Heat Your House with a Ceiling Fan!

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At yesterday’s home inspection, WIN Home Inspection Salem, I was reminded once again that most people do not understand how to use a ceiling fan. There is more to a ceiling fan than just being decorative and spinning blades. Most ceiling fans, at the very least 99%, are three speed and they are also reversible. Ceiling fans can blow air down or they can blow air up. It’s easy to understand that if we are sitting under a ceiling fan and it is blowing air down on us we feel cooler. Without going into a bunch of science, as the air blows across our skin, the moisture on our skin, sweat, evaporates. Evaporation is a cooling process. I can still remember, barely, the days when people in arid climates would hang a canvas bag of water on the bumper of their car so they would have cool water to drink when they stopped for a break. The canvas would let water slowly seep to the outside of the bag, the sun would evaporate the water and the water inside the bag would cool. Simple science, but effective. You can think of yourself as a bag of water seeping moisture though the skin. In the summer the air from the blowing fan will cool you. If the fan isn’t cooling you fast enough, mist your skin with water.

In the winter you don’t want to be cooled so you reverse the fan and blow it up against the ceiling. Blowing up causes the lower cool air to be sucked up through the fan and forces the warmer air at the ceiling to move along the ceiling, down the walls and back along the floor to the fan where it is sucked up by the fan, pushed against the ceiling…etc. This slow moving current in the room fills the room with warm air.

You are probably wondering, why not just suck the warm air off the ceiling, sit under the fan and let it warm you up as it blows down? Two reasons, you are a bag of water and the warm air blowing across your body will evaporate any moisture on your skin, cooling you. The second reason is that if you blow the warm air down it will quickly rise again and the area under the fan may be warm but the perimeter and corners of the room will be cool. Blowing the air against the ceiling, down the walls, into the corners and long the floor warms the whole room.

If you could see the warm air, you would see it coming out of your heat registers, wall heater or baseboard heaters, rise to the ceiling and stay there. If you have a well insulated ceiling the heat will eventually build up in the room, first heating your head and slowly moving down your body until the heat reaches the height of wall thermostat, about 5’ off the floor in most cases, telling the thermostat that the room is warm, shutting the heat off, leaving your lower parts cool. This is a very ineffective use of heat and energy. If your ceiling is not well insulated, it takes longer for the heat to build from the ceiling down, because a lot of heat is escaping through the ceiling, and your heater will run much longer. (see my blog, “Insulation Matters.”)

So how do you know which direction the fan is blowing? 99.9% of the time if the reversing switch is switched up, it blows up, switch down, air blows down.

showing little black switch on the fan between the light and motor.

showing little black switch on the fan between the light and motor.

Rarely will your fan have a side to side switch, but if it does, switched to the right it blows up and left it blows down. Another easy way to tell which direction it’s blowing is if the leading edge of the blades are tipped down, it’s blowing up. Conversely, if it’s tipped up, it’s blowing down.

If you’re not convinced, take this challenge. Turn on your heat, let the room warm up until the thermostat shuts the heat off. Quickly take a temperature reading at the ceiling and then one at the floor level. I promise you will be surprised at the temperature difference. The next time the heat kicks on, start blowing your ceiling fan against the ceiling. When the heat kicks off take the temperature at the ceiling and floor again.  I did this test in my own home. With the fan off the difference was ten degrees. With the fan on, the difference was one degree. I can honestly tell you that in our home the ceiling fan blows against the ceiling day and night, all winter long.

The cost of running a ceiling fan is about 20-25 cents a day on high speed, depending on the size of the fan. If the fan keeps your home warmer and keeps your furnace or heater from kicking on only one less time a day, you have saved a lot of money.

If you don’t have ceiling fans in your home, consider installing some. If that’s not a possibility or until then, read my blog, “Leave Your Furnace Fan ON!” Using both these suggestions your home will be warmer and cost you less for energy.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

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Getting Organized and Clear Your Head

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My boys once called me the “Master Rattle Canner.” I do love rattle cans and have painted many things, transforming them from junk to a jewel. The good thing is that the fumes from the paint have not affected my BrA1n N0n3. Over the years my wife, my boys and I have bought hundreds of cans of spray paint for projects we have done. When I moved my stuff from our garage to our new shop we had accumulated over seventy cans of practically used spray paint. To move them to the shop, we put all the cans in two large plastic containers, moved them to the shop and in those two containers they stayed for a year and a half. The problem with having that many cans of paint is that you have to be able to organize them so that you know what you have and so you don’t keep buying more of the same colors over and over again. When I moved into the shop I wanted to organize it so that everything had a place. I put up pegboard, built a bunch of shelves, bought small boxes to organize stuff in, but the two plastic containers of spray paint had me stumped on how to organize them.

