The Pros and Cons of Self-Cleaning vs. Non-Self-Cleaning Ovens Ovens


When it comes to being productive in the kitchen, automated appliances can make cooking tasks go more quickly and easily. Such is often the case with self-cleaning ovens. Deciding if a self-cleaning unit is right for you takes considering the following pros and cons.

Advantages of Self-Cleaning Ovens

The benefits of owning a self-cleaning oven are many. Here are just a few reasons why it pays to get a unit that cleans itself.

  • Convenience

No need to toil away scrubbing spilled, baked on casserole out of the bottom of the oven. Simply turn on the self-cleaning feature, and you’ll soon see a sparkly clean oven interior once again.

  • Energy efficient unit

Self-cleaning ovens feature especially well insulated doors and walls. This is necessary because the unit heats up to high temperatures during cleaning. These thick walls mean the oven is energy efficient compared to regular range oven units, which saves you money on energy costs.

  • No need for overpowering oven cleaners

Having a self-cleaning oven means you’ll never again have to experience the eye-stinging effects of spray oven cleaner. Such products create dangerous fumes when heated and are better not used inside the home.

Disadvantage of self-cleaning ovens

Self-cleaning ovens do have their drawbacks. Consider the following reasons why some people decide against including them in their kitchens.

  • Does require some cleaning by hand

Some parts of the self-cleaning oven do require hand cleaning, including the door frame, edge of the door and the seal. Large pieces of food must also be removed from the oven prior to turning on the self-cleaning function. In addition, racks must be removed from the oven and hand washed, as leaving them in the oven during self-cleaning may lead to damage. Because of all of these stipulations, many people feel it’s just as easy to finish cleaning the unit by hand.

  • Smelly and smoky

Self-cleaning ovens use high heat to cook away food and greasy buildup. This process generally results in smoke and foul odors. If the oven is particularly dirty, the unit may smoke excessively, causing irritation to the eyes and setting off smoke alarms. Smoke is common if you’ve used the oven to cook sugary foods high in carbohydrates.

  • Dangerous

Self-cleaning ovens reach such high temperatures during the cleaning process that the oven itself is extremely hot to the touch. This means that you can’t leave the oven unattended when children and pets are around. Birds are particularly sensitive to the smoke and gas created during cleaning so it is best to remove them from the home during the process.

P.C. Richard & Son carries a wide variety of ovens. Stop in and check out our inventory to find the right model for you.


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Basic Disaster Preparedness: Keeping You and Your Family Safe

Disaster Preparedness

Nobody wants to think about the next big storm, flood, or the many emergency situations that could happen, leaving you and your family without power or trapped within your home for a considerable period of time. That’s why it’s so important to be prepared for anything and everything– even the zombie apocalypse! Yes, we know the chances of the walking dead happening is pretty much zero, but when it comes to any disaster it never hurts to be over-prepared.

Here are some tips to get started on prep kits:

Power Outages

One of the most common issues during a bad storms or heat waves is a power outage. Consider investing in a portable generator. Portable generators can power most, if not all, of your home’s power needs and for people with health issues that rely on electric powered machinery, it could be a life saver. However, we should mention that during a zombie apocalypse it could be risky to run the generator, as the noise may attract the walking dead. Learn more safety tips for using a portable generator here.

If you don’t have a generator, or your residence doesn’t permit the use of one, there are other supplies that will aid you when the lights go out. Below is a list of the basic supplies you should have in your home in case of a power outage:


We know that losing power can be frustrating, but the more prepared you are the less stressful the situation can be. Learn more about how to prepare for a power outage here.

First Aid/Medication

Regardless of a disaster, it’s important to always have a well-stocked first aid kit. You may not always be able to get medical attention quickly and will need to address accidents/injuries on your own until you can access help. Minor injuries could become worse if not properly taken care of immediately. Below is a list of basic supplies that you should have in your first aid kit.


