Alternatives To Raking Leaves

Fall is in mid-swing.  Shorter days. Cool days and nippy nights.  Beautiful colors.  Falling leaves.  Cider mill trips.  Hay rides.  There’s a lot to love.  One thing that many do not love is raking leaves.  But, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to!  There are alternatives to raking leaves.  Here are some of the different things you can do, and why they might be beneficial.

Can You Ignore Your Leaves?

When leaves fall, they eventually break down and basically turn back into dirt.  I’ve always thought that process is pretty amazing.  It is, if you think about it, right?

Unfortunately, you can’t just let leaves go unattended.  There are several drawbacks.

  • A thick covering of leaves will choke out the grass underneath.
  • Leaves that aren’t collected will blow around and go to places where they’re not supposed to go.
  • Unattended leaves can pile up and reroute natural drainage paths.

So unfortunately, most people will have to do something with their leaves.  Simply leaving them on the ground isn’t a viable option.


If you have a mulching lawn mower, use it!  Leaves are the perfect thing to mulch.  Remember above how I said that leaves basically decompose into dirt.  This is great for your lawn.  The thing is that the pieces have to be small enough to break down quickly.

If you use your mulching mower, you’ll break the leaves down into tiny pieces.  These pieces will break down quickly.  Plus, they get that small, they’ll fall in between the blades of your grass.  This means that you the leaves won’t choke your lawn as they would if you leave them on top of the grass.

On top of it all, leaves that break down will provide a natural fertilizer to the grass.

There are some drawbacks.  When leaves fall fast and furious, you have to mulch them very frequently or else the leaves can get too thick for a mower to handle.  Even in some cases, you’ll have to mow over some spots a couple of times so that the machine can break the pieces down into small enough sizes.

Another drawback is that fall often brings rainy weather.  Sometimes, it may seem like the leaves are never given the opportunity to dry out.  Unfortunately, mowers aren’t going to do that great of a job on sopping wet leaves.  All you’ll end up likely doing is clogging up the mechanism.  In this case, you might have to pull out the rake.

Blowing Instead of Raking

Raking is hard work.  I find that my shoulders are sore for days if I have to rake the whole yard.  But, even if I have to collect the leaves, I’ll now save some of the raking and use the leaf blower.  Blowing the leaves into a few piles makes it a lot easier to put in bags.

Burn Baby Burn!

If you live in an area that allows it, you can burn your leaves. Unfortunately, you still have to collect them before you can do this.  We live in a suburban area that has banned leaf burning, so unfortunately this doesn’t work for us.  But, I do enjoy driving by areas where people still do this.  The smell of burning leaves is definitely a fall favorite!

Cutting Your Grass Short

Falling leaves will settle into your grass pretty quickly.  One thing you can do is give the leaves less of an opportunity to settle by cutting your grass shorter.  Then, the leaves have a better chance of blowing across your yard.  Yes, you’re making more work for your neighbors, but that’s up to you as to whether you worry about that or not!

Hopefully you’re enjoying your fall.  I hope that if you trees nearby, that these alternatives to raking leaves have helped.

Readers, what alternatives to raking leaves have you come up with? Or do you just prefer good old fashioned raking?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

9 Tips To Take Care Of Your Roof

We replaced our roof a few years ago.  It cost us a lot of money.  Chances are if you own a home for a long period of time, you’ll have to replace the roof.  Once you do, you’ll want to keep it lasting for as long as possible.  With winter just a few months away, give your roof some attention.  A few easy tips and you can extend the life of your roof.  This can save you thousands in the long run.  Here are some tips to take care of your roof.

Inspect It Regularly

I don’t get up on my roof regularly.  However, I do walk around and check things out regularly.  I will look things over every spring.  After a big windstorm, I always walk around.  So far I haven’t noticed any problems, which is great.  However, if there did happen to be a problem, early detection and repair is key.

Keep Your Gutters Clean

We have a lot of tall trees around our home.  Every year the leaves clog the gutters.  I don’t enjoy paying to have the gutters cleaned, but I do anyway.  Clogged gutters can increase your chances of ice dams under the shingles.  Gutters that are clear will allow water to drain off properly.

Keep Trees Trimmed

As I mentioned above, we have many mature trees.  We keep them trimmed regularly.  One of the things I had done during trimming is to have branches close to the roof removed.  I don’t want them scratching against the roof.  Nor do I want branches or twigs falling loose onto the roof.

Remove Debris

If something does land on your roof, make sure it gets removed.  Moisture can form underneath anything that sits on your roof for a long period of time.  Getting up on your roof isn’t fun, nor is paying someone to do so.  However, if you need your roof cleared of something, you may have to bite the bullet.

Stay Off The Roof As Much As Possible

Try to stay off the roof if at all possible.  As mentioned above, there might be times when you need to get up there.  However, try to stay off of it.  People traipsing around will just create additional wear and tear.  This can shorten the life of your roof.  Additionally, many roofs have materials which are meant to reduce spotting or mildew.  Anytime you get on the roof, you knock some of this material off.  So, stay off the roof if you can.

