE certified and comes with a circuit breaker to prevent damage to the motor.  The unit comes with a 1 year warranty. I paid $158.00 and some change for the Tasin TS-108 Electric meat grinder. For what I spend on raw cat food, I expect the Tasin TS-108 to pay for itself well within the 1-year warranty. While, the solid construction and features of the Tasin TS-108 seem impressive enough, how does it all operate?

Tasin TS-108 Electric Meat Grinder in Action

Here is an impressive video demonstration of how easily meat and bones are ground up through the Tasin TS-108 Meat grinder.


Solar Christmas Lights

solar christmas lightsAre Solar Christmas Lights worth the money? In a word, no. In two words, it depends. Let’s start worth the no, then we’ll move on to the depends part of the equation.

Disadvantages

If you want to light-up the outside of your home like the City Courthouse, you’d better have enough money to buy the courthouse, if not a good-sized town. One string of 50 Solar LED Christmas lights typically costs $20.00. For kicks, my wife and I decided to try the Solar Lights experiment this year. For starters, we bought two strings of LED lights for $40 and were able to decorate two small bushes in the front of our home. Just think, for another $2,000 we could have purchased 100 strings for a whopping total of 5,000 lights. In case you’re wondering, that falls about 10,000 lights short of competing in your neighborhood Christmas Decoration contest. If cost is not a good enough deterrent for the LED Solar Christmas Lights experiment, we discovered a few other problems:

For one thing, you need to be able to place your solar panel where it gets enough sunshine throughout the day to charge the lights so they will stay lit most of the evening. Since our home faces north it was difficult to find places to stake the solar panels in the yard which are not covered in shade most of the day. If you wanted to put the lights on your eaves or roof, you’ll find that the charging cord is not long enough to reach the ground. You’ll have to mount them on the roof or gutter or somewhere else and here-in is the next problem with solar Christmas lights: Even if you went crazy and bought a bunch of these things, how ugly is your yard, roof or gutters going to look with this square, 4×4” solar panels littered everywhere? If that’s not bad enough, what happens if it’s cloudy all day or snow covers your panels and prevents any sun light from charging your lights? You’ll be left with a plain, undecorated house and looking like the neighborhood scrooge.

Advantages

Okay, so that covers just about all of the disadvantages of solar lights. At this point, it may be hard to believe, but they do serve a useful purpose. The real purpose for solar Christmas lights is to fill gaps in areas which otherwise might be ignored. Everyone has small bushes, wreathes, windows, roof or other areas of the home that are hard to reach with a wall outlet and require an extension cord. As long as these areas get enough sunshine, you’ll be able to decorate in areas which might otherwise be ignored. In short, Solar Christmas Lights are not well suited for replacing traditional lighting. Rather, they are a useful addition to your yearly Christmas decoration tool chest.

Snoboss Shovel

snoboss shovelSince first seeing the Snoboss shovel at Home Depot last year, I decided to look up some actual user reviews on this large, peculiar-looking snow shovel. My large driveway requires a lot of horizontal and vertical distances to cover with a standard shovel, so I’ve often wondered if there is a better way. The Snoboss (Snowboss or Snow Boss) is a drastically looking looking different tool than the typical, snow shovels I’m used to. While my other two snow shovels are ergonomically designed, they do not have the deep, double-hand scoop of the snoboss. In theory, the snoboss makes the job of shoveling a driver quicker and easier on the back. What specifically is different about the features and physical properties of the Snoboss that supposedly make it superior for shoveling snow?

Snoboss Shovel Physical Properties and Features

The snoboss is described as an Ames True-Temper Snow pusher. A quick glance at the snoboss will tell you that it is better suited for pushing larger volumes of snow. Hopefully, this means you don’t have to cover as much distance, going back and forth to do the job. Additionally the snoboss is ergonomically designed in such a way to minimize lifting and strain on the back. The double u-shaped, handle gives users a dual grip for dispersing the weight of the snow when lifting and pushing. If that’s not enough to push through heavy snow, the snoboss also includes a ledge for

ergonomic snow shovelusing your feet. Why would I be interested in a big shovel like this? Well, because the current shovel I use (See Picture to the left) is incapable of paving across the width of my driveway without leaving behind streaks of snow on both sides of the shovel. So, even a relatively light snow storm of say 4-6″ means that for every path I pave, I have to make two trips back and forth to pickup the leftover snow. My hope is that the Snoboss is big enough and holds enough volume in snow that I can make a spotless path from one side of the driveway to the other. This looks and sounds great in theory, but before I plop down $38.00 on a snow shovel, what are people actually saying about the Snoboss shovel? Does it do a good job and can I find one review that proves the Snoboss will accomplish the task of being able to shovel a spotless paved path across the width of a large driveway?

