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Rob Archer

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3 Household Materials That Filter Out Viruses (DIY COVID-19 Face masks)

COVID-19 Wear a Mask

The CDC and White House now recommend wearing a homemade face mask when you venture out of your house. Shop Face Masks on Amazon (new stock added daily!)

These recommendations specifically refer to homemade masks, to avoid diminishing the already depleted N95 face mask supply – desperately needed by hospital and front-line workers repeatedly exposed to the Coronavirus COVID-19.

CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

CDC.gov

Even if you wanted an N95 mask, they are scarce and hard to find at a reasonable price in the open market today. Instead, you can make your own mask with some common household materials. If you don’t already have these around the house, you can find them on Amazon – we’ve noticed quantities are already decreasing rapidly, so timing may be critical to snag these supplies before they run out – like toilet paper.

UPDATE JULY 2020:

“Retired Inventor of N95 Masks is Back at Work, Mostly for Free, to Fight COVID-19” –The Washington Post

Peter Tsai, the inventor of N95 masks, was interviewed by The Washington Post this month. Embedded in the article is Mr. Tsai’s personal choice for homemade face masks – using non-woven blue shop towels. You can buy non-woven shop towels on Amazon for about $5 per roll (~$0.10/sheet). Stock up now before they are sold out in a few weeks!

He’s spread the word about the optimal material to use for homemade masks. His suggestion: nonwoven fabrics, such as car shop towels. –The Washington Post

 


1. HVAC Air Filters ≥2200 MPR

Examples: 3M Filtrete Elite Healthy Living 2800 MPR Air Filter
Recommendation: Filtration rating equal to or greater than MERV 13 or MPR2200
Shop for 2200+ MPR Air Filters on Amazon

How to make a face mask with air filters:


2. Vacuum Cleaner Dust Bags (HEPA/Dust)

Examples: Hoover Unifit HEPA Filteration Vacuum Bags
Recommendations: HEPA designation for filtration efficiency
Shop for HEPA Vacuum Bags on Amazon

Check out this video for how to make a DIY face mask with vaccuum bags:


3. Cotton T-Shirt with Shoe Laces (2 layers)

Cut up a cotton t-shirt and lay two layers on top of each other. Sew or staple the sides, along with ear straps made of shoelaces or rubber bands.


Don’t forget – your face mask should cover your MOUTH AND NOSE! Covering only the mouth is significantly less effective.

As a last resort, you can still purchase facemasks on Amazon, but they are likely not going to be N95 — which is OK! Don’t pay an. exorbitant price for an N95 when you can make masks at home for free. Shop for General Purpose Face Masks on Amazon

Why you don’t need an N95 mask:
Healthcare professions are professionally fitted, every year, to match them to a specific size of N95 mask. The fitting is designed to eliminate any gaps/leaks around the edge seal of the mask. The “perfect fit” of an N95 mask is similar to a SCUBA driver’s goggles – if *any* water gets in his goggles, they can’t serve their purpose. An N95 mask with a 1 millimeter gap on your cheek or nose is not 100% effective. Leave the N95 masks for the professionals, and use the materials listed above to make your own masks. Spread the word!


Additional Resources

Resources to learn more about homemade face masks for Corona virus:
COVID-19: WHY WE SHOULD ALL WEAR MASKS — THERE IS NEW SCIENTIFIC RATIONALE

“Recommendation Regarding the Use of Cloth Face Coverings.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 3 Apr. 2020, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html.

The Ultimate Guide to Buttons for SmartThings

Fibaro Big Button - White

After reviewing over 25 smart buttons for SmartThings and other smart home hubs, we thought it’d be helpful to share our favorite low-cost, simple, effective wireless buttons. All buttons shown below are natively compatible with SmartThings, and utilize Z-wave, Zigbee, and sometimes both.

For even more buttons, check out all available Z-wave buttons on Amazon.com.


1. Samsung Zigbee Multi-Function Button

You can’t go wrong with any of the Samsung branded devices, including buttons. While their functionality doesn’t exceed the basic user’s needs, they’ll always be 100% natively compatible with your SmartThings hub.

Samsung Zigbee Button
Inputs: Tap, Double Tap, and Long Press

The latest iteration of the simple push button from Samsung is elegant, compact, and gets the job done for around $15.

