Ambient Smart Wi-Fi Weather Station

Model WS-2902C WiFi Product Review

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Ambient WS-2902C Wi-Fi Weather Station
Ambient WS-2902C Wi-Fi Weather Station
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So, this Ambient Weather Wi-Fi Smart Weather Station is my latest project. I’ve always been interested in weather conditions and here in South Texas it’s always a good thing to stay informed of. I do a lot of running and dog-walking so knowing how to dress before venturing outside is always a good idea. It gives me a bit more freedom as I go about my day.

I bought it from Amazon.com. Yes, Walmart sells small sensor units, of which I have had one for years. It was just time to ramp up my game. This model is mid-range in price for Ambient stations, but it does everything I need it to do. For example, knowing how barometric pressure works is imperative; I do live in a hurricane zone.



Weather Station Installation

Right out of the box, putting this gadget together is a simple task. Just a few basic assembly steps and viola! You will need to procure and put up a mounting pole. I used:

  • A 10′ length of electrical conduit, about $10 at Home Depot.
  • A post-hole digger.
  • About 4 cups of Quikrete. No mixing, just pour it into the hole and pour water over it. This is definitely DIY concrete, mixing not required.

Ambient Features

  • It comes with the unit and a tablet-sized display console suitable for setting on your desk or table or mounting on the wall.
  • Solar-powered.
  • Wireless all-in-one integrated sensor array measures wind speed/direction, temperature (indoor/outdoor), humidity (indoor/outdoor), rainfall, UV and solar radiation, barometric pressure, time and date.
  • Supports both imperial and metric units of measure with calibration available.
  • Enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity option that enables your station to transmit its data wirelessly to the world’s largest personal weather station network.


Predicting weather with the barometer
Predicting weather with the barometer

Do I recommend this Ambient Weather Smart Weather Station? Yes, I do. For my purposes the data reported is all that I could ask for. Assembly was easy, about an hour and a half including installing the pole mount. Finally (for a very rare occurrence with today’s products), the instruction booklet is comprehensive and detailed.


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

6 Plants That Repel Mosquitos

How to Design Your Garden and Landscaping to Get Rid of Pests

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Lemon balm in the garden
Lemon balm in the garden
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Here in South Texas, mosquitos are just a fact of life. They are bad for people; they’re bad for pet dogs and cats, and they’re just pests. Dennis Prager once said when he gets to heaven he’s going to ask God, “Why?” Good point. But, while we have to live with them, we will talk about 6 plants that do a good job of repelling mosquitos whether you are having a barbeque or just enjoying your backyard deck. For best results, stick with an organic feeding program.

  • Lemon balm. As you can see in the picture above, this is a fine-looking plant. This is a member of the mint family that gets its distinct scent from citronellal. This is an oil that has some of the same properties as citronella, one of which is the ability to repel mosquitoes. It’s an easy species to grow. Lemon balm is a perennial (more bang for your buck) that, like mint, can become invasive and take over your whole flower bed or vegetable garden. It likes full sun to part shade and adequate water. The leaves can be used as a tea.
  • Citronella grass. The active ingredient here is the essential oil that’s used to make insect-repellent candles. Be sure you’re planting the tall spiky grass Cymbopogon nardus, and not “citronella plant” (Pelargonium citrosum), which is a kind of geranium that smells similar but doesn’t offer the same mosquito-repelling oils. It likes partial sun and moist, loamy dirt, so water it every day, especially if you’re growing it as a container species. It’s a perennial in tropical climates but it still can be grown as an annual in colder places.


  • Basil. The anecdotal evidence says it helps control mosquitoes but the studies are on-going. If you like pesto but veer away from grocery store prices, keep several basil plants in your garden and prune them regularly to keep them from going to seed. Also, why not whip up some Creamy Parmesan Basil Chicken? Basil thrives in full sun and moist soil.
  • Catnip. The active ingredient here is nepetalactone, the essential oil that gives catnip its smell. It’s also a member of the mint family and grows best in full sun and well-drained soil, but will tolerate partial sun and almost any type of soil if that’s what you are working with.


