Now’s the time to: Insulate “Drafty” Windows

3m insulator kitThe winter is still young, so it is a great time of the season to make sure that we are blocking out the cold air and sealing in the warm air of our homes.  This can be done through many means, but one of the most popular and most cost-efficient methods is by insulating drafty, poorly-sealed windows with clear film, such as 3M’s window insulator kits.

These kits include a crystal clear film and Scotch brand double sided mounting tape.  To install, you want to make sure that your window (or door) frame is clean and dry.  Apply the tape and adhere the film.  Then use a hairdryer to shrink the film tight and to remove any wrinkles… it’s that simple.  In as little as 15 minutes you can have your window(s) sealed with 3M’s insulation and you are set for the winter!  Not only are their cost savings with sealing these leaky windows, the rooms will also be remarkably warmer and more comfortable to use!  If you are curious just how much you can save by insulating some of your windows, 3M has an exciting savings calculator on their website to use.  Typical savings are about $10 – 25 per window that is sealed, so it can really start to add up if you have a bunch!

If you are interested in learning about some of the other methods for reducing your heating bills this winter, please reference our Blog article from last year (Spend a Little – Save a Lot: Do-it Yourself Tips for Lowering Your Heating Bill).  Here’s to staying warm and cozy this winter!  Thanks for reading!!

What’s New: EcoTraction – 100% Safe Traction for Concrete

ecotractionHomeowners have the same concerns every year over which ice melters are best to use and what is safest for their delicate stone and concrete.  The fact is that nothing is 100% safe when it comes to ice melters.  Anytime you use a “safer” product that has no rock salt in it, there is still a chance that damage can be done, especially if the concrete is under 1 year old or the surface in question is something very delicate, such as natural flagstone.

Now, there is a new product called EcoTraction!  It is a 100% safe, traction material that can be used on snow and ice that has gathered on any surface.  This product is made from natural volcanic minerals and poses as no danger to surfaces, pets, or the environment.  In fact, it is a natural soil aerator and can be brushed into your lawn or garden and provide benefits there too!  Safe to use on concrete less than 1 year old or any other stone, brick, wooden, or asphalt surface where traction is desired.

How does it work?  EcoTraction is entirely made up of volcanic minerals that are colored a dark green.  The “gritty” texture of the granules will embed themselves into dangerous snow and ice and provide instant traction!  The granules do not dissolve and are reusable, if you choose to save them.  EcoTraction will make surfaces safe to walk on immediately, without the use of chemical ice melters, meaning that is is safe for pets of all types.

Does it work better than sand?  Yes, EcoTraction far exceeds the performance of sand.  EcoTraction’s shape is larger and more irregular than sand.  The “gritty” texture provides more non-slip grip because there is more texture than sand would ever provide.  The irregular shape also prevents tracking into your home or car, which is always a plus during this item of the year!

How much do you have to use?  Coverage is actually really good.  1 cup is recommended for up to 144 sq ft (or about the area of a parking spot).  This is about 9X the coverage you get from the same amount of rock salt.

If you are concerned about providing traction on delicate surfaces or areas where your pets walk, we recommend you try EcoTraction… you will not be disappointed!

What’s Trending? Freeze Protection Cables

easyheat productThis month, we have been experiencing lots of arctic air and sub-freezing temperatures.  And as always with these temperatures, we are talking to many customers about frozen water pipes and how best to prevent them in the future.  Many of us have been told to leave our faucets running when frigid temperatures are expected… but how fast of a drip is appropriate?  Or, when is a slow drip too slow and freezing could still occur?  If you have experienced frozen pipes before, you have probably contemplated running a heater or insulating problem areas better, but what if I told you there was a more permanent, yet simple solution to prevent frozen pipes?

EasyHeat water pipe freeze protection cables are a great alternative to keeping your pipes flowing free without wasting water with a constant drip from the faucet.  EasyHeat cables are not to be used in thawing out an already frozen pipe, instead they are designed to keep pipes from freezing the next time.  The concept is quite simple and any homeowner can install them!  The cable comes in varying lengths and is to be positioned flat against the pipe and held tight with electrical tape.  Once in place, you will wrap the cable and pipe with foam pipe insulation, and plug the EasyHeat into the wall.  That is it!

Even better yet, the cable has a built-in thermostat and comes on automatically when temperatures reach the critical zone.  The cables do not get steaming hot, so you do not need to worry about them getting too hot for the insulation used to cover them up.  Use them as needed when freezing weather is expected or leave them plugged in all the time.  Cables are sold in various lengths.  Stop in and see our plumbing department for more details!

