Showing posts with label howto. Show all posts
Showing posts with label howto. Show all posts

Frugal Home Maintenance - Clean Your A/C Coils

We came home from a motorcycle ride on last weekend, and the house felt warm. I checked the air conditioner thermostat and it was 84F! We usually set our thermostat to 79F which is a frugal setting in Florida. We have a lot of appliances, pumps and electronics sucking our electricity everyday, so we try to conserve where we can - which is the air conditioning. But one frugal thing we should have done a long time ago, is to maintain the evaporator coils in the inside A frame air conditioner unit. We never cleaned it after our big remodel last summer and it was a dust fest in here while we installed drywall, painted, sanded and installed carpet and tile throughout most of the house. Consequently, our poor A/C has been working very hard to pull clean air through those caked up coils.

I first noticed last week when we had the thermostat set at 79, and the temp inside was 81. And the unit just seemed to run all the time, but it was not very efficient. I suggested to my husband, we needed to change the filter. But it didn't happen. When we finally did change the filter, it wasn't really that dirty so I knew it was a bigger problem than a dirty filter. So, with the filter removed it was possible to peek into the unit and see the real problem - a layer of iced up frozen dust and grime.

If you have this problem, you can simply clean the evaporator coils yourself and save yourself a couple hundred dollars on an AC service call. If you clean your coils and still have a problem reaching temp, then it is possible you have depleted some freon (if icing coils reappear), and you'll need to call a service guy.

Anyway, it's not hard to clean the coils, we just looked up a couple youtube videos on how to clean AC coils. You probably will only need to clean the underside of the A frame coils where the air is pulled through. The top side of ours was clean. We ran to the home improvement store and purchased a water based cleaning spray that was a foaming cleanser, it stated self rinsing so no water flush would be necessary. It cost $5.48. We also purchased a roll of metal tape to seal up the AC cabinet seams for $7.48.

  1. Turn off AC at thermostat. Gather your safety gear - eye protection, face mask and something to cover your hair from debris (a hat or hanky). You will also need a flashlight, stiff brush, cleansing spray, plastic sheeting and pans to collect debris, metal tape, and a household fan.
  2. Line the area under your A frame unit with plastic, then place pans or wash tubs under to collect the melting ice, water and grime.
  3. If iced up, melt ice using a hair dryer. Do not damage the evaporator fins by chipping away ice, just be patient and melt it.
  4. Using a stiff plastic brush (I used an plastic old dish washing brush with a long handle), dip it in water and brush down the big grime and dust layer toward the drip tray.
  5. When you can see the coils and they are kind of clear of debris, don your safety gear and spray the foaming cleanser all over the coils.on the underside of the A frame. Let it sit for five or more minutes until the foam has mostly dissipated. Then take your stiff brush and clean the remaining dirt from the coils. I also had to use a 2 ft long shish kabob poker to dislodge dirt from the top apex of the inside of the unit.
  6. If you have an air compressor, it will make cleaning and drying the unit easy. We used compressed air to blow out all remaining dirt and used it to help dry the evaporator fins. You must dry your unit completely before starting up again, or you risk icing up.
  7. Dry your AC evaporator coils with a household fan pointed in there to remove all moisture. We have a large window fan we pointed up there for an hour before we started up the unit.
  8. Replace your cabinet panels and tape seams shut with metal AC tape. Replace the air filter.
  9. Turn on your thermostat. Wait several hours for it to reach temp. Ours lowered the temp 1 degree in 30 minutes, but then next degree took an hour. 
  10. After a couple hours of your AC unit running, check the coils by removing your air filter and peek up into the unit to make sure the coils are not iced up. If not, just be patient - its working.
So, it took a good portion of our weekend day; but we feel more empowered and of course will do this simple maintenance job more frequently in the future.

Power of Attorney & Health care Directive - Two Docs You Need Now!

Why You need a Healthcare directive
 
Unexpected situations can happen to anyone and unfortunately if you're not prepared, the situation is going to be worse than it needs to be. Anyone can become a victim of an accident or suffer a debilitating injury, or health condition like a heart attack, stroke or brain injury. If this happens and you do not have a Power of Attorney agent assigned to you, your finances will come to a stand still. No one can move your money around to pay bills, or sell that boat or motorcycle you'll never ride again, or negotiate with your mortgage holder, or refinance your loans.

