Let’s be quite clear about one thing: an individual working on their own can do virtually nothing to slow global warming. Thankfully, however, humans are social animals and the normal way of living is to work together and co-operate with each person contributing some, complementary, skills in order to compete tasks that are much bigger than any one individual working on their own could achieve.
Assuming you are reading this at home, have a look round the room. Absolutely everything in that space and the place that it occupies is there because of individual choice. Now go ask a neighbour if you can look round one of their rooms (or imagine a neighbour’s room you have been in). Does it look identical? Chances are it will not. It may look pretty similar but even if it contains the same objects, they will most likely be of different colour, material and place of manufacture. Things will be arranged differently, if it is a living room the chairs and settees will have different number of sitting places. Yet everything in that room, and its location, is there as a result of individual choice. Each human is genetically different from the other and the way we dress and furnish our homes bears witness to our individuality (although we sometime choose to give that when we join a group and wear a uniform, for example).
Now, fix your gaze onto one item in the room. Where has it come from? How it get from there to here? What is it made from? If it is made from components, where did they come from? How many people were involved in the manufacture process? How many people in the distribution process? How many workers and how many managers? What about a Sydney plumber, using a diesel powered electricity generator? Are any of these things affecting the bigger picture with Global Warming – whatever that is.
All of them will have exercised some choices to find themselves in the situation where there actions and their decisions have made it possible for you to look at that object now. Truth is: modern human civilisation under capitalism is an amalgam of individual decisions that combined makes an amazing feat of managing complexity, of collaboration and of getting things done.
When we study history that is exactly what we study: his story. The study of history is to study the role and contribution of men and women and how they have shaped the course of the world. For virtually all of history is the study of the actions of individuals and how they have shaped the response of those around them. To understand how and why they made such decisions we usually read the biographies and auto-biographies of great people and many try to emulate them. But for every documented shaper of history there are thousands, maybe millions of undocumented ones that have just as powerful a role for they have influenced their friends and contributed to the growth of a “trend”. Trends are those unknowable, unseeable and unpredictable energies that shape how our societies evolve. No one is in charge yet we all have influence.
Earlier we looked at an object in your room and contemplated where it came from, who made it, and how it got from the originator to you. And it is here that the great mystery of the marketplace occurs. What would have happened if you had not bought it? Maybe someone else would have bought it maybe they wouldn’t have. And the response of the original producer (and those who handled it in its journey to you) is dependent on your decision. Because we are similar and like to get into groups, we influence each other in our behaviours and our choices. Some things are clearly accepted, something things are clearly not. The same thing happens with products and services. Each time we make a decision to buy or not to buy, we send a tiny whisper back to the producer and to our friends. When the choice is positive, that tiny whisper says “I like that, make more of them”: when the choice is to reject, the whisper says “nice try and I hope you find some other mug to take that stock from you”. When other individuals make their choices, the whisper grows to being the roar of the market and the producing company will respond accordingly. Business is a tough game and it does take a certain bunch of characteristics to be successful at it.
So, if our modern civilisation is a miracle of organisation and communication, how come we face the problem of global warming and the resultant climate change?
The answer to this might surprise you.
Politicians and governments do not control capitalism; it controls them, which is why politicians are always scared of markets. But the system itself is based on a false accounting. Our modern system is still reliant on an invention of 15th century Italian accountants: double-entry book-keeping. This system not only changed the way people did think about business activity but the way they could think. The outcome of activity was no longer in the hands of the Gods but could now be quantified and various activities compared against each other to see which was most “worthwhile”.
So powerful and complete was the concept that we still rely upon it today to drive how we account for our economic activity. Unfortunately, the world was a very different place then: we had not discovered any meaningful use for fossil fuels, there were many fewer people on the planet and the world view the inventors had was no doubt heavily influenced by Catholic doctrine, complete with man’s dominion over other life forms. Little wonder, then, that the idea that there might be a cost associated with using the Earth’s resources and services never occurred to them.
Economics is supposed to answer the question of how best humans can maximise scarce resource but the way we account for our economic activity makes the ludicrous assumption that the planet’s resources and services are not only unlimited but that there is no cost attached to their use. Had our numbers remained at the few hundred million they were when the accountancy system was developed, we might have got away with that assumption. With the planet’s population now at 7 going on 9 billion, it is clear that this assumption is no longer fit for purpose. Money is the most powerful motivator humans have ever invented but unless we can bring the ecosystem together with the economy, we will continue to struggle. We will continue to run a system that encourages people to destroy the environment simply so they can “make a living”.
There are two things you can you do to change this.
First, the majority of the world’s population live in democracies and politicians listen to their electorate. Tell your representatives at a local and national level that you want them to take the problem of global warming and the resultant climate change seriously. Tell them you believe the solution is to reform the way we account for our economic activity so that people can make a living out of protecting and restoring the environment rather than from polluting it. If the don’t think that is possible, remind them that we made up the rules once before but got it wrong and that politicians are paid to find solutions to the big problems in society.
Second, remember earlier I said that your choices in the market place sent tiny whispers back to the producers and to your friends? Well, people are more likely to copy the actions of people they admire and respect and one of the quickest ways to achieve respect is to do as you say. In other words, align your actions to your words so both are sending the same message. That way you increase the chances that your behaviours are copied that the roar of the marketplace will demand a safe, clean world.
Global warming is supposedly driven by the fossil fuelled energy we use and deforestation. This means that to have an impact you need to look at your life in two ways: the food that you eat and the energy you consume.
Food production is responsible for around one third or all of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions but not all foods are equally to blame. Fossil energy is used in livestock production systems to widely differing extents, for example, broiler chicken production is the most efficient, but it still needs an input of 4 kcal of fossil energy for each 1 kcal of broiler protein produced. Milk production, based on a mixture of two-thirds grain and one-third forage, sees the energy in/energy out ratio rise to a ratio of 14:1 but the real drain on energy use is beef and lamb. Even using livestock systems mixing forage with grain feed, beef has a ratio of 40:1 for energy in to energy out. Obviously no one only eats meat for their diet but the differences in impact you can achieve are quite amazing: a diet based primarily on fruit, vegetables and pulses will have an environmental impact of around a third that of a diet containing meats. Furthermore, increasing the intake of fibre, fruit and vegetables will also have significant beneficial health benefits, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers and other chronic diseases. It makes sense to change the balance of your diet toward more fruit, vegetables and pulses.
The second place to look to lighten your impact and show leadership is in the energy you use. Individual energy use is nearly as unique as the genetic make up of the individual but there are three areas to examine for, in aggregate, they will be of more or less equal importance. They are, transportation, heating & lighting your home and the things that you buy (other than food, which we have just dealt with). There are a lot of guides available to help you work out what your personal emissions are but one I find quite easy to use is called One Planet Living, which shows you how many planet Earths we would need if everyone copied your behaviour.
Broadly the areas to be aware of and seek to reduce are;
Transportation: here the critical driver is the number of miles you cover and, to a lesser extent, the number of people in the vehicle. It might surprise you that a full aircraft gets about as many passenger miles per gallon as a car with two people in it. The big difference is that a flight between say London and New York will be as far as the car may travel in a year. Very simple rule: cut the miles, cut the emissions. Cycling, walking and sailing are all pretty much carbon-free activities so try and get as much of your travel as possible done with those methods.
In heating & powering your house, if you live in the UK, for example, you will use much more energy on heating your house than you will on electricity but because the fuel used to generate the electricity (which still uses a lot of coal), the electricity generates more emissions per unit. If you also consider that some of the electrical energy is wasted through in generating and distribution inefficiency, give equal priority to cutting your use of both. Best way to cut your heating bills is to insulate the roof and wall and cut drafts from windows and doors or, simply, getting used to a lower ambient temperature. As for electricity switching to a renewable energy supplier is a quick and highly impactful step, hundreds if not thousands of times more powerful than unplugging a mobile phone charger!! If that option is unavailable to you, invest in buying an energy monitor and experimenting with it to see where your biggest savings can be made.
Lastly, with the stuff you buy, realise that happiness is most often found in human interaction rather than things. This means cutting down on the physical purchases and treating yourself to some nice service based treats. When you buy “things” buy from as near home as possible and find out as much as you can on how they were made.
