Fri. Jul 10th, 2020

Recent Posts

Buying a Pellet Stove To Save Money? Think Again

As more and more homeowners are growing concerned over “green” home improvement solutions, they tend to turn towards many products marketing as “green” alternatives, but many such options turn out to be simply marketing hype.

There are numerous environmentally friendly choices to pick from for your next home improvement project. From compact fluorescent light bulbs, to energy efficient windows, to high efficiency furnaces, the choices seem nearly endless.

Many “green” home improvement items are sensible choices. They can save you money on utility bills, lessen your dependency on natural resources and contribute to a cleaner world.

Some choices involve a tremendous amount of trade-offs in order to help the environment while others are a win win situation. Currently, a hot trend in “green” home improvement choices is an item called a pellet burning stove. This item is typically used as a supplemental heat source for a large living area within a home or in mild climates, can be used to heat the entire home.

Though a pellet stove does have some distinct advantages, this is one of those projects discussed above that can also involved significant trade-offs. For those on a tight budget and interested in making environmentally friendly upgrades to your home, a pellet stove is not a sound investment.

A pellet stove can cost up to $4,000 in up front costs. Add in an additional $2,000 for installation and you are nearing $6,000. What can you expect for the initial investment? If you are currently using electricity to heat your home, the energy savings of a pellet stove will pay for itself in about 20 years. If you are using oil to heat your home, a pellet stove can pay for itself in about 50 year. If you are using natural gas to heat your home, a pellet stove will cost you approximately 25% more per year to operate.

Now, this is a hefty amount for most of the middle class families and therefore out of the question for them to purchase it, especially for the people of New Jersey so it is better to search for NJ Heating Oil Companies near you to help you pick the right pro Heating Oil Supplier than worry about such an offer that is way out of your budget.

Ok, so a pellet stove doesn’t make economical sense to most people, but what about the environment? A pellet stove utilizes a renewable resource as its energy source and thus cuts down or eliminates the usage of natural resources, but it does not burn as cleanly as many highly efficient furnaces, nor is the upkeep as easy. Users must store pellets in a dry area and constantly go out to purchase the pellets needed for the stove. Driving to a facility to purchase the pellets utilizes gasoline in your car several times a year.

Though a pellet stove may sound like an environmentally friendly heating solution, a high efficiency natural gas furnace is likely to have less impact on the environment, cost less to operate, and contribute less to smog and other pollutants in the atmosphere.

Sometimes a “green” choice is not always as “green” as you may think. If you are interested in using a pellet stove as a supplemental heat source, it is more efficient than a typical electric space heater and would be a wise choice. But for whole house heating, there are better, “greener” choices. Save your money and choose another home improvement project.

6 Tips To Find The Best Impact Driver

Are you on the lookout of the right impact driver? Well, there are drills or hammer drills, but nothing can work when it comes to driving large screws through hard surfaces. Now, there is no dearth of Impact Drivers products in the market today but not all would be equally suitable for you. Thus, the post below offers   a pro-guide on how to choose the right impact driver.

Decide on the type

Impact drivers are majorly divided into two types- corded as well as cordless.

If you are on budget, the corded model would be great for you. They are known for excellent gear reduction and they tend to be lot cooler- compared to cordless counters. But, they are also heavier.

However, if budget is not a problem, cordless drivers would be your go-to thing. They are more powerful, more advanced and work with just all kinds of fasteners. Besides, being cordless, they make the whole process more convenient compared to corded counterparts. Whether you want to work on harder surfaces or softer surfaces, a cordless driver would be your right buddy for every surface.

You will find the cordless drivers in 12V and 18V+ ranges. The latter is obviously more powerful and can work with larger fasteners compared to the former one. Makita BTD144 18-Volt LXT is a good option if you are looking for a reliable cordless driver in 18V range. It comes with variable 3-speed power selection and assures extremely precise control on fastening.

