Air Conditioner Maintenance – Condensate Drain

My wife and I just had the house painted and were congratulating ourselves on how well the house looked when she looked up at the ceiling and said,”There’s water dripping from the ceiling!”

I immediately punched a couple of small holes in the ceiling to let the water drip out and started a 24 hour campaign to find out what the cause was. I thought that it might have been the rain we just had, or that the house cleaner had spilled some water in a bathroom area.

What I came to realize was that the water was coming from our attic air conditioner. This unit has a pipe attached to it which drains the water from the a/c unit. The problem was that the drain over time builds up sediment, rust, dust and lint, algae and possibly even insects and will eventually clog up the drain.

What compounded our problem was that the drain had a lot of 90 degree elbows through the ceiling and made it even harder for the water to drain. When our drain eventually clogged up, one of the elbows was loose and started dripping through the first floor ceiling.

$380.00 later I’ve learned a few things which might help you from having this problem in the future.

  • You need to clean out the drain at least once a year. Pour down bleach or a bleach and water solution to clean out the drain. Depending on how much you run your a/c you might want to do this more often.
  • If that doesn’t clean it out, you can try using a “Charles Gallo Drain Gun.” It uses CO2 cartridges to clean out the line. It costs $35 plus $2/cartridge.
  • You can also try using your wet/dry shop vac to clean out the line, but this did not work for me.
  • My a/c guy eventually blew out the line with a large Nitrogen tank, but with a loose fitting I decided to abandon my old line and put in a new line.
  • My a/c guy recommends a 1.5″ line for the drain. Most people put in a smaller 3/4 inch line, but that’s not as good. I used an old 1″ line that I had.
  • If you don’t have a logical opening to pour in the bleach, you will need to add some T fittings to your line.
  • I also put caps on these fittings to keep out debris and insects from getting into the lines.
  • If you’re going away on vacation – turn off your a/c, so that if this problem occurs, it won’t cause massive problems while you are gone.
  • I’m also going to put a water alarm in my attic just in case my drain would clog again and the water would go into the spill pan.

Conclusion: Your condensate drain is going to clog at some point and you’re going to have a leak if you don’t do preventive maintenance.

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Fire Safety Notes

Here are a few notes from a recent CERT review.

You can find some of the CERT training materials here.

  • Fight the fire when it is small – that’s when you have a good chance to extinguish it. A small fire extinguisher will only handle a fire the size of a chair.
  • If the fire is out of control inside the house – get outside. If you go inside, the fumes are toxic and you will become a casualty.
  • If you basement is wet, don’t go down to turn off the electricity.
  • Safety is #1 priority – work with a buddy and always wear safety equipment.
  • Cooking fires – use a lid to put out the fire and don’t take the lid until it is cool. Don’t walk the pan over to the sink – you will just catch other things on fire. You also need a kitchen fire extinguisher close by. Here’s a good article.
  • Electrical – don’t use “1 to 3” types of plug adapters. Use a fused power strip.
  • Clean the back of your refrigerator and dryer – they collect a lot of fine material which could combust.
  • Program the electric company into your phone ahead of time.
  • Paint – you can fill the paint can with kitty liter and let it dry. Then it’s safe for the trash.

Blood Type Diet

I have a friend who recommends the Blood Type Diet. Peter D’Adamo published a book called Eat Right 4 Your Type, which is the basis for this theory.

According to the article below, the theory has no basis in fact or scientific evidence. While a low carb or vegetarian diet will probably make you healthier, you don’t need to be a specific blood type to benefit.

http://mosaicscience.com/story/why-do-we-have-blood-types

Listening to Podcasts

A Podcast is either an internet audio or video show which you can download and then listen at some future time.

Since I’m not in the Apple Universe, I use Gpodder.org as a way to subscribe and download shows to my computer. I then move them to one of my devices and listen to the show at my convenience – usually when I’m gardening. Below are the shows I am now listening to – Car Talk is my favorite. My favorite device for this is a Sansa Clip which also has a slot for a SDHC card.

Here’s the NPR podcast list.

http://www.npr.org/rss/podcast/podcast_directory.php?type=title

podcasts

 

Smokenator 1000 Test

smokenator1000-01

I’m testing out the Smokenator 1000 in my Weber Grill. It’s a bit expensive, $75,  for what it is, but seems to do a good job at smoking meat indirectly and keeping the temperature under control. I’m doing some testing today on some chicken wings and this is my setup.