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What’s New: Twist and Seal Connections Provide Weather Protection

twist and seal cord domeNow there is a better way to keep your holiday lights protected from the weather, with the new Twist and Seal family of products.  No more need to fumble around with duct tape, electrical tape, or plastic bags out in the cold, damp weather that we experience each December.  With Twist and Seal cord connections, you do not have to worry about the effects of rain, ice, and melting snow on your holiday lights.  The patented, clamshell design, folds over top of electrical connections to keep moisture out.  It’s a simple design, but it works!  So much so, that Twist and Seal received the award for the most innovative product for 2014 at that National Hardware Convention!

Last year, there was only one option – the Original.  This size is great for small and large electrical connections between one cord and another.  The Original Twist and Seal will accommodate large outdoor extension cords as well as thinner light sets and indoor cords.  New for 2014, are the Twist and Seal Mini as well as the Cord Dome.  The cord dome measures 14″ in diameter and is great for anywhere you have more than one connection meeting up.  This is perfect for 3-1 adapters and even power strips!

Even better yet, all Twist and Seal products are made in the USA and backed by a 3-year warranty.  Not only does Twist and Seal cord connections help you during the holidays, they are also great for outdoor power equipment used all year long, such as generators, pond pumps, or patio string lights.

For more information on the Twist and Seal family of products, please view the short video below:

 

Spend A Little – Save A Lot: A Light Tester That Really Works!

light keeper proIf you are frustrated with throwing out Christmas lights each year because they don’t light or become a problem halfway through the season, you are not alone!  Tis the season for holiday cheer, but our holiday lights can add many headaches to a season that is already busy enough.  Save time and money and repair your light sets with the one and only Light Keeper Pro.

This is the ultimate light tester and a must for anyone with a pre-lit Christmas tree or lots of holiday string lights.  The Light Keeper Pro is different from any other light tester because it can actually “fix” light sets.  Not only does it test individual bulbs and fuses, and sense currency through the light set, it will repair defective shunts (which is the number one problem with pre-lit trees).

Once our trees have been sit up or our decorations outside illuminated, the frustrations do not end.  Lights are all advertised “if one light burns out, the rest will remain lit”.  That is the plan, but it doesn’t always hold true.  When the filament inside a light bulb burns out, there is a mechanism in the base of the bulb that looks like a little glass ball.  This is called a “shunt” and it allows the electricity to pass through the burnt out bulb to every other bulb in that sting of lights!  When this shunt fails, we lose a portion of the light strand and we are wondering why?  This is where the Light Keeper Pro proves it’s worth!

The trigger on the Light Keeper Pro sends a small electronic charge through the light set to repair any defective shunts that may be present.  After these shunts are repaired, the current can follow through the light set and you can simply replace the one or two (or ten) bulbs that may be burnt out.  Light sets can truly be fixed in under a minute with this patented technology!  For a demonstration video, please watch the video below:

 

Now’s the time to: Repair Lamps

lamp repairNow that days are getting shorter and shorter, I’m always surprised how early the sun is setting.  By the time we are home from work or done with the day’s errands, we often come home to a dark house.  As a result, we will be using lamps more frequent and in places that we typically don’t have too.

Did you know that we repair hundreds of lamps each year?  The fall is a great time to bring in your damaged, old, or unsafe lamps for us to repair.  We have talented and experienced electrical clerks that are here to work on your lamps and get them back to safe, working order.  We repair all sorts of table, floor, and novelty lamps, as well as chandeliers, wall sconces, and more.  Worn out plugs, kinked or fraying wires, bad sockets, defective switches are no trouble for our sales clerks.  We have parts in-stock for most every repair and can get your lamp back to 100%.

The process is very simple.  Just bring your lamp to our electrical service desk any day that is convenient.  Once in-store, we will ask what your concerns are and what you would like to have fixed.  We grab your name and phone number and that is it!  Repairs typically take about a week, but sometimes it can be quicker than that… just depends on the timing and what all needs completed!  We will call you when completed, and you pay when picking up.

Of course, if you prefer to do the work yourself, we have all of the repair parts to do the work on your own time!  If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call at 412-561-0922 and ask for our electrical department.

What’s Trending? Battery-Operated LED Window Candles Eliminate Frustrating Electrical Cords

led window candle resizedEvery year, we hear the same frustrating stories regarding electrical window candles.  They look great, but the maze of electric cords and the concern of them burning close to window curtains or being tipped over by children or pets can worry us through the holidays.  Now, there is a realistic, bright, and high quality battery-operated window candle option that will not break the bank and eliminate the frustrations many of us experience with typical electric window candles.