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The other day I was shopping at Goodwill, which used to be my favorite store until they raised their prices higher than regular retail, but I still shop there in hopes that I’ll find a bargain. So I was in Goodwill and found a metal rack for displaying wine in a store and I thought, “hey!”  The rack was marked $6.99 and would hold forty bottles of wine/cans of spray paint and with some minor alterations, it would hold sixty cans.

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Today I started going through the two containers of spay paint, properly disposing of six cans that were empty and cleaning the heads of the other cans that still had paint, but wouldn’t spray.

Over the years I have learned that when you are done painting something, if you really do turn the can upside down and spray until the spray is clear, the spray head will be cleaned and will work the next time you want to use the can. I now will even go as far as spraying the little spray hole with carb or brake cleaner and wiping it off with a cloth just as an extra precaution. With that said, I don’t always remember to do clear the head and it gets clogged with paint and won’t work. I hate that, having a paint can with paint in it, but won’t spray because the head is plugged with dried paint.

Out of the two containers of spray paint there were about fifteen cans that had paint in them, but would not spray, so I cleaned the heads. This is my method of cleaning a spray can head: I use brake or carb cleaner, a straight pin that is exact size or smaller to insert into the little hole the paint sprays out of, a utility knife, safety glasses and latex gloves.

First remove the head from the can by simply pulling it out of the can and spray a little carb or brake cleaner into the hole in the top of the can where the head was and let that sit while you clean the head.DSCF6949 Next, using the utility knife, scrape off any paint that has dried over the little hole.

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Sometimes that’s all it takes to clean the head, so test the head to see if it is clear by inserting the thin red tube that comes with every can of brake or carb cleaner up the neck of the of the head and being careful to point it away from my face, spray the cleaner into the neck.

CAUTION: You will need to secure the head on the tube by pinching it tightly with your fingers where the tube goes into the neck or you will shoot the head across the room and/or you will get cleaner on your face.

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If the cleaner sprays out the head’s small hole, it’s clean. If it’s plugged, take the pin and carefully push it into the small spray hole and up the neck to clear the plug.

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To make sure the head is clear, spray some cleaner in the neck again. Some plugs can be stubborn and you’ll have to repeat the process a couple of times, but this method will unplug the head. When the head is clear, point the head away from you, push it back in the top hole of the can, turn it upside down and check the spray. This cleaning method worked on all but two of the fifteen cans that I had that were clogged. As an extra precaution, I sprayed the head with cleaner and wipe the small hole with a cloth. Next time you want to use the spray paint it will be ready to use.

When you use the can of spray paint up, remove the head, clean it and save it. There have been many times I have dropped a can or knocked it off the bench, losing or breaking the head. Having a few extra heads around will allow you to still use the can of paint until it is empty.

Anyway…, for what it’s worth.

Loosen Stubborn Screws With a Wrench

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When something is broken or not working I have to fix it. I think there’s a physiological term or medical term for it, something like fixoholic. If my tractor is not running or broken, it gives me a knot in my gut and depression sets in. Rarely do I hire a professional to make the repairs. Well, at least not until I’ve tried to fix it and have made it worse. Over many years, yes I’m old; I have tackled repairs from rebuilding a Fiat motor to repairing a mechanical pencil. Am I an expert, no, but I am getting better. I’ve learned a lot because I try to learn a lot.

Over the years I have accumulated many tools, but I don’t have everything and I am always discovering tools that I need. Recently I bought an impact screw driver and an extraction bit set.

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So many times in the past when a screw would not budge or the head slots were stripped out, I would have given my eyeteeth for both or even one of those tools. Even after days of applying penetrating oil some screws will not break free. I have struggled for, wasted, many hours of my life trying to remove stubborn screws. I have gone as far as taking a fine metal saw blade and re-slotting a screw, which actually works.

The other day I was reading Handyman Magazine. There was a good article on how to remove a stubborn nut or bolt. The article didn’t offer me anything new really, but I did pick up one tip about using heat on the stuck bolt and then spraying it with cold water. The expansion and contraction is supposed to break the rust and allow the bolt to come out or the nut to come off. We tried it on my son’s car, trying to remove the nut on the bracket that attaches the strut to the axle. It didn’t work, but none of the other six methods we tried worked either. Anyway, as I was reading the article I realized that I had never read or seen the method I use to remove stuck, stripped or stubborn screws.

What I have learned about removing stuck screws is that after you have tried with all your might to remove a screw, don’t keep trying and strip the head slots out. But if you do keep trying and you damage the head slots a little, STOP and try this.

