Smart Home Products: Panasonic DIY Home Surveillance Camera Kit

Being able to add smart systems to your home is the plus side of having to rewire the whole house during a home renovation.

We started off by installing a Nest thermostat.  The Nest monitors the heat and adjusts it according to when we are home.  We can control it with an iPhone app so that it will be nice and warm when we arrive home.  As an added bonus, it is better looking than most thermostats.  We just missed out on the Nest’s smoke detector, which came out just after we installed the ugly garden variety one from the hardware store.

That is about as far as we got until we received the Panasonic DIY Indoor/Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit and the Panasonic Home Network System Smart Plug to try out.

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Panasonic DIY Indoor/Outdoor Home Surveillance Camera Kit

We had always planned on having some sort of home surveillance system and even had our electrician run CAT-5 cable to a location on the back of the house for this purpose. Since the front of the house is old brick, we did not want to drill a hole so we thought we would wait until we replaced the front door and install an outlet on the door framing.

As time moved along and we got busy, the security system got pushed down on the list of priorities.  We always joked that the most valuable things in our home are those that can’t be carried off anyway like appliances, cabinets and countertops.

It was, therefore, serendipity to receive the Panasonic Home Surveillance Kit because it has an outdoor camera for the backyard and another to monitor the front of the house from indoors (and we can turn it on from our phones to watch what the cats are doing all day–which is what I suspect many systems get used for).

What to know:

  • you need a home wifi network
  • although the system is wireless between the Hub and the cameras, you do need to plug the Hub into a power outlet
  • the cameras also need to connect to a power source

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Installation

Step 1 is to connect the Hub to your wifi network. This is pretty straightforward and there are instructions provided. Once this was working we plugged in both cameras and connected our phones to the system to verify that everything was working ok.

These cameras are designed to mount directly against the house and come with mounting screws. In our case, we planned to mount the camera onto an electrical box which our electrician installed. This required some custom work. First, we took a standard outdoor box cover and drilled 4 pilot holes lining up with the 4 holes in the camera’s mounting plate and screwed in the provided screws. The camera was now nice and tight against the cover plate.

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Next, we needed to accommodate for the camera’s power cable. To do this, we drilled a hole slightly larger than the cable and filed its edges down to avoid any sharp points that might cut the cable’s insulation. The factory cable comes with a connector, which I was not planning to use so I cut it off and strung the power cable though my new hole and added a dab of silicone to keep the water out.

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Next came hard wiring up the camera and installing it on the back of the house. The electrician ran CAT-5 from our basement to this box and CAT-5 can carry a low amperage DC current in the range used by this camera. To hardwire this we simply took 2 of the CAT-5 wires and used crimp connectors to connect them to the 2 wires in the camera’s power cord, which we had previously cut. With this all connected, we mounted the box cover plate to the cover with the watertight gasket (which came with the plate) between the brick and the camera plate. 
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Next, we connected the camera to its power source. Each of these cameras came with a power transformer, which steps down the line AC current to a low amp DC current. Again, we hard wired the 2 wires we used in the CAT-5 cable to the wires in the camera’s power supply and plugged the system in.

Once the camera powered up it reconnected with the wifi network and using the app we installed earlier we could see the image of our backyard. Using the swivel joint on the back of the camera we adjusted its position so that it captured the deck as well and we set the other camera inside to monitor the front of the house.

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The camera has night vision, a microphone and a speaker so if you set one up inside you can yell at your cats to get off of the counter or (just for fun) set it up in your daughter’s room to make sure she is working on her homework and shout out words of encouragement!

Panasonic Home Network System Smart Plug

This device couldn’t be easier to use and replaces the awful dial timer plugs that we usually bust out each holiday season to turn the Christmas tree lights on and off.  First, you have to set up the Hub as described above and then open the same Home Network app you downloaded for the home surveillance cameras to:

  • set lights and electronics to turn off and on during different times of the day
  • one hub allows you to control up to 50 plugs throughout your home
  • if you are unexpectedly late you can turn on lights for pets at any time
  • great for holiday lights

IMG_4555One more thing to check of the to-do list!

THE INSURANCE OPTION ALL BROWNSTONE OWNERS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

How to Remove Stains and Water Marks from Marble Countertops

We were warned that marble countertops stain and scratch easily. We ignored the naysayers because we love the look of marble but we have to admit, they were correct. After a year our counters have scratches, surface marks that look like water spots and glass rings and even a few chips.  Surprisingly, we have very few discoloration marks.

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New shiny and clean but do you see those shadows–that is where the installer put sealant on it and it left some marks.

Before you can figure out how you go about removing these marks you first have to figure out what they are.  After some head-spinning research on the Internet I reached out to the experts and contacted MB Stone Restoration and Supply, Inc., who seem to have one of the few products on the market for removing damage like etches and stains.