There maybe some people reading this who do not think the personal actions are “strong” enough: they are certainly not intended as instructions for achieving zero-carbon living. But as I said at the beginning, humans are social creatures and global warming and the resultant climate change is the biggest threat we have ever faced to the very fabric of our being. Global warming and the resultant climate change will not be solved by the privation of a few individuals. What an individual can best do to slow global warming is to lead by example, encourage others to join them and demand of our politicians the actions that will sweep up those who refuse to act.
There are solutions to global warming and resultant climate change but the way we have arranged our accounting system is tilted against their adoption. It is up to us to demand they are put in place.
Harold Forbes is Author of “How to be a Humankind Superhero: making your actions count more than a bit”.
First published in 2010 “How to be a Humankind Superhero” was described as a “fine and heartfelt piece of work” (Iain Banks, author) that “hits the elusive balance between the analytic and the practical” (Jonathan Porritt, author and environmental campaigner). The book uses the myth of Hercules to provide individuals with twelve impactful action areas to fight climate change and inspire action by politicians.
A fully revised and updated edition was published in 2013 and you can download a FREE PDF copy at [http://www.hksuperh.com]
Climate change has been described as the greatest threat facing humankind and “How to be a Humankind Superhero” empowers and inspires meaningful individual action to fight it.
It’s early in the morning and you’re fast asleep. Suddenly, a loud noise wakes you. Climbing out of bed you search for the source, but finding nothing wrong you return to your warm bed. It isn’t until later that morning when, entering your garage to leave the house, you see it. The broken spring on your garage door.
Broken Garage Door Spring? – You’re Not Alone
So your garage door spring is broken and you need to get to get to work or get the kids to school. Of all the luck, you think, this had to happen to you today. You may feel like your the first person this has happened to, but garage door springs are one of the most called on repairs in the garage door industry.
Garage door springs support the entire weight of the garage door. The springs are wound or stretched under pressure, tightening and loosening as you close and open the garage door. It’s the garage door springs, not the garage door opener, that supports and lifts the 300 plus pounds of weight of the garage door.
Like anything else under pressure, eventually your springs will break. Don’t worry, you aren’t the first person this has happened too. Garage door springs break all the time, and especially now that it’s getting colder out
So what do you now? Read on!
Repairing Your Garage Door Springs – The 4 Step Processes
Step 1 – Get your car out of the garage
First, you probably need to get your car out of the garage. Pull the red emergency release cord located above the door to enable you to manually lift the door. Be careful, the garage door will be heavier since the spring is what renders the door weight neutral. If it’s too difficult to open yourself have a neighbor or a family member help you. If you accidentally drop the door while lifting it DO NOT try to stop the door with your foot. A 300 pound wall dropping on your foot is going to ruin your day.
Step 2 – Identify Your Spring
Next identify which type of garage door spring you have: Extension or Torsion.
A torsion spring runs across a bar at the top of the inside of the garage door. The spring is wound and under immense tension. It’s the tension of the torsion spring that lifts the weight of the garage door.
Extension springs are on either side of the door, perpendicular to it. These springs act like big, steel rubber bands, stretching as the garage door is lowered. The natural tendency of the stretched spring is to lift the door.
Torsion and extension springs exert a force equal to the weight of your garage door. This counter balances the 200 to 300 pound garage door rendering it weight neutral so it can be easily opened. If your garage door springs break you can still manually open the door, you just need to exert that much more force to open it.
Step 3 – Buy New Springs
Now that you know what type of spring you have, you need to purchase new ones.
You’ll want to replace all of your garage door springs at the same time. Why? Typically garage door springs are installed at the same time. Having undergone similar aging and weathering, one broken garage door spring is a sign that the second one will soon break too. Of course you could wait until the other spring breaks but then you’ll need to go through the hassle of repairing a broken spring again. Additionally, having a new and old spring on your garage door throws off the balance of the door. You’ll quickly burn out the motor on your garage door opener and have more problems.
Where do you buy garage door springs? You can find them at your local hardware store such as Home Depot or Ace Hardware, or online. Prices will vary from a few dollars to over $150, depending on the type of spring, size, quality, coating, and cycles. The last three are important to consider as they will determine how soon your going to need to replace your springs again.
Step 4 – Installation
Installing your new garage door springs is not only a lengthy and complicated process, but potentially dangerous. Remember, garage door springs are wound and under tension. You need to make sure you have the right tools before you even begin the job. A few of them you’ll need are:
two 10 inch vise grips
two 1/2″ x 18″ winding bars
socket wrench and sockets
Now the process of actually going about changing the springs is, as you’d imagine, very detailed. And as it’s a serious job I don’t want to summarize it here into bullet points. In a future post, I will go into explaining the actual steps, but for now a quick Google search will pull up some great step by step tutorials. Be warned, this job is very serious and requires a good deal of time and patience. These springs are wound under pressure, you don’t want to rush through or do it haphazardly.
This is too complicated. I don’t have time for this!
Most people don’t have the time or inclination to replace their broken garage door spring themselves. I myself have way too much to do elsewhere in my house than fiddle with something that could potentially maim me. That’s why I called a chicago garage door repair company to come handle the job.
If you do decide to tackle the job yourself, please be careful and do full research before starting. An extra hour of reading will more than make up for the frustration and pain if you make a mistake. Good luck!
STRATEGIES FOR KEEPING YOUR HOME WARM WITHOUT GOING BROKE ON HEATING BILLS
Probably the best way to lower your heating bills—and be ready for power outages—is to equip your home with at least one secondary source of heat. If, like most people, your home is heated by a gas or electric furnace, you may be able to drastically cut your heating bills simply by installing a secondary source of heat in the main living area.
To give an example: One of my friends complained recently, as fall days began to turn chilly, that she was reluctant to turn on the furnace to heat a 1700-square-foot house, just so she could be comfortably toasty in her easy chair in the corner. My friend is often the only family member at home. Her husband frequently works long hours, and sometimes travels for work and is away for long periods. Yet once the furnace is on, it heats the whole house.
Sure, vents and butterfly valves on your ductwork can be adjusted so that most of the heat flows to a single area, and this is certainly worth doing, if you don’t mind sleeping in a cold bedroom—or actually prefer it.
Many of us suffer from such qualms at the beginning of the heating season, but most of us bite the bullet, turn on the heat to the entire house, and set the thermostat to the lowest temperature that we—or the family—can tolerate.
But if you have a secondary source of heat in the main living area of your house—where you and your family presumably spend most of your time—the thermostat can be set a lot lower.
Secondary sources of heat are most efficient where the home’s floor plan allows for the heat to be limited to a single room, usually the living room, where the family gathers.
There is little point in locating the toasty woodstove or gas fireplace in a fussy and formal living room that is seldom used and mainly for show, when the family space is really elsewhere in the house.
KEEPING HEAT WHERE YOU WANT IT
If you are considering installing a secondary source of heat, it’s good to evaluate the planned location in terms of your ability to close it off from the rest of the house. This will be especially helpful during power outages, when every BTU counts.
So you may be wondering, “What is this ‘close it off’ I speak of?”
Many modern houses have very large, cavernous rooms (sometimes with ceilings open to the second story of the house) that also open into other cavernous rooms by way of broad doorways that are six or more feet wide. Or perhaps the living room, dining room, and kitchen are all essentially one enormous open space.
Such spaces can be difficult to heat adequately. Without some means for closing off a smaller area in which a secondary heat source is located, the family is likely to spend power outages huddled next to an inefficient fireplace or other heat source, since what little heat doesn’t go up the chimney is quickly dissipated over a very large square footage.
People who own houses with these open floor plans will probably be reluctant to make structural changes to their homes—first, because such changes are likely to be rather extensive and, second, because the openness and spacious feel is one of the chief beauties of the home.
A secondary heat source for such a home—unless is it a large wood stove—is unlikely to produce substantial savings or provide really adequate heat during power outages, since any such “secondary” heat source must heat almost the entire house.