One day I was trying to remove a screw from a break fluid reservoir on a motorcycle and was damaging the head slots. I couldn’t push down hard enough to keep the screwdriver point in the head. I realized that what I really needed was help to keep a lot of pressure pushing down on the head so I could turn the screwdriver and not have it pop out of the head slots and damage them, but there was no one around.

I love clamps. It’s like having more hands to hold stuff. Over the past three years my clamp assortment has gone from a dozen clamps to three dozen clamps. I have a variety of sizes of “C” clamps, I have those clothes pin type spring clamps, some quick grip clamps, I have strap clamps, and 4’ long pipe clamps. Sometimes I go into my shop just to sit and admire my clamps. Did I mention that I love clamps?

So, I’m trying to get this screw out and it occurs to me that I could use a clamp to apply pressure to the top of the screwdriver. The best clamp for my purpose was a quick release clamp.

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Here’s an important tip, use the shortest screwdriver you can and with your grinder, flatten the end of the handle so the screwdriver will be more stable under the clamp. Here are the two screwdrivers I use most of the time when applying the clamp technique. Note that the tops of the handles have been ground flat.

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To do this method, place the short screw driver in the head of the screw and clamp it in place with a lot of pressure and turn the screwdriver. It’s really easy, if you have a grip like a gorilla. I don’t, so I use an adjustable wrench to turn the screwdriver. Most screwdrivers have handles that have six sides so they are easy to grip and as it turns out, to put an adjustable wrench on.

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I have used this method of removing stubborn screw several times and each time when I hear the screw pop loose, I get all giddy inside.

Anyway… for what it’s worth.

PANNIERS MADE FROM SCRATCH

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Luggage Racks For my V-strom

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Like most people, my life has been made easier by computers and yes, better. In my job as a home inspector, WIN Home Inspection Salem, a computer saves me time and corrects my terrible spelling. A computer provides most of our TV viewing pleasure and keeps me in touch with friends and family. I know for a fact that I would have never written a dozen books if I hadn’t had a laptop computer. Most of my life of being a do it yourselfer has been spent in trial and error. I have spent many hours and lots of money making mistakes because I didn’t have the knowledge to do it right the first time. Now I just go to my computer and Google how to do what ever it is I want to do and I can find it on Youtube. Exploring the internet with my computer has kept me learning and growing like nothing else could have done. And even though I curse them sometimes, a computer has opened the world to me and enhanced my life. God bless you mister or misses computer inventor person(s).

Next to the computer, used plastic 55 gallon barrels would have to be #2 in making my live easier.

After I realized how much I enjoyed dual sport motorcycle riding on my Honda XR650L, I decided that I needed an adventure bike. An adventure bike is a step up from a typical dual sport in that it is comfortable enough to ride long distances on the highways, but when you see a dirt or gravel road that looks interesting, off you go. After a lot of study I decided that the Suzuki V-strom 650DR was the ideal bike for me. I couldn’t really justify the expense of an $5000-$7000 bike. Since I like to work on motorcycles I decided that if I could find a wrecked bike that was mechanically sound I could probably fix it up and make it, at the very least, interesting looking. I had just published a book, The Reincarnation of Joe Rocket. In the book the main character had fallen on hard times and his buddy, Two Stroke, bought him a V-strom that had been wrecked. He spent a couple weeks fixing it up and then rode it from Washington State to Maine. It occurred to me that if Joe Rocket could fix one up, I could too. I put an ad on Craigslist and a week later a guy emailed me saying he had a totaled V-strom that he wanted to sell. The bike was a 2010 with 4500 miles on it. Long story short, the bike looked brand new, except for a broken left front turn light and the shifter lever. There were also a few small scratches that I would have never noticed if he hadn’t pointed them out to me. The guy had been rear ended, tapped, at a stop sign and tipped the bike over. Since the bike was virtually new, he wanted everything with even a minor scratch replaced. By the time the insurance company added it all up, the bike was totaled.  I bought it for half the price of a new one and within thirty minutes I had fixed the turn signal light and shifter. So much for a fixer upper project. I love this bike.

I had sold my cruiser, 2002 Honda VTX 1800, the previous winter, so the Vee was going to be my all around bike. I would use for long weekend dual sport trips and my week long road trips. For long trips I needed some kind of  saddlebags, or for a adventure bike like the V-strom, panniers. Panniers are usually aluminum boxes that mount to each side of the back fender area. They are made of aluminum to be almost indestructible and watertight. I never liked the idea of big metal boxes mounted to the back of my motorcycle. I guess I have had too many close encounters with trees and boulders and knew I would end up tearing them off my bike or denting them beyond repair. As I searched the web for something I thought would work for me, I found nothing I liked or could afford. I kept thinking, why don’t they make a flexible plastic holder that you can just slip your luggage onto? Then I though, “Hey, I can make that!”

