Author Archives: Tom Terrific

Frost at 38 degrees

This frost caught my attention on October 4th since it was not supposed to be that cold that night.

According to weather records, the temperature only got down to 38 degrees.

The process that causes ice to freeze when the temperature is above freezing is called radiative cooling. Below is a video which talks about the process.

Can you make ice at 40 degrees? Give it a try.

Replacement Windows

Since I need to replace a few windows in my house, I thought I’d share my research. It’s interesting that I talked to eight different companies and only made my choice after talking to the eighth company.

First – it’s complicated. and there are a lot of factors to consider.

Material

You have to figure out what material you want your windows made out of. You can choose:

  1. Wood
  2. Wood covered with vinyl or aluminum
  3. Fibrex – wood and vinyl
  4. Vinyl
  5. Fiberglass.

Wood – the windows I’m replacing have rotted at the bottom, so I’m not a fan of all wood windows. They take a lot of maintenance – painting at the minimum.

Wood covered with vinyl or aluminum – this seems to be the ideal since you eliminated the maintenance factor. Pella had a lawsuit against them for water getting behind the aluminum and rotting the wood. Again – wood will rot if it gets water damaged.

Fibrex – this is an Andersen Windows product. They combine wood fibers and pvc. This results in a stronger product and theoretically shouldn’t rot.

Fiberglass – a more rigid window which won’t rot, but may need painting.

Vinyl – there seem to be lots of brands and quality types with vinyl. Consumer Reports rates vinyl windows on wind and rain resistance and gives out score from 91 to 54.

Installation

This is a biggie since poor installation can cause problems with even the most expensive window. I even have doubts about one installation I heard about from a big box store where they had complaints that the window stuck out past the vinyl. It’s the Pella 350 which is about an inch larger than their 250 model. The Pella dealer said that they installed theirs so that the window never went past the vinyl siding on the outside of the house.

Price

As you can see by the table below, prices go from $850 to $4730 for two windows. For my whole house, the price would from $9775 to $54,395.

Elite Exteriors – vinyl – Corvus 1000$850
Home Depot – Andersen 400 wood covered vinyl
Home Depot – Andersen 100 composite
$3983
$2760
Home Depot – Simonton 6100 vinyl$1772
Lowes 250 – vinyl
Lowes 350 – (CR-93)
$1449
$1945
Marvin – Elevate – fiberglass$3170
Mills – Pella 350 vinyl (CR-93)
Mills – Great Lakes Comfort Smart vinyl
$2264
$1482
Pella 250 vinyl
Pella 350 vinyl (CR-93)
$1745
$2132
Window World 4000 (CR-67?)$1148
Renewal by Andersen$4730
Wilke Window – this is to fix two windows and replace one.$1140

Consumer Reports (CR) gives ratings on wind and rain resistance. They don’t give advice on how well the windows hold up over a number of years.

The two windows I am replacing have rotted on the bottom. They are 100% wood windows, but they have lasted 30 years. My other windows seem to be holding up ok. They do need regular maintenance.

Your income, what you can afford and how long you plan on living at your current residence are all factors when you consider price.

Models by Manufacturer

Each windows company has a number of models which they sell. Each different model has a different price point and different features. Some are single hung versus double hung. Some tilt-in and some don’t. Some have the grill between the glass and some don’t. Some have a full screen and some have a half screen. What you have to figure out is what are the features which are most important to you and what are you willing to pay extra for.

Marvin – fiberglass – one thing I didn’t like about the sales presentation was that he did not have any models or displays to show me the different series and what the difference was between them. He didn’t even have a brochure. You have to go online to download or request brochures or go to their show room.

Pella 350 – This model is an inch thicker than the 250 and has an extra weather strip. This is also the model highest rated by CR. While Lowes has a good price on the 350, especially for veterans, they don’t have their own installers, but contract it out.

Renewal By Andersen – RBA – these are the most expensive. While I do like the RBA windows and their service, I don’t like their high price.

Window World – Model 4000 – this is the model recommended by the sales person. It has a couple of unusual things I noted. 1. You can’t open the bottom window all the way since there is a piece of trim which sticks out and stops the window. This piece of trim also showed a hole which water might enter. 2. For some reason instead of the water just following the natural path and leaving down a sloped piece, it has a small lip at the bottom to hole the water in and only has a small “weep” hole on the side which is covered up by the screen. I can see the water getting backed up and/or the weep hole being blocked. On the other hand, I have a friend who has bought a number of these windows and likes them.