In older houses, rooms are more often discrete spaces, so that closing off your living room to heat only a single room may be as simple as hanging a door in an existing doorway—or, if you have not quite got around to that yet, in an emergency a quilt or blanket can be hung over a doorway, so as to contain heat in a single room with a secondary heat source.
In other houses of a somewhat older vintage, it may be possible to make fairly minor architectural changes to the house, such as adding a wall and door, or just hanging double doors, so as to make it possible to close off the living room or den—and do so without compromising the architectural integrity and attractiveness of the home’s floor plan.
EXAMPLES OF SECONDARY SOURCES OF HOME HEATING
There are so many possibilities for secondary sources of home heating—each available in many different forms—that it is daunting to even attempt to list them. Whichever type of heating unit you choose, save the owner’s manual.
If you are new to home ownership, one of the first things you should do is create a file folder labeled “Owner’s Manuals” and faithfully save all these materials for every new purchase. This includes not only heating units, but lawnmowers, ceiling fans, water heaters, and endless other purchases.
You will often think, “This device is so simple that I could disassemble and re-assemble the whole thing before breakfast.” And you probably could. It’s just that this is not the quickest or easiest way to change the internal light bulb.
Here are some excellent home heating sources:
Wood stoves and variations on these, such as pellet stoves, are one of the most wonderfully comfortable and practical heating methods you can choose. Wood can be fairly inexpensive to heat with (even nearly free), especially if you are able to cut and split your own firewood.
The chief problem for most people is the cost of the initial installation: The cost of the wood stove itself, along with the vent pipe and the carpentry work needed to run the vent pipe through a ceiling or exterior wall, can be high. While there are some very inexpensive small wood stoves, the cost of venting them to the outdoors can be rather of a shock. Often, the location of your wood stove is best planned so as to minimize these costs.
For example, the height of the flue pipe must extend at least four feet above the peak of your roof. Thirty feet of triple-walled insulated pipe could be required, along with insulated “thimbles” for those points at which the vent pipe passes through structural members of your house. This portion of the job can cost more than the wood stove.
In addition, most wood stoves are extremely heavy. You can’t just move them into the house and set them on the carpet, which is often supported by nothing more than plywood. If the stove is fairly small and lightweight, you can get away with locating the wood stove on a good-sized piece of concrete board. You will probably want to cover the concrete board with ceramic tile, since concrete board is ugly.
If the wood stove is near walls—that is, within about three feet of any interior wall—these nearby walls should also be covered with concrete board and tiled, to keep the heat radiating from the wood stove from causing a fire.
Plus, wood stoves are not exactly carefree. The fire must be started and the firebox tended. The fire should be “banked” (covered with ashes) to keep coals alive overnight, and the damper should be closed. Careful selection of firewood can also help in maintaining heat overnight, when no one is tending the wood stove. Ashes must be cleared away and removed, and firewood must be carried indoors and stacked. Most people with wood stoves find these chores enjoyable.
I think, when choosing a wood stove, it’s a good idea to pick one that has a flat top that can be used as a cooking surface, in case of power outages. There are, of course, many other features to choose from.
A large wood stove generates a tremendous amount of heat—likely enough heat to create a comfortable living area, even if your house has a modern open floor plan.
Vent-Free Natural Gas and Propane Heating
Vent-free gas heating units—and there are many kinds—are, hands-down, my favorite source of secondary heat. To tell you the truth, they are my favorite source of primary heat, and (in my opinion) should be considered as the primary heating method for some new construction, such as vacation homes, older homes with no existing central heating system, mobile homes, or homes in a warm climate.
If you cannot have a wood stove, either because of regulations in your area, or insurance issues, or because your home’s structure makes the installation prohibitively expensive, vent-free gas heating is a wonderful alternative. It’s also a wonderful supplement to heating with a wood stove; e.g., for bathrooms, where you would like to shut the door while you take your shower.
Here are some of the advantages of vent-free gas heating:
VENT-FREE GAS IS 99% ENERGY EFFICIENT. Heat is not lost traveling through a maze of ductwork, where it is dissipated in heating attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Heat is delivered where you want it and when you want it.
For those who would like to conserve on energy use, installing vent-free gas units in strategic locations will allow you to turn the thermostat way down. A gas fireplace in the living room will keep the whole family toasty warm, even if the thermostat is set at 55°, and is an especially good arrangement where, normally, only one person is at home during the day.
A second unit located in the bathroom will allow a 55° bathroom to be heated to 75° or 80° almost instantly. Everyone can shower in comfort and turn off the gas unit when they leave.
VENT-FREE GAS UNITS ARE RELATIVELY INEXPENSIVE TO INSTALL. These systems do not require triple-walled insulated vent pipes that must pass through the structural members of your house and four feet above the peak of your roof. They do not require ductwork. They do not (generally) require electricity to operate, although an electric blower fan is an optional installation with some models. Expense, over and above the cost of the unit itself, is limited to running gas lines to the selected location.
VENT-FREE GAS WILL HEAT YOUR HOME DURING A POWER OUTAGE. If you rely heavily on these units for heating, you will probably want a ceiling fan. Otherwise, you will find that you are heating mainly the top half of the room. But these units still do a good, if somewhat less efficient, job during power outages. A vent-free gas unit can produce up to 32,000 BTUs. Portable units that will work on the same 20-pound propane canister used by your gas grill are available.
MANY VENT-FREE GAS HEATING UNITS ARE BEAUTIFUL ADDITIONS TO YOUR HOME. Want a fireplace in your living room? You can buy a vent-free gas fireplace with a mantle. These come in different sizes. If your bathroom is large enough, you could even have a fireplace in the bathroom. Other models are designed to look like wood stoves. Wall-mounted units work well for bathrooms, or even for living areas.
MANY VENT-FREE GAS UNITS ARE THERMOSTATICALLY CONTROLLED. A gas fireplace, stove, or wall unit can be set to maintain just about any temperature you want. This may not be true of all smaller portable units. Be sure to check, if this is a desired feature.
Thermostatic controls can make such units worth considering as a substitute for central heating systems, especially in vacation cabins, mobile homes, and in warm-climate regions.
PORTABLE UNITS ARE AVAILABLE. While many gas heating units are intended to be stationary, being firmly attached to steel gas pipes, there are several types of portable units. Obviously these have many uses. They can be used to heat garages and workshops, and areas that are under construction. They can be used indoors during power outages to heat living spaces.
Some portable models run on small gas canisters, but these can be adapted to run on the same kind of 20-pound canister used for gas grills. Compact models are available that can be mounted directly on top of the 20-pound canister, so that you don’t have to purchase a hose attachment and lug around two bulky items to move your heat source.
VENT-FREE GAS CONSIDERATIONS AND CAVEATS.
Natural gas or propane. If you have natural gas, get a unit that uses natural gas; if you have propane, get a unit intended to run on propane.
Decide how many BTUs you need to heat the desired area. If you want some serious heat, go with 32,000 BTUs. The box the unit comes in should tell you approximately the area it will heat.
Provide for adequate ventilation. Read the directions carefully. Most such units should not be operated in small rooms without some degree of ventilation.
Do the installation carefully and correctly. Should you attempt to do this type of installation yourself? Many cities and counties have codes that prohibit do-it-yourself installation. In some rural areas where you will be on propane there are no such restrictions. If you have no existing propane tank, you can decide on a location for the unit and tank, assemble everything, attach a shut-off valve, and run a stub of gas line through an exterior wall, before you ever call the propane company.
These first-time installations are especially safe and relatively easy, since no propane or propane lines even exist on the premises. You are no more likely to experience a fire or explosion, at this stage, than if you were installing a new faucet.
Once the unit is assembled and the line is stubbed out through the wall, you can call the propane company, and they will set a propane tank and take care of running the line from your stub to the propane tank. This will include putting a regulator on the line and performing a line test. The line test checks all gas lines (they are mainly concerned with the ones you ran yourself) for leaks.
It is a happy event when the propane company performs a line test and tells you that your installation is “righty-tighty,” and you can turn on your unit.
If you are installing only one unit, the only gas line that you, as the homeowner, need to run is the shut off and a single piece of gas line, just long enough to pass through the exterior wall—a job that can be handled by one person with two pipe wrenches.
