Drunkenly Honest Review: Yale RealLiving Z-wave Deadbolt

Let me first preface this review by saying: I purchase all products by myself. It’s never given nor subsidized. With that being said, usually when I purchase something I really like, as in the Schalge Connect Camelot  that I reviewed back in May, I tend to stick with that brand or device since it’s a known quality. However, that is an expensive lock that I put on my front door. I needed something for my side and rear doors and honestly I didn’t really care about its looks I was going for more of a economy lock. That’s when I found the Yale RealLiving Z-wave Deadbolt.

At around $70 dollars cheaper than the Schlage, I thought it would be a good choice for my alternative locks. I’ve had it installed now for approximately 2 months. So, let’s find out how it stacked up!

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While in my opinion not as attractive as the Camelot, it still is a decent design.

The Run Down:

  • Manufacture: Yale | Model:YRD210
  • Locking Mechanism: Residential Standard Certification:ANSI/BHMA A156.115
    Grade 2 Certification
  • Power: AA-Type Batteries (4)
  • Wireless: Z-Wave Or Zigbee (Zwave reviewed)
  • Alexa Compatibility: Certified, Lock-Only. (See Automation)
  • SmartThings Compatibility: Native compatibility
  • Hub Required for Automation: Yes and No (See Automation)
  • Phone App: None
  • Temperatures: Information not contained in website or product catalog/manual
  • Colors: Satin Nickel, Polished Brass, Oil-Rubbed Bronze
  • Additional Features: Anti-Tamper Alarm, Programmable Codes, Auto-Lock
  • Price: Normally sub~$160 (Home Depot) Approx. $120 or less on Amazon.
  • Warranty: 1 Year Warranty for electronics, lifetime limited for finish and mechanical.

The Deadbolt/Locking Mechanism:

First off, this deadbolt only has a “Grade 2” level of certification. After some discussion and some research from my Schlage, Grade 2 is suitable for home (non-commercial) and apartment external door installations. This is suitable enough for my application, especially since the doors in questions have gigantic windows in them. (Remember, locks only keep honest people honest.) Working the lock action does well, and it is as mooth as any other lock I’ve used but it doesn’t “feel” as secure as a Grade 1. However, for $70 dollars in savings, that’s okay. Over 2 months of ownership it hasn’t failed or jammed to lock.

Installation:

Installation went well. It was more simplistic than when I did my Schlage however since there was already a deadbolt hole it’s a simple replacement. I didn’t need to adjust the lock throw for depth. However, the door jamb is a bit “off” and I did need to file it down. That isn’t a knock against the deadbolt. Even before I did that adjustment, the lock would still automatically engage albeit not completely. Overall no major issues if you’ve done one before.

Appearance:

Available in 3 finishes, I went with Oil-Rubbed Bronze since the door hardware was already so. The lines are well rounded but I wouldn’t consider them attractive, they have a more utilitarian aesthetic. It will work fine as a supplemental door lock that people do not normally see however, this is a matter of opinion. Once could easily put this on their front door in a traditional home. I do not feel as though it would look as attractive on an upscale home. The buttons illuminate when it is first pressed for ease. The YALE “button” at the top is simply a logo that will only flash if the battery is low, it tricked me a few times when going in. The buttons are white with black numbers, which actually is better in direct sunlight when compared to a “touch screen” which tends to get washed out. This was great as in the afternoon sun hits my house I can still see what is where. The inside of the lock isn’t nearly as large as the Schlage which is nice despite it needing 4-AA batteries. It does feature a tamper alarm, which is a bonus. Overall I found it suitable.

Stand-Alone Operation:

The Yale features a key-lock which is fantastic. I’m a big proponent on things having a mechanical override which it comes to Smart Home or Stand Alone installations. Batteries die, Z-wave can fail to connect, so always have your key on you if this is a primary or only door. The lock can be programmed with a 4 to 8 digit code. Programming the lock is fairly easy and the manual includes a flow chart which was far more helpful than Schlage. Unlike the Schlage, the device does not have a “default” PIN/Code. This is actually nice since upon reset you’re required to create one. When my Schlage is reset, I need the default code which is located on the inside panel.  Does this pass the infamous spouse test? Sadly not on its first go around. In fact, it doesn’t pass the me test. Since this door isn’t the main entry, I don’t use the keypad often. Of the few times I’ve had to use the code, I have failed to remember you have to push the asterisk key “*” after entering the code. I tend to hit the pound key for some strange reason. However, with a bit of practice it’s not bad. My wife has failed to use it every time she’s attempted and I’ve had to remind her as well. This is a mistake on my behalf, I’ll recommend if you buy one lock brand, stick with it as the user interface from device-to-device can confuse others. Automatic re-lock is not available without a Network module, something I’m not sure why isn’t there by default. While I don’t normally use this feature, when my little one is old enough to open doors, we’ll be turning that feature on to assist in keeping her contained in the house. Overall it’s locking functions work well without being integrated into a Smart Home Environment. The only major complaint (perhaps it’s a bonus?) is the batteries that it comes with are Nickel-Metal Hydride, which are rechargeable however, lower capacity than that of alkaline. I’d recommend stepping up to some Eneloop rechargeable or regular alkaline batteries.  The batteries died within the first 2 weeks, which we’ll get into in the Automation section since that may be due to it’s wireless connection.

The only major complaint (perhaps it’s a bonus?) is the batteries that it comes with are Nickel-Metal Hydride, which are rechargeable however lower capacity than that of alkaline. I’d recommend stepping up to some Eneloop rechargeable or regular alkaline batteries.

Automation:

The Yale has both a Z-Wave and Zigbee connection module. Which is great if you tend to have a preference for Zigbee, however I find most capable hardware platforms should include both. (I’m looking at you Echo Plus!) However, it’s nice to have the option whereas the Schlage was Z-Wave only. The lock natively integrates with SmartThings with ease. I’d recommend using the User Lock Manager Smart App to keep codes and features consistent across multiple locks. It will automatically lock given a schedule .(Which is great because I would always forget to lock this door in particular.) There is no app to control the lock, which again is my preference but I could understand if some prefers to use one. It has native compatibility with Alexa. However, I have not attempted to lock the doors using her. Due to its integration into Smart Things, there are several great smart apps that can take advantage of advanced functionality, but if you’re not on that level, at least you can unlock/lock it from the SmartThings App. Overall it’s functionality is the same as Schlage when connected. Which is great for it being less expensive. My only complaint is the battery. The packed in NiMH batteries worked fine but ran down quickly. It takes 4-AA batteries and they’re easily replaceable however it’s not as good as my Schlage lock when it comes to battery life. I’ve had the Schlage in place now since around March, and it’s still at 95% on it’s original batteries, according to my smart app. However, the Yale has went through it’s pack-in batteries in approx. 2 weeks and is now reporting 45% battery remaining with alkaline batteries installed. My only explanation for this difference is proximity to the hub. It clearly has a connection and device polling is successful, however it may have degraded connection and has to use more energy to maintain it’s connection with the hub. It should be able to snag a z-wave mesh signal and go back to the hub, but even for me, that is some weird Z-wave voodoo that we don’t have control over so I cannot tell you how it’s connecting. Before you go purchasing a $100+ dollar lock, keep in mind that you can’t change a door’s location and you may want to ensure your hub is located close enough. For what it’s worth, there is a door sensor located directly above it that runs off batteries and I’ve never had a misreading or had to change it’s single AAA battery in about a year’s time.

Overall it’s functionality is the same as Schlage when connected to SmartThings. Which is great for it being less expensive.

Security:

Due to it’s ANSI Grade 2 certification, it’s obviously “less” secure but once again, that’s relative. According to some research, Grade 2 means it’ll take 5 massive blows with a hammer, my guess is that is before it begins to “fail” mechanically. However, once again locks are only there to keep honest people honest. If they have a hammer, they can just smash my adjoining windows with far more ease. Automation is a great advantage of this lock, but that does leave some vulnerabilities. It works great as a stand alone lock if you prefer, however it has some less-expensive non-wireless cousins that you should go for instead. I feel as though the lock is competent enough to serve as a primary lock, for the price, it’s a decent buy, as far as connected deadbolts are concerned.

