Thursday, March 31, 2011

Retrofit - Home Energy Audit

LL says:

So we have a little thing called environmental responsibility here in Canada. The government supports the notion that we are killing the earth by wasting utilities. We, as humans, are wasting away with our incandescent lighting, badly insulated houses heating the neighbourhood as well as the ozone and spending lots of money doing it. What's the point really? So, when we realized that we were eligible for a rebate when we upgrade our furnace, replace our outdated toilets and improve air flow in our house, we jumped at the chance!

First step, apply for the Home Energy Audit. We had a professional come over and test the airflow of the house, see how much leakage there is, laugh at how old our furnace is and show us how much cold air is coming through the outlets. It was shocking really. At the end of the audit, he informed us that our airflow was bad. Duh! We have no insulation in the walls because they are plaster and lath, the 50 year old windows are single pane and the furnace was breaking the 60 year mark.

2 weeks later we received our official energy rating. 48. The highest you can get for a house that is brand new, air tight and fully eco-friendly is 100. And the highest that we can get for a house built 80 years ago is around 84. So, we had lots of improvements to make.

It was clear that the furnace needed replacing. And of course all the windows needed replacing. And, oh ya, all the weather stripping needed replacing. And a bunch of insulation needed to be added. And, oh ya, we just had a few thousand dollars hidden under our bed so there was no problem paying for said repairs, NOT!!

We managed to get deeper into debt and make the main changes, the furnace being the big ticket item. We cheaped out on replacing the windows and did what every East Vancourite does in their their "character" home - put plastic over the windows. It does the trick! Not the prettiest but whatever, it works.

So almost a year after we did all the repairs, we had the follow up visit for the home energy audit and our final score was 64! And apparently that's pretty good for a house of our vintage. Like a good wine she is.

Do I feel happy the we jumped almost 20 points? Well, ya. I'll feel even happier when we blow some insulation into our plaster and lath walls in the near future. Plus, finally replace the single pane windows so we can walk around in shorts and t-shirts in the winter instead of hoodies and long underwear.

And wouldn't ya know it, Retrofitting is hip. Really, it is. We even got interviewed by the Tyee about it! Check out the article HERE.

   "Hey look! Someone needs some reno help!"
So now you can upgrade the energy efficiency in your house! Or have you done so already? Let us know!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Lez fix the noisy copper pipes: water hammer

Lez Renovators have decided to add a public service to our blog. Yes, from now on we will also offer unsolicited renovation advice online as well as over coffee at our day jobs.

At the aforementioned day job, CoolJ likes to have very hot showers. It is one of the grand luxuries of living where we do and having a mildly posh day job - I can have a hot shower at the office after a wet Vancouver bike ride.

But for the last months, the hot water pipes in the building have been making a scary noise - a low pitched, low frequency shuddery vibration that disrupts my calm morning routine whenever the hot water is turned on in one of the showers. Being Canadian, my colleagues and I generally ignore it this. The pipes have somebody else's problem field around them. However, as a lez renovator and amateur plumber myself, I know I would lose sleep if it were happening in MY house.

So I took it upon myself to learn a bit about how to fix noisy pipes.

The noisy pipes in North America are called "water hammer". As in the water is hammering on the pipes (and wants out!!). Great word.

Apparently it is a problem of pressure & there are simple devices to fix it by regulating the pressure. Thanks internets! I thought this article was quite informative

If the noisy pipes were in my own house, I would just go down to the local building supply shop, for example IrlyBird or Dick's, and stand around in the plumbing isle til a guy in Carharts and dirty workboots came along. Then I would say "Could you give me a tiny bit of plumbing advice?" Then, he would choose the part I need after asking me a bunch of questions I don't know the answer to, we would draw in some other guy in workboots & eventually settle on the solution to my problem. I would come home with the part and try to install it myself after watching a youtube video. Then I would shut the water off in my house for a week while I look at more plumbing videos. Eventually I would call an actual plumber. So my advice to my company's property management: please call an actual plumber and say we need someone to fix the water hammer.

When we had to hire a plumber, I looked very hard to find a woman plumber in Vancouver BC. I found Pretty Plumbing - out of business since having two babies. I know of Fixen' Vixens / Handy Gal Services and found them on Facebook - they are a bit less public after a tough pitch on Dragon's Den. And I've met some great gals working for Matriarch Integrated Service Systems but they don't have a website.

I do my part - I meet a lot of young women who want a job that 'helps people'. I tell them get in the trades. We don't need more social workers, we need women plumbers, electricians, civil engineers! And what a dream it would be to have LESBIAN expert trades person working in our place.

This is a call out to the lez journey persons: get in touch! Let us profile you, showcase your skills advising us in one of our videos, answer questions from our fans!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lez List - VIDEO

LL says:

Morning renovators, admirers and general interested parties! Today is Friday. Which of course means a new video! Yayyy. And this Friday also marks a milestone for Lez Renovate. This is our 100th post! Wow. In blogger world, that's not very many. Considering how long we have been in the blogosphere.

Since we are renovators, we like to measure things. So, lets measure our average posts. Our first post was on Nov 6, 2009. That's 1 year, 4 months, and 19 days or 72 weeks or 505 days. So on average we have been posting almost 1 1/2 times a week. Blurg. Of course the frequency is varied. For instance, when we were renovating the basement suite it seemed that we were posting every day for weeks. But, I digress.

