Can banishing the blues, sleeping soundly and waking energized be as simple as changing a light bulb? Light affects sleep/wake cycles, body temperature, hunger, physiology and behavior. So aligning lighting with our bodies’ natural circadian rhythms is an important step in improving well-being, productivity and relaxation.
New, smart lighting is helping balance circadian rhythms, augmenting WiFi and acting as hubs for a variety of smart devices.
Smart lighting to help you sleep
One new smart light bulb is designed specifically for bedrooms, to overcome the problem of light-induced wakefulness. These smart bulbs help resolve that problem by mimicking the sun, transitioning its light from the energizing blue wavelengths of early morning light to the calming light of evening sunsets. This transition prepares the body for sleep, helping trigger the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin in the evening and the release of the stimulating hormone cortisol in the morning.
Another smart bulb in the same family of lights is designed to provide optimal, customizable light throughout the house. Single bulbs or groups of lights can be dimmed or brightened with a tap on your smart phone. That app also supports custom scenes, such as “arrive home” or “watch movie.”
Changing from standard bulbs to smart bulbs is as easy as screwing them into any 60-watt light socket and downloading the relevant app for iOS or Android. A smart hub isn’t needed.
Filtering out blue light
According to the National Sleep Foundation, 95% of Americans use an electronic device within one hour of trying to sleep. Yet, the blue-lit screens of tablets, smart phones, computer screens and TV contribute to poor sleep.
Luckily, many devices have apps available that automatically turn on at night and filter out blue light to support your body’s natural circadian rhythm. In fact, iPhones have this built in through a feature called “Night Shift”. Utilizing screen filters can make it easier to fall asleep if you use electronic devices before bedtime.
Tunable LEDs are another innovation. With tunable smart bulbs, users can change their LEDs’ color temperature to create the ambiance they want based on function or situation. For example, one manufacturer’s white ambiance bulbs imitate the sun, producing a full spectrum of white light that can be adjusted with a wall-mounted dimmer or smart phone app.
Already-set routines tell the bulbs to gradually increase the light level of the room in the morning, to provide gentle evening light and to gradually dim lights until they are off. With tunable smart lights, you also can create a lighting plan based on the color palette of a favorite picture or control the lights while you’re away to ensure your home appears occupied. From a design standpoint, these lights can be grouped to define spaces in open concept floor plans and to adjust ambiance with a click to control rooms, routines or scenes.
Regular LED bulbs also are finally being manufactured with the aesthetics of vintage incandescent bulbs (which are no longer manufactured) and candelabra bulbs, allowing energy efficient, visually pleasing solutions for fixtures with visible light bulbs.
Smart lights are doing more than controlling lighting, though. Lighting manufacturers, are developing smart LEDs that that can be used as sensors to function as internet hubs.
Li-Fi technology can even replace WiFi in some areas to deliver Internet connectivity through light bulbs. The LED bulbs become wireless transmitters, downloading and uploading information at a rate of 40Mbps (high speed Internet is considered 25Mbps). Because Li-Fi doesn’t penetrate walls, it is more secure than WiFi, which uses radio signals that can be hacked from some distance.
In 2016, a LiFi innovator introduced an app to allow it to be controlled from a smart phone. This technology has the potential to turn every light into an Internet access point.
These new LEDs are a logical early step toward the much ballyhooed Internet of Things, providing an immediate benefit in the form of more restful sleep and more alert morning and improved ambiance and functionality. And the best part is that most of this functionality is available now.
Lighting isn’t the only smart household appliances that can make life easier. Check out these other smart appliances that you might find useful to install in your home.
Chilly days and nights prompt rodents, especially mice, to seek heat – often under the hoods of cars. Mice in your car is more than just a nuisance, it can be dangerous. Here are some tips on how to help keep mice and other pests out of your car.
The dangers of pests in cars
Their choice of shelter is not just a nuisance. When they are under the hood they might build nests or chew belts or wires. The result can cause serious engine malfunctions and even car fires. A nest located in a fan or intake manifold can ignite. Wires that are frayed from chewing can also cause fires.
Don’t dismiss this warning as something that only occurs in cars that aren’t regularly driven. Just as people seek the handiest shelter during storms, so do these animals.
