Believe it or not, Pixies and Pixie dust actually do exist. If you have lost or misplaced something, these magical little things will help you find it. I’m not talking about tiny creatures of Peter Pan, but rather the modern, digital equivalent. Pixie Points are these magical little helpers that when active can find that remote, set of keys, smartphone, wallet, purse, or even a pet when you have lost it. Through the use of a Bluetooth mesh network, a sophisticated location engine, and an augmented reality app, finding lost items nearby almost becomes a fun little adventure. And losing things is something that we humans are good at (and Pixie Point equally as good at reversing).
It’s May, and if you are like me or anyone in my family (including my dog), you are probably suffering from itchy eyes, stuffed noses, and scratchy throats. Yep, it is allergy season and here in California because of the heavy rains we had over the winter, things are blooming. A LOT! And that means there are lots of particles in the air causing issues with people’s sinuses. I don’t think that it’s coincidental that May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. Allergies and asthma aren’t just about pollen though obviously, but particulate matter does play a big role in it. Understanding what is in the air inside and outside is important in controlling asthma and allergies. And now there are ways to get insights into the air in and around your home. Blueair recently launched a free service called Air View which lets you visually understand the pollutants in the air in your neighborhood, and it easily complements their indoor air monitoring and purifying solutions as well.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), there is currently no cure for asthma or allergies. That means, there is only awareness and prevention that can reduce the risks to sufferers. And while some allergies are seasonal with pollen from grasses, trees, and flowers, other allergies like from foods, are year-round. Trust me, it’s always a concern for my family as my youngest daughter has peanut allergies.
Just the other day, I was up on my roof cleaning the gutters. We had just had a break in the crazy rain that has been pounding California. It was actually quite sunny out and as I was breaking out in a sweat in the direct sun, I actually started thinking about how good my house would be for a solar panel install. It receives quite a lot of sun throughout the day, free from trees and shadows, and there actually seems to be a lot of square footage that could be used for solar paneling. I knew a bit about solar paneling from previous research. For example, the higher your current electrical bill, the larger your roof’s solar array needs to be. But, if you reduce your monthly electrical consumption, you then can actually reduce the size of your solar installation. Not sure how to reduce you solar bill? My previous (sponsored) article about Pacific Gas & Electric’s personalized tools discusses different ways PG&E customers can both reduce energy consumption as well as discover potentially better electrical rate plans to save money. Well guess what? PG&E also has some tips and tools (particularly the PG&E Solar Calculator) which can give you some great advice and insights into solar panels, the costs, the benefits, and other helpful resources.
The sun is a huge, untapped resource of potentially limitless energy that is non-destructive to the environment and the technology of solar panels is improving each year, making it an extremely viable option for consumers to power their homes. But, to find out the best options for solar paneling at your home requires some extensive research. Should you lease? Should you own? How big of a solar panel array do you need? How much of an impact on your electrical bill is there with or without solar energy? How quickly will your investment pay off? What energy incentives are available should you want to install solar power on your home?
Last year, I wrote about a Polaris Pool Sweep that for the past few months has been doing an incredible job getting all of the leaves and debris off of the bottom of my swimming pool automagically. My kids were no longer scared by dark objects like leaves hugging the bottom. Consequently, they started using the swimming pool a bit more, but not to the level I thought they should be. But while my pool has been glistening clean, I have become aware of some other issues.
While the pool sweep was keeping my pool clean, I learned that using old and outdated equipment can be costly…Big time! And not just in terms of money, but also in time spent on a variety of maintenance and usage activities that I have been doing manually. For starters, as I have been beginning to pay closer attention to my home’s energy consumption, I realize my swimming pool currently is not very energy efficient. Also, I only have some manual controls of when the pumps turn on and off.
And I know that I’m not alone here. There are plenty of swimming pool owners with old equipment that are probably not getting the true benefits and enjoyment that they really should be. Let me explain.
My parents’ house has a problem. It is not very well laid out for WiFi network coverage. It is 2-stories, an older home built in 1906, and is about 2500 square feet. While it is a box essentially, because of where the Internet modem is located, and the fact that my folks don’t want to ruin the historic architecture with holes for Ethernet cables, it has been a bit challenging for me to get fast AND reliable WiFi coverage throughout all corners of the home. That is, until I set them up with an AmpliFi HD WiFi mesh router.
Previously, I had tried a variety of solutions. With a single router, I tried to position it so that it was high up and as centrally located as possible. This was great for the top floor where the cable modem was (actually, they had a DSL modem but I finally convinced them to upgrade to true broadband speeds), but the bottom floor did not have very good coverage, especially in the edges of their home. This was an issue because they have an Apple TV for streaming near one of those edge locations, but it kept disconnecting and buffering so much, it pretty much killed any TV-viewing experience whatsoever.
When you have a home (that is 70+ years old) and a bunch of kids (who produce a lot of laundry) and a pool (that has a pump running for many hours a day) and are a HighTechDad (with power gobbling gadgets), every month you are pretty much shocked by your energy bill. Yes, I have yelled at my kids to turn off lights, following them out of rooms switching the lights off. I have kindly asked my wife to turn off the paused TV when she’s not watching it. I have swapped out every light bulb with energy efficient LEDs. And even recently, prior to being sponsored to write this article, spent hours on the PG&E site analyzing my usage, comparing rate plans, and configuring my home’s profile for recommendations and tips. I’ve even recently installed an energy monitor to see the exact electrical usage of specific devices in my home. I haven’t done everything (I still have my beer fridge). But I’m trying. And I’m writing this article to talk about some easy things you can do just on the PG&E site that can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year. Got your attention? I hope so!
First of all, if you aren’t a PG&E customer, much of the information below might not be super relevant. HOWEVER, I would guess that your energy provider has some similar tools. If they don’t, you may want to tell them to get with the program. While saving money on your monthly energy bill is always a huge plus, it’s also important to focus on energy-SAVING tips to help conserve power.
But if you live in California, and you receive your energy from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), I want to tell you about two tools that they have that can not only save you money but also provide you with education specific to your own home and how it is set up. All that you have to do is log in to your PG&E account to access these personalized, free tools. But none of this would be relevant if it actually wasn’t personal and timely for me as well.
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of writing a similar “sucky” review like this one. It was about the Dyson DC59 Motorhead vacuum, which, when I got and used it, I quickly fell in love with (my dog even became part of the review). And yeah, I’m using that same tired and probably over-played cliche about these vacuums “sucking.” Sorry. Well this time, I’m writing about the DC59’s grown up sibling, the Dyson V8 Absolute. Like the DC59, it is lightweight and battery-powered. And they both do a great job sucking up dirt and debris and dust and hair and anything on hardwood or carpeted floors. But that is where the similarities end. Let me explain.