I Saw Everything!

Believe it or not, I’m not referring to witnessing a crime, or even last night’s viewing on that wall mounted TV I have an obsession with referring back to!

No, I’m talking saws, the things that cut wood. And more specifically my handy dandy brand new mitre saw. It’s been one of those years, where I’ve been nagged (more than occasionally) about sorting out some skirting board in the house near the front door that really has seen better days. Last weekend it occurred to me that I’d been missing a trick, though. What better time to buy a new power tool that when the wife really wants something fixing?

As you can imagine, that spurred me into life, even though I’d missed the Black Friday sales by a weekend. While I was doing some research on the Bosch mitre saw range, I discovered that Amazon have sales rolling on right up to the big day, so there were still some pretty good deals to be had. For example, their Bosch GCM 8 SJL review on mitresawzone.com suggested suggested that it was a premium model, with a price to match. As luck had it though, Amazon had it on sale with almost a quarter off.

You see, one of the things I find almost as exciting as buying new power tools and bringing them home is doing the research on them. The internet is full of weird and wonderful websites, it’s not just about Twitter and Facebook. In fact, I’ve managed to avoid Twitter altogether, and Facebook isn’t something I often use, apart from clicking the odd ‘Like’ button on a DIY website from time to time.

Buying tools isn’t something I like to do blind, and while I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what I’m looking for, it’s always good to get a second opinion on what each make and model are good for. Bosch provide good information on their own website, but I can’t help but feel that you’re reading what they want you to read – they’re hardly going to draw attention to where their own products fall short, are they?

Since I took delivery on Tuesday of my new mitre saw, courtesy of a polite but slightly annoyed looking courier, I’ve been doing even more research. It’s amazing what I’ve been cutting up – just to try out all the clever features to get that perfect angle so everything fits flush. Of course, I’m getting closer to seeing ‘that look’ again. I can’t imagine it will be long before the conversation turns to the fact that I’ve paid hundreds of pounds for a saw and the skirting board still isn’t sorted. But, you know, I’m practising so I really know what I’m doing, and as I said before – I saw everything!

Watch Out – You’re On TV!

It’s been quite some time since we last posted to the website, so we thought it was time to make an effort and add something new. Last time, we were based at our South Yorkshire office, and talking about saving energy with things like the Green Deal and ECO plans. The Green Deal finally got put to bed earlier this year after a long and painful death – it never really got going and became a political football until the Tories finally put it to bed once and for all after kicking Cleggy and his mates out of the cabinet office.

While all that’s been going on, we’ve not fitted any boilers or anything else we’ve been talking about in previous posts, as we’ve been busy on a joint venture completing CCTV installations in Yeovil in the South West. We’ve been doing a lot of work advising their installations team on things they can do to scale their business.

Home security has enjoyed a boom in popularity and surfed on the wave of the increase in crime that higher than average unemployment rates have caused since 2008. It’s no secret that harder times for household budgets tend to correlate with an increase in burglaries as desperate people go to desperate measures. That is bad news for victims of crime, but good news for companies who supply wireless home CCTV kits that are very fast and simple to fit, even for the most unskilled home owner.

We’re soon planning to continue our plans in the South of England, this time fitting CCTV in Slough on our next project, and after that we’ll be returning to Yorkshire to plan our roll out in the North. The technology is now quite remarkable, and we’re finding it relatively easy to complete four complete CCTV installations per day from our testing in the Yeovil area. That includes not only the camera installations, but also the recording equipment which is usually a hard drive recorder that communicates with the cameras over an encrypted wifi connection, similar to that used by a laptop or home computer to connect to the web.

It’s a great solution for anyone to protect their home and family, especially at times in life when you feel most that you need to be safe, perhaps with a newborn in the nursery, or perhaps just to protect that big new TV on the wall in the living room.

Going Green – Energy Saving The Cheap Way

One of the biggest trends in home improvement at the moment is to become more eco friendly, and there are plenty of ways to jump on the bandwagon. The motivation for this trend is obvious, we’re all sick to death of the ever rising energy bills that will only get worse as time goes on. Anything we can do to reverse or even just slow that trend is more attractive than ever.

There are two groups of activities that you can use to get the bills under control, to use less energy, and to make sure that what you do use isn’t wasted.

Reducing What You Pay For The Energy You Use

There are two simple approaches to minimizing the total energy bill. The first is to make sure you’re on a competitive energy tariff, and the second is to ensure that the way you use energy is efficient.

Switching to a more competitive tariff is easy, you just need to head over to an energy comparison site and plug in your details. They’ll do all the number crunching, and in most cases even start the switching process for you.

