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Library of Things

Books are our brand, but we have other Things to enjoy as well. Delve into the non-traditional offerings at Fairfax County Public Library

The Conserve (Energy) Kit

Image showing the contents of the Conserve Kit (as listed below)The Conserve kit launched in May of 2022 as part of the Year of Literacy initiative covering environmental literacy. The kit provides some tools and consumable items that help borrower's better seal the "envelope" of their home and understand more about how various appliances and devices use energy. Items below marked with an asterisk are considered consumables - use what you need, return the rest; all other items are to be returned with the kit along with any unused consumables. 

Circulation policy

 Place a Conserve Kit on Hold

Contents:

  • A Leathercraft 1165 Bigmouth Bag holds all the contents. ($35.00)
  • Kilowatt Usage Meter — Measures the amount of electricity used by a particular device to help you understand its power consumption.
  • Laser Thermometer — Allows you to safely read temperatures without touching the item being measured. This model is intended for HVAC, ovens, engines, breaker boxes, doors, and many other uses. Not intended for use on people.
  • Mechanical timer — Turns lamps, fans, season lighting, and other small devices off and on based on your desired times saving you energy and possibly deterring crime when you are away from home. Try this one out to see if you want one of your own.
  • Moisture Meter — Detects moisture content in materials, such as drywall, hardwood, masonry, or softwood, letting you know if it is within normal ranges.
  • Thermometer / Hygrometer gauge — Mini digital thermometer hygrometer allows you to easily know the environment’s temperature and humidity in a space. Great for garage, cellar, closet, greenhouse, refrigerator, freezer, and humidor use.
  • Caulking gun, caulk*, finish tools — Caulk is a flexible material used to seal joints or seams against air or water leaks through cracks, gaps, or joints less than ¼” wide. Please rinse caulking from finish tools after use.
  • Outlet / Light switch insulation gasket* — Insulation gaskets fit behind the wall plate of light switches and outlets, to seal off draughts of air that flow through your switches. Perforations make it easy to install on several different types of switches.
  • Weather Stripping* — Used to stop air leaks on objects that open and close, making heating and cooling your home more efficient. The weather stripping can be used at the bottom of sliding window/door, plastic-steel windows, thresholds, or shower doors.
  • Window Insulation shrink kit* — Used to add an extra thermal barrier to older windows. Kits feature a clear plastic sheet that shrinks tight and wrinkle free with an ordinary hand-held hairdryer and can be easily installed on metal, painted, varnished wood or vinyl clad window frames.

Learn more:

Learn more about energy conservation and initiatives within Fairfax County.

Kilowatt Usage Meter

Product shot of the Kuman KW-47 usage meterMeasures the amount of electricity used by a particular device to help you understand its power consumption.

About this item:
  • Replacement cost: $34.00 Meter and case
    • Meter $20.00
    • Case $14.00
  • Model: Kuman KW47; case LTGEM EVA hard case
Before you begin:
  • To clear previous data, press the RESET button.
  • Make sure the wattage of the device connecting with this monitor is under 1800W.
How to use:
  • Plug into a wall outlet.
  • Plug device into front of monitor.
  • To set the price function
    • Long press the COST button
    • Press the FUNCTION button to choose the setting position
    • Press the +/- button to chose a number between 0 to 9
    • Press the COST button again to exit the price setting
Tell me more:
  • If the current exceeds 15A or the power exceeds 1800W, the overload alarm icon will flash.
  • Kilowatt usage meters are available from local home improvement stores and online.
  • Meters can be single or multi-plug input as well as wi-fi enabled.
Product guides and information:

Laser Thermometer

Image of Laser Thermometer model IRT206Allows you to safely read temperatures without touching the item being measured. This model is intended for HVAC, ovens, engines, breaker boxes, doors, and many other uses. Not intended for use on people.