Dressings and Bandages:

  • 25 adhesive bandages of various sizes
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 3 inches)
  • Gauze roll
  • Eye shield or pad
  • Roll of adhesive tape
  • Elastic bandage for wrapping wrist, elbow, ankle and knee injuries (3 to 4 inches wide)
  • 2 triangular bandages for wrapping injuries and making arm slings
  • Sterile cotton balls and cotton-tipped swabs


  • 2 pairs of latex or non-latex gloves
  • Instant cold pack
  • 5 safety pins to easily fasten splints and bandages
  • Turkey baster or other suction device to flush out wounds
  • Aluminum finger splint
  • Syringe and medicine spoon for giving specific doses of medicine
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers to remove ticks, insect stingers and small splinters
  • Scissors for cutting gauze
  • Breathing barrier for giving CPR
  • Blanket
  • Hand sanitizer (liquid and/or wipes)
  • First aid manual
  • List of emergency numbers

Medicine for Treating Injuries:

  • Antiseptic solution or wipes, such as hydrogen peroxide, povidone-iodine or chlorhexidine
  • Antibiotic ointment that contain ingredients such as bacitracin or mupirocin
  • Sterile eyewash or saline, such as contact lens saline solution
  • Calamine lotion for stings or poison ivy
  • Hydrocortisone cream, ointment or lotion for itching

Other Medicines:

  • Pain and fever medicines, such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Antihistamine to treat allergies and/or swelling
  • Decongestants to treat nasal congestion
  • Anti-nausea medicine to treat motion sickness and other types of nausea
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Antacid to treat upset stomach
  • Laxative to treat constipation

Keep in mind the special needs in your household, such as children or an elderly person. Does anyone in your household have specific allergies or an illness? Add supplies specific to these conditions. Be sure to check your supply kit monthly, refill as needed and check expiration dates on medication.

72 Hour Packs or Kits

A 72 hour pack/kit is a grab-and-go emergency pack if you and your family need to evacuate your home quickly. It is important to make sure that what you pack you can actually carry, especially if you need to be agile in a flood or run from zombies. Below is a list of what you will need to build your own 72 hour pack.


  • Quality Back Pack – You need 1 for yourself and 1 for each member of your household. Don’t forget your pets! This is where you will store 72 hours worth of supplies for each individual.
  • Water – FEMA recommends 3 gallons to last 72 hours, but that recommendation includes cleaning water as well as drinking and weighs 25 pounds, that’s a lot to carry. Consider purchasing a 2 gallon water carry bag, making it less weight and easier to store. You may also want to consider something with electrolytes and carbohydrates like Gatorade or Powerade to pack in your kits as well.
  • Food – You will want to pack items with lengthy expiration dates such as peanut butter, whole wheat crackers, nuts and trail mix, cereal, granola bars and power bars, dried fruit, canned tuna, salmon, chicken or turkey, canned vegetables, and canned soups. Make adjustments to the food you pack in these kits for each individual. Maybe you have an infant that requires formula, or a child that has specific allergies to certain foods, or you are packing food for your pet. Remember to check expiration dates every 6 months on food you packed and replace as needed. You may also want to consider packing some multivitamins, as these supplements will help replace the nutrients you would have consumed on a normal diet.
  • First Aid – All your kits should have small individual first aid packs that include the basic first aid supplies and a first aid manual. Check out small camping first aid kits for purchase or an idea of what you should put in your small first aid kits if you would like to assemble them yourself.  Remember to think of the individuals in your household. Does anyone require specific medications? Be sure to add that to their kit.
  • Equipment – We’re going to stick to the basics here, but know that you can always add to your preparation later on.  See more on 72 hour packs/kits here.

o   Flashlights– small water resistant flashlight in everyone’s pack

o   AM/FM Radio – Either battery operated or hand cranked. You do not need to store a radio in everyone’s pack, if you plan to be together. For example it’s you and your spouse and two children. Put a radio in your bag and your spouses.

o   Pocket Knife – always good to have and once again does not need to be stored in everyone’s packs

o   Can opener – If you packed can food you will need this.

o   Pen and Paper

o   Shelter – You want to invest in an instant pop up shelter or tube tent, if not, at the very least consider space blankets.