Since this button is natively compatible with your SmartThings hub, adding a new button is simple:

  1. Open the Samsung SmartThings mobile app (iOS, Android) on your phone or tablet.
  2. From the Dashboard, tap ‘Add Device’.
  3. The hub will begin to search for new devices.
  4. Add batteries if necessary for your button.
  5. If you don’t see your device listed in the SmartThings app, try pressing the button or look for a small “Pair” button.
  6. Once you see your device in the mobile app, select it to add a name.

Once paired, you can use the app to configure your button. You could control a single light, light groups, an appliance switch, and any other device that has ‘toggle’ functionality. In addition to devices, the SmartThings button can be used to trigger scenes and other complex automations. You can even control the triggers for this button using webCoRE.

This button is for indoor use only, and will not withstand the moisture from outdoor exposure.

It’s worth noting that Samsung IoT accessories use Zigbee, not Z-Wave, to communicate with your smart home hub. Since the SmartThings hub has both Z-wave and Zigbee, it makes no difference which communication protocol is used.


2. Aeotech WallMote

Aeotech makes a lot of great Z-Wave products that integrate seamlessly with SmartThings. The most popular product is the WallMote – a wall-mounted device and scene controller that comes in two button configurations: 2 buttons (and swipe feature), 4 buttons (no swiping supported).

Aeotech WallMote product overview
Dual Button Aeotec WallMote

The Dual Button Aeotec WallMote is available on Amazon and features four different input methods – ways to interact with the device using your fingers:

  • Single tap
  • Tap and hold
  • Slide up
  • Slide down

Quad-button Wall Mote (4 vs. 2 buttons)

The Quad Button Aeotec Wallmote is available online and features 4 buttons in each quadrant of the device.

The buttons on the Quad remote are smaller than the dual button alternative, which means there is no support for sliding your finger up and down (which you can do with the dual button remote).


3. ‘The Button’ from Fibaro

This bold button from Fibaro, dubbed “The Button”, is hard to miss, and easy to use. Don’t let the simple aesthetic fool you, this button is fully capable and ready to integrate in your smart home.

Fibaro Z-Wave "The Button"
The Button from Fibaro

The product’s name is ‘The Button‘, which makes it hard to reference in writing… nevertheless, The Button has a handy setting option allowing you to set this button up as a panic button or as a scene controller.

In panic button mode, pressing the button can trigger the Smart Home Monitor in SmartThings into alarm/panic mode. In scene-controller mode, pressing The Button can trigger your pre-set scene settings.

Xbox One S vs. Xbox One X

Xbox One X vs Xbox One S ATB

The Xbox One X is the most powerful and most expensive gaming console released by Microsoft. With its high price tag comes high resolution, ultra-HD, high dynamic range graphics, and performance enhancements for no-lag gameplay. (Shop Xbox One on Amazon)

While the Xbox One S does support 4K upscaling to play 4K Netflix and Blu-ray discs, it doesn’t support native 4K gaming like the Xbox One X. In the simplest of terms, the Xbox One X is the “true 4K” version of the Xbox One S. If you have a 4K HDR UHD TV, and an extra few hundred bucks, the Xbox One X is 100% worth the upgrade.

In terms of size, while the Xbox One X is the smallest game console Microsoft has ever released, it is only marginally smaller than the Xbox One S (we’re talking 0.2″ smaller).

Xbox One X
Introductory Price: $399.99
Check current price on Amazon

  • Size: 11.8 x 9.4 x 2.3 in
  • Weight: 8.4lbs
  • Released: Nov. 2017
  • Native 4K Gaming: YES
  • Netflix 4K: YES
  • Memory: 12 GB GDDR5 (9 GB available to games)
  • CPU: 2.3 GHz AMD 8-core APU (2 quad-core Evolved Jaguar modules)

Xbox One S
Introductory Price: $299.99
Check current price on Amazon

  • Size: 11.6 x 9.0 x 2.5 in
  • Weight: 6.4lbs
  • Released: 2016
  • Native 4K Gaming: NO
  • Netflix 4K: YES (upscaling, not native)
  • Memory: 8 GB DDR3 (5 GB available to games), 32 MB ESRAM
  • CPU: 1.75 GHz AMD 8-core APU (2 quad-core Jaguar modules)

The connectivity ports on the Xbox One X and Xbox One S are identical; both consoles offer the following:

  • 3x USB 3.0
  • 1x HDMI 2.0
  • 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Built-in IR blaster

Xbox-One-X-Back-Ports

When the Xbox One X was released, Microsoft published the graphic below to compare the two consoles.
XBOX-ONE-Marketing-Comparison