About this item:
  • Replacement Cost: $40.00 Thermometer and case
    • Thermometer $27.00
    • Case $13.00
  • Model: General Tools IRT206 or IRT207
  • Uses 9v battery
Before you begin:
  • Not intended for human body temperature measuring.
  • Area being measured will grow with distance from object.
  • TIP: Pets may find the laser guide irresistible, be careful when using near cats.
How to use:
  • Point the unit at the target being measured
  • Pull the trigger and hold.
  • To change between ºC and ºF, press left button beneath screen
  • To turn off / on laser guide, press right button beneath screen.
  • Meter shuts down automatically after a a few seconds (pulling trigger turns on)
Tell me more:
  • This kit includes a simple spot thermometer. Professional level touchless infra-red thermometers are available from various manufacturers.
  • Infra-red thermometers are great for measuring distant, dangerous, rotating, or electrically energized objects where you need a close, but not necessarily exact, measurement. Perfect for most DIYers.
  • These thermometers are available from local home improvement stores and online.
  • Read about the best IR thermometers from a 2020 article at YourBestDigs.com.
Product guides and information:

Mechanical Timer

photo of a mechanical timerTurns lamps, fans, season lighting, and other small devices off and on based on your desired times saving you energy and possibly deterring crime when you are away from home. Try this one out to see if you want one of your own.

About this item:
  • Replacement Cost: $8.00
  • Model: GE heavy duty 24-hour mechanical timer OR Defiant 24-hour mechanical timer
Before you begin:
  • Indoor use only for the model included in this kit.
How to use:
  • To reset timer:
    • Pull up any pins that are currently pressed down
    • Turn the rotating timer dial clockwise until the pointer on the face of the dial points to the current time of day.
  • Push down all the pin segments that fall on or within the time period you want the device to be ON.
  • Plug the device into the outlet at the side of the timer.
  • Set the primary switch to the TIMER ON position.
  • Plug the timer into an electrical outlet near the device you are controlling.
  • Make sure the device plugged into the timer is also ON.
Tell me more:
  • Timers can be set for multiple times in a 24 hour period, not just one concurrent time.
  • Timers are available as mechanical (analog) or digital; some models will connect with home automation.
  • Timers are available for both indoor or outdoor use.
  • You can find these at your local home improvement store or online.
Product guides and information / GuÍa de Uso y Cuidado

Moisture Meter

Photo of Lkein Tools ET140 moisture meterDetects moisture content in materials, such as drywall, hardwood, masonry, or softwood, letting you know if it is within normal ranges.

About this item:
  • Replacement Cost: $55.00 Meter and case
    • Meter $40.00
    • Case $15.00
  • Model: Klein Tools ET140 meter; Aproca hard storage travel case for ET140
  • Uses 9v battery; requires small phillips head screwdriver to access.
Before you begin:
  • Clear surface dust and debris from area to be measured.
How to use:
  • Power on the meter.
  • Select the mode based on material you are measuring - Drywall, Masonry, Hardwood or Softwood.
  • Scan the material by pressing the sensor against the material you are measuring. 
  • Read the meter; if you want to keep the reading on screen after the meter is removed from the material, select the HOLD button
  • Power off the meter when done. This model does turn off automatically after 10 minutes.
Tell me more:
  • The meter reads moisture content up to 3/4" depth.
  • The LED scale of DRY to WET will display green, yellow, or red bars depending on where in the scale your material falls
  • An OL reading on the screen means the moisture level is Outside the Limit of the meter.
  • An ER reading on the screen indicates an error reading the material or the material is not supported.
  • Moisture meters can be pinless (included in kit) or with pins that require breaking the surface of the material.
  • You can find these at your local home improvement store or online.
Bar graph moisture indicators
MATERIAL GREEN LEDs YELLOW LEDs RED LEDs
DRYWALL 0 to 40% 40 to 70% 70% +
MASONRY 0 to 36% 36 to 63% 63% +
HARDWOOD 0 to 14% 14 to 24.5% 24.5% +
SOFTWOOD 0 to 21% 21 to 39% 39% +
Product guides and information:

Thermometer / Hygrometer gauge

photo of a mini hygrometer thermometer combinationMini digital thermometer hygrometer allows you to easily know the environment’s temperature and humidity in a space. Great for garage, cellar, closet, greenhouse, refrigerator, freezer, and humidor use.

