Peaceful waters

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Truly one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited, Halong Bay, Vietnam, harbored breathtaking views of mountains surround by placid waters and colorful fishing boats.  A permanent mist blanketed the sky and protected us from the outside world as we watched native fishermen cast nets into the water.  A majestic masterpiece of Mother Nature, Halong Bay rewarded us with her serenity and transported us back in time to a place of humble beginnings and innocence.

 

Please visit our Travel page and join us on a photo tour of some of the most amazing places in this world!

 


Wall Stencils for a Modern Look

Wall Stencils for a Modern Statement

It seems like wall stencils are all the rage right now!   You can find them on accent walls, ceilings, closets, and even furniture.  The great thing about stencils are that the designs are directly painted onto the walls, so you can absolutely customize it to whatever color and design you would want.  You can choose to repeat a pattern or combine different stencils to create a brand new design of your own.  They can turn a seemingly boring room into a fabulous space for entertaining!

Wall Stencil for a Modern Look
If you opt for a busier pattern, placing it on an accent wall can really give you the look you want without it being too overwhelming.

 

Wall Stencil for an Accent Wall
There are hundreds of different styles and patterns that you can use to suit your style, whether it be modern, whimsical, natural, or vintage!

 

Wall Stencil to Match Your Style
We decided to try stenciling for the first time at our friend’s house (who else better to experiment on than another person’s house!) on a few small areas of the dining room.  Since the majority of the house is a neutral cream color, we wanted to add a dramatic flare to our dining area.  We chose to only stencil the two side panels and the center wall since we didn’t want the entire area to look too busy.  We bought our Moroccan pattern stencils online at www.cuttingedgestencils.com for $34.95, and it came with two stencils, one large and one corner piece.  When we read the reviews and instructions online, it seemed pretty easy to do and only ran into minor bumps that were easily corrected.

 

Recessed walls are great places to stencil
The reason we chose this area to paint the wall stencils is because it is one of the first areas that you see when you enter the home.  The recessed area in the center wall was a perfect place for us to do the stencil since it gives a splash of pattern and color without making the wall look too busy.  There were also two vertical side panels that we wanted to paint that would make nice accent walls as well.
Before painting, be sure to remove everything from your project wall, including paintings, decor, etc.  We would also recommend wiping down the wall with a rag to remove any dust or dirty areas.  Be sure to tape edges and place a floor liner for easy clean up.  We painted the panels we wanted to stencil in a metallic silver color.  We used Martha Stewart paint (it is discontinued now) but you can use any brand you may like.  

 

  Modern wall stencil
Metallic silver paint before stenciling
 Once the silver coat was dry, we taped the stencil to the wall and applied a bright white color over the silver.  We were very careful to blot off the excess paint on a paper towel so we would not pool the paint and create runny edges.  After the white paint was dry, we went back over the edges with silver paint to cover up any mistakes or messy areas.

 

  Modern wall stencil
White Moroccan pattern stencil on metallic silver

Once you are finished with your wall stencils and the paint is dry, place back any wall hangings and start the home decor process!  Stencils were very easy to do but it did take some time.  It took us two days to finish this project.

 Modern wall stencil
Before and after!
 We love how the this wall stencil pattern creates such clean and modern lines!  We thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and felt that we changed the entire look of the dining room at such an affordable price.  The great thing is that if you get tired of your stencil in a few years, you can always change it later!
If you liked this post, be sure to check out our other articles on Home Improvement and Home Decor! Happy reading!
Rinnai Tankless Water Heater Exterior Model

Tankless Water Heater

Tankless Water heater External InstalledLooking to replace your old water heater that takes up space in your garage or attic?  Then, you should look into replacing it with a tankless water heater.   Unlike the traditional storage-tank water heater, the tankless water heater is designed to use electricity, natural gas, or propane gas to heat and supply hot water only when needed without water been stored in a tank (where energy is wasted to maintain hot water at a set temperature all the time).  Some tankless models can provide more than 40% in energy savings vs a tank water heater; thus, installing a tankless water heater for your home is another way for you to save energy and money in the long run.  One of the best tankless water heater manufacturers in the marker today is Rinnai.   Below are a few other key benefits of using tankless water heaters.