Likewise if you've been incapacitated due to a health condition or accident, and you've been rushed to the hospital and are hooked up on feeding tubes. colonoscopy bags, breathing tubes, IV drugs and sedatives - it would be nice if you had signed a health care directive to let your caretakers know and prove what your wishes are as far as health care. It would be important to know if you have a DNR (Do not resuscitate) order in the event you are being kept alive solely by machines.

Unfortunately, I know someone who has suffered a stroke and is in the hospital in ICU and has no will, no health care directive and no power of attorney. He was the sole income earner in his household with his wife and four children. They have no savings, tens of thousands due in credit card bills and when he quits getting paychecks shortly (no sick pay at his job which was largely commission with a modest base salary), they will not have a means to pay the large mortgage. The wife can't refinance the mortgage without his signature, can't sell the boat he bought last month, and can't sell the house. All because he is unable to sign and make these decisions now.

So, to avoid being in this dire situation, you need to have two documents signed and notarized in your possession. Simply search google Power of Attorney, and add your state like Florida. There are many free forms available for review and completion and downloading to your computer. Make a folder on your desktop that others can find. Print and sign the copies and make a real paper folder to put in the front of your filing system. You want others to be able to find your documents in you become incapacitated. Tell others what your wishes are and make sure your "power of attorney" agent has a signed copy in their possession. While you're at it, you need to search google health care directive Florida too, and do the same - complete and download the form, get it signed and notarized and give a signed copy to your health care agents.

Of course, there are other important documents you need completed too - like your last will and testament, a motor vehicle power of attorney form (so your vehicles can be sold) and a personal property inventory list.  But if you complete the Power of Attorney and Health care Directive now, you can help your caretakers act immediately to save your financial situation from ruin.

How to "LIKE" on Facebook, But Avoid Updates

We are constantly inundated with advertising and ads, and emails, and texts, and messages - all day long. Therefore, it's important to filter out electronic messages that we don't need to see everyday. Many times you'll want to sign up for something on Facebook and it requires you to click the LIKE button to see the deal. But, you may want to keep your facebook news feed clean of non friend posts, so you don't click the LIKE button and your favorite vendor or FB page doesn't get the LIKE which increases their chances of getting promoted and distributed according to Facebooks weird popularity alogarithm.
 
You may not know that you can still LIKE your favorite FB page and avoid the updates by simply hovering over the LIKE button to get a small popup window, just click to remove the check mark in front of "Show in news feed" (see photo). This way you can support your FB page with out frequent updates, and you can check on your own when you want to see new stuff on their page.

How To Buy New Tires For Your Car

As I spun my wheels at the intersection the other day, I realized that yes, it is time for new tires on the car. The Michelin HydroEdge tires we have on the Camry are great looking tires and performed well in all kinds of weather. But, it's time to get some new ones as they are weather checked and brittle. They just don't grip the road like they used to, and a couple times lately during quick stops they have slid forward.
 
We've been putting off the process because it is tough to spend hundreds of dollars for something like stupid tires. Actually, for me it is tough to spend hundreds of dollars on anything. I generally give myself one day of research for every $100 spent, so this one took about a week to get to the point of making a decision. And we have finally decided and found a vendor to purchase from and install them. But it took some effort.
 
First we looked through the car file and determined that last time we bought tires for the car, over 45,000 miles ago we spent $105 each and had them installed at Costco. The final price after shipping, disposal fees, balancing, valve stems, installation and taxes was $550. But then we had to spend another $60 at the dealer to get a tire alignment, since Costco doesn''t do that service. So about $600 became our target since we had done our research last time and found Costco the cheapest. But it was not the most convenient. The Costco was way on the other side of the bay and when I visited another service center for my job I dropped the car off, and rode my bike a mile to the office. Then at lunch I rode my bike back and brought the car back to the office. We also never took advantage of the free top-off or refill of nitrogen since the shop was across the bay from our house. So we wanted to try to investigate more convenient options. These days we both have bikes or motorcycles we use for transportation so being without a car for a day is not a problem - we can leave it at the shop all day.
 
