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Upgrading to a smarter, quieter garage door opener

The garage opener in our 14-year-old house was functioning pretty well, but no amount of lube seemed to quiet down it’s noisy chains and motor. As my preteen son just moved in the room over the garage, the rumbling of the garage door opening and closing at night and early morning was proving to be a very rude awakening my sleeping son, day and night.20180225_193614597_iOS

The Atoms Belt Garage Door Opener (AT-1612B) with a keypad, remote control and Skylink Hub ($199), seemed to be a great solution, with its promise of quiet and smooth operation. It also features integration with Alexa for voice commands and a SkylinkNet hub that can control other devices, from security cameras to lights.


A handy friend and I took out the apparatus from the box and assembled the long gliding sectional rail drive.  The former Chainmaster unit had been one long piece, which seemed good for stability, but it definitely made it a little harder to manage as far as disassembly.


It took about three hours total to get everything installed.  We had some trouble stretching the belt over the tensioner pulley and sprocket, so we had to off-label and find a way to accomplish this. We ended up disassembling the belt traveler joint and then threading the belt between the pulley and sprocket and then re-assembling the belt, which took a lot of two-person tugging to stretch it and put it back together. It was a frustrating fix but worked with a bit of elbow grease.

Finally, when everything was mounted, we programmed the opener and car link system in two of our family vehicles, we tried out the new garage door opener. It was definitely a lot quieter than the 1/3 Chainmaster HPf opener I had before, even though this one was stronger at ½ HPf.


The rails were not quite smooth, so the door hung up with a loud cluck each time the trolley slide over the edge of the warped rail.  We again did some clever adjusting, by slightly bending the rail with heavy duty pliers, and this helped about 90 percent.

As an avid Alexa user, I was very eager to program the opener to work with my Echo and other devices in my home, but that has proved troublesome.  I get 75 percent through the registration process and I get error messages on the app.  I emailed service and got no answer after waiting for more than three weeks.  I tried calling but the customer support was only open weekdays from 9 am until 5 pm, and as a working person, I have found it hard to coordinate a time to call.  I tried the online live chat a few times too, but again, operators were not available when I was free to call. I hope to get this resolved, as soon as I have a day off and can call during their hours.

I did at least get the unit working with my app so I could open and close it remotely, and I get a notification on my phone each time the door is opened or close.  This is handy while I am at work, as I know when other family members have arrived home. I also really like the keypad that my family can use to open and close the door without having to carry around a remote control.  This comes in handy when we go biking riding or for a walk around the neighborhood or otherwise leave the house through the garage and want to travel light.


I also have peace of mind because I can check from wherever I am to make sure I didn’t leave the door open. If I do close the door remotely, it sounds a loud alarm to let anyone near the door know to get away before it closes.

Overall, I am pleased with the garage opener, though the installation hit some hitches.  Also, I am still frustrated that the customer service hours are not convenient for me, and I think as a company catering to do-it-yourselfers who often work around the home on weekends, they should have at least some limited weekend hours. I hope to get Alexa working with the opener soon, even though I will probably not use voice commands very often to control the door, but I would like to know I can if I ever want to.



New Portable Air Conditioners Mean a Cool Apartment for Renters

Quiet, No-Drip Air Conditioner Systems That Vent Outdoors Meet Landlord Approval

Now Renters can Have the Comforts of a Cool Home for Summer Without the Pitfalls of Old-Fashioned Window Air Conditioner Units


For renters without air conditioning, summers can be dreadful, with temperatures rising into triple digits and no relief from the heat indoors.  Many landlords do not allow renters to install window units because of the aesthetics and hazards of the units protruding out of windows into courtyards or sidewalks, in addition to the noise and drip factors which make them a nuisance.  In the past many tenants had no choice but to sweat out warm weather, but now with portable, stand-alone AC units available, they have a better option.


Most of the portable AC units feature a technology that allows them to recycle the condensation water that would normally drip outdoors with the old-fashioned window units.  While many of the portable units do require venting through a hose attachment, no peripherals of the unit protrude outside the plane of the window casing.  This set up also does not darken a room like window units that often blocked out light.