Snoboss Ratings

snoboss ratings
Over 34 users of the Snoboss rated it 4 stars on Amazon and another 9 ranked it 4 stars from Home Depot. A 4-Star rating out of 43 users is not bad, but what could keep this product from getting 5 stars? For one, thing there seems to be a number of users disappointed in the bottom blade edge of the snoboss, citing that the metal was soft, poorly made and didn’t stay flat against the pressure of the snow. Well, okay, not a deal killer, but how about making a clean sweep across my driveway without leaving streaks of on both sides of the path? Well, apparently, the snoboss isn’t perfect in that respect either. A small number of users reported that while the snoboss does much better than a standard shovel in this regard, there is still some spillage over the sides when going across the driveway. The other small gripe is that the snoboss shovel is a little bit cumbersome for maneuvering corners. So, what about the positives? Nearly all users of the snoboss unanimously agreed that it makes the job of cleaning the driveway much easier and quicker than your standard snow shovel. Everyone also agreed that this shovel is far easier on the back and makes the job much less straining. Even those, who didn’t rate the Snoboss with a perfect 5-star rating, admitted that they preferred it to their typical snow shovel.

Pros and Cons of the Snoboss

PROS

  • Better Ergonomics for less strain on the back.
  • Multiple handles provide better leverage for lifting snow.
  • Large Volume scoop gets the job done quicker.

CONS

  • Flimsy Metal blade on bottom (May have been fixed in newer models)
  • Large size makes it rather difficult for negotiating turns
  • Despite large scoop still suffers some spillage of snow out the sides.
  • Price is about $10 to $15 higher than your typical snow shovel

 

Conclusion

The Snoboss is not the perfect snow shovel, but I have yet to find one that is. If you live in an area where you can expect more than a handful of rough, snowy days, why not arm yourself with all the help you can get? The fact that the snowboss will help minimize back pain is reason enough alone to buy one. The benefits of getting the job done quicker are merely the icing on the cake – or should we say the snow off the driveway? We’re expecting 5-8 inches of snow tomorrow morning, I wish I had already bought a snoboss shovel

Wasp Attractant

yellow jacket traps

If you’re looking for a cheaper or better wasp attractant recipe for your Yellow Jacket Traps, you’re not alone. I got tired of paying $4.00 for a tiny bottle of wasp attractant serum for each of my yellow jacket traps. I have a fairly wide back-yard which gets swarmed with wasps in the late summer/early fall. At $16.00 a pop for four, it gets expensive and they don’t last all that long. Pictured left, are the yellow jacket traps I use at home. The other question I had: Is the Wasp Recipe I’m buying the best I can do? I quickly found out an answer to my question.

In Search of a Better Wasp Attractant

Uncontrolled observational studies at home may not be the most scientific method for discovering new and better ways to improve your backyard environment, but they can be very effective as I shall explain: The four yellow jacket traps I have cover a width of my about 50 yards of my backyard. I noticed that the wasps, particularly the ones swarming around the table on my deck were not being particularly excited about the Yellow jacket traps. After 24 hours, only about 12 wasps found the traps appealing enough to make their way inside. There were easily at least 50 wasps flying around the surrounding area. That is, until my wife put out the humming bird feeder. If you think hummingbird nectar makes a good attractant for hummingbirds, you should see what it does for wasps or yellow jackets. In a matter of 5 minutes, dozens of  yellow jacket wasps clung to the hummingbird feeder like flies on cow dung. It was a remarkable site. Even more remarkable was how quickly they began emptying the feeder of its red, hummingbird nectar contents. Hummingbirds and Wasps have the same tastes, the only difference is that the wasps are much more aggressive and persistent about going after it – and they don’t mind or care whether or not a human being gets in their way. So, it was with great skill and courage that I removed the yellow jacket traps from around the humming bird feeders and brought them into the house for a dousing of my new-found wasp formula.

Hummingbird Nectar

Better Wasp Attractant Recipe

hummingbird nectar wasp attractantThe red. liquid hummingbird nectar which is is pictured to the right, costs about $8.00 and will make about 48 ounces of nectar. This may seem expensive for keeping hummingbirds occupied, but 48 ounces is probably more than enough to last for 10 years as a wasp attractant. The only question is whether or not the hummingbird nectar will  work as well inside the yellow jacket traps as it does in the hummingbird feeder?  Here’s how to use it: I took a couple of cotton balls and condensed them in my hands as tightly as I could and placed them in the bottom pod of the yellow jacket traps then saturated them with the hummingbird nectar. I also placed a hummingbird nectar-soaked cotton pad, inside the top of the trap just for good measure.  I re-assembled the yellow jacket traps and placed them back outside close to where the hummingbird feeder formerly resided. The new wasp attractant was an instant hit. In a matter of  1 hour there was over a dozen trapped wasps in one trap. After a day, there are two many wasps to count. The hummingbird nectar not only worked instantly, but continued to attract the wasps long after one-day of use. I’m not sure how many days the odor will last, but so far, the hummingbird nectar makes a far more productive wasp formula than the commercial brand.

Final Verdict: Best Wasp Trap Recipe

A picture speaks a thousand words: The Wasp Trap pictures on the left is after 1-Day of use with the hummingbird nectar. The wasp trap on the right is your typical Wasp Serum that comes with the pictures yellow jacket traps and this is after 5 days of use.  Also, worth noting: 2 days after this picture was taken, the hummingbird nectar continued to attract more wasps and as of the time of this writing, is still getting new wasps. The one on the right, with the store bought brand of wasp trap recipe is being completely ignored after just 7 days. By the comparison photo, is there any doubt which one is the best wasp trap recipe?

