Category Archives: technology

Sorry Earth: Why I Exchanged the Battery Powered Lawn Mower for a Standard Gas Powered Mower

Toro Gas Mower on This American House

For all those folks who said that the battery powered mower wouldn’t work for us, I’m giving you this one chance. Go ahead, say it. I TOLD YOU SO! Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, allow me to explain.

When I bought the Kobalt Cordless Electric mower back in April, I was fully committed to making it work. After my first use, it was clear that I would never be able to mow our entire yard in one session. And I thought I was OK with that. So I’ll split my mowing into two days, i said to myself (and anyone else who would listen).

As the season has progressed and the grass has started growing at a faster rate, using the battery powered mower has required up to three days to get the entire yard done. I could finish most of the front and side yards in one session and then I’d have to recharge the batteries. The next day I could knock out most of the back yard before the batteries would lose their juice and I’d have to stop. By day three, it started to seem totally ridiculous.

I really wanted the rechargeable lawn mower to work for us. The thought of using gas and oil to trim down nature’s bountiful beauty seems completely wasteful. And yet spending three days seems like a waste of time. Until battery technology can catch up with my mowing needs, I’ll have to face the facts. Our yard is just too darn big for green technology.

I had purchased the battery powered lawn mower at Lowe’s because I knew that there was a chance I’d have to return it. But when I checked the return policy on the receipt I saw that I was about seven days past the 30-day window for returning the mower. Curses to procrastination! I called the nearest Lowe’s (1 1/2 hours away from the house!) and explained my situation. It takes three days to mow my yard, I said. I want to exchange the battery powered mower for a gas mower, I explained, but I’m a little past the return/exchange period. Oh, that’s no problem, the Lowe’s manager said. We’ll definitely honor the return, he promised.

I made the long trek to Lowe’s and lo and behold they did indeed accept the returned mower, no questions asked. I chose a Troy-Bilt gas powered mower as the replacement and in the end saved about $150 compared to the price of the battery powered mower.

I used the new Troy-Bilt on Monday and was pleased with the results. It’s louder than the battery powered mower, of course. And instead of a push button start like the Kobalt cordless mower, the new Troy-Bilt mower has a rip cord starter. But, hey, life is all about compromises. What I’ve lost in eco-responsibility and peace and quiet, I’ve gained in time saving convenience.

Sorry, Earth. We tried being kind to you!

Image: This American House

Using the Kobalt Cordless Mower for the First Time
And Coming Up with New Landscaping Plans Along the Way!

Kobalt 40v Cordless Rechargeable Lawn Mower

It seems fitting that I spent my Earth Day using our new Kobalt 40V cordless rechargeable lawn mower. Well, actually, I spent the past two days using the mower. As suspected, the two batteries included with the mower do not provide enough power to mow our entire 3/4 acre yard in one session. I think I can have a way around that though!

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Spring Cleaning: Our First Experience with Amazon Trade-In

amazon trade-in kindle paperwhite

When I bought my Kindle Paperwhite more than a year ago, I had visions of cleaning out all of our dusty old books and enjoying a world of virtual book ownership. In reality, I downloaded just two books in my year as a Kindle owner. More often that not, I would pick up my neglected Kindle to find that it had sat idle so long that the battery was dead. I guess I’m just more of an old-fashioned book kind guy after all.

When I saw that I could trade my rarely used Kindle for a gift card to Amazon, it seemed like the perfect way to turn something old into something new. Here’s how the process works:

  • I visited the Amazon Trade-In Store to search for eligible trade-in items. Amazon is mostly looking for electronics, books, video games and music for trade.
  • Once I selected the Kindle as my trade-in item, I was taken to a “shopping cart” page. I was prompted to selection the condition of my item from a list that displayed how much I would receive for my trade-in. For “good” condition, I would receive a $50.50 gift card. For “like new,” $58.55. I selected “good” condition instead of “like new” because I don’t have the packaging or charger for my Kindle.
  • Then, I was provided a packing slip and shipping label to print. I had to rustle up my own packaging.
  • After carefully packing the Kindle, I dropped it off at a UPS Store.

So how did it go? Well, I dropped my packaged Kindle at a UPS store last Saturday afternoon. I received an email letting me know that the gift card had been applied to my Amazon account yesterday (Thursday). Happily, the condition of my Kindle was upgraded to “like new.” I was given the $58.55 credit after all!

