Jun 302014
 

Did you know possums are Australian native animal and have been protected under the Wildlife Act since 1975?

These days we google everything. The word ‘google’ no longer only refers to the company it is also commonly used as a verb to denote searching for something online. It is interesting to be able to review what information other people have been searching about, and when. By using Google Trends we can analyze when the most people search for possum and pest control related keywords, which should give us an indication of when related problems are the most serious. For this analysis we have used data from the period of 2000 to 2014. The trend charts are built based on normalized data in the range of 0 to 100.

GlobalPossumpestcontrol It is interesting to see that there is a significant difference between the worldwide trend chart and the Australian chart. The blue line shows the history of the keyword “possum”, whereas the red line shows data for “pest control”. The first figure shows the Google Trend chart globally. Here we can see that the blue line is lower than the red line throughout the observed period. This is a likely indicator that possum disturbances and research have been fairly low when compared to general pest control searches. We also see a consistent pattern of spikes in the months from May to June each year, except for 2011, that shows a spike slightly earlier in April.

AustraliaPossumpestcontrol

Figure 2 – The Australian chart, shows a very different situation. Firstly we can see that the blue line is quite a random pattern, while the red line signal shows a more orderly line. While the spike highs are not as sharp as the red line ones in Figure 1, there are consistent peaks around January each year. There are also consistent lows around August of each year. These peaks and troughs coincide with the summer and winter in Australia.

From 2004 to 2009, the keyword “possum” was more frequently searched for than “pest control”. In the following years until this year, “pest control” has been increasingly searched and has overtaken “possum” on the average number of searches. This may be due to an increasing number of pest problems around Australia recently, or perhaps because more people are now searching for services on the internet and not just information, and people searching for “possum” prior may have been more interested in learning about possums, not just possum removal services.

While we could make assumptions about a decrease in possum disturbances over the last half-decade, a search for “possum removal” paints a different picture. Searches for that keyword have been continuously increasing since 2009, so we it is unlikely possums have stopped menacing the people of suburban Australia. Have you noticed an increasing possum problem around your home? If so, please let us know, but before you do anything drastic to quell their night-time scampering and fighting, here are some facts about those noisy critters:

1. Possums breed in the autumn, but…

According to a paper in Journal of Zoology by Gilmore D.P., Australia has two species of possums, the Brushtail (Trichosurus vulpecula) and the Ringtail (Pseudocheirus peregrinus). Both species have a very consistent breeding cycle. They breed mostly in the autumn, but some specific species have a minor breeding season in the spring. In the warmer temperature of northern Australia, they breed all year long. In a conducive environment, they can live up to 11 years. Going back to the above Google Trends chart for Australia, we can see that while more likely in the warmer months, there is potential for possum disturbance all year long.

2. They are peaceful marsupials, but …

Although possums have a peaceful nature and generally try to avoid confrontation, they will turn aggressive if provoked. This is especially true if they feel their babies are being threatened. Ringtail possums are social marsupials and tend to live in a family group. The female possums carry their babies in their pouches, just like kangaroos. Once the babies get too big, the females carry them around on their back until they are big and strong enough to live independently. In extreme cases, six adult possums can live together with their babies in a single attic. Because of this, sometimes it is  easier to find their entry and exit points to block it off instead of fixing a trap for each of them. Try not to get into altercations with them as they can be aggressive if trapped or provoked. They have 52 sharp teeth, more than any other marsupials. Be extra careful if you encounter a any female possum and their babies on your property. If you aren’t sure what to do it might be best if you contact a possum removal expert.

3. Possums eat leaves, but …

Possums eat nearly all kind of leaves, but Eucalyptus is their favourite. Along with these, possums diets also consist of cultivated plant leaves, flowers (like roses and hibiscus), and orchard fruit. Their tough digestion system is supported by la arge colon and special gland that secret special kinds of enzymes and bacteria. This is the reason their faeces has a very sharp odour and makes them very easy to track. With diets supplemented by eating grass, fungi, and bird’s eggs, the Brushtail Possum may even occasionally eat small vertebrates such as baby birds, as mentioned on the website of Melbourne Victoria Government. To keep them away from your home keeping your garden and backyard tidy, prune any tree branches near or above the roof, mow your grass regularly, cut off dead trees or dead trunks around your property.