Wasp Trap Recipe

French Coffee Press Review

French Coffee Press
French Coffee Press

I used to think a French coffee press was just another one of those snobby marketing ideas. As I quite often do, I’ve changed my mind a bit on the Coffee Press method of brewing coffee as I’ll explain in this review. First, a little history about how a French Press Coffee maker ended up in my home: I bought my, 8-Cup Bodum coffee press about 15 years ago when I started drinking Starbucks Coffee. For many years, I didn’t like Starbucks Coffee. In fact, I only drank light roasted coffees. I thought the Starbucks Dark roasted coffees tasted smoky and lacked the richness of lighter roasts. It wasn’t until I actually went into a Starbucks Store and ordered a regular cup of coffee that I got a new found appreciation for their darker, cream tasting roasts. The home coffee makers just don’t do a decent job. One: home coffee brewers don’t make it hot enough. Two, home coffee brewers don’t extract the flavor of the dark coffee grinds. Because the darker grinds are well roasted, the window for unlocking their flavor is extremely critical So, one day about 15 years ago, I asked my Starbucks store representative what kind of coffee maker it would take to get the coffee to taste as good at home as it does the store. They showed me a Bodum French press and I bought it on the spot. Why?

 

What is a French Coffee Press

A French Coffee Press is a bit of a peculiar looking contraption, isn’t it? Some would have you believe it’s a beautiful relic meant to be proudly displayed in your kitchen. I wouldn’t call a French coffee press ugly, but I wouldn’t exactly call it attractive either. At any rate, a coffee press is indeed an interesting looking device. My Bodum coffee press consists of an 8-Cup glass carafe with a plastic base. The lid has an 8” metal rod going through it, with a mesh-metal filter attached to the bottom. A spring-type mechanism wraps around the circumference of the mesh filter and is designed to push the grinds down and keep them out of your coffee when you press it. So, how do you use a one?

How to Use a Coffee Press

Using a French coffee press is a far more simple process than the looks of this contraption would have you believe. I actually enjoy using mine, but it does require a couple of little extra steps to prepare. The first thing I do is grind the coffee. Because a press uses no paper filter, it is important not to grind the coffee too fine. In fact, the coffee grinds can be quite coarse and still get a good roasted flavor. I usually turn my coffee grinder on for no more than about 10 seconds. I also like to use more coffee than I would with a traditional coffee maker. It’s up to you how strong you like your coffee. Dump the coffee grinds into your French coffee press carafe and some water either on the stove or with a microwave proof container. Since my own French Press holds 8 cups, I usually boil 2-8 cups of water, depending on how much coffee I want to make. Then, while the boiling water is piping hot, pour it into the carafe over the coffee grinds. Gently put the lid on without pushing the rod down. Allow the coffee to steep for about 3-5 minutes then slowly press the rod down to the bottom of the carafe. The Coffee is now ready to pour. When prepared with my Bodum, the coffee is hotter and more flavorful than with the Cuisinart Coffee/Grinder and several of the other coffee makers I own, including the old-fashioned percolator! And I like the idea that the French coffee press is so old-fashioned that it’s simple to use and clean. Just dump the grinds into the sink and wash the carafe and parts and set them in the sink basket to dry.

Cons of the French Press

If a coffee press is so simple to use then you’re probably asking why I would ever use anything else. There are actually three reasons: One: My Bodum Press simply doesn’t make enough coffee for an entire family. Two: The coffee doesn’t stay hot very long as there is no heating element on the bottom. Three: You will have some fine coffee grinds sediments in your cup. I don’t mind this, but others might. The coffee press has its place among my other coffee makers and I use it when I want just one or two cups of the fullest bodied coffee I can get my hands on at home.

Hose Nozzle

Hose Nozzle
Copper Hose Nozzle

It’s amazing how something as simple as a hose nozzle can cause years of grief before you finally decide to do something about it. Funny thing about the hose nozzles is that we usually need a minimum of two of them for our yard. My current back yard hose is the one that has suffered through more lousy nozzles than I care to remember. The good one always ends up in the front yard for washing cars because that is where it seems to be needed the most. The other nozzles usually end up in the trash after a year or two for the following reasons:

  • gets more water on you than the plants or car you’re watering
  • fails to deliver a fine enough or wide enough spray over time
  • is cracked and mechanically broken
  • is troublesome and awkward to use

So, why has the one in my front yard lasted so long? More on that later. But for now, let’s admit this much:
We’ve all suffered through bad hose nozzles with one or all of the above symptoms, and we invariably end up going back to the store and spending between $5 and $25.00 for new ones and keep repeating the same mistakes. There has got to be a better way.