Remember, in order to benefit from the graphics of the Xbox One X, you have to use high-quality HDMI 2.0 HDCP cables, plugged into a 4K HDR UHD television/display. Check out the video below to see a side-by-side comparison of Forza Horizons gameplay on Xbox One S vs. Xbox One X:

Now with the all new Xbox One S Disk-less Edition, there’s even more to compare. Check out the comparison table below to see all three console’s features stacked side-by-side.
New Xbox Diskless Comparison

101+ Clever & Funny Wifi Network Names (running list)

101-Clever-Wifi-Network-Names
  • Mom, Click Here for Internet
  • Bill Wi the Science Fi
  • Abraham Linksys
  • Keep it on the Download
  • Drop it like it’s Hotspot
  • TheWorldWasWifiEnough
  • B(.)(.)bies / Boobies(.)(.)
  • SilenceOfTheLANs
  • FBI Surveillance Van
  • ReallyReallyGood
  • Obamacare
  • The LAN Before Time
  • Pretty Fly for a Wi-Fi
  • I’m cheating on my WiFi
  • Hide Yo Kids, Hide Yo Wi-Fi!
  • New England Clam Router
  • Network Not Found
  • 2 Girls, 1 Router
  • Winternet is Coming
  • The Wireless-G Spot
  • It Burns When IP
  • Slower than Yo Momma
  • Winter WonderLAN
  • Not the Wifi You’re Looking For
  • SyncingTitanic / TitanicSyncing
  • This LAN Is My LAN
  • This LAN Is Your LAN
  • Escaped Nigerian Prince
  • iCanHearYou
  • Wu Tang LAN
  • Trust in God but Protect Your WiFi
  • Everyday I’m Buffering
  • Lag Out Loud
  • Russian Hackers
  • Panic at the Cisco
  • Wi-Fight the Feeling
  • Tell My Wifi Love Her
  • Get Your Own
  • Happy Wifi Happy Lifi
  • Wi FiLecia
  • Lord of the Ping
  • One Wifi to Rule Them All
  • That’s What She SSID
  • A Linksys to the Past
  • Skynet
  • Dumbledore’s IT Staff
  • Connecto Patronum
  • Jar Jar Linksys
  • Two Girls One Router / 2Girls1Router
  • MothersMaidenName
  • The LAN down under
  • CloseYourBathroomCurtains / Bedroom Drapes Open Please Watch Us
  • Do Re Mi Fa So La Wi Fi
  • Missed Connections
  • Thanks Obama
  • Bathroom Cam 2
  • We Were On A Break!!
  • Chance the Router
  • Benjamin FrankLAN
  • Alexander Graham Belkin
  • Linksys Lohan
  • VladimirLANputin / Vladimir Computin / Vladimir Routin
  • LAN Halen / LAN Morrison
  • Bilbo Laggins
  • Connect and Die
  • Martin Router King
  • Bluetooth
  • Nintendo Wii-fi
  • DoLAN Trump
  • (H+SP)OT=HOTSPOT

We’ve all seen “FBI Surveillance Van” in our WiFi network list… want a funny and noteworthy Wifi network of your own? Check out this running list of network names we’ve run into the past years. At a minimum, you may find some inspiration…

Have a network name of your own and want to share? Comment and we’ll add it to the list!

 

Aeotec NanoMote Quad: Multi-function Z-Wave Controller

Aeotech NanoMote on AverageTech: Review

Released in early 2019, the new Aeotec NanoMote (Available on Amazon) comes natively compatible with Samsung SmartThings, in addition to other Z-Wave Smart Home Hubs, including:

  • Open Z-Wave
  • Zipabox
  • HomeSeer
  • Home Center

Offering 4 physical buttons, each with 2 touch-modes (short press & long press), the NanoMote is an upgrade to the Aeotec WallMote Dual and Quad button controllers. Comparatively, the NanoMote is significantly smaller; measuring about 2-inches by 2/3-inch.

Our favorite feature is the optional PIN lock – useful when the remote controls emergency or critical smart-devices – to avoid accidental activation. The Aeotec NanoMote is powered by a replaceable and rechargeable LIR2450 battery. After about 3 months use, the device will need to be recharged using the included MicroUSB port.

Wireless Range: NanoMotes are designed to be used inside your home and outside of it. To make that possible, they need a wireless signal optimized for distance. NanoMotes can communicate over distances of 328 feet or 100 meters, with signals repeated via Z-Wave when NanoMotes can’t communicate with your gateway directly.

