How many times do you wish you knew a handyman or designer who was willing to ask any and all of your questions about your home? How many trips to the hardware store or showroom would this save?
Fountain promises to be the literal answer to your dreams.
To use Fountain you simply open the app, ask your question and within 5 minutes or less you’ll have an expert available to video chat with about your question. You can also text and speak to them over the phone if video chat isn’t your thing. Fountain has made it easy to take photos during your conversation, mark them up and send them to the expert for better clarification.
“My faucet is leaking” Boom, you’re on with a Plumber.
“What color scheme would look good in this room?” You’re just a few minutes away from an Interior Designer who you can show around the room with live video.
“Is $3,000 too much to tile my bathroom?” You’ll get a flooring expert who’s not trying to get your business to give you an objective assessment of costs.
I tested Fountain with the founder, Aaron Patzer (who also founded Mint), who walked me through the video chat and image messaging system. I’m still on an iPhone 4s but the system worked really well. Aaron’s face was clear and the sound, images and videos streamed seamlessly.
Fountain is opening up to beta testers on Saturday morning at 9am EST. It will be available free of charge to the first 300 visitors from Charles & Hudson. Click here to download the app and ask a question.
After this week’s beta test, Fountain will cost $5 a question. Five bucks- the cost of a latte – will buy you a block of time: about 15 minutes for Gardening and Plumbing advice, 12 minutes for Appliance repair, and 10 minutes for Interior Design. Check in the app as these may change. If you need more time, it goes in $5 increments to make things simple.
This isn’t the first app to tap into the promise of natural language processing and artificial intelligence, but it’s got serious talent and money behind it, so we’ll be following their progress closely.
Home improvement is the perfect space for Fountain to launch, but they’ve got their eyes set on the entire Q&A universe, and if this initial launch works out then look for them to expand into other areas such as law, medicine, etc.
Fountain is currently only available as an iOS app.
The Dyson Humidifier is the only humidifier with patented ultraviolet cleanse technology, killing 99.% of bacteria and projecting clean mist into the room, evenly and powerfully.
Why a humidifier?
The average person spends 90% of their time indoors. They breathe in and out 20,000 times each day, and draw over 3,000 gallons of air into their lungs. Dry air can lead to dry skin, itchiness, scratchy throats, nosebleeds and more, so people turn to humidifiers to cope. But existing humidifiers can be unhygienic – some don’t properly treat the water in the tank, allowing contaminated water to be spread about the room. Others don’t distribute mist evenly, leaving pockets of dry air. The Dyson humidifier uses patented ultraviolet cleanse technology that exposes every drop of water to an ultraviolet light – twice, killing 99.9% of bacteria before any mist is projected into the room. This, coupled with Air Multiplier™ technology, allows the machine to distribute the mist around the whole room evenly and efficiently.
James Dyson says: “Humidifiers are sometimes seen as a way to combat allergies and the symptoms of colds and the flu – but in reality many can do quite the opposite. The majority are a breeding ground for nasty germs, which are then distributed around your home. Using patented UV light technology, the Dyson humidifier kills 99.9% of bacteria in the water before the machine is set to work.”
A piezoelectric transducer in the base of the machine, vibrating up to 1.7 million times a second, breaks the water down into microscopic particles, which are drawn up through the loop amplifier and projected through the air using Air Multiplier™ technology.
Using an Intelligent Climate Control, the Dyson humidifier is able to measure both the temperature and the moisture in the air. One press of the remote, and the machine will create a comfortable, hygienic environment. The machine runs for up to 18 hours on a single tank of water.
Availability: Fall 2015 (Pricing not yet available.)]]>
Battery technology is driving innovation from the top tool companies as cordless becomes the new corded. There isn’t much drop off from power between AC and DC currents these days for premium power tools. Bosch Tool Corporation has just introduced a real game-changer with the introduction of the Bosch Power Ready Wireless Charging System – the world’s first for cordless power tools. Wireless charging technology meets absolute user convenience in a system that powers tools virtually anywhere: in a moving vehicle and between jobs or tasks – with the battery on the tool or off.
Hagen Dost, Bosch product manager says, “Our new 18V wireless charging system eliminates the need for a bin of batteries with a partial charge. Now pros can easily charge their hand-held power tools in between tasks or jobs and not worry about dead batteries. This means increased productivity and increased profits.”