If you have never installed gas lines before, or if you are installing several units, involving running gas lines all over the place, you may want to go with professional installation—or at least get some help, especially if you are not familiar with running gas lines. While this job is not difficult to do or understand, it is hard, heavy, meticulous work that involves a certain amount of nervous strain.
While gas lines are just pipes that screw together with fittings like any other pipes, they are normally custom cut and threaded to the needed lengths by the company where you purchase the lines and fittings. You bring them the measurements for the various lengths of pipe you need and select the needed fittings. Such a company should be a good place to get any needed advice or to get a recommendation for a capable installer or helper. The propane company is also a good source of such advice and recommendations.
Lines that run along the exterior of the house are normally suspended by pipe hangers attached to the framing members of the house, and the same is true for gas lines running under the house.
In rural areas, where propane may be the single most common heating fuel, you are likely to find that half your neighbors know how to run gas lines, so you should have little trouble finding experienced help.
It is nice to be involved in the work, if possible. Knowing how stuff works around your home is just a comfortable feeling. As with simpler installations, the propane company will do a line test before turning on the propane. It is good to run gas lines with great care—mainly because, if the propane company tells you there is a leak somewhere, you will have much to do over again.
If you are installing the unit yourself, be sure to use joint compound intended for metal fittings on gas lines, on all threaded fittings. Handymen everywhere are smiting their foreheads and saying, “Duh!”
Keep the unit extremely clean. Vent-free gas heating units must be kept pretty darned clean, and should generally not be used in areas where there is a lot of dust, such as in a room with a clothes dryer.
All vent-free gas units should be cleaned meticulously every year, before lighting the pilot and firing them up when cold weather approaches. If you are having trouble getting the pilot to light or the unit fire up, the problem is usually dust and dirt.
Exceptions: The first time you light a brand new unit, it can take quite a long time for the gas to make the journey to the pilot, so expect to be patient, in this case. Also, you will probably have to keep the pilot button depressed for at least a short time after the pilot is lit, or it will go out. The reason for this is that the pilot will not stay lit until the thermocouple has warmed up. Allow up to a full minute. If it takes longer than that, something still needs cleaning.
Vent-free gas heating units are cleaned with compressed air, which you can buy in an aerosol can at most hardware stores. Begin by washing everything with a damp cloth. Clean the fake logs, if there are any. Clean the grille and interior metal housing. Clean the burner tube. Referring to the owner’s manual, blow compressed air into all the places it tells you to. Your unit should then light with ease and burn clean.
It may be necessary to repeat this process once or twice during the heating season, especially in dusty conditions. (You live on a gravel road.) When the pilot light goes out or the unit is “acting up,” clean it thoroughly and give it plenty of compressed air. Failure to do this can lead to much unpleasantness, and even hazard. Mainly, the unit will not burn clean and will cause your ceiling and walls to darken from “smoke” that is invisible to the naked eye, but will cause you to have to repaint the room. It is not good to breathe the fumes from such a neglected unit, either.
A gas fireplace with a remote is a mixed blessing. One caveat about thermostatic controls is that, in some models, the thermostat is in the remote. In other words, you use a remote to turn the flame on and off, and to set the thermostat. Luxurious, right? Except for when the batteries die or when the remote itself gives up the ghost and you have to buy a new remote. Also, remember that both the remote and the remote receiver require batteries, and the remote receiver may not be in the most convenient possible location.
If you love the idea of operating your gas fireplace with a remote, keep plenty of batteries on hand, and be sure to check the cost of a new remote before making a decision. (They are pricey.)
Yes, remote-operated fireplaces will work without the remote. You just have to turn them on and off manually after flipping a switch on the remote receiver. (I hope you saved the operating manual, so you can find it.) Without the remote, there is no thermostatic control of the unit.
Save the owner’s manual.
Electric Fireplaces and Space Heaters
Electric fireplaces and space heaters are, of course, useless for power outages, and most don’t put out enough heat to make any but the smallest rooms comfortable. Most electric heaters do not mention how many BTUs they generate, because to do so would be embarrassing.
Nevertheless, nearly every family seems to have several space heaters of one kind or another, because everyone finds them useful. They are nice for chilly days when it doesn’t make sense to turn on the heat, as an additional heat source in bathrooms, or for when you want to heat only one room.
Electric space heaters are not very energy efficient, but perhaps the most frustrating thing about them is that the cheaper ones tend to be almost throw-away items that last for only one heating season and have to be replaced.
On the other hand, the more expensive models are nice looking and will last for many years. This would include electric fireplaces and the electric space heaters that look like little wood stoves. The only maintenance these ever seem to require is to occasionally replace the light bulb that creates the illusion of a flame. This light bulb is located in a secret compartment accessed by a nearly invisible recessed screw. You will never in a million years figure out where it is hidden without referring to the owner’s manual. Keeping the owner’s manual in your files will also allow you to do this simple bulb replacement quickly.
Yes, these more expensive electric “fireplaces” and “stoves” are—well—more expensive. But they last so much longer that they are cheaper in the long run. Shrewd shoppers may find them on sale at the end of the heating season, and save even more.
As energy-inefficient as these heating units may be, they have many advantages: You need not be an HVAC technician to install them. You just plug them into a wall outlet. Most of them run on regular 110 volt current.
Used with ordinary common sense, electric space heaters are relatively safe—assuming your house wiring is up to code. The chief precaution to take with electric space heaters is to not use them in such a way as to overload electrical circuits. For example, it would be wise not to attempt to run two electric space heaters on the same circuit, or to run an electric space heater on a circuit that is running some other electrical appliance that pulls a lot of juice, such as a refrigerator. This is likely to throw the breaker.
It is notoriously unsafe to rely on electric space heaters to supply all your winter heating needs, unless you live in a very warm-climate area and need very little winter heating.
Nice electric space heaters, disguised as fireplaces and wood stoves, allow you to have a pretty good facsimile of a much-longed-for fireplace in a bedroom or bathroom. (Okay, I admit that a bathroom fireplace is one of my dearest fantasies.)
Save the owner’s manual.
With reasonable precautions, portable kerosene heaters are safe to use for indoor heating, and are especially suitable for emergency home heating during a power outage. Portable kerosene heaters can produce as much as 32,000 BTUs, although units are available in varying sizes.
Yes, it is important to take precautions against fire, by making sure that the heater is used at a safe distance from combustible materials of any kind, such as papers, curtains, and furnishings. Small children should be kept well away from such a heater, which may have surface temperatures of 320° F. to more than 500° F.
Another essential precaution when using a portable kerosene heater indoors is to ensure that the living space is adequately ventilated. In a weatherized or unventilated home, dangerous levels of harmful gasses can reach levels that pose a serious health hazard to high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, asthmatics, people with cardiovascular disease, children, and the elderly.
To prevent these harmful gasses from accumulating, make sure that the room/rooms that are being heated are adequately ventilated. The Michigan State University Extension suggests that for a heater that is rated at 9,100 BTUs per hour, a window that is 24 inches wide should be opened about one-half inch; for a heater that is rated at 20,000 BTUs per hour, a 24-inch-wide window should be opened about one inch.
Michigan State University Extension site also states that the danger from indoor pollution is greatest “on calm days when an unvented heater is used along with an unvented gas range, gas refrigerator and a gas clothes dryer; along with a vented water heater and furnace.” They further recommend that only 1-K grade (low sulfur) kerosene be used for indoor heating, stating that, “Use of 2-K grade kerosene will dramatically increase sulfur dioxide emissions. Using kerosene other than the 1-K grade may increase health risk.”
As with gas heaters, special attention should be given to what the owner’s manual has to say about ventilation.
What’s the final word on the safety of such units for indoor heating?
The National Kerosene Heater Association contends that these units are very safe when used properly, and The Consumer Product Safety Commission has twice rejected petitions asking that kerosene heaters be banned. Ultimately, the above website’s verdict is, “A gas or unvented portable kerosene heater has value for TEMPORARY use during a power failure, especially in remote areas,” and for daytime use.
Some people feel that the odor of kerosene heaters is objectionable. In my opinion, the newer models don’t “smell”—that is, you and your family will not be going around with the faint tang of kerosene clinging to your clothes. But I could be mistaken about that.
