Category Archives: house stuff

little home improvement

it’s coming to that point where we are working on the little things on the home to make life better. after replacing our chandelier, i decided that we really need a dimmer switch to operate the new track lighting.

after checking out home depot’s dimmer switch selection, i must say that i’m pretty disappointed with the design of dimmer switches. a lot of the designs require two different methods to operate the switch. there’s a method to turn it on and off, another for dimming operations. some of the dimming switches were really awkward to operate. i just wanted a simple dimmer to turn on and off the lights. is that too much to ask for?

i finally found one and installed it last night. this time, i turned off the power to the switch before changing it. i didn’t want to get shocked again. =P

replacing our chandelier

the house that we bought many months ago came complete with the original chandelier in the dining room. this chandelier was a cheap, dated one that looked ugly. we swore that we would replace it and we even registered for one at lowes. well, many months have passed and we bought the chandelier from lowes. it stayed in the box for months. i was lazy and didn’t want to install it, but enough time had passed and i wanted to get it done.

installing the chadelier wasn’t very difficult, the wiring was actually pretty simple. the hard part is that the chandelier was replaced with track lighting. the track lighting has a bendable track that you can bend to any configuration. i thought that the track was going to be easily flexible, but it turns out that the track isn’t flexible. instead, you have to bend the track forcefully, there were not joints! christi actually bent the track into place, she freehanded it and it came out looking great.

once that was done, installation was mostly easy. i hit a stud in the ceiling, so i had to pre-drill one of the anchors, but aside from that, there were no problems noted.

i love the new lights. it’s a little darker than i was expecting it to be in the room, so it looks like i’m going to have to find some other kind of lamp to supplement the track lighting, but for now, it’s great.

i still have some faucets and bathroom vanity lights to install. maybe i’ll do that tomorrow.

new microwave installed

the microwave that came with the house was an over the range microwave complete with an exhaust fan. it was the original microwave that comes with the house, aged about 9 years. it just stopped heating things one day and so the hunt for a new microwave began.

since we got a stainless steel refrigerator, we decided to get a stainless steel microwave. let me tell ya, the exact same microwave that comes in white or black will cost you an additional $50-100 just because it has a stainless steel front. ugh.

so now our kitchen looks like it is slowly morphing from a white appliance kitchen to stainless steel. the stove and oven are probably next on my list of things to replace. i wonder if i can replace them myself. it looks kind of hard. i would love to replace our stove, though. that sort of sounds expensive.

installing the microwave was no small feat. i was hoping that all GE microwaves used the same mounting plate, but when i removed the old microwave and tried to install the new microwave, i realized that the mounting plate was different with different holes.

our back splash is made out of tile so drilling new holes through tile without the proper tools can be quite difficult. as it turned out, i didn’t have the right tools. a trip to home depot later, i had the right drill bit and made the new holes. the rest of the install was pretty easy and we now have a new, working microwave complete with rotating tray! it’s very exciting because our old microwave didn’t have one. it’s like we’re in modern times or something!

over the range microwave

our microwave is broken. a microwave is a COMPLETE black box to me. yes, i know, it uses microwaves to heat the food. yes, i know that the microwaves don’t actually heat the food, but rather does some kind of voodoo magic where microwaves are pointed at food and the food absorbs the radiation and this energy excites the food atoms and because they are all excited, they get hot…or some such nonsense like that.

i know that a magnetron is used to generate these microwave. but, if you tell me to open up a broken microwave and fix it, it’s a complete black box to me. i push a button and hot food comes out. that’s as much as i know, and that’s really all i care to know. now that i know that i have a broken microwave, i now know that i need to buy a new microwave. the hunt begins!

home depot has a labor day sale online only where you get 10% off, but shipping charges negate the discount that i’m getting *IF* i buy a microwave greater than $50. in my case, it looks like i’m going to be spending that much anyway because over the range microwaves are RIDICULOUSLY expensive.

wireless networking in your home

i love it when a plan comes together.

one of the biggest challenges that i’ve faced after moving into the house is figuring out how i was going to handle the networking needs of my house. this poses a much greater problem than one would think after your consider a few things:

