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Consumer Reports Tests Gutters Guards in September 2010 Issue

August 4th, 2010 No comments

Editor note: The following is a copy of Consumer Reports press release announcing its first-ever testing of gutter guard systems. We removed the section summarizing leaf blowers from the press release.

Consumer Reports Finds Lower Prices and Comparable Performance on Leaf Blowers and Gutter Guards in Time for Fall Spruce Ups

Strong Selection for Shoppers Ranging From DIY Gutter Systems and Top Electric Leaf Blowers

YONKERS, N.Y., Aug. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The latest issue of Consumer Reports rates the best leaf blowers and gutter guards to ensure that yards and rain gutters are tidy for the Fall season. More than 2,600 pounds of leaves were blown away by testers to reveal a $60 Toro electric leaf blower that performed comparably to the more powerful and costly gas blowers. Gutter guards were exposed to 480 days of outdoor elements and the Amerimax gutter guards were a top pick for do-it-yourselfers. At .30 cents per foot they beat out many professional installed systems and could save homeowners cash.

“Consumers will find lots of confusing promises out there for leaf blowers and gutter guards,” said Bob Markovich, senior home editor for Consumer Reports. “We found several top-value blowers for both small and larger properties. And we found some big differences in gutter guards when it came to keeping out leaves—and keeping water where it belongs.”

The full report, which features the full ratings on gutter guards and leaf blowers, appears in the September issue of Consumer Reports and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Gutter Guards: DIY Systems Beat the Pros

Consumer Reports ran 16 months of outdoor testing to find the best systems to keep gutters leaf free and found that a low-priced screen may be all it takes. Tests included professionally installed and do-it-yourself products sold at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other major retailers to see how well they kept out maple leaves, pine needles, and other gutter-cloggers.

Consumer Reports testers saw some big differences among types of systems. Most professionally installed systems often use a surface-tension design, where water is supposed to cling to the surface and flow into the gutters while leaves pass over and fall to the ground. Though all were impressive at shedding debris, even the top-scoring LeafFilter screen was only middling at containing a severe downpour.

If homeowners want convenience it will cost them. At $20 to $30 per foot, the professionally installed systems tested would cost $3,000 to $5,000 for roughly 160 feet needed on an average-sized home. But homeowners will pay less than $100 if they install the CR Best Buy Amerimax 85198 or 854054 themselves. They’ll still save a bundled if they add in the roughly $100 to $500 a contractor will change to put in a do-it-yourself system.

Most do-it-yourself gutters guards were easy to install although it’s likely to require climbing on a ladder—a dangerous activity. For inserts, simply cut the foam or bend the brush and press it into the gutter. But none of the inserts were good at keeping out debris. The Raingo RW115 let water pour out over the sides of the gutter.

How to Choose

Inspect the rest of the gutters. Have a pro check for clogs, corrosion, broken fasteners, proper pitch, and gaps between connections and between gutters and fascia boards. The LeafGuard and K-Guard are all-in-one systems that include the gutters and guards, an option if existing gutters are worn.

Pick the right screen. Fine-mesh screens like the top-scoring LeafFilter and Gutterglove Pro outperformed screens with larger holes. But the Gutterglove was relatively pricey and hard to install and isn’t meant for flat or gambrel roofs.

Check the fine print. Be sure that any system won’t void a roof or gutter warranty. Also check suggested maintenance. LeafFilter may need brushing in high-pollen areas and Amerimax must be checked for debris; both of those steps mean climbing a ladder or calling a pro.

Play it safe. Ladder injuries are linked to approximately 200 to 300 deaths and an estimated 200,000 emergency-room visits each year. Use a sturdy Type 1A extension ladder made of fiberglass if working near electrical lines. Always face the ladder when climbing and descending and never go beyond the highest recommended step or reach more than 1 foot to either side of the ladder.

SEPTEMBER 2010
Consumers Union 2010.
SOURCE Consumer Reports
http://www.consumerreports.org

It is Time for a Better Mousetrap!

July 21st, 2010 No comments

I like to build companies from scratch. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment! If you have ever done it, you know how gratifying it can be. If you haven’t done it, I encourage you to try it someday. It’s hard but rewarding. It’s much easier to accept a job at an established company, buy into a franchise with a proven concept and customer base, or spin-off a hot product or service to form a new company. While there are aspects of this that are appealing, I’ve always enjoyed being the inventor, the creator, the guy who dreamed up the idea, built the product, technology or service and took it to market. The risks can be great, but so can the rewards. And it’s not just about money. It’s the idea of helping people, making a positive impact, being creative, resourceful, and solving problems that create many of the rewards.