Wrapping-Up:

In summary, the lock is “fine”. The connected functionality is great, but I cannot get over the lower battery life despite it having 4-AA batteries compared to the Schlage. Once again, this may be a placement issue but it is still disappointing. The regular price at Home Depot is $160. I wouldn’t spend this much especially since the Schlage Camelot (deadbolt only) is normally $180. On Amazon I see the average price around $110, which is where I suggest you look unless there’s a sale somewhere else. The only other major complaint was I could not find temperature ratings. This is important if you live in an area with more severe hot/cold seasons. However despite it’s short comings, at the price point it is coming in at, I’ll be purchasing another for my rear kitchen door if I see it drop below $100.

Final Verdict:

  • Pros:
    • Just as capable when connected with SmartThings with other locks.
    • Great price at the $100 vs other connected locks.
    • Physical Buttons that are easily read.
    • Physically looks appealing.
    • Can serve has primary home or apartment lock.
  • Cons:
    • Seemingly poor battery life.
    • Operation can be confusing for others.
    • Noisy operation.
    • Could have a better ANSI rating, does not communicate it well.
    • Temperature could be an issue.
  • Overall:
    • A solid purchase for alternative door entries, while ANSI grade could be higher it could also be worse. (I wouldn’t consider a Grade 3 for a home lock)
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How To Paint Your Cabinets – The cheap kitchen makeover!

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The Obligatory Before and After shot

Background:

We moved onto the farm a little over a year ago. While we’ve loved it, we were slowly working on making the inside of the house our home. We moved from a somewhat larger home (Approx. 3000 sqft, PLUS and partially finished basement.) to our 2400 sqft Cape-Cod-style house. The house layout was good, but sadly our kitchen was rather, small. (Our old house had a kitchen that was 30ft long and took two full granite slabs to work the counter space.) Since I consider myself to be somewhat handy (Remember Men, if women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find ya handy.)  and we didn’t want to invest $5,000 to replace and hang our own cabinets, we decided to repaint them white to make the kitchen appear larger. After some google searching and some ideas, the following was my experience:

The Up-front:

  • Painting your cabinets is a painstakingly long chore. It took me 3 full weekends working 10+ hours per day and several days in between. THIS IS NOT A WEEKEND JOB.
  • Painting your cabinets: 80% prep work, 20% actual painting.
  • THE PREP WORK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. CRAPPY PREP WILL CAUSE A CRAPPY JOB.
  • Buy good paint, and buy 2 to 3 gallons of it.
  • You WILL need to prime your cabinets.
  • It’s 85% worth it to do-it-yourself. The 15% percent is deciding on whether or not it’s worth your time.
  • Despite what others have said, you don’t need a sprayer. It does make the job go faster if you have one, however there’s a learning curve and increases prep by 10-fold. We found foam rollers and GOOD brushes to be just as effective.

Cost:

  • Approximately $300 to $500 for painting.
  • Our project included new uppers, and a new microwave oven: ~$1,000

Difficulty:

  • Moderate, but definitely worth it as I’ve seen quotes in the $1500 and over for painting.

Painting your cabinets is a painstakingly long chore. It took me 3 full weekends working 10+ hours per day and several days in between. THIS IS NOT A WEEKEND JOB.

Alright, Let’s Dig Into It:

Step 1: Determining The Scope.

Your first step will be to plan out, both the project and the materials ad nauseam. I started by taking a look at what I wanted to accomplish with my kitchen.

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Our kitchen was always dark due to the back porch’s roof and only getting morning sun.

I wanted to lighten up the place, make the small kitchen appear larger, and give it some more “class.” In addition, range hood over our stove wasn’t even vented. It was just a fan to suck everything up and blow it right up into the room, I love to cook, so we wanted to fix that. Finally, we’re packrats so we wanted to make more shelf space.

To accomplish this, I wanted to add new cabinets up top, use a white-based color, and install a proper hooded vent. Mid-project, I determined that I hated the microwave in that location. Since we were doing this on a budget, I didn’t want to face the upper cabinets, just make nice cubby holes. Once everything was decided, I went to determining what I needed.

Step 2: Gather materials, more than what you think you’ll need.

Before I get into the list of what I need, I need to address the second part of the previous statement. I spent several hours, running back-and-forth between home depot getting parts, materials, and energy drinks. That was just wasted time. Wasting time is wasted money. In other words, if you make, let’s say $15/hour and you have to spend 2 hours going back and forth, that’s $30 dollars of your “time”, in a certain way of speaking. An extra gallon of paint may have costed me $50 dollars, but since I had to wait till the store opened, go there and get more, I wasted that $30. So, just be mindful and plan ahead. Extra paint isn’t a bad thing, running low on sand-paper will cause you to skip prep, and not enough energy drinks/coffee will make you rue the day you started the project.

Materials (With Our Pick in Parens):

  • 2 to 3 gallons of your primary paint color. Pick good paint. Don’t cheap out. I HIGHLY recommend Sherwin Williams. (Sherwin Williams SuperPaint OR Emerald)
    • If you’re doing white, don’t stress out about the “perfect” shade. You can go into any paint place and get samples for $3 to $5 dollars.
    • Also, what we found out with white is that we couldn’t tell the difference between White and Alpine Snow, or the color we decided to go with “Swiss Coffee”. All looked white to us.
  • Primer (Kilz, get it from home depot in the 2 gallon denominations, you’ll need it.)
  • A degreaser/deglosser. (We didn’t use this, I wish we had.)
  • Simple Green. (Don’t use normal soap.)
  • 4 to 6 inch FOAM roller. Has to be foam to get a smooth finish. (See Home Depot)
  • Good-quality paint brushes.
    • You’ll need at least 2 for painting, once again get the BEST. (Wooster Pro Set)
    • 1 for finishing, Best possible. (Wooster Pro, ask home depot for the best one for your finish.)
  • Sand-paper in the following: 80, 120, 220, 320+.
    • I’d recommend also getting the following:
      • Sanding blocks (they look like spongers) in 120 and 220.
      • A replaceable holder for the sand paper. Allows you to change out sheets easily and will save your hands.
    • You can save a lot of effort by purchasing an orbital sander. No need to get the most expensive one, should be $30 to $60 bucks. You’ll need sanding discs in the 80, 120, and 220. (Don’t go over 220, you need to do that by hand with the grain of the wood.
  • A “poly” of your choice in finish you desire: (Minwax Matte Polyacrylic)
    • You NEED to have a protective coating on your cabinets. If not, they’ll be easily damaged/stained.
    • Couple of finish choices:
      • Polyurethane -very difficult for a beginner but if you’ve done this before go ahead. They have a wider array of finishes from matte to satin.
      • Polyacrylic – I love this stuff. It’s easy to apply, very few bubbles, dries in a couple of hours. Also, we got it in matte. We didn’t want “shiny” cabinets. It does add a sheen but no more than eggshell paint. HIGHLY RECOMMEND FOR BEGINNERS.
  • Paintable Caulk
  • Masking Tape, specifically Frog Tape. In my opinion, frog tape is the best for painting. We’ve used the others, all of them. Yes it’s more expensive. Yes you’re going to need like 3-5 rolls of 1″ to 2″. BUY EXTRA. It’s extremely annoying to go all the way back to Home Depot cause you’re 10ft short on tape.
  • Plastic sheets.
  • A roll of paper for taping and coverage.
  • Tack cloth. (basically it’s waxy cheesecloth.)
  • Sponges, rags, washcloths.
  • Paint Respirator with appropriate filters.
  • Eye Protection

Optional for my project:

I hate it when Anna White says she does something that is Pottery Barn-level look for $35 dollars. She doesn’t list everything and tools which many people don’t have.

