Are LED light bulbs worth it?

Are LED light bulbs worth it?

I’ve been buying modern forms of light bulbs for almost 15 years now. So when someone asks me, “Are LED light bulbs worth it?” or “Do LED lights really save you money?” I can answer the question. I was more accepting of CFL bulbs than most, but I had some reservations about them. On the other hand, I really like LED bulbs.

LED light bulbs have saved me a lot of money over the years, and they have quite a few advantages besides the money they save you every month on your electric bill. I thought LED light bulbs were worth it five years ago, and I really think so now.

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What appliances should a landlord provide

What appliances should a landlord provide? Every landlord has a different opinion. I tend to be fairly generous. I’ll explain what I provide and why.

First, let me give you a hint: Often you have to spend money to make money, and a fully-stocked house can easily net you $20 additional in rent every month. Assuming a 10-year service life, that means you can afford to spend $700, and $700 buys a lot of used appliances. Also, if a tenant stays an extra year and your house isn’t vacant for a month while you’re getting a new tenant, that’s worth a few hundred dollars alone. Here are some tips on saving money on appliances if you need them.

Second: This isn’t what a landlord is required to provide. It’s what I recommend they provide based on my own experience.

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Save money on appliances

Save money on appliances

If you want to know how to save money on appliances, I have some unconventional advice: Buy used. Yes, really. Here’s how to buy used (or refurbished) appliances and save big money without getting ripped off.

I’ve had a number of friends get hit recently with appliance breakdowns they couldn’t afford, and since I’m a landlord, I’ve probably bought a lifetime’s worth of appliances in the last seven years. A dead appliance doesn’t have to turn into a financial catastrophe.

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Yes, you can replace an Insinkerator in a hurry AND on a budget

After having a second Insinkerator garbage disposal in about three months give it up and start leaking, I started wondering if there might be a way to get drop-in replacement at a lower price.

I found it. Actually, I found several. Emerson, the maker of Insinkerator, sells a budget brand they call Evergrind. And an Evergrind garbage disposal costs several dollars less than a comparable Insinkerator while still using the same mount. Ace Hardware garbage disposals (their house brand) are the same, as are True Value Master Plummer garbage disposals. Essentially all three of them are Insinkerator Badgers with a different label and molded a different color.

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How to repair a dryer

How to repair a dryer

The other night I had a dryer go out. I had a few surprise expenses this month, so I really didn’t want to replace a dryer on top of the other things, so I looked into how to repair a dryer.

I learned quite a bit, but the most important thing was that I fixed a $200 dryer with $7.50 worth of parts, and it only took a few minutes.

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Tips on buying used stuff

I just found a Lifehacker piece on buying used stuff without getting ripped off. I have plenty of experience in this area.

The key, I think, is to deal in person, and test as much functionality as you can before handing over the cash. Read more

How I fixed an Americana (GE) anti-tip bracket that didn’t work

I’m fixing up a house that has an Americana (a GE budget brand) gas range in it. One of the last things I did before getting the St. Louis County inspection was to check to see if it had an anti-tip bracket installed. It did, so I didn’t worry about it. The house failed inspection based on two things, basically–a dead battery in the smoke detector downstairs (funny, I installed that about two months ago), and the anti-tip bracket.

The bracket that came with this range is a little different. Rather than grab the leg like most anti-tip brackets, this one grabs a hook on the back of the stove. The problem with mine was that the bracket couldn’t reach the hook on the back of the stove. The gas line comes through the floor about an inch from the wall, so the stove can’t sit close enough to the wall for the bracket to catch. Further investigation revealed that even if the bracket could have reached, it wouldn’t have done much since it was only screwed into drywall. The stove’s weight would have pulled it straight out.

But the remedy was simple and only involved a two-foot scrap of 2×4.

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Coming soon: Affordable LED lighting

Affordable is relative, of course. LED lights are a long way from costing less than CFLs, and of course, the old-fashioned incandescents are still cheaper. But the Ecosmart LED bulb that Home Depot is about to start selling for $20 costs half as much as competing offerings from GE and Philips.

They use 8-9 watts to provide equivalent light to a 40w incandescent, work in dimmers, are made in the USA, and have an estimated life expectancy of 17 years. So I think I could be persuaded to buy a couple.But speaking of CFLs, I’ve been buying them since at least 2003. They get a bit of a bad rap, but in my experience, not all CFLs are created equal. Some of the first CFLs that I installed 7-8 years ago are still working. I’ve had others only last a few months.

I can think of two possible reasons for this. I bought my first bulbs at Home Depot. Later, I switched to buying bulbs at Kmart. The bulbs I was buying at Kmart were considerably less reliable. A couple of years ago I switched to buying bulbs at Costco. Fed up with replacing CFLs, I started writing the date of purchase on the bulbs and saving my receipts at that point. But so far, none of my dated bulbs have burned out.

So I think changing brands can make a difference. If a bulb burns out before its time, buy a different brand next time. And write the installation date on your bulbs so you can be certain the bulb really did burn out before its time. Given the number of fixtures in most homes, it can be difficult to remember exactly when it was you changed a bulb.

