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GE calls their GeoSpring water heater a “hybrid,” which in this case means that it heats water through a mix of old and new methods. The new part consists of a heat pump — the same kind of technology you’ve seen in HVAC units for years. An evaporator pulls heat from the ambient air, transferring it to the water within. But when your use demands water too hot for the heat pump (or, more likely, too much water for it to heat effectively in time), a classic electrical element kicks on, topping off the temperature quickly.

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Well, crap. Despite our skepticism and even our best efforts to get the thing to fail, our Hero Heater has made it through the winter. It’s just difficult to to find something bad to say about the damn thing. It’s small, well mannered (quiet), easy on the ears, and lightweight; it sips fuel and the battery lasts more than a full day in the shop without a recharge.

We loaned it out to other shops and tradesmen; we let it sit for a month to see if the battery would drain out; and we started it up cold every day for about a month and change, and not once did it fail to start at the first press of a button. It keeps the shop (two-car garage with the door cracked) warm enough to work in, even when temperatures are close to freezing outside.

We give. It’s solid. The funny part is, the four people we loaned to bought one after they gave it back, which, at $150 for the Hero and $20-$30 for the propane, is no small endorsement. Well done, Little Hero.

Mr. Heater Hero [Website]
Hero Heater [Toolmonger]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]


It has turned out to be one of the hottest summers on record here in Texas. Until just last week, the DFW area had not had a day where the recorded temperature sunk back into double digits since early June, when the first post on this subject came out. Since then I’ve been steadily tracking my electric bill, and the results have been eye opening.

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Like Sean, I, too have a hell of a time keeping the house cool during the summer. And like him, the bedroom is the real point of contention: To get my bedroom down to a reasonable 80 degrees on a hot 100+ degree day (like we’re having this week), I have to bring the rest of the house down to 75. It’s expensive, and it’s an issue. But unlike Sean, my bedroom windows are large and don’t lend themselves well to window units.

But maybe that’s not the end of the road for me. I suspect it’s those big windows that cause the problem in the first place. A few quick spot checks show that when the middle of the room is 80 degrees, the areas over by the window are as high as 90.

The obvious choice seems to be installing some kind of sun shade on the window. I’ve already ruled out tinting because a) it seems to me that if the tint absorbs the heat, it’ll still radiate into the house and b) I talked with a window installer a while back (after a hail storm) and he mentioned that about 70% of his replacements are due to long-term damage caused by the additional heat stresses of tinting. But what about external sun shades like the ones pictured above?

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While supplies last, Lee Valley has a 1200W heat gun for $19.95. This gun has a two-speed fan (7.3 and 15 cfm) and a dial-operated variable-heat control, shown below, from 110° F to 930° F (45° C to 500° C). For safety, they encased the gun’s heating element in ceramic and added a thermostat to prevent overheating.

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Spring has officially sprung here in Texas, and even if your hometown’s still under the Groundhog’s curse for a few more weeks, you’re probably considering replacing those nasty, wintrified heating and a/c filters in your home. Realizing that waking up every day with a stuffy nose may be due to my crap-clogged filters, I hit the big box on a mission. Unfortunately when I got there and saw 300 varieties of air filters ranging from “high performance electrostatic” ($$$$) to fiberglass ($), I realized I needed some guidance. Here’s what I learned.

To make sure you’re selecting the appropriate kind of air filter for your home, consider whether any pollutants (indoors, in your garage/shop, or outdoors) are affecting the air quality inside. Household chemicals, pesticides, mold or mildew, high humidity, improperly vented appliances, standing water or leaks, or (obviously) if anyone smokes inside the house are factors that can be identified and fixed first.

Second, assuming your home filters are designed more for providing healthy air in the living space (as opposed to protecting machines or equipment), take into account how you or your family responds to allergens such as dust mites, pollen, mold spores, smoke, pet dander, and smog. The better quality the filter, the smaller the particles it can capture, and without interrupting the air flow of your HVAC system too much, which is paramount for efficiency. Also, check the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) of the filter: they range from 1-16, and the 12-16 range are the highest quality at 90+% efficiency.

Home air filters are divided into six basic types:

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