Tankless water heater can provide unlimited hot water – Due to the efficiency of the design of the heat exchanger in the tankless water heater, a tankless water heater can continuously supply hot water to be used for three to four 2.5 gallon per minute (gpm) shower heads in the summer and two to three 2.5 gpm shower heads in the winter.  Your house will never run out of hot water again!

Compact design that saves space in your house – A tankless water heater is approximately ¼ the size of an average 40-gallon tank water heater, and it can be wall mounted inside (interior-mount units) or outside of your house (exterior-mount units).

Rinnai Tankless Water Heater Interior ModelRinnai Tankless Water Heater Exterior Model

Supply fresh, hot water all the time – You will always get fresh hot water since it’s a tankless design (no water has been stored over any period of time).

Little maintenance required – There is minimal maintenance required besides making sure that nothing is blocking the exhaust vent, unlike the storage-tank water heater that needs to be drained out at least every year.

Eco-friendly – Not only can tankless water heaters save you money on your energy bills, they are one of the most energy-efficient of water heaters available today.  They also produce less CO2 than traditional tank water heaters; therefore, many tankless water heaters qualify for a federal tax credit.

Last Longer – An average lifespan of the conventional tank water heaters is about 10 years or less; however, most tankless water heaters are designed to last twice as long.

Although the initial cost of tankless water heaters might be higher than the traditional tank water heaters, the tankless water heater system will pay off for itself in a short period of time with all the benefits listed above.  As of today, you will see more home builders install the tankless water heaters as their standard option since it will help increase their energy efficiency rating  and give them a competitive edge.

Check out our other posts for more information on other energy saving tips.


amazon local daily deals

Amazon Local-The Latest in Daily Deals and Group Buying Power

amazon local daily deals

Amazon Local-Daily Deals that will Save you Money!

If you’ve jumped on the “daily deal” bandwagon just like I have, you know just how much money you can save through the use of group purchasing power.  I have bought many items on Groupon, from painting classes to electronics, even health and beauty services, all at the fraction of the cost!  It can definitely get addicting, and I was buying maybe 2-3 Groupons a week.  Not only do I get good discounts on my purchases, but I was also trying new things like painting and surfing and going to many more concerts and events.

Amazon Local is another “daily deals” site that I found that offers you deep discounts not only from local businesses, but also from national chains and online merchants.  Amazon claims that they offer savings of up to 75% on restaurants, spas, events, travel getaways, hotels and more!  Not only are local deals supplied, but you can find national and online deals as well, such as online courses or items via online shopping.

What is great about Amazon Local is that if you already have an Amazon account, there is no need to sign up.  You can look at Amazon local deals while logged into your Amazon account.  Also, you will find a variety of coupons daily that you can apply to your Amazon purchases.  For example, for today’s daily deal, I can get a FREE coupon for half off select Kindle accessories.

Amazon Local Daily Deals

Another deal I found was a coupon where I can purchase certain Kindle books for only 99 cents!

Amazon Local Daily Deals

 

Amazon Local also suggested other deals that were near my area, such as discounts on massages, restaurants, and activities, and you can set your preferences so that exclusive offers that are custom to your taste will be populated for you.  Just like other daily deals websites, these offers on Amazon Local are only for a limited time, so you must purchase your coupon before the expiration date!

Amazon Local also has a very user-friendly App that you can download so you can check your deals on the go!  With the Amazon Local App, you can view and buy deals within seconds right from your smartphone, use deals directly without having to print out the vouchers, and set your preferences so that the deals will be tailored to your interests.  You can also receive notifications, lock the app with a passcode to increase security, and easily share deals with your friends or family.

Check out Amazon Local and start saving today!

 

 

Be sure to check out our other posts, Dining Deals, Car Rental Deals, Hotel Promotions, and Flight Deals to find other ways to save money!