Bon-Aire Hose Nozzle

Bon-Aire Hose Nozzle
Bon Aire Hose Nozzle

This is what got me to talking about Hose Nozzles in the first place. I was at the Denver Home and Garden show just two weekends ago when I walked past a booth where a very excited salesman was talking about the amazing Bon-Aire Hose Nozzle – made from Aircraft Aluminum; rugged, durable and unbreakable. The salesman also made a very impressive demonstration of the jet-stream power and the way the Bon-Aire adjusted from various levels of spray. He dropped the Bon-Aire on the hard floor to show how durable it was. I was impressed and decided to look into these for my next back yard nozzle. The Bon-Aire nozzle did indeed get some pretty impressive reviews. Amazon users of the Bon-Aire “ultimate” nozzle rated it an average of 4.5 stars. Only a couple of things bothered me: One, a few users said it stopped working after 1-2 years. Some even mentioned that the product was no longer made in America and appeared to be made with cheaper materials. My verdict is that the Bon-Aire is indeed a high-performing water nozzle, but the commentary from users made me very doubtful that it would live up to the expectations of my front yard hose. Now it’s time to confess what I have in the front yard:

A Better Nozzle

Grandpa’s Old Copper Nozzle is Still the Best

Believe it or not, I have been using a hose nozzle passed down from my grandfather 17 years ago. There is no telling how long he has had it since I inherited it after he passed away in 1994. This old, 4″ long copper nozzle has been abused, dropped, thrown around and performed flawlessly for at least 25 years. I’ve replaced a couple of washers in it, but that’s all it has ever needed to continue offering me drip-free, high-pressure, variable water spraying performance in the 17 years that I’ve owned it. Much of today’s sprayers, such as the Task Force Pressure Washer, use too many parts and are therefore likely to break overtime. This good old fashioned copper nozzle is made only from two pieces of copper and a washer. For performance, I might try one of the Bon-Aire nozzles, but I won’t hesitate to add another one of these life-long lasting copper Hose Nozzles that I got from my Grandpa to the backyard hose.

Hansgrohe Metro Faucet

American Standard Faucets
Hansgrohe Metro Faucet

To understand why my wife and I were in the market for a Gooseneck Pull Down Kitchen Faucet, a little history is in order: Number one, our old, Arwa Kitchen Faucet with the pull-out sprayer was leaking from the inside. It needed to be replaced and good riddance!. The Arwa Faucet came with the house along with our Kindred Sink, and while it looked nice it was a nuisance. I replaced the cartridge on it couple of years ago and finding service for it was next to impossible. I had to do a Google image search just to identify the unfamiliar brand, Arwa. I was fortunate enough to locate an exact match of the image on Google and called the service center in Tucson for a $29 replacement cartridge. I never felt comfortable dealing with a kitchen faucet that cannot be purchased or serviced locally. While I liked the faucet overall, I didn’t care for its low height clearance which made cleaning big pots and pans more of a challenge in our deep sink. The attached hand sprayer was powerful, nice and convenient, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have a pull-down sprayer in a large, deep sink? Yes, it would. A gooseneck faucet with a pull down sprayer would be the perfect solution. Delta and American Standard Faucets sounded like good brands to look for, so I set out to find one. You’re probably wondering how I got my hands on two different brands of Kitchen Faucets for review in such a short time.  Before I begin ranting and raving about American Standard Faucets, let me tell you about removing the old Kitchen Faucet.

Removing old Kitchen Faucet to Install American Standard Faucet

Removing the old Kitchen Faucet was by far the most difficult part of the job. In fact, I was eventually able to install and uninstall two different faucets in less than half the time it took to remove the Arwa Faucet. I’ll say one thing for American Standard Faucets – they seem very straight forward. But removing the old one? Argh! To be fair, my past failure was mostly due to inexperience on my part. There is no easy way to get behind your kitchen sink with a crescent wrench or pair of channel-locks. After an hour of frustration I went to my good friend Google and discovered an even better friend – the Basin Wrench. The $12.00 Basin Wrench I bought at Harbor Freight made quick and easy work of the traditional, kitchen faucet nut behind the sink. Next, the challenge was getting the copper water lines pulled out of the nut and through the sink hole. Unlike the two, new faucets, the Arwa used copper lines instead of the flexible tubes which would have made things much easier. I eventually had to cut through the hand sprayer line in order to get the rest of the lines squeezed through the nut and the entire assembly pulled right out. My difficulties were over – or so I thought.
Next, I will explain how the misfortune of buying a defective product on my first try, afforded me the opportunity to do this product comparison review on American Standard Faucets vs the Hansgrohe kitchen faucet.
We’ll start in chronological order, beginning with the Fairbury model by American Standard Faucets.