The National Fire Protection Association warns almost two-thirds of vehicle fires are caused by faulty electrical or mechanical systems. Animals aren’t the sole cause of these fires but auto technicians note that animals in engines are not unusual.
Consider these strategies to make sure you protect your car from possible fires, according to automotive experts including those at AAA.
Park under shelter
If you have a garage or other vehicle-appropriate shelter, use it. Although squirrels, mice and other small animals flourish in rural areas, they are common everywhere. Save time and money by taking the extra time to park your car in a sheltered area.
Honk to scare pests away
Honk your horn before you start the engine. If your key fob has that function, you’ll be able to do that from a distance. Making loud noises will scare most mice, cats, and other animals away.
Of course, it’s important not to go overboard, lest you upset your neighbors. A few honks will do.
Wait a few extra seconds after you sound the horn before you start the car. Small animals can wedge themselves into tiny spaces within the engine and may need some extra time to extract themselves and escape.
Check your car and surroundings
Regularly look under the hood of your vehicle. Nests can easily be spotted and removed. Also, examine the wiring and mechanical systems for signs of chewing and fraying.
Scan the engine and driveway for leaks. Rodents like the taste of oil, gasoline and other automotive fluids, such leaks attract them. Leaking fluid can ignite leaves, trash and other debris in the roadway. In addition, leaks are dangerous to children, pets and the environment.
Listen for rattles. Flame-retardant materials are generally between the exhaust systems and floorboards of most vehicles. If you hear a rattle, a rodent or other animal may have loosened the materials.
If you see damaged wiring or suspect leaks, take the car for service. In fact, it’s a good idea to have mechanics check your car engine at least annually for such damage.
Don’t chance a fire. If you suspect or see a fire in your car as you drive, stop the car immediately, preferably on pavement rather than grass or other flammable materials. Turn off the ignition and abandon the vehicle. Then call for help.
Want to help prevent animals from getting under your hood? Put mothballs in fabric netting and hang it under the front of the hood. One caution: Make sure you don’t place the mothballs near the windshield washer area (where fluid is expelled) or the mothball smell will permeate the interior of the car.
There can be many factors that influence how much someone spends on an engagement ring. Though traditional standards suggest spending two to three months’ salary on a ring, many couples are now challenging the old rules and taking more personalized approaches.
A recent study estimates the average price of an engagement ring is $5,855. Still, there are no set rules. How much you should spend on an engagement ring will largely be dictated by your financial situation and what kind of ring your partner wants.
If you find yourself part of the average that can afford a $6,000 ring, then you will likely be looking for rings that meet certain standards of quality when it comes to the cut, color, clarity and carat weight, often referred to as the 4Cs grading system. At this price point, you will also be looking at a ring that has a carat weight of about 0.9 carats, the average carat weight for a purchased engagement ring in 2015.
Engagement rings with higher diamond grades usually have a greater carat weight and they are flawless. These rings have a tendency to be of rare quality and more expensive. In fact, rings of this quality can be the most expensive engagement rings you can buy, selling for between $500,000 and $8 million dollars.
Staying within your budget and purchasing something that can be treasured for years to come can be tricky, but there are different strategies available to you. Jewelry specialists often recommend buying a ring that’s just under the pricing plateau that’s higher than you want to go. So instead of a full carat ring, which sells at a premium rate, buy a 0.9 carat ring. These types of non-standard weights can reduce the cost of a ring significantly and with little noticeable difference in appearance.
Finally, if you are looking for something inexpensive but still stylish, a cubic zirconia engagement ring is a good option. For many it can be hard to distinguish between fake and real diamonds, and the difference in price is significant.
How much you spend on an engagement ring, whether it’s in a store or from an online retailer, will obviously be based on your personal financial situation. But with so many classes of rings out there, it’s possible to find something that you and your beloved really like that suits your budget, too.
Buying an engagement ring is the first of many decisions you’ll make when planning a wedding. Make sure to protect your special day with wedding insurance, which provides liability coverage and helps protect you from financial loss if you have to cancel or reschedule.
What will be shaking up the automotive industry in 2017? Here are 10 innovative items and technologies driving the coming year, according to NYDailyNews.com and Digital Trends.
