Tag Archives: home

Kärcher FC5 Hard Floor Cleaner Review



Kärcher’s bright yellow products will be well-known to many and the brand’s almost synonymous with pressure washers: on any given Sunday, cars up and down the nation will be getting a clean aided by a Kärcher. Over the past few years, the company has been trying to increase its market with a range of household cleaning products and last year, the Window Vac seemed to be everywhere.

This year, it’s the turn of the floors and here we have the Kärcher FC5 hard floor cleaner. Hard floors are very much en vogue at the moment but keeping them clean involves dry vacuuming followed by wet mopping or steam cleaning. The FC5 is designed to get round this problem by combining elements of an upright vacuum cleaner with a wet floor cleaner. Let’s take closer look….and for those wondering, even geeks need to keep their houses clean.

The Kärcher FC5 arrives in substantial cardboard box, but it’s not as long as it could be as “some assembly is required”. Simply, the upper part of the handle needs to be slotted into the body of the cleaner. It’s straightforward and only needs a good shove to click it into place. Once together, the FC5 looks the business with a smooth aluminium handle extending out of a the obligatory yellow body. The unit is hefty enough at around 5 kg but it’s not unwieldy. The design won a Red Dot Award in 2017.

Taking a tour round the hard floor cleaner reveals most of FC5’s features. Starting at the top, there’s a rubberised handle with a power switch just within thumb’s reach. Slightly lower down is the power cable – 7m – which is coiled round two hooks. The lower hook rotates to quick release the cable which is handy when getting started. On the front of the cleaner body is the tall thin clean water reservoir and round the back is a stubbier dirty water container. At the bottom, are two fluffy rollers which spin when the cleaner is in action, giving the floor a good scrubbing.

The way the FC5 works is to suck water and detergent from the front reservoir, pour it onto the rollers, scrub the floor with the spinning damp rollers and then vacuum the now grubby water and debris up into back container. Sounds perfect and in practice, works well too.

Turning on the FC5 for the first time can be a little surprising as the rollers can get a bit of a grip on the floor and pull the cleaner away from you. It’s a bit little a powered lawn mower but not nearly as strong. Once mastered, the FC5 can be easily manoeuvred around the place and there’s a bit of tilt-n-swivel action. Tilting the handle to the left or right will turn the roller head in the same direction so you can kind of curve past things and into corners. The FC5 is noisy like a vacuum too – there’s no gentle gurgle of steam here.

Removing both water containers is easy enough – push down on the top and give the container a yank out. Filling the clean water reservoir is easy but it’s hard to see and use the “max” marker, especially as you’re filling the container nearly horizontal and you have to tilt it vertically to check on the water level. I found that one fill was enough to clean a hallway (solid wood), a kitchen (tile), a bathroom (tile) and a playroom (laminate) with a little left over. For reference, my house is about 100 sq. m on the ground floor.

After cleaning, the floor surface is left slightly damp but it dries within minutes. It’s much drier than it would be using a mop but it’s probably on a par with a steam cleaner.

The dirty water container comes in two pieces – there’s an inner structure which is designed to catch solid material like fluff, hair and squashed peas, and this comes out so that this stuff can be put in the bin. The grubby water can then be poured down the sink without worrying about blockages. Although it’s a little disgusting, you can see all the dirt that the FC5 has picked up. I don’t think of having a dirty house – there’s no pets, only two children who are fairly good at taking their shoes off at the front door – but I was still surprised at how dirty the water was.

The FC5 comes with a black plastic stand (or “cleaning station” according to Kärcher) which can be used both when the cleaner is resting under the stairs or in the utility room, and when cleaning is underway. If the stand isn’t used, the FC5 falls over – it won’t stand on its own. The base is also used to pre-wet the rollers for a quick cleaning start.

Talking about the rollers, or SmartRollers as styled by Kärcher, they easily unscrew for cleaning and drying. It’s very simple and as long as the blue roller matches the blue axle (and the green roller, the green axle), it’s impossible to go wrong.

In use over the past few weeks, I liked the Kärcher FC5. The pull from the rollers was an initial surprise but I was comfortable moving the cleaner around after a few minutes. It copes well with the different floor surfaces and after whizzing round the hard floors, I could see the dirt in the sucked up water. The FC5 handles fluff, hair, sand (Moon Sand), grit and other relatively small pieces of debris (Play Doh). It’s not a vacuum cleaner though, so larger items like stones, packaging and sweet wrappers are going to stay on the floor.

I have mixed feelings about the base that the FC5 needs to stay upright. I can kind of understand the need for pre-wetting the rollers but having to keep the base handy just to stand it up is a little annoying. If you can clean your whole house in one go, you’ll be fine; those of us who have to stop and move furniture will always be wanting the stand close to hand, only to find it’s on the other side of the room.