  • Lavender. Who doesn’t love lavender? Anecdotal evidence and tests on lavender essential oil indicate that mosquitoes shun this plant. Some people dry the flowers and make or buy lavender and cedar sachets to ward off mosquitos and moths. Grow it in full sun and drier soil. You only need to water it once or twice weekly in the growing season. It is a perennial species, so expect it to come back yearly.
  • Peppermint. Yet another member of the wonderful mint family. It’s the essential oil that works the mosquito magic. It is related to the lemon balm and has essentially the same care requirements. It likes lots of sun and water. It does well in a pot; in your flower bed, it will want to take over. I like it in tea and add it to my freshly-ground coffee. What a way to start the day!

So there you have it; 6 plants that repel mosquitos, look good, and serve other purposes. They won’t eliminate these outdoor pests completely but you can certainly cut down on those toxic insecticides.

Further Reading


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Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Insomnia – Symptoms, Causes, Myths

Sleep Depredation Adversely Affects Your Body, Brain, Mood, Cognitive Function

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Sleep deprivation -- asleep at the wheel
Sleep deprivation — asleep at the wheel
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What is insomnia? Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder. It makes it hard to drift off to sleep, difficult to stay asleep, or lead you to waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep. It is not uncommon to still feel tired after you wake up. Insomnia can diminish not only your energy level and your mood but also your health, work performance, and your quality of life.

How many people suffer and what is the probable cause? The Mayo Clinic says, “At some point, many adults experience short-term (acute) insomnia, which lasts for days or weeks. It’s usually the result of stress or a traumatic event. But some people have long-term (chronic) insomnia that lasts for a month or more. Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be associated with other medical conditions or medications.”1 Some cases may be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic isolation.

What causes insomnia?

Symptoms of Insomnia

  • Waking up too early
  • Increased errors or accidents at work and at home
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Waking up in the night
  • Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
  • Difficulty paying attention consistently, focusing on tasks, or remembering things
  • Ongoing worries and concerns about your sleep
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness (nodding off at your desk, or worse, in your car)
  • Irritability, depression, confusion, or anxiety


Causes of Insomnia

This is not a one-size-fits-all ailment. It may just be happening on its own, other conditions can contribute to it, or be the primary cause. Medical treatment can be elusive as well. Melatonin can help. Treating the underlying cause may resolve your insomnia, but on the other hand, it can last for years. Possible causes include:

  • Travel or work schedule. Circadian rhythms function as an internal clock, managing such things as your sleep-wake cycle, metabolism, and your core body temperature. Disrupting these circadian rhythms can well result in a case of insomnia. Causes include jet lag from traveling across multiple time zones, exposure to too much blue light, working a late or early shift, or often changing shifts.
  • Eating too much too late. Having a light snack before bedtime is just fine, but compulsive overeating may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable while lying down. You might also experience heartburn, a nauseating backflow of acid and food from your stomach into your esophagus following eating, which can leave you wide awake.
  • And of course, Stress. Concerns about your work, grades at school, health, financial situation, or family circumstances can keep your mind alert during the night, making it difficult to sleep. Stressful life events or trauma like the death or illness of someone close to you, a pending divorce, or a job issues are recognized causes of insomnia.


Myths Regarding Insomnia

Like other medical conditions, there are pervasive myths about this one. WebMD2 has put together a list of the more common ones.

