Archive for February, 2016

Building a Thunder Snorker

by on Feb.22, 2016, under News

So let’s just say you have a carpenter ant infestation…

Carpenter Ant

Carpenter Ant

We bought our home in Dallas 2 years ago this month.  We’ve been battling a problem with carpenter ants in the dining room ceiling since then.  A few days ago I noticed one of these pests on one of the large dining room windows (then entire north wall is glass).  When I looked up… DAMN! – the windows were covered with these 1/2″-long winged ants.  We had a swarm taking place and literally hundreds of them were covering the north wall, the ceiling and inside our Roman shades.  Disgusting!  Quick fast like a bunny I called our Critter Gitter (on speed dial of course).  He couldn’t get out until maybe the next day and suggested a vacuum cleaner to dispense with the pests.

No problem.

I have a fairly new and robust shop vac that gets a lot of use in my workshop.  However… We have a 15 foot cathedral ceiling in the dining room which required a 12 foot stepladder to install the chandelier.  There’s no way the shop vac is going to get the pests off the highest corners, which is exactly where most of these pests have chosen to congregate.

Shop Vac Pre-Modification

Shop Vac Pre-Modification

Simple solution:

Extend the reach of my shop vac with a 10 foot length of 1″ PVC I just happen to have in the shop.

This is pretty simple and it has some additional advantages.  Reducing the diameter of the opening increases the velocity of the intake, which does a better job of detaching ants from the surface they are scampering across.  Sucking in air from a 2″ opening (stock size for the shop vac) has considerably less velocity than that same amount of cfm going through a 1″ opening.  So… BONUS!

My favorite tape for such activities is RED Duct Tape.  Why?  Because it leaves no sticky residue.  You can peel it off and you are not left with a sticky, hard-to handle shop vac tube when you’re done.  I always keep a supply of this stuff in my supply cabinet.  I actually have probably six different kinds of duct tape for different uses.

So.  Off to the workshop and return with shop vac, PVC and red duct tape.  Inserting the PVC about 2 feet into the stock tube gives it better stability and still allows me to reach the ceiling.  Checking this before you tape it up saves a lot of time.  Thoroughly wrapping the intersection with red duct tape results in a very manageable “wand” which allows me to snork up hundreds of carpenter ants in about an hour.

Red Duct Tape

Red Duct Tape

Thunder Snorker Mod

Thunder Snorker Mod


They do not appreciate this intrusion into their dining routine and try to get away as you might imagine.  I, however am at least as motivated as they are – and have technology on my side.

It seems these not-so-little pests have set up housekeeping in the joist space above our dining room and may require extreme measures to permanently eradicate them.  In the meantime, I stay busy snorking up any stragglers that appear.

Keeping in mind that there are most likely thousands of these guys up in the ceiling if I have managed to snatch up several hundred so far, is motivation to keep after them.

One more important thing you might have thought of by now…

How do you make sure they don’t come crawling back out of the vacuum

(to re-infest the premises after you’re done?)

My solution is to grab the first can of any insecticide I can find and give them a lung full of it.  Keep the vacuum running and spray this stuff in its snout for about 30 seconds.  That should turbocharge their little lungs with enough toxins to settle them down permanently (see photo of inside of shop vac).

Warren's Thunder Snorker

Warren’s Thunder Snorker

Not getting away from me...

Not getting away from me…

Thunder Snorker Alone

Thunder Snorker Alone

Give 'em a snout full of this

Give ’em a snout full of this

Dead Ants, Dead Ants...

Dead Ants, Dead Ants…

Not getting away from me...

Not getting away from me…

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LED Replacements for Halogen GU10 Bulbs that ROCK!

by on Feb.07, 2016, under Instructional, Recommendations

We just recently blew in a nice thick layer of insulation in our attic to decrease our energy usage and even out the temperature across the house.  Prior to this we have been replacing all our lighting with LED for these reasons.

  1. They use less energy
  2. They last a lot longer
  3. They create almost no heat (which is very beneficial in the Texas Summer)
GU10 bulb

GU10 bulb

We have about a dozen or so of the miniature halogen GU10 fixtures throughout the house.  These are very similar to the ubiquitous MR-16 bulbs that have been popular for decades, but fitted with a bayonet mount.  Some are on dimmers and some are not.  We like the color and style of these lights, but they use a lot of juice and create a lot of heat.  But we really like the look.

