Helpful Tips

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Helpful Tips!

I have reserved this area to provide you with with information that can save you a lot of money and make living in your condo much better.  (Watch out for that blue guy, he is doing more than just helping!)

I will maintain a list here of suggestions and I will add to this list as I think of them. If you have a good suggestion you want to add, let me know. I will even give you credit for it.

  1. The Telephone Ringer
    Have you ever missing a telephone call or a package delivery because you could not hear the telephone ringing?  Maybe you were watching TV or doing laundry or whatever.  The solution is very cheap and easy, get buy yourself a TelephoneRinger.  This small device emits a very loud whine similar to the FireLink fire alarm we have in our units.  It also has a strobe light for those that are hard of hearing.  If you search for this on Ebay.ca you will find this item for sale for around $2.00 Canadian dollars which includes shipping from Hong Kong.  Life does not get much better than that!  It works great and I even bought two, one for the laundry room and one for the bedroom. The only drawback is that it does not include a telephone cable or a screw to put it on the wall but that can be easily found locally.
     
  2. The Hot Water Tank
    Check the water coming out of your hot water tank. If you are able to burn yourself, the temperature is too hot. Adjust the thermostat on the hot water tank so that you are able to fill your bathtub to the right temperature without running out of hot water. If you never use a bathtub, try setting it to just a bit hotter than shower temperature. Your hot water tank will last longer, you don't have to worry about getting burned and you'll save energy, money!

    It is also recommended that the hot water tank be drained annually and the heating elements checked. Try to do this at least every 5 to 10 years! If you are looking for help click here.
     
  3. The Dishwasher
    A lot of owners think they need very hot water for the dishwasher. Modern dishwashers can be set to heat the water to the correct washing temperature. The dishwasher will only heat the right amount of water instead of heating the 40 or 50 gallons in your hot water tank. You will also discover that you will not need turn on HEAT for drying the dishes - they are hot enough that they will dry themselves and that is a win-win situation. Your dishes will be cleaner and you'll save energy, money!

    Washing your dishes manually uses more soap and water and costs more. Put your dishes in the dishwasher and welcome to the 21st century.
     
  4. The Laundry Machine
    Buy cold water laundry detergent (Tide). Cold water detergent costs more than regular detergent so it would be very smart of you to actually use cold water when you do your laundry! Some owners insist on using warm or hot water for their laundry because they claim it works better. It seems there is a bit, just a tiny bit of truth in that. According to Tide forums their cold water detergent works best when the water is at 15C/60F. Our cold water is quite a bit colder than that. With a plastic bottle, a thermometer, with your washing machine set to warm water, it is fairly easy to adjust the hot water valve so the water entering the washing machine is at the desired correct temperature. The other way to do this is to buy a new washing machine that has a cool "COOL" setting. Your clothes will be cleaner and you'll save energy, money!

    If you need to sterilize your laundry, hire a diaper service.

      Also check your hoses from to the laundry machine annually and replace them with proper hoses designed for a laundry machine.
     
  5. The Dryer
    You can save a lot of money by buying yourself an inside drying rack or if you are lucky to have a large balcony, install a clothes line. Beware that our strata has a bylaw against hanging laundry to dry if it is visible to others. The simple solution is to make it invisible, close your balcony blinds! They can't complain about what they can't see.

    Of course you may not want to go back to the dark ages when you have a perfectly good dryer sitting next to your laundry machine. If you are going to use your laundry machine make sure that you clean the lint filter after every load. This will increase the air flow and makes drying quicker and it will also prevent your dryer from over heating. Good dryers have auto shut offs if they get too hot but why would you put your life and the lives of others into the hands of an electric temperature sensor that may be faulty?

    Cleaning the lint trap each time may be a pain, but do not consider removing the lint trap. You live in an apartment building and the air from the dryer is vented to the roof. The end of that vent is covered with a wire mesh that will trap the lint. In time the vent pipe will fill up with lint and you have created a fire hazard. If you buy a new dryer look for one that will test the vent every time you turn it on. Also the dryer will remind you to clean the lint trap. Now if they could only invent a lint trap that would clean itself; a dryer lint anus!
     
  6. GE LED Light Bulbs The Lights   
    Most of you have switched from the old power wasting incandescent lights bulbs to compact fluorescent lights by now. When these compact fluorescent lights first came out they were around they were very expensive and they are not dimmable and hard on the eyes. Now LED lights are available and they are better than the compact fluorescent lights, use less power, are dimmable and like the old incandescent light bulbs much easier on the eyes. The only problem is they are still very expensive. Most Strata corporation buy their lights in bulk and can get a much better deal, talk to your council members and see if good deals are available to owners.