Go for brushless motors

Once again, if budget isn’t a problem, try to look for impact drivers that come with brushless motors. Brushless motors assure more efficient operation and extend the service life of your driver. Another great advantage is that the brushless option does not generate much heat which eventually eliminates burn-out risks.  Not only that, you will often find the brushless models with advanced electronic features. These cutting-edge features allow the motor and battery to jive together which consequently enhances performance as well as keep thermal overload issues at bay.

Adjustable clutch

Won’t it be great if you can have full control on how much force you want to apply on fastener? Well, in that case, you will have to look for impact drivers that come with adjustable clutch. These clutches enable you to customize the force to be applied on fastener. This is especially relevant when you have to use the driver for smaller woodwork projects.

In-built LED lights

You will need proper visual of the surface and surrounding areas while driving in a screw into a surface. Nothing is worse that ending up with a screw driven into the wrong point. To avoid such a nuisance, it’s best to invest in an impact driver that comes with in-built LED light. The LED quotient will keep the whole area illuminated and make the operation even more effective. In fact, these lights would be especially great when you have to reach out to hard-to-reach places or if suddenly the power goes out.

Ergonomic design

Though often ignored yet this particular point is vital to ensure a comfortable operational experience with your impact driver. Try to look for an impact driver that carries a convenient ergonomic design. If you have used impact driver before, you are aware of the huge pressure it transmits to hand. But, an ergonomically designed impact driver will relieve you off the pressure and makes things a lot easier. So, drivers with rubber pistol grips would be great choice here. You will especially need an ergonomic driver when you will need to use the machine for a longer time.

Charge gauges

This particular feature is handy to understand the amount of fuel left in your driver so that you know beforehand whether or not your driver needs a charge. Some of the drivers come with gauges right on tool. However, a more convenient option would be to have gauges right on battery pack  which makes it easier to check charge status.

Final words

Always take a comparative study before you invest in an impact driver. Look for reliable models from reputed brands. Always check reviews and ratings – your chosen driver should be backed by a long line of happy users.

The Hungry Foodie: Hoosier Park Buffet Review

Rating: As buffets go in the Muncie area this is a 10 of 10.
Address: 4500 Dan Patch Circle, Anderson, Indiana 46013

Phone: (800) 526-7223

Website: http://www.hoosierpark.com/dining.html

At $10.75 for the lunch buffet, it’s well worth it. Tucked into the gaming capital of East Central Indiana-Hoosier Park Racing and Casino for the uninitiated-lays a gem of a restaurant. But then I am biased. I love buffets. They are a smorgasbord of taste when done well. Of course, not all buffets are created equal though. Here in East Central Indiana, we have Chinese buffets, places like Ryan’s and Sirloin Stockade, and pizza buffets. The variety at these sometimes is lacking, to say the least. But the small buffet inside the original racing track side of Hoosier Park is one of the two best deals around that I have been to (my review of Welliver’s in Hagerstown is forthcoming, provided they are still in business by the time I can get back down there). And, as I mentioned in my first sentence, the price is hard to beat.

For just under $11 I was able to gorge myself on perfectly browned, crispy fried shrimp, moist and juicy fried chicken (which is difficult to maintain in a buffet environment), and a variety of meats cut for you depending on the day (sausage and turkey breast were the meats on the day I went). Their lines also have pasta, calamari and green beans. I highly recommend the green beans. There is an initial sweetness to them that I find hard to describe, it is almost honey in sweetness, but that description just doesn’t quite do it justice. That light, honey-ish sweetness sweeps through your mouth and down your throat with each succulent bite too.

The shrimp were crisp and brown, something too often not the case. We’ve all seen those buffets that have soggy or nearly burnt fried shrimp, or bit into a taste of flour instead of a chunk of shrimp. This is not one of those buffets. A bite of the shrimp results in a snapping sound just as it should.