  • Personal Supplies

o   Extra pair of clothing – seasonal/rain gear/sturdy shoes. Consider special items for babies and elderly.

o   Toiletries – toilet paper (remove the center tube to easily flatten into a zip-lock bag), feminine hygiene, folding brush, soap, mini hand sanitizer, tooth brush etc. Think travel size.

  • Miscellaneous

o   Extra cash

o   Emergency numbers

o   Map of local area

o   Garbage bag

o   Important documents: insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, Social Security card, etc.

We hope this guide will help you get started with preparing you and your family for a possible disaster. In emergency situations local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. You could get help in a few hours, or it might take days… and that is why it is so important to be prepared.

For more information about being prepared and keeping your family safe during an emergency check out the American Red Cross ‘Plan & Prepare’ page and you can also follow our board ‘Emergency Preparedness and Prevention’ on Pinterest for tips and tricks.


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Laptop vs. Tablet – Pros and Cons for Taking Notes

Laptop vs Tablet

With back to school on the horizon, it’s time to make a decision about the best way for your kids to take notes once class is back in session. While laptops used to be the first choice, improvements in tablets have made these mini computers another popular option. At P.C. Richard & Son, we’ve put together some pros and cons to help you and your child make the best choice.

Laptop Benefits

There’s a lot to like about laptops, which are constantly getting better and better. Here are some good reasons to buy your returning student a laptop:

Simulates a desktop. Laptops come with full keyboards, trackpads and have the option of a wired or wireless mouse. Their large screens have good resolution, which makes taking notes and writing papers easy to do. Unlike the touchscreen pad of a tablet, a laptop’s full keyboard is more accurate. A laptop’s screen at 12-17 inches is also much larger, which makes developing school projects containing photos easier.

Durable. For the most part, laptops are more durable than tablets. You’re less likely to scratch or damage the screen than a touchscreen display.

Substantial storage capacity. Laptops hold significantly more data than tablets. They also possess multiple USB and memory card ports.

tablet vs laptop

Tablet Benefits

Though tablets have only come onto the scene in recent years, they’re quickly catching up to laptops in terms of functionality. Here are the top reasons you may want to choose one for your child:

Lightweight. Most laptops weigh from three to nine pounds, which doesn’t sound like much until you’re lugging the device back and forth in your backpack. The average weight of a tablet is less than a pound, and they are thinner and smaller in size.

Intuitive. Many students enjoy the tapping and swiping of the tablet’s touchscreen rather than always having to rely on a keyboard.

Better for eBooks. Tablets are more conducive to reading virtual books than laptops. They more closely resemble a real book and you can more easily relax with them and read.

Long battery life. We all know that kids forget to charge their hardware and can use that as an excuse for not completing homework. Tablet battery life averages about 10 hours, which is two to three times longer than a laptop.

Best of Both Worlds

If you and your back to school student can’t decide between a laptop and a tablet, there are options that can offer you the benefits of both. They include opting for a wireless keyboard for the tablet, which gives you the benefits of functioning like a laptop. You can also now find 2-in-1 computers that are combining laptops and tablets into one device.

To help you make the best choice for your child, check out our computer and tablet choices online, or stop in to any of our P.C. Richard & Son locations and have one of our expert sales representatives help you make the ideal decision for you and your child.


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Laptop Buying Guide – Top 10 Features to Look For


Time to buy a laptop computer? Take a look at the options, and you’re likely to get a little overwhelmed at the many choices. Here at P.C. Richard & Son we make the process of choosing just the right computer as easy as possible. We’ve created this handy buying guide containing the top 10 features to look for in a laptop.