4. They are nocturnal, but…

Possums are nocturnal marsupials. They are very active at the first part of the night and then resuming feeding just before dawn. This is why we rarely encounter them during daylight hours. On colder, darker days in winter you may see them occasionally however. They may also be seen during the day when food is scarce or when they have been disturbed from their sleeping quarters. They usually make their inside a property at night by finding an easy opening through a crevice or crack. Gaps between decks and the ground are also comfort nesting areas for possums.

While Google Trends tracking can show us how problematic possums or any other pests for that matter have been during any particular time period, it is in our own best interests to take the steps that we can to alleviate our own issues. By taking care of your garden and maintaining your property you can ensure that you will get a decent nights sleep every night, even if your neighbours and possible even the majority of the rest of the Australian population, aren’t. Stay tuned for more possum removal tips on our blog later in the year.

Jun 302014
 

If there were Seven Wonders in the 17th century, electricity would likely be one of them. Discovered by an Englishman William Gilbert in 1600, it has become of increasing importance each century, and today our standard of living is completely dependant on it. So integral in electricity to modern society, some may even consider it the fifth element of life; an addition to to classical earth, water, air, and fire.

Electricity has rapidly spread in its uses since 19th century with the invention of derivative technologies like fibre optic cable, telephones, computers, televisions and of course, the light bulb.

elements

Figure 1. The four ancient elements (from Wikipedia)

The following graph shows data from US Department of Energy (US-DoE). In 2011, the world consumed around 20,000 billion kWh (kilo watt hours) of electricity. The US DoE predicts that this number will not decrease anytime soon, with population expansion and the development of electrical-thirsty industrial sector being the main reasons.

Global electricity usage grew nearly 18% from its 2007 level at 17,000 billion kWh. The United States alone consumed nearly 4000 billion kWh that same year. Here in Australia we consumed 200 to 220 billion kWh of electricity each year during the years between 2007 to 2011. The rising population rate is regarded as the major driving factor to such high energy consumption.

Figure 2. Total global electricity consumption

Figure 2. Total global electricity consumption

According to the US Dept of Energy, about 461 billion kilowatthours (kWh) of electricity were used for lighting by the residential and commercial sectors in US in 2012. This is about 12% of total U.S. electricity consumption. In Australia, the average household’s spending on energy was $99 per week in 2012, according to the Australia Bureau of Statistics. About $40 of this was spent on electricity and/or gas. However households with energy sourced only from electricity spent less, at around $30 per week.

A survey on residential lighting conducted by Australian Government in 2013 found that kitchen and living room had the highest average usage in hours per weekday. The lowest lighting usage was in garage at 0.7 hours per weekday. Based on the surveyed homes, the peak usage hours were between 7.00 to 8.00 o’clock in the morning and 6.00 to 9.00 p.m. in the evening.

The type of lights chosen by a household affects the amount of electricity used.

Fluorescent lights, compact fluorescents (CFLs), and now LED lights, use considerably less energy and last longer than tungsteen-wired traditional lightbulbs. According to the above-mentioned survey, over 50% of all homes in Australia have turned to using fluorescent lighting. This means that Australians are open to new ways to save on their energy bills.

Most of the surveyed households agreed that they try to reduce more on lighting than with other electrical appliances, since they couldn’t as easily avoid turning on their heaters during cold winter days, or airconditioners during summer etc. Because of this they are always looking for other ways they can reduce their consumption.

LED’s Savings

LED or light–emitting diodes, are basically semiconductors that produce visible light when an electrical charge is passed through them. Used often for indicator lamps for electronic devices, replacing small conventional bulbs in the 60’s, LED applications continue to increase. It seems like only yesterday when LED were introduced as a component of the common television remote control. Since then LED usage has rapidly expanded across all forms of electronics which emit a low intensity visible-light wave. These days they are even used for car brake and tail lights and at traffic stop lights.

