Tag Archives: technology

Your New Noisy Roommate: Steam Radiators in Chicago Apartments

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that this article was linked on October 18, 2012 from a certain HVAC newsletter with the instructions to "find as many errors as possible" in the article. This has resulted in a stream of hate mail and comments including some threatening me with injury and death. As such I have disabled all comments other than one from a solitary, polite commenter which explains how radiators are supposed to work in a perfect situation, even if they don't work that way in most budget-range Chicago apartments.

So, it was 41 degrees last night in Chicago. Many of you probably found yourself searching the web for "Chicago heating laws" or something similar. They exist. It gets cold here. Heat is considered a life-essential service for a little less than 3/4 of the year. Today we're featuring a handful of facts that you should know if you're owning or living in an apartment with landlord-provided steam heat.

They will make noises, but they shouldn't be too loud.

Here's the basic premise of a steam radiator. Water is heated in a boiler down in the basement. It turns to steam, which flows up a big pipe, past a few safety valves and into your big clunky radiators. The metal radiators absorb the heat from the steam, which condenses back into water as it cools. The water flows back down to the boiler either through the same pipe or through a separate, slightly narrower pipe. Repeat ad infinitum. These are called one-pipe and two-pipe systems, respectively, and they are very, very common in Chicago's old-school vintage walkup apartment buildings.

That's a lot of physics going on. In a perfect situation you would hear no noise, but these are Chicago apartments we're talking about here. The systems are rarely in good condition, but they'll suffice. What's important here is to know what's reasonable and what's dangerous. You will hear some ticking as the metal radiator expands & contracts in reaction to the temperature changes. There will be some hissing as excess air escapes through the pressure release valve on your radiator. You may even hear the gurgle of water as it flows back out. These are all normal sounds and part of living with your noisy new heat-giving friend. However, there's one sound that you should not hear: knocking. (more…)

If Homes were Marketed Like Apple Products

PC Operating System Market Share, March 2012

The Core of the Matter

With 31% of the smartphone market,[1]Zach Epstein, NPD: Apple was best-selling U.S. smartphone vendor by wide margin in Q2, August 23, 2012, BGR.com 66% of the tablet market[2]AP, Worldwide market share for tablet systems a market dominated by Apple’s iPad, Sept 5 2012, Washingtonpost.com and 6.7% share of the very splintered and entrenched desktop market[3]Market share for browsers, operating systems and search engines, August 2012, Netmarketshare.com., Apple is a company that cannot be ignored. Among Generation Y, the Millennials and their younger followers the share is even higher. If you're talking about real estate buyers, typically the more financially stable segment of the population, I'd posit that you'd see an even higher market share given to Apple.

Younger generations have avoided buying cars.[4]Brad Tuttle, Car Ownership Not Popular With Generation Y, May 2, 2012, Time.com  The first major purchase they make will instead be a computer or smartphone. Technology is now their first introduction to installment payments for big ticket items. A computer is often the first item where a young consumer must buy with an eye towards maintenance costs and longevity. They may have to choose between a style leader something that's less fashionable but more affordable. Basically, buying a computer is now the average Chicago consumer's training for buying a house.

Apple has succeeded where the real estate industry has failed. They've convinced those cash-strapped younger consumers to pay a premium for equipment. (more…)

The 2-week “Do I Really Need an iPad” Test

Warning sign: "Caution: contains math. Mature Readers only."

Relax, just use the calculator on your phone.

I frequently have a conversation with buyers and renters about looking for a place that works with their life right now, as opposed to the life they want to live. Many people think that buying a new home (or car, or frying pan, or self-help book) will be the magic turning point that changes their life for the better. Sometimes the change they want is very specific, although regular readers will know my thoughts on why using a major purchase to solve a short-term problem can be a bad idea. Unfortunately, psychological studies show us that it takes us several months at the least to form or break new habits, unless those habits involve addictive substances. So, it's generally far more practical to expect change to occur slowly and only through deliberate focus on the element of your life that needs to change.

Meanwhile, iPads are really shiny and very expensive, and people will come up with all kinds of excuses to justify buying them, most of them involving something along the lines of "it will make me more productive." Some type-A people will definitely hold true to those self-made promises. Most of us will wind up with a very expensive toy that we use for playing "Words with Friends" and mucking about with Instagram. If you're trying to save for a down payment or just barely making your monthly mortgage, you cannot afford to be wasting money on toys, especially if you're already pretty close to your peak of productivity as things are now.

Studies show that new technologies must penetrate at least half of the population before they make us noticeably more efficient. (Source: [1])

In my other life as a tech support consultant, I explain gadgets like tablets and smartphones to my clients as pseudo-computers. They cannot run all software. They often cannot run more than one piece of software simultaneously. In most cases, you cannot expand the storage capacity, install your own programs that you made yourself, or even take them to a new wireless provider without a major amount of hassle. That being said, for a small subset of the population they can be very useful. If you think you're in that subset who should purchase an iPad, here's a 2-week test to see if you might be right.

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