We also decided we wanted the exact same tire as we got last time. They have this cool swirly pattern that drives away the water on the road, plus it looks sporty. They are expensive tires at over $100 each, but in our opinion they are top quality and worth it. At this point, we started letting our fingers do the walking - at Google. I googled "michelin hydroedge coupons" to see what discounts we could find. Michelinman.com was the first site and lucky for us, there is a new $70 Michelin rebate on the purchase of 4 tires, and our tire model qualifies for the rebate. The one catch was it had to be done at certain dealers. The most convenient rebate qualified dealer was Olin Mott so we requested a quote. They emailed a quote the same day and their total install cost out the door was quoted at $674 which included an alignment, and the $70 rebate. The actual cost of each tire was $138, which was higher than anywhere else. We checked tirerack.com and the hydroedge is $104 each and they will ship the set for $60 to a local installer, but none of them qualify for the rebate. Sears had the tire for $122 each and the install out the door was $623, but was not eligible for the $70 rebate.
 
Now that we had some information, it was time to get on the phone and make a deal. DH called up Olin Mott and asked if they price matched or took competitor coupons. They said they would consider making a deal. DH said he would like to get 4 tires installed if they matched the Sears price and we still got the rebate. It didn't take long for the guy to go sharpen his pencil and come back with an out the door price of $582, plus we get the alignment included and the $70 rebate. They took off almost $100 from their price! So, the bottom line is we'll get our tires cheaper this time than when we bought them last time.
 
So we're getting new tires this week since we have a trip across the state planned in November. The shop is less than a mile away so we can drop off the car and walk home. The next day I can stop by after work on my bicycle and pick up the car. How darn convenient.
 
Even though we're spending a lot of money on tires, I feel like we've done a good job of doing our research and getting the best deal. It takes time, patience and persistance to be frugal and save money. So next time you're making a big purchase do yourself a favor and take your time, check out your options and don't be afraid to pick up the phone and ask for a discount. You just might get it.

Simplify Couponing

It seems like a lot of people would love to try to save a bunch of money with coupons, but they just can't get the grasp of it. Of course the simplest thing to do, is nothing. The next simplest thing is to read the early version of the store ad that you get in the mail or in your email, and plan your shopping list around the ad. If your store is Publix and you get the Buy One, Get One (BOGO) items, you'll save 50% right there.
 
However, this won't give you the greatest savings. Its not that hard to put a little more effort into your planning and get greater savings. Here are some simple things I'd recommend to keep your expenses down and get the products you want and need for less money.
 
1. Know your favorite stores coupon policy. They all have them online on their websites, just google it and tons of blogs have it referenced too. You need to know if you can stack a manufacturer (MQ) coupon with a store coupon on one item, can you use a MQ on a free item when there is a BOGO sale, can you use competitor coupons or price match competitor ads? There are definitely some stores that give you more coupon savings options and I would recommend you shop there. I prefer shopping at Publix because they accept stacking coupons, competitor coupons and they have BOGO sales each week. Sweetbay is almost the same policy but they lack the BOGO sale items each week. Winn Dixie won't accept competitor coupons but they allow stacking of their WD & MQ coupons, plus they have BOGO sales each week.
 
2. Once you know the policy, you need to get your coupons. I would recommend buying a Sunday paper for each person in your household to get the coupon inserts. If you can't afford a paper, sign up for the free newspaper in your city that has coupon inserts (in Tampa its the Centro). Or you can go "recycling" in your neighborhood and pull out the coupon inserts from your neighbors recycle bins on the curb the night before recycle day. I used to do this for a year when I first started couponing and would regularly get a dozen copies of inserts in 30 minutes while I walked my dog. Its pretty easy and its free. Once you start saving your grocery money, you may want to give it up and just buy your papers. There is another local blogger that can sign you up for a fifty cent subscription to the Tampa Tribune Sunday paper if you're interested let me know. I would not recommend buying coupons from clipping services, its not necessary unless you live in the boonies and your local paper sucks.
 