The chicken I had was surprisingly moist and juicy, a feat not easily achieved in restaurants where food stays out on steam tables. I was on my lunch break and nearly had the juice squirt out and soil my shirt once. That, I discovered, is how moist the breasts and wings are at Hoosier Park.

They do have a salad bar that has a nice selection, but I admit that I am not a salad kind of guy. Give me meat and sugar any day of the week. And that would be my cue to segue into a discussion about the desserts. I have never been to a buffet as small as this one and had such a huge selection of desert from which to choose. On both occasions I’ve been the selections must have ranged in the twenties someplace. Oodles of cheesecake, sweet potato pie, assorted cream pies and fruit pies and cakes cover three levels and three or four sections of countertop (roughly 15 feet give or take). I am not a particular fan of pie so I leave the review of those to another foodie, but as a fan of cake and cake-like desserts I highly recommend the cheesecakes-any of them.

Though small, I think this quaint place rivals those of its big brothers and sisters in Las Vegas. Our experience at two buffets in Sin City sated our needs with no problem and they were both well worth the money, which isn’t saying much considering one was free for guests and at the other one we were able to eat at with a deep discount.

So when you get over to Anderson, stop into the best little buffet in town. It’s not a gamble at all. If you want to go gastronomic gambling go down the road to a Chinese or pizza buffet. If you want to feel like you pulled one over on the house, then go to Hoosier Park and Casino.

The Best Dog Breeds For Apartment Dwellers

Many people think that the only dogs suited for apartment living are small dogs. While most of the breeds that fit into that type of lifestyle are smaller dogs, there are several large breeds that are equally happy living on a farm or in an apartment. You have choices when it comes to the best dog breeds for apartment dwellers.
I will provide you my picks for small breed, large breed and very large breed dogs for the apartment dwellers. It is the temperament and physical requirements of the dog that suits them or not to that small-space living. Whether you live in a condo or an apartment, you want a dog that not only does not need a lot of exercise, but also one that does not bark a lot. The choices may surprise you!

The Best Dog Breeds for Apartment Dwellers

Small Size Dog:The Bichon Frise

The Bichon Frise is playful, yet extremely gentle. The Bichon is quite happy with humans and other dogs. If there is no fenced yard available for your use, a daily walk about the neighborhood and some indoor games will satisfy the Bichon’s need for exercise. Several small dog breeds are yappy, but not the Bichon. You will need to groom the dog daily to prevent the hair from matting. Be sure to be patient during training. They prefer an owner who is at home with them a great part of the day.

Physical Characteristics of the Bichon:

Height: 10 to 15 inches

Weight: 11 to 22 pounds

Lifespan: 13 to 15 years

The Best Dog Breeds for Apartment Dwellers

Large Size Dog: The Greyhound

Many people have a picture in their mind of the greyhound running in circles hour after hour. That is not accurate, and the greyhound makes an excellent dog for the apartment or condo dweller. A greyhound is happy to nap on a comfy sofa or bed all day long. They do require a daily walk or two for exercise, but other than that they are great dogs for apartment dwellers. They require very little grooming and are easy to maintain. They are gentle dogs and are very quiet. There are many retired racing greyhound dogs that need to be adopted into good homes.

Physical Characteristics of the Greyhound:

Height: 28 to 30 inches

Weight: 75 to 88 pounds

Lifespan: 10 to 13 years

The Best Dog Breeds for Apartment Dwellers

Very Large Size Dog: The Great Dane

You read that right, I did say the Great Dane is a good dog for apartment dwellers. Great Danes do not bark very much which is a good thing for your neighbors. If you provide daily outdoor exercise to burn off energy, the Great Dane will be mellow and calm once indoors. They are low maintenance, just a quick daily brushing will be sufficient.

Physical Characteristics of the Great Dane:

Height: 28 to 30 inches at the shoulder

Weight: 100 to 120 pounds for adults

Lifespan: 8 to 10 years

The best dog breeds for apartment dwellers offers you choices that you never thought you had. Always do your own research, check out breeders and be a responsible pet owner by taking good care of your dog and that includes spaying and neutering. Consider a rescue dog if possible.