Weep hole on both sides – Screen covers up the hole.

Other Considerations

Every person’s situation is different so there is not one right answer for everyone. You need to look at all the ratings, the price, the installation and all the features you want and make a decision that is right for you.

Other Factors

I like to use the Consumer Reports ratings as a basis for my decision. I currently have Andersen windows in my house and want to match the look and finish of these windows. The Pella 350 seem to come close to matching the look of the Andersens. The Pella 350 also has a nice inside finish than other vinyl windows and is larger. It also has the grills between the glass and has the tilt-in feature.

My Solution

While almost all companies were more than happy to replace my windows, a couple suggested that my water problem was related to factors other than my windows. That seems to be the case. A couple suggested just replacing my lower sash with Andersen replacement windows. I ended up choosing Wilke Window to replace the lower sash in my two windows and also replace another window in my kitchen for a price of $1140.00.

Mat Fraser – Crossfit Champion

I ran across Mat Fraser in a YouTube video and was impressed with his level of fitness for a relatively small man. At 5’7″ he’s my size, so right away I relate to him and hope I can learn a bit from him.

Here are some notes from the video below.

  • He doesn’t follow any one type of diet.
  • He doesn’t eat out much.
  • He eats food from the outside of the grocery – meats, vegs, fruit,
    Usually nothing from a package.
  • He eats white rice with almost every meal.
  • “You can’t out train a bad diet.”
  • He doesn’t take multi-vitamins
  • He takes whey protein, Extend BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids), and CBD,
  • CBD in morning – Beam Clarity and at night Beam Dream
  • C4 pre-workout – has caffeine and beta-alanine
  • Lots of sleep. Turn off all electronics. Sleepy time tea.
  • I have also seen him use Ice Water baths – questionable?
  • Interesting he did not mention any anti-inflammatory drugs.

Bushes – Trees in the Yard

Since Crestwood is hopefully going to receive some free bushes-trees from Forest Releaf, here are some notes on each species from the Missouri Botanical Garden website.

Aromatic Sumacs Rhus aromatica

Height: 2.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Fragrant, Good Fall
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies
Fruit: Showy

Smooth Sumac – Rhus glabra

Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 9.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 9.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: June
Bloom Description: Yellowish-green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds, Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest

Black Chokeberry – Aronia melanocarpa

Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge, Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Wet Soil

Deciduous Holly  – Ilex decidua

Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 7.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 5.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Dull white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Insignificant
Attracts: Birds
Other: Winter Interest


Eastern Ninebark – Physocarpus opulifolius

Height: 5.00 to 8.00 feet
Spread: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White or pink
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion, Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Wet Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil, Black Walnut

Eastern Wahoo – Euonymus atropurpureus

Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 12.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 15.00 to 25.00 feet
Bloom Time: June
Bloom Description: Dk. purple
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Black Walnut

False Indigo – Baptisia australis

Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Fabaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States
Zone: 3 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Indigo blue
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Butterflies
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Rabbit, Drought, Erosion, Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil

Roughleaf Dogwood – Cornus drummondii

Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Yellowish-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Tolerate: Deer

Silky Dogwood – Cornus amomum

Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Cornaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 12.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Yellowish white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy
Tolerate: Deer, Erosion, Wet Soil, Black Walnut

Hospital Go-Bag

If you are ever heading to either Urgent Care, the Emergency Room or the Hospital, one item that I suggest you always bring with you is the Hospital Go-Bag.

The items in the bag may differ a bit for each person, but you can change the list to fit your needs.
Here is our list.

 

Last Minute

  • book or kindle
  • extra clothes
  • glasses case
  • health record –
  • snacks/cookies
  • watch
  • tums, tylenol, prilosec
  • wallet
  • medications for both people (bring pill cases)
  • phones and chargers – our phone frequently doesn’t work in many hospital locations.

Always in the Bag

  • AA batteries – TV remotes at the hospital frequently need new batteries
  • paper and pens – take notes on everything that happens
  • Toothpicks
  • Underwear
  • Urinal

 

Read ID in One Hour

The standard old Missouri drivers license will no be valid for airline travel as of  October 1, 2020. Here is the process we just went through to apply for the new license.