1. Size and weight

Most likely you’ll be transporting your laptop, so its size and weight matter. Heavier laptops weigh around 5 pounds, whereas ultra-light computers come in at around 3 pounds. The diameter of the device is also important, as you want to be able to easily fit it in your briefcase or laptop backpack.

2. Screen quality and size

How good of a resolution do you want for your computer screen and how big do you want the screen? Most screens come in 13, 15 and 17 inches. The latter two sizes work for watching videos. Generally it’s best to go for the highest resolution option.

3. Keyboard

Especially if you do a lot of typing, it’s critical that you choose a laptop with a comfortable keyboard that allows for efficiency. Look for a keyboard with a good layout that is backlit.

4. Storage and memory space

If you store a lot of info in the cloud, this may not be as big of a concern, but if you want to load your computer up with music and videos, get as much storage and memory space as possible. Get 4GB of RAM or even more. The more RAM you have, the more applications you can run at the same time and the more quickly you can access data.

5. Battery life

How long you use your computer at a sitting dictates how much battery life you require. Your computer will last according to a variety of factors, including how bright your screen is and the various tasks you run simultaneously. You can always upgrade your laptop battery if you require more power.

6. Processor and graphics

How efficiently your computer runs is dictated by its main processor, and how good the graphics look is due to the graphics processor.

7. Wireless networking capability

No doubt you’re going to want to get online wherever you go, so it’s critical that your laptop has this capability.

8. Security features

When safeguarding your information is critical, choose a laptop that comes with security feature such as a fingerprint scanner.

9. USB port

Chances are you’ll need to transfer data between your various devices. A USB port lets you readily move information.

10. Warranty

What kind of a guarantee do you have if your new computer quits working? And do you want to get accident insurance in case of a fall? These are some of the questions you should ask in order to determine what type of laptop warranty is right for you.

At P.C. Richard & Son, we carry a wide variety of laptop computers. Come in today to try a few out and determine the right choice for you.


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The Ultimate Back to School Shopping List

Back To School Supplies

Your kids may not want to face reality, but school will be back in session before long. Now, while supplies are aplenty, is the time to make a back to school shopping list. The following must-have supplies will help guarantee that their school experience is a productive and successful one.


Basic Back to School Supplies

No matter the age of your student, there are a few items that should be in everyone’s backpack come the first day of school. You’ll want these items on your list:

  • Glue stick: Things come undone, and glue sticks allow you to adhere them once again.
  • No. 2 pencils: Standardized bubble tests still call for good
    old traditional pencils. And math problems are usually done with pencil.
  • Pencil sharpener: Sharpening pencils is a must, so include on your list a portable sharpener with a shaving’s collector.
  • Large pink eraser: Those big erasers erase just about any wayward scribble.
  • Highlighters: Get various colors so your student can do some color coding.
  • Ruler: Choose one that contains English and metric measurements.
  • Tape: Paperwork rips and tears and needs taping—sometimes urlat a moment’s notice.
  • Stapler:  For stapling together all of those brilliant projects and reports.
  • Backpack: Most students require somewhere to stash all of their back to school supplies.
  • Lunchbox/lunch bag: We all have to eat!
  • Notepaper and three-ring binder to put it in. Also throw in some pocket folders for organizing paperwork.


School Supplies for Elementary Students

Little ones require a few extras when it comes to school supplies. Make sure to get your little tykes the following:

  • Pencil box for storing supplies
  • Crayons—of course!
  • Watercolor paints for all of those precious masterpieces
  • Art smock to protect clothing during the creation of those one-of-a-kind works of art
  • Construction/drawing paper to encourage creativity
  • Child scissors to teach fine motor skills

School Supplies for Middle/High School and College Students

  • Book sox. Many older kids like to dress up their school books, and it helps protect your investment—especially if your child is borrowing books or you plan to resell them. Choose from a wide variety of themes and colors in book sox.
  • Combination locks for book and PE lockers
  • Pens for those bursts of genius
  • Permanent markers so kids can make their marks
  • Index cards–ruled and unruled to jog the memory during studying and when making speeches
  • Binder dividers to stay organized
  • Calculator:  Check with the teacher regarding the required model.
  • Laptop or tablet computer and carrying case
  • Flashdrive for storing all of that important data
  • Post-it notes for remembering brilliant ideas

During your back to school shopping adventures, stop by P.C. Richard & Son. You’ll find some of the items you’re looking for, such as laptops and tablets.