  • She doesn’t list everything and tool which many people don’t have. Here are some things that I would consider “optional”, since I made new uppers I’m going to list the tools I needed to do so. Why? Because I hate it when Anna White says she does something that is Pottery Barn-level look for $35 dollars. She doesn’t list everything and tool which many people don’t have. I’m not slamming her for this, it’s true that’s what she did and spent on that project. With that being said, I’ll tell you to get paintbrushes, I’m not going to ASSUME you need them or have them in order to complete the task. Since I’m focusing on painting, I’m just going to leave the list for the options:
    • A paint sprayer. (Difficult to use, I tried the first coat of primer and I hated it.)
    • A table saw.
    • Kreg Pocket Hole Jig
    • Pocket screws
    • 3/4″ Birch-faced plywood.
    • Drill
    • Levels
    • Wood Filler
    • ShopVac
    • Beer, lots of beer.
    • A Dremel Oscilating tool.
    • Time
    • Compound Double-Bevel Miter Saw
    • Miter Saw Box
    • Trim
    • 16g Finishing Nailer with 2″ nails.
    • Piping for exhaust from Microwave.
    • Maybe refill that beer.
    • Small moulding trim (something like quarter-round or shoe)

 

Phase 1: The Prep.

Now that we got everything covered, I’m going to go in order of what I did (including building the uppers) since that’s how my brain is wired and my pictures were taken.

  • Pick a 3-4 week period and don’t make plans. We almost didn’t hit our deadline of my sister’s wedding on the farm. I worked 14 and 16 hour days to keep up.
  • Remove EVERYTHING from inside and outside your cabinets. Everything. Even if you’re not doing the insides of the cabinets (Which I still think you should do). Clear off all your countertops. Move everything out of the room. Do not use your stove, oven, you’re going to be eating out a lot.
  • Clean your kitchen. Deep clean your kitchen. Simple Green all surfaces. Clean out the sink. Clean your fridge. Make it a good spiritual start.
  • Use a bucket of hot water and simple green concentrate together with either the back of the sponge or a separate 3M scrubby sponge. Use a concentrated amount of simple green. We’re trying to get all the years of dust and grime off these things. Scrub hard. Scrub Long. You’ll hate this part but TRUST ME, it’s very necessary.
  • Using a clean rag and a bucket of clean hot water to rinse the cabinets. Repeat again.
  • Allow everything to dry. You’ll be happy cause you have a perfectly clean kitchen.
  • At this point, if you bought a chemical deglosser, you’d be following those directions. To skip the cabinet uppers, scroll down to step 14.
  • I began by making new uppers. I made boxes out of the 3/4″ plywood and kreg pocket holes. I would then place it to check alignment. Note: When you measure this stuff, make sure you’re measuring the cabinets and NOT the faces. Cheap cabinets (like mine) are made from particleboard then faced with either laminated or real hardwood. We’re basically doing the same thing with the birch. Why birch? It’s not as porous as other woods and since we’re painting that’s good. I removed the original moulding from the top carefully as to not break it, I wanted to re-apply it to the top.20170521_131209
  • I then continued and kept dry-fitting all of my boxes around the top, making sure they aligned with the cabinet housing and not the cabinet faces. 20170521_180806.jpg
  •  Note: Walls are wavy and not straight, your cabinets were built with that in mind. You may need to put shims in to keep them flowing together. Don’t worry about small gaps at the end, we’ll take care of those later. I discovered as I was screwing the last cabinet of the day that my screw suddenly “stopped” followed by a hissing sound. Turns out my stud finder found a piece of copper pipe. This was a big issue so take your time. Also do stuff when stores are open. In my case, I had to cut a hole in the wall, repair the pipe, then mud it on. Costing me money but more importantly time.

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    Disaster Strikes: When you’re locating studs on the wall, try and anticipate where electrical and most importantly plumbing may be.
  • Once I had finished dry fitting and securing the cabinets, I worked on making the trim pieces for the front of the cabinets. Using the front vertical trim of the cabinet under it as a guide for width on each piece. I did the “outside edges” (meaning edges with no joined cabinet with thin pieces. The insides (where two cabinets meet) was a wider strip to cover both. Then I cut stripes for the bottom, these were 1″ in width and fit between the two verticals. All pieces were put in place by the finishing nailer. Once I had verified alignment,  I began finding all the studs, and using different screws of different lengths secured the upper cabinets to the lowers and the back wall. Using shims, I did my best to keep the top trim on the original cabinets and the bottom piece of trim on my new ones. There are discrepancies of course, no one has noticed and really the “farm house” style (meaning I can get away with imperfections) is kinda in, so there’s that. . Using the wood filler, I filled in all the gaps I had between the cabinets.
  • Then, the crown moulding as added back into place. This was kind of difficult cause the crown moulding needed to be nailed down to the top of the cabinet. Since I didn’t have the clearance necessary for my nail gun, I instead used a common board cut to length (actually, they had this already on the top of the old cabinets on the long run, and I repeated where necessary. You WILL have gaps if you do it this way. Not to worry, I used the small shoe moulding to create a more sophisticated transition, AKA, hide the imperfections. Any remaining gaps were filled with paintable caulk. 20170524_093840
  • The next step was to solve the problem of my flame hood and that huge black microwave sticking out. My original plan was to build new uppers over the oven  and simply have a black pipe going up and vent it out the roof. The previous owners simply had a shelf that the microwave sat on, and it probably stuck out just as far as the fridge. Extremely annoying and made that area small.
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    What to do about that range good?

    So, the wife and I worked out a solution. We got a KitchenAid MicrowaveConvection oven that was able to be vented. This was a must for me as I tend to use cast-iron and cook inside when making pan-seared steaks/fajitas. Smoke would inevitably rise into the sealing setting off the smoke alarms. Some microwaves will re-circulate the area using charcoal/grease traps but they’re no where NEAR as good as just pumping it outside. The flame good was removed and the new microwave set up.

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    The “fun” design part had to be modified and so were my plans.

    So, since I had to modify my original plan, had to make a faux top shelf for the microwave to mount through. Then we ran the piping outside using a Dremel, some aluminum tape and southern ingenuity. (Aka, the directions asked for parts no one had so we modified it to work.) We were then at a loss for the cabinet, but that’s okay, I closed it off in a sense with another board, made more trim and created a blank top. (We’re come back to that blank top.

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    Created a new panel for a design.

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    Using the shoe trim, I created another box to add some texture.
  • After finishing all new construction, it was time for sanding. Remove ALL doors. Remove the hinges from the doors/cabinets. On each door on the inside of where the hinge used to be, write with a sharpie the cabinet number and keep track of what door goes wear with a master guide on a piece of paper. Cover that number with a piece of frog tape. This is so later when you’re re-assembling everything you’ll be able to know which door goes where. Once you’ve got everything removed, now’s the time to sand, sand, and more sand. If you feel the de-glosser did a good enough job on your cabinets, you can use that but in order for primer and paint to stick well, it needs a rough surface. Use 120-grit and work your way to 220. This is the longest and honestly most difficult part. It takes forever. Your home gets dusty, luckily since I have a more traditional closed-concept home I created a dust zone and vented everything outside with a box fan. Take the doors outside to be sanded. It’s also nice to pickup little painting pylons from Home Depot or you can search on how to paint cabinet doors specifically so you can find various apparatus that work for you. I ended up taking bits of 2x4s with screws to have make-shift painting blocks. I then put sheets of plywood on saw-horses to make a useable table to paint on. For shaker-style cabinets, you’ll need to get into the crevices really well as dust/dirt/oil/grime really get down in their. 3M makes a sanding “sponge” with a sharp edge that works well for getting in there. TAKE YOUR TIME. THIS PART SUCKS.
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    You can see I combined my orbital sander with my shop vac to ease dust collection.

    We also covered everything with plastic as we were spraying. IF YOU’RE SPRAYING: COVER EVERYTHING WITH PLASTIC. TAPE EVERYTHING DOWN. 

 

  • The nearing the last stage of prep: Wait. You’ll need to wait overnight and stop all airflow into the room. This allows all the dust particles to settle, then my wife’s least favorite part, cleaning again. Except this time, use just plain water with a damp rag. Remove all dust. Then wait for it to dry again. Using the tack cloth, wipe all surfaces down. Then can get the particles the wet rag left behind. The doors get the same treatment outside.
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    Since is the the last time we’ll clean, make sure it’s a good deep cleaning again.