As LED semiconductor technology continues to improve, cost have begun to decline. LED lights and panels now come in smaller dimensions but thousand times more output power than when they first entered the market.

These days we have access to a wide variety of LED lighting options. The website of Top Frog Energy, an Australian LED retailer, gives a good example of the many indoor and outdoor LED lighting options available.  As LEDs become more popular and factories are increasing their production capacity and reducing or even stopping completely their production of conventional bulbs. Because of this, end customers like us get to have more choices about the technology that offers some of the following benefits:

  • Lower operating temperatures to reduce fire hazards
  • Longer lifespan (up to 50,000 operating hours) which makes them more cost effective
  • Mercury-free (unlike CFLs) which more they are more environmental-friendly and safer for your health
  • No ultra violet ligth and and no flicker which is better for our eyes
  • Bright and clean light which increase visibility

Because of all these benefits many adapters of new technologies are switching from conventional light bulbs and CFLs to using LEDs in there home. The benefits of making the change don’t stop here however. Because of the almost unlimited potential of LED lighting, many companies are still working on newer and even better technologies that use LEDs.

One small company based in Brisbane, LED Arts have developed a series of LED downlights that have replaceable chip technology. This development is being hailed as the next big improvement in LEDs, because when the diodes eventually wear out (if they don’t outlast you) you can keep the entire unit and just replace the chip containing the diode. This saves money because you don’t need to buy a whole new unit, and it’s also a great way to cut down on waste as well. Currently all lightbulbs are disposed of in entirety any time the lighting component of it wears out.

Hopefully this LED downlight technology will be adapted to work across other forms of lighting once it has proven to be a success in the marketplace. Many other companies are also working on various new technological advancements for future LED designs. All of which points to a very bright future for LEDs. So next time you’re out looking for a replacement lightbulb, consider getting an LED and next time you’ll have more money in your wallet and you probably won’t even need to make that trip.

Jun 242014
 

Get Rid of Roaches without any Toxic Chemicals, Pesticides or Insecticides

CockroachThere are a number of ways you can prevent and destroy cockroach infestations without the use of a contract pest controller. You don’t even need to use toxic chemicals to do so, there are plenty of natural methods that are just as effective if not more, and will keep your home safe for you and your children.

Take a look at our list of natural cockroach pest control methods below and stop the cockroaches from turning your house into their home.

  1. Sprinkle boric acid, sodium bicarbonate of diatomaceous earth in areas where cockroaches may hide. These powders are safe for humans and pets but are deadly to cockroaches and other insects. Look for dark crevices where cockroaches might like to hide: behind your refrigerator, under stoves, behind cabinets etc. Don’t forget the bathroom! Cockroaches love dampness so around bathtubs and laundry sinks should also be places you powder.
  1. Running fans and dehumidifiers continually will keep cockroaches at bay. They dislike dry conditions and moving air, so leaving fans on and keeping the air dry will force them out of your home in search of a more comfortable environment.
  1. Remove all food sources that may be attracting the roaches. These pests love foods containing high levels of starch and water. Potatoes are a good example of this. Keeping your home or office sanitary is 85% of the work required with cockroach pest control. Ensure you store all your food out of reach of the roaches and keep all garbage wrapped and unaccesible to them.
  1. Seal all visible cracks in your home. If the cockroaches can’t get in in the first place, they can’t take up residence. Check around your windows and doors and look for other gaps in your floorboards etc. by minimizing the areas they are able to enter your dwelling you can greatly reduce their numbers. Make this even more effective by sprinkling some of the anti-cockroach powders from Tip #1 at any gaps you are unable to seal.
  1. Maintain a clean and sanitary dwelling. A small about of food and water can supply a very large colony of cockroaches. Make sure you clean up spills, wipe down benches, repair leaking plumbing, and properly store food for humans and pets in sealed containers or the refrigerator.

If you follow the above tips you will greatly reduce the number of cockroaches in your home. Cockroaches that survive, will look for more hospitable places to live and you won’t need to bother with toxic pest control methods that may have dubious effects on your health and the health of those around you.