HOW IT WORKS
This power tool advancement is based on the concept of contactless energy transfer, also known as inductive charging. When the charger is plugged in and the compatible battery is placed on it, the charger begins wirelessly transmitting an alternating magnetic field. The battery, featuring an internal copper coil, acts as a receiver. As the alternating magnetic field penetrates the coil, voltage is induced and a charging current flows to the cells until full. Similar to conventional charging, the battery and charger are in constant communication during the charge process to ensure proper charge and a long battery life.
“Wireless charging opens a whole new world of convenience,” said Dost. “And the new wireless batteries are compatible with today’s complete Bosch 18V power tool offering, so users can start benefitting immediately.”
Each charger also features Foreign Object Detection (FOD), which detects when any other object besides the compatible battery is on the charging pad. If sensed, the charger will not turn on until the object is removed. This prevents conductive materials, such as bolts, washers, nails or even metal shavings that might inadvertently fall on the pad from heating up. The process is similar to heating coils on an electric stove.
SOLVING FUNDAMENTAL CORDLESS PROBLEMS ON THE JOB
With Power Ready Wireless Charging, the entire process is nearly effortless. For example, when working in between tasks, simply set the entire drill/driver, battery and all, right on the charger pad to top off the charge and never worry about a dead battery. Need to drive to your next service call? Wall- or shelf-mount the charger within either the WC18H mobile tool holster or WC18F charger frame to not only store your tool and battery, but charge it at the same time. It takes up less space and makes the entire process more efficient. And for those on jobsites, job box charge stations, cart mounting or even traditional applications can serve to ensure tools and batteries are always power ready where you store them. The applications are nearly limitless as professionals now have the opportunity to be confident in their cordless power tool batteries.
The components of the Bosch Power Ready Wireless Charging System include:
WCBAT612 – The WCBAT612 is a SlimPack 18V 2.0 Ah battery that combines the advantages of wireless charging with renowned Bosch battery technology. This battery has a charge-level indicator and is equipped with industry-leading Bosch CoolPack technology, which improves heat dissipation and extends battery life twice as long over packs without it. High-efficiency cells help users maximize productivity on the job by delivering 65 percent more runtime versus 1.5 Ah packs. As part of the brand’s Flexible Power System, the battery is compatible with all Bosch 18V power tools and chargers for maximum flexibility. Users can expect the addition of the WCBAT620 4.0 Ah 18V Fat Pack in spring 2015.
WC18C – The WC18C Wireless Charger will charge the WCBAT612 80 percent in approximately 30 minutes and 100 percent in 50 minutes (from empty). It features charge status indicator lights for easy recognition.
WC18F – Available with all Bosch Power Ready Wireless Charging System kits, the WC18F frame is designed to mount the charger to workbenches, shelves, side walls or other work surfaces, and serves as a flexible and secure holder for the battery or tool and battery (on horizontal surface).
WC18H – The Bosch WC18H Mobile Holster offers users the industry’s first customized charging and storage system. Professionals can mount the durable holster to any shelf or side wall for quick and convenient tool charging and storage when they’re on the go or during downtime – no need to remove the battery from the tool. Users can customize how they mount the holster to best fit their work style – vertically or horizontally, on a stationary workbench or in a truck or van – for easy grab-and-go access. Since the tool is always charging when stored, pros are power ready for the entire work day. An enclosed top with three custom inserts secures tool and battery to charger (Bosch Compact Tough and Brute-Tough DD/HDD and Impact Drivers) during bumpy vehicle travel.
Bosch Power Ready Wireless Charging System components and cordless tool kit options will be available at authorized dealers in North America in October 2014. Additional wireless charging products will roll out in spring 2015.]]>
Our yard is small but mighty. Our indoor/outdoor space works well for us but recently our neighbor decided to cut down some bushes that were on his property but acted as a natural barrier between our homes. After the bushes were removed we could clearly see his kitchen and dining room windows and of course they could see right into our backyard. We did have some bamboo screens but they were worn out and falling down and not providing any privacy at all. We had no warning but fortunately the neighbor was just doing this to prepare the house for a new tenant so there was no one living in it, but we knew that could change quickly.
We considered a few options to regain some privacy between our homes. The first was extending the brick wall between our homes with a wood fence similar to what we had done in another section of our yard. The issue here is that the brick wall was shorter on this side so we’d have to build a much taller wood fence. This would take a lot more time and money and we needed this done fast.
The second option was to buy some pre-made wood fences and place them on risers up against the brick wall. Although the fences are pre-made we’d still have to build out a frame for them and they would be very heavy.
The next option was installing corrugated steel panels along the wall. Using furring strips we could attach the steel panels to the brick and be done with it! Usually the most simple option is the best so this is what we chose to do.