Unlike window units that are generally installed with screws to secure them to the window frame, portable units also are usually on casters, so they can be moved room to room as needed.  The portable’s single-hose exhaust system can vent through a vertical-opening or a slide-out window.


Though the units do generate low level noise, they are generally quieter than window units, and the noise is indoors, so it is not disruptive to neighbors.


The only drawback to the portable units is they do require space, near a window, and the hose coil also requires a few feet of space.  They vary in size, but an average unit is the approximate size of a hamper or kitchen trash can.  Also, though the units utilize a regular three-pronged grounded electrical outlet, they draw a considerable electrical current, so in older buildings with outdated electrical systems, other high-current appliances may need to be turned off to avoid tripping a circuit breaker.


The portables are comparably priced to window units at about $350 to $700, depending on the size and cooling ability.  The top-selling 12,000-BTU DeLonghi PAC C120E Portable Air Conditioner and Dehumidifier is a well-priced unit ($479) and can cool spaces sized up to 400 square feet.  As a bonus, it is also offers dehumidification, a remote control, three fan speeds, a self-diagnostic maintenance system, and eco-friendly R-410A refrigerant.

Of course portables are not only an ideal solution for tenants but also for owners of homes and condos that do not have a central air conditioning system and renovation is not possible.


If a household is making an investment in comfort with a non-permanent air conditioning system, a portable unit is the best option for the money and for reasons of convenience and appearance.   Lastly, when a tenant moves out, the portable is easily removed with no footprint left behind.

Must-Haves for the Modern Mom

Conveniences, Contraptions and Cool Stuff for Busy Moms


It’s a Laptop Bag, It’s a Purse, It’s an Overnight Bag

When a girl on the go needs a bag that can go anywhere with her, The Grow Expandable Messenger Bag from Brigg’s-Riley’s Verb line is a sleek and stylish solution.  It multi-tasks as a work bag that holds your laptop – up to 17 inches – in a padded inner sleeve with plenty of pockets for peripherals, and it converts to a travel bag with a roomy expandable main compartment and can be worn cross-body or over the shoulder.  Best of all, it’s tough enough for daily use and comes with the Briggs-Riley legendary lifetime warranty.  Available at, $229.

Suck it Up

The lightweight Dyson City Vac is small enough to fit on a letter-size sheet of paper, but this little powerhouse can pick up dust and dirt to leave every type of floor spic and span.  Its patented Root Cyclone technology doesn’t lose suction, and it’s engineered to trap particles so exhaust air is clean. Like all Dyson products, the DC26 is a wonder to behold and fun to unpack and assemble because it’s just so darn well designed. Available at Best Buy and, $399.99.


Save Your Smartphone and Maybe a Life

If your purse is like a black hole in space that crews up and swallows cell phones, The Otterbox Commuter Series is a light at the end of the tunnel.  The durable customized casing fits sleekly around just about any smartphone to protect it from bumps and scratches, and the bright-colored Strength is Pink case makes it easy to see and find.  Plus, 10 percent of the purchase goes to Avon Breast Cancer Crusade. Available at, $34.95.

Listen Up

For busy moms who don’t have time for The Talk or to chew the fat with the ladies of the View, SiriusXM Radio offers 24/7 news, views and musings with more than 140 channels of exclusive commercial-free programming.  Tune in at work on the Internet or in the car or at home to catch up on all the latest, from life advice on Oprah Radio to tips from Martha Stewart Living or sex talk with Dr. Laura Berman.  Plans start at $12.95 per month.

Pie Tonight

Home baking is easy as pie with the Sunbeam Mini Pie Maker. This one-of-a-kind, multi-tasking pie maker creates four miniature pies simultaneously, each with a different filling if desired, from desserts to pot pies. The nonstick cooking plates make pie removal and clean up easy.  Available at retailers nationwide, Available at Target, $29.99.


Shred it Good


The Fellowes P-12C shredder is an identity fraud perp’s worst nightmare.  This document devouring machine cross-cuts paper into 399 particles in seconds, and it can even shred staples, paper clips and credit cards.  It’s SafeSense sensor that shuts it down when hands come too close makes it great for households with kids around, and its slim profile makes it perfect for home offices, kitchens and other rooms where spaces is minimum.  $84.99 at Target stores nationwide.


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