Jun 242014
 

If you’re planning on doing kitchen renovations then something you’re likely to come across is the need to fit a sink into a bench top. Many people will hire carpenters to handymen to do this for them, but the job really isn’t that difficult if you’re half-smart and willing to have a go. You do need to be careful however because if you mess things up and accidentally cut too far into your bench top, you’ll need to replace the entire thing, which can end up being quite expensive.

Step 1. Draw Around the Area you need to Remove

Brand new kitchen sinks will come with a template on the box to guide you on where to make the markings. If this is not the case carefully measure your sink and make your line markings slightly smaller than necessary to ensure you don’t cut out too much. It’s much better to cut things slightly too small and then adjust them outwards than to make them too big.

If you have a template, make sure you mark the sink in the correct position aligned with the front edge. Make the job easier for yourself by ensuring there is nothing around you that might get in your way when doing the line markings and cutting.

StainlessteelsinkStep 2. Drill Holes in Concession to Mark a Starting Point for your Jigsaw Blade

Drilling multiple holes next to each other will give us a place to insert our jigsaw blade to start cutting. Make sure the holes are on the inside of your line markings so you don’t accidentally remove too much of the laminate. It may be necessary of easier to drill through several sets of holes for your jigsaw to slot into depending on the angles and size of the sink.

Step 3. Cut Out the Laminate

Follow along your line markings with your jigsaw, being careful not to venture far off the path. You may wish to line the bench top on the outside of the template markings with scotch tape to ensure you don’t scratch the kitchen bench top in the process. Once you have cut all the way around, remove the piece of laminate to make room for the sink.

Step 4. Place the Sink in the Hole in the Bench Top

Put the sink in the hole you just cut and make sure it fits nicely. Remove any excess laminate to get it to fit perfectly if it is not sliding in all the way. Once the sink fits into the bench top, clamp it together and use some sealing tape to ensure water doesn’t leak down around the edges of the sink into the cupboards below.

For our kitchen installation we used:

  • A custom Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink from 3monkeez
  • 400 Series Open Cell Urethane Tape from Husky Tape
  • Our clamps were included in the kit with the sink.
Jun 242014
 

Using colourful lights throughout your home is a great way to turn any space into a cool feature and with the decreasing price of reliable LED lights, it’s now even cheaper than ever. If this is your first light renovation job, it is a little more technical than simply running some LED strip lights in the recess of your skirting boards but the end result is outstanding and definitely worth the effort.

Obviously the size of the job is going to depend on the construction of your house and how easy (or impossible) it is to gain access to certain points on your staircase. So before you start make sure you have access to a power supply and are able to drill in key points along your stairwell.

What you will need

  • LED Strip lights 3528 in your choice of colour
  • Electrical wire
  • 2 motion detectors
  • Control circuit
  • Hot glue gun
  • Soldering iron
  1. Measure and Cut

Cut the LED Strips to the appropriate length to fit the width of your stairs. Make sure you measure every section that you wish to place the LEDs. Most LED strip lights come with double sided tape backing however if you are unsure about the resilience of the tape, a hot glue gun may come in handy. We chose LED strip lights over LED downlights as we felt the lighting angle was more suitable.

  1. Solder the LEDs

Next up you are going to want to solder the wires to your led strips. It will pay to do this in a logical manner so you use less wire. Be sure to text all the LED light strips at this point to make sure you have soldered them correctly.

  1. Setting up the Control Circuit

If you want all the lights to go on and off at the same time, the diagram below highlighting the required features of the circuit will be sufficient. It may also be handy to add in some extra features including an override switch so you can keep the lights on if needed and a daylight regulator so the lights do not come on during the day. Our microcontroller used was a Piccolo brand, and had all the functionality we required for our circuit.

LED Circuit

  1. System Block

Put simply our setup was constructed in this format:

Motion detector/daylight detector/override switch > Control Circuit > LEDS

Our experience was somewhat minimal when it came to circuit board layouts so we ended up using some free layout software available here. It was a massive timesaver and made the job of laying out the circuit much easier. To protect our circuit we bought a plastic electronics housing from masters for a couple dollars. Once you’ve wired up the circuit, it’s time to test!