Battery Charging: NanoMotes can be easily recharged via USB; but all batteries eventually get a shorter life span. When that happens, there’s no need to replace your NanoMote. Simply remove the backplate, insert a new LIR2450 3.6 volt battery, and full, rechargeable battery life is yours again.

PIN Lock (New Feature):Accidents happen. But to ensure that NanoMotes aren’t causing them, it’s been crafted with an inbuilt pin lock. Simply hold down your secret combination of button presses to disable your NanoMote and then do the same again to enable it.

Security Features: The NanoMote can control entrances to your home such as garages and door locks, and they do so securely. Each NanoMote includes Z-Wave S2, enhancing the remote control with 3 separate layers of security to help stop hacking, cloning, and unauthorized control.

Cable Management Tools for DIY Home Automation Projects

DIY Essentials by AverageTech - Cable Clips

Black extension cord running along a white baseboard? Matrix of cables hanging from your new flat screen? Three power strips plugged into each other in the closet?
These types of finishing touches can detract from the hard work and hours it took to setup. A few simple additions focused on cable management, like cable clips or raceways, can give any project a professional appearance.

The good news is, any DIY project can look professional if you follow these 3 simple tips: plan in advance, utilize the proper tools, and take your time.

After years of DIY projects, these are the cable management products and tools we consistently rely on to achieve a professionally-installed appearance.

Cable Loops and Wire Clip Kits

This 60-piece variety pack of adhesive cable clips, straps, and ties provides easy cable concealment under desks and tables, along walls, behind equipment.

In terms of price – at less than 20 cents per clip, the value is unbeatable. The adhesive is standard 3M adhesive tape, but each clip also has a hold in the middle for a screw to provide additional support.

Example Applications

  • Hiding low-hanging wires under tables, desks, counters
  • Securing long runs of wire on walls, floors, and ceilings 
  • Securing light strips to hard surfaces
  • Hide printer, scanner, phone, and computer cables from sight

Other Popular Cable Clip Packs for DIY

If you don’t need 60 pieces, or want different colors or sizes, check out these other cable clip options on Amazon. Consider getting more than you need, because the clips can be broken with too much force, or detach from excessive heat or pressure.


Cable Raceways for Concealment

When you have multiple devices that need power, ethernet, HDMI, etc., it is all too easy to end up with a rat’s nest of cables – visible to all your home visitors and guests. This is why cable raceways are a key component to proper cable management techniques. We’ve linked to our favorite DIY raceway kits below, all available on Amazon.
View all raceway products on Amazon –>

There are many variations of cable raceway kits, ranging from $13 to $25, for roughly 13-15 feet of raceway. Some kits include adhesive backing, other come with a roll of adhesive tape, and some with screws or both.

How to Optimize Your Home WiFi Network for Speed

How to Maximize Home Wifi Speeds

In addition to router brand, home size, and internet service provider (ISP) speed caps, there are a number physical factors – inside and outside – which can affect performance and speed of the WiFi network in your home. It’s important to think about these factors when placing access points, and mesh network nodes, around your house.

We’ve had great success with Netgear’s Orbi router, and will be using it in the following example. If you’re using Orbi too, check out this post that outlines the right settings for Orbi networks.

Location, Location, Location

The physical location of your router, and other access points, is critical to properly optimize your network for speed. Particularly important for mesh networks, the router should be placed behind the least possible walls, and away from other electrical device (printers, IoT hubs, wireless home phone systems, etc).

However, placing the router in your closet is not the right solution; a single wall can block 40% of the available signal, depending on the construction method and materials. If the WiFi signal has to travel through multiple walls, signal strength degrades exponentially after 3 standard drywall-covered walls.

Believe it or not, in the mid 1900’s, many residential walls were lined with mesh chicken wire, which acts as a massive disruptor to modern wireless signals. Just like a metal roof can reduce cell phone reception, walls made of stone, concrete, or metal will be detrimental to achieving widespread wireless signal strength.

The ideal location for a router is central to the rooms it will be servicing. Luckily, many routers these day – including Netgear Orbi – have reinvented the idea of what a router can look like. The smallest mesh network available today is the Eero system, whose router, and wireless nodes, measure 4.8 x 4.8 x 1.2 inches. They look very similar to Samsung’s SmartThings IoT hub, although Eero is 1″ thinner, and has more rounded corners.

