Why I love Junkmail!

Like most people, I used to spend much time cursing the senders of junk mail under my breath as I journey back from my mailbox. That is, until I realized the value of junk mail as a gardener.

Junk mail is primarily paper. Paper is a carbon, and carbon my friend is a key ingredient to good compost! Paper fulfills the same role as dead brown leaves in a compost pile. In my opinion and estimation, there is no more earth-friendly way of using waste paper than composting it. Even paper recycling uses immense amounts of energy to transport the paper to recycling centers and onward to those who recycle the materials into new products.

So why not use it to produce rich, fertile compost that will benefit your garden with essential nutrients?

We have both traditional compost and also vermicompost (worm composting). The worms make pretty quick work of the shredded paper and cardboard!

Some people try to make a case for this not being a good idea usually because of antiquated understanding of the ingredients of the ink used in printing. It is highly unlikely that you’ll find heavy metals in inks used to print your junk mail. Had this been 1950, I can understand the alarm, but today, most inks are soy-based and completely safe for composting!

You don’t have to stop at junk mail! We also shred and compost our cereal, snack bar, pasta boxes etc. Pretty much anything that can go through the shredder is headed toward the compost piles. Yes, the shredding does use electricity, and therefore fossil fuels, but the amount of energy used to shred household junk mail is far, far less than the energy required to recycle it otherwise.

We tend not to shred “waxy”types of papers since they would seem to take longer to break down. Further, we rip the plastic out of all the windo envelopes prior to shredding them.

So stop cursing your mailbox and start making wise use of your junkmail as compost. Your gardens will thank you!

Audit Heat/Cooling Loss to save up to 20% on heating and cooling cost?

I spent some time today using our utility company’s online self-help portal to determine some areas of cost saving measures. Without a doubt, heating and cooling is the #1 area of energy use in our home – and probably most homes.

Some of their tools show a savings of up to 20% by fixing areas of air infiltration throughout the house, as well as sealing leaks and drafts in the duct work.

In searching on Amazon, I discovered a device for $49 that scans for thermal differences so you can actually KNOW where the leaks are. I am wondering if anyone I know has had experience using this device. Here it is – Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector

Please comment if you’ve used it. I am considering getting this as soon as possible.

Audit your own electricity usage for $35

A few months ago, I purchased a P3 International P4460 Kill A Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor!

FInd Appliances and Devices quietly draining your electric bill

FInd Appliances and Devices quietly draining your electric bill

This nifty device allows you to see what kind of electricity your plugged-in appliances use. Simply plug the Kill-A-Watt into the your outlet and your appliance into the Kill-A-Watt and let it sit. It will show you the Kwh that your appliance uses in the time it’s plugged in.

This is very handy for seeing if some appliances have “ghost loads” – that is, they use electricity even when not in use. This is common in many appliances – especially those with “brick” plugs.

I have to admit, there’s two things I hate about this product (not enough to warrant not having one):

  1. Once you unplug the unit, the data you just recorded is gone, so make sure you write it down before you unplug it!
  2. There’s a rather obvious design flaw/annoyance where you cannot plug this and any other plug into a standard double outlet. I would highly recommend something like Power Strip Liberator Plus, 5 Pack to allow you to plug this into an outlet without interfering with other devices. These things are handy for those times when you cannot use all the outlets on power strips because bulky plugs take up to much space too!

I think this is $35 well spent since it will help our family unplug costly devices. Decide for yourself!

Money and Water Saving Showerheads

Recently, one of our showerheads broke. In shopping for a new one, I wanted to find a new showerhead that met several criteria:

  1. Affordable (no $100 showerheads for our family!)
  2. Energy Efficient (water conservation saves water and heating energy)
  3. Flexible – I am a tall guy, and we also have little ones. We need something that accommodates a wide range of sizes and positions.
  4. Quality – I chose Peerless because I’ve had good experience with them so far, they’re affordable, and best of all, have a lifetime warranty.

I could not really find an off-the-shelf solution I liked entirely. Most showerheads that include a flexible hose are 2.5 GPM (gallons per minute) – water-saving yes, but not quite enough in my opinion. I really wanted to get 1.5-1.6 GPM. The showerheads that save more water don’t usually have any flexibility and are usually under-powered too. Also, my wife wanted to maintain having a flexible hose showerhead so that we could shower the little ones.

My solution? Combine several showerheads and/or parts. Basically what I did was combined some items from several off-the-shelf showerheads with some stuff we already had to get the best of everything for less than many showerheads would cost. Now, I have a showerhead that combines fixed and flexible, is adjustable, affordable, and energy-saving. We could reduce our water usage (for showers) up to 40% and reduce our hot water usage, thus saving some electricity.

I ended up purchasing the Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome which we scored from Walmart (we usually hate shopping there btw, but didn’t have time to wait for Amazon) for $9.98. This gem of a showerhead was not only less than $10, it also uses 1.6 GPM – a full gallon per minute less than most showerheads. Yet, it seems to have a powerful spray pattern equitable to a 2.5 GPM showerhead. Very easy to install!

I also picked up a Peerless 4″ Sunflower Showerhead with Arm. I love the arm idea because it allows me to be able to stand under the showerhead (at 6′ 3″, this is usually impossible and I have to do squats to wash my hair). My wife didn’t want to give up the hose-mounted showerhead that we already had for the kiddos. So, I combined them! I simply replaced the fixed head of the existing two-headed showerhead with the Sunflower unit. Now, I have an affordable solution that meets everyone’s needs. I plan on buying an additional Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome from Walmart and replacing the Sunflower head so that my fixed showerhead is 1.6 GPM and my flexible showerhead is 2.5 GPM. This is a good compromise in my opinion.

If one were to do this from scratch, it would be pretty simple. This would allow for efficient showers that accommodate all size people, but also more forceful showers when needed. Here’s roughly what you would need:

  1. Buy a Peerless Sunflower Showerhead with Arm ($24.98) – if I can find just the arm cheaper, I would do that but most I have found have been as much as the entire showerhead system above.
  2. Buy an affordable matching showerhead with a flexible hose ($12.98)
  3. Buy a Peerless 76154 1.6 GPM Water-Amplifying Showerhead, Chrome ($13 at Amazon)
  4. Buy a Alsons #861-237 MP Chrome Shower Diverter
    to your liking ($2.03)
  5. Optional: Flow Control Valve ($2-$10)- let’s you slow the water down, or shut off while shaving or lathering up yet without turning off or adjusting the hot and cold supply thus saving more $$$.

Total cost for an adjustable two-headed, water-saving, flexible showerhead?  $49.98-$59.98. I know there are cheaper alternatives, but I think this is a reasonable price to get so many features in a showerhead setup.

To put it all together, you would first optionally attach your flow control valve (item #5), follwed by the diverter (item #4). To the main outlet of the diverter, you’d attach the adjustable arm from item #1 above. Next, remove the showerhead from item #1 above and replace with item #3 – the water-saving showerhead. To the other diverter outlet, attach item #2.

Doing the above, you’d have one extra showerhead which you could sell, give away, or tuck away for a plumbing emergency sometime.

These are just some ideas for anyone who has a hard time finding the showerhead of their dreams without spending $100.