1) the house is not wired for ethernet.
2) the house is on a concrete slab so you can’t wire under it.
3) i don’t want to tear up any walls.

so, the painful, but obvious choice after these considerations is to have a wireless network. the next big choice was how to set it up. 802.11b, 802.11a/g, 802.11g, pre-802.11n? these were all good questions. the stylings of the pre-802.11n devices are probably the best these days, but they are also pretty expensive. the biggest concern i had about a wireless network as the primary network for home was speed. i do video streaming on the home network quite often so it was essential that the home network could support this.

the problem gets worse. the access point is going to be in a different room from my desktop which is in a different room from my media centers. nothing will be wired into the router! i could run cable everywhere, but that seemed messy…and i don’t like messy.

i settled on getting an 802.11g network. mostly this was cost-based. you can get cheap routers for the 802.11g standard and it SHOULD be fast enough for streaming. large file copies are going to be slow, but i’ve accepted that.

so the hardware that i ended up getting:
buffalo whr-hp-54g wireless router
buffalo ethernet converter
edimax pci wireless card

a new router, a new wireless ethernet converter/gaming adapter, and a new PCI wireless card. the important things to look for when buying each of these products varies, but if you want something that gives you the best performance, here are some things to consider:

make sure it has the feature set you want. WPA security is more secure than WEP. this particular router, for you hacker-types, can be flashed with a dd-wrt firmware. if you know what that means, you’ll think it’s cool. if you don’t, then don’t worry about it.

ethernet converter
the ethernet converter/gaming adapter looks like a 4 port switch, but what it really does is give you ethernet ports that are wireless connected to your router. so if you have devices that you want to connect to your network, but don’t want to string cable everywhere, this is the way to go. setup is relatively easy for this device, the instructions that come with it are good.

PCI wireless g
i also got a PCI wireless network card. it’s weird to see the wireless icon on my desktop, but this lets my desktop connect to the wireless router. you should get one that has an external omnidirectional antenna. it’s worth every penny in the improved range and connection quality that you get.

so at the end of the night, i had my desktop set up in the office, the router set up in a different room, and my ethernet adapter connected to my media center downstairs. i was watching a downloaded tv show streaming from my desktop to the router to the media center all wirelessly with no issues. it was great.

i haven’t done any raw speed tests, but the video ran just fine.

how to buy a vacuum

i have recently purchase a new house and with that comes a slew of responsibilities and needs that i have never thought of before. i’ve been doing a ton of research on all sorts of things that i never cared about and for all of that time spent i want to have something to show for it. so, i’ve decided to chronicle the entire process. this is probably only going to be really relevant for people who want to buy new stuff for their home, but hopefully it won’t be too dry.

vacuums are probably one of the most misunderstood appliances you can purchase. i mean, if they work well, they suck, and if they don’t suck, then you don’t want it. so, which vacuum sucks the most?

that’s actually a loaded question. as with any purchase, you really have to consider a few things. the first thing to consider is budget. set a budget for yourself on how much you want to spend on a certain item and see what’s available in your budget.

for me, i figured that i would spend around $150-200 on a vacuum. a great resource to check out is the vacuum wizard. they have a lot of valuable information on different types of vacuums for different needs.

if price is not an object, it seems to be the popular opinion that the dyson vacuums are the way to go. i personally like the dyson ball, but i don’t own a dyson myself. these vacuums mean serious business and if you don’t object to buying a $500+ vacuum, go for it! even my mom, the consummate penny pincher, recommends it. “worth every penny,” she says.

for me, i wanted a powerful vacuum but didn’t want to pay the price. i also wanted an upright vacuum, not a canister. these are really personal preferences. after having gotten the vacuum, i thought that i could use the hose attachments to clean the stairs, but the vacuum i got doesn’t fit comfortably on a stair, so it makes cleaning the stairs difficult.

oh yeah? which vacuum did i get? i got the eureka boss vacuum. it’s supposed to be the most powerful vacuum in its class, the packaging says that it is more powerful than a dyson. it is pretty powerful and it is good at what it does. not good for stairs, the hose attachment is shorter than i would have preferred. but it cleans the floors well. this is a heavy vacuum, though. don’t be fooled by its stylish looks, it’s heavy!