  • A drink will help you sleep. This myth probably persists because drinking alcohol can help you fall asleep. But as it moves through your body it may lead to disturbed, restless sleep, or it may make you wake earlier.
  • Insomnia Is strictly mental. It’s true that psychological issues can cause insomnia. As a matter of fact, stress is the No. 1 reason people report a lack of sleep. But it’s not the only insomnia trigger. Many things can cause insomnia, including poor sleep hygiene, illness, drug side effects, chronic pain, restless legs syndrome, or sleep apnea.
  • Screen time winds you down. You might want to try to wind down by reading on the computer or perusing TV before retiring, but that can actually stimulate you. The blue light and noise of TVs and computers can be overwhelming at a low level and can reduce brain melatonin levels. You want your melatonin levels to increase around bedtime to help you fall asleep. Need just a little noise to help you drift off? Try listening to relaxing music or download a relaxing, sleep app.
  • Sleep aids = risk-free. Yes, today’s sleeping pills are safer and much more effective than the older variety. But all meds have potential downsides, including dependency. Always talk to your primary care doctor before you reach for sleeping pills. Some help relieve insomnia symptoms temporarily but by themselves they can’t banish insomnia permanently. Fixing underlying health problems and fixing your sleep environment is usually the surest approach to insomnia.
  • I’ll just make up for lost sleep. Nope, it’s unlikely that you can really catch up on sleep you’ve mislaid. In fact, sleeping in one or two days per week or during the weekend may upset your natural body clock. The disruption may make it harder to get to sleep the next time. The only sure method to make up on your lost sleep is to get right back into a consistent sleeping schedule.
  • A nap will help offset insomnia. Naps are lovely, aren’t they? They affect everyone differently. For some, a short 10- to 20-minute cat nap siesta can be refreshing and put fuel in the old metaphorical tank. For people with insomnia, however, an afternoon snooze will decrease the brain’s sleep drive.
  • You can teach yourself to need less sleep. Believing this hocus-pocus can end you up with some serious consequences. We are all born with a fixed sleep need. Most adults fall into the 7-8 hour category. While you can learn to get by on less, you can’t teach your body to need less sleep. If you find yourself sleep deprived, it’s much more difficult to pay attention and remember things both important and trivial. Being consistently tired has some serious consequences. These include lowered work performance, a higher risk of mishaps, and of course, poor health.

If you have insomnia (as I occasionally do, by the way), don’t worry; you are not alone. Just knowing and understanding these insomnia symptoms, causes, and myths will go a long way towards understanding your condition and finding a solution that works for you. Me? I do just fine with late night melatonin and using blue light blocking glasses as I labor at my computer screen all day.

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References

  1. The Mayo Clinic, Insomnia, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355167
  2. WebMD, Insomnia Myths and Facts, https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/ss/slideshow-insomnia


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Valentine’s Day Outdoor Space Ideas

Romantic Gestures That Keep on Giving (Unlike Cut Flowers)

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Lilies blooming in the flower bed
Lilies blooming in the flower bed
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Valentine’s Day is a perfect example of a holiday that inspires us to redesign spaces inside and outside our homes. Designing an outdoor space for a Valentine’s Day gift or parties and celebrations can be a lasting surprise for someone that you care about pleasing. Many gardeners remind us that Valentine’s Day is the time to trim our rose bushes so that choice makes perfect sense.

Any climate-appropriate plants are a great way to improve the look of your yard, flower bed, garden, or outdoor living space. Here are a few plant, seating, and lighting ideas that can help you design the space of your dreams at this time of year when nature is just busting out. Just think of it as the opportunity to tackle that list of new year’s DIY projects!

Choosing the Perfect Flower

Almost every woman that I’ve ever met loves to get flowers on Valentine’s Day, and some would far rather receive something living that will bloom on more than just that one day. After all, why limit yourself to a wilting bouquet when you can have cut flowers on a regular basis?



Many of us don’t mind caring for the flower or floral arrangement minimally, either, especially during the mild spring and fall months. Annuals, such as the coriopsis below, are very hardy and come back year after year once established. Our bird friends help to distribute the thistle seeds so keep those bird feeders full.

Coriopsis flowers in full bloom
Coriopsis flowers in full bloom

It goes without saying that the perfect flower species should be designed to suit your climate, sunlight requirements, and of course, soil conditions. If you are unsure of this type of information, talk to someone in a garden center, nursery, or plant retailer for more details. If your community is lucky enough to have a Master Gardener group, they are very knowledgeable about local plants and are generally very free with their information. Most even conduct indigenous plant and tree sales in the spring.

One useful tip is to find out her favorite color, and keep in mind how much time and energy will need to be devoted to caring for the plant. Design your outdoor Valentine’s Day surprise with this basic information in mind, so that you can be sure that your significant other will appreciate what you have created.

Find accents and accessories for the space in the favorite color if you cannot find in-season plants that are blooming for this special occasion, such as lighting, flags, decorations, water features (ponds, fountains), and similar items designed for outdoor use. These all are animal-friendly and count towards your nature-conservation efforts.