I have personally used portable kerosene heaters indoors with children around, and I feel that with proper precautions—and alert parental supervision—they are safe to use. The flame is well shielded (so no ones clothes will catch on fire), and modern units are designed with the safety feature of going out if knocked over, or even tilted very much. Check for such safety features when you purchase such a unit.
The main annoyance of kerosene heaters is that they can be messy to fill with kerosene.
Your heater should have come equipped with a large flat metal “tray” for it to sit on, so that any kerosene that gets splashed around doesn’t wind up on the carpet. It should also have come with a siphon tube, so that kerosene can be transferred from the kerosene can to the heater’s reservoir without making a huge mess. If these accessories did not come with your unit, be sure to pick them up. If your kerosene heater is making the whole family smell funny, it is probably because kerosene is getting slopped all over the place. Turn off the unit before refilling with kerosene.
Smaller kerosene units—and even pretty large ones—can be moved from room to room, as is often necessary during a power outage, with relative ease. Turn them off before attempting to move them.
Kerosene heaters are great for the garage or workshop, where there are fewer objections to possible messiness or smelliness—and where their impressive production of BTUs can be very welcome.
Obviously, before purchasing a kerosene heater, you will want to check around for your nearest source for purchasing 1-K grade kerosene. In most rural areas, one of the local gas stations will be equipped to sell kerosene. (There is a pump, just like a gas pump, off to the side of the place somewhere.) In cities and suburbs, kerosene suppliers may not be so conveniently located.
If you are depending on kerosene heat to get through a power outage, you will probably need about five gallons of kerosene to get you through two or three days. Hence, you will need a five-gallon kerosene can, and if the power outage continues you will need to refill it.
Despite these drawbacks, there is probably no other portable heating unit that will deliver up to 32,000 BTUs. And a kerosene heater that will deliver 32,000 BTUs will probably cost less than a comparable propane heater.
Save the owner’s manual, in case you need to replace parts.
Using Your Kitchen Range as a Secondary Heat Source
Your kitchen range can be a good secondary heat source during power outages.
I have been known to use the electric range to take the chill off of the house during chilly early fall days, or even on unseasonably cold summer days.
What’s there to know about this? Well, two things: An electrician friend of mine confided in me that 220 electric heat is far more efficient (costs less) than electric heat that runs on 110 voltage. So you are saving money by turning on the oven rather than turning on your 110 electric space heater.
Secondly, my electrician friend advised me to use the oven’s broiler (top) element for this purpose, rather than the bake (bottom) element. He explained that the broiler element can withstand continuous use at high temperatures without burning out; whereas the bake element won’t last as long if used in this way.
For the uninitiated: Kitchen stove elements are easily replaced. If either the bake or broil unit burns out, buy a new element and get out your socket set. As with kitchen range burners, they basically plug in. Oven elements just plug into a place you can’t see until you take off the back cover of the stove. This is often a good time to clean the oven, since you will have to stick your head in there. Unplug the stove before replacing the elements.
How the Japanese Keep Warm in Winter—the Kotatsu
Japanese homes, for the most part, lack central heat and air conditioning, and buildings typically lack insulation, double-paned windows, and storm doors—and this is true even though winters in northern Japan can be harsh.
No one knows why Japanese architecture is designed in this way. Some have speculated that the original ancient people who settled Japan came from tropical regions, with a tradition of building for tropical climates, and that building methods never adapted. Others have speculated that it is uneconomical to build heavily insulated homes in Japan due to earthquakes, which require frequent rebuilding.
Whatever the reason, the R value of the Japanese home is somewhat similar to that of your great-grandparents’ Victorian homes, which were also innocent of insulation. Some of us can still remember visiting our grandparents in such homes—where everyone huddled within three or four feet of an enormous coal stove with a raging fire in it, while all living spaces outside that circumference remained see-your-breath freezing.
How do the Japanese cope with this state of affairs? The traditional method for keeping warm in Japan is the kotatsu.
A kotatsu is a low table covered by a large heavy quilt or comforter which overhangs the sides of the table voluminously. Over the quilt-covered top surface of the table, another rigid tabletop holds the quilt in place, and provides a hard surface for eating, doing homework, playing games, and other family activities. Seating is on the floor, often in chairs with backs designed for floor-sitting.
So how does this arrangement keep you warm? The area under the table is heated. In modern Japan, usually an electric heater is affixed to the underside of the table. The family spends cold evenings sitting at the kotatsu with the bottom half of their bodies covered with the quilt and warmed by the heat under the table.
Often, since floors are likely to be cold, a quilt or pad is also placed on the floor, under this whole arrangement. It is also customary to wear a winter coat intended for indoor use, to keep the upper half of the body warm.
Have I ever tried this? Unhappily, I have never had just the right combination of furniture—or a space heater that I felt confident would work safely with such an arrangement, and that would also fit under a low table.
Westerners can, of course, purchase kotatsus already outfitted with an electric heater on the underside of the table, and the second tabletop for covering the quilt, but this is likely to involve a rather large investment in furniture, and would likely end in tears, if you tried to get you family to actually use this as a primary heating method.
On the other hand, the kotatsu may have practical Western application for the household in which only one person is home during the day, especially during time spent in sitting-down activities.
A simple and inexpensive kotatsu could be rigged up simply by covering your dining room table with your king-size comforter and tucking a small electric space heater under the table. While heat would escape under the chair legs, this arrangement could still provide welcome warmth. Or you could move your overstuffed easy chair up to the table to keep the heat from escaping. One blogger remarks that the simple kitchen-table version keeps everyone comfortable while the family waits for the wood stove to warm the house in the mornings.
What about using a kotatsu during power outages?
The kotatsu originated during the 14th century and the traditional heat source was not electricity, but a pot of charcoal. With careful planning, a charcoal-fired kotatsu could be a viable solution to keeping the family warm during power outages. Such charcoal-fired home-heating arrangements have been used in several countries, down through the ages. (It is interesting to compare the kotatsu with the Turkish brazier used for indoor heating:
The same precautions that apply to portable kerosene heaters will also apply to using a charcoal-fired kotatsu indoors. Please carefully review the paragraphs in bold-face type under kerosene heaters.
Here’s what I mean by careful planning: There are several things you will need besides a low table with reasonably comfortable floor seating around it, and a king-size comforter.
First, you will need a container for burning charcoal. One photograph depicts a kotatsu that looks very much like the cast-iron humidifiers intended for use on top of wood stoves.
A cast-iron hibachi would certainly do the job. It seems to me that cast-iron Dutch oven could do the job, but it would require a lid with openings or some kind of grill over the top. I am also inclined to think that any charcoal burner would require a grill to support the charcoal out of contact with the bottom of the container (just as you have in your outdoor charcoal grill) to allow for air circulation beneath the coals.
Notice, too, that the pictured kotatsu is enclosed in a wooden framework—doubtless intended to keep feet at a safe distance. Seems like a good idea.
Another possibility for use as the kotatsu heater is to purchase an antique foot warmer of the kind intended to hold charcoal. As you can see from the images, many of these are enclosed with wood to prevent feet from being burned by direct contact with the hot metal of the unit.
Maybe you already have a suitable low table, a king-size comforter, and a cast-iron hibachi, and it is well within your carpentry capabilities to build a sort of wooden “cage” for the hibachi. Such a wooden cage could double as a kitchen step-stool.
Next, I would suggest that a charcoal burner of this kind should not be used without something fireproof to set it on. This, too, should be pretty easy to arrange: A piece of purchased concrete board cut to the desired size should do the job, and it could be made attractive as well as serviceable by tiling the top surface. In fact, such an item, if beautifully tiled and trimmed, could be a charming and practical addition to the family dining room table, when not in use during power outages—as a place to set hot food-serving dishes, to protect the tabletop. Or just store this tiled protective item under the low table.
So—you can see how various multi-purpose items around the house could be all ready to go, in the event of a power outage. Just round up the kitchen step-stool, yank the heat-proof centerpiece off the dining table and the comforter from off the bed, and assemble your kotatsu.