  1. Installing the Lights

Measure and cut any cable cover you are planning on using and stick it in the required areas. Next you will need to lay out your LED strips one at a time, we suggest starting at the top. Use the double sided tape on the back of the light strips or secure with the hot glue gun if required. Then stand back and admire your work!

Additional Improvements

  • Don’t skimp on the LED drivers. Use constant current LED drivers for better effect.
  • Add a second override switch at the top of the stairs (duh!)

End Result

We were quite happy with the way our new automated LED lighting setup turned out. We would like to thank LED arts for their amazing service and supplying our LED lights. Visit their blog for more ideas on how to best use LED lighting in your home.

LEDendresult

 

Jun 232014
 

Having as much knowledge about the state of a property you are interested in buying before you make a purchase helps to dodge any issues that may only surface after a few years wear and tear.

Obviously, having a qualified building and pest inspector look over the house is the best option, but you may be able to save yourself a massive amount of time, hassle and heartache by looking for these issues on your first inspection. The project marketing team at Ray White project marketing Queensland have provided us with these tips.

  1. Cracks- interior and exterior

This is a big one. Any cracks on the interior or exterior walls indicates that there may be issues with the foundation of the building. If the cracks are visible in more than one area of the house or if they’re wider than 2cm-2.5cm, a building inspection is a must. Foundation problems are extremely costly and time consuming to fix so keep an eye out.

cracked floor real estate

  1. Mould

Mouldy walls and ceilings are a health hazard that should be attended to by professional cleaners. Often a mouldy smell is the only indicator that there may be a problem, also look for grey clouds on the interior walls as this may be a sign of recent cleaning. Visible mould growth could be an indicator of a much larger mouldy area in between the walls or under the floor. It also raises the question as to where the moisture is coming from in the first place. Are there visible water stains or signs of leaks? Unless you want to investigate it might be wise to move on.

  1. Asbestos

Asbestos use in Australia was prolific up until the 1980’s. Chances are if the house was constructed before then it will contain some form of asbestos. This is more important to those looking to renovate as it can be quite expensive to remove asbestos from your property. It can be difficult to identify just by looking at it so if you are thinking of making an offer, make sure you’re building inspector tests for it.

  1. Termites and other Pests

Every real estate purchase in Queensland is subject to a pest inspection. This will identify problems such as termites, cockroaches, spiders, bird and paper lice, fleas, ants and so on. On your first property inspection, Jim from Pesky Possum, our pest control and possum removal expert suggests looking in the roof. Keep an eye out for animal droppings and nests, as well as chewed wires and scratched timber.

  1. Saggy Ceilings

If the ceilings are more bowed than a cowboy’s legs after a ride across the wild west then it may be a sign to look elsewhere. All the joins should sit flush and straight. Take a level with you if you are in doubt or even simply looking at the reflection of the light may be enough to spot a sag in your roof.

  1. Water Damage

We touched on this in the mould section as they usually go hand in hand. Look for water stains or discolouring on walls, ceilings and floors. Peeling and cracking of paint can also be a sign of water damage, as is the above point. Check under the sinks in the laundry, bathrooms, and kitchen as well as around the toilets as water damage tends to originate here. In Queensland, property marketers don’t have to indicate storm damage although a record of flooded areas is available from the council.

  1. Gutters and Downpipes

Most gutters are originals from when the house was built, so chances are they are quite old and rusty. Get a ladder and have a look from the top side to see if any replacements are needed. Walking around the outside of the property will reveal whether all the storm water pipes are configured correctly and not just running into the backyard. Any signs of previous flooding could prove costly to fix and installing stormwater run offs on an old property can be expensive so a test with a hose might be a good idea.

  1. Don’t get caught up on superficial beauty

Go beyond judging the tacky interior that the previous 80 year old couple has loved since they moved in before you were born. Superficial changes are the easiest to make and the cheapest to fix (in most cases), so don’t let your feelings of how much you love or hate an interior sway your decision.

This isn’t the be all and end all list of things to check for when buying real estate, but if you keep an eye out for these major issues, you’ll be well on your way to securing your dream home minus the hassle.