Archive for November, 2017

With two kids, a dog and lots of hardwood floors, I used to spend an hour or so every couple of days running a vacuum to keep on top of the dust, dog hair and various other fluff that would hide on our floors, but show up on our socks.  It was tiring and annoying.

Ahead of Black Friday, I scored a wicked deal on the entry level iRobot Roomba robotic vacuum (model 614).  It’s the entry model that doesn’t have the ability to schedule or operate it with your phone, which is fine for me.  I just hit start whenever we leave the house.

It does an awesome job as a vacuum (even getting stuff our upright missed), but its real virtue lies in the fact that I don’t have to do much for our floors to get clean.  I press a button and I empty the little bin.  Boom.  It can go on any of our floors, cleans any area rugs and is great at getting unstuck from under furniture.

Before buying, I’d done a fair amount of research, and the two biggest cons had me worried; it’s loud and the collection bin is small, so you have to empty it often.  It’s actually quieter than most uprights, which is insane for how well it cleans, and since it’s small enough to pass under furniture and get into tight corners, it makes sense the collection bin is small.  I just empty it and start the robot away again.

For a few hundred bucks, this is an awesome timesaver and our house is far cleaner than it was before.  I wouldn’t bother paying for scheduling or smartphone connectivity as the only feature I would pay more for is if it could empty its collection bin itself and keep cleaning.

Do yourself a favour and pick one up.

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The first time I heard about “smart home automation”, I was reading a Wired magazine article in university, so sometime around 2000.  I was blown away at the potential, but it sounded like the future our parents envisioned where we’d be living in pods on the moon.  Well, it’s here and it looks like it’s here to stay.

If, like me, you aren’t sure where to start with smartening up your home, I’ve got great news; you can start small and relatively cheap.

While our electrician was wiring our house, I picked up a WEMO Light Switch for our front porch lights, and I love it.  I can turn it off and on like a normal switch, I can operate it from an app on my phone from anywhere, and I can set it to a schedule.  Mine is set to come on at sunset and turn off after midnight, then come on again at 6am and turn off at sunrise.  I rarely have to touch it or think about it.  It just works.

Since the switch requires some wiring, a better place to start would be a WEMO Wi-Fi Smart Plug.  It does all the same stuff as the switch, has a switch right on the fixture, and it only takes up one plug in an outlet.  You can differentiate between plugs and switches in the app (by names you can pick) and you can plug in just about anything.  I picked one up to run our Christmas tree lights on a schedule much like the porch lights.

My next step in automation (aside from a few more outlet plugs and switches for other lights in the house) will be a virtual assistant; mostly likely Google’s Alexa.  Then I can tell her to turn on the Christmas tree, play “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby and brew me a tea, Earl Grey, hot.   The future is here, so engage.

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Now that the house is “done” (we still need to replace our driveway and sort out landscaping, but those will wait for spring), I find myself still fighting the “under construction” mindset that I was in for well over a year.  As I walk around the house picking up after the boys, I catch myself thinking of little things I could build to make our lives a bit easier.

A small project I’ll be starting soon is a small drying/drain rack to inset in our laundry tub for drying small articles of clothing, small containers that were used for painting or to dry shoes or boots that have just been cleaned.  Once I land on a nice design that works, I plan to upscale it a bit and focus on nicer finishing to make one for our soaker tub in our ensuite (for drying bathing suits and the like).

It’s a pretty simple design, consisting of a small box frame with a ladder of pieces of doweling inset in the box.  The frame is mounted to the underside of two longer pieces of wood that will sit on the rim of the sink, so that the draining things are actually below the rim (so no runoff comes off the wood onto the counter).  So let’s see how this goes.

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