Don’t Mess With The Structure Below

A co-worker of mine once had an attic fan installed.  Without their knowledge, the installers cut through part of a truss.  A roofer later told them that this was bad as the trusses are installed in a way to evenly distribute the load.  They ended up having to take on an expensive repair to reinforce their structure.  Make sure anything you have installed, such as attic fans or solar panels, don’t modify the support structure of the roof itself.

Leave The Snow On The Roof

Going along with the item above, it’s usually best to leave snow alone.  There is the occasional snowfall that does require removal, but most of the time, the roof can handle heavy snowfalls.  Homeowners that attempt to rake or shovel the snow off often cause unnecessary harm to their roof.  If you are nervous about the snow on your roof, call a roofer.

Ventilate Your Attic

When we had our roof redone, our roofer added more soffet vents.  He said that code dictated how many vents need to be installed during construction.  Builders follow this. However, this is way short of what roofing manufacturers recommend.  More ventilation keeps the attic space from overheating.  It also reduces moisture buildup from underneath.

Hire Professionals

If you have any work done tied to the recommendations above, hire professionals.  Whether it’s someone working on your roof or someone that will come in contact with it, professionals are much more used to being up on a roof.  Solid pros will know how to do their work with the roof in mind.  They should also be insured in the event that anything does happen.

To properly take care of your roof, these are practices I follow.  I hope that they’re helpful.  Everyone wants a long lasting and healthy roof.  After all, the roof is what covers us up!

Readers, what do you do for your roof?  What tips do you have to take care of your roof?  Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

How Many Trips To The Hardware For A Small Plumbing Project?

One of the joys of having a nearly 15 year old camping trailer is that things break often.  Recently, we discovered a minor drip from the interior water system.  The drip was from a section of plumbing that was replaced just last year, so I was well familiar with the process.  Or so I thought.  This is the story of how many trips to the hardware it took to fix one drip!

The Broken Part

Near the hot water tank in most RVs, there’s a whole series of valves and connections.  This is so that you can bypass the hot water heater when it comes time to get things prepared for winter.  Last spring, several sections of pipes and valves broke.  This included the supply line into the water heater.

We replaced it with PEX piping and new valves, most of which are called Sharkbite.  These are cool.  It allows you to push the PEX in without clamping or crimping.  When you want to disconnect it, you have a small tool that pushes a lip over the ‘shark’ teeth, and the piping can be removed.  Easy peasy, right?  We’ll see!

Last year, because there were a few sections involved, it took a few hours.

However, this year, I noticed a drip in the supply line into the water heater.  It was just a minor drip but enough to form a puddle, so it needed to be fixed.

So, how many trips did it take?

First Trip – The One Crimped Valve

As I said above, we used mostly Sharkbite valves.  These don’t require any crimping.  But, the one section that goes into the heater requires a crimped pipe.  So, I decided to get this taken care of.  I had some leftover PEX, and drove over to the nearby hardware.  This is an old time hardware, and I love it.  It’s small but they seem to have everything.  Plus, they know their stuff!

I explained what I needed, picked out the valve, and was on my way in about 10 minutes.

At this point, I thought we had everything we needed.  I was wrong.

Second Trip – The Sharkbite That Wouldn’t Let Go

Sharkbite pulls apart pretty easily.  I tried it last year when I was putting it together.  I was smart.  You know how?  I even kept the tool right there with the pipe in the event I would need it.  So when I did, I was proud that the tool was right there.

Except it didn’t work.

We were trying to remove pipe from an elbow, and it wouldn’t come loose.  I probably had pushed the pipe in too far into the elbow, and it just wouldn’t budge.  (Pushing this in too far was probably the cause of the leak, as is my best guess).

After about 15 minutes and some near damaged fingers, we decided to get a new elbow.

Off to the hardware we went.

This time, the salesman showed me a different version that he thought might work.  It was a couple bucks cheaper, and at first glance, would do the trick.  I decided to get it and took it home to see if it would work.

Guess what?  It wouldn’t work.

There’s an electrical box that sticks out just enough that it was in the way.  My father-in-law and I had both forgotten about it.

Third Trip – The Original Elbow

So, off we went to get the replacement for the original elbow we should have gotten all along.

This was a pretty quick trip in and out.  I thought we had it straightened out.

Except.  We didn’t.

Fourth Trip – The Wrong Right Angle

Once we got back and started getting to work on cutting, my father-in-law noticed a problem.  Remember back in the First Trip when I got the part crimped to the pipe.  Turns out, I’d gotten the wrong one.  I got a valve that came out and then bent at a 90-degree angle before it was crimped.

It was supposed to be straight.


By this time, I was getting frantic.  It was 5:50 and the hardware closed at 6:00.

Lucky, it’s only a few minutes away and we made it in by 5:55.  They were laughing by now.

After getting the right piece and getting it crimped, we were out by 6:01.

I made a joke that the credit card company would start declining the purchase.  He said that they wouldn’t, because they would be coded as Plumbing purchases.  And he then said that the average number of trips for any plumbing project was 3.5.  He said that there was always three, plus usually one thing you remember in the parking lot for the ‘half’.

I guess I was only off by a half.

Install – A Breeze!