    Now you’re ready to finishing putting up all plastic.

  • Since we were spraying on our primer, we covered EVERYTHING we could. I’ll write a lesson’s learned article as well however, I over-sprayed causing a lot of drips which increased my time to re-sand, re-clean, and re-paint all areas. We also didn’t do a good enough jobs cleaning/degreasing which is why I’m telling you the emphasis on it. The paint will not stick over the oils and it’ll have a “bleed through” effect, where really its just where paint won’t stick and gets shoved aside. Spraying also took over 12 hours to fully dry. Honestly, it’s easier to just use a foam roller. Also, it’s tempting to get a “Nice thick coat” however, you’d be doing yourself a favor doing several light coats, (2 or 3) as it’ll dry quicker, it’ll be more even, and less of a headache. The doors get the same treatment outside. I don’t recommend during this during a hot-humid summer as it’ll take forever to dry and bugs like white. Fall/Spring is better.
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    Here we have a nice primed cabinets. We sprayed the first coat. Even with the prep we did it STILL wasn’t enough. We switched to foam rollers.

    After you finish priming, you’re going to use the 320 grit sandpaper and lightly rough up the primed coat. Then wipe everything down with tack-cloth. Fix any imperfections by completely sanding down the area and starting over. Where you have “globbed paint” it won’t totally be dried until a good 24-48 hours, so it’s easier just to start over from scratch than to fix it later.

  • After you’ve finished with your primed layer it’s time to start painting. Using your thinest angled brush, go over over all the inside corners of the cabinets. Next, use your foam roller to paint the insides. Remember, we’re doing several light coats. If you’re painting them white, you’ll understand what I mean when I say “White is White” earlier, you won’t be able to tell a big difference between somewhere you’ve primed vs. where you’ve painted. Using your brush, go over the and crown moulding. Pay attention to brush-stroke direction. You want to go with the natural grain of the wood for areas that will only get brush attention. Then go over the outside. The outside goes quick. By the time you’ve finished with your first light coat, wait 30 more minutes, everything will probably be dry enough for a second coat. Lather-rinse-repeat as much as you’d like. You want to build up a couple layers for nicks and scratches. After you’ve finished painting, rip everything off. You’d think you’re done but we’ve still got a couple more things to do. After you’ve got rid of all the plastic, you’ll see areas around the edges where the paint dried over the Frog Tape and when you peeled it off, it left areas where it ripped the paint off. That’s fine cause now we’re going finish it. Next, go outside and paint the doors. I hear both good things about painting doors horizontally (meaning flat) and some people making contraptions that they “hang” on. Just remember, doing light coats is your best bet.
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    Already looks MUCH better here but check out the right side. There’s where the paint ripped off. Some places it’s more dramatic than others.

     

  • Now, re-tape around the edges of your cabinets. Get a wet rag, and PAINTABLE white caulk. Anywhere there are gaps, you’re going to put caulk into them. This includes around the edges where they connect to walls. As I said before, walls aren’t straight, they’re wavy. Putting this paintable caulk in there will fix that and make each cabinet look perfectly fitted. Caulk take a while to perfect the technique, but you’ll want to make a small then bead of caulk, get your finger nice and wet with the rag, then run your finger along the corner. It should “smoosh” it into the crack and making a bevel. Wipe your finger off and repeat. BEFORE THE CAULK DRIES, go ahead and remove the frog tape. This will make a nice crisp line and the caulk won’t have the same problem as the paint earlier. After everything is dried, replace frog tape you removed around the edges. Then using your brush, go over where you’ve caulked or fixing the paint. Once again, BEFORE THE PAINT DRIES remove the frog tape revealing another crisp line. You should be okay with only 1 coat and we’re just blending but if you want, feel free to repeat.
  • Finally, finish your doors in the same manner. Doors are a bit trickier however because you have two planes in which you want coverage, the tendency with this is for you to brush from edge to edge. Every time you do this, you’ll leave a higher deposit of paint at the edge of the door. You’ll need to stay on top of that. Most likely, you’ll need to wait for them to completely dry, sand them down, wipe them off, and re-apply. I painted the door on top of of 2x4s that I cut into small chunks. My friend made a hanging system to do the same. There isn’t necessarily a more right and wrong way I can say however that don’t do it when it’s humid outside, it’ll take FOREVER to finish.
  • Finally, we’re in the home stretch and this is the easy part but most important for making your paint job last. Grab your finish, if you’re using the polycrylic, you’ll have a really easy time with this part. Polyurethane ,I find to be much more difficult. Basically, get the best brush you bought. You’ll want light coats on the fronts. You can go quickly by first doing all of the outer/horizontal surfaces. By the time you’ve finished, check the beginning part, it’ll probably be dry enough to go over.  (I used the polycrylic, polyurethane is going to take a lot longer.) You want to build up a solid coverage for this. The reason is that latex-based paints are great when stuck onto rough surfaces but the more smooth a surface (or you’ll like me and didn’t spend enough time sanding) it’ll be more prone to flaking off and bubbling. Also, it’s very easily nicked by putting in/out pots and pans. The polycrylic dries hard protecting that and from stains/scrubbing. So, same as before you may want to do 3 or 4 THIN coats. Places where it’s like to get a lot of splash, say under a coffeemaker or sink, you’ll want to go ahead and do more. If you have left overs, go ahead and keep adding layers to the door.
  • And there you go! You’re all done! Now add your hardware and mount your doors. Remember that tape we put in the holes of the doors earlier? If you peel that off, you should have everything you need to put the doors back in their correct locations. 20170611_191638

This was a long process and a very long article. So, it’s not here really for daily reading. The most important thing I want to get across is taking your time and doing the prep work. Also, like Reading Rainbow, don’t just take my word for it, browse around on Pinterest and other blogs.

My next article will be on my lessons learned on this project. I’ve somewhat integrated them into this, but there were a ton of “last minute things” I wish I knew.

Till next time!

-David

Forget Bugout Bags, Build an EDL Bag (Every Day Life!)

About 3 years ago, Atlanta saw some of the worst snow ever… well actually it wasn’t snowing that bad but there was a major problem, the sheer amount of traffic from delayed dismissal caused major interstates and highways to shut down. People were forced to flee from their cars due to the combination of gridlock, low fuel, and freezing temperatures. A co-worker’s trip home took 17 hours instead of the normal 1.5 hours. While this isn’t certainly a common experience I really think there are some things you should have in your car really to keep it ready for, well, life. The goal of this bag is to keep it as practical and as cheap as possible. You don’t need a survival knife with built-in compass, GPS locator, and fishing kit. We’re planning on those things like: “Susie’s soccer practice is running late, I need a quick snack.”, “there’s a flat tire and it’s pouring down rain at night”, or the worst “I have an interview and I’m missing a button on my dress shirt!”

A quick note: You don’t need to go out and buy all this stuff at once. You’ve obviously survived without some or all of it until now. The things you’ll put in your bag will stay there, so don’t put anything you’ll use elsewhere or need. Obviously, if you use it, it needs to go back to whence it came or be replaced. With that being said, don’t put anything in there you’re not afraid to get stolen. A backpack is a quick score for a thief. Start slow and cheap with the basics and what you have around the house. Remember: it’s your life and money, use what you got.

 

A Proper Backpack

 

Why: Imagine your car dies and won’t start back up. No cell reception to call AAA. You’re stuck with a 5-10 mile hike to the nearest gas station at night. Having all your supplies with you is a good idea.