Choosing Outdoor Seating Arrangements

If the space is large enough, why not consider adding seating to your outdoor space to create the romantic environment this day is known for inspiring.

A great garden bench is a wonderful idea, so that two can sit comfortably, but be sure that any seating arrangement you choose is intended for use outdoors, including fabric choices. Marketing claims are not always what they seem. If you have a homeowners association, check to ensure that your project falls under their (often unreasonable) guidelines. A garden bench with storage such as the one shown below, doubles as a spot to keep your gardening tools.

High-quality and functional furniture will ensure that your gift lasts much longer, and the durable and beautiful addition will add monetary and aesthetic value to your home. We can’t say enough about home equity, can we?

Your seating needs to strike a balance; make it comfortable without presenting health risks. Select fabrics that are specifically designed and treated for outdoor use, so that the fabric does not mildew or mold after the first hint of condensation or dew.



Choosing Exterior Lighting

You may or may not be spending a significant amount of time in your space outdoors after the sun sets, but adding exterior lighting changes that parameter and gives you that opportunity should you desire to sit, entertain, and relax after the sun has gone down. A simple lantern, LED spotlight, or a couple of Tiki torches for the space is ideal for most arrangements.

The right combination and choice of illumination will add that perfect touch of light for a romantic rendezvous, this Valentine’s Day and into the foreseeable future. Certain lighting resembles candlelight, which is the most popular lighting for romance, so you can’t go wrong with a hint of light that doesn’t cost you an abundance of time, energy, or money to purchase or install.

Finally, if you really want to go big when you consider Valentine’s Day outdoor space ideas, think about a relaxing backyard deck. Springtime and income tax returns are coming; hint, hint.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Grow Your Own Orange Tree, Harvest Citrus Fruit

When Life Gives You Oranges, Make Orange Juice!

by Kelly R. Smith

Making fresh orange juice
Making fresh orange juice
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This article was updated on 12/31/20.

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When my daughter Shannon was very young, she had an appetite for oranges that the local grocery store markets as “cuties.” In reality, they are a type of Mandarin orange. Just easy to peel. This caused me to embark on a journey to plant one fruit tree each year. Year one was that Mandarin orange tree, planted in the back yard.

The next year it was a Republic of Texas orange tree (pictured below). In the photo above, you might notice that the rinds darkened a bit from a slight freeze, but the insides remain fine. This tree bears fruit in the summer and by early December it’s ready for picking. No rush though; the fruit will hang there in suspended animation for months.



Choosing Your Fruit Trees

Many people make the mistake of seeing a tree at Walmart, Home Depot, or some other big box store, buying it, planting it, and then wondering why they never get any fruit. Well, it’s because these trees are sold irrespective of customer location. What works in upstate New York does not work here in south Texas. It is all about the growing zone — how freeze-tolerant the tree is. For example, consider the avocado tree. It is a southern tree but some species do well in moderate freezes.

Republic of Texas orange tree
Republic of Texas orange tree

The best bet is to go to a local nursery, after you do your initial research. They have a vested interest in the community and will likely want to keep a customer base. There are other resources to consider. Here, we have Randy Lemon, graduate of Texas A&M, who does a local radio show. I’ve listened to his weekend show for years and I have to admit, I wasn’t totally onboard initially because he poo-pooed organic, but now that his advertisers have began offering organic products, it’s all good. Imagine.

The bottom line here (I know you’ve been waiting for it) is that it is always a good time to put in your own fruit trees. You might be a prepper or not. You might trust organic produce at the grocery store or not. You might just want to save money. Regardless, there is a lot to be said for self-sufficiency. And, if you’ve got the real estate, why not?

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

What is Geothermal Energy?

A better Alternative to Oil, Gas, Coal, and Solar Energy

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

How geothermal energy is produced
How geothermal energy is produced
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Geothermal energy is nothing new; it’s been around for decades. During the 1890s, the city of Boise, Idaho accessed a naturally occurring reservoir of geothermal heat close to the earth’s surface and created the US’s first district heating system. This is where one central source of heat feeds into multiple commercial and residential buildings. It’s still in use.

