Friday, August 24, 2018

Driveway Resealing

When we first moved into our house we were told the driveway needed to be sealed within the first year and then every two years or so thereafter. Three years ago I went the DIY route with the initial seal. It wasn't terribly difficult but it did make a bit of a mess and I was disappointed with how long the coating ended up lasting compared to some of my neighbors that hired someone to do it for them.

This time I opted to pay someone to do it. I had discovered in the past few years that what some of my neighbors paid to have it done wasn't much more than what it cost me to do it myself. So I asked around, found a local company with good reviews, and arranged for them to come by. It ended up being about $50 more expensive than what I spent last time, took far less time, and looked nicer afterward. A crew of three showed up early one morning, cleaned the driveway, applied the coating and left, all in the span of about a half hour. As much as I prefer going the DIY route to save a bit of money, this is one I'll leave to the pros from now on.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ring Video Doorbell Pro

One thing I've never liked about the layout of our house is the inability to see out the front window from the living room. Like most people nowadays too we've also been getting a substantial number of packages delivered and I worry about potential theft. I started looking at the Ring video doorbells last year and was impressed by what I saw. It looked easy enough to install and when I saw the Pro model on sale for $50 off a few months ago I went ahead and jumped on it.

The Pro model is hardwired (versus batteries for the original and 2 models) and also has a component that connects to the existing chime. Installation is simple and the included instructions (along with available video guides) are very detailed. Ring also includes a screwdriver and even a drill bit in the kit as well. Because it involves live wires flipping the breaker to shut off the electricity is a must. In our case the same breaker controls the front hallway where the chime is along with the front door area where the doorbell is mounted. This shut the lights off in the area too and because I'm inpatient and didn't want to wait until the next day my son held a flashlight while I did the install.

Doorbell chime with Ring's Pro Power Kit installed.

Installing the door bell unit itself is even easier. Unscrew the existing doorbell and disconnect the two wires connected to it. Connect them to the back of the Ring Pro. It doesn't matter which wire goes to which screw. Then attach the doorbell to the door frame. Don't attach the cover until device set up has been completed. (Flip the breaker on before doing so obviously to power everything up.)

One thing I really liked about the Pro versus the previous models was the ability to set customized motion zones. I'm able to extend out the zone slightly to cover my mailbox to get a notification when the mail is delivered but it limits false alerts due to traffic passing by. (You can also set the sensitivity level too.) It's not perfect but I'd rather it go off than not. 

As the screenshots above show image quality is very good, even in the dark. Voice quality is also quite good although if there's any sort of wind, etc. it can be a bit difficult to understand the person outside. Several times since installing it I've been able to tell door-to-door solicitors to leave without getting off the couch, which is an added bonus. I've noticed that some them seem to recognize that the Ring is installed and knock on the door instead to avoid setting it off. The joke is on them when I come through the speaker anyway. 

After using it for a few months I've been really pleased with it overall. It does occasionally not register motion and miss a package being delivered for example but that's rare. There are also occasional glitches with Ring's network servers but again, fairly rare. I liked it so much that the week after installing it I added a Ring Spotlight cam as well (post on that to come) to cover the entire front of my house. It's hard to beat for the purchase price and the monitoring cost. ($3/month or $30/year per camera.) 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Plumbing Leak Detection

As I mentioned in the previous post I had a plumber out last week regarding our water pressure. I was initially worried we might have a water leak and while we didn't he showed me a way I was not aware of about how to detect if that's the problem.

On the water meter along with the dial there's a low flow indicator. In our case it's a blue gear shape but from what I see online it can also be a triangle or other shape and another color. According to the plumber this will detect the slightest of leaks. So if you suspect that's your problem make sure the water is off at every faucet in the house and then pop the cover off in your yard where the water meter is located and look at the small dial. If it's moving, water is being used somewhere in the house. (To demonstrate it to me he turned on the water at the outside bib.)

The link above also mentions how to tell if the leak is occurring in the house or in the supply line leading to the house. It's useful knowledge to have for future reference. 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Tankless Hot Water Heater Maintenance

The past few days we've been having water pressure issues, mostly in the mornings. Not being real sure of the cause I had called a local plumber that everyone in my community speaks very highly of and asked him to come out and take a look. I was concerned that we had a leak somewhere or it was an issue with our hot water heater. By the time I got home the water pressure was back to normal but I kept the appointment because I figured it wouldn't hurt to have him come out and at the very least do maintenance on the water heater.

We have a Noritz tankless hot water heater that runs on natural gas. It's very energy efficient and up until now the only issue we've had with it was due to the water savers that are in every shower head and faucet. (Link to post from November 2015.) It's recommended that the unit be drained and flushed periodically, particularly in areas with hard water but we'd never had it done. The plumber checked the unit over including removing and checking the inline filter that was clean. (I failed to get a picture of this.) Because we've never done it I went ahead and paid him to flush and descale it.

The process involves turning the valves to isolate the heater from the house plumbing and then attaching hoses to circulate a descaling solution through it pumped from the bucket. Once it was finished the water was fairly clean indicating not much in the way of build up. Still there was no way to know for certain until it was done and we shouldn't need to do it again for a few more years. From what he told me though if you live in an area with hard water, this is something that needs to be done more often, at a minimum once a year. (Refer to your heater's owner's manual as needed for guidance regarding your particular unit.)

As for the water pressure issues, the plumber wasn't able to find anything that might be causing it and it being back to normal by the time he came out made it all the more difficult. My next door neighbor texted me to say he was having the same issue at the same time we were leading me to think it might be an issue on our county's end with the water supply. They sent someone out to take a look as well but didn't find anything either so for the moment we're in a wait and see mode with that.