So what does this have to do with gutter guards?

In 1996, I developed a Web site called GutterGuard.com. E-commerce was in its infancy. Ebay was just a year old. Google didn’t exist, and Amazon was figuring out how to sell books online. GutterGuard.com was a hobby, a sideline business, a way to earn extra income. We started out selling a gutter guard to homeowners across the U.S. and Canada. The site came along at a time when you could build it and they would come! There were only a handful of gutter guard companies in existence: GutterHelmet, Englert’s LeafGuard, Crane Plastics’ WaterFall, and a few others. In order for homeowners to access products from these companies, they had to agree to have them installed by dealers at a cost of $15, $20 or even $30 per foot. We thought this was outrageous. Our product, Cinch, now called “Solid Gutter Cover,” was a deal by comparison at $1.25 per foot. Homeowners would call and email us, they’d place orders online and by phone. We’d box the product in whatever quantities they wanted and ship it to them via UPS. We believed in the product so much, we gave homeowners 30-days to test and return it if they weren’t happy. If it didn’t rain for a while, we’d extend the return period until the first heavy rain. We knew the product worked and ultimately so did the homeowners who purchased the gutter guards from us.

During that same time, we began installing Cinch gutter guards on homes. We spent a lot of time on ladders and rooftops. We cleaned miles of gutter, and we installed a lot of product. We became subject matter experts very quickly. All of a sudden, we knew more about the gutter guards than the inventor who was a friend of ours. We would provide him with feedback and suggestions about how he could improve the product and grow the market. I remember sitting on the roof with my partner saying, ‘if we did this or that to this product, it would be a lot better.’ It’s been interesting to see so many products come onto the market. It appears that a lot of products have entered the market in much the same way we dreamed up improvements to the product we were selling and installing. Essentially, there have been a lot of “better mousetraps” developed. Some have been created by big corporations and many have been invented by gutter installers and frustrated homeowners. Many more gutter guards have been designed and patented than are on the market, and rightfully so because some designs are quirky and should never make it onto a production line.

What’s most interesting is that designs are mostly evolutionary and not very revolutionary. The first solid surface gutter guard, AKA reverse curve gutter guard was invented and patented in 1908 — 102 years ago! The same basic concept dominates the market today. You’ll find it in GutterHelmet and LeafGuard, Gutter Guardian and others. In 2003, LeafFilter was invented by Edward Higginbotham. Perhaps the first revolution in the industry in nearly 100 years, it was the biggest step towards creating the next generation gutter guard. Homeowners have responded positively since micromesh gutter guards entered the market. They do a better job keeping leaves and debris out of gutters. Higginbotham’s invention spawned a series of micro mesh gutter guards being developed from the likes of GutterGlove, Leaf Solution, and Mastershield (another Higginbotham design). I’ve tested and reviewed most of the micromesh screens, and they perform similarly well. Each has its pros and cons, but it’s the cons that bug me. I find myself asking rhetorically, “Why did they do that?” and the best answer I can come up with is that they didn’t know any better. Yet, these products sell like hot-cakes.

Why?

Perhaps homeowners are desperate for a solution that actually works — one that lives up to its promises and price-tag. They’re willing to “give it a shot” to see if this solution will be better than the last one they installed or the one their neighbors selected. And so I feel like it’s time for yet another “better mousetrap.”

My quest for a better mousetrap began in January 2008 — twelve years after I started GutterGuard.com. I woke up one morning and began sketching ideas for a new “revolutionary” gutter guard design — something the market had never seen before. I made a bunch of sketches, added notes and captions so I would remember the reasoning behind my inspiration; I dated the drawings and stuck the loose sheets of paper in my bedside table drawer. There they sat until June 2009 when I located and reviewed the drawings. What I found were nuggets of good ideas. As I learned more about other gutter guards on the market, I refined my ideas into something that I thought would work and be a winner in the marketplace. I listened to homeowners problems, I spent a lot of time analyzing other products, and I came to the conclusion that I could indeed build a better mousetrap.

And so my journey began…