This type of energy production is far more intensive than ground-source heat pumps, which take advantage of steady shallow-earth temperatures to heat buildings or groups of buildings. This type is most likely to be found in single-residence or multi-residence abodes.

Why Geothermal Now?

So why is this alternative energy coming into the limelight just now? It makes sense for a society such as ours that wants sustainable energy but is frustrated by other technologies that have been tried.

  • Solar energy. It only works when the sun shines. Solar panel farms take up a lot of real estate. When they get dirty/dusty (as out in the wide, open spaces), water must be trucked out in hydrocarbon-fueled trucks to spray them down. Forms of storage media like batteries save captured energy for when it’s needed, but this is expensive. They require rare earth minerals such as Cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium deselenide (CIGS)1. It gets worse; if you install these expensive panels you may partially be able to get off the grid but it takes many years to recoup your investment. If you have to re-roof your home, it gets very expensive.
  • Wind power. It’s noisy. It threatens wildlife; gold eagles and tailed hawks notably have a propensity to fly into the blades. Studies show that approximately 45,000 birds have fallen victim over the last 20 years due to these wind turbines. They are inefficient; the functional part of the wind turbines are only able to extract about 59% of the wind’s power. Not much ROI. Installation is expensive; just one can be as much as $2 million or more, and that is before maintenance begins2.

Geothermal carries none of these burdens but it is just as plentiful as sun and wind. Vox.com says, “The heat is continuously replenished by the decay of naturally occurring radioactive elements, at a flow rate of roughly 30 terawatts, almost double all human energy consumption. That process is expected to continue for billions of years.3” What’s not to love?

Vikram (Vik) Rao is the former Senior Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer at Halliburton and is now the Executive Director of the Research Triangle Energy Consortium. He says, “Deep very hot geothermal development looks approachable. Suddenly we are talking about building on a new technology base to exploit heat reservoirs rather than fluid. What this all means is that geothermal is no longer a niche play. It’s scalable, potentially in a highly material way. Scalability gets the attention of the industry. Scalability is required for industry to pursue the opportunity profitably.”4

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The Four Fundamental Types of Geothermal Energy Tech

One of the great things about geothermal is that any level of heat can be used directly; there need not be any waste. For example, it can operate pond fisheries or all-season greenhouses, to dry cement, or to make hydrogen. Taking it a step further, we can convert this hydrogen into liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

  • Conventional Hydrothermal Resources. In some areas on earth, water or steam heated by the earth’s core rises up through somewhat permeable rock formations that are full of fissures and fractures, only to become trapped under a solid caprock. These mammoth reservoirs of pressurized hot water usually betray themselves on the surface through fumaroles (holes in or near a volcano, from which vapor rises) or hot springs. Here, a well is drilled. The hot water rises and can be just over ambient temperature up to 370°C. The heat is extracted from it, the fluids are cooled, and then returned to the field by way of an injection well. This maintains pressure.
  • Enhanced geothermal systems (EGS). The limitation of conventional geothermal systems is that they are limited to specific locales where heat, water, and porosity join together just so. Those areas are limited. The way to broaden that scope is to drill down into solid rock, inject water at very high pressure through one well, fracture the rock to give the water a passageway, and then collect the heated water through another well.
  • Super-Hot-Rock Geothermal. The goal here is to tap into extremely deep, extremely hot, rock. The water here exceeds 373°C and 220 bars of pressure, it is called “supercritical,” a new phase that is neither liquid nor gas. It holds anywhere from 4 to 10 times more energy per unit mass than water or steam. It is possible to get more power out of three wells on a 400°C project than out of 42 EGS wells at 200°C. All this efficiency using less fluid and a fraction of the physical footprint. Win-win. Economics shows that that the hotter a geothermal gets, the more competitive its power price becomes, so that super-hot EGS could be the cheapest baseload energy available.
  • Advanced Geothermal Systems (AGS). This is an exciting new generation of “closed loop” systems. No fluids are introduced to or removed from the earth; no fracking is involved. Fluids circulate underground in sealed pipes and boreholes where they absorb heat by conduction and direct it it to the surface, where it can be used for a custom mix of heat and electricity.