1. Portable jump start kits
New portable jump start kits offer the flexibility of multiple functions, such as charging your phone, without having to rely on the kindness of strangers – or a towing service. Unlike traditional jump starting that can get your car going instantly, the new starters charge your battery in 5-10 minutes.
2. Lasers lighting the way
LED-lasers may be the headlights of the near-future. They’re smaller, brighter and more powerful than other options. And while they’re safe to view, laser headlights aren’t yet legal in the United States, although some luxury automakers are exploring the possibility of bringing them to the American market.
3. Scent systems
Mercedes-Benz was the first automaker to include a perfume atomizer as a built-in option. The best part: The scents complement that leathery, new car smell.
4. Lane change assist
Avoid potential accidents when switching lanes with this feature that warns you when a car is rapidly approaching from behind.
5. Tech to keep your head up
Fumbling with your phone while driving isn’t just inconvenient, it’s dangerous and often illegal. Curb your distracted driving tendencies with a heads-up display that mounts on your dashboard and projects data onto the windshield. You can more safely view and respond to messages, calls and navigational directions by voice or gesture commands.
6. Autonomous parking
Self-driving cars may be the thing of the future, but self-parking cars are a bit more today. Some newer vehicles can steer into a parking spot by way of cameras and sensors. The driver needs only to operate the transmission and foot pedals.
7. External airbags
Automakers are investigating ways to minimize external damage and better protect occupants during a collision by adding external airbags to their vehicles.
8. Hot Seat
An average of 30-50 children die each year from being trapped in a hot car. For her science fair, an 8th grader invented the Hot Seat, a pressure-sensor pad that fits under a child’s car seat and triggers an alert if the driver is more than 40 feet from the vehicle and the child is still in the car.
9. Tech detecting drowsy driving
Inattentive or sleepy drivers may soon be alerted by cockpit sensors that detect distracted driving, along with seat belts made with fabric that monitors heart rate. Learn more about innovative technology aiming to detect drowsy driving.
10. Traffic light detectors
Braking late for a red light is risky and wastes fuel. Several automakers are experimenting with on-board traffic light detectors in cars that could pave the way for braking at safer distances and saving fuel.
Not all new car safety technology is actually safe. Find out which ones are helpful and which are hype.
In today’s world, 3-D printing is being used to make everything from smartphone cases to prosthetic limbs. As it leaves its mark on other industries, 3-D printing is also changing the way the automotive world is approaching manufacturing challenges. This disruptive technology is paving the way for fresh new automotive ventures.
When General Motors built its 2014 Chevrolet Malibu, the company’s engineers used 3-D printing to build parts including the floor console, the panels on the back of the front seats and the front fascia. Ford also uses 3-D printing for many vehicle parts, including vents, brake rotors and shift knobs.
The technique allows for rapid prototyping instead of relying on the traditional method of making a mold and manufacturing a part or hand-tooling a part. There are many advantages to using 3-D printing instead of traditional manufacturing, not the least of which are lower costs and faster speeds. The method allows for on-demand tooling, and the parts are lighter and the fabrication process is much more environmentally friendly, requiring a fraction of the energy cost that is required in traditional manufacturing.
In the current landscape, cars are built on long assembly lines that consume staggering amounts of energy, which means even cars built to live an eco-friendly existence roll off the assembly line with a huge carbon footprint.
The promise of printing
Jason Bekiaris, marketing manager for Dilawri’s Crown Auto Group in Canada, says the possibilities of 3-D printing are “endless.” In a report for 3DPrint.com, Bekiaris said manufacturers no longer are looking at it just for one-off parts and prototypes.
“Nowadays you can have an entire vehicle printed from scratch in 44 hours,” he says, suggesting we aren’t far from living in a world where we can design a car online, customized to our personal preferences, and have it delivered in two days.
“It may sound outlandish, but the truth is that the future of making cars is bound to change,” Bekiaris said.
Not just for big names
It’s not just major auto companies that are using 3-D printing; in fact, many in the industry point to it as a game-changer, one that could pave the way for new, innovative car manufacturing that will lead to customization that we couldn’t even imagine in the past.