I’m going to catch some flack because I’m not doing as I say however, you need a decent cheap backpack. I strongly recommend not getting one of those tactical bags with Molle webbing and modular attachments. Something like a traditional old L.L. Bean bag works just as well as those. However, I have an older “tactical” bag that I got for $15 dollars. The reason I say you shouldn’t use one is depending on the situation if you need to flee your car (let’s say zombies did happen) you looking like a boy or girl scout and seemingly prepared makes you a target. Looking inconspicuous is your best bet. In all reality, that’ll never happen so find whatever you have laying around the house with two straps works. (A gym bag works in a pinch but in my opinion having 1 strap is going to cause you some pain. However, to each his own)

 

1-Day’s change of clothes. (I’m cheating here as there are multiple items but you need to have 1-pair of underwear, socks, a shirt, and a small towel.)

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Good way to keep the back organized.

Why: You drank a little too much and you’re being a responsible adult and staying at your friend’s house, it’s a very hot day and you need to freshen up before going out later, or (happens to me often) you went to the gym and realized you forgot underwear.

I can’t emphasize how gross it is to put on your gym underwear after finishing your workout. If you’re going home it’s okay but if you’re about to go to work well… it’s not very hygienic nor comfortable for you or others. No worries! Just go get your spares that are in your car. There have also been times when I’ve been working late and instead of driving 1.5 hours home only to sleep and return to work in 5 hours I could simply stay at my in-law’s house which is closer. Having some spare clothes for the next day will help explain a few things the next day. Also, who doesn’t feel better in a fresh pair of undies?

The small towel can help on a sweaty day, dry you off if you’re caught in a rainstorm, or clean up spills. Don’t bring a huge bath towel but a hand towel should be fine.

 

One of those emergency ponchos that come in its own little baggy.

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While not very fasionable at least you’ll be dry.

Why: You have a flat and it’s pouring rain or you’re at your kid’s little league game and forgot an umbrella.

Look, Weather is dumb and Weather Forecasts are too. These ponchos are great to have in your car. For a few bucks, it’s a quick waterproof shell to cover you in both survival situations and everyday life. Don’t worry about those big bulky yellow ones. The small pre-packed ones are what you’re gunning for. They’re inexpensive so they’re good enough for a single use and you can either discard it or try to repack it if it’s in good enough condition. Chances are you’ll never really need this but I can promise you that you’ll be glad you have one. I have one of those pocket jackets that are “waterproof” which isn’t really waterproof as much as it’ll work until it’s soaked. The great thing about plastic? It’s 100% waterproof and as long as it’s not torn you’ll be dry. (Unless you’re a certain former President.) They even have them for kids! Granted you’ll look like a walking trash bag but hey, at least you’re dry at the kid’s game.

 

A few road flaresEmergency triangles, and Safety Vest: Or buy all three from Home Depot and cover more at once!

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Why: A deer runs out in front of you at night and you run into a tree or you get a flat.

In Japan, it’s law to have at least 1 road flare and emergency triangle in your car. Honestly, it makes sense and it’d be a smart idea if the US did the same. Why two road flares? You’re going to light one and set it 100ft from you down the road. This will catch any drivers attention. The road triangle will go 25-50ft from you and the final road flare you’ll put near you. This will alert drivers who have difficulty seeing at night, are driving too fast, or have their headlight out. People often think since they have headlights they can see but you’d be surprised (quite literally when they side-swipe you). The road flare near you will assist them in seeing you AND help you see. It’ll also help police/emergency personnel locate you and know you need assistance. Even if you call AAA or whomever to come and get your car you won’t know the exact mile marker you’re on so can help by saying “I’m putting a big burning candle there.” There’s also a bonus, road flares work even if it’s pouring rain (Actually some work underwater) and can assist in fire-starting. (So be careful). Speaking of, make sure you remember how long they last, there is a big difference between a 15-minute and 30-minute in how much you can accomplish or length of time waiting. As far as the safety vest, some flare kits already come with one but seriously, you do not realize how hard it is to see someone at night. Looking stupid for a short while is worth your life. They’re cheap and can be used even if you decide to go for a late night run.

These are going to go in with your car tools. They don’t need to go in your bag but I would at least keep 1-flare and safety vest in your bag. If you have small kids you need to walk with, get one for them too.

 

An old pair of shoes, tennis shoes will work but if you have a pair of waterproof hiking boots, all the better.

Why: Remember that 10-mile hike? Guess what sucks in heels or dress shoes. What’s worse? Having wet feet. Perhaps maybe a last minute decision to go for a  walk?

Again, don’t go out buy a brand new pair of shoes for this. We’re not hiking the Appalachian Trail or running a marathon. Use whatever you have that you don’t wear anymore. I have several pairs of running shoes that don’t provide enough support for running but for day-to-day but in emergencies work great. If they’re tennis shoes, treat them with some additional waterproofing spray. I recommend hiking boots only for the additional traction and coverage since they tend to be more supportive/protective but tennis shoes would always be a better all-around fit. I heard a few years ago during the Atlanta Snowpocalypse people had to walk a few hours home, if you were wearing dress shoes or heels would be murder not to mention freezing cold. It’s also nice if you’re simply out and a sudden change of plans means a lot of walking.

 

A small medical kit/hygiene kit.

Why: You’re out and about and get a cut, your allergies are bothering you, or worse more serious injury.

I cannot convey the importance of having a quality medical kit not only at home but in your car. You can go down to CVS and buy one of those “kits” that look sufficient enough but you need a couple more things:

A temporary splint/sling. (For when you hurt your arms or ankles having one of these can go a long way for your comfort or of others.

Insta-clot. With a little training, even something like a deep enough cut on your hand/arm/leg this can assist in stopping the bleeding (or even bullet wounds). These are great if you’re alone and run off the road. The ambulance might be awhile and you losing blood isn’t helping matters.

Waterproof Sports-tape and assortment of gauze pads. Let’s face it, band-aids never stay in the places we need them to like on your finger or knee. A small roll of sports tape can be used to tape an injured finger to another one or attach large gauze pads to big scrapes.

A clean cotton handkerchief or cloth. (For absorbing blood or tying a brace.)

This is also the one item which should break my rule of cheap and what you have. A quality kit with necessary items will cost some money. Do not go cheap, but instead pay attention to the amount of items contained in the kit. You can also assemble one yourself.

A quick hygiene kit can go a long way as well, Deodorant and Crest Wisps while not necessary aren’t bad ideas in case you forget or have an onion-infested salad. Feminine hygiene products should be in here too, regardless of your sex. I use tampons a lot as tinder for starting fires but they can also be used to plug puncture wounds and they’re generally wrapped in a protective coating. Plus, being a brother and a husband, sometimes you may get asked if you happen to have one. Anyone woman in need may question as to why but they’ll be thankful just the same.

A sewing kit with a few spare buttons.

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Good Choice from Amazon but it has more than what’s necessary.

Why: You had one-too-many burritos and your pants button popped off. Or your off going to an important interview and you noticed a button missing on your shirt.

You’ll need a needle, some thread, and some buttons of various sizes and types. They have little emergency sewing/repair kits which work great. Make sure they have common thread colors like black, navy, and white.

Most dress shirts have two spare buttons at the bottom for emergencies just like this, but a lost pants button could be devastating.

Finally, a little sewing knowledge couldn’t hurt and you could do more repairs to other things, like a broken backpack strap.

A blanket and emergency blanket. (Once again, I’m cheating with two.)

 

Why: You’re driving late at night, it’s cold, and you want to take a rest for an hour at a rest stop/late night sporting event on a cool evening. You’ve been in an accident and/or having car trouble and you’re not in range to call someone.

Chances are the first example is the most likely to happen but the second could occur. In the introduction, I spoke about Atlanta’s Snowpocalypse. Many people left their vehicles because they were running out of gas and weren’t prepared for the cold. Contrary to what you’ve seen on TV, never leave your car at night or in the cold unless instructed to do so.  (Unless the safety of your car is in question such as an accident that causes fluid leaks.) Your car is probably the safest place you can be, even at night having a rigid structure, some insulation, and locks. If you’re stranded on the side of the road, and the gas station is 10-15 miles away it’s going to take some time to walk there. You’re better off sitting in your car waiting until morning. In the mean time put your emergency triangles out. Chances are someone will be along like the Police, who can assist you. In the meantime, especially if it’s cold, your car will at least be several degrees higher than the outside but that doesn’t mean you can’t get hypothermia or simply just be cold. I recommend grabbing a cheap small packable blanket like these AND an emergency blanket. Emergency blankets are great as they reflect body heat back onto you. The packable down blanket can also be added for comfort for any occasion. (I.E. outdoor sporting event where you just need a little more heat). Just make sure you can pack it in your bag with everything else as if you need to egress from your vehicle its small enough to carry. I also like wool-blend blankets like the army uses as they’re strong enough to put down on the ground while changing tires.