It seems logical that geothermal energy could well be the next alternative to oil and gas, at least from a technical point of view. The political realm is another story altogether. Environmentalists and radical democratic socialists like AOC and her squad will surely find something to protest against.

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References

  1. The Earth Project, Solar Farms Pros and Cons: 7 Facts We Can’t Deny, https://theearthproject.com/solar-farms-pros-and-cons/
  2. Udemy, 10 Disadvantages of Wind Energy: Not as Clean as You Thought, https://blog.udemy.com/disadvantages-of-wind-energy/
  3. Vox, David Roberts, Geothermal energy is poised for a big breakout, https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2020/10/21/21515461/renewable-energy-geothermal-egs-ags-supercritical
  4. The Heat Beat, ‘I Hated Geothermal. Then I Realized it is Now Scalable’ – An Interview with Vik Rao, https://www.heatbeat.energy/post/i-hated-geothermal-then-i-realized-it-is-now-scalable-an-interview-with-vik-rao

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Cooling Paint Could Cut Emissions From Buildings

Reducing Carbon Dioxide Via Scheduled Building Maintenance

by Kelly R. Smith

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Commercial building with a painted exterior
Commercial building with a painted exterior

The World Green Building Council tells us that combined, buildings and construction account for, “39% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions when upstream power generation is included.”1 In a previous post, I discussed how HVAC units2 (heating and cooling) systems are responsible for the lion’s share of this and a proposal to capture that carbon dioxide to generate hydrocarbons. This article discusses using paint to minimize CO2 in the first place.

The Quest: Finding an Effective Paint

Researchers have been attempting to come up with products to raise the efficiency of cooling and heating for years. Many types of reflective paint have been developed for the exteriors of both homes and office buildings that would reflect away sunlight resulting in a reduction the temperatures on the interior.

Up to this point, none of these reflective paint products have been successful in deflecting enough of the Sun’s rays that would result in the building’s temperature lower than the ambient conditions. That may be changing.

Researchers in the US say they have developed a white paint with strong cooling properties. Prof Xiulin Ruan, from Purdue University in Indiana says, “In one experiment where we put a painted surface outside under direct sunlight, the surface cooled 1.7C below the ambient temperature and during night time it even cooled up to 10C below the ambient temperature. This is a significant amount of cooling power that can offset the majority of the air conditioning needs for typical buildings.”

The Tech Behind the Paint

The researchers found that the key is adding calcium carbonate. By utilizing a high concentration of this chalky substance, differing the particle sizes, they developed a paint that reflected an astounding 95.5% of sunlight.

Prof Xiulin Ruan said, “Sunlight is a broad spectrum of light wavelengths. We know that each particle size can only scatter one wavelength effectively so we decided to use different particle sizes to scatter all the wavelengths. This is an important contributor eventually resulting in this very high reflectance.”

The paint may have a broad range of applications, in particular data centers, which require large amounts of cooling power. Because this particular paint doesn’t contain metal, it is not likely to interfere with various electromagnetic signals. This makes it ideal for cooling telecommunications equipment.

Of course, it goes without saying that there will be a number of steps to go complete before this product can be put on the market, because like any other product, it needs to be tested for its reliability and efficiency in the long term. The researchers remain optimistic; they have already filed patents and there is already a strong interest from major manufacturers. Cooling paint that can cut emissions from buildings of all types will lower costs across the board.

References

  1. World Green Building Council, Global Status Report 2017, https://www.worldgbc.org/news-media/global-status-report-2017
  2. Kelly R. Smith, I Can Fix Up My Home Blog, Can Climate Change Be Minimized Using Air Conditioners?, http://www.icanfixupmyhome.com/WPBlog1/2020/07/29/can-climate-change-be-minimized-using-air-conditioners/

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Fall is Here; Clean up Your Wood Shop or Work Area

by Kelly R. Smith

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My router table in my messy shop
My router table in my messy shop

Generally speaking, I’m diligent about putting my tools where they go when I’m done with them. As far as keeping the wood shop spic n’ span, not so much. I’m guessing that we’re all like that to some extent. I do tackle it monthly. Fall and spring are the times that I really clean my wood shop. I put my big wet/dry vac through its paces.