Ooops! Where are my briquettes? You will want to fire up a few of these outdoors, using the charcoal outdoor grill, wait for them to burn down to coals, and transfer to the hibachi (or whatever), and tuck the hibachi with cage onto the heat-proof tiled concrete board. Then spread the comforter over this whole arrangement and cuddle down.
Crack a window. You will want to be sure of good ventilation.
Ideally, you will have cut a piece of plywood to the size of the coffee-table top, so that you could place a hard surface over the comforter—a place to set plates of food and mugs of hot beverages, and to set up the Scrabble board.
While such an arrangement is far from simple, it could allow a family to weather an extended power outage in relative comfort—or at least at a level of comfort that the Japanese find acceptable.
CAVEATS: Setting up a kotatsu during a power outage may seem a lot like putting a bicycle together in the dark, but I can’t help it: I’ve always loved the concept. The need for many apparently “custom” items may also be a deal-breaker.
Ventilation—as from a partly opened window—is a necessity, especially if your home is very energy efficient (i.e., well sealed and insulated). The partial combustion of the charcoal under low-oxygen conditions could create carbon monoxide. Don’t let anyone put their head under the covers.
Be mindful of the potential fire hazard, and don’t omit any precautions, such as fire-proof floor protection and the enclosure for the heat source.
The kotatsu is not likely to work for you if you have small children who get a little rowdy around bedtime or naptime, unless they are continually supervised. The kotatsu is not a play fort.
Are you really going to do this? Probably not. But it’s something to keep in mind in case of a serious emergency, if you find yourself without other options.
Other Ways to Stay Warm During Power Outages—and Even Not During Power Outages
If you are among those folks who like to keep the thermostat set at a rather low temperature, you may find yourself hopping into a cold bed at night. If the power goes out in winter, you are almost certain to be hopping into a cold bed at night.
Many people try to solve this problem at Bed Bath and Beyond, by purchasing feather mattresses and down comforters, flannel sheets, electric blankets, and piles of quilts. You can also sleep in thermal underwear and socks. In the old days, people wore a nightcap, and I have known older people who sleep in a hooded sweatshirt to keep their heads warm.
But there’s one other strategy that you may not have thought of. Put hot rocks at the foot of your bed, underneath the covers. (Wear socks to bed, so you don’t scorch your feet.)
Here’s how I discovered this: Back when we had a wood stove, I kept the top surface decorated with a choice collection of cool-looking rocks.
One night I went to bed with badly chilled feet. I tossed and turned. The feet wouldn’t warm up. I thought of the hot rocks sitting on top of the wood stove and tucked them in at the foot of the bed. The result was heavenly!
A few hot rocks at the foot of your bed will warm the whole bed luxuriously. When one of my daughters was living in a hard-to-heat apartment at college, she used to fill empty water bottles with hot tap water and use them the same way, so there’s more than one way to do this.
A couple of years after making this discovery, I found a genuine antique foot warming stone at a garage sale and found that it worked even better.
If you’re using rocks, the kind that retain heat the longest are the heavy, dense, igneous rocks. Pieces of marble or granite will work well. A few such rocks will retain heat for about three hours, if they are about four inches in diameter. A real foot-warming stone will retain heat for up to eight hours. Mine is a soapstone slab that is about 8” X 12”, about an inch thick, and has a sturdy wire handle.
This method can be used during power outages, as long as you have some means to heat the stones: A gas oven, wood stove, or kerosene heater will work.
For warming children’s beds, the heated stones can be tucked into heavy socks before placing them at the foot of the bed under the covers. Kids should still wear socks to bed, to protect their feet.
Caution: Some kinds of stones will explode if exposed to very high temperatures. This is usually soft stones like sandstone, which may be permeated with moisture (and don’t retain heat very well anyway).
For everyday—not during power outages—heat stones in the oven to 200°-300°. Go with a lower temperature if you are nervous about scorching the mattress. My experience is that things start to scorch at around 350°. Wear fairly heavy socks to bed.
You’ll find the experience both sedative and addictive.
A small home needn’t mean small storage space. An unused nook or cranny here and there is just begging for your belongings. Maximize your storage by capitalizing on your home’s existing space. Check out these awesome and innovative storage solutions.
Tension Rod Storage
Here’s an awesome way to store tension rods under your sink – and keep everything super organized. No drilling required and really cheap, get your cupboards organized today!
1) Shower Pocket Organizer: Shower pocket organizers are a great way to keep all your shower essentials neatly organized and within easy reach during your shower.
Better still the mesh material is really quick drying so it wont get moldy and smelly. So no more knocking things over in the morning and scrambling round for shampoo and razors – it’s all there nicely, neatly organized! Yay!
2) Towel Baskets: Really great way to keep your towels compactly stored, aired and still within easy access. You can easily get baskets at your local charity store – and simply nail to the wall through the weave of the basket.
3) Bathroom Window Storage: Brilliant way to utilize a narrow wall – can be completed within a couple of hours.
4) Wrapping Paper Storage Ideal for the craft room, store wrapping paper with wire closet shelving turned sideways.
5) 5 Minute Shoe Storage with Tension Rods No drilling required! This is seriously one of the best hacks ever for getting instant shoe storage, and super awesome if you cant drill holes in your walls!
6) Kitchen Jar Organizers Screw canister lids to the bottom of cupboards for an instant jar tidy.
7) Cupboard Door Organizer Rack Make additional space by mounting labelled compartments to the inside of cabinet doors.
8) Secret Storage for Small Spaces A slide out rack, built from simple materials, is perfect for items such as spices and soups.
9) Pot Lid Rack Mount a magazine rack to the inside of cabinet doors for holding pot lids.
10) Fridge Magnet Storage Reuse funky containers by adding magnets and store items like pens and pencils on your fridge.
11) Tin Can Craft Storage Art supplies are safely stored in repurposed tin cans turned into a funky wall art organizer. Start saving those tins and get painting!
12) Hideaway Storage Under the bed is a perfect nook for keeping items tidy: simply attach casters to the bottoms of drawers for rolling storage.
13) Foldout Desk Instantly create a home office with this foldout desk with a compact storage area on top, and a large writing area on the bottom.
14) Pallet Wood Bathroom Storage Repurposed wood is a cost effective way to store toiletries in the bathroom.
15) Space Saving Product Drawers Use baskets in drawers to separate your onions from your tomatoes.
16) Wallmount Desk Jewelry Storage A wall-mount desk is a neat cache for jewelry and other such items.
17) Secret Drawer for Toilet Roll Use a hidden compartment to stash unsightly toilet rolls.
18) Dish Rack Drainer No need to move the dishes after they air dry with this dish rack built into a cupboard.
19) Chicken Feeder Storage for Oil and Vinegar Upcycle old items for new awesome storage solutions.
20) Button Organizers for Earrings Attach your earrings to buttons to keep them together.
21) Magnetic Wall Strips for Toy Cars Magnetic wall storage for cars is perfect for boys bedrooms and also handy to store knives in the kitchen.
22) Medicine Cabinet Vintage suitcases are an adorable way to house medicines in the bathroom.
23) Mason Jar Bathroom Storage Hang mason jars on an old pallet to hold everything from cotton swabs to nail polishes.
24) Pivot Wardrobe Storage A rotating wardrobe is ideal for ease and speed of finding objects.
25) Pot Rack Hang hooks on a metal frame to keep your pots in one place.
26) Silver Spice Rack Get an old silver plated server from the Thrift store, cut a piece of wood to fit inside it and voilà.
27) Laundry Basket Craft Storage Sort ribbons by poking through the holes in a basket.
28) DIY Shoebox Charging Station: Learn how to upcycle an old shoebox into an amazing Charging Station in about 30 minutes!
All you need for this , is a shoe box, nice paper and some rivets. It’s a great way to get your messy cables looking tidy and keep chargers in the one place.
Tempur-Pedic, Memory Foam, and the New Gel Memory Foam Mattresses
Tempur-Pedic and memory foam mattresses are the hottest sellers on the mattress market today; and because of all the hype and recommendations about them, so many people are sure they want one.
At least half of the customers who walked into my mattress store would announce, “I want to look at your memory foam mattresses. I’ve been reading up on them, my sister has one and loves it, my kid’s teacher told me about hers, my doctor recommended it, etc.”