  • I’m not using their included water pan. I am using a water pan in the middle of the grill which I fill about half-way with boiling water.
  • Notice I also put alum foil in the bottom of the grill to help with cleanup.
  • I put 60 unlit briquettes in the Smokenator.
  • Attach a temperature probe to the grill to monitor the temperature.
  • Turn a chimney starter upside down and light 12 briquettes – takes about 15 minutes.
  • I adjust the bottom vents to approximately 1/2 open and leave the top vents totally open.
  • Put the lit coals on top of the unlit coals.
  • Put on the lid and wait until the temperature comes up to 250 degrees.
  • Add your wood chips/chunks to the charcoal
  • Add boiling water to the alum pan.
  • NOTE – Amazingribs says to put a water pan OVER the charcoal on top of the grill. I need to give that a try.
  • Put on the chicken.
  • Weber takes about 10 minutes to get to 250 degrees.
  • Temperature rose over 30 minutes to 300 degrees (this may be because of where my water pan is.)
  • I then shut down the top about half
  • If temperature goes too low, knock off the ash and mix up the briquettes.
  • Even after four hours the temperature stayed at 250 degrees.

RESULTS:

bbq-smokenator

I’ve changed my setup to something very close to the directions which come with the unit.

  • 52 unlit coals in the base
  • light 12 coals and put them in the top.
  • When the temperature gets close to 200 degrees, I put on the meat
  • add water to the Smokenator water base – you will periodically have to fill this up. I put in regular tap water.
  • I have a thermometer on the grill the entire time so I always know what the temperature is
  • Add charcoal and chips every couple of hours to keep the fire level up and the smoke rolling.
  • I add a 2nd level with bricks and a smaller grill – works well.
  • I leave all vents totally open. If the temperature starts to get close to 300 degrees, I partially close the bottom vents.

Overall, I’m very satisfied with the Smokenator. It seems to do a good job of providing indirect heat for an extended period of time.

 

St. Louis Activities

There’s a lot to do in St. Louis and so I’m going to compile a few ideas on this page.

Idea – check Groupon for Deals.

Big Christmas List.

Also – here’s Trip Advisors list.

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Texas –  Rob and Melissa

Day 1 – Grants Farm and Swimming at Crestwood Pool.

Day 2 – Zoo, Arch, Rigazzis on The Hills and Ted Drews.

Sun and Shade Grass Seed?

grass-seed-sun-shade

Man/Woman has been searching for three things over the decades.

  1. Perpetual Motion
  2. All You Can Eat Diet Pill
  3. Sun and Shade Grass Seed.

After a recent talk by Glennon Kraemer at my “Grounds Management” class, I realized that #3 just does not exist.

Grasses that do well in shade will be burned up in the sun and seeds that do well in full sun, will die in the shade.

What Glennon advises is to buy two different types of seed. Buy a shady mix for the shady areas and a sun mix for the sunny areas.

He defines a sunny area as any area that gets at least two hours of direct sun during the main part of the day.

The picture I’m showing is a mix that is sold at Costco. Glen says that Tall-Type Fescue is the best overall choice for St. Louis. Unfortunately, there is none of that seed in this mix.

 

Veterans Honored at Truman Middle School

vets-honored-truman-school-

I was glad to be part of 100+ Veterans honored at Truman Middle School in Crestwood, Missouri. All the Vets got a chance to talk to groups of kids and answer their questions. At the end there was a big assembly and a standing ovation from all the kids. What was most emotional for me was that the kids lined the halls and applauded us all as we left the building. Thanks to John Fee for leading this effort at Truman. I for one am glad to see the spirit of respect and enthusiasm for our armed forces and veterans in our young people today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Free Credit Score from Discover

I just found a new service that my Discover Card is offering for free. On each new statement they are including my FICO score.

In the past, I have used the AnnualCreditReport.com which gives you a copy of your credit report once a year, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t give you your number. 

Here’s some information from the FTC which tells you why it’s important to keep track of your credit report.

If you’re interested, you do need a Discover credit card.

Here’s some more information that Discover is putting on-line. (click here)

 

How to Lubricate Your Garage Door

These are notes from the video below.