Tools: The Short Version

 

A small mechanics tool kit like this Husky 38-Piece set:

Even if you’re not a “car” person, simply having a small set of sockets and wrenches may mean a simple Good Samaritan who is passing by might be able to assist. I’m guilty of this. I’ve tried to assist someone with a car battery at a parking lot only I cannot disconnect or tighten it due to lack of tools. Also, make sure you’re getting a mechanics set. Often times batteries and other random important cables are slightly different. (I’m looking at you 11mm wrench and sockets!)

Jumper cables (Bonus for small jumping battery though I cannot speak to their reliability)

I’m surprised how few people have these in their car.

Gloves:

Things are dirty, your hands don’t have to be one of them. I like Mechanix Fast Fit.

A small amount of food including 1 liter of water per normal passenger.

Granola and/or Protein Bars – Great for having a snack when you’re stuck in traffic or running late. Try to find ones that have a decent amount of calories and not very much sugar. KIND bars are nice since they’re all natural but really I’d get a couple of protein bars that have low sugar. Keep a few but be careful the ones that will melt. (Remember it’ll be in your car.)

MREs. While normally I’d recommend something like Mountain House dehydrated meals for hiking their downside is simply they need a fire. Quality MREs contain saltwater packets which you add and to create a chemical reaction that heats the food. A hot meal will raise your spirits regardless of the flavor. You only need 1 since food isn’t high on the priority list in most emergencies, unless of course, your emergency is you’re driving home late at night and taking a quick rest stop.

Water. You can survive a while without water. 3 days for most people before major health concerns occur. However, water serves many purposes. Clean water can be used to assist in cleaning wounds, cooking your dehydrated meal (MREs will GENERALLY have a saltwater packet or you need to purchase one), and simply you’re really thirsty and stuck in traffic. 1 Liter per adult is fantastic. If you can heat the water, Mountain House meals take 250-500ml of water this leaves you something to drink.

 

Anything else not mentioned!

The biggest thing is building a bag that works for you. I’ve seen some people carry Epipens, flashlights, firearms, and other various items which is 100% okay. I’ll more than likely get a lot of flack from the preppers which is also okay as well. My point overall isn’t to prepare your for the apocalypse, but prepare you for the things that will happen reasonably happen. There are quite a few important items I’ll follow up with in an appendix to this, I’ll also be sharing what I use in my every day life bag soon.

Got a recommendation? Something you don’t agree with? Something I missed? Great! Let me know below! Let’s talk about it!

Dave is going to be a Dad!

Good Morning Everyone!

David here with a quick update for those who have been missing my review on Home Automation Products, DIY culture, EDC, Woodworking, and most importantly beer.

We were expecting a new addition to the family for the past 9 months and now our first child is almost here! Honestly, I haven’t been updating a lot because I’ve been a combination of lazy and insanely busy with work an on the farm. I’m going to change that though and journal my life as being a new father and working around the farm. I want to shoot video but I have absolutely zero experience editing so we’ll just start with some simple guerrilla style shots here soon.

To celebrate the birth of my first child, I’ve been saving a rare bottle of beer that I can have with my wife (well, she only get’s a little bit, breast feeding and all) and I’ll be posting that when it comes. I’ve also written a new article on why I think Bug-Out Bags aren’t really necessary and you’re better off building an “Every-Day-Life” bag instead. (I’m sure I’ll get a lot of hate for that one) So stay tuned!

Thanks all and I hope this will be a fun journey!

Dave R.

Drunkenly Honest Review: Schlage Connected Camelot

It never fails, about once a month, as I fall asleep I have the same dream. I’m laying in bed, I think I’m awake (trying not to get too meta, but I’m asleep) and I hear a noise. My body? It’s almost frozen either in exhaustion or in unwillingness to go investigate the door I hear opening. I’m unable to move my limbs to go and defend myself as I hear the door open. Then a figure walks into the room… It’s my mom and she’s bringing me my tax return from 3 years ago in hopes of saving Earth from the alien invasion before work at 4AM the next day…

I know why I have this dream, I didn’t lock the doors. Or at least I don’t remember locking the doors consciously. So I get up, go check every door, then try to fall back asleep. I know I can’t be the only one who has this dream, but luckily there’s some hope with home automation. That hope comes from Schlage with the Connected Camelot-Series deadbolt.

bb5de73f-38f3-424e-b225-b2997a766171_400The Run Down:

  • Manufacture: Schlage
  • Locking Mechanism: Residential Standard Certification:ANSI/BHMA A156.40-2015 Grade AAA in Security, Durability and Finish/ Commercial Grade 1
  • Power: AA-Type Batteries (2)
  • Wireless: Z-Wave Only
  • Alexa Compatibility: Requires Hub, Lock-Only. (See Automation)
  • SmartThings Compatibility: Native compatibility
  • Hub Required for Automation: Yes and No (See Automation)
  • Phone App: None
  • Temperatures: Outside escutcheon: -35C to 66C,Inside escutcheon: -10C to 49C
  • Colors: Bright Brass, Satin nickel, Matte Black, Bright Chrome, Aged Bronze
  • Additional Features: Anti-Tamper Alarm, Programmable Codes, Auto-Lock
  • Price: Normally sub~$300 | On Sale: $170 – $200. (Includes Handle-Kit) ($180 for Deadbolt-Only)
  • Warranty: 3 Years

 

The Deadbolt/Locking Mechanism:

The first thing I enjoy about the lock, is well, it locks. This is probably the 10th or so deadbolt I have purchased. This is also the first Smart Lock. Until this time, I somewhat assumed all door locks were mostly similar. Turns out, there’s quite a bit of difference. Like cell-phone cases that are “MILSPEC”; deadbolts have certifications that really cause them to be more expensive due to increased strength, lock complexity, and parts. These grades are 1 through 3, with 1 being the highest and the most secure for residential-external doors. This deadbolt earns a grade 1 by the ANSI. I found when searching online that a lot of cheaper deadbolts were grade 3, using plastic parts and their reliability suffering because of that. After owning the Schlage for a little over a month, I have had 0 problems with it. (I’ll update this article as time goes on.) The locking mechanism was heavy and I feel it adequate for the job.

Installation:

As far as installations go, I was replacing a lock previously. It went as smooth as smooth can go. There’s really only a few longer bolts that are home-internal keeping it together. The key for this lock is making sure your weather striping on your door isn’t too bulky. When the door automatically locks, you’ll want to ensure it can do so with the door closed “naturally”, and by that I mean, some doors in homes you have to push shut while locking to make sure the alignment is correct. While this lock just the same as any other, you may encounter a problem with the alignment just based on your door. This isn’t necessarily a problem you cannot fix with the right know-how but it can be a major problem if the lock engages automatically and isn’t able to do so freely, it was retract and remain unlocked. There are a few configurations that all your to adjust the depth internally which I needed to do so. Overall I consider the installation to be “Easy” and the tools required would be a screwdriver/drill for existing holes. Intermediate if this is a new door installation as precision may be key.