Thanks to Lowe’s we found all of the tools and materials we needed and after a quick trip to pick up supplies we were ready to get started.
8 corrugated steel panels (4×8)
20′ furring strips
Tapcon concrete screws
Corrugated steel screws
Carbide-tipped masonry drill bit
Hammer drill and driver
The first step is to attach the furring strips to the wall using Tapcon concrete screws. We pre-drilled the holes using a masonry bit that was included in the Tapcon screw kit.
The next step is lining up the steel panels against the wall and making sure they are even across the top. We overlap at least one ridge and then drill the steel screws through the panels and into the furring strips. We recommend using two furring strips for this process to ensure maximum hold.
Big thanks to Duluth Trading Company for letting me try out their new DuluthFlex Ultimate Fire Hose Cargo Pants.
The last step was sitting back and enjoying our new private yard.
The steel panels gave our yard an industrial chic look and made us feel like we were in a coffee house in Austin (not a bad thing). It’s full private and the panels have since weathered a few Santa Ana wind storms with no problem. An added bonus they served as an earthquake warning as we heard the panels shaking against each other last week during a little tremor we had. It was freaky to see and hear them move when there was no wind in the air.
Fall has officially arrived. Soon we’ll be cranking up our heaters and closing up our windows for the winter. Now is the perfect time to start winterizing your home, and the first step is checking all of your windows and doors for drafts from leaks around the door threshold and casing and window sill and jamb.
Pella has a ton of articles on their website about window maintenance, new window selection as well as how to identify if your windows or doors need replacement.
Maintenance is a key to maintaining well-functioning doors and windows. We tend to forget to check for pealing paint which can leave wood susceptible to rot and sun damage and weatherstripping can wear away after just a few years.
It’s not just the physical condition of windows when considering replacement, but the makeup of the glass within the window. By upgrading to a modern window, you’ll not only fix your damaged window, but also alter the temperature and type of light entering your home.
Modern windows are rated for energy-efficiency. A Low-E glass will reflect heat back to its source which will help your home remain cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. These windows also reduce UV rays which can fade carpets, walls and furniture.
Pella has provided some helpful signs that indicate when a window or door should be replaced:
1. Poor performance – A windows and doors should open and close with ease and there should be no leaks in, out or around it. Condensation and fogging should not occur between glass panes.
2. Cosmetic damage – Chipped paint and rotting wood are an immediate concern. If water can enter the area around the window or door then it’s probably getting back into your walls which is a bad thing.
3. Style – Windows and doors are the eyes into a home and if the style clashes with the exterior or interior of your home, you’ll never be happy.
4. Cleaning and maintenance – New windows and doors are easy to clean and there are plenty of replacement parts available if needed for service.
5. High Energy Bills – If your heater struggles to maintain a comfortable temperature, the culprit could be drafts around your windows and doors as well as inefficient window glass. Consider new windows that meet ENERGY STAR standards to help lower your heating and cooling costs.]]>
Starting the day begins with a good nights sleep, but what steps will you take to make sure the first hour of your day is as productive as possible? IKEA has set up a program called First :59, that provides lifestyle tips from the bedroom to the bathroom to help you and your family manage your mornings.
As one of four experts, I’ve shared my favorite tips for managing my busy mornings as a dad and full-time blogger.
Nutrition and healthful eating is important in our household, but as with most families, time constraints are an issue and can be a hurdle to eating the right foods.
Our Vitamix get’s serious use and one of my favorite morning tips is preparing a green smoothie for breakfast. There are a ton of recipes available online but we usually just wing it and stuff our smoothies with a mix of kale, spinach, celery and frozen fruit such as strawberries, mangos, blueberries and bananas. You can also drop in avocados, oranges, apples, really any fruit or vegetable. We all have fun experimenting.
We make a large serving of three smoothies and off we go! If we’re still hungry, a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal pairs perfectly with our smoothies.
We prefer smoothies to a green juice as we retain all of the fiber found in the vegetables and there is no waste. The fruit adds a sweetness that any kid (and adult) would love.
In addition to our green smoothies we start the day off with a large glass of fresh water. We stay away from fruit juices which usually contain a lot of added sugar and with our smoothies we are getting plenty of natural sugar from the added fruit. Water helps balance our body after a full night of sleep.
We do love our coffee, but we’ve found the best way to start our day is with a healthy breakfast, then indulge in the caffeine.
For additional inspiration, you can follow the dedicated First :59 Pinterest board. You can also share your own morning routine suggestions on social media with the hashtag #First59.