Swedish supercar maker Koenigsegg is among those that have jumped on the 3-D bandwagon for printing prototypes. According to a case study by Canadian technology solutions provider Javelin Technologies, the company is now designing interior fixtures and printing engine parts in house. Since each automobile requires more than 300 carbon-fiber parts, manufacturing and assembling the car by hand has traditionally been a slow and expensive process.
According to founder and CEO Christian von Koenigsegg, switching to a 3-D printer shaved 20% off the time needed to develop the car’s design while at the same time slashing costs by 40% . While he credits the process with improving the creative flow of his designers and engineers, others say 3-D printing is more about improving the cash flow for consumers.
“You no longer have to be a billionaire” to manufacture cars, said Kevin Czinger, founder and CEO of Divergent Microfactories, in his keynote address at the 2015 O’Reilly Solid conference in San Francisco. “Imagine teams around the world bringing real innovation to the car industry. This is going to accelerate the pace of innovation.”
By way of example, Czinger used the conference as an opportunity to unveil the Blade, the first fully functionally supercar printed from a 3-D printer. The 700 horsepower bi-fuel motor is light on environmental impact, both in the way it is manufactured and in its energy consumption.
Scheduled for release in 2017, the Blade is more than 3,000 pounds lighter than Tesla Motors’ Model S sedan and accelerates faster than a McLaren P1 supercar. But most impressive, says Czinger, is that it boasts 50% of the emissions of a standard car over its life cycle.
“How we make cars is actually a much bigger problem than how we fuel them,” Czinger explained at the time. “Tailpipe emissions are just the tip of the iceberg. A far greater percentage of a car’s emissions come from the materials and energy required to manufacture it.”
He envisions a world where cars are lighter, greener and safer; where they require fewer materials to produce; and where they leave a footprint that’s a fraction of what cars are leaving on the planet today. Czinger believes 3D printing could do for the automotive industry what the PC did for the computer industry. As with that revolution, the consumer benefited through greater choice, flexibility, convenience and lowered pricing.
“If you want to find the next new thing in automobiles,” Czinger said, “you look at manufacturing.”
Sometimes when people change something about their lives, they are surprised to find out their insurance rate changes, too. This is true with car insurance, as insurance companies use many factors to price auto policies.
Knowing what some of these factors are, and why they matter to insurers, can help you better understand rate changes, if they occur.
Here are five reasons an existing insurance policy rate might rise or fall in price.
1. Car type
Different types of cars cost differing amounts to insure. That’s because some cars have more safety features than others and, statistically, those driving in cars with more safety features have less severe physical injury claims and, therefore, require less medical care. These features might also mean these drivers have fewer accidents because the safety features might help prevent them. When claims occur, though, repair costs may be higher if safety features get damaged. If you’re thinking of getting a different car, it’s helpful to call your insurance agent first, to find out how that car model will affect the insurance rate.
2. Change of residence
Even if your new home is only a block away from your previous address, if it’s in a different zip code, your auto insurance rates could change. Zip codes are one factor insurance companies may use to set rates. The claims within each zip code might have a different number of auto accidents, thefts, vandalism, fraud and other issues affecting claims. Auto policies vary in price from state to state as well. That might be attributed to accident rates, but it also can be from state laws mandating what insurance companies must cover.
3. New driver on the policy
Adding someone to your auto policy will also affect the rates. If the new person on the policy is a teen driver, some parents are surprised to see their monthly premiums increase. This is because teens in their first six months of driving independently have more crashes than in their next year of driving, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health and the Virginia Transportation Institute. As teens gain experience behind the wheel, they have fewer accidents. Still, because teenagers have a statistically higher incidence of auto accidents, the group is more expensive to insure.
4. Vehicle’s age
While it’s true some cars become more valuable (if kept in mint condition), most vehicles do not. The good news is that as cars get older, they may cost less to insure. One factor insurance companies use to set rates is the cost to repair a damaged car or the value paid to a policyholder for a car that’s beyond repair. If an insurance company decides to pay an older car’s cash value instead of repairing it, that’s usually less expensive than paying the cost of a newer car.