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5 Tips on How to Keep Your Portable/In Window Air Conditioner Cool This Summer

Potable AC

Keeping comfortable with a portable/in window AC requires that you maintain the unit. Learn the secrets to keeping your air conditioning unit working properly.

You depend on your portable in-window AC to keep you cool all summer long. That’s why it’s important to ensure that the unit stays in tip top shape. Take good care of your AC unit, and you’ll experience plenty of comfortable days and nights. To ensure that your air conditioner stays in good shape this summer, add the following five maintenance tips to your to-do list.

1. Provide proper ventilation.

Whether the unit is in a window or a portable one on the floor, it’s critical that your AC is in an area with adequate air flow so that it can release the heat it creates while cooling your home. In-window AC units do this automatically, but portable AC units require a venting kit that includes a vent hose leading out of a window.

2. Keep things clean.

ACs have delicate motor parts that can become clogged if they are exposed to dusty conditions. This can cause units to experience mechanical difficulties. Keep ACs away from dirty areas and clean the air filter monthly. Most portable and in window air conditioners feature a removable filter that can be cleaned with warm soapy water; then rinsed and dried. Before reinstalling the AC filter, ensure that it is completely dry. Also clean the condenser coils on the back of the AC once per season. Blow compressed air through the coils or clean with sprays of water and a soft bristle brush.

3. Ensure adequate drainage.

Portable ACs create condensation and excess water when they run. The more humid the conditions, the more water they will create during cooling. Empty the ACs water pan on a regular basis. Clean it with soapy water and white vinegar to prevent mold and mildew buildup. If your AC creates a great deal of condensation, install a drainage tube to the unit so that excess liquid can be drained into a bucket or out of the window.

4. Keep the exhaust hose straight.

Portable ACs have exhaust hoses that must remain straight during operation. If you allow the hose to bend or kink, this may lead to water filtering back into the unit, which can lead to malfunctioning.

5. Properly store the unit during off-season.

Avoid leaving your window AC in place during cold months of the year. Doing this can cause drafty conditions in your home and ice buildup can damage the unit. Store your AC in an attic, utility room or basement when not in use. Avoid putting it where it can become a nesting spot for rodents, as they can damage the unit by chewing on wiring.

P.C. Richard & Son carries a wide variety of ACs. If you have any questions about maintaining your unit, our knowledgeable sales staff will be happy to offer some friendly advice.


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Back To School – Choosing the Right Laptop

Group of college students studying at campus

If you’re heading to college for the first time, the most important thing you will need is a laptop. You’ll use your laptops for more than just class work: for streaming movies, shows or music, staying in touch with friends and family, gaming, storing photos and much more. You’ll want to find one that’s right for you and your needs, as well as last through your college life.

Before you begin your search for the perfect laptop, the first thing you should do is check with your school or major for specific system requirements. Some colleges and universities want their students equipped with a Windows-based laptop to cut down on software incompatibility issues. Others will let you use almost any operating system, but to be on the safe side you should always check first.

Once you have checked with your school here are some tips on what to keep in mind when shopping for your laptop:

What Screen ScreenSize Should I get?

Keep it light. A big screen may seem awesome, but hauling it back and forth to and from class can
be a real pain in the booty.  The most portable screen size for laptops are 11-14 inches and those models usually don’t weigh more than 5 pounds, making them much easier to transport. However, keep in mind the viewing and typing experience on smaller screens will be different to what you might be used to. The best way to find out which screen size you will be more comfortable viewing and typing on is to stop into a store and try out a few choices.