American Standard Faucets

Fairbury Model

american-standard-fairbury-faucet
American Standard Fairbury Faucet

I have always had good vibes about the American Standard Brand and American Standard Faucets. So, while looking at kitchen faucets at Home Depot, the American Standard Fairbury Gooseneck faucet with pull-down sprayer caught my eye with its low, $138.00 price tag and attractive, elegant looks. The Fairbury not only looked nice, but seemed well made. For the price, what could wrong? I decided to buy it on the spot and take it home. I expected American Standard Faucets of any type to cost twice this much. Only one problem after I took it home. It turned out the water lines were too short, so I did have to buy a couple of adapters for $6.50 each, bringing my total cost up to $151.00 – still a bargain. Just in case, I would read some user opinions before installing it in case I decided to return. To my amazement, the opinions were mostly all very favorable. Is it just the brand? People seem to love American Standard Faucets in general, but it goes deeper than that. Users marveled over the performance and ease of use and installation of this particular model.  Only two, unfortunate Fairbury users reported a problem. The plastic threading inside the neck of the faucet broke, causing them to have to return it after a very short period of use. I decided to give it a go. It turns out that I wasn’t as lucky as the unfortunate users. For me, the threading inside the neck broke as soon as I tightened the nut to the base of the faucet. I kept wondering why I couldn’t get it completely tight before I realized that the inside of the neck had become loose. It was getting late at night and I didn’t want to get ready for work the next morning without a useable kitchen faucet. I rigged the Fairbury up so it was snug enough to use on a temporary basis until it could be returned and replaced with a working unit. While the unit was installed, I was able to get a very favorable impression of the performance, looks and operation of the American Standard Fairbury faucet. The strength of the water flow was excellent and easy to control with the single handle. The Fairbury’s pull-down hand-sprayer is a joy to use. You can choose between regular or a shower-needle type spray with one button. Another button will pause the water flow altogether. That’s a nice feature I wasn’t expecting. The Fairbury was so enjoyable to use that I really had think long and hard about whether or not I should take another risk with the apparent design flaw of the plastic thread construction on the inside of the neck. With a full weekend ahead of me, I decided to take a look at the Hansgrohe Faucet from Costco.

Hansgrohe Metro Faucet by Costco

A name like Hansgrohe going against American Standard Faucets? Are you kidding me? As  luck would have it, both of my local Costco store offer a Gooseneck, Pull-Down Hand-Sprayer Kitchen Faucet for the low, low price of $158.00. With a Google Search on my iPhone, I quickly noted that the same product sells for $219.00 at Amazon. I bought the Hansgrohe Metro Faucet and took it home to compare it to the American Standard Fairbury model I would be returning. I didn’t have to get very far to immediately notice a huge difference in quality. The Hansgrohe feels twice as heavy as the Fairbury and for good reason. Unlike the Fairbury, the Hansgrohe Metro Facuet has solid copper threading inside the neck instead of plastic. Also, the Hansgrohe comes with long enough water lines that no extensions are needed. I was sold. In just 20 minutes, I had the Fairbury removed and the new, Hansgrohe installed! Though both faucets install the same way, it should be noted that the Hansgrohe comes with much better instructions and includes a base which makes a sturdier fit to the bottom of the kitchen granite. Like the Fairbury, the Hansgrohe Metro provides a very strong flow of water; 2.25GPM according to the manual. The Hansgrohe uses a u-shaped handle which I prefer slightly over the single handle of the Fairbury. While the operation of the Hansgrohe Pull-Down Sprayer feels freer and more robust than the Fairbury, it does lack the convenient pause button. Also, the Hansgrohe, has a rather weak flow of water from the hand-sprayer, probably just due to having larger spray holes. At any rate, not a big deal, it’s plenty powerful enough and has a very long reach to either of the bottom sides of our sink. One other thing in the Fairbury’s favor was that my wife thought it looked nicer. Neither its appearance nor hand-sprayer performance made either of us think twice about removing the Hansgrohe. It is a far better product, overall. It just feels like the right choice and considering the $13.00 requirement of extension water lines for the Fairbury, it’s only $7.00 cheaper than the Hansgrohe. The Hansgrohe Metro from Costco represents a great value in Kitchen Faucets with Pull-Down Sprayers and wins this contest, hands-down.

Hansgrohe Kitchen Faucet (9 out of 10)

  • Materials and workmanship: 10
  • Performance and Operation: 9
  • Features: 7
  • Value: 10

American Standard Fairbury Kitchen Faucet (7.75 out of 10)

by American Standard Faucets

  • Materials and workmanship: 6
  • Performance and Operation: 8
  • Features: 8
  • Value: 9

I prefer the Hansgrohe. In fact, I have no partiality to the brand. My plumber actually recommended Delta or American Standard Faucets. I chose the Hansgrohe Metro Faucet because it was better quality. Nothing against American Standard Faucets, but the Metro was the clear winner.

Update – Summer 2014

After two years of flawless operation, our Hansgrohe Metro faucet began linking under the cabinet. The water was coming out of the flex pipe where the weight attaches to hold down and position the sprayer into the faucet. The good news is that Hansgrohe stood behind their lifetime warranty 100%. The bad news is that a broken, leaking faucet cannot wait. We had to replace our Hansgrohe with a new faucet while we waited for the replacement part. The part arrived in just three days. We installed the Hangrohe at my parents house where it is once again operating flawlessly and makes an attractive addition to their kitchen.

Best Led Flashlight

best led flashlight
Inova

Inova is the new leader in flashlights.  Well, I Remember when Mag lite flashlights hit the scene back in 1979. They were considered the most rugged, well-built, brightest flashlight you could buy for your money. Now, they are to old for Product Review Ratings to even review them, anymore.  I held off buying one many years because I thought they were too expensive.  It wasn’t until I became a home owner that I realized how important it was to have at least one good quality flashlight around the house. I bought the large black Maglite that uses Double-D Batteries. Unfortunately, the Maglite never lived up to my expectations. It looks and feels like a heavy duty flashlight, but doesn’t seem very effective at the one thing I bought it for: Bright light. I also own one of the smaller Maglites and was never all that impressed with it either. I’ve had other, cheaper flashlights that produce brighter light and when I need a lot of light fast, I use a big, candle powered lantern flashlight. I bought a two-pack of small, LED flashlights at my local Harbor Freight store.  Good lights, yes, but probably not the best. They were great at first, but stopped working after a few months. So, what do you do about a better flashlight?  You go look for the best, and I think I’ve found it.