Visit First59.com for more tips and product suggestions to start your day in the best possible way.
photo: Robert Gourley and WoodleyWonderworks]]>
Our favorite season is Fall, which has finally arrived around most of the country. With it comes a sense of anticipation for winter and cooler months ahead. The first sign of Fall is typically the leaves turning into a gorgeous mix of yellow, orange and reds, then dropping into a heap of browns.
The heap of dead leaves must be removed before it damages your lawn and hopefully before the first rain fall as wet leaves are even tougher to remove.
The number one fall clean up tool besides a rake is a blower, and if your blower can also double as a vacuum you are in even greater shape.
We’ve noted the rise of gas-free cordless outdoor power equipment. These tools keep getting more powerful and efficient which has started to widen the gap on gas-powered tools. Anyone in the house can charge a battery, then insert it into the tool, and by removing the element of gas you’ve got a much cleaner tool and shed. Your neighbors will also appreciate you more as electric tools run more quiet and don’t pollute the air with gas fumes and exhaust.
GreenWorks has introduced a combination blower and vacuum that looks to be a game changer for homeowners. It’s built on their 40V battery platform which means its compatible with their electric chainsaw, trimmers and pole saw. The GreenWorks power tools simply start at the push of a button and the blower/vac also features hi-lo setting and a variable mulcher speed.
We’ve got a huge magnolia tree in our yard that drops leaves almost year-round and this blower/vac unit is the perfect tool for cleaning our yard. We also have another tree that only drops small pollen like seeds which the bees love but they are tough to sweep and too small to vacuum but a blower makes quick work of them.
For a limited time, you can enter the GreenWorks Giveaway. Enter to win a DigiPro Chainsaw & other GreenWorks tools. Push button start, zero gas fumes, lower vibration, less noise – imagine the difference!
I’ve installed pavers before and it’s an arduous task. From flagstone to pre-formed, it takes a lot of time to select, arrange and lay pavers, even on the smallest walkway. Quikrete’s Walk Maker is a simple solution that takes a lot of the guesswork and grunt work out of laying pavers.
The Walk Maker is a mold (2’x 2’x 2″) made of recycled plastic that is shaped to resemble four distinct stone paver patterns: Country Stone, Running Bond Brick, European Block and Basket Weave Brick patterns. It’s recommended you use the mold with Quikrete Crack Resistant Concrete which can be customized with 5 unique colors: Charcoal, Buff, Red, Brown and Terra Cotta.
From October 5th to November 2, you can enter the Walkmaker Weekly Winner Sweepstakes. You can win a Walkmaker Weekly Prize Pak (up to $500 retail value). One winner per week (total of 4 winners). Enter –> http://www.familyhandyman.com/Quikrete-sweeps
Here’s a quick video showing how simple the process of making pavers is with the Walk Maker
Follow these instructions for a detailed tutorial on installing pavers for a walkway using the Quikrete Walk Maker.
When working with cement-based products, always wear eye protection and waterproof gloves.
The Walk Maker® can be placed on any relatively flat surface. It will automatically configure the concrete to the existing base. For professional results, remove one inch of topsoil, and level Walk Maker® before filling with concrete. Removed topsoil can be utilized to fill in open spaces on sides and between concrete after walk has set up.
Step 1 Level the ground removing sod or soil.
Add 2.5 quarts (2.4 L) of water to each 80-lb. (36.3 kg) bag or 2 quarts (1.9 L)of water to each 60-lb. (27.2 kg) bag of QUIKRETE® Concrete or Crack Resistant Concrete Mix. Mix thoroughly until a plastic-like (moldable) consistency is reached. If additional water is required, add small amounts until the correct consistency is obtained. The final water content should be 2.5-4.5 qts. (2.4 – 4.3 L)for each 80 lb. (36.3 kg) bag, or 2-3.5 qts. (1.9 – 3.3 L) for each 60 lb. (27.2 kg) bag.
Mix QUIKRETE Crack Resistant Concrete. If using liquid cement color, add to the mixing water. TIP: each 2’x2’ Walkmaker form is designed for use with one 80-pound bag of QUIKRETE concrete Mix.
Use a bucket or trowel to fill each mold cavity level with surface of mold. While concrete is still in mold, pat and smooth cavity surface with trowel. Remove mold promptly. After removing the mold, smooth all edges with a trowel until appearance is satisfactory. Dipping trowel in water may be helpful. Place the mold adjacent to the completed section and continue this process until your project is completed.
