Gadgetry

Here are a couple fun new toys at the Cold House.  Neither is really going to save much fuel, I think, but sometimes you buy toys just for… fun?

The first is a moisture meter (a Christmas gift from my brother & sister-in-law, which I just got around to putting to use.)  These are only about $35– not “contractor grade”, but very functional.  It’s pretty fun to just walk around the house measuring the moisture of this and that.  You know, see which cat is drier, etc.   Also it makes cool Star Trek-like beeps, with frequency proportionate to moisture level (so that even the blind can use it) (or you can use it in the dark?)   Anyway, the real point was to monitor the moisture of home-cured firewood, with the aim to “burn no wood before its time”.  If you buy “seasoned” firewood, this would also be very handy– you could confirm that the wood was dry before you accept delivery of it.  I’m pleased to report that the maple we felled spring of 2010 is now down around 13% moisture, and the wood that came down later last summer is about 16%. This is all good to go!  As you can see, my finger is not yet ready to burn.

Next, allow me to introduce you to the Toasty Tush.  This is, basically, a low-wattage heating pad that affixes under the lid of your toilet, and warms the seat when the lid is down (also warms your back, if you’re sitting on the seat.)  At $45, it’s far cheaper than toilet seats with built-in heaters.  Why would anyone need a heated toilet seat at all?  Well, I don’t really claim to understand this.  I am told that as a man, I never will.  But suffice to say, the cold toilet seat was the #1 complaint from others around the Cold House.  So, we’re trying it out.  Here it is in action:It has three settings; the middle one is about 20 watts (though it cycles on and off, so it might be more like 10-15W overall).  To further counter its electric usage, I plugged it in via my digital timer/thermostat:I have it set so it’s off overnight.  During the day, it turns on only if the bathroom temp drops below 60°F.  So far, we haven’t had a really good cold spell to give it a full test.  But it seems to work pretty well.  And if warming one square foot of the house lets you turn down the heat on all the rest, well, that’s a good plan.  Arguably, it will take forever to actually pay for itself, unless we start burning oil again.  But I figure it will use less than 5 cents of electricity per day, so it’s not going to break the bank, either.

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4 Responses to “Gadgetry”

  1. Jane Says:

    Toys ‘R Us, eh?

    Not to rain on your parade, but in order to get a meaningful measure on the firewood, you have to split a piece and measure on the inside of the freshly split piece. The outside that’s been exposed to the air is always going to be quite dry, even when the inside is still oozing sap. So the true test is the reading you get on the inside.

    Second, those prongs need to be pushed well into the wood. I have a cheaper moisture meter than you do so you may not have this problem, but I find I have to use an awl to poke holes for the prongs that are deeper than just a surface pockmark.

    I rarely use mine anymore, but it sure was incredibly helpful to me in learning to distinguish fully seasoned from only partly seasoned firewood of various species.

    FYI, a company called TranscriptionGear.com is now selling a heated keyboard you might possibly find interesting.

  2. Cold House Journal Says:

    Ah, good tips. I jammed the prongs in pretty viciously (they are wicked pointy)– but I’ll try re-splitting a piece and see what it reads. The empirical correlation, though, is that it’s burning quite well, so whatever the meter says, it seems to by dry enough.

    Heated keyboard! Hmm. May not help me much, using a laptop…

    • Jane Says:

      If it’s burning well, no worries. But it’s just interesting to be able to correlate the physical properties of the piece of wood (weight, sound when banged together, even smell, etc.) to its moisture level, and also to its burning properties. At least I find it so. It would have taken me many years of trial and error without the meter.

      Problem with the prongs on my cheapo meter is they’re clearly not solidly enough seated in the device to survive much jamming into hardwoods. You may not have that problem with yours, but forewarned is forearmed! If the prongs break off or come loose, it’s a major pain in the neck to have to try to replace them.

      On the keyboard– it’s easy enough to use an external keyboard with a laptop if you have enough desktop space, just plug it into a spare USB slot. I do a lot of typing and my shoulders are just too wide to make typing on a small laptop keyboard comfortable, so I’ve used a laptop with an external keyboard for years now.

  3. Wife of College Roommate Says:

    As a member of the non-man gender, I feel the need to comment on the seat heater. You say that it may never pay for itself. I’d posit that the good will resulting from your consideration of that which you will never understand has perhaps already “paid” for it. 🙂

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