There is nothing more aggravating than not being able to find a good flashlight at home when you need one. The shelf life of your typical AA, AAA, C and D batteries is not very good. The best LED is not only brighter, but will give you considerably longer battery life. Consequently, unless you are replacing the batteries every 2 months, chances are good that flash light kept on your shelf will probably not be very bright by the time you get around to needing to use it. How stressful is it to not have plenty of the right kind of batteries on hand when you need them? When it comes to LED flashlight technology, reliability is at least as important as brightness and lumens.

Technology Behind a Better LED Flashlight

The highest quality LED flashlights produce a far sharper, brighter more focused beam of light. Even the old standby Maglite has gone to LED flashlights. The better ones uses 123A Lithium Batteries which have a 10-Year shelf life. If you buy the best, you won’t have to wonder how strong the light is the next time you use it. The great thing about the Lithium Batteries is that once they’re done, they are really done. They don’t gradually get dimmer like traditional batteries, leaving you wonder how much light you will have left. Generally, the lithium batteries give you 2-4 hours of consistently bright lighting power. Lithium 123a Batteries are expensive if you buy them from the store. Get Lithium Batteries Cheap – Way cheaper than what you’d pay at Walgreens, Target, Walmart, etc.. below.  I wouldn’t mind paying a tad more for the best led flashlight, anyway.

Inova

Strong Case for Best LED Flashlight

The brand Inova and Maglite make a similar LED Flashlight.  Both are well constructed with impact resistance materials and both claim to be the best led flashlight. After some research, I’ve chosen the Inova X03 Flashlight as the one that trumps all others. The Inova X03 is made from an aerospace aluminum material which is both impact and water resistant. The LED light is electronically controlled for precise directional light and has a 50,000 hour life. On the Inova X03 is a 3-Position switch where the end-cap is located. You can keep it locked to off, turned on momentarily, or turned on all the time. This is a well constructed flashlight; weighing only 5.57 ounces. Inova advertised that the X03 has an effective range of 457 feet and 4 hours of battery run time. Real world users have reported impressive results of up to 200 feet or so and say the run time is closer to 2 hours. I’ve searched Amazon and other websites for real user reviews on the X03 and have not found a user rating below 4 stars. Over 50 users, give the Inova X03 a rating of 4.5 stars. I am going to have at least one of the Inova X03 kept on the shelf in my den next to a box of the cheap Lithium 123a Batteries.

Best Pencil Sharpener

Best Pencil Sharpener
School Pencil Sharpener

I’m still looking for the best pencil sharpener. We’ve all done it, haven’t we? We cuss and swear at the top of our lungs when those cheap pencils break inside the pencil sharpener. Hopefully, we didn’t react this way while we were in our classrooms during school. Cheap, broken pencils are maddening enough to make any grade school child cuss like an angry, adult male failing an anger management class.  What we’re left with is a broken, cheap pencil and messy job of dissembling the pencil sharpener that was not up to the task. Thanks to computers, laptops and hand-held devices, pencils are not as popular as they once were, but for those of us who use them frequently, finding a good pencil sharpener is like gold. Personally, I find that crossword puzzles are a great way to relax. Unfortunately, it’s a little bit difficult to get to a point of relaxation when I’m constantly having to look for sharpened pencils. For that reason, I like to keep a few sharpened pencils armed and ready in every room of the house. This may sound obsessive, but it beats cussing like an angry adult male being expelled from an anger management class. I’ve been through a couple of different types and brands and trust me; not all pencil sharpening tools are created equal. I’m willing to cut a little deeper into my budget if it will get me a better sharpener. To get a better grasp of the facts behind pencil sharpening technology, it is important to understand the source behind the frustration of all pencil users. Before you trade the worst for the best, here’s what you look for:

Sharpening Cheap Pencils

A cheap pencil is a brittle one that can be easily snapped with two fingers. Because the wood surrounding cheap pencils is not very dense, they require a precision, finely honed sharpener to make them user-friendly. In technological terms, what you need is a high-resolution electric pencil sharpener to delicately grind through that brittle wood and reveal a tight, finely shaped point of graphite for writing. (Easier said than done.) It’s not going to happen with one of those hand-held, manually operated devices you brought to you with school back in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, 80s…. You will also not have much luck with the sturdy school sharpener mounted on thousands of classroom walls made to endure the grimy hands and abuse of the thousands of clumsy, careless students of the last several decades. Back in those days, pencils were robust enough to serve as both a writing instrument and a lead-based, weapon of deadly poison. Today’s cheap pencils would never hold up to the goring in the leg of that bully sitting next to you, nor would they stand up against an old-fashioned, School Pencil Sharpener. A cheap pencil is no match for the rugged Boston School Sharpeners of the past. As fighting with pencils in school became passe, the pencil quality in America declined dramatically. The older, more rugged pencil sharpeners were appropriately named Boston, a region where our forefathers roamed the country-side killing Brits with Bayonets; a slightly larger, less-evolved form of the # 2, lead pencil. But alas, those days are long gone.  An American culture which was once built upon a pioneer spirit and fierce determination to gore our enemies with blunt instruments has softened in favor of a society that demands a better, high-resolution, electric pencil sharpener.. The effective, poisonous lead has been replaced with softer, safer graphite. You won’t be able to get the precision, sharpened graphite point with those old, hand-cranked Boston, Pencil Sharpeners.   Those sensitive, cheap pencils require a soft touch at ultra high-speed RPMs. Graphite is finer and less dense than lead, meaning you need a more precision tool to get the job done. The newer, cheaper and safer graphite pencil requires a more expensive, high tech pencil sharpener. What is the sharpener for the job? I’ve found a couple of them that are best suited for the task at hand.

