DIY Blown-In Fiberglass Insulation

I spend a lot of time trying to improve building performance on other people’s buildings through my day job, but I especially love experimenting on my own house. I’m in the middle of renovating what will be the kids’ playroom, and wanted to add some insulation to the attic above. Here’s the story of my experience with DIY blown-in fiberglass insulation.

Geared up for blown-in DIY

My attic already had some fiberglass batts. Of course they were a little sporadic and didn’t fit tightly around things like recessed lights. The lights are IC rated so the gaps just represent heat leaks.

To deal with this as efficiently as possible I figured blown-in insulation was the way to go. It’s easy to transport up through the small hatch into the attic (it travels through a hose) and fills in all the little gaps nicely.

I had to choose between cellulose and fiberglass blown-in insulation material.

While cellulose probably does a bit better job at reducing air flow, I’m not too concerned about this as my intent is to create an air barrier at the ceiling plane anyway. I didn’t love the idea of a bunch of fire retardant chemicals in the cellulose, but the real clincher for the fiberglass was the machine and the mess (or lack there-of).

About 500 square feet of insulation at R20 plus the installation machine easily fit in my minivan

My local Lowe’s gave me the Owens Corning AttiCat machine to go with the fiberglass material at no charge. There was no minimum purchase or other strings. The machine was easy to transport in my minivan (best work truck ever) since it easily came apart into two pieces. The bottom was a little heavy to lift into the van but nothing too bad.

In the YouTube videos I watched of other installs, cellulose looked really dusty. I’ve been in tons of attics with cellulose, but had never seen it installed before.

The videos of blown-in fiberglass, by contrast, looked shockingly clean. Normally I associate fiberglass with itchy four-letter-word-inducing misery, but this looked half decent.

Turns out, the videos were pretty accurate. The blown-in fiberglass was really low dust and I didn’t have any reaction other than some slightly red eyes despite my safety glasses. Full coverage goggles would probably have been better.

My excited assistant insulation installer

Setting up the machine was a breeze. It was supposed to come with a remote control on the end of the hose, but mine didn’t for whatever reason. Luckily I had a capable assistant to push the buttons. I still fed all the bags in.

There are good instructions and a video on the Lowe’s website and I don’t have much to add to that, so I won’t get into details here. But suffice to say it pretty much lived up to the marketing portrayal.

I did the whole job, including pick-up/drop-off of equipment and installation of insulation, in about 3 to 4 hours.

This was a rare DIY project that was as easy as expected, perhaps even easier.

Insulation ready to be fed into AttiCat machine

I’m Starting a Photography Side Business for Fun

I love photography and I love business, so I’m indulging my inner entrepreneur and starting a photography business. I also love my day job so it will be a photography side hustle and a fun experiment.

I’m a tinkerer. I’m the person who is constantly moving furniture around to optimize a room layout.

I like testing ideas and seeing what works.

Photography has been a hobby of mine for years, going back to a little Olympus APS film camera that I had as a kid. I get a lot of satisfaction from both the technology – the equipment and processing tools – and the art.

Over the years I’ve amassed a modest collection of basic DSLR gear and learned a bit about a variety of photo processing software. I still have a lot to learn but know enough, and have the tools, to make some engaging photos.

Since I’ve become a dad my subject matter has skewed heavily towards portraits. I find people are more interested in photos of other people too, so it’s practical both from a family documentation standpoint as well as entertainment value.

As a result I have quite a collection of family portraits to draw from, and creating a simple portfolio wasn’t too much effort.

I started looking around for a suitable WordPress theme and stumbled on this awesome tutorial for creating a photography website. I loved the minimalist look right away and jumped into making my own site.

After a couple hours of work over the course of several days, I came up with what I think is a pretty decent site to showcase my portfolio and solicit clients looking for a photographer in Stow, MA.

Now that the basic framework is in place I will start optimizing for organic search and other marketing. As it stands, no one would ever know it’s there!

First on the list is a more SEO-friendly main page, and then some location-optimized landing pages for surrounding towns.