  • Cost – $5.00
  • Time – it took us an hour of waiting.
  • Documents we needed – drivers license, passport, social security 1099 and bank statement with your name and address.
  • There are other document options so make sure you read the entire document below – https://dor.mo.gov/forms/5754.pdf
  • You get back your old license and give you a temporary license until your new Real ID license comes in the mail.
  • You cannot extend your drivers license, but will keep the expiration date on your old license.
  • For more information click here.
  • Tip – the office is open late a couple of days per week. I’ve been told that coming on those days at a late time and you can get right in.

Electricity Is Out!

Staying comfortable and safe when the electricity goes out.

Every year the electricity goes out in our house. In many cases it’s just for a couple of hours, but in some cases longer. Today the electricity went out at 2:30 a.m. and at 11 a.m. it’s still off.

The trick to staying comfortable and safe is to have the right backup amenities to keep things civilized.

Some of these recommendations may be expensive, but you will appreciate them in the long run.

Uninterruptible Power Supply
I use these on our computers so that when the power goes off, the computer will beep. It will also give you 30 minutes of backup power to keep your computer working for a short time. The beeping on the UPS is what woke us up, so it also serves as a warning bell that the electricity is off.

Surge Protectors
When you have bad storms, surge protectors will keep your electronics like TVs, computers etc. protected from electric surges. This is not 100% safe but better than nothing at all. Another tip is that when your electricity is off, unplug your big ticket electronics. This way when the electricity does come on it won’t burn out any electronic devices.

Flashlight with lots of batteries.
I like the inexpensive flashlights that use one AA battery. I put them on a lanyard and have them all over the house for emergencies. I also have extra large packs of batteries in case the emergency is a long one. I like to keep a flashlight on my bed stand so it’s easy to find in the dark.
Also remember that your phone has a flashlight function so learn how to use it.

Gas is a Must.
I see many houses and condos with just electricity and no gas connection. In an emergency having gas is a must.

Gas Fireplace
As I write this my gas fireplace is on and is radiating heat into the living room. It’s keeping the room at a cozy 72 degrees although it is 38 degrees outside.

Gas Hot Water Heater
You still have hot water with gas.

Gas Stove
With a BBQ lighter, it’s easy to cook and have a hot breakfast, dinner or lunch.

Percolator Coffee Pot
I have an old one from my camping days, but I’m going to upgrade to a new stainless steel model.

Sump Pump Backup
I use a water powered backup for my sump pump. It’s comforting to hear it run every few minutes and know that my basement will stay dry. If you have a battery backup, make sure you have it on your calendar to check on a regular basis. I have had neighbors on both sides of me have a water logged basement because their battery backup failed and they didn’t know it.

Garage Door Battery Backup
Buying a garage door which has a battery backup is a nice feature to have when you need to an appointment while the electricity is out. While you can open the garage door manually, it won’t be locked when you leave.

USB Backup Power
Having a usb power brick or two is handy for your phone. Without electricity, your phone is your only link to the outside world.

Car Battery Power Backup
While this is not a necessity, it will fill in as a usb power backup and a flashlight. I could have used one of these when my battery died. I now have one in my trunk.

Gas BBQ
It’s nice to have a gas BBQ you can use to cook outside when the electricity is out.

Phone Hotspot – wifi from your phone.
This is a feature that you may have on your phone so take some time to learn how to use it. On T-Mobile, the free hotspot is VERY SLOW, but it’s fast enough for email and writing this article.

Phone – keep it charged.
Have your phone charging overnight so it will be ready if you wake up without power in the middle of the night.

Computer with USB-C
While this is not strictly necessary, it’s nice to have a Chromebook which allows charging via a USB battery backup. Couple this with a fast hot spot and you can keep the kids entertained with Netflix. I’m writing this article on my computer linked to my phone’s hotspot.

Generator
Another somewhat expensive option, but it may be worth it if it keeps your pipes from freezing. The limiting factor is being able to buy gasoline to keep the generator running.

If you have any other tips to be prepared when the electricity goes out please share them with me.

Saving on Taxes and Give to Charity

Here is a tip from my favorite CPA, Brent, on a way to save taxes and still donate to your charity.