Also follow some blogs with coupon links where you can print coupons. Many of these are the same as you'll find in the paper, so if you get the paper you don't need many of these. Sign up for facebook and you can print coupons from manufacturers there. Pick up the coupon booklets at the store when you shop which will have store coupons.Get blinkie coupons from the red light flashing boxes on the store shelves. Get coupons even if you don't know for sure you'll get the item. It might go on sale and you'll be glad you have the matching coupon.
 
3. Organize your coupons. This step is where people get frustrated and waste a lot of time. The simple way is to just write the date on the top of the insert and file it in a box in chronological order. Keep peelies and blinkies and printed coupons in an envelope. You probably won't have too many of these to worry about organization, just keep all like coupons together. Only carry coupons in your clutch that you need for your shopping list, and possibly for overage items.
 
4. Preview the Ad - find out how you can see the ad early, usually several days before it starts. There are many blogs that post the early Publix ad, and walmart, Sweetbay and Winn Dixie. It is also available on the www.slickdeals.net forum which is one of my favorite resources for coupon deals. By previewing the ad, you can make up your list of what you need, see what coupons match up, and pull your coupons from your box. Or print the ones you need from the links in the preview. If you have to buy coupons from a clipper service this preview will give you a few days to order and have the coupons you want shipped to you in time for the sale.
 
5. Make Your List - I make my list using Excel so it is actually a spreadsheet that shows the count of coupons, count of items, cost of items, BOGO discounts, coupon discounts, tax and my total. I also use my smartphone free app Grocery Tracker that is essentially the same spreadsheet but on my phone. It allows me to make changes to my list in the store and still keep track of my total.
 
6. Shop. I recommend shopping on the first day of the sale if you can. If you can't, find out when the trucks restock your favorite store and shop that day. If its Monday, go shopping Monday. Get in the habit of bringing your own reusable bags with your coupon clutch, and you'll never forget your coupons. If they are out of an item, make sure you get a raincheck from customer service. Try to shop with out distractions, leave the kids at home if you can. If you can shop with a partner, it is much more fun and lots of times it helps to have a "runner" get some forgotten item, or pick up a raincheck too.
 
These simple steps take less time per week than you spend doing your hair. I'm serious, you can spend about an hour a week and cut your grocery bill in half, or more. The important thing is to just stay organized, file those coupons and monitor the ad.
 
Your pocket book will thank you.

How to Freeze Blueberries

If you haven't gotten your $1.50 off Berrys coupon at Publix, you better print some now because it expires Wednesday, June 23. As luck would have it, Publix has blueberries on sale for $1.50 so they are free. I picked up several pints this weekend and made some wonderful blueberry pancakes and blueberry cobbler. But I still have berries so I'll be freezing some. Here's how
  • Step 1: What You'll Need to Freeze Blueberries

    • Fresh blueberries
    • Strainer or Colander
    • Rimmed cookie sheet or jelly roll pan
    • Airtight containers or resealable freezer bags

  • Step 2: How to Freeze Blueberries

    1. Place the blueberries in the colander, and pick them over, discarding any leaves or stray stems. Make sure the blueberries remain intact. Squashed blueberries can help creates clumps.
    2. Rinse the blueberries in the colander.
    3. Let the blueberries dry.
    4. Spread the berries in a single layer on the cookie sheet.
    5. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer, and allow the blueberries to freeze over night.
    6. Remove the cookie sheet from the freezer, and quickly transfer the blueberries to resealable bags or airtight containers for long term storage.

  • Step 3: How to Use Frozen Blueberries

    1. If you're making a blueberry pie or blueberry cobbler, you can use the berries directly from their frozen state.
    2. If you're using blueberries in baked goods where the make up a small portion of the batter, you should also be fine with frozen berries.
    3. If you're making blueberry pancakes, how you use the frozen blueberries depends on whether you're using small wild blueberries or larger blueberries.
      1. If you're using the smaller wild blueberries, rinse them under warm water, pat dry, and use the same way you would use fresh.
      2. If using larger blueberries, rinse them, pat dry, and thaw in the microwave for 2 minutes at 30% power, then add to the pancake batter.