Archive for Yard & Garden

Essential Outdoor Power Tools

The standard method of taking care of the lawn, many years ago, was pushing a manual rotary style lawn mower around. We have come a long way from that labor intensive way of keeping the grass at bay. This does not even mention the other ways of trimming, cutting, raking and generally keeping the yard looking as close to golf course quality as possible.

string-trimmerEssential power tools for outside of the home run the gambit from items to use on the grass, shrubs, and trees as well as in the garden. A short list will include:

  • Lawn mower. Whether electric or gas powered, rotary or circular, walk behind or riding, these are a basic tool.
  • Edge trimmer. This is used to keep the walkways, sidewalks and pathways neat and clean.  Electric or gas powered, this tool rides along the edge of the path and, using a blade or string, creates a break between the grass and the cement.
  • String Trimmer.  This is used to deal with hedges, bushes and many people call it a ‘weed whacker’ because of the strong polyvinyl string that whirls at great speed and actually cuts or whacks the natural material to be cut.
  • Leaf blower.  This is used to assist in cleaning leaves and yard debris off of driveways and sidewalks.  It is also used to move dirt around when setting up gardens. Electric or gas powered, they are often frowned upon more than gas powered mowers on an early Saturday morning.
  • Chainsaw. This will be necessary for yards with thick bushes or hedges and or trees that will need cutting back occasionally. Gas powered, electric or battery powered, these are just the thing for thicker branches.
  • Cultivator.  This is a small rotating tine unit that is just right for working in a garden.  It is able to get between rows and is great for turning soil in any confined space that a larger one would be unable to fit.
  • Wood chipper. While not necessarily essential, a wood chipper is invaluable if you have many trees on your property. There are various sizes of these handy units for breaking limbs and other yard debris down into a mulching composition. Anything from thin, pencil sized twigs to one and two inch limbs can be reduced to a landscaping material that is a natural insulating product.

For help in selecting the best types of these tools, be sure to check out a site like Garage Tool Advisor or Consumer Reports.

Types of engines and electrical safety notes.

chainsawMost of the lawn mowers and wood chippers will have a standard gas motor.  These will have separate locations to fill the oil reservoir and the gas tank.  They will also have air and fuel filters.   Keeping the oil changed, replacing the gas and checking the spark plug after each season will be appropriate to help keep them in working order.

The smaller motors will be two cycle engines which require the careful mixing of oil with the gas.  Replacing the solution after each season is also recommended.

Making sure the electrical cords are not broken is the best you can do for the electric motors other than ensuring you follow any guidelines as far as lubrication is concerned.  Ensure the extension cord is UL listed, rated for outside and heavy duty enough for the equipment you are using.

The most essential outdoor tool is old tech.  It is a pair of safety glasses or goggles for any flying debris that does occur.

 

Adding Electrical Wiring to an Outdoor Shed

If you have decided on taking a power supply to an outdoor shed, you might need to decide whether to run it overhead or take it underground. Running overhead is quite a simple approach but exposes you to risks of accidental damage. The underground method is a bit complicated but it is a safer approach. The process involved in running a cable overhead includes using ordinary PVC sheathed cables and the spans need to be less than 10 feet. If it is longer than this, you will need additional support by wire and cable buckles. Underground-run cables are usually protected by PVC conduit. The cables are buried 18 inches below the ground and are attached together by straight connectors.

wiring-shedIt is important to have a dedicated outdoor socket for your shed so that you can avoid trailing long extension cords, which pass through open windows. It is also a safe method as it provides protection if you are handling electrical equipment outside. This will require a waterproof outlet with a ground wire and an indoor socket. Alternatively, you may choose to connect a separate GFCI indoor after installing an ordinary outdoor outlet.

I had a unique issue when running wiring to my shed. Because the shed is at the bottom of a sloped hill, cell phone reception is an issue because the shed also works as my workshop which I can spend hours in at one time. To remedy this, I installed a cell phone signal booster which is connected to an antenna at the back of the shed. I went from getting no reception on my phone to 3 or 4 bars. Something to keep in mind for those who have poor reception in their shed and spend a lot of time there. You can get more information about mobile phone signal boosters online.

Installation process

electricity-shedSupplying your outdoor shed with electricity can be quite a simple procedure. First, an electric panel service is run through underground feed wire. The UF wire is connected to a circuit breaker. Inside the shed, the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet and the wire are connected. You might decide to add light switch on another outlet. Of course, such a task requires electrical knowledge and basic building materials. Therefore, ensure you have general electrical knowledge and that your service panel is able to support another breaker. If you do not have any electrical experiences, do not attempt to wire your shed. It is best to consult the service of a professional electrician. It is also wise to check for regulations with the local building department in your area. Here are some basic steps:

  • Dig a deep trench of about 2 feet from the panel extending to the front of the shed. Roll the gauge wire into the trench. Completely bury the wire ensuring the soil is level for a neat finishing.

  • Run the excess wire from the rolled gauge wire by knocking out the slot located at the bottom of the panel, and then slipping the wire at the front of the conduit. This will leave room for the excess wire to hang free. Bury any exposed wire.

  • Ensure the power is still off as you cut and divide the wire into appropriate lengths. The black wire known as hot wire should screw well into the breaker. The neutral wire commonly referred to as the whit wire is screwed into the neutral bar. The bare wire should be able to screw into the ground.

  • Use a 1 inch spade, drill through the shed siding. Attach a PVC piece conduit of about 2 feet to another LB fitting.  Ensure you run the wire through a fitting.

  • Follow the manufacture directions in wiring the GFCI after the wire is inside the outdoor shed. In order to ensure the GFCI is protected for all the outlets, ensure the load terminals are connected to the wires.

  • In order to supply power, the final outlet and the switch must have a loop in between. The light fixture is located from this switch.

Summary

Installing electricity to your outdoor shed is a project worth carrying out for your own convenience and safety. The wiring work may require a complicated process but it adds protection for outdoor use of electrical appliances.

The Pool is In – Choosing a Ladder

So you’ve decided on a swimming pool and pump. Don’t forget to budget in a good pool ladder. Pool ladders help you to get into and out of pools safely and easily. Be it in-ground pool or above-ground pool, badly designed wobbly pool ladders are prone to cause accidents and can make you lose your peace of mind easily. A pool ladder might look like a simple attachment but there are lots of important factors that distinguish good ladders from poorly designed ones.

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