5. Accidents and violations
After an accident or moving violation, insurance rates sometimes increase. That can happen even if the accident is not the insured’s fault. Some companies, including Sterling Peaks Insurance, offer Accident Forgiveness coverage. With this coverage option, your premium won’t increase after your first at-fault accident. Sometimes policyholders can also get auto insurance discounts if they’ve gone through a period with no accidents or violations.
It’s helpful to check with your insurance agent to ask about the factors that affect your car insurance policy. If you’re looking to get a new car, it’s also a good idea to ask Sterling Peaks Insurance how the different models you are considering will affect your insurance rate.
Learn more about the price of auto insurance – it can help you estimate your budget and maybe even help you save money.
If you’re in the market for a new car, safety, fuel economy, size and color are just a few things to consider before you make a final decision. But you will also have to decide whether Two-wheel drive (2WD) or Four-wheel drive (4WD / AWD) will best fit your needs and lifestyle. We weigh the pros and cons of 2WD vs 4WD in the infographic below so you can make an informed decision.
No matter which drivetrain you choose, you’ll want to protect your vehicle with the right insurance policy. Learn more about Sterling Peaks Insurance dependable and affordable coverage options today.
Drafts, or air leaks, can come into your home through windows, fireplaces and even electrical outlets, making your house feel several degrees colder and driving up your heating bills. The potential energy savings from reducing drafts can range from 5% to 30% per year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Here are seven ways to find and fix drafts in your home before winter’s frigid temperatures hit.
Windows and doors
Most people automatically think to check for gaps around their windows and doors, and many will opt to use self-sticking weather stripping or a decorative draft stopper to stop air leakage. Others will caulk around their doors and windows. Caulking, however, isn’t as easy as it sounds.
“Caulking seems easy until it’s coming out of the end of the tube and you can’t control it, it goes all over the place and it doesn’t go where you want it to go,” says Mark Clement, co-host of a home improvement radio show. The problem, he says, is there are so many different types of caulking to choose from. The best choice is to use a high-quality latex caulk that cleans up with water.
You should also check for cracked caulking around your doors and windows. If you find any cracks, you will need to re-caulk those areas to prevent cold air from seeping in. If you want to add an extra barrier between the outside air and your home, you could also install an insulating plastic film over your windows to provide an airtight seal.
An easy way to stop air leakage, says Clement, is to lock your windows. Sometimes a window will look closed but, until it is locked, it’s hard to tell if the window is shut tight, he says. If you can’t lock your window, try opening it all the way and closing it again to make sure the window is still on its track. If that doesn’t work, you might need to call a professional to check your window.
If you have an unfinished basement, there is a good chance your floors feel cold when you walk around in bare feet and even when you wear socks, Clement says. The best way to stop cold air from penetrating the floor is to add insulation under the flooring.
Cable lines and wires
Anywhere a cable, wire or pipe goes from inside to out, there is typically an air leak. If the hole around the wire or pipe is a quarter of an inch or less, you can use caulk to seal it, Clement says. If it is larger, use foam insulation to close the hole.
Contractors often under-insulate light switches and plugs, says Clement. As a result, they can become wind tunnels. If you remove the electrical wall plate around your light switch or plug, you may see a gap between the device and the wall. You can fill up the cavity with low-expanding foam insulation. This video explains how to do it (but when in doubt, consult a professional).
Make sure your attic is properly insulated. It’s important to seal areas where exhaust fans, attic stairs and small holes allow cool air to seep into your home. Foam insulation and weather stripping can be added to the plywood or drywall in your attic to help seal up those areas.
The damper inside your chimney is meant to keep the cold air out but since dampers are typically made of cast iron, they don’t entirely keep the cold away. One way to stop drafts from fireplaces is to insert a piece of thick foam insulation covered with decorative fabric at the fireplace opening when you aren’t using the fireplace.
Buffer your home with landscaping
Shrubs and trees planted around your home can help protect it from the wind in the winter and provide shade in the summer. For instance, says Clement, if you plant an evergreen tree in front of your house it will protect your home from the wind, keeping the cold air from hitting your house and windows directly.
A snow-covered landscape may be a beautiful sight, but icy roads, strong winds and snowdrifts can make winter driving treacherous. It’s wise to have an emergency kit in your car in case it gets stuck or breaks down. Here are some items it should contain:
1. Ice scraper or snow brush
Poor visibility can make driving dangerous. Remove ice and snow from your all your windows.