Priced at GB£239, the Kärcher FC5 isn’t cheap. In comparison, popular steam mops cost around a quarter of that, and you’re still going to need a proper vacuum cleaner. However the real benefit of the FC5 is the overall time saving of not having to vacuum before cleaning – you only need to go over the surface once with the FC5 and it’s job done. Definitely worth considering in homes with several hard floored rooms.

The Kärcher FC5 is available direct from Kärcher and other good retailers.

Unboxing and in action videos below.

This post was done as part of The Insiders UK Kärcher campaign.


iBeani Tablet Stand



iBeani is a small bean bag promoted as a tablet stand for iPads and other tablets….but it’s so much more. Tablet stand, book holder, doll recliner – if you want to rest something so you can see it better, iBeani’s your gadget of choice. Best of all, it doesn’t need batteries and doesn’t look out of place on the sofa.

The iBeani bean bag is designed to prop up a tablet or book at the perfect angle for reading or games. As a bean bag, it can sit on a flat surface or adapt to more awkward shapes, like sofas or knees. The iBeani is about 30 cm / 12″ across when squashed down and has a loop at the top for easy carrying and pocket for battery packs, mobile phones, spectacles, whatever…

The iBeani comes in a range of around 40 fabrics and there’s something for everyone. From geometric patterns to paw prints and classical art, it’s not hard to find an iBeani to suit your style. The fabric seems durable without being coarse and the bean bag is double zipped on the bottom to avoid any accidents involving small balls.

Made in Britain, the iBeani’s standard price is GB£24.99 including postage within the UK. There are a few sale items at £19.99 and a couple of more expensive ones at GB£29.99. I’m guessing that it’s the licensing of the art work that pushes the price up on those models.

iBeani is very handy. It’s infinitely adjustable and looks like a soft furnishing rather than a tablet stand. If you need to position a book or tablet “just so”, it’s ideal, and it’s great for children or older people who don’t want some convoluted stand with legs to unfold. It’s simple and it works.

Thanks to iBeani for supplying the bean bag for review. YouTube video below.

 

 


Pushing Power Back into The Grid



Phase Two Array ResizeI have always been fascinated by solar power. There’s something quite intriguing about the idea of simple sunlight hitting a solar panel and instantly producing electricity.

Home solar systems can take a few different forms. There are power backup systems that require the use of battery storage, as well as systems that allow people the luxury of electricity that live completely off-grid. Today, the most popular form of solar by far is known as grid-tie or Net Metering.

Grid-tie Net Metering

With grid-tie net metering solar power systems, no batteries are used. Grid-tied solar panels feed power back directly into the public electrical grid and can actually make the power meter run backwards. The more solar panels integrated into the system, the more potential power can be fed back into the connected electric grid. Power bills can either be reduced, or in some cases, completely zeroed out, depending on local electric power company policies.Solar Phase One

Solar panels produce DC or direct current. The power grid is AC or alternating current. Therefore, to sell power back to the electric utility, it is necessary to convert the DC power coming from solar panels into AC so it can be fed into the power grid. This is accomplished with DC to AC power inverters.Inverters Resize

I recently visited a home solar system installation where the home owner has been slowly expanding his net metering system over the past seven years. He initially began seven years ago with forty-three 100 watt 12 volt solar panels, placed on top of his workshop.

With this first system, it was necessary for him to run wires down the length of the interior roof to a bank of mounted micro-inverters that needed to be protected from the weather. One of the lessons he learned from this initial installation was that lengthy wires carrying 12 volt DC results in power loss. The longer the lines, the more the efficiency drops. Higher voltages don’t experience as much line loss.

The best way around this problem is to mount weatherproof micro-inverters directly to the backs of the solar panels. Once the power is converted to 120 volts AC, the length of the wires to the grid connection point are somewhat less critical because the voltage is higher.Grid Tie Inverter Resize

With the second phase of his foray into solar, he built a rack on a metal pole complete with a sun tracking mechanism that he built and wrote control software for himself. The rack contains nine higher efficiency 280 watt 24 volt panels with weather proof micro-inverters attached to the backs of the panels.

The weatherproof micro-inverters are of a modular design that can allow additional inverters to be plugged in to the to the system. The rack-mounted system produces as much power as the workshop roof-mounted panels, even though they have less surface area, primarily because they are higher-efficiency panels.Solar Porch Canopy

He is currently working on phase three of his system, which consists of panels that form a sort of porch canopy over the garage door entrance to his workshop.These are also 280 watt panels, each with its own micro-inverter. He is in the process of slowly adding additional panels to continue expanding his overall system capacity.Meter Output

At the moment when I took this picture of the system output meter, the total output was about 5.4 kilowatts.

