The good news is that winter is half over. The bad news is that winter is only half over. Don’t leave heating to chance. Instead think “furnace maintenance” — an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure, and a chilly wait for an expensive repairman. Here are a few things that’ll help. First change the filter. During heating season, do this monthly and — to save money — don’t buy them one at a time. Buy a whole case, and save money two ways — on the price and on your energy bills. A furnace heats more efficiently and runs less with clean filters that are changed often. Other mid-winter furnace tips? Check your owner’s manual for proper guidance. Turn off the power, vacuum the blower compartment, check tension and condition of the blower fan belt and lubricate fan-motor oil ports with a few drops of lightweight electric motor oil (do not over-oil or use automotive oil — both practices are bad). A little mid-winter furnace maintenance gives a lot of peace of mind.
Now is a time of year when thoughts turn to holiday visits, window-shopping and time spent with family and friends. But for some, winter isn’t so cheery because they’ll need to spend time at the hardware store. They’ll be buying plastic film, duct tape and stick-on weather-stripping instead of having fun. While others wrap packages and relax with friends, these folks are spending needless time and money patching chilly air leaks in old windows. It’s time for “window shopping” for beauty, comfort and savings. Sounds expensive? Maybe those drafty old dinosaur windows don’t need total replacement. Lots of windows still have good frames, and all they need are new high-tech sashes installed. Why let Jack Frost and Old Man Winter ruin one more year? Check out today’s new inexpensive replacement windows. Can you afford not to?
Gypsy Rose Lee was born on this day in 1914. She turned “taking it off” into an art form. If you’ve got prized furniture with a few “bumps” and dings, you don’t have to “grind” off the old surface before refinishing. Like Gypsy, you will find stripping works best. It’s the fastest and easiest way to reveal the bare surface. And you’ll get plenty of applause when you’re done. The most powerful paint strippers contain methylene chloride. It works fast, usually within 15 minutes, but requires great care in it’s use. Apply it outdoors or with ample ventilation, and wear a respirator with safety goggles and rubber gloves. Cover the floor with newspaper, not plastic. There are also nontoxic water-based strippers that work more slowly and safely. Either way, pat on a thick coat with a brush and scrape it off when it softens. With curves, crevices and filigrees, get creative with small brushes and steel wool. When you are through, you will have a bare beauty ready for a shiny new coat of whatever.
Got a storm door that keeps slamming shut instead of closing smoothly and quietly? It started doing that just about the time cold weather set in. Right? When you took out your summer screens and put in storm-door windows, you didn’t think about the weight difference. Glass weighs a lot more than screen, and that extra weight is going to cause your door to slam shut unless you tune things up a mite. That pee-nu-matic tube way up near the top is called a ?door closer.? On the end is a small screw. Turn it clockwise. Your door will close slower, and won’t slam shut. Next spring, when it’s time for screens again, turn it counterclockwise so it closes a bit faster with the lighter weight. While the screens are out, see if they need fixing. Tomorrow we’ll tell you how to rescreen them so they’re tighter than a pair of wet leather chaps drying by the campfire.
Bell Labs invented the first transistor in 1947. It won the Nobel Prize and paved the way for today’s many wonders. One is the smart thermostat, a full-time brain that monitors home heating and cooling, raising it when you’re there and lowering it when you are out or at night, when you’re sleeping. It keeps temperatures within one degree of what you set. Even in mild climates, programmable thermostats save money and have a short payback period. There are many types available, too, with different features and prices. One called “five-two” lets you set five weekdays and weekends. Others have a factory pre-set button that automatically programs it for you, based on the schedule of an average family. This is great for those whose VCRs still flash 12 o’clock. If you want to totally customize ups and downs, get a seven-day model and grab the owner’s manual.
This week a lot of folks will drag out the ladder and decorations, lights and stapler to pursue lofty goals in the ‘spirit’ of the season. To entertain family, friends and passersby, those who perform this annual ritual often start ‘social-climbing’.” Carelessness can lead to another annual event — a trip to the emergency room. This unscheduled hospital call can be avoided by using ladders properly and moving carefully when off the ground. When using a stepladder, be sure legs are fully extended and hinges are locked into place. Be sure that feet are firmly planted on solid, level ground. Heed the warning on top that says, ‘this is not a step.? It isn’t. With extension ladders set the bottom out one-fourth the ladder’s height from the wall. Make sure feet have firm support and, with both types, keep hips between side rails to maintain balance. Whether inside or out, when climbing to decorate, everything should stay up, including you.
Refrigerators and freezers must operate at precise temperatures for proper food preservation, maximum energy-efficiency and to keep them from working too hard and wearing out prematurely. The recommended levels are between 37 and 40 degrees for the refrigerator compartment and zero for the freezer section. There are individual dials and settings to control each one. Just putting a thermometer in the compartments won’t always give you an accurate reading due to door openings and fans that move air for moisture control and defrosting. To test the refrigerator side, place a thermometer in a glass of water in the center and leave it for 24 hours. For the freezer side, place the thermometer between two packages of frozen food, cover with plastic wrap and leave it for 24 hours. The next day check both and adjust accordingly, allowing another 24 hours for each adjustment until your “patient” is a perfect 37 to 40 and zero.
Depending on where you live, sometime between 4 a.m. and 7 a.m., it’s the first day of winter. And, as the temperatures plummet, your thermostat numbers head due north, generating hefty utility bills that could put you out on the street. There are, however, ways to regain control. Here’s how to cut back on money lost and to reduce your home heating cost. Surely you’ve noticed that natural gas is up 8 percent from last year. Heating oil is worse yet — about 18 percent. Electric heat is up, too. To fight back, start with the basics: Plugging air leaks and adding insulation saves as much as 20 percent. Turn down the heat — each degree saves 3 percent. Put an insulating wrap around your water heater, and cover hot-water pipes with foam tubing. Caulk and weather-strip cracks around windows and doors, and change furnace air filters.
The first dishwasher was invented in 1892. Weary of servants chipping and breaking her dishes, Josephine Cochrane rigged a copper pot with stiff brushes and a motor. It worked so well that she showed it at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair — and won first prize! Today, most homes have a dishwasher. Unlike other appliances, the less you use it the more likely it is to break down. Water that remains in the bottom of your dishwasher is there for a reason; it keeps seals moist, to prevent leaks and protect the motor. When not used for long periods, the water evaporates, seals dry out and leaks and motor problems become likely. To prevent this, before a dishwasher sits unused for more than two or three weeks, pour in a half cup of liquid bleach (this prevents bacterial buildup). Then add 3 tablespoons of mineral oil. These coat the surface of the water and prevent evaporation — even over long periods of time. With a dishwasher, it’s “use it or lose it” — or protect it.
Here’s a home brew to preserve the green and beauty of Christmas trees and to prolong the freshness of natural evergreen holiday decorations. To extend their natural beauty, mix a batch of this special holiday brew. First, go down to your local garden center and ask for miconized iron. Then add 1-quarter cup to 1 gallon of hot water. Also add 2 cups of light corn syrup and 4 teaspoons of chlorine bleach. This stuff is powerful and can stain carpets, so keep a plastic sheet spread underneath. Finally, trim an inch off the tree trunk and ends of stems, and add more brew as it evaporates. When the needles of other trees and greens are dropping left and right, yours will will be fresh and beautiful — right through the holidays.