Survey: What Americans, Canadians Do in Their Showers

So, what do you do when you are in the shower? The majority of Americans still bathe and wash their hair, but they also participate in some other activities. These range from the dull (shaving), to the annoying (singing), to the daring (sex in the shower). GROHE, which is a leading manufacturer of bath, shower, and kitchen products conducted the survey to find out what people do in their showers. The survey asked the question about what people do in their shower to residents of both the U.S. and Canada. L.C. Williams amp; Associates released the results in a recent press release. The survey was conducted in March of this year and administered to 1,089 adults in the U.S. and 760 adults in Canada according to the press release.

The most popular answer was that people thought about problems in the shower, as 53% of both U.S. and Canadian survey respondents provided this answer. Another practical answer ranked number two with 43% of Americans and 40% of Canadians providing the answer. Twenty four percent of Canadians and twenty two percent of Americans say they spend time cleaning the shower. Interesting was the fact that more Americans (22%) and just slightly less Canadians (22% as well) have sex in the shower when compared with cleaning it.

Out of those that responded they had sex in the shower, U.S. answers indicated that 26% of American males in the survey had sex in the shower, while only 18% of American females participated in the activity. It was just the opposite with the Canadian responses as 24% of females said they had sex in the shower, while only 19% of Canadian men admitted to having sex in the shower.

“In order to continue creating innovative, luxury shower products, we wanted to understand the full shower experience of our consumers,” says Guido Bergman, vice president of marketing for GROHE. “The GROHE American Shower Survey allowed us to see beyond taking a conventional shower.”

Another popular activity for both Americans and Canadians in the shower was the the traditional “singing in the shower”. The survey found 18% of Americans and 15% of Canadians participated in this activity. The press release even indicates the top five songs that are sung in the shower. The number one song was “Singing in The Rain”, with “Amazing Grace”, “Splish Splash”, and “Hey Jude” rounding out the top four in that order.

The survey indicated that showers aren’t just for washing anymore. Both Americans and Canadians use their showers for practical and entertainment according to the survey. These uses range from washing and thinking, to sex and singing.

St. Petersburg, Florida: Derby Lane Greyhounds Shine when Saturday Night Spotlight is On

Derby Lane, the nation’s premier greyhound track located in St. Petersburg, Florida, put on one of their patented Saturday evening cards July 21st, with many of their stars on display. Brady Thomas, fresh off the 50th win of his All-American career, was featured, as was the great router Flyin Bridgeport and his arch-nemesis Phenomenal Dream. Flying Macbeth and Pistol Grip Pump, a pair of hot racers, hooked up, and Red Dirt Road tried to regain the form that had many observers thinking he was Derby Lane’s best sprinter. All of this was on tap, as well as the debut of a young puppy who would try to conjure up a Maiden victory.

That pup was named Wizards Alcatraz, an October 2005 son of K’s Roadmaster, who had a second place finish followed by two triumphs in his schooling endeavors. Sent off at odds of six dimes to the dollar, Alcatraz made a clean escape from the Maiden ranks when he blew to the front of the field and never looked back, winning in 31.82 and helping get the chalkers back on track after a rough Daily Double that saw Mister Twister upset Castle Princess and Furion in the first race and Star White rally from dead last at the first turn call to win a Grade D 3/8ths of a mile contest in the second.

Brady Thomas was such a huge favorite in the fourth that it seemed silly to even open the box and waste his time, seeing how he had just recorded his 50th win on the ultra-tough Derby Lane-Tampa circuit the start before. Beer Run must not have gotten the memo as to how good Brady Thomas was, as he gave the star all he could handle before finally falling a length short. Brady went around the 1,650 foot course after breaking from the eight box in 30.96 seconds, holding on after establishing a three length margin at the turn, embarking on perhaps his second fifty wins.