All this changed after we blew in 14″ of insulation, though.  The problem with the halogen bulbs is they generate a lot of heat.  After you bury them with a thick layer of insulation, this heat really starts to build up – and they overheat and shut down to protect themselves.  This is at best a royal pain and at worst a potential fire hazard.

This is where the search for an acceptable LED replacement started.  I went through several products that were not acceptable.  They were either far too dim, or the wrong color (some were actually yellow) or just cheap and subject to failure.  One batch I received, though very reasonably priced, were a mix of white and yellow looking bulbs (mostly yellow) which is great if you want to look sallow and jaundiced, but not what we wanted in our kitchen.  If we do a zombie themed Halloween party, we may put those back in, just for the effect…

What it comes down to is that LEDs use a lot less wattage for the same number of lum

MR-16 bulb

MR-16 bulb

ens of light as halogen.  A 50 watt halogen bulb is pretty bright.  Some manufacturers state their 4 watt LED bulb is equivalent to a 50 watt halogen.  Not in my experience.  Some say their 5 watt bulb is the same.  Not what I found.  The 6.5 watt bulbs are touted as a replacement by some vendors.  Not in our application.  And then there is the color temperature.  Light temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin, with daylight falling somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 degrees Kelvin.  “Warm” lighting is somewhere in the 2,700 to 3,000 range, but this depends a lot on the design of the LED filtering employed in each manufacturer’s bulb.  This is still an emerging industry and it seems to me there is a significant lack of consistency at this time.

The bulbs we finally settled on are the ones below.  They are robustly constructed with excellent heat sinks and cooling, rated at 8 watts and 5,000 Kelvin for a daylight color and I really like them.  They are a very white daylight-looking light, as bright as a 50 watt halogen or better and dimmable.

The heat sink assembly and bezel are a medium gunmetal gray and the bezel is ventilated to allow for airflow and cooling.  It is a very nice look.  These are also a 60 degree wide beam, which is a floodlight rather than a spotlight.  This is perfect for our needs.  If you need something more narrow like a spot, these are the wrong ones.

We finally found the ones we like and I recommend them highly.  They are more expensive than halogen, but they use less energy and last a LOT longer.  Amortizing in the initial cost with the effective lifespan of roughly 20 years, you are spending roughly 65 cents per year while you save a bundle on energy.

  • First of all, energy is billed in Kilowatt Hours (KWH).  This is 1,000 watts in use for 1 hour.
  • (10) 100 watt bulbs or (20) 50 watt bulbs on for one hour would be 1 KWH
  • Lets say you are paying 9 cents per KWH and have 10 of these in your home.
  • That’s 500 watts you are using or 1/2 KWH.
  • Let’s say you have them on for 5 hours a day.
  • That amounts to 2,500 watts or 2.5KW.
  • Multiply that by .09 and you get .225 or roughly 22 cents per day.
  • Multiply that by 365 days and you have $82.13 in energy annually for just these 10 bulbs for 5 hours a day

Let’s do the same math for LEDs.

  • At 8 watts time 10 bulbs that’s only 80 watts.
  • Multiply that by 5 hours and you get 400 watts, not even half a kilowatt.
  • Multiply that by 365 and you get 146  kilowatts
  • Multiply that by .09 and you have $13.14 per year.

It’s a pretty significant savings, especially when you factor it in over the 20 year lifespan.

Let’s just say you’re saving $60 per year
Over 20 years, that’s a $1,200 savings.

I don’t know if this is worth it to you, but it sure is to us.

Single bulbs are $12.99 each (sounds expensive, but they last about 20 years)



Six packs are $59.99

You can also get these same bulbs in 2700 Kelvin (warm white)

Six Pack:


Single bulbs:


But what about your conventional ceiling cans?

For retrofitting conventional downlight floods (or uplights) these are excellent.  We use them for our exterior architectural lighting.

You can order these in both 5000 K (daylight) and 2700 K (soft white) depending on your requirements.  These are dimmable just like a conventional incandescent bulb.  We use the 5000 K bulbs for our architectural lighting because we WANT it to look like Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  Bright white light is exactly what we want for our purposes.  In addition to architectural lighting this also makes for a nice deterrent for the criminal element, as it’s like freakin’ daylight out there 24 hours a day – and the cost is ridiculously low with LED bulbs.  We have our entire exterior lighting system controlled by a photocell and it works flawlessly.

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