Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pamase Kaiser Series Collapsible Trekking Poles Review

Before I saw these Pamase Trekking poles on Amazon, I looked at some dozens of poles. The main features I liked about these poles that made me choose them were the extended EVA foam handles, the advertised 7075 T6 aluminum, and the reasonable price for a first-time buyer.

Other features, or PROs:
+ Each pole comes collapsed in a plastic carry bag, netted on one side.
+ The wrist wraps are slightly padded for  comfort. They adjust easily.
+ Rubber tips are included that press over the metal points. The rubber tips do not screw on, but they appear to be tight enough not to fall off.
+ Screw-on snow baskets are also included. They require some effort to screw on, so they will never come off by themselves.
+Assembly is easy, with the three parts sliding together and held by two spring-loaded locking pins.
+Adjustment is made by loosening the adjustable shaft by rotating it counter clockwise and then sliding the shaft up or down. Adjustment marks on each pole make it easy to match lengths.
+Advertised length adjustment is 38cm to 130cm or 15 inches to 51 inches. When adjusted to the desired length, the shaft is tightened by rotating it clockwise until tight. The adjustment is very tight and there is no slipping even under a reasonable amount of force.

- When assembled, the poles have a small amount of looseness at the two joints, which creates the impression of fragility. Held suspended, they jiggle. However, as soon as any amount of weight is placed on the poles, they firm up and exhibit only the expected amount of flexing produced by aluminum tubing. Confidence in the poles is therefore quickly restored.
- On city walks (asphalt, concrete, stone) the poles are noisy when the rubber tip plunks down on the hard surface.
- The poles are advertised as having "anti-shock." On some poles I looked at, this meant the presence of a spring in the shaft, to absorb the impact of planting the pole. These poles do not have such a spring.

In Use:
These poles are functional and perform well. Once you adjust to the jiggle, they are fine.

If you need portability (such as a luggage fit), these will work. Would I buy these again? Well, if I wanted a second set of poles, there are so many available I'd probably find something different just to have something different. And since right now I don't need disassembling poles, I'd get a pair that don't come apart.

Bottom Line:
These are a quality product at a great price. Recommended.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Neewer® NW320 TTL LCD Display LED-Assistive Preview Focus flash Speedlite Review

The one issue with my Sony A 7II is that the 28-70mm lens is slow, shooting at the equivalent of F 3.5 to 5.6. In indoor light, some lighting enhancement is desirable. And in outdoor situations where bright sun and objects create half-shaded faces and scenes, some fill-in light  would be useful. Enter the Neewer® NW320 TTL LCD Display LED-Assistive Preview Focus flash Speedlite for the Sony A 7II. It fits onto the camera's hotshoe and operates with TTL (Through the Lens) logic, adjusting camera settings for the amount of light, leaving you with a nearly perfectly exposed shot, most of the time.

The Neewer NW320 is only rated at 32, which is a modestly powered unit (compare speedlites at up to 180 or more), but it is great for portraits, small groups, museum objects, plants, flowers in the shade, and so forth. The light power is great up to about 8 feet.

For the entry-level price, this unit is great for those who want to experiment with an on-camera flash before committing to a $400 one. The flash head tilts up and includes a diffuser for adjusting results.

Four Stars

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Oxygenics PowerMassage Model 88446 Showerhead Review

The Oxygenics PowerMassage Model 88446 Showerhead provides five spray patterns, all of which offer robust sprays. The company claims that its "dual Oxygenics Engine" creates the impression of greater spray pressure than standard design showerheads. There would appear to be some credibility to this claim since the 88446 uses only 1.75 gallons per minute, far less that the "water saver" showerheads that use 2.5 gallons per minute.

Oxygenics also gets bonus points not only for printing easy installation instructions on the box, but for including Teflon tape as a needed item in the parts. Labels on both ends of the connecting hose ensure that the  correct connections will be made. Installation is simple, easy, and straightforward. However, if you have problems, there is support through a Web site, an email contact, and an 800 toll-free telephone line. There is also a QR code on the box, promising video of the spray patterns and features.

All the needed installation parts were included in the box. If your old showerhead is stuck on tightly, or if the threads on the pipe are seriously stuck with teflon tape, you might need some slip joint pliers and an  awl (to help dig out the old tape). Otherwise, the installation is a hands-only, fifteen-minute job.