    Special Note July 31, 2016.  I have seen 60Watt LED light bulbs on sale at a cost of $1.66 in a package of 16.
     
  7. The Refrigerator
    Everyone knows that the inside of their refrigerator needs to be cleaned out regularly before they need to guy a pellet gun to kill the critters breeding in there. Here are a few things you may not know.

    If your fridge leaks water it is most probably caused by a design flaw. The drain tube running from the freezer to the water tray has frozen and when the de-frosting starts the water cannot run out through the drain tube so it finds other ways to run out. If you are under warranty call a repair guy and maybe they will have a fix from the manufacturer. If you have no warranty then you need to manually defrost your fridge until you are able to run water through that drain tube. This problem will reoccur until you get a new fridge and unfortunately it may have the same problem.

    The compressor is cooled by a little fan probably in the back bottom of the fridge. You should take the back cover off the fridge and first vacuum out as much dust as you can and then try to wipe the fan blades clean as best as you can. Also from the bottom front of the fridge carefully dust off and vacuum off the cooling fins. This will save you energy, money and maybe prevent the compressor from over heating.
     
  8. Drafty Windows
    If you have drafty windows that let in cold air you can buy a plastic film at your local hardware store that can easily be installed to the window frame.  This will stop drafty windows but it does have one disadvantage, you will be unable to open this window after you install the film.  I don't know why some people want to open their windows in the middle of winter, but there are some and they should not act surprised when they get high energy bills.  Click here for instructions on how to install this plastic film.

    Another solution is asking your strata corporation to replace these faulty windows.  Be prepared for your council to twist like a worm on hook and they tell you it is your problem.  Whether or not that is true, most owners are reluctant to spend money on a lawyer, give up and go for the cheaper alternative, plastic film.
     
  9. The Air Conditioner
    Prepare Your Air Conditioner! It is getting to be air conditioning season again; time to take off that cover, if you have a cover on it, and get it cleaned up. Most air conditioners have removable air filters; carefully remove it, vacuum of the dirt and maybe wash it. If the front cover is easily removable, remove it and give it a good wash. Now have a look at the inside and vacuum out any dust that you can see. If you are able to pull the unit out of the wall, that is probably a two person job. Put a drop sheet on the floor and invite a very strong neighbour, male or female depending on your sexual preferences, over for coffee. After you two have pulled out your unit, give it a good clean by washing and/or vacuuming. Now put it all back together and give it a test. If it works, you are prepared for our summer. If it does not work, get out your chequebook!
     
  10. The One-Hose Portable Air Conditioner (a.k.a. That P.O.S.)
    These type of air conditioners usually come with a removable filter that need to be cleaned regularly.  Cleaning that filter is not enough, at least once a year remove the plastic shroud and clean out all the dust trapped between the cooling fins.  If you fail to do this, your cooling costs will be higher and eventually the compressor will get so hot that it will stop working, sometimes permanently.

    Another big problem with the type of air conditioner is that it uses inside air to cool the compressor and then blows that hot air outside.  Since we do not live in a vacuum it needs to suck air into the room and that is usually warm outside air.  Some of these air conditioners continue to suck in warm outside air even if they are not cooling.  That pretty much defeats the purpose of the air conditioner.

    Other problems you may have with this air conditioner are poor cheap thermostats which allow for a great temperature variance before they turn off or on, the large hose blocking the curtain or blinds and of course noise.

    If you are lucky to own one of these P.O.S. portable air conditioners, what were you thinking?
     
  11. The Two-Hose Portable Air Conditioner
    These type of air conditioners usually come with a removable filter that need to be cleaned regularly.  Cleaning that filter is not enough, at least once a year remove the plastic shroud and clean out all the dust trapped between the cooling fins.  If you fail to do this, your cooling costs will be higher and eventually the compressor will get so hot that it will stop working, sometimes permanently.

    This uses one hose to suck in outside air to cool the compressor and then vents that hot air outside through the second hose which is a vast improvement over the P.O.S. mentioned above. (See item #9)

    Instead of installing the hoses into windows or sliding door, consider calling a contractor to install two dryer vents.  The works very well and it does not block your window or sliding door.  If you are replacing a through the wall air conditioner use that hole for the hoses.  The portable is much cheaper and you don't need to replace the sleeve, just build a box to fit inside the current sleeve.