  • Use Lithium grease spray – NOT WD40 or oil.
  • Release the door from the mechanism so you can move the track up and down manuall.
  • Spray all moving parts on the door itself.
  • Spray ball bearings in door rollers – use straw on can.
  • Spray pulley ball bearings – use straw on can.
  • You can spray the top of the rail where the metal moves back and forth.
  • Spray the torsion spring.
  • You don’t need to spray the chains.
  • You don’t need to spray the track, but you can clean the track with WD40.

Automobile Emergency Supplies

Here’s a list of possible supplies you might need if you are in some sort of emergency situation. Of course you always have at least half a tank of gas and have your cell phone fully charged. If you know you are going out in bad weather, get the car filled up first.

  • Blankets/Sleeping bags/Space blanket
  • Batteries – extra for flashlight/phone etc.
  • Battery charger for phone
  • Car-cell phone charger
  • Card Deck
  • Coffee mug
  • Cold Weather – ice scraper, cat litter, extra cold weather clothes.
  • Cooking pot – to heat food/water
  • DC to AC converter
  • Duct tape
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Food – easy open.
  • Full tank of gas
  • Ice scraper
  • Jumper cables
  • Kitchen size trash bags
  • Matches
  • Medications – extra
  • Multi-tool
  • Pen/Paper
  • Rope
  • Shoes – good walking shoes.
  • Shovel
  • Tarp
  • Tire sealant kit
  • Toilet paper
  • Tools
  • Tow strap
  • Utensils
  • Water

TSA – How to Get TSA-Pre Without Signing Up

I noticed on our last plane tickets to San Francisco using United Airlines, that my wife and I both had TSA-pre status printed on our tickets. When we got to the security lines, we were directed to the TSA-Pre line and zipped through security without taking off our jackets or shoes – Yeah!

I was initially confused as to why this happened, because we have not signed up for the TSA program and paid the $85.00.

It appears now from my experience and things that I read online, that if you have a Frequent-Flyer number from the airline you are flying, then they will give you TSA-Pre status.

What I’ve done now is to sign up with two other airlines and their Frequent Flyer programs – they call them different things.

I’m hopeful that now I will never have to go through a regular TSA screening and can keep my shoes, belts and coats on when I go through the TSA-Pre.

Credit-Debit Card Fraud – What To Do

1024px-Credit-cards

Within the last year, there seems to be a jump in credit-debit card fraud and I thought I’d put together some tips to keep as protected as possible.

  • Restaurants – don’t use a credit card – use cash. Any time someone takes your card and it’s out of sight, it’s just asking for trouble.
  • Use a credit card – not a debit card. While both cards are protected, the potential for damage and aggravation is much higher with a debit card. A debit card can empty your bank account without you even knowing it. I don’t even have a debit card.
  • Use different credit cards for different purposes. I have a card for Amazon purchases, a card for other online purchases, and a card for medical expenses. I like to segregate my expenses so that I can keep track of what I am spending and with whom. If you only use one card, when bad guys get hold of it, it’s harder to spot the bad purchases. If you have certain monthly charges to credit cards like Tivo or Netflix, consider having a card for just those expenses.
  • Pay close attention to your monthly statements. If you don’t recognize a store or expense, question it. If it’s not you, you don’t have to pay for it.
  • When you use a bank ATM, watch for skimmers and cameras. I like to use a piece of paper to cover my hand when I enter my pin.
  • Watch out for phishing attacks in email. NEVER click on email links. Type in the website link and then go from there. Links in email are excellent ways to lose your identity.
  • Shred all paper mail that may have credit card information.
  • If you suspect a problem, immediately call your credit card company.

 

Thanks for the credit card image to By Lotus Head from Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa (sxc.hu)

NALC Health Benefit Plan – 2014

As a former letter carrier and government employee I decided to switch over to the NALC health benefit plan for 2014. This will save me initially around $4000 in premiums over the Anthem Blue Choice program. There are some trade-offs and extra costs so I will use this page to keep notes so that it might be helpful to others next year.

DRUGS
I like being able to get a 3 month prescription for all my drugs at CVS. I’m impressed with CVS and their service. I got the doctor to write new 3 month prescriptions and the costs were less than what I was paying at Walgreens. I didn’t have to pay the drugs as part of my deductible. Amoxicillin only costs $1.29! The cost for diabetic testing strips is cheaper on Amazon.