A great way to learn more about solar panels, inverters and net metering is YouTube. Good search terms include solar power, grid-tie, and inverter.

Many recreational vehicle enthusiasts have developed a strong interest in attaching solar panels and power inverters to their RV’s, which can allow them to have a measure of generator-free and thus noise-free AC power and engage in extended off-grid camping.


Ding Smart Doorbell at Gadget Show Live



Ding LogoIn the last of my interviews with participants in the British Inventors’ Project, I’m with Avril from Ding Labs and their Ding Smart Doorbell. She tells me more about it.

At first glance, the doorbell looks the part, dressed in “on trend” minty green. Broadly, there are two parts, the Ding Chime and the Ding Button. Obviously the Button goes outside by the door for visitors and pressing the Button will ring the Chime. In addition to ringing the bell, Ding will make a voice call to the owner’s smartphone so that a two way conversation can take place between the caller and the owner.

Ring Smart Doorbell

The Ding Chime connects via WiFi to the home network and in addition to connecting to a smartphone, there are other communication options such as a text message or a call to a land-line. It’s intended that the Ding Chime will be an easy user fit.

The Ding Smart Doorbell is still under development but the team are aiming to keep the costs down to around GB£100. A Kickstarter is expected in September with delivery in April 2017.


KiddieRail Saves Children on Stairs at Gadget Show Live



KiddieRail LogoWith our penultimate visit to the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live, I’m with Lesley from KiddieRail. She saw that for children banisters on stairs were too fat and too high for them to use comfortably so it’s hardly surprising to see that children under 5 have over 58,000 accidents on stairs every year in the UK, with larger numbers in the USA. As a result, she designed KiddieRail, a child-friendly height-adjustable handrail systems that grows as the child does.

KiddieRail

The tubular handrail is fixed to an existing banister or wall with special mounting brackets that hold the handrail in place. As the child grows up from toddler to pre-schooler and beyond, the handrail can be moved up to be at just the right height. The other clever feature of the mounting brackets is that they can support the handrail at any angle, whether the stairs are steep, shallow or even on a flat landing. If that’s not enough, if the child is holding the rail, they’re not putting sticky hands on wall.

The KiddieRail is expected to go into testing shortly and it’s hoped to be on the market before the end of 2016. The price hasn’t yet been fixed but the team is aiming at less than GB£100 for approximately 3 m (10 feet) of stairs. There’s more detail at the KiddieRail website where you can sign-up to receive updates on the project.


Transparent Appliances from Morphy Richards at Gadget Show Live



Morphy Richards LogoWhen I arrived at Gadget Show Live, household and kitchen appliances weren’t at the forefront of my mind, but I was astounded by Morphy Richard’s transparent toaster and iron. Yes, you read that right – transparent – you can see right through them. Impressed and with thoughts of transparent aluminium, I chatted with Leon about the new “Redefine” range.

Morphy Richards have four appliances in the new range; a hot water dispenser, kettle, iron and toaster. While all are beautifully designed, it’s the latter two which make an impact with transparency when there’s a expectation of solidity. There are no tricks here with hidden wires either; the ThermoGlass is the heating element and gets hot to smooth the clothes and brown the bread. Aside from the visual impact of a see-through toaster, the ThermoGlass provides a lovely even heat across the whole surface and it’s easy to see how toasted the bread is.

Morphy Richards Toaster

In addition to the good looks, the new appliances focus on energy efficiency. The benefit of the hot water dispenser is that only the right amount of hot water is heated every time and the ATOMiST vapour iron uses 75% less energy and 80% less water.

The Redefine range has been on sale since before Christmas. The toaster is GB£199, the kettle is £99, the iron is £249 and hot water dispenser is £149. They’re pricey but you’re not just buying a kitchen gadget, you’re buying an aesthetic experience.

Morphy Richards iron


Nexia at 2016 CES



Nexia logoTodd Cochrane talks with J. George Land, Executive Director of Nexia Connected Home Solutions.

Nexia Connected Home Solutions is a software provider that works with selected products from a select number of different home automation manufacturers integrating everything into one voice-controlled software application. Nexia offers Z-Wave gateways.

The Nexia Z-Wave bridge sells for $67.00 on Amazon and can handle up to 200 Z-Wave compatible products from different manufacturers.

With The Nexia Z-Wave bridge, you can control your connected home products from anywhere you have an Internet-connected mobile device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop computer.

Become a GNC Insider today!

Support my CES 2018 Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgeek30
$4.99 for a New or Transferred .com cjcgeek99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1h
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgeek1w
Become a GNC Insider: Support this podcast