Few who follow the greyhounds at Derby Lane would argue that there is a better router on the grounds than Flyin Bridgeport, who has won six of his last seven. Unfortunately, that one setback was in the St. Pete Derby finals a few starts back, to Phenomenal Dream. This duo faced off once more on the Saturday night program, with Bridgeport in the one and Dream in the eight, boxes that their handlers would have gladly traded due to their running styles. However, Dream, despite his penchant for running the turns as if the inside was covered with broken glass, to be avoided at all costs, managed to grab the front. The race winner was a foregone conclusion when that occurred, but Dream had some work to do to allow the multitude that pounded the 1-8 quiniela down to 6-5 odds able to return those tickets to the window and get back some cash. Dream got around the turn in fourth, but he had the class to move by the pair ahead of him and finish second, some four lengths back of Flyin Bridgeport, who stayed true to form, running the turns on eggshells but flyin’ down the straight-aways to the tune of a 38.01 second clocking.

In the eighth, Red Dirt Road looked to be in a great spot to shake out of his recent doldrums. At one point the talented runner had won four Derby Lane Grade As in a row, with a fearsome late kick the main weapon employed. Lately he had looked very beatable, with just one win in his last five. That triumph was from the one hole though, and on Saturday night he was wearing red once more, the sight of which persuading the over seventeen-hundred Derby Lane faithful at the track and many more at betting parlors across the land to make him a 7-5 choice. Red Dirt Road broke okay and seemed well on his way to a win, as he made it to the turn a close fourth, well within striking distance of the leaders. However, he failed to fire and had all he could do to run third, while Beyond Reproach and Starz Supreme ran first and second respectively, leaving the fans to ponder why Red Dirt Road was a dead end this time around.

Flying Macbeth and Pistol Grip Pump were matched up in the tenth race, the last of the top grade events on this night. Both had three wins in their last four times out and this one looked to be up for grabs. It was, right up until the box opened, as Macbeth won from here to Scotland, blowing this bunch away by seven in the fastest time of the evening, a 30.75. The festivities weren’t quite over yet, as the twin-trifecta was hit in the lucky thirteenth race. The first half from the eleventh race was 1-8-7, and when All Star Boss won the thirteenth from the eight hole, ahead of the one and three dogs, the twin trifecta came back to the person who had the foresight to wager on such an outcome, giving he or she $12,683 reasons to smile.

Shaving Your Lab (Or Other Breed)

Summer is here! Time to get outside, do some spring cleaning, dust off the gardening tools and shave the lab…but before you think about shaving your lab, husky, malamute, sheltie or similar double-coated breed let me give you some things to ponder.

I’ve been grooming for 8 years and throughout them I’ve heard many reasons for why people shave their dogs. Toby sheds a lot, Jake gets hot in the summer, I can see the fleas better on Sophie, Pepper gets so matted, I like how Daisy looks when she’s shaved.

Let’s start by explaining some key things about the coat of these breeds. Labradors, Shelties, Aussies, Golden Retrievers, etc have what is referred to by professional groomers as a ‘double coat.’ They have a tougher outer coat (also referred to as ‘guard hairs) that repels water and helps protect their skin, then underneath is a soft insulating undercoat. Their coat grows to a determined length, then dies and falls out, which is the process we refer to as “shedding.” During winter months these breeds will grow very thick undercoat to insulate them from the wind and cold. Then as the months grow warmer they will shed most of the undercoat and some of the guard hair. The effect is similar to you changing out of a wool sweater to a cotton t-shirt.

You can also compare your dog’s coat to that of the tunics people wear in the desert. They wear them for protection from the sun, wind, rain, parasites and it helps to keep the sun from beating down on their skin.

If you’re still not convinced about this let me explain one more detail, dogs sweat ONLY from the pads of their paws and nose. Shaving doesn’t allow air to evaporate sweat like wearing shorts does for us. Shaving a dog is comparable to turning on the a/c and then opening the windows. Because none of the cool air is going to stay inside when you’ve take all of the blockades away.