The five spray patterns are well chosen: multi, wide stream, focused stream, flood, and massage. The selector handle turns easily but gives a solid feel to the head. The water sprays with plenty of energy, feeling at least like a 2.5 gallon-per-minute head. The head works well, as advertised, and adjusts easily.

The only quibbles we could discern are:  (1) The hose connecting the faucet to the showerhead is very stiff. This five-foot hose needs to be worked with so that it doesn't stick out sideways from the wall. It might be that after a sufficient amount of hot showers flow through, the hose will soften and relax. Meanwhile, some bending is needed to help out. (2) The proprietary "pressure chamber" that mixes the water and air together drains when you turn off the shower in the same way those outdoor hose bib anti-siphon valves drain when you turn off the hose.

Bottom Line
Showerheads grow increasingly fancy with multiple spray patterns (I saw one at the store boasting 35 patterns) and various features. Some heads are huge, approaching ten inches in diameter.  A few are metal and  quite heavy. The Oxygenics PowerMassage Model 88446 is made of a sturdy plastic with a beautiful brushed nickel finish. It's light enough for anyone to handle easily. It works very well.

Highly Recommended. Five Stars *****.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector Review

The Black & Decker TLD100 Thermal Leak Detector is an excellent tool, and I haven't even tried it for its designated use yet. The TLD100 s positioned as an air leak locator, finding temperature irregularities that signal heating or cooling leaks.

In actuality, the TLD100 is an infrared thermometer. It can read the surface temperature of objects in a range from minus 22 to 302 degrees Fahrenheit, from a few inches to four or more feet away. Understanding this, you can see the versatility.

1. Say you microwave some leftovers for thirty seconds or a minute. Did they get hot enough? All over? I nuked some refrigerated casserole for six minutes. The TLD100 reported that the food had reached only 115 degrees. So I rezapped it for a couple more minutes and the TLD100 said it had reached 165, which is perfect.

2. I bought the TLD100 as an adjunct in locating a water leak. Yes, I realize that this is "off label," but think about this. I might be able to locate, say, the hot water pipe under the slab by noting floor temperature differentials. The unit is designed to compare questioned area temperatures with reference temperatures.

3. Open the fridge or the freezer and check their temperature.

4. Is the parking lot or the beach sand too hot to walk on in bare feet? Check the temp with the TLD100 and find out.

5. How cool is the air coming from your air conditioning vent? Measure the surface temp of the vent as a proxy.

6. How hot is the air coming from your heater vent?

7. Maybe measure the surface temp of your pool water. Bathtub water?

8. You can even use it for its intended purpose!!!

Bottom line: At the reasonable price it sells for, I recommend getting one of these TLD100 Thermal Leak Detectors. If you have kids, you could teach them about temperature and various surfaces. (Plants will have a lower temp than asphalt, for example.)

Saturday, August 27, 2016

(Almost) Always Save the Screws

When you buy a new door knob, hinge, switch, wall outlet, or other hardware item that includes screws, always save the old ones. (The only exception might be if the screw heads are slotted and filled with paint and the screw is a common one.

Why? Have you priced screws recently? And have you tried to find exactly the screw you need that fits some arcane or 50-year-old item? I even take the wiring screws out of old outlets, since you never know when you might need one, and such an unusual, stubby screw would probably cost a dollar or two at the hardware store. I've found that those "screw assortments" have none of the commonly used screws in appliance or electrical repair.

I just installed an outdoor cover for a GFCI and the accompanying screws did not fit--too long. I had to scavenge the screws from a wall plate cover because I didn't have any spares.

You'll end up, of course, with a jar filled with an amalgam of miscellaneous screws, but think of the pleasure of fishing through it sometime in the future and finding just what you need.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Air Conditioner Manufacturers Ranked

In the continuing saga of choosing the best, most reliable central air conditioner brand, after looking at what appeared to be nonrepesentative reviews (every brand I looked at was rated one star out of five), I decided to find some overall rankings.

And now it's time for some more cautions.

1. If you search on "best central air conditioners," you'll get lists and reviews of the fanciest, most feature laden, and expensive units made. "Best" here doesn't necessarily mean "most reliable" or even "highest quality."