Appearance:

The Schlage Camelot series carries a more elegant and traditional look. This is opposed to the Schlage Century which is basically the same thing but more suitable for modern aesthetics with sharp lines. As mentioned before, I purchased the model with the handle-kit as our old one was also on the outs. The “Aged Bronze:” has nice detailing with rubbed/weathered edges. From the outside/front: The lock is clearly visible with a lit touch pad. The touchpad is not illuminated unless you push a key. I’m guessing this is to save battery but if you come home late at night, you’ll have to tap it at least once to see the panel. In the sunlight, when illuminated it’s visible enough but it does get washed out if in direct sunlight making seeing the digits more difficult but not impossible. The back or inside portion is, massive. This isn’t uncommon for automated touchpad or push-button locking mechanisms but I find it to be larger than most of its brethren. This may be attributed to the built-in tamper alarm or superior construction but I would have liked to see it a bit smaller. The handle-kit comes in Right or Left configurations for the lever, or knob. Typically on sale is the left-facing configuration for doors which open to the left from the inside. However, when you’re ready to purchase please remember to take this into account. There is also a knob for those that want. I found that the model that goes on sale is the left-side lever. Luckily, that’s how my door was but I think it wouldn’t be hard to find a replacement part for it to keep the cost down.

“The back or inside portion is, massive. This isn’t uncommon for automated touchpad or push-button locking mechanisms but I find it to be larger than most of its brethren.”

Stand-Alone Operation

In the “Living in a Smart Home Series: Part 4″ I discussed how one of the biggest problems I have when purchasing new “techy” devices is it has to pass the spouse/guest test-factor. Meaning, if someone who is unfamiliar with my home, they’re still able to use their basic human programming to operate the home. I’m happy to say, this lock passes the test, before it was “connected” to my smart home. The deadbolt locks and unlocks from the inside like you would expect it to. The touch screen lights up when you push a button and you can input any code you wish, as long as those codes are 4 to 8 digits long. If you change the digit-length from say 4 to 6 or to 8, ALL codes are erased and all new codes  MUST have that length. We opted for 6 as generally speaking it’s unlikely for another to “guess” a 6 digit code without me knowing. You can also assign many different codes for each individual person or group of people. For example, our neighbor has a code specifically for them, as does my wife, and myself. As a stand-alone unit, programming these codes is somewhat easy if you follow the instructions. In case all codes are forgotten there is a permanent master code provided. (KEEP THIS!) However, I’m a big fan of having backup entries incase, lets say the batteries were dead. The key is always available for you to enter if you wish. The lock can also auto-lock when programmed to do so. This is a good feature if, lets say you’re often home alone and want the door secured even if you forget.  There is also a tamper alarm which is a great option if you do not already have an audible alarm, especially if you don’t have a home alarm . The button is internal and long-press can change the modes. The alarm is piercingly loud, similar to a smoke detector.  I personally don’t use this feature as it isn’t able to be armed via automation and my wife would have a heart attack if she sleepily wanted to let the dogs out. Overall, as a stand-alone touchpad lock I find this so be a great device and worth $180-$200 alone just for these features. Of course, I like to make things complicated…

“The spouse test…if someone who is unfamiliar with my home, they’re still able to use their basic human programming to operate the home. I’m happy to say, this lock passes the test…”

Automation:

Undoubtedly, this is why you’re here. As a home-automation enthusiast, I’m always excited when I get a new toy to integrate and automate. I can say with confidence, after installing and connecting this device, I’ve forgotten that I had it… which is a good thing. The Schlage Camelot features Z-Wave compatibility wireless. I find that Z-wave or similar protocols are superior to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Their range is slightly further, especially through walls, when compared to wi-fi. As far as bluetooth is concerned, connections are not always guaranteed. (Even my smartwatch fails to recognize my phone in my pocket.) The lock natively integrates with SmartThings using a standard device handler. This allows you to monitor the state of the lock. Using a hub, you can also have Alexa integrate with the device. This will only allow you lock the device. This is to address security concerns I’ve seen from people when talking about smart locks. If it were not this way, someone could stand outside your house and yell: “Alexa, Unlock the door!” and she would comply. I understand this might frustrate some people, and there are ways around this if you’re crafty but I would encourage you not to. (See Security) Out-of-the-box, integration and automation leaves something to be desired. You can lock/unlock the device during a routine with SmartThings. However anything deeper it going to require a custom smart app. (Which SmartThings has available, I’ll discuss that in the next article) I use the CoRE engine to automate the lock when my Smoke Detectors go off so that allows my neighbors to open the doors as necessary to help my furry critters get out safely. Overall, it wasn’t on Schlage to make this thing “smarter” even though they could have. There’s no phone app which I think is a good thing. You can do what you want with a custom device handler and smart app in the SmartThings IDE if you’re savvy but the basic functionality is there.

Security:

Let’s face it. This is a deadbolt and its first and foremost function is to secure your home. However, is it really secure? There’s a lot of people debating having more IoT things in your home and  having them not properly secured is a major risk. (Which, I would agree) I have a vision of a the 5 o’clock evening news running a story on how a hacker could drive by, push two buttons and your home is unlocked leaving you vulnerable. However, let’s face it, when it comes to a lock: They only keep honest people, honest. Most hackers COULD go around breaking into homes but a brick through a window is really just as effective as hacking and much faster. Most homes even have a window right in the front-door or to the sides which means they can just open the door through there anyways. Not to mention, picking locks is an age-old craft and it’s not difficult. Your best defense is to secure your networks and accounts with different, long, non-dictionary based password phrases. (IE: Cheez3tastiehazEYEone) If you’re contemplating home automation security needs to be a focal point however nothing is foolproof. Most hackers would rather have your credit card information or Gmail password to cause more mischief remotely than to find out who and where you live to steal some gear from your home and fence it.  If you have reservations than simply don’t connect this device and leave the Z-Wave features off. This device functions well without those features. Also, most Autmation Assistants (I.E. Google Home or Alexa) will not UNLOCK the device, this is for security however you can automate and run routines to by-pass this behavior. Certainly not-recommend in my opinion.

Wrapping-Up:

In a conversation the other day, I stated to another individual that this is best thing I don’t even remember having. It runs so seemlessly in the background that I never worry about wether or not it’s locked. My only reservations are the price and longevity. I’ve heard from a few people theirs have lasted more than a year with no problems and I’ve heard from some people who haven’t had as much luck. Luckily it has a 3-year warranty to back it and I strongly suggest keeping everything for it incase of problems. The locking mechanism is a little loud and might alarm pets but nothing too bad. Finally $300 dollars handle-kit is certainly more expensive that most other locks however, when it’s on sale for $200 or lower I highly suggest purchasing it if you’re in the market. If you only need the deadbolt, it’s about $180 and that is still a bit out of reach however most Z-wave Grade 1 locks are just as pricey, so I’d suggest waiting for sale or checking some reviews on other brands. Overall, I think you can’t go wrong purchasing this especially if you’re into automation. My next article will be on the Device Handler/Smart App I used to get this from a “Good Purchase” to an “Outstanding Purchase”. Till next time!

Final Verict:

  • Pros:
    • Fairly easy Installation.
    • Great automation features when used with SmartThings and custom Smart App and native functionaility.
    • Best-in-class grade locking and components.
    • Multiple ways to function the lock.
    • 3-year warranty.
    • Functions well on it’s own.
    • Great value at $180 (a Grade 3-deadbolt/handle is easily $100 alone)
  • Cons:
    • Expensive if not on sale.
    • Locking mechanism is a bit noisy.
  • Overall:
    • Great purchase for front door, but look for cheaper models for other home entries.

Living In a Smart Home Part 4:

The Smart Lock –  A good idea?

My significant other mentioned to me some time ago that the front door lock wasn’t engaging fully and freely. Indeed, when I went to turn the lock, it seemed to snag before the lock fully engaged. Also, our handle button is a bit sticky too. This seems to be a common problem as even in our old house, (in addition the the golden-brass color) also had the same problem. “Great! I said, “I’ll get a smart lock!” Then, quick as you could say “Alexa, buy me a smart lock” I was off researching which one was the best for my needs.

There are many advantages to a smart lock, and like all things, there are some disadvantages. We’re going to go over some of the key features I believe should be on your smart lock and I’ll give the recommendations I have if you’re looking for some. Once again, my buying-decisions are mainly based off of SmartThings compatability, so always do your research first.

