When I was growing up, I was always envious of my neighbor behind us (who had a working farm) because every time the power went out, his generator would kick on and save the day for his farm and family. I was especially envious on cold rainy powerless winter nights when I knew their heater was on, and ours was off. I’ve been under the impression since I was a kid that generators are costly, so costly that it was out of my price range. Boy, was I wrong. According to The Money Pit host and home improvement expert, Tom Kraeutler, standby generators are no longer expensive. Tom was kind enough to join me for an interview this week to discuss standby generators, smart home technology, the secret to lowering costly electric bills, and high tech fertilizer which will ensure your lawn and garden look great all year long.
Candace Rose: Everyone’s talking about smart homes these days, which sounds pretty complicated and expensive. How can regular homeowners get the benefits of this trend?
Tom Kraeutler: “Well, it definitely is not expensive. Look at standby generators for example, they’ve been around for many years now, and they were expensive, but not anymore. Just for those that are not familiar with standby generators, basically the way they work is they repower your entire house when the street power goes out. They can be permanently installed, so it’s not like a portable where you have to drag it out of the garage and fill it up with gasoline. It basically is permanently installed, it sits outside your house and when the utility power goes off, the standby generator comes on and repowers the house. They run on natural gas, they run on propane so it’s the same fuel that heats your home and again, it’s entirely automatic. You don’t even have to be home. Now, this is from Kohler (please see video above for details) and this product is part of a new line of eight kilowatt generators, they’re actually available at eight, 10 and 12. They’re smaller footprint generators, so smaller outside shape which makes them perfect for small homes, for houses that have small lots and for folks that have limited electrical needs or that want basically the same convenience, efficiency and reliability of a standby generator, but at a great entry price point. This would be installed at strategic circuits, so I’m talking about your heating system, your security system and perhaps your sump pump, your refrigerator. And then, again when the power goes off, the automatic transfer switch kicks on and repowers those parts of your house. It’s also available with OnCue which is a remote monitoring app for your phone that basically will tell you the status of the generator so you’ll know if it comes on even if you’re not home.
Now another smart home technology is available in garage door openers. Well, I shouldn’t say openers, it’s really a tool that helps you open the garage door if you’re not home. It’s especially important if you’ve ever left home for work and wondered if you kept the door opened or closed your garage. This is called MyQ Garage, it’s from Chamberlain. What it does is connect garage doors to your smartphone and enables you to operate them anywhere, anytime. It’s very easy to install, there’s no wiring required. You simply mount the MyQ wifi hub next to your existing garage door opener, you put a sensor on the door, you create an account at the MyQ website, you download the app and it will tell you the status of your door. It’s also going to alert you if you forgot to close your door. Wherever you are, it’ll send you a text that your door is open. You can log on again and close your door remotely without ever having to come home. It’s not expensive to be smart in your home. There’s a lot of technology that helps you do just that.”
Candace Rose: How can we lower costly electric bills without spending a ton of money in the process?
Tom Kraeutler: “That’s a great question, and I think a great easy and inexpensive place to start is simply to replace any incandescent bulbs that you have in your house with LED bulbs. Well, LED bulbs you might say they’re really expensive, right? Well, not anymore. In fact, Cree is out with a 60 and a 40 watt LED bulb, that’s a replacement bulb under $10 at the Home Depot. What I love about this bulb is it looks like a traditional incandescent bulb that gives you that same warm light, but uses up to 85% less energy. It also has a traditional bulb shape so it’s going to work in open lighting fixtures like floor lamps, reading lamps or bedroom lighting where you have the shade that snaps on from the top. You can’t do that with a squiggly bulb, but you can do it with this new Cree LED bulb at the Home Depot, under $10 and it lasts over 20 years.”
Candace Rose: Even fertilizer is high tech these days, what are the most important things to do right now for the lawn and the garden?
Tom Kraeutler: “That’s a great point because fertilizing is really important to do in the fall because now is the time of year when you really need to fuel your lawn for the season ahead. If you do that you’ll encourage deep root growth which will take it right through to next summer’s blistering heat. Vigoro is a great brand to start with. Vigoro has been around since 1924, it’s really a total lawn and garden care solution, it’s available at the Home Depot. The new technology in Vigoro is called Assurance technology. It’s in select lawn fertilizers, the particles are smaller, they’re lighter, they’re irregular in shape. They basically give you a more even distribution across the lawn, in fact they give you an even feeding, even greening, no burn guarantee with these products. And the same technology is in the Vigoro Weed and Feed product, it gives you twice as many particles per weed. It’s going to stick to the weeds better, it’s going to improve the coverage and basically deliver better weed control.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share?
Tom Kraeutler: “Well, fall is a great time to take on that curb appeal as well, so get outside and add some of those Vigoro plants and you’ll be good to go. In fact, if you want more tips and advice on how to take care of your home for fall, if you’d like to read the product reviews for some of the things we talked about today, just go to our website at MoneyPit.com.”