Memory foam was our biggest selling mattress – and the most likely to be returned. This information was originally written a few years ago based on my experience as a mattress sales person; and the responses and feedback from real, buying customers during that time.
However, with over 200 comments and counting – this article has validated its own message through comments like the most recent ones in October 2016: “I got up this morning determined to get some truths around these mattresses and happened upon this site. I am so unsurprised to see all the comments on here and feel somewhat relieved it is not just me.”
However, there are also many people who swear by their memory foam mattress. There are reasons for that – its just that memory foam isn’t for everyone. That is why this article is here: because a memory foam mattress just might be the thing you need, too – or not.
This is one of the most important things you need to pay attention to before you decide to keep a new memory foam mattress: Are you moving more or less after your body has gotten used to sleeping on it..?
Return and Exchange Policies
Before you buy a new Memory Foam mattress, you should know that one of the main reasons why people get frustrated with trying to return or exchange them; is that they are often so expensive compared to other types of beds. And since most mattress stores offer credits rather than refunds if you are unhappy with it – that means that if you start out with Memory Foam and then try to exchange it for a less expensive one, later; there will be a huge credit that lingers in the store (as opposed to you receiving cash back).
The risk is yours – do make sure you understand the exchange/return policy of your mattress store before you complete the sale.
Highlights from Wikipedia
Memory Foam is polyurethane with additional chemicals increasing its viscosity and density. It is often referred to as “visco-elastic” polyurethane foam, or low-resilience polyurethane foam. (Low-resilience = low ‘push back’ support)
Higher-density memory foam softens in reaction to body heat, allowing it to mold to a warm body in a few minutes. A lower-density memory foam is pressure-sensitive and molds quickly to the shape of a body pressing against it, returning to its original shape once the pressure is removed.
Created by feeding gas into a polymer matrix, the foam has an open-cell solid structure that matches pressure against it, yet slowly springs back to its original shape.
Was commonly utilized in cases where the patient was required to lie immobile in their bed on a firm mattress for an unhealthy period of time. The pressure over some of their body regions decreased or stopped the blood flow to the region causing pressure sores or gangrene. Memory foam mattresses significantly decreased such events.
Memory Foam Mattresses are Very Well Marketed
Memory foam was invented by NASA back in the day… Did you know NASA never used it? Tempur-Pedic was founded by a marketing executive. We can all certainly agree that Tempur-Pedic does a good job of marketing their Space-Age, State of the Art materials.
Some of the most trusted Doctors, Chiropractors and Physical Therapists in this country have recommended these products based on this marketing – which includes lots of impressive research to help make things seem so credible.
I’m not saying its not – just that its all really good marketing.
Memory foam mattresses are especially notorious for their HOT sleep and initially strong chemical smell and offgassing issues.
Memory foam basically contains the same ingredients as regular polyfoam – it’s just manufactured differently. Essentially, gas is infused into a foam matrix to give it those neat body-molding and shape-remembering characteristics. This is why it can be so much stinkier than regular foam.
I talk about issues with offgassing – along with the details surrounding Federal Fire-Retardant alternatives and Regulations that are used in mattresses, in this previous article if you are concerned about those things.
What’s RIGHT with Memory Foam in Mattresses?
There are good uses for memory foam. It is especially nice for those light, bed-ridden elderly folks who need to be kept comfortable.
Memory foam is also great mixed in with other foam layers in the top of a traditional, Innerspring, pillowtop mattress. Memory foam feels good next to our skin – it cuddles us and makes us feel cozy. So yeah, Memory Foam can really make the difference in the luxurious feel between mattresses.
A memory foam topper can be the ideal thing for adding more comfort to a mattress that needs it. In fact, a memory foam topper on a supportive, plush mattress (firm, but still with some cushion on top – as in the image above) can be a great sleep system and comfortable alternative for people who love the feel of memory foam; but a mattress does not work for their body and/or sleep type.
Also, if you have circulation problems and want to sleep warmer – get something with memory foam in it.
An Example of a Good Memory Foam Topper
Comments below have requested an example of a good memory foam topper. This is one that ‘I would buy’ because:
1) I like the gel infused into it – gels really do work to help (just help, not correct) give a little more support to the memory foam; as well as do a good job of diffusing the heat for most people.
2) I like the thicker 4″ toppers because they give you the most cozy memory foam sleep experience without being a full memory foam mattress. If you’re going to spring for memory foam (or latex) – you should always make it a good one. Half-way won’t feel nearly as good.
If you can try them out at a store close to you – so that you can easily exchange/return them if you decide you need something thicker or thinner, etc. That is always ideal.
Memory Foam Mattresses Feel Strange for Many Sleepers
But memory foam mattresses are some of the most exchanged/returned mattresses – and that’s only one of the reasons why they are so expensive.
I always told people, “Its a great nap mattress.”
They almost always feel really good when you first lay down on them…
But, what if you are a tosser/turner at night? Lay down for a minute on any memory foam mattress and then try to roll over. Its like you’re sunk into wet sand – good luck. I’ve had older people return their memory foam mattress for this reason: “You don’t understand, I HAVE to be able to get out of it easy in the middle of the night!”
This also plays into sex… what will sex be like on a memory foam mattress? This is another personal choice about these mattresses; because some people like having sex on them – but, many don’t like it as well.
The flip side to the ‘can’t move as easily’ point is that your body supposedly won’t want to toss and turn as much as it does after you get used to sleeping on it.
That may be, I’ve never slept on one long enough to know what its like after my body has gotten used to it. All I can tell you for SURE is that so many of them come back to the store just because it is such a different kind of mattress to sleep on every night.
Also, it is a HEALTHY thing for your body to move during sleep – ask your doctor. You don’t want to sleep motionless, your joints need a little movement.
Memory Foam Mattresses are NOT Good for Many Sleepers for Bad Back Pain or for Relieving Pressure Points
Memory foam is a dense foam – this is why it is so hot to sleep on. Even without the pressure of a body on top compressing the foam – just lying there – it can’t breathe very well.
And of course, when you lay on it – the foam compresses to an even tighter foam that breathes even less.
Also, when memory foam is compressed as when a body is laying on it – the foam that IS relieving the pressure points when you first get on that mattress is getting MORE FIRM (as in hard, ‘wet sand’ firm) underneath that shoulder or hip, etc., as you continue to sink into the mattress – especially if you don’t do much moving (which we talked about, memory foam can diminish body movement during sleep).
GOOD POINT: Memory foam IS a good ‘pressure-point-reliever’ for sleepers who manage to remain tossers & turners. I’m sure it would be a good pressure point reliever for me for that reason – I doubt it would cure *my* restless sleeping habits. (I’m known for being a kicker. 😉
This is one of the important things that you need to pay attention to if you decide to keep a new memory foam mattress: Are you moving more or less after your body gets used to sleeping on it? Are there aches developing in your back, shoulder, neck, etc., that weren’t there before? Sometimes you almost don’t notice them at first; but you might more later as the situation continues.
Memory foam is also affected by the heat from your body, which can cause the foam in the mattress where you NEED horizontal support – like your back – to sag too much the warmer it gets – especially if the weight of your body is concentrated in your middle and/or hip zones.
There is NOTHING that is ‘pushing back up’ to support your back and keep your spine correctly aligned once memory foam turns into cozy, warm mush. This is why I recommended the plush/firm spring mattress with a memory foam topper, above – the bed beneath the topper should keep your body correctly aligned. The topper is just meant for cozy comfort.
Many memory foam mattress customers complain of shoulder/neck pain and/or backaches after sleeping on their mattresses for a few years or even just after a few months, sometimes.
This is why – memory foam actually gets MORE FIRM beneath pressure points if you don’t move around much; OR you’re not supported in the same way throughout the entire night on that mattress as you were when you tried it out in the store – because of the foam heating up and getting too soft where you need support.
And, this misalignment can be difficult to notice at first… During the night, your body just barely sinks out of alignment as your back starts to sway; especially those tricky back, neck and pelvic areas on your body.