2. Windshield washer fluid
Since you may use more windshield washer fluid on snowy and icy days, keep your fluid reservoir full and carry an extra jug of winter-rated fluid in your trunk.
3. Foldable shovel
Stuck in the snow? It’s smart to keep a small shovel in your trunk to help dig your wheels out.
4. Sand, salt, or cat litter
Keep a bag of sand or cat litter in your trunk. Throw several handfuls under spinning tires for better traction on snow or ice.
5. Jumper cables
Car batteries take a beating in the winter, so carry jumper cables. Be sure to read directions about how to connect them to a working vehicle.
6. Flares or reflective triangles
You want to be seen if your car breaks down or is stuck. Emergency flashing lights, flares and reflective triangles can alert oncoming traffic of your plight.
7. Flashlight and batteries
Always carry a flashlight and fresh batteries. It helps you to see and be seen by other drivers.
8. Tow rope
A tow rope of proper strength can be used to pull your vehicle out by another. Check your car’s owners manual for how and where to attach the rope and how to proceed.
9. Cell phone and charger
Be sure your cell phone is fully charged or you have a phone charger in your car. Or consider having a backup phone to contact a towing service or emergency personnel.
10. First-aid kit
A first-aid kit can save your life in an emergency. Consider purchasing a pre-stocked kit or make sure your DIY version contains bandages, antibiotic ointment, gauze pads, antiseptic, scissors, thermometer, safety pins, tweezers and hand sanitizer.
11. Blankets and hand warmers
Keep a warm blanket, sleeping bag or metallic “space blanket” in your car to help retain body heat and keep you warm if you’re stranded. Hand warmers and an extra pair of gloves are smart ideas, as well.
12. Bottled water
A person can live for days without food, but our bodies need water. Avoid dehydration by stashing several bottles of water in your trunk.
If you live where snowfall is common, a winter emergency car kit is essential, but take precautions to avoid getting into an emergency situation. Have your mechanic give your car a bumper-to-bumper once-over to ensure it’s ready for winter driving.
If you’re stuck in the middle of a big pile of snow or on a stretch of ice, you could depend upon the kindness of strangers to free you. Or you can take charge yourself. Here are some things you can do if your car is stuck in snow:
Carry some weight:
Packing a couple of sandbags in the trunk of your car can do more than help provide traction when you’re stuck. If you have a rear-wheel drive vehicle, they can help you avoid getting stuck in the first place. That’s because they add weight to the back, which enhances tire grip.
Add a shovel to the sandbags, and you’ll be able to pile sand under your tires to increase grip if you find your tires slipping on snow or ice. Of course, you should shovel as much snow or ice as possible from the path of your tires before you throw down the sand. Salt, dirt or even kitty litter will also do the trick.
Rock your ride:
Once your tire paths are cleared and the sand is on the ground, your driving skill must take over as you rock your way free of the snow. “You go into drive, then reverse, then repeat,” says Mark Osborne, who oversees Michigan Technological University’s Winter Driving School. “But you have to be careful not to wreck your transmission. I put my foot on the brake at the peak of each ‘rock,’ so the car is motionless when I change gears. It’s also helpful to shift to neutral for a second before making the transition.”
Don’t floor it:
You’ll always be tempted to floor it if you’re stuck. But don’t. Go easy on the pedal to give the vehicle just a little gas for a moment, then let off. Repeat to enhance the needed “rocking” motion. It’s momentum that sets you free, not power.
Keep a cool head:
Hitting a stretch of slick, icy stuff will often trigger panic. But you need to
stay calm. Don’t do anything abrupt, like slamming the brakes. “If you do that, you’ll transfer your vehicle’s weight to your front wheels,” Osborne says. “That lightens up the rear, making it likely that your rear end will spin.” Instead, Osborne says, gradually let off the gas and hold the steering steady until you’ve cleared the ice. If all else fails, an emergency roadside assistance service can give your car a tow.
Your car getting stuck isn’t the only concern when winter comes along. Snowy and icy pavement can lead to accidents.
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