Chiropractic
My chiropractor is trying to get out of the Cigna Plan because they pay so little – just $22 for a visit. This is definitely going to be an extra expense for me as the massage used to be free and now I’ll definitely have to pay for it. The chiropractor does have a $30 a visit plan which is what we may have to go to. We could switch doctors. It looks like we may be paying $85/month = $1020, for once a month adjustment and massage for me.

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Doctor’s Directory
The online directory that is linked to the NALC website is buggy and gives bad results. I called NALC and told them about it. The new directory I found out about by calling is:

http://cigna.benefitnation.net/nalc/

Also – What to ask a doctor/office BEFORE you go to them.

Are you contracted with Cigna Health Care Open Access Plus
NALC Directory?

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$15 College Classes

Seniors (65+) can signup for classes for $15 dollars at the local community colleges.

You have to wait until the day before the class starts to signup for a class. For a class starting on Friday, you can only signup on Thursday.

Hopefully you have gone over ahead of time and gotten a student number and a registration form where you put in what classes you want. You can check online what classes are available here:

http://classes.stlcc.edu/ClassSchedule/Term_Courses.asp

When you fill out the form, make sure you list a number of classes which you might be interested in. Put “Alternate” in front of classes in case your first class is full or is not going to be held.

I’ve been told by a teacher at the school that they need a minimum of 15 students per class and a maximum of 18.

I got over to the school at 8am and there were 43 people ahead of me. Luckily the computers were down, so they just took the application and said we could pay on Monday. That sure beats waiting in line for the 43 people ahead of me.

2013 – I gave them my form on Friday morning and Saturday in the mail I got my registration form back with my class enrollment and invoice for $15. They also called my on Saturday morning. I’m very impressed.

Note #2 – after paying your fee, you need to go and get your student ID and parking pass. Before you go over there make sure you know your computer login information.
https://selfservice.stlcc.edu/pls/SLCC/twbkwbis.P_WWWLogin both your ID and password. I’d recommend making a password that is not too hard. You will have to use it during the year to login to the school computers.

Note #3 When you get your .edu email address, you can also then take advantage of the Amazon student free 6 month Prime account and then 50% off the regular membership.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/student/signup/info

Note #4 – bring a large thumb drive to class – this is where you will keep a backup of your work. In my classes they have a computer at each desk

Scan Your Wallet Contents

wallet-scan

One of my yearly chores is to scan the contents of my wallet and keep a copy in a secure location.

My scanner allows me to make multiple scans and save it as one PDF image.

You can then either print a copy for a safe deposit box or encrypt the file and keep it with your valuables.

Hopefully you will never need this backup, but there’s always a chance and then you will be really happy you have this backup.

Backup Copies of Documents

After a disaster, there is a good chance that you won’t have many of the necessary papers and documents you may need to get your life back into order. One way around this is to scan your documents NOW and then use Google Drive as a way to store those documents. A Google account and Google Drive is free for up to 15 GB.

Here’s another extra step you can do to make your files even more secure.
Encrypt your files before you drag them over to Google Drive.

The program I use is Axcrypt.
http://www.axantum.com/AxCrypt/Default.html

I put all the files I want to encrypt in one folder and then choose them all and encrypt them all at one time.
Then drag the files or upload the files into Google Drive.

Now your files are doubly encrypted and even if your Google account is compromised, your sensitive data is safe.

To Erase files from your computer, you can use the Eraser program from SourceForge.
http://sourceforge.net/projects/eraser/

 

 

Securing a Generator

One of the suggestions I recently heard about is the need to secure your portable generator or it may easily be stolen. I found a number of solutions.

1. Did a deep hole, fill with concrete and a bolt attached to a chain.

2. Have an alarm by the generator to let you know if anyone approaches.

3. One suggestion was to only run the generator when you could watch it. If you can’t watch it, put it away.

Making Free Donations via Amazon

Amazon Smile is a new program whereby any purchase you make via their Smile.Amazon.com website will donate .5% of the purchase price to a charity of your choosing.

Right now, only physical products , not digital, are included.

The problem I have is in remembering to go to Smile.Amazon.com and not just the regular Amazon.com.

A solution to this is to download the “Smile Always” Extension for Chrome. It will automatically redirect you to the charitable site.

amazon-smile-always

There is also a Firefox addon called Amazon Smile  Redirector – see the link below.
https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/amazonsmileredirector/

 

 

Nutrition Database

nutrition-database

The USDA has a great database for foods and their nutrition components – protein, carbs, fiber, vitamins etc.

Here’s the link.

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list