About this item:
  • Replacement cost: $2.00
  • Model: LinkDM mini
  • Uses LR44 batteries
Before you begin:
  • Intended for indoor use.
How to use:
  • Place in the space to be measured.
  • Wait a few minutes for it to adjust to the space.
  • Temperature measuring range is -58º F to 158º F (accurate within 2º)
  • Humidity measuring range is 10% to 99% RH (accurate within 5%)
Tell me more:
  • This item can be found both at local hardware stores and online.
  • Displays temperature in Fahrenheit (ºF) only.
  • Also known as humidity thermometer.

Caulking gun, caulk, finish tools

photo of caulking gun, caulking, and bag containing finish toolsCaulk is a flexible material used to seal joints or seams against air or water leaks through cracks, gaps, or joints less than ¼” wide. This kit includes latex-acrylic caulking, a caulking gun, and some finishing tools in a canvas bag. Please rinse caulking from finish tools after use.

About this item:
  • Replacement Cost: $43.00 gun, tools, and canvas bag
    • Caulking gun $25.00
    • Finish tools $15.00
    • Bag: $3.00
  • Model: Siligun anti-drip caulking gun; Sinvitate canvas zippered pouch
  • Caulking is consumable - DAP fast drying latex-acrylic
Before you begin:
  • Ensure area to be caulked is clean and dry.
  • TIP: have a damp cloth available for immediate touch up / wiping of finish tools or finger-tips; having dry cloth or paper towels near your work area is also useful.
How to use:
  • If you are using a new tube of caulk, cut the SMALLEST opening possible. This allows for smooth application without using more caulk than necessary. Remember, you can cut a larger hole, but not a smaller one.
  • Place the nozzle against the join you are sealing.
  • Squeeze the trigger while at the same time moving the caulking gun in a smooth motion along the join to lay a bead of caulk; try to keep your hand as steady as possible.
  • After the the caulk has been applied to the joint, you can smooth it and remove any excess
    • Wet a finger and run it lightly, but firmly along the bead to smooth the caulk OR
    • Use one of the finish tools, running along the caulk to smooth and remove excess.
  • Be sure to wipe and rinse any caulking off the finish tools when you are finished for the day. Caulking is very easy to remove before it dries, but is much harder to clean after drying. Please be considerate of the next user.
  • TIP: if you do not use the complete caulking tube, to prevent a mess in the tool-bag, wrap the tip in a folded paper towel and rubber-band to hold in place. Plastic wrap is also useful for this.
Tell me more:
  • There are multiple types of caulking material that are better for certain applications. The caulk in this kit is intended for sealing joints at baseboards and around windows. See the article and videos in the product guides and information section to decide which is best for your needs. 
  • There are multiple types of caulking guns. The one in this kit is anti-drip and compact, good for use small spaces (and fitting in a kit). You can purchase this more traditional caulking guns from a local home improvement store or online.
  • TIP: Laying a smooth bead of caulk has been compared to applying decorator icing on a cake; there is more than one way to practice your caulking skills, some tastier than others.
Product guides and information:

Consumables

Use what you need, return the rest. The consumable items in the conserve kit are for your use and are intended to help with your home envelope needs. 

Caulk or Caulking

Caulk is a flexible material used to seal joints or seams against air or water leaks through cracks, gaps, or joints less than ¼” wide. There are many types of caulk available for various applications -- acrylic latex, polyurethane, silicone based to name three.  The caulk in this kit is fast drying latex, intended for indoor use and is able to be painted over.