The other thing to check is the fixture itself. The base of the bulb contacts a copper tab inside the fixture. Over time, this tab can get mashed down, causing poor contact, which causes arcing and damages the base of the bulb, leading to decreased bulb life. If you want to fix this, cut off power to the outlet from your breaker box or fuse box, remove the bulb, and bend the tab to about a 20-degree angle. Turn the power back on, turn on the light switch, then start twisting the bulb into the socket. Stop turning just as soon as the bulb lights.

Good things come to those who drag their feet

A month ago, I was looking to buy a fridge and a washer and a dryer. My family came in to help me.
Mostly I got frustrated. I went into Sears and liked their prices, and the salesperson offered six months’ free financing. But you never buy the first place you look. We went to a Maytag dealer. The salesperson was extremely nice and helpful and offered me a year of free financing, but the prices were high. I had checked Best Buy a few days before. Pricing was comparable to Sears, and they offered their standard six-month free financing, but I could save a little at Sears by buying Kenmore, which was being made by Whirlpool last month.

I decided that for the price difference, I could go to Sears and pay off the appliances in half the time. So we went back. The salesperson who had helped me was gone. I told another salesperson I’d need financing. He offered me rates that were comparable to a typical exploitative rent-to-own joint. “It’s just 1.9 percent a month,” he said.

A 22.8 percent APR? In this day and age? With my credit rating? You’ve got to be kidding me. I might as well just put it on the Discover card I already have and avoid having yet another credit check done. Or watch the mail for a card with a really low introductory rate, for that matter. I told the guy that earlier in the day I could have gotten free financing. He said that must have been a mistake. I told him I wasn’t interested and left him with a half-filled-out ticket.

By then I wasn’t in the mood to go spend four figures on a bunch of stuff and have to deal with delivery arrangements. So I went home and took a nap. I closed on the house. I started moving. The appliances task sat. And sat.

A week ago, I mentioned to some friends that I still needed to go buy my big appliances.

“Gas or electric dryer?” one of my friends asked.

“Gas,” I said.

“You want one?” she asked.

“You’re trying to get rid of one?” I asked.

“It came with my house. It’s not very old but I had a set that was less than a year old, so I wanted mine. So it’s just sitting in my basement. Yours,” she said.

Nice. That saved me at least 300 bucks. Good things come to those who drag their feet.

So last night I went into Best Bait-n-Switch to try my luck. I couldn’t remember if the dryer she was giving me was a Whirlpool or a Frigidaire. A lot of people want a matching set, but I don’t care much about that. Look at my stereo: My receiver is a JVC and my CD changer is a Sony. And nobody’s going to look at my washer and dryer.

The salesman said he saw fewer returns on Whirlpools and that Whirlpool customer service was easier to deal with. Pricing was comparable. Unfortunately, you never know with this place whether he was being sincere or whether Whirlpool was running some kind of incentive to move inventory. I remember in my retail days it seemed like there was a promotion with some vendor or another every month. I still remember my manager sitting us down at a meeting one day. “IBMs are the best. I don’t know why,” she said. “Make up something. They’re running a promotion this month.”

I’d spotted a $379 Frigidaire washer on the Web. Whirlpool didn’t have a direct equivalent, but there was a $399 Whirlpool that had better features. And then there was a $459 Maytag, discounted to $429, that had more features still. And it was a Maytag. Maybe I should have stuck to my guns and bought the Frigidaire. But I bought the Maytag.

Then I went and looked at refrigerators. He started me out in the $699 aisle. But the fridge in my first apartment was a bottom-end model that didn’t even work right. The fridge in my current apartment is a bottom-end GE that does work. I could buy the same thing for 350 bucks and be content with it, if not happy. Mom’s been trying to talk me into an icemaker. So I told the guy I wanted a fridge that had an icemaker, or could have one added.

There was a $399 Frigidaire that fit the bill. Very basic. But it was everything I needed, really. I glanced over at the fridges next to it. There was a $499 model that had nicer shelves, a third drawer, and all the drawers were clear. I liked it better. I’ll like having clear drawers. I have this nasty habit of buying produce, putting it in a drawer, and then forgetting I bought it. A couple of months later, I remember. So clear drawers will save me some big money over the life of the fridge.

There was a $459 model that had a third drawer but didn’t have the nice shelves. And then there was a $429 model. It had the nice shelves and clear drawers (three of them) and everything else I wanted. I couldn’t understand why it was priced lower. The salesman didn’t know why it was priced lower. I bought it.

I skipped the extended warranties. Ask the salespeople about the warranty terms sometime and then ask the customer service people. You’ll get different stories from them. I learned that the hard way about 10 years ago. A lot of it is discretionary. Why should you pay $100 per appliance to get to go to different stores and talk to different people until you get what you want? It’s better to pay a little extra to get equipment that’s less likely to need service in the first place, which is what I did in the case of the washer. Losing a fridge is a bigger deal, but I also know it isn’t all that common.

Then I asked about financing. He said 12 months, interest-free. Nice. I’ll take it. I filled out the application, got everything in order, and then I got the bait-and-switch, in the form of the magical words “unadvertised special.” How about 18 months of interest-free financing?

Dude.

Good things come to those who drag their feet.

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