I originally paid $119 for the Kindle a little over a year ago. Being able to effortlessly sell it back was kind of a dream. Honestly, I wish I could do that with everything that I’ve bought and rarely used (side eye at all of the like new shoes in my closet). And with the $58 burning a hole in my virtual pocket, I’m already thinking about how I’ll spend it.

Check out the Amazon Trade-In program for yourself*.

Image: Mr. and Mr. Blandings

*Full disclosure: If you follow the link and do actually sell something to the Amazon trade-in program, Mr. and Mr. Blandings will receive 4% of the value. We were not, however, compensated for this post.

Full disclosure part 2: Of the two books I downloaded to my Kindle, one was a silly novel about an actress and a directly falling in love. I just wanted to point that out in case you focus in on the words displayed on the Kindle in the photo above.

7 Products to Bring the Dream House into the 21st Century

automated home, smart home, smart lock, smart electronics, goji, nest thermostat, nest smoke detector

Perhaps it’s because I grew up on endless reruns of The Jetsons but I am completely obsessed with all the advances in automated home technology.  It may not be Rosie the Robot, but things like light bulbs and thermostats that can be controlled by smart phone are a reminder that we do indeed live in the 21st century!

  1. Nest Learning Thermostat (Amazon) We installed the Nest thermostat in the Dream House back in December and have had only good experiences. We can monitor and control the temperature from our smart phones, whether we’re upstairs or out of state.
  2. Belkin WeMo Light Switch (Amazon) If you’re willing to do a little DIY wiring, this light switch will allow you to control a light or outlet via your smartphone.
  3. Nest Protect Smoke and Carbon Monoxide (Amazon) Now that we’ve had a positive experience with Nest’s thermostat, I’m itching to install the company’s smart smoke detector. Not only is is smart phone compatible, it reminds you when to change batteries and lets you deactivate false alarms with the wave of a hand.
  4. LIFX Smart Bulb This wi-fi enabled light bulb can installed in any conventional lamp to make it a 21st century robo-light.
  5. TCP Connected Smart LED Light Bulb Kit (Amazon)  This kit contains three light bulbs, a gateway and a remote control. Use the remote or your smart phone to dim lights or turn them on and off.
  6. Goji Smart Lock This door lock allows you to lock and unlock your home using a smart phone, electronic key or, in case of power failure or zombie apocalypse, a manual key. The lock also snaps a photo of the person standing on the other side of your door. 
  7. Logitech Alert Indoor Master Security System (Amazon) You can add extra cameras to this starter kit for a full home security system. Use your smart phone for remote-viewing of your home. (I want to install this so we can spy on the cat’s hijinks when we’re away.


— J. Blandings

Images: Linked and credited above.

Top 7 DIY Security Cameras: Someone to Watch Over Me


Our apartment building in the city has been experiencing a rash of break-ins lately. While we haven’t personally experienced a burglary in our apartment, the thefts have us thinking about security. Installing a security camera used to mean hiring a company and paying a monthly fee. Thanks to advancements in technology, security cameras are now just another DIY project.

  1. Foscam FI8910W Pan & Tilt IP/Network Camera from Amazon ($68.99) This little camera includes two-way audio monitoring and remote pan/tilt control.
  2. Dropcam Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Camera from Amazon ($149.99) The Dropcam offers 720p high-definition video as well as two-way talk, intelligent alerts, scheduling and mobile and web apps.
  3. DOGTEK Eyenimal Cat Video Camera with Built-In Night Vision from Amazon ($99.95) If you’re worried that Fluffy or Fido destroying the apartment, strap one of these cameras and his collar and see what he gets into while you’re out earning the bacon.
  4. HooToo Wireless IP Network Surveillance Camera from Amazon ($69.99) With two-way audio (“Hey, you, get outta my house!”) and email alerts, this camera would be perfect for keeping an eye on your home even when you’re miles and miles away.
  5. Belkin NetCam Wireless IP Camera for Tablet and Smartphone from Amazon ($84.65) There’s no computer required for this camera. Simply download the app, connect to your wifi and you’re ready to go.
  6. 4 Channel 500GB DVR Surveillance System from Amazon ($499.99) For some serious surveillance, this set up offers two cameras, a built-in monitor and DVR recording.
  7. R-Tech PIR Sensor Hidden Covert CCTV Camera from Amazon ($65.99) For the ultimate in covert surveillance, this little camera looks like any other motion detector. However, it has to be connected to a separate CCTV or DVR to view the video.

— J. Blandings

Images: Amazon