How Much Storage Do I Need? 

Depending on what classes you will be taking will depend on how much storage you will want or need. 4GB is ample for the average college student, but if you can find a notebook for the same price with 6 or 8GB of RAM, get it. The more RAM you have, the more your computer will be able to handle all at once (running multiple programs, rendering games, etc.). If not most laptops have ample USB ports, so you can expand storage capacity as you need it. Upgrading to a 500GB or 1TB hard drive won’t cost a lot either if you wanted to go that route, but if you’re not a video junkie or an aspiring filmmaker you shouldn’t need that much storage.

What are the Benefits of Chromebooks?

The key advantage of having a Chromebook is that nothing is saved locally. Instead, all your apps, preferences, documents, and data are saved on Google’s servers in the cloud. This means if you lose your machine, have it stolen, or spill a cup of coffee over it, there is absolutely no risk of your information being lost. The Chromebook also offers superior security. Say you visit a suspicious website by clicking on a bad link, open a spammy email attachment accidentally, or download a program that has a fishy origin… a Chromebook has you covered. Due to the device’s stateless operating system which has built-in multi-layered protection, viruses will be one less thing to worry about. One of the best benefits is the price: the HP 14″ Chromebook NVidia Tegra is rated one of the best notebooks for college students and is just under $300!

What about Hyhybridsbrids?

There are plenty of reasons to scoop up a 2-in-1 hybrid, starting with the fact that you’ll have one device that can double as a laptop and tablet. When you need to get work done, you can use a keyboard and run desktop programs. When you want to kick back on the couch and check Facebook or watch videos you can go with the touchpad instead! It’s a great option for college students and hybrids come in either a detachable design or a convertible approach in which the notebook’s hinge rotates 360 degrees for a similar effect.  Thinking about a hybrid? Check out the list CNET put together of the best touch screen and hybrid laptops of 2015.


How Much Power Do I Need?

Laptops offer a wide selection of processors, but it’s rarely worth paying extra for a faster CPU. Most laptops sold these days are more than fast enough for the average college student’s tasks. Web browsing, spreadsheets, simple programming, web development, word processing, and the all-important social media browsing don’t require a supreme processor. A powerful processor will just drain your battery faster anyway.Anything labeled Intel Core i3 or i5 should meet the average student’s needs.

What about Battery Life?

With a day filled with classes and extracurricular activities, battery life is important. Many laptops today have multiple battery options. Figure out where battery life ranks in your list of importance when purchasing a laptop for school. You may decide purchasing an additional battery is a good idea, if an extended one isn’t available. Unfortunately, a big battery adds more weight, but the extra weight might be well worth it if it means not having to plug in the entire day.  If you want to squeeze the most juice of your laptop’s battery try following these 9 tips for longer laptop battery life.


Looking for some more helpful tips as you head back to school this year, check out our Get U Ready page for tips to help you survive the school year including, study tips & tricks, college organization, college life hacks and more!


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Getting Smart About Keeping Cooling Cost Down: WiFi Thermostats

Smart Home Thermostat

When the heat soars, cooling costs also rise. Adjusting a thermostat just 7 to 10 degrees from its normal setting for 8 hours daily can save as much as 10 percent annually on your energy costs, reports Programmable WiFi thermostats make adjusting for energy savings easy. A programmable WiFi thermostat allows effortless management of energy consumption by controlling both cooling and heating from your smartphone, computer or other connected device.

Programmable Thermostat Basics

A basic programmable thermostat eliminates the hassle of having to manually adjust the home’s comfort levels several times daily. You can store multiple temperature settings, repeat daily settings and easily override any program when additional adjustments are needed. With a programmable thermostat, you can have your air conditioning run less during the day while everyone is gone and then set it to kick on about 30 minutes before you normally return home.