Damage defined

In a nutshell, they explained etches vs. stains as:   A stain is a discoloration of the stone produced by a staining agent that is actually absorbed by the stone.

Etches have nothing to do with the porosity or absorbency of the stone. It is still a discoloration but it’s worse than a stain because it is caused by actual damage to the stone surface.

lots of etches

lots of etches

So all those light colored “stains” that look like “water spots” or “water rings,” are actually marks of corrosion (etches) created by some chemically active liquid (mostly – but not limited to – acids) which had a chance to come in contact with your marble.

Lemon juice damage is the worst

Lemon juice damage is the worst

As with all things renovation there is good news and bad news.  The bad news is, if you have honed marble or the etch is severe (deep to the point that it looks and feels rough), then you need a professional stone refinisher. The good news is if you have polished marble, like we have, then you can diminish the appearance of some of these etch marks. If the etch is light (the depth is undetectable by the naked eye, and it looks and feels smooth), then there are a few polishing creams or powders like MB Stone’s that might do the trick. MB Stone was nice enough to provide me with a sample of their MB-11 marble polishing powder.

How to diminish etch marks

Supplies

  • rubber gloves
  • paper towels
  • clean cloths
  • water

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The instructions say to pour a little powder on the mark press down firmly. Now maybe I am a weakling but I had to press down pretty hard and go over it a few times then rinse off dry and repeat.  It took about 2-3 times average for ours.

before

glass ring etch

glass ring etch

after

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Victory!

Recommendations

We recommend getting this product when your surface is brand new and use it for maintenance as you notice each mark because tackling every tiny little circular spot is exhausting.  Afterwards, wipe the counter with a clean moist cloth and then add their polishing liquid to give it a nice shine and protect it.

Now that the larger ringed etches are substantially gone and the counters look much better  but somewhere down the line we will have to get a professional stone refinisher. We wish we had done this research before our counters were installed!

before

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after

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Helpful tips for caring for marble surfaces

  • wipe up all liquid drips immediately–even the sealant the installer put on caused marks!
  • always use a large cutting board or other surface especially when working with citrus foods.
  • when you have a party put a crap load of coasters on the counter because after a few glasses of wine you might forget to obsessively wipe up after your guests.

Stains

We do not have any bad stains yet but I though I would include the instructions from MB Stone on how to make a homemade poultice for removing them for future use.

The properties of a poultice are basically a combination of an absorbent medium (must be more absorbent than your stone) with a chemical. The chemical will attack the stain inside the stone while the absorbent agent will help draw it out.  The chemical agent you choose will depend on the type of stain.

Supplies you will need:

  • an absorbent like baby powder, paper-towels or diatomaceous earth (the white powder chemical in a pool filter).

And one of these:

  • Hydrogen peroxide clear 30/40 formula (the kind salons use not the kind for cuts) for organic and inorganic stains like coffee, tea, gravy, mustard, ink, dyes or dirt
  • Acetone (hardware not nail kind) for oily stains like cooking stains, butter, or any animal fat
  • Bleach for mold or mildew (xx also has a product MB-9 for this)
  • “Iron Out”** from hardware store for metal stains like rust

Directions:

If you’ve chosen talc powder (baby powder) as your absorbent medium,

  1. You mix it – using a metal spatula or spoon – in a glass or stainless steel bowl, together with the chemical, to form a paste just a tad thinner than peanut butter (thin enough, but not running) Now you have made your poultice.

**If you’re attempting to remove a metal (rust) stain, first you melt the “Iron-out” with water – according with the directions written on the container – and then you mix it with an equal amount of talc powder, adding water if it turns out to be too thick, or talc if it’s too “runny.”

  1. Apply the poultice onto the stain, going approximately 1⁄2” over it all around, keeping it as thick as possible (at least 1⁄4”).
  2. Cover the poultice with plastic wrap, and tape it down using masking tape.
  3. Leave the whole thing alone for at least 24 hours, and then remove the plastic wrap.
  4. Allow the poultice to dry thoroughly! It may take from a couple of hours to a couple of days or better, depending on the chemical. Do NOT peek! This is the phase during which the absorbing agent is re-absorbing the chemical that was forced into the stone, together (hopefully!) with the staining agent, and you do NOT want to interrupt that process!
  5. Once the poultice is completely dry, scrape it off the surface of the stone with a plastic spatula, clean the area with a little squirt of our MB-5 Marble, Granite & More Spray Cleaner, then wipe it dry with a clean rag or a sheet of paper-towel.

If you decide to use paper-towel instead of talc powder, make a “pillow” with it (8 or 10 fold thick) a little wider than the stain, soak it with the chemical to a point that’s wet through but not dripping, apply it on the stain and tap it with your gloved fingertips to insure full contact with the surface of the stone. Then you take it from the point 3 above.

Check back with us this spring when we try this out on our blue stone patio, which by the way no one warned us is easily stained by any oil-based animal fats like those produced when barbequing.