The second way to cut your bill sounds far more expensive, as the majority of our spend on energy bills tends to be accounted for by the boiler. Of course, there are the usual steps that everyone knows, like knocking down the thermostat by a degree or two, but we’re mainly already doing that and in danger of being cold all winter if it gets nudged down any further. You might be surprised to learn that changing the boiler altogether might be your solution, even though it sounds expensive. Replacing a boiler typically costs between £1500 and £2000, so you would be forgiven for thinking it’s not going to make much of a difference if you’re paying a £150 a month bill.

There’s some good news though, and we’ve touched on it before with the Green Deal (twice!). It allows you to get the up front installation costs paid for, and you repay that cost out of the bill savings. However, this doesn’t help people who either won’t save enough to meet the Golden Rule of the Green Deal (the bill savings must at least cover repayments) or aren’t prepared to accept paying back a loan even though they should be better off as a result. For these people, and they’re more likely to be people on benefits or allowances, there are two additional initiatives called ECO and Affordable Warmth that can actually mean you qualify for free boilers. You can often get a free quote for the work from a good Sheffield plumber.

Becoming More Energy Efficient

When you are spending as little as possible on your bill for the energy you use because you’re on the best tariff and have a efficient boiler, the next step in reducing the bills is to look at where you’re wasting what you are using. That couls be things like preventing a draught getting through the letter box, or closing window vents when its really cold outside. Of course, you need to consider the health benefits of having good ventilation too – in some parts of the country, radon gas comes up through the ground, so you don’t want to be trapping that inside for too long. The name of the game is common sense. If you have the heating on full blast and the windows open, you’ll be losing a lot of the heat very fast.

Taking a multi pronged approach to reducing bills is very effective – it might surprise you to learn that if you get it right, you can pay less for a warmer home. That should be the biggest incentive you ever hear to become more energy efficient!

More From The Green Deal

It’s been about six weeks since we first talked about the Green Deal here on Home Improvements Blog, and wanted to give you a bit of an update, thanks to some information we got from one of our readers. Last time, we were talking about solar panels and how they can help to reduce your bills. The Green Deal provides one way of doing that without all the expense associated with getting them installed on your roof (although you often need to part-pay for them up front).

We had an email from Tony from Derby telling us that there’s a lot more to know about the Green Deal, which we didn’t make perfectly clear last time. For example, some of the more popular types of work completed with funding under this plan is to get a replacement boiler or insulation in your wall cavities or loft space.

What’s more, many companies are charging for the bookings in the Derby area under the Green Deal, as you need to arrange an assessment to see if you qualify, but there are a number of companies who waive this fee so that it’s truly available with no up front cost. As an example, you can book a Green Deal assessment with Derby Green Deal, provided you are happy to answer a few questions over the phone about your property first.

So, there’s the extra info you need to take advantage – before you go back to watching Dexter on your wall mounted TV!


Preparing For Baby: Decorating The Nursery

The nine months of pregnancy (particularly with a first child) are probably both the most exciting and most terrifying times that people face in their lives. There’s so much to learn about the upcoming arrival, not least the process of giving birth itself, and adjusting to being truly responsible for someone else for the first time.

There’s also more practical considerations too, like choosing the room for baby’s nursery. For some people their homes dictate that there’s only one practical choice, but for others, you’ll find yourself thinking about the best location to be close enough to tend to, but far enough away to avoid disturbing the precious sleep time!

Decorating the nursery is a very personal task, choosing unisex colors if you’re leaving finding out your baby’s gender until the birth, or perhaps edging towards colors for a boy or girl if you’ve already found out.

Planning the bedroom for your newborn is about a lot more than color schemes, paint and wallpaper though, it’s about making it a warm and happy place, and also about safety. You can find a lot of expert advice on pregnancy websites, which focus on a lot more than just the best positions to get pregnant! There’s a lot to consider, like the child’s cot, mattress and a mobile to soothe them to sleep. There’s also optional items that many parents rely on, including baby monitors and night lights.

Beyond the nursery itself, you’ll need stair gates too from about six months or so, ready for when your baby gets mobile – that’s where the real fun begins!

Getting your home ready for bringing baby home from hospital is a fun and rewarding experience. Don’t leave it too late though, as any soon to be mum will find the practical side of decorating harder as the pregnancy progresses, even once the nesting urges kick in, and of course you never know when your new family addition will make his or her appearance and you’ll find yourself hurriedly booking your Manchester Taxi ride to the maternity wing!