Panasonic Electric Pencil Sharpener

panasonic-electric-pencil-sharpener
Panasonic Electric Pencil Sharpener

Comes with a Hefty Price Tag

Would you pay $129.00 for an electric pencil sharpener? You would if you want the absolute best pencil sharpener. The Panasonic KP150BK comes with a price tag that could have made Paul Revere reconsider his business in Silver. There is a good reason for the high price of the best pencil sharpener. Over 51 users have rated the KP150BK 4.5 stars, making it the highest rated electric pencil sharpener you can buy. Does that make it the best pencil sharpener? Maybe. What is so great about it to demand such a high price tag? This high-end Panasonic Electric Pencil Sharpener actually used a steel cutting wheel which produces a perfect 16-point graphite end. Because there is an auto-stop feature, you will never have to worry about wasting wood or over sharpening a pencil. You will get a perfect, 16-point cut every time. But wait a minute? Besides Oprah Winfrey, who has $129.00 to pay for such a tool, whether it’s the best pencil sharpener or not?

Use Electric for Cheap Pencils

best-electric-pencil-sharpener
Best Electric Pencil Sharpener

X-Acto ProX Pencil Sharpener

The X-ACTO ProX is less than half the price as the Panasonic KP150BK. Like the KP150BK, the X-ACTO has a steel cutting wheel and an auto-shut-off feature to prevent over sharpening of your pencils. Another great feature is LED illumination which indicates when sharpening is complete. The X-ACTO has a larger receptacle for pencil shaving and a multi-wheel dial for selecting different sizes of pencils. These are features the KP150BK doesn’t. The best part is the $59.00 price tag. But wait, it gets even better than that. I’ve found them for $50.00, online.

I think it’s safe to say goodbye to Boston and Bayonets for good and start enjoying the hassle free benefits of the latest and greatest Electric Pencil Sharpener technology. Or is it? …

Oil Filled Electric Heaters

Oil Filled Electric Heaters
Electric Heaters for Home

Oil Filled Electric Heaters are an efficient way to heat up a room. This winter, I decided to do some research on energy efficient space heaters for my drafty home. Unless, I turn my furnace thermostat up to 71 degrees, there are 4 rooms in the house which are just a tad too cool to stay comfortable sitting in for long periods of time. The Den, Office, Upstairs Vacant Bed Room and the finished Basement could all use some extra heat. The basement is the biggest problem area of the house because this is where we like to watch the big screen television. While the basement has low ceilings, it is a very large, open room, so I knew it would be a challenge finding a space heater to keep the area around the television warm without zapping our energy bill. The review I did on Amish Heaters and Edenpure Heaters revealed that what is bigger and more expensive is certainly not always better. These are Quarts Infrared heaters and they do have several advantages. At $195.00, the Dr Heater seemed like a bargain in comparison of the Amish and EdenPure products. After reading about the larger-sized, 1500 Quartz Infrared Heaters, I learned that many of the smaller, energy efficient space heaters were more affordable and did just as good of a job warming rooms of the house. Oil Filled Electric Heaters and Ceramic Space Heaters are rated very highly by hundreds of different users. Both of these portable home heaters are rated highly for quiet, heat output, low price and energy efficiency. I was really torn over which of them to buy; both have their pros and cons, so I decided to try a few of the different types of oil filled electric heaters for home.