However, these breeds may require assistance in losing their undercoat and this is when most owners look to shaving. But there are many problems with that as you shall soon see.

Since their coats grow in such a way to naturally ‘weatherize’ them, shaving is simply unnatural to how their coat works. When shaved these breeds may develop post-clipper alopecia, which is a big word for saying their hair may never grow back or grow back looking the same. Your once beautiful sheltie with it’s glorious coat may soon look more like a scarecrow with straw sticking out from everywhere. Alopecia can also turn the skin black and scaly, cause severe itching, hair to grow in patches and other similar symptoms.

Dogs who have been shaved should also never be left outside. Their skin will be very sensitive to sun burn and attract parasites.

Shaving can also make the shedding problem worse. Because instead of shedding only the soft undercoat your dog will begin to shed the (now) short prickly guard hairs. Which when stepped on can hurt as much or more than a wooden splinter.

So what IS best for your beloved canine during the scorching summer months? Start with a good bath and brush out. You can use a professional or buy your own tools. I recommend the Furminator shampoo, solution and brush for most breeds. The shampoo and solution will help loosen up the hair making it much easier to remove, then you can brush as much out as possible. In effect, you will be removing your dog’s ‘sweater,’ but at the same time leaving his protective outer coat. Just beware of brush burn and check the skin regularly to make sure it isn’t getting irritated.

Then make sure your dog has plenty of shade and water at all times. It’s even better if you can let them inside during the hottest times of the day.

So is it ever okay to shave? Not really. But in some instances there aren’t any other choices. If your dog has developed a hot spot, needs surgery or is severely matted, the only option may be to shave them. For dogs that matt easily a trim to help prevent matting is far better than shaving. And if you still want a little more drastic of a haircut it’s better to leave several inches than to shave them.

I hope this helped you in deciding whether to shave or not to shave. I trust you and your fur baby will have a wonderful summer!

Rounders Review

Greetings fellow film fans!
Uno dos tres! Ichi ni san! One two three!

That’s right, review number three!

So I cast a wandering eye over my ever growing (not as fast as I would like mind you) DVD collection to decide what I should review next…well I say review, but I like to think of it like more like a random collection of thoughts about films that I have enjoyed, oh and that reminds me I really should post a review about something that I didn’t enjoy (note to self, that’s what I will do next…any suggestions fellow film fans?? Oh and it’s far too easy if someone suggests a Catherine Zeta-Jones film!)…and there it was…like the final piece of BBQ chicken sitting on the last slice of a pan pizza…one of my favourites…”Rounders”!

As you have probably noticed by now I don’t provide a detailed scene by scene plot synopsis of the films that I review …if you want to know about every scene in a film…Wiki it! So if that’s what you are after then perhaps this is not the review to read however do come back once you want to get someone else’s opinion (you know you want to…)

Oh and just on a side note, I think that the reason I feel so strongly about refraining from providing a detailed plot outlines is due to the fact that I started to read one about “Arlington Road” (brilliant film with Jeff Bridges, Tim Robbins, and Joan Cusack) and it gave away intricate plot points which kind of spoiled the mystery….NEVER AGAIN I TELL YOU!

Ok, so on to the review!

“Rounders” is a gem of a film, a diamond in the rough…however its the sort of thing that you would probably walk past as it blends into the background on the shelf between “Robin Hood: Men in Tights” and “The Rock”…destined to be forgotten about and end up in the $2.99 clearance bin.

Now in case that has happened to you, or perhaps this is the first time that you have heard of “Rounders” I implore you to give it a chance because you will not be disappointed.

A rounder is defined as “a hustler” or “a dissolute or rakish person”, someone not to be trusted or believed…so why is it then that this film works on so many levels and is oh so very difficult for me to categorise it to a genre?