Benefits of WiFi Thermostats

One of the greatest benefits of a WiFi thermostat is the ability to manage your central HVAC system remotely. When plans change and you’re returning home earlier than usual, simply adjust the temperature settings from your smartphone and enjoy stepping into a perfectly cooled home even when the outdoor thermometer reads 98 degrees.

Remote access for the WiFi thermostat is via the Web or mobile apps designed specifically for your thermostat. Mobile apps are available for both Apple and Android devices. There are several options for WiFi thermostats including units from Honeywell and Nest.

Tip: Look for WiFi thermostats compatible with your home’s energy source. Some work with gas or electric while others may be used with any source.

Honeywell WiFi Thermostats

Honeywell offers dab9d6be-4aa3-42f5-b1be-b7aa40739e7d_400different wireless thermostat options, each designed to make your life a bit easier. The Honeywell models allow you to program it directly at the wall unit as well as through the Web portal and mobile apps. A touchscreen feature makes it simple to program adjustments as well as choose display color themes for easy readability and to complement the room’s décor.

Smart Response technology from Honeywell provides security settings to prevent unauthorized changes, email alerts and specialty programming for vacations. It’s a good choice if there’s a need to monitor multiple locations such as rental units or offices as Honeywell models can be programmed for more than two locations.


The Nest WiFi Thermostats

What if you don’t have central HVAC? Consider a WiFi air conditioner timer or adapter that allows you to  control a window air conditioning unit from a smartphone or other mobile device. You can turn the unit on  remotely or adjust the temperature controls as desired.


Still not sure which WiFi thermostat is best for your home? Check in with one of our P.C. Richard & Son    air    conditioning specialists at 877-727-1909. We can answer all your questions.



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How to Pick Your Perfect Grill


A004_C003_0101GMNothing beats a thick, juicy burger branded with grill lines, except maybe a steak with a perfect sear! The outdoor grill is the centerpiece of the backyard kitchen. BBQ grills offer even novice home cooks a simple way to prepare delicious meals with distinctive flavors while enjoying the outdoors. Eighty percent of all households own an outdoor barbecue, grill or smoker, reports the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (H.P.B.A.).

But how do you pick the perfect grill? There are several things to consider, including the grill’s size, features and fuel type. Choosing a new grill by fuel type is most common. Whether you’re a fan of gas grills or die-hard charcoal grillmaster, we’ve got the facts you need and the tips you want for picking the perfect grill.

Gas Grills

Most gas grills use propane as the fuel source. However, natural gas is an option as well. A grill fueled by natural gas uses a residential gas line, making this type of grill low-maintenance and easy to use. Grills fueled by propane tanks require changing out the tank or refilling the tank once it’s been depleted.

Propane grills and natural gas grills burn cleaner than a charcoal grill, but won’t provide that distinctive smoky or charcoal taste that charcoal grills provide. Gas grills have an electric starter and ignite quickly, which is a plus when you have a hungry group to feed. With a gas grill you’ll experience more even cooking temperatures versus charcoal. There’s also less mess — no charcoal or ashes to remove after grilling.

Charcoal Grills

If you dream of grilled meats and vegetables infused with an intense, open-flame flavor, then a charcoal grill is the best choice. A bit of patience is required with charcoal cooking, but the flavor rewards are immense. Once the charcoal has been lit, it can take about 15 to 20 minutes for the coals to get hot enough for cooking, so meal planning is key. Charcoal grills in general tend to cost less than gas grills and often are quite lightweight, making them ideal if they need to moved.

Electric Grills

Perfect for small patios and balconies, the electric grill does require an electrical outlet for use. These little gems don’t take long to heat up and can reach the high temperatures desired for searing meat and other proteins.


Choose a smoker for slow-cooking large quantities of meat at one time. Slow smoke racks of ribs, a whole turkey, roasts or several links of sausage. You can even smoke fish and vegetables like zucchini, eggplant and asparagus. For more versatility, look for one that can use both charcoal and aromatic wood for that deep, smoky flavor.