I needed to make a rack that would withstand crashes and that I could mount my plastic luggage holders onto. During searches on the web I had seen many different racks that would mount on my V-strom, but I felt I could do better or at least, as well. I made a rough sketch of what I wanted, found a 10’X3/4” piece of conduit in my shop, bought some 1/8”X 1” metal flat stock at ACE, got out my conduit bender, fired up the welder and went to work.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

The first thing I did was bend the conduit so it would attach to the passenger foot peg frame bracket on one side, bend around the back of the bike just under the tail light and attach to the other passenger peg frame bracket. I carefully flattened the ends of the conduit and drill holes for bolts through the flattened part. The frame brackets for the passenger foot pegs on the Vee are large and there was plenty of room to drill a hole in the bracket to accommodate the conduit, bolt and nut.

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The Vee comes stock with a substantial back rack that sits over the back fender. It’s bolted on in four places, two bolts attach back rack and two more bolts forward about mid seat. In my opinion, it is always a good idea to use the factory bolts and brackets when ever possible to attach something not stock to your bike.

I cut and bent to fit, two pieces of flat metal stock that would bolt under the back rack front brackets and reach down to the conduit. For the back support, I cut and bent one piece of flat stock that ran from the conduit on once side, up and under the back rack and down to the conduit on the other side. Because of where I had to run the flat stock under the back rack, the bolts for the rack didn’t line up with the flat stock. To make the connection to the bolts I welded two small ears to the flat stock that would reach the two bolts.

Showing rack bolted under the bike's rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing rack bolted under the bike’s rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike's rear rack.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike’s rear rack.

The next step was to cut two short pieces of flat stock that would attach horizontally between the two vertical flat stock on each side and would give me something to hang my plastic luggage racks on. Once everything was cut, bent and fitted, I welded it all together and sprayed it with black spray in bed liner.

Now with the rack made and mounted, I needed to make luggage racks. After drawing some sketches of what might work, I made a pattern out of cardboard. I had in mind that I was going to use 20” carry-on luggage to fit in the luggage racks.

Now what I needed was a big flat piece of plastic. Here is something that you might not know. If you cut the top and bottom off a plastic 55 gallon barrel, then cut it down one side, heat it up with a weed burner blow torch until it is so soft it will lay flat on a shop floor and put a piece of plywood with some heavy weight on the plywood over the plastic until it cools, you will end up with a large piece of flat plastic.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

After cutting the plastic to the pattern, heating the plastic and bending it to the proper shape I riveted so it would retain the shape and make it strong. To attach the luggage rack to the metal rack, the luggage rack needed a bracket system that would easily clip onto the metal rack and wouldn’t accidentally come off over rough road. Of course I used plastic barrel to make the brackets. The bracket is a kind of  “Z” shape and the top bracket is a flat piece riveted along the top. They are just wide enough to fit between the two vertical supports on the metal rack and slip over the conduit on the bottom and the horizontal bar at the top. To keep the plastic racks from bouncing off the metal racks, I made a “L” bracket out of plastic, then cut a slot through the back of the luggage rack and “Z” bracket attached on the back. The slot was cut just below the top horizontal cross piece on the metal rack. I attached the “L” bracket with rivets to the luggage rack so that the short part of the “L” bracket will slip through the slot, under the horizontal cross-piece and though the “Z” bracket. The plastic “L” bracket is kind of spring loaded and stays through the slot until you’re ready to remove the luggage rack.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for "L" bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for “L” bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing "L" bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

Showing “L” bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

20” carry-luggage is pretty typical and I was able to find one at Goodwill for a $5. The other one I bought a matching one at Walmart for $20. I removed the wheels on the bags and they slipped perfectly into the plastic luggage racks. I added two straps on each luggage rack to hold the bags securely in the racks.

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The carry-on’s looked pretty good, but they weren’t waterproof or dust proof. We had acquired some bright yellow material that school crossing flags are made out of when we owned a screen printing business and I had some left over. Using that and some water resistant material I bought at a fabric store, I sewed together some slip on covers for the bags (see top picture). That’s right, I sewed. Gentlemen, if a sewing machine is not part of your power tool assortment, your assortment is not complete.

I have used the racks and panniers for three years now and they have worked great. They are light weight, durable, flexible, inexpensive and not too bad looking. I never remove the metal racks. They act as rear-end crash bars and have saved my bike from damage more than once.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.