Throw Out What You Won’t Use

As DIY’ers, we are confirmed pack rats. There’s a bin or container for everything, be it a washer, bolt, screw, or nail. I’m guilty of not tossing anything in the trash bin. But if there’s a scrap of hardwood, oak or walnut perhaps, that has been gathering dust for a couple of years, the fireplace might be a fitting destination. Then again, I might do a small project or some inlay work soon…

Start with Your Work Bench

It’s a fact; you can’t work on something if there’s nowhere to do it! My work bench gets piled up with my stuff as well as the stuff SHMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) and the daughter stack up there. These are low-hanging fruits just waiting to be picked in the re-organization process.

Shuffle this stuff to storage bins and other storage spaces as much as possible. I like those little plastic cabinets. They are great for organizing all those weird tools. I’ve got one drawer for screwdrivers, another for chisels, etc. (I need one for Freudian slips!) And after all, how many times do you get an opportunity to use that Whitney Punch?

And the glass-cutter? And the roller tool for setting the screen splines? And those tap and dies that gather dust until the one day that they’ll save you yet another trip to the hardware store.

Power Tools Need Their Space

I have one overhead shelf for power tools that come with their hard plastic cases like drills, biscuit joiners, routers, etc. Usually, I don’t always repack when I’m done; I keep them for when I go mobile.

All my benchtop tools — drill press, belt sander, and the like, spend active hours on top of the bench and sleeping hours inside the body of the bench). Quick change-out is the key here. My router table, table saw, and lathe all have dedicated stands.

Stowing Your Sandpaper

You obviously don’t want your different grades of sandpaper scattered willy-nilly all over God’s creation. Some woodworkers have nice cabinets with drawers to stow different grit sandpapers, and I mean to do it myself someday. In the meantime, I’ve got file folders tacked up (like those hanging file folders) to hold the different grit sheets.

Wood Storage

This can be the most problematic issue of any woodworker on limited real estate. Where to store all that nice hardwood stock? I didn’t used to have that enviable problem but when my master carpenter Father in Law went to that great work shop in the sky, I found myself with a nice treasure trove of exotic wood.

So Pity me. Right. Anyhow, I’m figuring out a method of storing it so that I can free up floor space for staging larger projects like book shelves. Wish me well. These are some of my experiences with cleaning up your wood shop or work area. When you find yourself spending more time to find tools than work with them, it’s time for a call to action.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Blue Light, Eye Health, and Sleep

More Evidence is Showing Up About the Relationship Between Device Screens and Our Health

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Anti-blue-light glasses protect eye health
Anti-blue-light glasses protect eye health
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This article was updated on 04/16/21.

Ads we feature have been independently selected and reviewed. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission, which helps support the site. Thank you for your support.

You might have recently been hearing more about the effects of blue light on your eyes and sleep patterns. As we live longer, the more chance there is of our health being affected. Blue Light is the visible light located at the blue end of the light spectrum. Although not as energetic as ultraviolet (UV) light, there is some concern that high levels of blue light might cause more damage at the cellular level than longer wavelengths of visible light, which you perceive as the colors of red through green. Exposure to blue light is thought to have an impact on your sleep-wake cycle, compounding the problem with Coronavirus pandemic dreams.

Sources of Blue Light

Blue light occurs naturally. This is not really a concern. Where it gets troubling is adding in the light emitted from LED lights, cell phones, television sets, tablets, and laptop computers. Studies suggest that 60% of people spend more than 6 hours a day in front of a digital device (or near certain lights) so what did not used to be an issue is suddenly the elephant in the room.

Outside, light from the sun travels through the atmosphere. As it does, the shorter, high energy blue wavelengths collide with air molecules causing blue light to scatter everywhere. This is why the sky is blue. Interesting, yes?

Blue Light and Your Sleep

In its natural form, your body takes advantage of blue light from the sun to regulate your natural sleep and wake cycles.  This is called your circadian rhythm.  This light also helps boost alertness, heighten reaction times, elevate moods, and increase the feeling of well being, rather than experiencing mood swings. In the wintertime, when the period of sunshine is reduced, some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. SAD begins and ends at about the same time every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, symptoms begin in the fall and continue through the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody and glum.