Portable Grills

Sometimes you just need to take that grilling goodness on the road. Portable grills are ideal for tailgating, camping, picnics and other outdoor events. Whether you choose a charcoal style or gas portable grill, look for models with strong, heavy grilling plates made from durable materials like stainless steel. It should be sturdy and yet easy to transport.

When choosing any type of backyard grill look for durability and stability, you don’t want it to wiggle when you’re trying to cook. Consider how much you’re likely to grill at one time, which helps determine how much cooking surface is needed. Don’t forget to consider side burners and food prep space.


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Planning the Ultimate Summer Road Trip: Top 5 Things You Need for a Girls’ Weekend Getaway

Road Trip with the girls

Think great friends, awesome tunes and a fabulous destination for the ultimate girls’ summer road trip! Don’t let summer pass you by without planning a great weekend getaway with your girlfriends. Leave the guys (and kids) at home and take a couple days to enjoy a carefree weekend filled with laughter and non-stop fun.

We’ve got the five top things needed for the perfect summer road trip with the girls:

1. GPS

Relying on smartphone apps for all navigation needs means trusting you’ll always be driving in an area with cellular coverage. Trust a GPS to get you where you want to go and to help you find interesting places to explore along the way. Look for a unit with a high-resolution, LED screen that measures at least 5-inches and offers real-time alternate route choices for construction and other traffic delays. Units that offer free lifetime maps make it easy to stay up-to-date when planning next year’s girls’ weekend getaway.

Still trying to decide where to head on the east coast with the girls? How about:

  • Atlantic City for the beach, boardwalk and casino fun.
  • Long Island wine region for tours and wine tastings.
  • Nantucket for antiquing and fine dining.

2. MP3 Player

Forget paying monthly fees for satellite radio in your vehicle. Use an MP3 player for your car audio needs and have your favorite music on hand, all the time. Create a special road trip playlist and be sure to include these 10 favorites:

  • “Shut Up and Drive” (Rihanna)
  • “Life in the Fast Lane” (The Eagles)
  • “Fun, Fun, Fun” (The Beach Boys)
  • “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” (The Proclaimers)
  • “Life is a Highway” (Tom Cochrane)
  • “Every Day is a Winding Road” (Sheryl Crow)
  • “Little Red Corvette” (Prince)
  • “Go Your Own Way” (Fleetwood Mac)
  • “Route 66” (The Rolling Stones)
  • “Celebration” (Kool & the Gang)

3. Back-up Camera

The right auto accessories can help you get out of a tight space and make the trip a little easier for the driver. A rear-view camera is helpful when backing up out of any parking space, down driveways or when attempting to parallel park along a busy street. There are several models that can be installed easily before leaving for your trip and it’s an accessory you’ll use for as long as you own the vehicle.

4. Fresh Snacks

You’d never consider inviting friends over and not serving some form of refreshments, right? Likewise, fresh snacks are an essential component of any road trip. Plan to pack two coolers, one specifically for drinks and the other for snacks that require chilling. If space permits, pack a full case of bottled water — it’s always cheaper to bring your own than to rely on picking it up at a gas station or convenience store. Great road trip snacks include:

  • Individual cheeses
  • Fresh fruit such as grapes, strawberries and blueberries
  • Gourmet chocolates (keep in the cooler to avoid melting)
  • Chocolate covered nuts or white chocolate covered pretzels
  • Gourmet snack crackers
  • Trail mix
  • Cake pops (keep chilled)

5. Pre-Trip Essential: the Tune-Up

The last thing you want on any road trip is a break-down. Plan ahead and schedule a pre-trip tune-up for your vehicle, including an oil change. Make sure the tire pressure and brakes are checked thoroughly. This may be the ideal time to have a remote car starter installed in your vehicle as well.



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