First, my “Golden Rule”, it has to work for my wife. Meaning that my wife needs to be able to operate it and integrate seamlessly with her life. Understandingly, she gets frustrated when lights that she expects to perform automatically do not and also if there isn’t a button or switch to fix it immediately, it doesn’t make sense for it to be smart at all. With that being said, any smart lock I thought about had to have some key elements:

  1. It has to be aesthetically pleasing. (Rubbed-oil bronze in our case)
  2. It had to be able to be to work with a key. (Let’s face it, technology fails us)
  3. It needed to have a touch-pad with assignable codes, multiple even.
  4. It needed to integrate natively with SmartThings on the Z-wave protocol.
  5. It needed to be affordable.

My web search landed me in a place of somewhat confusion. Mostly, due to the word “Smart” now being a key-phrase in advertising. To me, “smart” means connected and programmable. As a buzz-word, it can mean something that ranges of “Clever-design” to “fully automated you’ll never need to touch your door”. Not to mention, going down to your local hardware store, you’ll need words like “Bluetooth” and “Wi-Fi” but the more important “Z-wave” or “Zigbee” phrases hidden behind “Wireless”. I’m not sure if this is because manufactures want to construe how these devices work so they can relate to terms people know. (Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, one could argue, are in everyone’s vocabulary.) What I found was that there’s a lot so it was important that I ensure, once again BEFORE I bought something, that it fit my criteria.

Aesthetics of course being number 1, but also the most important aspects. This is my front door handle. It’s where people are greeted and arguably the first thing they see when they get to my doorstep. I didn’t want some gangly-box with glowing neon lights and retina scanner, I wanted something that says “oh, that’s an attractive door handle, and look you can enter a code in.” (Things you say as a suburbanite in their 30s.) I found that companies like Schlage and Yale all have pretty attractive handles so there was an easy path.

The second stipulation, the use of  a key, sounds like a no brainier but there are actually a few locks that eliminate the use of a key. While this sounds like a great idea at first, (No one likes a dangly-key-chain) the problem I would have is if the touch screen failed to work. I’m not sure what happens if it does and quite frankly I didn’t even want to find out. In addition, there are other”Smart locks” that only have a key and no touch screens, like the Kwikset Kevo. in fact I found one that isn’t really “smart”, you can just re-key it yourself. That gets me into the next point:

One of the biggest reasons I wanted a new lock, is: I tend to go out and in different doors. Living on a farm, sometimes I’ll walk out my front door and go in the side door which had yet to be unlocked. I don’t normally carry my keys so I wanted to be able to input a code to unlock the deadbolt. These type of locks have been around for awhile and isn’t necessarily a “smart” feature. However, like I mentioned above, the Kwikset Kevo doesn’t have one and it’s possible I don’t have my phone on me to unlock or “touch it”. The multiple-code feature is also good. That way I can give my farm-sitter a code and they’ll be able to come in and out securely, rather than give them a key.

The other elephant in the room is connecting with SmartThings and not necessarily an app. (I tend to hate single-purpose apps.) With the Kevo being bluetooth and the August being WiFi I’m sure some hackery can be done to get them integrated with SmartThings, but I’ve never really liked how things integrate with SmartThings when they’re not supposed to. As I said in my first article, it is best to make sure everything you buy is compatible with your unit, in this case Z-Wave is my go-to protocol and checking on the SmartThings app, I found the Schlage Camelot integrated well via Z-Wave. Why? Well really it’s the automation side. For example, when my security system arms every evening, it automatically locks all my locks. If my smoke alarm goes off and we’re not home, all the doors unlock making egress easier. If my wife and I are away the doors automatically lock (and we can check the current state of the lock) so there are lots of reasons this adds convenience. However, if it does fail, we still have 2 manual controls to lock and unlock (the touch pad and a key).

The final decision, price. When I found the door handle set I wanted: Schlage Connected Camelot with handle, I was kinda shocked to see the price at a bit north of $300 dollars. As a man on a budget I couldn’t really justify that cost immediately since my lock was still functioning and even though it was kinda janky. Luckily, Home Depot seems to put it on sale from time to time between $180 – $200 dollars. (In fact, depending on when you’re reading this article, it’s on-sale now until April 9th for $200.) This was a decent price since the same oil-rubbed non-smart non-touchpad designs usually run around $110-$140. So, if you’re going to get one I highly suggest putting an alert on SlickDeals.net for one using keywords smart lock, dead bolt, or the brand names like Schlage.

As you may have guessed, I found Schlage Connected Camelot and purchased it as my ultimate decision. I’m still waiting for the standard deadbolts to go on sale to replace them at the other doors. They’re going for $120 and I’m gunning to get them around $60-$80. While this one works great, there are plenty of locks out there that may suit your needs greater than this one so I’d really recommend making a list of features you want and TAKE YOUR TIME. Luckily I wasn’t in a rush and that saved me $110 dollars. If you’re curious about the Schlage Connected Camelot, a review of the unit will be going up soon.

Thanks for reading and I hope this was helpful. As always, feel free to send me an email at manbeertech@gmail.com, via comment, or even on Reddit directly at kaizokudave. Till then, See you next time!

Drunkenly Honest Review: Coast FL72

So, I’m underneath the Honda Fit on an overcast day, searching for the dirty black oil plug. I’ve got a headlamp on, a nice Black Diamond ReVolt (although, it’s older) which is great for backpacking and fiddling around reading while outside. However my biggest complaint was that I couldn’t refocus the beam easily. While underneath the car I’ve got limited space and the beam is far to broad for me to see what I need. Fed up, I just took the darn thing off and used my Fenix flash light. I’m now on the prowl to find a new headlamp.

plain

Fast-foward a few weeks, the Wife and I are performing tactical Costco manuvers browsing aisle to aisle at Costco where I come acrss a pair of Coastal FL72 Headlamps in the tool aisle. Now, I’m a big fan of usually name-brand stuff or at least finding a cheap workable Chinese-knockoff, so I usually don’t pay much mind in this area of Costco. However, for $28 bucks for a pair of headlamps I figured I’d at least give them a try.

After getting home and trying to cut open the package for what seemed like 10 minutes I placed it upon my head. Wow, was I impressed.

First, let me talk about the operation. There are two buttons. One turns on the Red LEDs (Red-light allows you to maintain partial night vision at night) and the other turns the main lamp On. Simple as that. Pressing the button again goes to medium, then to low, finally one last press turns it off. Coming from my ReVolt, where I can push the button, hold it two secondsd, switch from two tiny LEDs to RED to the Main lamp, then hold again for the main lamp to dim, then forget how to turn it off turning on the strobe, this was a great improvement.

red
I don’t use the red LEDs often, but they’re a nice addition.

Next, the beam on the main lamp is able to be adjusted simply by twisting the lens. Well, really there’s not much to talk about that other than it can be done. Other headlamps allow this as well, it’s nothing new but for a $14 headlamp it’s a welcomed feature. It also pivots down to allow you to focus on working on something close up.

The brightness is up there boasting 405 lumens. Compare that to my $45 dollar ReVolt which only has 130, it’s almost too bright. The FL72 is easily adjustable with a simple press to go down to medium at 230 lumens or low at a 53 for general use. This blows away the my former pride and joy.

What’s best? You get two of them! I’m always forgetting where I placed my old one last. I keep one in my EDC bag and the other  in my toolbox in the house.

Now there’s a downside. Battery life. Because of the higher lumens, this light can only be on for 2 hours on high which is not a whole lot of time. You can get up to 20 hours on low which isn’t bad but compaired to the ReVolt which will reach upward of 300 hours (according to their website, I’ve had it for 3 years and I’ve replaced the batteries once) there’s no contest.

Overall, for $15 dollars a piece these are a great piece of kit for around the house or anywhere you can easily get to AAA batteries in case they’re low. Great for working in a dark corner or walking across the field at night looking for something you’ve dropped. (Guilty of that.) If you don’t have a Costco Membership, they’re ~$35 on Amazon for one, although at that price I would find something else. However, I wouldn’t take it backpacking due to the lack of strobe and overall battery life.

Final Vedict: No brainer at $15 dollars, but I wouldn’t pay much more north of that.