Oil Filled Electric Heaters Reviewed

Review on the Delonghi EW7707CBC

oil-filled-heater
Oil Filled Heater

Also known as Radiator Heaters, Oil-Filled Heaters are priced as low as $40.00. When I first read the term Oil-Filled, I thought it sounded messy and troublesome. Not so, at all. The oil inside the radiator is safely and permanently inside the heater unit. These Electric Space Heaters work on the same principle as convection heating. The oil inside the radiator heats up; warm air rises through the vents on top and continuously warms the cool air as it drops back down. The typical Delonghi Oil Filled Heaters on Amazon rated 3.5 to 4 stars by hundreds of different users. Most users reported that the Delonghi did a good job heating up small rooms, so-so on larger rooms and not so good for large rooms with vaulted ceilings. I bought the Delonghi EW7707CBC at Costco for only $39.95. Unfortunately, the EW7707CBC was slightly lower rated than the rest of the Delonghi oil filled electric heaters for home. The EW7707CBC received a 3.5 Star Rating as opposed to the average 4-Stars of other models. The lower rating of this model had to do with the lack of a real, temperature-thermostat feature which I didn’t care about. The heating elements and power are basically the same. It’s energy-efficient, warmth I was after. The biggest drawback of oil filled electric heaters is the amount of time the heater takes to get hot. And getting the heater hot, is only the first step. Once the heater is hot, it needs time to start warming the cool area. Expect to have the EW7707CBC on for a good 40-60 minutes before you start feeling any warmth from it in a small room. In a large, open room like my basement forget about it! The EW7707CBC might be good for a foot or hand warmer if it wasn’t just a touch too hot to touch with your feet or hands, but it’s not going to warm the surrounding air up in a large room. This leads me to another drawback of the Delonghi design. While it has rolling wheels, there is only one place to grip and roll it from room to room. You have to wait for it to cool off before you can move from room to room. The wheels don’t roll real well on carpet. Not a huge deal, if the unit actually could warm up a room of the house. To be fair, I decided to be a bit more scientific about the effectiveness of this Oill Filled Heater and placed a digital room thermometer in the vacant bedroom upstairs that sits above the garage. This bedroom faces north, and is at a chilly 63F degrees, even with our furnace thermostat set at 69F. Besides the basement, it is the coldest room in the house. With the thermometer in the bedroom stabilized at 63F degrees, I put the EW7707CBC in the bedroom and turned it on MAX. I checked the temperature of the room every 15-30 minutes for 2 hours.  This is how the DeLonghi Radiator performed:

  • Starting Temperature: 58.9F
  • 15 Minutes Later: 59.1F
  • 30 Minutes Later: 60.1F
  • 60 Minutes Later: 64.0F
  • 90 Minutes Later: 64.5F
  • 120 Minutes Later: 64.9F

Main Advantage of Oil Filled Electric Heaters

As you can see, the Oil Filled Heater took a while to get things warm. The biggest heat improvement came between 30 minutes to one hour. The last hour, the heat raised at a much slower rate; going from 64.5F to just 64.9F. My conclusion is that Radiator heaters are good for leaving in cold rooms of the house for long periods of time, where you don’t want the noise of a forced fan heater, but want to maintain a slow steady temperature. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this heater for maintaining quiet, heat in a cool or drafty room of your house.

 

Energy Efficient Space Heaters

Ceramic Tower Heaters

bionaire-ceramic-tower-heater
Ceramic Tower Heater

Ceramic Space Heaters use a Ceramic Core rather than heating coils. Since the Ceramic element is larger in size than copper heating coils, they require less energy to efficiently heat the surrounding area. I don’t know for sure that Ceramic Space Heaters are any more efficient than oil filled heaters, but they are most often categorized as energy efficient space heaters. Bionaire and Lasco are popular Ceramic Heaters name. They also call them, Ceramic Tower Heaters. Tower Heaters look the sleekest and most high-tech of them all. The Bionaire Tower Heater from Costco for $47.99 caught my eye. This unit received an average 4-star rating from 27 users. Users loved the large, thermostat temperature display and built in safety features. In addition to having an adjustable thermostat from 40 – 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the Bionaire Tower Heater has a program 1 or 2-hour shut-off feature. I like this! Unlike the oil-filled heater, the Bionaire does make some noise, but most people reported that it was quietly acceptable for a fan blower. I have not had the chance to buy this item yet, but I will. I will put the Bionaire Ceramic Tower Heater through the same scientific test as the Oil-Filled Heater. As the chart below indicates, Ceramic Tower Heaters are excellent for giving you quick, directional heat. If the Radiant Heater just isn’t fast enough give one of these a try.

Electric Heaters For Homes

Bionaire Micathermic

bionaire-micathermic-heater
Bionaire Micathermic Heater

There are other types of electric heaters for homes, and the Bionaire Micathermic is one of the three I decided to try. The Bionaire Micathermic is a convection based space heater that looks somewhat similar in shape to an oil filled heater, but without the radiator grooves. As the picture shows, it is somewhat reminiscent of solar panels. As of the time this article was written, I’ve been unable to acquire this particular product for testing. The Bionaire Micarthermic heater is only available through online purchase through Costco and other online retailers. From what I can see, this particular heater has all of the characteristics of Oil Filled Heaters, but is lighter and heats up quicker. Out of 27 online reviews, the Micathermic Convection Heater was rated 4.5 stars. Users are very satisfied with the how easy this radiant heater is to use and carry around the house. There seemed to be a higher level of satisfaction of how well the Micathermic heats up small and large rooms over the DeLonghi Oil Filled Heater for $39.95 at Costco. My heater is on order from Costco and when it arrives I will perform the same scientific, bedroom test with temperature gauge and see how it compares to the DeLonghi EW7707CBC. Check back soon for the Results.

Below, is a handy guide which compares the different heating benefits of the three types of electric heaters for home discussed in this article.

Three Different Types of Electric Heaters For Home

electric-heater-types
Electric Heaters for Home

As the chart shows, if you want slow, steady and lasting heat, use oil filled electric heaters.