Caulk vs. Silicone - from DifferenceBetween.net
Caulk (in kit) Silicone
Caulk is a sealant used to seal construction cracks in the body of the house. Silicone is a type of sealant used mainly to bind surfaces such as metal, glass, and plastic together.
It is less prone to movement than silicone. It can be used in rooms with higher moisture level.
Caulk dries quicker than silicone and it shows good resistance to weathering. Silicone has strong binding properties that can be applied to almost any surface.
it cannot be used in areas that are prone to expansion and contraction. It is ideal for areas that are prone to expansion and contraction.
Paint can be applied over acrylic latex caulk. Paint cannot be applied over silicon.
Ideally used to seal the corners between walls, between windows and sills, and cracks between walls and ceilings. Ideally used to seal junctions between the tiles, baths, sinks, bathroom fittings, and so on.

Read more:

Outlet / Light switch insulation gasket

Insulation gaskets fit behind the wall plate of light switches and outlets, to seal off draughts of  air that flow through your switches. Perforations make it easy to install on several different types of switches.

Before you begin:
  • You will need a screwdriver to unscrew the outlet / light switch faceplate, which could be either Philips head or Flat head.
  • Consider turning off power to the outlet or switch at the circuit breaker.
  • TIP - have a small container to hold the screws you remove so you don't lose them. Be aware of small and curious children, cats, and dogs in the area (but especially cats).
How to use:
  • Gaskets are perforated with designs that fit multiple switch and outlet options.
  • Determine where you want to install and unscrew the face plate of the outlet/switch.
  • Insert gasket into faceplate and follow matching perforations to remove insulation covering screw holes and plug / switch openings.
  • Replace faceplate with gasket over outlet/switch and re-attach to cover opening.

Insulation Gasket Installation Image

Where can I get more?
  • Insulation gaskets are available from your local home improvement stores or online.
  • They are also known as outlet gaskets, outlet sealers, or socket sealers.

Weather Stripping

Used to stop air leaks on objects that open and close, making heating and cooling your home more efficient. The weather stripping can be used at the bottom of sliding window/door, plastic-steel windows, thresholds, or shower doors.

Before you begin:
  • Clean the surface where you will be applying the weather stripping.
  • You will need scissors or a utility knife to cut the stripping to the desired length.
  • You may want a measuring tape to determine the length of stripping needed.
How to use:
  • If you have not already, clean the surface.
  • Measure the door, window, or other surface.
  • Cut to required length.
  • Tear off protective paper and apply.
  • PRO-TIP: For longer strips or if working solo, you can peel the adhesive as you go, instead of all at once and then applying. When removing later, use a blow-dryer to soften the glue before removing the strip.
Where can i get more?
  • Weather stripping is available from your local home improvement stores or online.
  • It is available in a range of widths, lengths, colors, and materials.

Window Insulation shrink kit

Used to add an extra thermal barrier to older windows. Kits feature a clear plastic sheet that shrinks tight and wrinkle free with an ordinary hand-held hairdryer and can be easily installed on metal, painted, varnished wood or vinyl clad window frames.

Before you begin:
  • Kit is applied to the interior of the home.
  • Make sure the surface is clean, dry, and grease free.
  • Install when temperatures are above freezing - 32ºF/0ºC.
  • Install only on metal, painted wood, or vinyl. DO NOT APPLY to wallpaper, wallboard, plaster, or veneer surfaces.
  • You will need a hair dryer and scissors. You may need a measuring tape.
  • TIP - Do not touch plastic with hot hair-dryer. It will melt and may adhere to the dryer, which in turn gets you in trouble since it was not your hairdryer, not that I know anything about that.
How to use:
  • Apply tape firmly around the inside of the window frame and along bottom sill.
  • Remove backing paper and wait 10-15 minutes.
  • Leaving about 1" overhang around the edges, apply film slightly taut across the top.
  • Next, working down and across, pull to the bottom and sides, stretching slightly taut to smooth out any large wrinkles.
  • Smooth and eliminate remaining wrinkles with hair dryer set at highest setting - hold dryer 4" - 6" away from film. Again, work from the top to the bottom.
  • Trim any excess film from around frame.
Where can I get more?
  • Window insulation kits are available in various sizes, including patio door, from your local home improvement store or online.
  • It is also known as "shrink film
  • View videos on how to install the window insulation shrink kit.
  • Learn how to remove the insulation kit after winter ends.

 

Learn More

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