Place the Walkmaker form on the ground and begin to fill the cavities with concrete.
Using a margin trowel, press the concrete mix into the form working from the corners to consolidate the concrete and eliminate any voids.
Smooth the surface and immediately remove the form (there is no need to wait for the concrete to set).
Rotate the form a quarter of a turn to vary the pattern for a random look.
Use a trowel to smooth any rough edges before the concrete becomes “thumbprint” hard.
Begin curing the concrete immediately after the sheen has left the surface of the concrete.
Freshly placed concrete should be water cured for a minimum of 3 to 5 days with a fine water mist.
Concrete should be damp-cured for 5-7 days for the greatest strength or QUIKRETE® Acrylic Concrete Cure & Seal – Satin Finish #8730 can be applied once the concrete hardens, but is still damp. (Apply according to directions on the package). To outline/trim blocks, fill-in separations with QUIKRETE® Sand/Topping Mix after concrete has cured. Place dry Sand Mix in cracks and sweep in to desired level. Dampen the Sand Mix with a fine mist of water (do not over-wet). Let Sand/Topping Mix harden to finish the project.
Note: The addition of QUIKRETE® Liquid Cement Color will dramatically enhance any Walk Maker® project. Mix the liquid color with water before adding it to the dry concrete mix. A variety of
surface textures may be obtained by experimenting with different finishing techniques; i.e. a metal trowel will make a smooth surface, a wooden trowel will make a rougher surface and a brushed surface will add texture and expose more aggregate.
• QUIKRETE Walkmaker Form
• 80 lb QUIKRETE Crack Resistant Concrete mix Or 80 lb. QUIKRETE Concrete Mix
• Gallon QUIKRETE Acrylic Cure & Seal
• 10 oz. QUIKRETE Liquid Cement Color
• Plastic Mixing tub or wheel barrow
• Mixing hoe
• Measuring pail
• Margin trowel
• Safety glasses Here are some photos of walkways that have been built using the Quikrete Walk Maker.
My first article highlighted the personal experience that I have living with a Solatube Daylighting System in my home. It not only altered the electric bill (by bringing it down) but also changed the patterns of usage for rooms and literally illuminated the dark corners and halls.
For my second article I had an opportunity to go behind-the-scenes with Solatube International and visit their headquarters in Vista, California, where they build their products that ship to destinations around the world. They’ve been providing jobs in the San Diego area for many years and have recently expanded their design and testing facilities.
For my most recent Solatube article I visited a Solatube Premier Dealer who guided me through the entire product line and explained in detail the installation process, which isn’t as intense as you’d think. In usually about 2 hours they can bring daylight into your home.
It’s great the see the interest our series has received from readers such as Kevin O’Connor, Host of This Old House.
@Charles_Hudson @Solatube never had one myself. TOH had installed them – I think. Been a while. Always wonder what living with one was like. — Kevin O’Connor (@KevinOConnorTOH) May 5, 2014
as well as Home Improvement celebrities, MyFixItUpLife
@KevinOConnorTOH @Charles_Hudson @Solatube We’ve had one for 10yrs, in our toilet alcove, and we haven’t change the lighbulb in there since. — MyFixitUpLife (@MyFixitUpLife) May 5, 2014
Solatube.com is a great resource for learning more about the company’s energy-efficient and eco-friendly products and for viewing their informative videos that are definitely worth a look.
We recently picked up a couple of strawberry trees (Arbutus Unedo) for free on Craigslist. They were planted in ground and had their root ball severely cut into.
We wanted to try and save these trees before they went into the chipper but we have no extra ground room. Instead we opted to plant these in large whiskey barrels, with hopes that they regain their root system and flourish and provide us with even more rich vegetation in our yard and shade.
We procured our 1/2 whiskey barrels at Home Depot and grabbed some soil and a bit of fertilizer. These 1/2 barrels are probably about 20 gallons and are super heavy and awkward to move. We piled them into the back of the truck and positioned them without much trouble.
But before we added soil and the tree we needed to cut some drainage holes. We cut five holes using a 1″ spade bit. Strawberry trees are very hardy but do require proper drainage to thrive.
We covered the bottom of the holes to keep soil from falling out, by using some garden bed fabric. We stapled the fabric to the underside and then flipped the barrel over and added a base of soil before setting the tree in the bottom.
We’ve also raised the barrel off the ground so it can breathe on the bottom and properly drain and dry out.
The leaves haven’t completely turned and after a few days we see the top of the plant has looked healthier but we’re still not out of the woods yet. After the second watering we’ll see if these trees will last.