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S20 E23: Window Boxes, Smart Panels

Tom shares how he became a general contractor; Heath and Ross explain what smart electric panels are and how they work; Jenn and Nathan build and fill new window flower boxes.

Previous episode: S20 E22 | Next episode: S20 E23

In this episode:

General contractor Tom Silva takes us back through time and tells us how he became a general contractor. Growing up in a house full of people who worked with their hands, his role as chief on a construction site seems pre-determined. Tom tells the whole story from being a little kid breaking things with his dad's hammer to how he got his start on This Old House.

Tom also gives us a look into some of the things most folks don't know about him. He discusses his free time, his hobbies, and the interactions he's had with fans that mean the most to him.

Next, we meet master electrician Heath Eastman and home technology expert Ross Trethewey as they teach host Kevin O'Connor about smart electrical panels. The two pros show Kevin how this new wave of technology is more about optimization than maximization, giving users complete control over their electrical system.

Smart electrical panels are all about customization and efficiency. Whether it's a system tied into a backup generator or a network of solar panels and batteries, smart electrical panels allow users to dial in the circuits they want to use and when and monitor how much power they're using. With utility companies changing distribution rates and times, Ross and Heath explain that these panels can be an asset.

Finally, we meet carpenter Nathan Gilbert and landscape contractor Jenn Nawada as they help a homeowner tackle a curb appeal upgrade. Nathan offers the solution of adding some custom-made window planters made from low-maintenance PVC. After building them, Nathan mounts the boxes directly to the home for worry-free style.

Then, Jenn helps the homeowner fill in the window boxes with some new plants. With a mix of perennials and annuals in the truck's bed, the two lay out the plants they plant to use. Jenn shows the homeowner how to fix the boxes for years of curb appeal to come.


How Tom Silva Became a General Contractor

General contractor Tom Silva takes us back through time and tells us how he became a general contractor. Growing up in a house full of people who worked with their hands, his role as chief on a construction site seems pre-determined. Tom tells the whole story from being a little kid breaking things with his dad's hammer to how he got his start on This Old House.


Understanding Smart Electrical Panels

Heath Eastman and home technology expert Ross Trethewey teach host Kevin O'Connor about smart electrical panels. The two pros show Kevin how this new wave of technology is more about optimization than maximization, giving users complete control over their electrical system.

Where to find it?

Heath and Ross explain what smart electrical panels are and how they work by demonstrating how they track and manage a home's electricity consumption.

Smart load management allows the homeowner to see how much energy is being used in real-time on a circuit-by-circuit basis and control the loads, both manually and automatically.

Panels looked at were provided by Lumin and Span.


How To Build Window Flower Boxes

Carpenter Nathan Gilbert and landscape contractor Jenn Nawada help a homeowner tackle a curb appeal upgrade. Nathan offers the solution of adding some custom-made window planters from low-maintenance PVC. After building them, Nathan mounts the boxes directly to the home for worry-free style.

Where to find it?

Nathan used stock 1" x10" Azek and stock Azek band molding and base cap molding to build three identical window boxes. Nathan used a sliding compound miter saw that Dewalt manufactures to cut the materials to size. To secure the front, back, bottom, and side pieces together, Nathan used 2 part PVC glue, 1 ¼-inch brads, and 2 ½-inch stainless steel trim head screws, which can all be found at home centers. He secured the molding with 2 part PVC glue and 1-inch brads. To allow for drainage, Nathan created drainage holes on the bottom of the window boxes. He used a ½ inch spade bit to drill holes every 8 inches along the centerline of the bottom piece of Azek.

Nathan mounted each window box directly to the house's siding. He pre-drilled pilot holes, added caulk into each hole, then used 4-inch structural screws to secure the box to the clapboard through the pre-drilled holes.

Jenn lined the window boxes with one layer of landscape fabric found at garden and home centers. On top of the landscape fabric, she added handfuls of Hoffman Volcanic Lava Rock to cover the drainage holes. Jenn used a combination of annuals and perennials to fill the window boxes, which get morning sun and afternoon shade. Plants and flowers used include Northern Maidenhair Ferns, Pearly White, Glacier Ivy, begonia, bush violet, and vinca, which she planted in Fox Farm Ocean Forest potting soil.

In addition to regular watering, Jenn suggests using a slow-release fertilizer like Osmocote—made by Scotts Company, LLC—once every three months to help keep the window boxes healthy.

Original Air Date: Mar 31, 2022, Season 20; Ep. 23 23:42


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