 

 

 

 

 

 

gas fireplace air blower kit

How to Install a Gas Fireplace Blower Kit

Now that winter is here, we are starting to use our fireplace more often.  Not only do fireplaces add a nice touch to your living or bedroom decor, but they provide an added source of heat for those cold winter days.  Our house came with a gas fireplace which is very different from the wood burning fireplaces that we grew up with.  Gas fireplaces are very low maintenance, meaning there is no firewood to purchase, no need to start a fire (you can just flip a switch), and no chimney maintenance needed.  Drawbacks are that you don’t get that real wood burning smell and that great crackling sound of the logs as they’re burning.  Also, gas fireplaces don’t emit as much heat as a wood burning fireplace and are not as efficient because most of the energy is wasted on heating up the firebox and the few inches of air space around it.  This is why we decided to purchase a fireplace air blower to transfer the heat from the firebox and the heated air that surrounds it and distribute it into our living space.  This will make the heating of our home more efficient and a fireplace that is more functional.

We found out the fireplace model from our fireplace owner’s manual then searched online for the blower/fan kit that will fit and work with our fireplace.  Our fireplace manufacturer is Hearth & Home / Heat & Glo model DV3732SBI, and the search result for the blower kit is  Heat & Glo model GFK-160A.  We then shopped around online for it and ended up ordering from Amazon since the sellers on Amazon offer the best price with free shipping!   The kit we ordered is actually a  universal fit made by Rotom model R7-RB168 which is cross referenced to Heat & Glo GFK-160A, Royal FK-160, and many more.  This kit should work with any fireplace that has at least 4.3″ high opening at the control compartment below the firebox when the bottom louver is removed.  Below are the steps that I took to safely complete the installation of the blower kit.

CAUTION:  Do not attempt to do this installation yourself if you do not feel comfortable or are not familiar with electrical wiring or following an electrical wiring diagram –  A qualified electrician or a fireplace technician should perform the installation.

How to Install a Gas Fireplace Blower Kit for Heat & Glo model DV3732SBI or similar

 

Tools needed:  Flashlight, needle-nose pliers, vacuum cleaner (optional).

Materials needed:  Fireplace air blower kit, protective gloves, dust cloths, and glue.

Duration of the project:  30-45 mins

Price Range:  $100 – $125

Difficulty level:  Moderate

Labor level:  Light labor

D-I-Y potential savings: $100-$150

Step 1:  Locate your circuit-breaker panel and disconnect the circuit breaker associated with your gas fireplace power supply. Also, turn the fireplace start wall switch to the OFF position.

Step 2:  Remove the top louver, the bottom louver, and the fixed glass assembly door of your gas fireplace.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 3:  Turn off the gas supply by locating the shutoff ball valve on the left side of the control compartment.  Then, turn the red valve lever handle to the off position (perpendicular position to the supply gas pipe).  Also, unplug the 3-volt transformer from the fireplace receptacle in the factory-installed junction box.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 3-1How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 3-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 4:  Vacuum and wipe out dust at the bottom of the control compartment and on top of the firebox where dust may have accumulated over time.  Be careful when cleaning around these areas due to sharp edges and exposed screw tips.  Thus, protective gloves should be worn.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 4-1How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 4-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5:  Unpack your blower kit and check to make sure you have all the parts and no damage.  Connect the two prong plug cord to the blower terminals itself as shown in the picture below, and then plug it into a power outlet (different circuit from the fireplace) to make sure the blower is in good working order before placing it inside the control compartment.  It should automatically run when plugged in.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 5-1How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 5-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 6:  Carefully move all control wires and the transformer to the left side to allow you to place the blower in the back of the control compartment easier.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 6-1How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 6-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 7:  Insert the grounding clip to the end of the grounding wire of the blower, and then slide the blower inside the control compartment sideways (with the blower’s air outlet up) at the gap on the right hand side (you might have to remove the magnetic mounting if the blower did not fit into the opening).  Once the blower is inside, glue back the magnetic mounting (if you had to remove them earlier), then place the blower towards the back in the center with the air outlet up and 1/8 inch away from the back wall.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 7-1How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 7-2How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 7-3How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 7-4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 8:  Attach the blower’s grounding wire clip to the metal chassis of the fireplace.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 9:  Prepare the wiring for the thermal sensor switch with the wiring harness included with the kit as shown the picture below.  Also, use the diagrams below to guide you through the following steps.  Note:  The wiring diagrams below are from the fireplace owner’s manual.  I did not use the wiring diagram that came with the blower kit because it has generic instructions and are not customized for my fireplace.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 9-1How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 9-2How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 9-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 10:  Locate the mounting screw at the bottom left side of the firebox.  Install the thermal sensor switch with the sensor facing up and touching the firebox, and secure it with the supplied wing nut to the mounting screw.  Note:  You might have to find another mounting method to attach the sensor to the firebox if your firebox does not have this mounting screw already.   Just make sure that the sensor is attached to the firebox metal that will be heated up when the fireplace is operating.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 10-1