Would you like to see us post more? What would you find helpful or interesting? We are always looking for suggestions on how to improve.

Now on to the exciting part. A new video! It seems that we have been busy trying to wrap around heads around all the renovations. We have a lot to do. Yikes. Check out our list:

And you know what is even more exciting than this video? The debut of a new song called, Lists. I know, you're excited. Calm down.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Oh appliance repair....

LL says:

So last year we decided to treat ourselves, during the crazy renovation of the basement suite, by purchasing brand new appliances! A fridge, stove, washer, dryer and dishwasher. I know. Fancy. Most of them we got at Sears, which came with a standard warranty and nice, helpful, decent sales people. The dishwasher and stove came from the Red Door Discount Warehouse. They offered a 3 month warranty. Guess which appliances broke less than a year after installation. Yep, you guessed it. The dishwasher and stove. All the appliances from Sears are still ticking.

First to go was the gas stove. So, we called up Red Door to ask for service repair and if they had a company that they deal with. We called up Apollo Appliance Repair to come over and assess the situation with our gas stove. The ignitor in the oven was unpredictable, lighting half the time. So, Apollo came over, opened the oven, used his screwdriver to move the ignitor a few millimetres and closed it up. All in all, 5 mins work. It started up fine, tried it a couple times. Charged $75. Since I didn't exactly know what we were entitled to warranty wise, Apollo called Red Door asking if the charge was covered by warranty. Apparently it was ok because he got off the phone and it was taken care of.

Sweet. So, he left and I felt like it was all taken care of.  A few oven uses later, it started acting up again and more frequently. Feeling annoyed, we ignored it and chose not to make cookies for awhile. Then it just got ridiculous so I called Red Door again figuring since the charge was taken care of last time, it would be taken care of again. My mistake. As soon as the owner realized it was me (the owner of the whirlpool gas range that "duped" him into paying for the repair) his customer service skills flew out the window. The guy told me he was "pissed off at me for duping him into paying for a repair that was not his responsibility and that he was too lazy to find my phone number to call and tell me so". Woah... what?! He didn't say anything about it not being under warranty when we first called about the repair service. I actually figured it wasn't, but when Apollo came to fix the stove, he called Red Door to find out who was paying and all of sudden it was taken care of. So, why question if it was taken care of? My mistake. Always question.

Anyways - I told Red Door that I was unaware of this payment being swallowed by him out of warranty but was also not very apologetic because his attitude towards a "customer", ie. ME, was very bad. I have my own business too. I know how to treat customers. Whether you are pissed off at them or not, you treat them nicely. Not accusatory. He even started using personal excuses for making a bad judgment call on swallowing the payment and not calling to tell me so.

So, after being blindsided by his comment, I just said I'll call Apollo to come back and hung up. Shaking my head I called Apollo and set up an appointment for him to come back. In the meantime, the dishwasher broke.

Oh appliances.

A few days later, Apollo came back and took the oven apart and said that he needed to order a part in the states to repair it. Fine. But, he required full payment for the part as well as the labour it would take to install it. What? Ok. Weird. Just do it. So, I paid him and off he went. Weeks went by, no phone call. So I called him to see what was up. He said he hadn't heard anything and that he would call when it arrives. Over a month later of waiting, I called again demanding to know what was going on. He said he didn't know and would call me after he talked to the warehouse. A day later he said that the warehouse was waiting for the part and that he would call when it arrived. Not believing that he actually ordered the part, I did a little research of my own and found the part stocked in a warehouse in the states and found that he was charging me almost $100 more for it.

So, I called him up one last time, called his bluff and said cancel the order and refund my money immediately. It only took one business day for the money to appear.

Ever since then, the stove has been working fine. Weird. But, the dishwasher is still broken.

Knowing full well that I would get an ear full from Red Door, I chose not to call him. Instead, Cool J decided to try and assess the damage herself. After weeks of hand washing all the dishes, we broke down and called Totem Appliance. They came by this morning and said they would order the part and come back in a week to install and its payable upon completion. Phew. Sounds normal.

Take a look at the video we did for installing the dishwasher!

I can totally appreciate good service. I love good service. Not enough praise goes to companies that offer good service. But when a company offers bad service, that experience quickly travels far and wide. Especially in this day and age of the internet.

What could Red Door and Apollo Appliance have done differently? Well, being up front and honest from the get go and not blaming your customers would have been good. Or offering a discount on repair or a future appliance purchase. Anything to restore faith in a customer. So far this experience has prevented me from recommending these companies.

Unlike Allin Plumbing and Heating. So far so good. These guys installed our furnace and hot water tank. They were fast, tidy and decent. Even came back for a free cleaning and check-up a year later with no problems. Nice, friendly service. That's what gets me talkin'.

Have you had some appliance repair nightmares? Do you attempt DIY appliance fixes? Let us know!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Lez Have a Snow Day! - VIDEO

Season 2 Episode 12

So we just got back from a much needed vacation that did not involve snow. But, we did have a little work that did involve snow. Check it out...


Now that we have relaxed in the sun and thought about nothing other than what to eat and drink, we are back in the renovation saddle, so to speak. Stay tuned for more!

LL and Cool J