Sunday, August 28, 2011

More Extreme Tech - Rigid VP2000 Wet Vac Pump

I found this baby at Home Depot this weekend while I was looking for a replacement squeegee head for my Rigid Wet/Dry Vac.

I love my shop vac, except when it’s full of nasty water and I need to empty it. I could drain it into the sump pit, but that would be kind of counter productive. Instead, we ladle some off with a bucket, and then we lift it up and pour the rest down the basement utility sink. Back breaking work. No fun at all.

With this baby, you pop it on before you start, and then when the unit is full you connect a hose and you can pump the water up to 50ft at a rate of 10gpm. Nice!

I know, I know, I should have done these last two posts before and not during Irene. Can’t be helped; busy, busy, busy.

Backyard Tech – Extreme Edition: Generators

Having a basement that’s prone to flooding, we were way overdue in adding a generator to our flood fighting arsenal. We’re fine as long as the sump pumps run, but if they stop working, disaster ensues. We finally bit the bullet after we remodeled Man Town this past year.

I knew nothing about generators when we started looking, but after a little research, and some professional electrical advice, we came up with a plan. Our main concern was the pumps, but we also wanted something that would help us out during those ugly winter Nor’easters that we’re prone to around here. There’s a great Wattage Estimation Guide on the Honda Power Equipment website that helped us out a lot.

We settled on the Honda EG5000. It’s big enough to hook up to your house via a transfer switch and run quite a few devices, and yet small enough to still be considered a portable. It’s from Honda’s Economy line, which means it has the power of the more expensive models, just fewer frills. No key start, no wheels, no fancy panels. It does, however, pump out 5000W (4500W rated) of power, both 120/240V, via a nice variety of outputs (two 20A 125V outlets, one 20A 125V locking plug, one 30A 125V locking plug and a 30A 125/250V locking plug).

It’s powered by Honda’s commercial grade 389cc engine, which is relatively quiet (73dB), and it has some great features that you won’t find on cheaper generators, like DAVR (digital automatic voltage regulation witch prevents power fluctuations) and Oil Alert (the unit shuts down the engine before you hit the add level). It also comes with a 3 year parts and labor warranty that’s valid for both commercial and residential use.

I bought mine from a Honda dealership (Parkway Cycle), rather than on line, because I wanted one that was assembled, bench tested, and ready to rock and roll. It has an important job to do, so I did it right, and you should too.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Coronal Mass Ejections and You

This past week there were several medium to large Coronal Mass Ejections, otherwise known as solar flares. As the resulting electromagnetic pulses, travelling at about four million miles per hour, collide with Earth’s magnetic field, there will be increased Northern Light activity, and also sporadic disruptions of Radio and Satellite signals.

So what does that mean for you and I?

Well, if you’re far enough north (Maine), and the conditions are right, it means that you may be treated to some strange and beautiful light shows in the night sky. It also means that the satellite feed your cable company gets could suffer periodically, as well as the signals from the GPS satellites.

We we’re up in Maine this weekend and we went down to the beach to star gaze, but it was too overcast to see any Aurora activity. We did however suffer from some strange tics in the cable feed, and when we started our car to leave, the GPS put us squarely in the Atlantic Ocean. It stayed pegged to that spot, just off the coast, until we hit the Hampton tolls, then all of a sudden it came back to life, plopping us on I95, where we belonged.


Anyways, it seems we’re in a period of increased solar activity that won’t peak until 2013, so keep a weather eye to the sky, just be sure you have those polarized Ray Bans on, can’t be too careful. Matter of fact, I just finished fashioning myself a jaunty little tin foil cap, and I think I have enough left to line a couple of pairs of shorts.

That is all.

Backyard Tech - Aquabot Turbo T

Vacuuming the pool is one of those chores that you start off enjoying, but quickly run out of time and patience for.

Early in each pool season I’m gung ho to clean it by hand. It’s a great feeling to do something that shows such obvious results, and it can be an almost Zen like experience; standing quietly poolside, hypnotized by the rhythmic motions and the sighing, woodwind like sounds as the air escapes from the pole on each down stroke. It slows things down and gives me time to think and relax.

As the season goes on though, my thoughts increasingly focus on what a time consuming pain in the ass it actually is. The setup, the breakdown, the backwashing, the standing in the hot sun during the day, or trying to keep my focus while swatting mosquitoes in the evening, and as the summer heats up and the algae starts blooming, each vacuum becomes longer and more tedious. You never hit every spot either, no matter how much time and energy you put into it. Consequently the pool liner starts to get that slimy “Slip and Slide” feel to it, especially on the down slope to the deep end. It’s hard to put enough pressure on the pole to really scrub those deep angled places.

A couple of years ago I purchased a rechargeable pool “dust buster”, the Pool Blaster. It attaches to the end of your pole and does a great job. It’s a self contained device, so it cuts out the setup time and the backwashing part of skimmer vacuuming, but you still have to go over every square inch of the pool. It’s great, but it’s not the ultimate solution to vacuuming, it’s more of a spot cleaner.

We also thought about having the pool cleaned on a regular basis by our pool people, but that gets costly. We have them come by when we’re away and they do a great job, but its $70 bucks a pop, and that’s just too rich for my blood over the course of the summer, so we started to look for a pool cleaning robot. There’s a ton of them out there, but after much research we settled on the Aquabot Turbo T.

Aquabot has a whole line of pool bots, one for every type of pool and every budget. The Turbo T model is on the high end of the spectrum, but it pays for itself in time, chemicals and results. It motors around the pool like a little submersible Sherman Tank, scrubbing, vacuuming and power washing every inch of the pool, and leaves it sparkling clean. By the second use we started noticing that the vinyl liner felt like it did when it was new; firm and textured instead of smooth and slippery.

This baby is amazing. It even climbs up the wall and moves along the water line,defying gravity while it scrubs the liner all the way up to the coping. It picks up everything; sand, leaves, rocks, and I’m always amazed at the amount of debris inside the filter bag at the end of its cycle. I run it about twice a week, and the pool has never been so clean. I’m even saving money on earth and chemicals because I don’t need to backwash as much, plus I now get to do my Zen like thinking while seated and watching the bot clean the pool. Much better.

I got my Aquabot online from In the Swim, who I found via GoodSearch. GoodSearch provided me with a discount coupon and made a donation to the charity of my choice based on a percentage of the sale price. Nice. Check them out, they do great things, and check out the video below of the bot in action.