The Xodus brand LED window candles are really becoming quite popular and for good reason.  They outperform the old fashion battery-operated candle lamps, because they are LED.  LED lights use about 1/20th of the power that incandescent candle lamps do.  As a result, you will not be replacing batteries every couple of days.  Instead batteries last about 30-45 days!  Even better yet, the window candles have a daylight sensor on them which makes them turn on automatically at dusk and off at dawn.  No more running around before bed to turn them all off.  And this photo-cell works great!  I have owned these for 2 years now and they turn on right at sunset and off at sunrise – it is quite convenient!

These candles are cool-to-touch, so you will not have to worry about them as a fire hazard.  Once the batteries are installed in the base of the lights, they will stay put and do not topple over, which is a common frustration with electrical cords that tug and pull on plug-in candle lamps.  Lastly, they have a great looking, soft white light.  The color is more of a personal preference, but you will be happy with the look of these lights both from up-close and from far-away.  The soft white light carries well to the street and blends well with clear string lights that you may decorate with outdoors during the holidays.

These LED window candles from Xodus are the closest thing that we have found to electrical candles and they eliminate all the frustrations with setting up electrical candle lamps each year.  Available in three styles and three colors.  Stop by during the holidays and see our large display in-store!

 

What’s Trending? WeatherTech Floor Liners Protect Your Car’s Interior

weathertech floor linerTypical car mats seem to only last a couple of years, and the winter takes the biggest toll on their appearance.  The snow, ice, and salt discolor our car mats and can become an eye sore quickly in new cars.  Consider installing WeatherTech floor liners for the winter, or better yet, keep them installed year round!

I can speak from personal experience just how much I have enjoyed WeatherTech floor liners!  I purchased my SUV back in 2006.  After 3 years of use my factory installed floor mats had become discolored, become crusty and had loss their soft texture.  The driver side mat even wore a hole in the mat where my heel would sit when driving the car!  It was at this time, I figured that I would give WeatherTech floor liners a try!  They arrived in about a week and I have had them installed in my SUV for over 5 years now.  they have protected my floors and still look just as good today as the day I installed them.  Here are some of the reasons I love them so much:

Custom Fit:  WeatherTech makes several products but the most popular for us and the ones that I have used myself are the custom fit floor liners.  These mats are made out of a patented tri-extruded composition which allows for a rigid core for strength, and a tactile feel to the surface.  Because these liners are digitally fit to your car’s interior, they fill your entire floor and curl up the edges of your car to keep dirt and mess contained.

All Seasons Protection:  WeatherTech floor liners are designed for all seasons.  Dirt, mud, sand, rain, snow, ice, and rock salt are no match for these floor liners.  They are channeled to carry fluids and debris away from your shoes, which is great in the snowy months to keep melting snow and ice away from your clothes!

Long Lasting Results:  As I mentioned, my WeatherTech floor liners have lasted 5 years and they still look as good as the day I installed them.  They can be removed and cleaned easily with an a garden hose or degreaser as necessary.  Made in the USA and backed by a 3 year warranty.  Your may purchase just the front row, or liners for every row of the vehicle; they choice is yours!

It’s easy to get your new WeatherTech floor mats… all we need to know is your car and model year.  WeatherTech does the rest and, in as little as a week, you will have brand new floor mats!  For more information on WeatherTech products, please visit the WeatherTech website or stop into our store and see our full display of all their products!

Now’s the time to: Protect Evergreens from a Damaging Winter

protecting evergreens - bonideLast winter was so cold and windy that many of our plants suffered damage.  Evergreens were the most effected by the cold temperatures, but perennial shrubs and flowers had their fair share of damage as well.  Hydrangea buds were killed, rose stems dried out, and bulbs were frozen dead.  In this article, we will focus on evergreens, but you may want to consider protecting all of your plants, especially those that are younger or more exposed to the cold and wind than others.

Even though evergreens keep their colors during the winter, their root system is frozen over and pretty much out of commission.  As a result, the roots are not able to replenish the plant leaves with water when they dry out, turn brown, and die.  By taking these preventative measures against this moisture loss, you will be sure that your evergreens will survive the winter with little or no damage!

Wrapping or covering plants in burlap -  The objective here is two fold.  First, by loosely wrapping evergreen trees or shrubs with burlap, you still allow sunlight and moisture in, but you break the wind and keep the plant warmer.  The burlap acts like a windbreak for the plant!  The second benefit is that heavy snow and ice will not sit on the branches causing them to sag and possibly snap.  This will guarantee they hold their shape through the winter.  The best time to wrap evergreens is around the time the ground is beginning to freeze; November or early December typically works well for Western PA.