Starring a very youthful Matt Damon (fresh from his turn as Private Ryan in Steven Spielberg’s epic “Saving Private Ryan”) as Mike McDermott a former rounder who is working the legitimate life in order to put himself through law school. Damon exudes coolness, charm, and bucket loads of integrity in the role of the man trying to go legit for his girlfriend and to make a real go for the future.

We want him to succeed. We like the guy. But we know that there is more there…layers…and Damon carries the duality of his role with ease, just as it was easy for the audience to see that this actor was destined for bigger roles.

Edward Norton (who was to follow this role with an Oscar nominated performance in “American History X”) is the embodiment of his moniker – Worm. From the first moment on screen to his last, Worm is a slimy, charismatic, and selfish character but one that the Norton plays with relish and the audience can see that he is having a lot of fun with the role.

McDermott and Worm are best friends from school who have a history of rounding together and while they have a difference in personality and morals, they are 2 sides of the same coin.

Worm IS the conflict in the drama which keeps the story moving, without the conflict, the worm doesn’t turn (I knew that I could insert that in somewhere…)

Martin Landau’s portrayal of Judge Abe Petrovsky is one of the highlights. His story of the Yeshiva is brilliantly performed and really hammers home the theme of the destiny and self knowledge to the audience.

John Malkovich as Teddy KGB is an interesting figure, and the Mike’s voice over articulates what we the audience are thinking, he doesn’t look like much…but you know that he shouldn’t be messed with…I did like the oreo’s though, a very nice quirk.

I think that one of the things that I love about this film is that there are so many layers and during every viewing I find something new to appreciate about it. The central theme is about the acceptance of destiny, the inability to fight the inevitable, about knowing who you are and the pressures and expectations that we place on ourselves and our friends.

The relationship between McDermott and Worm is like watching a compulsive gambler bet his mortgage pay check on the roulette table, you know what is going to happen but there is always hope that it could turn out differently…and I still feel like that every time I watch it!

So what didn’t I like about this film…well namely its Gretchen Moll as Jo (Mike’s girlfriend). I have nothing against Gretchen Moll and I think she did a fine job here but the character is possessive, high maintenance, and I really wouldn’t be changing anything to accommodate her if I were Mike McDermott…in a heartbeat I would have spent a little more time reconnecting with Famke Janssen as Petra. Yes, yes I would.

Review of Eureka Maxima 4700A Upright Vacuum

I went for the Maxima primarily because I am cheap. After months of watching my nearly four year old Dirt Devil miss fuzz or string or many tiny particles, we decided a new vacuum was in order.

I had a few priorities. Cheapness I already mentioned. Our house is small and we have mostly hardwoods which means that I do not want to buy a Dyson for a handful of area rugs. With the hardwoods in mind, I also wanted something that could do a basic sweep on hard floors as well.

Finally, I had been fed up by the constantly troublesome adventure of looking for vacuum bags with the Dirt Devil. This also was a major sticking point for me. I can’t remember now which size mine was (B, Y, U?). I do know that it was apparently the size which is never available in my local grocery stores or in my local Target, Walmart, Kmart.

So my needs drew me to the Eureka Maxima 4700A. This was a vacuum seemingly made for me. 12 amps-about as powerful as I have seen. Bagless, Micro-filtration with a very easily emptied dust cup. A couple of tools, like the wand I occasionally use on the floor moulding or on the grill of the bathroom fan. 25 foot cord. This baby looked like it had it all.

I found mixed reviews for it on Amazon.com, but decided that the majority of the negative reviews sounded either like inappropriate condemnations (something like, “I gave this product 1 star because it arrived late”) or the customer had received a lemon (“mine blew up the first time I used it”). In either case, buying locally with the option of returning it would solve most of those potential problems.

Hence, I am now the proud owner of a Maxima and I am loving it. It really picks up everything on the rug (something I began to doubt was possible for a vacuum when I was making excuses for the Dirt Devil-and yes I replaced the belt). It is a little more iffy on the bare floors. You are still going to have to Swiffer, but I wasn’t ever really expecting much. The Maxima was not intended to be a mop. So I am still simply pleased that it picks up large items.