All of that took us about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  This was a lot longer than I’d anticipated.  Once we got back, cutting and installing the pipe took about 15 minutes.

Yep, it took about 7 times longer just to gather the materials than it did for the actual install.

I guess that sounds about right, too!

In the end, the leak is no more.  For now.  Let’s hope that it doesn’t return.  And, if it does, well at least I know what to expect!

Readers, what’s been your highest trip count to the hardware for a simple project?  Tell me some of your favorite DIY stories in the comments.  Thanks for reading.


Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

DTE Insight v3 Review: A Big Step Back

Like many power companies, our local company rolled out smart meters a few years ago.  These smart meters are in constant communication with the power company.  Benefits for this include real-time monitoring capabilities and the elimination of meter reads.  Drawbacks are, according to some, increased exposure to RF radiation as the communication takes place.  Like it or not, they are here to stay. Our company, DTE Energy, made it really cool. They came up with a device called an Energy Bridge and an app called DTE Insight that allowed real time monitoring of your usage. They recently rolled out DTE Insight v3.  Here’s my review.

Energy Bridge and DTE Insight

The Energy Bridge and the DTE Insight app went hand in hand.  With the app, any electric customer could monitor their usage.  It provided breakdowns by day, week, and month.  You typically had access to your statistics after a day or two.  With the Energy Bridge device, it moved this up to real-time.  This device had a data connection that you plugged into your home router. It paired with your electric meter, and you could view your usage in real time.

It’s a really cool bit of technology.  On many occasions, I would pull up the app, and literally go around the house, turning things on or off, or plugging or unplugging devices to see how much energy it used.

It was wicked cool

And, because I signed up when it first came out, it was free!

Widespread Rollout

After a couple of years, they announced that they would be making this available to everybody.  Apparently once they ran out of the initial devices, that was it.

Existing customers received notice that a brand new device would be coming our way, replacing the first device.  The new devices were wi-fi capable, which was a definite plus.  So far as I can tell, that was about the only improvement.

Still, the device came, and after getting it configured, it was back to business as usual.

Trouble On The Horizon

One of the things their rollout e-mail promised was that we would soon have an updated app to use.  I was curious so I went on the Google Play Store to see what I could find.

It wasn’t good.

The reviews of the updated app were lukewarm at best.  One common complaint was that the newer version of the app took away a lot of features.

I guess I was skeptical of this, because why would any developer take away features?

Well, turns out that they were right.

The New DTE Insight v3 Sucks

The old version of the app (v2.3.7) will no longer be supported.  Customers who want to use their Energy Bridge have to upgrade or it won’t work.

I have automatic updates turned on for my apps, so one recent morning I saw that I’d received the newer version of the app.  How did I know? Well, the icon was missing from my front page but I found it in my Apps folder, and the icon was different than before.

I had a feeling that the fact that it didn’t put the icon back wasn’t a good sign.

Turns out, I was right.

First, the new app made me log in again.  I can’t stand when apps do this.  Unless it’s a financial app or app that can be used to compromise my identity, I want to set it and forget it.  But, no big deal, I soon supplied my username and password and I was in.  It kept the connection to my Energy Bridge device, which I guess was good.

But, then I started noticing how awful this app is.  I realized after about two minutes that none of the reviews were exaggerating.

Pretty much every feature I’d found helpful in the old app was gone.

Missing Features

  • Current Day Access to Real Time Data – In the old app, you could press and hold a circle and move it around and it would show you your usage for any point in the day.  Now, that was gone.  I could see my real time data, but trying to go back a few hours was a no-go.
  • Historical Data – The old app showed pretty much every bit of historical data you could think of.   I could compare any month to the last twelve months, or even go back over a year.  The new app has no historical data whatsoever.
  • Budget and Usage Goals – In the old app, you could set your goals based on historical data.  I always set that I wanted to keep my usage at the same level as the same month a year ago.  But, since they got rid of the historical data, the ability to goal set is gone as well.  How lame.
  • Challenges – The old app had some different challenges, and when you made them you were awarded points.  For example, if you checked your usage on three different days, you’d often get a couple hundred points.  If you kept your usage under a certain amount for the week, that was good for a few hundred points.  The challenges changed weekly.  They were cool.  You didn’t really get anything for them, but it was still something to shoot for.  These have all vanished.

Adding Insult to Injury: They Are Charging For This

All of the above is bad, but to top it off, they’re now charging for anyone that wants an Energy Bridge device.  They will start charging 99 cents per month.  Now, since I was a user of the old device, I get six months for free.  Which is good, because otherwise I’d be sending that thing back today.

I find it really amazing to think that they would strip away so many features, and then turn around and call it an upgrade.  My guess is that this is probably a brand new app, so technically they’re starting from scratch.  But you know what?  That’s no excuse for rolling out something so terrible.

Because of the fact that I’m getting this for six months, I guess I’ll hold onto it for now.  But simply put, DTE Insight v3 is awful.  Hopefully by December they are on a newer version that brings back the features I found handy.  If not, I have a feeling they’ll be getting a lot of these things sent back.  Mine would be one of them.

Readers, do you have any devices or systems that allow you real time monitoring of your utility usage? Would you pay for such a thing?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.