Creating wind barriers -  Much like wrapping plants in burlap, creating a wind barrier or wall can be a simple and effective solution to moisture loss during the winter.  We typically suggest using burlap, but landscape fabric (weed barrier) can be used as well.  To create this barrier, you will want to place stakes at the corners of the area you want to protect and then mount the burlap or landscape fabric to those stakes.  You don’t have to pinch the fabric right up against the plants, but it should probably be no further than about 2-3 feet from the evergreens.  If the walls are quite long, you will want to place extra stakes in the middle to offer support.  This option is also great to prevent the “splash” of road salt from contacting your flower beds and evergreens, so you might want to consider installing this temporarily barrier up close to the street or along hedges.  Installing these types of barrier walls is best performed in November or early December.

Anti-desiccant plant sprays -  Anti-desiccant (or anti-transpirant) sprays provide a protective coating to evergreen leaves to prevent the loss of moisture.  They are clear transparent and are safe to use on most any evergreen.  We stock Bonide’s Wilt Stop which is recommended to be applied on a warm day in late fall (temperatures in the 50s) so that the leaves are protected before the chance of a long extended freeze.  One application is typically enough for our climate, but a second application may be made during the winter if the temperatures are warm enough for applying.  This protective coating slowly breaks down over the winter and is nonexistent come spring.  It also works well on houseplants that dry out quickly because of being close to an air vent or because of our naturally dry air during the winter!  Perfect for rhododendron, holly, pine, boxwood, spruce, etc.  If spraying on arborvitae, cypress, juniper or cedar, it is best to test a small area and wait for the plant to sufficiently harden off before application.  Wilt Stop will even protect foliage from road salt used to melt snow and ice, so spray those evergreens close to the road as well!  For more information on anti-desiccant sprays, please reference this informative article.

Consider following some of these steps this fall to put an end to winter burn and prevent the unsightly dieback that we experienced on so many evergreens last winter.  If you have any questions about what is best for your plants, we are always here for you… stop by or give us a call today!

Thanks for reading,

Derek Satterfield

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What’s Trending? Put an End to Clogged Gutters – Simple DIY Solutions

As leaves fall and collect on our roofs and in our gutters, most of us are not looking forward having to clean them out again before winter.  Clog gutters can be the origin of many problems, including water damage to basements, snow and ice damage that drip inside interior walls, mosquito breeding, wasp nests, dangerous dripping icicles, and much more.  If you are sick and tired of cleaning out your gutters once or twice a year or have dabbled with cheaper “screen-like” solutions without any good results, you will want to consider two patented, do-it yourself solutions that we have been receiving great feedback on for over 5 years!  GutterBrush and GutterStuff are simple, affordable, and easy-to-install solutions for preventing clogged gutters.

GutterBrush Gutter Guards -  This product looks like a giant bottle brush.  It is comprised of a galvanized metal, heavy gauge wire that has tough plastic bristles extended in all directions.  These bristle keep debris out of gutters.  The small debris that it catches naturally decomposes in the bristles and falls through to be washed away.  Larger debris will stay at the top of the bristles and typically blows of the roof when dry.  Easy to clean when certain segments become over-filled with debris:  To clean, you will want to wait for a dry day, lift the GutterBrush from the gutter and shake the contents loose, then reinstall.

Why GutterBrush:  Incredibly easy to install (no tools required), each piece bends to conform to curves in the gutter, easy to maintenance, works great for most all debris expect for lots and lots of small debris such as pine needles, does not need removed before winter (will not become dislodged in gutter), 20 year performance guarantee, 1-year 100% satisfaction guarantee.

 

GutterStuff Foam Inserts -  This product looks like a sponge, but does not act like one.  GutterStuff has a patented truncated bottom and fits into your standard k-style gutters with ease.  A flat foam top is created, which allows water to pass through, but holds debris up and out of the gutter so that it can be washed and blown off the roof.  The foam is treated with a UV inhibitor and a germicide, so it will not breakdown in the sunlight.  Because it fills the gutter completely and allows water to flow freely, mosquitoes will not be able to breed in the gutters.  There is no need to remove the product before winter, since the snow and ice has no adverse effects on the foam.

Why GutterStuff:  Easy-to-install, each 4′ pieces can be cut to length (no waste), prevents mosquito breeding, works great for small and large debris alike, does not need removed before winter (will not become dislodged in gutter), comes standard with a 5 year warranty against breaking down (15 year for the GutterStuff PRO).

 

Both of these products were recently featured in a USA Today “Ask Lou” segment, seen here.  If you have long been considering a better way to keep your gutters clean and free from clogs, we suggest that you stop by and pick up more information on both of these solutions… they are customer tested, highly recommended, and easy-to-install!