Once someone finds it and decides to try out the service, then I can get some feedback and start optimizing the customer experience too. It’s all sort of a shot in the dark at this point.

I’m excited to have a platform to experiment on, and just see what happens. I have no real expectations, other than to have some fun and learn a few things – both about photography and about business.

I’ve already really enjoyed getting back into some simple WordPress website construction after taking most of the last couple of years off from working on my family travel blog. Not to mention the fun of going back through years of family memories!

How Not to Review Products on Amazon

I recently learned that Amazon reviews are not the idyllic community of engaged shoppers that I had subconsciously assumed. Naive me.

The Story

It all started with headphones.

I got a pair of earbuds as a Christmas present this year. In the box there was a little piece of paper with the typical “register for extended warranty” type stuff. It also said there were other perks for registering.

I usually throw those things right in the recycle bin. But on a whim I went to the website.

I couldn’t register for the extended warranty (since it was a gift I didn’t have the order number). I could, however, indicate interest in reviewing future products. I figured, why not?

A few days later I got an email saying they would like a new product reviewed, offering to refund the purchase price of a new pair of over-the-ear Bluetooth headphones. The email didn’t say anything about the review needing to be positive, or even that it needed to happen to get the refund.

So I took a chance and bought the headphones, thinking I could just return them if I didn’t get the refund (I don’t need another pair of headphones).

But to my shock the refund showed up in my PayPal account within hours of me submitting proof of purchase. Wow.

I used the headphones for a week or so and then wrote a review. I did give them 5 stars, which to me means a product I’m happy with and is a good value for the price, with no significant deficiencies (again given the price context). I think I was pretty balanced in the review text and I did my best to review as if I had paid for them.

I disclosed in the review that I had gotten a refund for the headphones.

the offending review

What I did not know is that Amazon does not currently allow compensated reviews of any kind.

Whoops.

Here’s Amazon’s policy, including a prohibition on the following:

Offering compensation or requesting compensation (including free or discounted products) in exchange for creating, modifying, or posting content.

Here I was thinking I was doing the right thing by acknowledging that I had received compensation for writing the review. Turns out I was breaking the rules already anyway.

The company that asked me to do the review actually reached out and let me know about the policy – and they asked me to take out the disclosure.

Um, no.

So I deleted the review and offered to send back the headphones (they declined and said to just keep them).

I tried to let Amazon know what happened. The representative I chatted with didn’t seem too interested, but thanked me nonetheless.

Learning Experience

I was honestly shocked that this company was so brazenly trying to undermine the review system. I was very naive – apparently this is a thriving industry.

I don’t have a problem with compensated reviews (clearly). Reviews take time, especially decent ones that say more than “nice product” and I don’t have an issue with someone getting compensated for their time.

But the compensation needs to be disclosed. Then people can make of it what they want, and everything is in the open. Incentivizing people to hide their compensation sucks.

Amazon isn’t helping things here. Apparently compensated reviews used to be allowed, as long as they were disclosed. I think by forcing this underground they’ve made the situation worse. Data from this article in Forbes about “Amazon’s Fake Review Problem” supports my gut reaction here:

Since the announcement [that compensated reviews would be banned], though, there’s been no improvement. Indeed, ReviewMeta’s data indicates that the average review weight – the measure of how trustworthy reviews are overall – has almost halved since Amazon announced its strategy for dealing with the problem.

In any case, my overall trust in Amazon reviews is way down.

Having said that, though, I’ve rarely bought a well-reviewed product and found it to be lacking. It’s even true with my infamous headphones – they’re a legitimately good product.

Anyway, I’m done with compensated Amazon reviews.

But I am going to try to review more products that I buy for myself – do my part to counterbalance the system of undisclosed compensated reviews.

Yuck

Overall the experience felt gross and I didn’t like it at all. I should have been more skeptical and checked the rules first.

Actually, there is a bigger take away:

Had I recognize fully that I didn’t need the headphones, and therefore getting them at no cost represented minimal, if any value, I would have ignored the offer. I wouldn’t have missed out on any happiness (the headphones didn’t solve any problem I had) but would have avoided the trouble and anxiety that resulted from the experience.