If you are 70 1/2 and have to take a Required Minimum Distribution, RMD, one way to give to your favorite church/charity is via this RMD.

Have the firm/trustee liquidate a specified dollar amount from your IRA and have them mail/wire the amount directly to the charity.

You will pay no taxes on those withdrawals and still benefit from your standard deduction.

Any amount processed as a QCD, Qualified Charitable Deduction, counts toward your RMD and reduces the amount of your IRA distribution.

You can only make the tax free transfer from an IRA, not a 401(k) or a 403 (b).

 

Air Filter and Box Fan

air-filter-box-fan

Here’s an option for the people affected by the smoke in California. I use this on a regular basis. I use a very good air filter and tape it to a box fan. I used the Filtrete  Healthy Living Elite Allergen Reduction Filter, MPR 2200. These cost about $15 on Amazon.

As you can see from the picture, this simple setup is doing an excellent job at filtering our the small particles in the air.

While you could use this in your furnace, I’ve found that it reduces the air flow quite a bit.  I ended up putting one of these filter fans upstairs and one downstairs.

 

Dudes Playground – Veterans Day

There is a new lake/park in Waterloo Ill. which is being dedicated to veterans on Sunday November 11th.
It will start at 1:00 p.m.
5301 Kaskaskia Road Waterloo IL 62298

The featured speaker will be a rear admiral Lee Metcalf, retired. There will be a band, barbecue and free beverages for the afternoon.

The eagle will be there and available for photos. Bring your camera or cell phone for great pictures. A donation to World Bird Sanctuary would be appreciated.

 

Gas Explosions

Jeff Rossen Reports had some good information on the latest gas explosions and what the home owner should do if they smell gas. I will list them below, but noticed that he omitted what I would consider to be an obvious action to take.

Turn off the outside gas valve. This is something I learned in my CERT training and is fairly easy to do. There is a video below which shows how to do this. I’d recommend getting a LARGE wrench since the valve can be a bit hard to turn.

Here are the actions that are recommended by the show.

  1. Check the stove to make sure none of the knobs are on.
  2. Don’t use the light switch or any electric appliances. The spark could ignite the gas.
  3. Open the window/windows. They only vent one window and leave the door open.
  4. Don’t start your car. It might cause a spark.
  5. Get 350 feet away from the house.
  6. Call 911.

 

No Fees for Freezing Credit Reports

Brian Krebs did a great article on the change in fees for freezing and unfreezing your credit reports.

Starting Sept. 21st. the three large credit reporting agencies cannot charge for freezing your credit accounts.

Here is the entire article. https://krebsonsecurity.com/2018/09/in-a-few-days-credit-freezes-will-be-fee-free/

Brian Ettling – Climate Change

brian-ettling-globe - EditedFriend, author, speaker and expert on Climate Change, Brian Ettling, is coming back to St. Louis for a couple of weeks this fall.

He will be teaching his continuing adult ed Climate Change 101 class for St. Louis Community College at Meramec Campus on Saturday morning, October 13th.
NATR:734 | $19 | Age 60+: $17
F01 | Sa 9 am-12 pm | Brian Ettling | Oct 13 | MC – SO, 107
For additional information, contact the Office of Continuing Education at 314-984-7777.

He is also willing to give a couple more talks while he is back in his home state of Missouri in mid-October. You can message Brian through his Facebook page if you’d like him to talk to your group.
https://www.facebook.com/brian.ettling

 

 

Garage Door Lock – $10.44

garage-door-lock-600I have just come across a simple way to add some extra security to your garage door.

It’s a simple piece of metal which you add to your door and which slides out a metal bar to prevent the door from opening. I bought this one from Amazon, but probably any other brand would work.

The only problem I ran into was that I needed an assistant to hold the lock in place when I added the first sheet metal screw. The metal I was going into was also a bit thick so it took some pressure to get the screws to go in. You could pre-drill like the video shows.

Personal Liability Umbrella Insurance

judge-in-courtI have a friend who was recently sued for $800,000.

Even though he ended up not having to pay, he suggested to me to check out Personal Liability Umbrella Insurance.

What I discovered was that while I do have some liability insurance with my auto and house, it’s not a lot.

With State Farm insurance, I found I could buy another million dollars of insurance for $10/month. That seems like a bargain to me.

Even though I hope I’ll never have to use it, this small expense is worth the potential benefits.