The dust canister is really very simple to clean out, but every once in a while you will have to wash off the filter. It does cake up after a while and require a run under the hose or faucet. Also, be sure that you let the filter dry completely before putting it back into the dust canister.

My biggest disappointment was that I paid 69.99 for it at Sears. We were on a tight schedule and I had not seen it offered at Lowes for 60.82. With gas prices I was not going to be saving a nickel after a return trip to Sears and then one to Lowes. This would be especially true if I caught a lemon at Lowes after knowing that I did not already have one from Sears.

The Eureka Maxima 4700A has served us admirably for upwards of three months, and I couldn’t be happier.

Product Review: Sweepeze Automatic Vacuum And Dustpan

I came across a Sweepeze a few years ago when I was looking for an automatic vacuum cleaner. I wanted a whole-house vacuum system, but realized it would be difficult with my old house and its plaster walls. I had seen some heaters and small AC-type units that were self contained and fit below the floor, so that it looked like a vent. I wondered if there was a vacuum that functioned like this. Instead, I found a separate, self-contained unit that was part vacuum and part dustpan. Here are my thoughts on the unique gadget known as the Sweepeze.

The Sweepeze is a small box with a hole near the bottom and a knob on the side. It look deceptively simple. The unit actually contains an electric eye system. If dust or crumbs break the beam of light between the eyes, it turns the powerful vacuum on for a few seconds. The knob on the side also allows you to set it to go off occasionally on its own. I personally do not care for this setting, because I’d rather have the dirt gone immediately and my cats were very frightened when the Sweepeze went off.

The best way I’ve found to use the Sweepeze is to leave it in one place and sweep around it. When the entire kitchen is swept, I sweep the dirt into the machine, and it vacuums it all up. Then I turn the knob to turn it off. It would sound to someone who hasn’t used the machine that this is a silly way to spend about $50, if all it does it replace a dustpan. But to me, the cost is worth it. I am able to do more housework, because I do not have to find the dustpan, which is invariably not with the broom. Also, for those with a Swiffer, it’s especially useful. Swiffers are great for picking up dust, but don’t do as well when kids have dropped actual pieces of food. With the Sweepeze, I can simply run through the kitchen with a Swiffer after each meal, sweep it into the Sweepeze, and empty it once a day. Also, for those with back or joint problems, it is extremely helpful. Instead of bending and holding a dustpan, they can sweep the crumbs into the Sweepeze and empty it even less often. Several of my older relatives think it’s a great gadget to help them keep up with their housekeeping, without causing them pain or wearing them out. Also, it uses a HEPA filter, so when the dust goes in, you can be confident that it’s actually in. Finally, who hasn’t struggled with being the only person in the house and needing to sweep something into a dustpan? It’s very difficult for one person to maneuver, and you end up needing a third tool, a small hand broom, to sweep things into the dustpan, which you then carry to the trash. The Sweepeze canister holds a lot, and you can go quite long without emptying it. It’s great for automating your cleaning routing.

One downside is the fact that it only works on hard floors, so it is not the whole-house vacuum I was hoping to find. It is a good alternative though. And as I mentioned, pets are very frightened of it, especially when it comes on without warning. Also it is necessary to have a place flat enough to have the entire base flat against the tile. The reason for this is simple. If the dust goes under the electric eye, it will not turn the machine on, and it is also much more likely to get trapped under the machine and not sucked up. This is fine for hardwood floors and floors with large tiles, but those with small tiles would have problems.

Despite the drawbacks, it’s a great gadget. It lets my kids sweep, without having to master how to hold a dustpan. And unlike dustpans, which leave behind a little line of dust that is always impossible to sweep up, the Sweepeze always gets every crumb and speck of dust. I love this, and I don’t know how I swept my floors without it.