Chronic exposure to blue light at night (binging on Netflix, gaming, social media) can lower the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep, and disrupt your circadian rhythm. You can’t be expected to withdraw from activities altogether, but over-the-counter melatonin supplements are quite inexpensive.

Blue Light and Your Eyesight

Blue light waves are some of the shortest, highest energy wavelengths in the visible light spectrum.  Since they are shorter, these blue, or High Energy Visible (HEV) wavelengths, flicker more than the longer, weaker wavelengths. This kind of flickering creates a glare that can reduce visual contrast and affect sharpness and clarity.

Your eyes’ natural filters don’t provide as much protection against blue light rays from the sun as we would like, of course. The same is true of your devices or from blue light emitted from fluorescent-light tubes. Prolonged exposure to blue light is thought by some researchers to be likely to result in damage to your retinas and contribute to age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to loss of vision. Opinions differ about the likelihood of this, but why take the chance?

How You Can Protect Your Eyes

Do what I do — wear anti blue light glasses. I wear them at the computer. They are inexpensive and give the screen a pleasant tint. My regular glasses have a coating that helps when I walk, run, or drive.

That’s the effect of blue light exposure on eyes and sleep. Welcome to the modern world. Please participate in the poll on the right-hand side of this page. I want to get a better feel about how others feel about blue light.

Further Reading



Looking for more great content? Visit our main site I Can Fix Up My Home or our partner sites:

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

September is National Preparedness Month

Be Prepared for Natural Disasters Like Hurricanes, Fires, Floods, Tornados, and More

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Street flooding leads to disaster
Street flooding leads to disaster
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This article was updated on 07/16/21.

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Ready.gov (owned by the Department of Homeland Security) says, “Disasters Don’t Wait. Make Your Plan Today.” Good point. We never thought our neighborhood would flood, but it did. While we had flood insurance, others did not and had to rely on FEMA. The city has been ignoring drainage issues for years, all the while issuing building permits willy-nilly. Concrete surfaces don’t absorb rain water. At some point, we will all experience fire, earthquake, or a hurricane. This is how Ready.gov suggests that we prepare.

Week 1: Make a Plan

Make your plan now. You and your family may not be together if a disaster happens, so it is key to understand which types of disasters could affect your area. You should all know how you’ll contact each other and reconnect if you become separated. Establish a family meeting place that’s familiar and easy to find. For example, a neighborhood park or a local school that might be serving as an emergency shelter.

Week 2: Build a Kit

Following an emergency, you might need to survive on your own for days. Being prepared means having your own stock of food, water and other supplies to last for several days. A disaster supplies kit is a collection of basic items your household may need in the event of an emergency. You don’t have to be an all-out prepper but having the essentials on hand is, well, essential.

Walk-in food survival pantry
Walk-in food survival pantry

In my own home, I built a pantry off the kitchen. We keep it stocked with food, water, prescription medicine, and a camp stove. Basically, the room is our kit. And we even keep a stock of toilet paper. We all remember the empty shelves when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out!

Week 3: Prepare for Disaster

Hurricanes are dangerous and can cause major damage because of storm surge, wind damage, and flooding. Don’t wait to do things like removing old dead tree limbs and securing things that have the potential to become projectiles. It’s a good idea to have a firearm or two and a stock of ammo. Just look at what Antifa and BLM are doing in our streets and society hasn’t broken down yet! No one is going to respond to your 911 call after a certain point.

Know what disasters and/or hazards might affect your area, how to get emergency alerts (an emergency crank-operated radio), and where you would go if you and your family need to evacuate.  Make sure your family has a plan and practices it often.

Don’t wait until the day before to try to find plywood, batteries, and other items.

Week 4: Teach Your Kids About Disasters

Talk to your children about being prepared for emergencies. They need to understand what to do in case you are separated. Make them feel at ease by providing information about how they can get involved. Work out scenarios and the proper responses.

National Preparedness Month is easy when it is broken down like this. The process of divide and conquer works well and gives you time to consider things you have not anticipated.

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References and Further Information



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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.


About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.