Here is an article from State Farm about this type of insurance.


This image was originally posted to Flickr by maveric2003 at http://www.flickr.com/photos/maveric2003/96149867/. It was reviewed on 10 February 2007 by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

Saving Money on Prescriptions

I just saw an interesting story on NBC which shows how to save money on prescriptions.

  • Your insurance may not give you the cheapest price on the drugs you need.
  • Question the pharmacist and find out if the same prescription without insurance is cheaper. Apparently, the drug store can’t/won’t tell you if the non-insurance prescription is cheaper.
  • Check out the website – https://www.goodrx.com/ It will show you the price of the same drug at different stores. It may also show coupons which could same you even more money.
  • goodrx-01

FM Radio for Emergencies

With the recent hurricanes, one of the lessons learned is that the cell phone towers will be down and your phone is probably not going to work to make phone calls or text messages.

One thing however your phone might be capable of during an emergency is listen to FM broadcasts. Not all phones have this capability. My Moto G works fine and many Android phones still have the FM chip. Unfortunately the latest iPhones do not have the FM chip.

The app you will want to install is called NextRadio. It installs easily and does an immediate search of your local stations.

You will want to hook up a pair of headphones as these are your antennae. I did notice that when the headphones are not connected, the app will change and use you cell data or wireless access to stream the music.

This may be an app you will never have to use, but you will want it installed before an emergency.

Over 55 – Save $299+

T-Mobile has a great deal for couples over 55.
We just went over to the T-Mobile store and saved $299 over the next 12 months.

They are now charging $60 (includes charges and taxes) for two lines when you use AutoPay.
This plan includes unlimited talk, text, and 4G LTE smartphone data.
I don’t see any “gotchas” so this could save you a lot of money.

Watch the Youtube video – it’s pretty funny.

 

 

 

What Is Your Flood Risk?

After all the devastating floods in the Houston area, I got a bit nervous and thought I’d do some research and see what my flood risk might be.
Here’s a good story on why Houston is so prone to flooding.

I found a site – http://www.whatismyelevation.com/ that allows you to enter an address and it will give you it’s elevation.

An even easier elevation map can be found at 
http://elevationmap.net/
Type in an address to start and then you can compare your elevation to surrounding areas.

Here some general elevation figures from my area.

  • My house is at an elevation of 636 feet.
  • The elevation is 613 feet at one end of the street
  • The elevation is 607 feet in the other direction.
  • The elevation at Gravois Creek is 492 feet.
  • The Meramec river is 391 feet
  • The Mississippi River level is 383 feet

While the above won’t give you an absolute risk assessment, it will give you an idea of what your risk might be.

 

Patio Door Options

Note – one problem I have recently noticed is that the outside door locks have their finish starting to peel off and tarnish badly.

 

provia-door-1000Since we just went through the process of buying a patio/french door, I’d thought I’d document the process and show what the options are.

We originally thought we wanted an outswing French door, but decided later to go with an inswing door. This does save some money. The prices are approximate and include $600 installation plus about 10% sales tax. They all have Low-E glass.

  • $1500 – Tree Court Builders Supply. This is a basic steel door, that would be ok if you are on a budget. This does have blinds inside the door, which can be replaced if they go bad. They use a caulk that oozes out over time. Only one small piece of weather stripping. You have to get someone to install these. You will also need to paint these yourself.
  • $3400 – Pella at Lowes.  This is a price of Double Entry doors. For some reason, the Pella Patio Doors are a thousand dollars more. They don’t have steel doors for Pella at Lowes – just fiberglass and wood covered with vinyl. It only has one small weather stripping.
  • $3600 – Anderson at Home Depot. These are not the same doors as the ones below. They use contractors to put in the door. They only have a few colors to choose from.
  • $4400 – Pella in home presentation. This looks like the same door which is sold at Lowes. It’s a nice looking door, but only has a small weather strip.
  • $5081 – Renewal by Anderson. They have their own installers and guarantee their work. They do have a A+ rating on the BBB. They actually install a Provia line of doors. They bring a cutaway section of the door for you to look at. The weather stripping is amazing – three sections, not just the one on all the other doors.

We went with the Renewal by Anderson. While it is the most expensive, it seems to be the best made and we might get back our money when we sell the house.