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A Thermostat That's Smarter by Half

Albert Einstein

Last fall I installed a 'smarter' thermostat as our old bimetal thermostat had started short-cycling the furnace. A local hardware store had a sale on programmable thermostats for $25, and I installed one that day. Within a day or two I had the thermostat programmed to our preferences and I haven't touched it since. The one question remaining - is the new 'smart' thermostat more energy efficient than the old 'dumb' one?

I can happily say that the new programmable thermostat IS more energy efficient!

Too Cool in the Kitchen

Oven Glow Bar Igniter

If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, your oven is probably working. We had the opposite problem recently - a decidedly cool kitchen. After weeks of our oven taking longer and longer to heat up, it suddenly stopped heating at all. Thanks to a classic Fix-It-Yourself book, Google and a bit of DIY troubleshooting I found the problem. The Glow Bar Igniter in our oven was no longer heating sufficiently to start the gas oven. Happily, it was an easy fix.

The Map Moved Under My Feet

2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for New Mexico

Did you feel that? It felt like the earth moved under my feet. Actually, it was a shift in climate, as marked by the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The PHZM (Plant Hardiness Zone Map) is the guide gardeners use to decide what plants will likely grow, or not, in our yards. The 2012 version of the PHZM shows that the hardiness zone lines have shifted for most of the U.S. My home has shifted from Hardiness Zone 5b (1990 map) and is now solidly in Hardiness Zone 6b (2012 map) which is 10°F. warmer.

Let's Stay in for Coffee

Fresh Brewed Coffee

It's been a tough week or so here at the EcoFamily homestead. Our ~16 year old (yes, it really lasted that long) drip coffee maker died. Don't worry, we didn't go without coffee. But, my skill at coarse grinding coffee beans with a 'whirly-blade' grinder for french press coffee has much room for improvement. Of course, I did try to repair the old coffee maker, but the thermistor that died didn't have any useful markings.

A Toast to Fall's Harvest

Homemade Hard Apple Cider

The Winter Solstice has passed and short, cold days are here. If you planned ahead, the fruits of Summer and Fall are stored in your pantry. We preserved some Gravenstein apples in a very traditional American way - by making hard cider! After all, there are only so many jars of applesauce, apple butter and dried apples you can use.

Why I Garden #21

Snowy Coldframe with Winter Greens

I Love Winter. Except for one small thing. It is VERY difficult (or VERY expensive) to get fresh and ripe vegetables in the winter. And it is nearly impossible to get LOCAL vegetables (other than root crops) in the winter. That is, not until I built a cold frame. Now we have fresh salad greens (and hopefully carrots and broccoli) grown in our snow-covered backyard.

Woo Hoo!

More Info:

DIY Storm Door Cold Frame

$25 Thermostat vs. $250 Thermostat

$25 Programmable Thermostat - installed

Would you rather pay $25 or $250 for an electronic thermostat? What if the $250 thermostat is incredibly sleek, artificially intelligent, and Wi-Fi networked? Would that be enough to sway you? Fortunately, the $250 thermostat was completely sold out which made my choice easy. That and I'm way too cheap to blow 10 times more money for furnace bling.

Hot Flushes, Draincocks and Sacrificial Rods

Tank Water Heater diagram

There are few things I find more refreshing than a hot shower. Because I set the shower water temp cooler in the summer I didn't notice that the hot water wasn't quite as hot anymore. With crisp fall temperatures suddenly the warmish shower was obvious. I took advantage of a warm, clear day (after everyone had their bath or shower) to flush the sediment out of the water heater and return it to full heat.

If you've never flushed a water heater, don't worry, this is actually a simple DIY task. Here are the basics of flushing a tank-style water heater:

From Grey Water to Green Plants

Grey Water Drain Pipe with Cleanout

Have you heard of La Niña? Despite the name, La Niña isn't a person 'she's' a thing - specifically a weather pattern. The important thing to know about La Niña is she tends to bring dry winters to the Southwestern US and that means drought. In my efforts to use water more efficiently I've added a grey-water system from our washing machine to irrigate a planting bed.

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