Here's a list of "best" air conditioning systems.
1. Lennox
2. Frigidaire
3. Trane
4. American Standard
5. Carrier
6. Bryant
7. Coleman
8. Another Carrier
9. Amana
10. Goodman

Now, here are the rankings by an air conditioning contractor, who has field experience with all these brands:
1. Day and Night
2. Goodman
3. Carrier
4. Mitsubishi ductless split
5. Bryant
6. Amana (lowered simply because it is the higher priced Goodman, which makes Amana)
7. York
8. Trane
9. Rheem (not recommended)
10. Lennox (not recommended

And here the top three and bottom three from a famous consumer magazine:
1. American Standard
2. Rheem
3. Trane
. . /
8. Amana
9. Goodman
10. York

And here from an anonymous YouTube posting (that repeatedly spells "category" as "catagory"):
2. Byant
3. Payne
4. ICP
. . .
7. Day and Night
. . .
9. Goodman
10. Rheem
11. Ruud
12. Trane
13. American Standard
14. Amana

. . .
3. Lennox

Since no reasons are given for the rankings and since we don't know who has posted this or why, such a list is essentially useless, except for me to point out that anonymous ranking lists are useless.

Bottom line: There are dozens of brands made by a handful of manufacturers all using parts made by the same suppliers. It's just like automobile manufacturing. Of course, there are differences. If you are in the market, see the next entry for what to look for when you shop. Oh, I almost forgot. The bottom line is to choose an honest, reliable, knowledgeable installer. Watch a few YouTube videos about A/C installations, good and bad. Reliability of your air conditioning system is directly connected to the how properly it was installed.

Air Conditioning Brands--A Cautionary Tale

So  you want to choose the highest quality, most reliable new central air conditioning system for your home? Why not look at the reviews? Well, here are some cautions.

1. First, reviews can be faked. Review sites try to reduce the fakery, but it's difficult. Amazon distinguishes between "verified customer" and not verified. Just remember, an unhappy owner can post more than one negative review out of spite, a company across town can abuse a brand the competition uses, even a regional wholesaler might get into the act.

2. Second, and this is the most telling, unhappy customers are much more likely to post negative reviews than happy customers are likely to post positive reviews. We are a society that lives inside a culture of complaint. There is a bias toward criticism. And with air conditioning in particular, disgruntled customers are especially angry--because they are hot and miserable. (I talked to an A/C repairman once who told me it was not uncommon to be greeted on a house call by an angry customer who blamed him for the unit's failure.

To return to selecting the best air conditioner brand, here is a classic example. I wondered what the reviews were like for various brands, and hoped to pick out the best. So, I go to an evaluation site and pick Trane, a well-known brand.

Trane: (61 ratings) One star out of five. Sample review excerpt: "This is the biggest [piece of junk] I  have ever owned in my life."

So I think, that's not good. Let's try Lennox, a popular brand at warehouse stores and hardware stores.

Lennox: (38 ratings) One star out of five. Sample review excerpt: ". . . unit goes bad . . . class action lawsuit. . . ."

So I think, that's not what I was expecting. What about Carrier? They are a very old, experienced, reputable company, right?

Carrier: (81 ratings) One star out of five. Sample review excerpt: ". . . service calls every year for the last three years. . . . Carrier's quality has gone way down."

Well, that brand sounds risky. How about Goodman?

Goodman:(63 ratings) One star out of five. Sample review excerpt: ". . . total system failure . . . very, very low quality."

Now, I'm beginning to get suspicious. This brings  us to the next caution.

3. Manufacturers don't deliberately junk. I don't think I'm being a Pollyanna here. Manufacturers want to (a) stay in business (b) make a profit (c) have a good reputation and more sales by word of mouth. It is self defeating to build junk. Even if you're cynical, can you believe that all of the manufacturers above are "one-star" companies? If one or two were rated one star while others were rated three, four, or five stars, that would be more plausible. But all of them one star?

4. Individual experiences get generalized. This is the logical fallacy of hasty generalization. "I bought a Brand X air conditioner and it was no good; therefore, all Brand X air conditioners are no good." Remember the "your mileage may vary" warning? Same  here. Your experience may be unusual. If the company that installed your system did a poor job, you're likely to experience a poor air conditioner.

See the next posting for some comparisons of A/C brands.