Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Removing Red Stains From Carpet.

In the late 1990's, my wife and I had the sure fire way to avoid red stains in the dining room. This was to install wine colored carpet in said room. As with any color other than neutral, it made the room look very dated. Fast forward about ten years and we participated in Big Brothers, Big Sisters. We had a very nice young man stay over (he was 10 at the time) and he spilled grape soda on our nearly white carpeting in the living room. We were renting at the time (sold our house in 2000, long story) and these stains are impossible to get out with carpet cleaners. Even people who do this for a living will use a two part treatment to make the stain invisible and it is expensive. More often than the not, the carpet will have to replaced or the stained part cut out and a new section installed. Either the carpet will never look right, or you spend beau coups bucks on replacing it; not to mention moving all your stuff around to get it done.

I can do a lot of things, but carpeting is not one of them. When my wife spilled a glass full of fruit punch in our dining room, I was livid. We don't even buy colored juice drinks for this very reason, but Subway so lovingly supplies this stuff to unwitting parents daily. If it gets on anything lighter than it is, you're going to have a potentially expensive headache. Domestic issues aside, there is a solution short of replacing your carpeting or furniture, much less screaming at your spouse or children. Scold them if you must, but I would try this first.

As with anything I suggest, there is the potential for personal injury or property damage. You could follow the directions to the letter and still mess something up. I have no control over your work or any other issues involved. Do this at your own risk.

You'll need an iron, some white towels or cloth diapers, a faucet, and some Dawn dish washing soap. Not the foam, but the original, blue Dawn. Accept no store brands or substitutes. Get your cloth diaper or towel wet and then add the Dawn to it. Work it in the cloth without wringing it too much. Then fold it in half and lay it over the stain. Set your iron to the highest setting and lay it on the cloth until the cloth starts to steam. After a minute, lift up the iron and check the cloth. The stain should be transferring from the carpet to the cloth. This is where intuition comes in. Once the cloth can't accept more of the stain, turn it over and see how much more of the stain you can bring up. Use the cloths and iron, moving them around until the stain is no longer visible on the surface you're cleaning up. Take your time and don't let the cloth get dry or place a hot iron on the carpet or you will be replacing it. If you do it right, you've saved a lot of money and maybe even your relationship. Maranatha!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Goodbye to an Old Friend.

Since my wife and I married seventeen years ago, we've lived in no less nine addresses including our first apartment in 1994. In 1997 we got two kittens, Misty and Snowflake. Misty had to be put down in 2009 due to health issues, so for the past two years we've had one cat; a white domestic shorthair we aptly named Snowflake. He had amber eyes, and was the most personable, outgoing and laid back feline I've had the pleasure of meeting. Even at nearly fifteen years old, 105 in cat years, he was in remarkable health. He played, got on the bed and bugged us in the morning. He always nipped and never licked, and never meowed until his health started to wane a bit.

Snowflake, spent more time hiding, sleeping and kicking back and a lot less time eating as shown by his food dish. We didn't put two and two together until last evening, when he really started acting lethargic. Even when I picked him up and put him on my lap, he never struggled or tried to get up. Even when I tried moving him off, he was a dead weight (no pun intended). As the evening wore on, he closed his eyes more and he started to drool. Trying to rouse him showed that his coordination was completely off and touching his side brought a pitiful protest.

To make matters worse, trying to find a vet at this hour, either to euthanize or save the life of our cat was equally daunting. One vet wanted $70 to put him down and another $65 to "dispose" of the body. This is twice the price of a local one in Grand Ledge, but they weren't open.

Snowflake's condition was going south fast, making this point moot. I put him in a tote, lid off with a blanket inside and he barely moved. His breathing at this point shallow and it was 11 last night. I went to bed at 12:30 this morning and by 1:00 my wife woke me up. Snowflake was gone.

Not only was he gone, but all those days of climbing on the refrigerator to greet us as we came home. No more walking along the bathtub and falling in, with a very soaked cat darting out and his owner scrabbling to dry him. We've had to close the bedroom door for nearly as long because my wife complained that he would share her pillow. He was a constant companion while I wrote this and and nearly 200 other blog posts, and countless term papers. He greeted everyone with an attitude of friendliness and the air of a perfect host. He loved and was loved by every young child who graced our home. So much so he would hide by me when they got too overbearing. Even a gracious host has his limits. When Kingston and Jose came to stay with us, Snowflake, still the gracious one showed kindness to them too. He adopted them as surely as my wife and I did.

Snowflake was an animal and this writer could never equate an animal with another human being. But this one was a part of the family and will forever be. Our boys want a dog or another cat. My wife isn't really in the mood for another animal at this point. I think with time she'll change her mind. All in good time.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Understanding 78% Efficient Furnaces.

As of this writing and to the best of this writer's knowledge, the minimum A.F.U.E. (annual fuel utilization efficiency) on a gas furnace is 78%. This means that 78% of your energy dollar heats your home and the other 22% keeps the chimney warm. When natural gas was cheap, this wasn't a big deal and the savings on the first cost might be justified to someone who didn't want to take the plunge for a base 80%. The only real difference that this writer can see between the two is the 78 has a standing pilot while the 80 has a spark ignitor on early models and a hot surface ignitor on later models. As the price of natural gas seems to go up every year, even the 80% furnace seems to be going the way of the standing pilot light.

There are more than a few of these 78% furnaces out there and for the most part they do their job reliably. Just change the filter and service them once a year and they'll give you years of trouble free heating. To the service tech however, these can be counter intuitive. The idea of having a standing pilot and an inducer motor seems a contradiction, but these do work. The inducer does cause the pilot flame to flicker and can blow it out after a time. This is usually after the inducer has been running for an extended amount of time after the main burner has failed to light and not a problem with the pilot flame itself. Make sure the burner is clean and the flame surrounds the thermocouple though. As with any standing pilot, the thermocouple or gas valve may need replacement if there are problems with flame staying on as well. If the flame does stay on when you light it and release the plunger on the gas valve, it should stay on long enough for the main burners to light. Just adjusting the pilot flame will not correct an underlying problem. A call back will be the result.

First and foremost, check to make sure the main burners come on within a few seconds of the inducer coming on. You should be able to hear the pressure switch at the inducer click and the main valve at the gas valve open, followed by main burners. If not, you need to check the pressure switch hose for cracks, damage, etc. The spud on the inducer motor gets really hot on these and the hose will tend to crack after 10 or 20 years on hot metal. If the hose is alright, put a tee somewhere on it and check it with a manometer against the rating on the pressure switch. Do not condemn the pressure switch without checking with a manometer and an ohmmeter. You'll have a call back at best and a prison sentence, or wrongful death lawsuit if you change the value of the switch. These seldom fail anyway. If the reading you're getting is wrong the vent could be plugged, the inducer motor could be breached, or the heat exchanger could be cracked or blown out. You, the technician need to determine the actual cause and not just "cut and run" which is running the risk of the furnace not operating. Take your time and do the whole job. Your customers will love you. Maranatha!