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 10-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 11:  Locate the mounting plate at the solenoid valve assembly inside the control compartment.  Attach the variable speed switch to it by inserting the switch from behind the plate through the mounting hole and attaching the supplied hex nut to secure it using needle-nose pliers .  Then, install the turning knob as shown in the pictures below.  Note:  Again, if your fireplace’s control compartment does not have any mounting plates for this switch, you can simply place it anywhere inside after installing the turning knob to it.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 11How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 11-1How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 11-2How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 11-3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 12:  Find the wire from the thermal sensor switch which has the male end and connect it to the female end wire of the speed variable switch.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 12-1How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 12-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 13:  Find the female end of the speed variable switch, and connect it to the top of the connector at the outlet/junction box that is labeled “FAN” as shown in the picture below.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 14:  Find the other end (female end) of the thermal sensor switch and connect it to the hot (+) connector of the outlet/junction box as shown in the picture below.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 14

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 15:  Plug the two prong plug from the blower to the outlet/junction box that is labeled “FAN” as shown in the picture below.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 16:  Reconnect the 3-volt transformer to the outlet/junction box that is labeled “TRANS”.  Double check all your wiring connections  and make sure that all the wires are secure and in their appropriate places.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 16

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 17:  Turn the supply gas ball valve to the on position (the red valve lever handle should be in line with the supply gas pipe),

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 17

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 18:  Replace back the fixed glass assembly and the top louver (you might want to clean both sides of the glass and the louvers before replace them back).

Step 19:  Reconnect the circuit breaker associated with your gas fireplace power supply at your circuit-breaker panel.

Step 20:  Turn the speed variable switch to the ON position, and turn the fireplace wall switch to the ON position to start the fire.  The air blower should kick on automatically when the bottom of the firebox temperature reaches 110 °F (this should take a few mins). Adjust the blower speed at the position you prefer before replacing the bottom louver back.

How to install fireplace blower kit - Step 20

 

 

 

 

 

Step 21:  Turn OFF the fireplace at the wall switch.  The air blower should kick off automatically when the bottom of the firebox cools down to 90 °F (this should take a few mins as well).

The 21 steps to install the blower kit might seem lengthy; however, the circuit for this kit is very simple.  The blower runs on 115VAC with the thermal sensor switch and variable speed control switch connected in series with the blower.

The blower will generate some noise at the maximum speed setting; however, it seems more like background noise and does not bother us.  The result of this installation is 100% of what we were hoping to accomplish with this kit.  It can circulate the air at 125 CFM (cubic feet per minute); Thus, it turns our gas fireplace into a giant space heater that provides at lease 3 feet of hot air streaming away from the fireplace, and we even can feel the air movement 10 feet away.  Our gas fireplace now runs efficiently and functions with a “cool” factor!  I recorded two short videos below just to show the noise level and how much air is circulated by the blower.

Fireplace air blower kit Installed - Step 21

 

 

 

Also, be sure to check out our other DIY projects that can save you money!  Also, feel free to comment below if you have any questions or just to show your appreciation!