If you have been sleeping on a memory foam mattress for awhile; and any part of your body is having problems – get off of it, at least for awhile to experiment. You could be doing slow-developing, long-term damage to parts of your body without realizing it – only because you don’t realize it; not necessarily because there is anything wrong with the mattress.
An ideal latex topper is 4 inches thick with an ILD of 19 to 34 – lesser ILDs are for pillows and are usually too soft, with the possible exception of Fibromyalgia sufferers. Three inches is not thick enough to support a body (although for a memory foam mattress, you might get away with a 2-3″ topper if the memory foam isn’t too firm).
Memory Foam Mattress Potential Fixes
Adding a topper to a memory foam mattress helps many people, especially when it is too firm or too hot. If a new topper alone doesn’t do enough to help you sleep more comfortably; there are cooling sleep products available – as well as ideas from other people who have dealt with that issue with semi-success. I suggest doing a general search for something that might work for you.
Its funny… I was starting to notice a developing trend shortly before I quit my job in March. Mattress customers were coming in who had purchased a memory foam mattress from other stores; and they were complaining that they were too hard. (I’ve had a few requests in the comments for Natural & Latex Topper recommendations for this reason – so I added these examples.)
These customers were often either looking for a topper to add to the mattress for comfort; or they were looking for a different mattress, entirely. I was beginning to wonder if memory foam mattress manufacturers haven’t started making them more firm for the reasons I explained, above.
If they are, its not helping much.
A topper will not correct any structural issues that may be going on – like too much sway where you are heaviest. They do have the capability to add cushion if your mattress is too hard, or to cool it down if it is too hot.
Do yourself a favor and MAKE SURE it is the right mattress for you before your time runs out to exchange/return it.
Memory Foam Customer Experiences in the Comments Below
Thank you so much to the many readers who have shared their memory foam mattress experiences and asked more questions in the comments, below. This article very much continues with them; and is turning out to be a good online resource on the subject.
It is not an exhaustive resource, however. This is just a stop on your research trail about these popular mattresses.
Update: Good Memory Foam Mattress Alternatives
One last thing… You should know that many Doctors, Chiropractors and Therapists are beginning to recommend latex over memory foam as the mattress of choice. I talk about that why that is more in the comments, below. In fact, when you start browsing the web about this subject, many of them have ‘invented’ their own latex mattress brands.
A latex mattress is a really good alternative to a memory foam mattress because they both ‘mold’ around you like a glove – allowing for pressure point relief; BUT latex also gives support where memory foam does not. There are also other reasons to consider a latex mattress.
Another potentially-good alternative to a typical memory foam mattress for people who really like the feel; is a pocket-coil innerspring with memory foam on top. I’ll talk more about why they might work in the comments; and you’ll also see a couple links to them.
Mattress shopping hints: Please try not to get too hung up on brand names until you decide ‘what kind of mattress’ you want – then it is easier to weed through which brand might be best to buy.
I also highly-recommend going to mattress stores to test mattresses out – that is the only way your body will get a good feel for them. Here is some good, general advice while shopping for a new mattress – including how to test them to know which ones will work best for you and/or your partner’s best sleep.
Grab.a.Roll was invented by Jane Lawrence, an exhausted grandmother of seven messy kids, after they had ruined rolls of paper towels by dropping them onto the wet ground. Her desperate search for a portable paper towel dispenser that didn’t exist led to her inventing one.
Grab.a.Roll™ is a new product for an old problem: Paper towels get dirty when you take them with you. They get dirty when you drop them or they blow over, or something spills on them. Once they get dirty, you throw a few away to get back to clean towels or you toss the entire roll. Grab.a.Roll™ saves the towels saves you money and keeps you clean.
The simple two part sustainable dispenser is made from 30% recycled plastic and can be 100% recycled at it’s end of life. It is simple to use. Just snap off the lid, drop in a regular sized paper towel roll and pop the lid back on. To dispense the towels, pull them through the slot on the side as needed. Easy to use – always clean – Grab.a.Roll™
Grab.a.Roll™ is the world’s first portable paper towel tote. It is easy to use and always clean, wherever your messy life takes you: camping, bbq, picnics, patio, classroom, cars, boat, hunting, fishing, garage, tailgating, or just about anywhere.
Recent research conducted by Kinetic Panel provides a fascinating insight into the habits of consumers when they interact with digital signage advertising.
Much is said about digital advertising being a ‘must have’ for businesses, but there’s very little discussion about how it actually influences consumer behaviour.
However, Kinetic Panel’s research is as refreshing as it is compelling, collecting valuable information from the people that matter most to businesses, the consumers!
How is digital advertising impacting consumers?
Kinetic Panel’s research involved asking 1,000 consumers what they were looking for upon seeing an outdoor digital signage display. Almost one-fifth (19%) of those asked said that they sought more information about the product, service or experience being advertised. This increased to 24% among a younger demographic (18 -24 year-olds).
Interestingly, 23% of the younger demographic had downloaded a mobile app after viewing an outdoor digital signage advertisement, compared with just 1 in 10 adults.
It should come as no surprise then that the younger generation tends to interact more with a digital poster than the older generation. I also heard an news that digital signage Sydney designs base on your personality of your brand to create customer interest, and build your identity and increase your brand awareness.
However, according to the research, one method that advertisers could use to remedy this and reach more of the older demographic is to expand the appeal of digital posters by providing ‘location-specific information.
The research found that location-specific information is what adults most desire from digital posters. Approximately 48% of the 1000 research participants said weather updates were most desirable.
A further 38% said digital signage should feature transport updates; this increased to 50% among research participants aged between 55 and 64.
Additionally, 29% said they would like to see more interactive wayfinding [maps] solutions in public locations, 32% said new updates would be useful and 30% said that information on local events would be helpful.
Around a quarter of respondents said that, to make digital signage more ‘useful’, they could feature a battery charging port for mobile devices. This could work in favour of advertisers because it could potentially improve dwelling times.
Kinetic Panel’s research further identifies direct retail services as an opportunity to maximise the potential of digital posters, particularly when you consider that 1 in 10 of their research respondents said they would shop direct from a digital signage display.
In fact, nearly one-third of 25 to 34 year-olds anticipate being able to buy direct from a digital signage system in the future.
Make digital signage advertising personal
Consumers want digital signage advertising to be personal, in particular they want to see advertisements that are relevant to their activities and them as a person.
One common request was the use of more facial recognition software, which is connected to an online loyalty account and activates a list of offers specific to their needs.
‘Click and collect’ systems
Nearly half (44%) of the 1000 participants felt that digital signage systems could offer click and collect services because they would certainly consider using them. Incorporating Bluetooth technology as part of the system would enable digital signage to identify a customer at the point of collection.
The result? With the customer identified, their purchase jumps to the top of the queue, improving the service experience and boosting the likelihood of a customer remaining loyal to the retailer’s brand.
What content are consumers interested in?
A proportion of 18 – 34 year-olds questioned said they would be reluctant to download content from a digital signage display. However, they would be more inclined to do so if it was of any relevancy to them.
The content that most interested the majority of consumers in the 18 – 34 age bracket involved special deals, with 43% of research participants saying they would definitely download a retail voucher from a site accessed via a digital poster.
Content that entertains was also important, with 24% saying they would download an app or game. 27% within this age range said they would download travel information, while a quarter said content should provide information about things to do, eateries and attractions within their local vicinity.
For the youth market, specifically 18 – 24 year-olds, media services were of the utmost importance with 29% of this demographic saying they would download clips of upcoming films, TV shows, games or music to their phones if they’d viewed them on a digital screen.
Digital signage advertising empowers advertisers
What we can gauge from Kinetic Panel’s research is that consumers across all demographics are already engaging with digital signage advertising, but not necessarily with content specific to them.
This research empowers the advertiser because it enables them to make their content more target specific to suit the demographic they’re aiming at.
From just 1000 respondents, we can see that what consumers want from digital signage is varied, but they’re not impossible to reach.
Ultimately, despite the differences across the demographics, there are similarities. Consumers want content that’s informative and relevant to them.
Daniel Waldron serves as a copywriter for Armagard, manufacturer of protective enclosures for computers, printers, digital signage and other AV hardware. To learn more visit – http://www.armagard.com