An App to Map WiFi Signal Strength

In enterprise environments, where WiFi reliability is monitored by a dedicated team, technicians use portable signal meters to measure the signal strength throughout the building. For consumers in their home, there’s an app for that too!

Wi-Fi Sweetspots iOS App (Free)

Wi-Fi Sweetspots is a free iOS app that offers persistent signal speed metrics while you move around holding your phone.

Wi-Fi Sweetspots is a free iOS app that offers persistent signal speed metrics while you move around holding your phone. The app also has an audible tone-indicator, which can be turned on and off, that varies in pitch to indicate signal strength. To toggle this feature, tap the speaker icon located between the Start and Stop buttons.

The screenshot below shows the primary function of the app, with the ability to save snapshot speed readings for various positions throughout the house.

Aeotec Z-Wave Smart Dimmer Outlet Plug

Aeotec Smart Dimmer 6 - product-package

The Aeotec Smart Dimmer 6 (Available on Amazon) is the latest outlet controller from Aeotec, utilizing Z-Wave Plus to provide on/off and dimming control your interior lamps and small appliances.

This device offers native SmartThings integration, so this smart plug is the easiest way to control basic appliances and lighting using the Samsung SmartThings mobile app.

Aeotec Smart Dimmer 6 - multiangle

Functionality

The basic operation is to toggle power on and off using the SmartThings mobile app, but you can also dim the brightness of the plugged-in device using a fully customizable sliding scale. This feature enables homeowners to achieve the perfect dimmer level for table and floor lamps, and other lighting applications.

In addition to the standard outlet plug receptacle, the Aeotec Smart Dimmer 6 features a USB port with easy access for charging phones or powering lightweight devices.

Installation

Installation is as simple as plugging it in and syncing it with your Z-Wave gateway. From there you’ll have full control of the lamp plugged into Smart Dimmer.

Once the Aeotech Smart Dimmer is plugged into the wall, simply tap “Add Device” in the Samsung SmartThings mobile app and wait for the smart dimmer to appear.

Product Photos

GE Outdoor Z-Wave Plus Appliance Control Switch

GE Z-Wave Outdoor Switch Product Image ATB

The Z-Wave Plus outdoor smart switch from GE is Available on Amazon and a popular choice among SmartThings home owners. Coming from GE, this product is reliable, compact, and heavy duty; the perfect controller for controlling smart lights and appliances exposed to weather and the elements.


Natively compatible with SmartThings, its compact, all-black enclosure and short 7.5-inch power cord can easily be concealed behind foliage and rocks, or mounted to an exterior surface. With this outdoor switch, Z-wave smart home owners can control landscape lighting, Christmas holiday lights, and so much more.

GE Z-Wave Outdoor Switch Plugged in example ATB

In addition to remote access via the SmartThings mobile app, this outlet has a small, discrete physical on/off button located on the top/front of the main unit – perfect for manually turning the Christmas lights on.

GE Z-Wave Outdoor Switch Product Dimensions ATB

The GE Outdoor Smart Switch enables you to wirelessly control your home’s outdoor lighting and appliances, including seasonal and landscape lighting, fountains and pumps, letting you toggle power on and off, or schedule a timed event, from the convenience of the SmartThings mobile app.

Z-Wave Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Smoke Detectors for Smart Homes ATB

Simple, Affordable, and Reliable Z-Wave Smoke Detectors for Smart Homes

Fire safety is, arguably, one of the most important aspects to home ownership. Not only are you responsible for yourself, but also everyone else living in the home.

If your home is not already equipped with hardwired smoke detectors, it’s simple to add wireless smoke detectors to SmartThings (or any Z-Wave home automation system) for less than $50.

fire - smoke detector saves lives

Most modern smoke detectors (include every one listed below) can also detect carbon monoxide, in addition to smoke. For those unfamiliar with the dangers of carbon monoxide, this 3 minute video, courtesy of The Mayo Clinic, outlines the potential dangers of CO.


#1 Pick: First Alert 2-in-1 Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector

First Alert Z-Wave Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector

This compact unit from First Alert is our top pick because of its 5-minute installation and native SmartThings compatibility.

Simply add betters, mount the bracket to a wall with the included screws and drywall anchors, and twist the unit into place. Within minutes your home will be protected from both smoke and carbon monoxide.


Other Options for Wireless Smoke/CO Detector

There are many other available products in the ‘wireless smoke detector’ category. Not all are Z-Wave and/or Zigbee compatible, so be sure to check the network compatibility before purchasing. View all Z-Wave Smoke Detectors on Amazon