Windows leak more air than any other part of the average home. The newer, triple-pane windows are super, but if you don't have them in your home, try some or all of the following tips to make your existing windows more energy efficient.
Clean your windows first. Letting sun in during the winter can warm up a chilly room, but close drapes at night to keep the warmth inside. You would be surprised how much the sun coming into a room can warm it up during the wintertime.
Replace or install weatherstripping on all movable parts of the window. Peel-and-stick foam weatherstripping, metal weatherstripping and everything in between are available at your home center or hardware store and are inexpensive and easy to install. It usually will pay for itself in one season.
Caulk the edges of the window frames to seal those areas. If you already have caulk but it's cracked or pulling away, remove it totally before installing new caulk.
Add another layer of protection with a storm window or, at least, a layer of clear plastic. The heat-seal window coverings work well and can be installed inside or out. Most involve putting a strip of double-sided tape around the window frame and stretching clear plastic over the tape to cover the window. A hair dryer is used to shrink the plastic smooth. A sheet of acrylic also can be cut to fit and installed over a window to act as a storm window. These and standard storm windows can be removed next spring if you like.
If you have drapes, add insulating fabric panels to the backside to block out some of the cool air. You can buy them already made and add them to your drapes or purchase drapes or shades that already have a thermal lining built into them.
If you don't need to use your windows, you can get drastic and cover them with Bubble Wrap or foam insulating panels.
Borrow a brick
A brick paver patio is supposed to last a long time. But bricks can crack or break or become damaged in some other way. If you don't have extras, then you have to come up with a solution. If the broken brick is in an obvious place, then at least you can barrow one from an out-of-the-way spot for replacement. Then put the damaged brick into the discreet spot. Or remove several bricks to create a small planting bed.
You can get really creative when potting plants for your front entryway. One very dramatic planter can be made from three or four plants that are stacked. Use a large, heavy pot for the base. Then place a dowel rod in the center of the pot so that it sticks straight up. Next, place a smaller planter over the pole and sit it down on the soil in the bottom pot. Now place a smaller planter over the dowel rod to sit on top of the second planter. You can keep going if you need to. Now fill these pots with a variety of plants for a one-of-a-kind, dramatic planter for your front porch or back patio.
• Being "green" is easier than you think. Buy secondhand furniture and refinish it yourself. It will cost less and give you more satisfaction overall. You even might be able to swap dining-room sets with a friend or relative.
• We have a variety of food bowls for our pets, and some are better than others. I have found that it's best to have a rubber bottom on the pan so it won't slide around on the floor while pets are eating from it. (This usually causes a mess that is tons of fun to clean up, too.) I always glue a scrap of rubber on the bottom of each bowl before using it if it doesn't have a rubber base. This is easy to do, works well and doesn't detract from the looks of the "cute" bowls. Placing the bowls on a rubber mat also will work and act as a "place mat" for your pet.
• If your light bulbs look dull, you might try dusting them. When dust builds up on them, they give off less light, which means you are paying for light you aren't getting, so clean and dust them periodically.
Q. I have a doorbell that no longer works. I've tried everything, but I cannot locate the problem. I really don't know how to get to the wiring to fix it. Now what?
A. You might be surprised to find out that you can purchase wireless door bells now. These work well, are very easy to install and are available at most hardware stores and home centers. You may not be able to fix the old one, but nobody will ever know. Remove the old push button and just install the new, wireless one.
Q. I don't have much freezing weather where I live, and have to water my plants often. The maker of the garden hose I have says it's OK to leave it out in freezing weather. Is it really OK, or should I put it up to protect it?
A. Because you live in a warmer climate, you probably are OK. It would be good to remove any water that is trapped in the hose before it freezes, as this is usually what causes the damage. If you were having a prolonged freeze, I would suggest putting it up where it is protected.
Q. I have a concrete floor in my sunroom. I would like to put down carpeting but have had a rug in there and had some moisture issues under it. When I pick it up, the floor is damp. What do I need to do before putting carpet in?
A. You need to put a sealer over the concrete to prevent moisture from coming up through the slab. You also should make sure you don't trap moisture in the room. Add ventilation if you can. Use a good carpet padding, too. Weatherstrip doors and windows well, and caulk around the exterior of the structure also.
• I love hook-and-loop tape, and often use it in my shop and garage. It's inexpensive and easy to glue on to just about anything. I have placed pieces on my tools and hardware items, with the corresponding piece on the workbench or storage wall. This way, it's easy to store a lot of things up and off the work surface.
• I had a tomato plant in a large pot outside by my side door. Of course, it has died back now, but I never moved the pot. The tomato cage is even still in the pot. It has become a perfect umbrella stand lately. It's right next to the door and the cage is perfect for holding umbrellas up to dry when stuck in the pot. Plus, the drips are all outside, not inside on our wood floors.
• We have a hot tub on our deck and use it often. It's really nice when it starts getting cold outdoors. We made a towel rack from a piece of deck railing that we removed in order to bring the hot tub in. The railing was 6 feet long, so I cut it down to 3 feet and then attached it on its side against the wall next to the hot tub with eye hooks. It's a great place to hang towels and clothes.
• I make display cases for all sorts of things. I sell them locally and have created a nice little business for myself. I love your column and have used your advice many times through the years. I have a tip to share with you. When I have glued a project and want to make sure I have removed all leftover glue from the surface before staining it, I rub it with a rag dampened with mineral-spirits paint thinner. It shows you exactly where the glue is so you can remove all of it before you try to finish your project. Keep up the good work!
• I bought some very plain, gray steppingstones for my backyard. They really come in handy when it rains, but they weren't too attractive so I painted them. I found some patio paint made for concrete. I did a base coat of one color and then used a stencil over that with another color. They are so neat-looking, and they don't look so blah anymore.
• The hardest part of hanging drywall is handling the panels. They are heavy and hard to manage. But Sheetrock has just come out with a new, lightweight drywall panel. It weighs 30 percent less, but it's made in such a way to make them even stronger than standard sheets. Their half-inch ceiling boards can replace the standard -inch panels without sagging, and they come in the standard 8-, 10-, 12-, 14- and 16-foot-by-48-inch-wide panels. The lightweight panels will save you time and money by requiring less labor to haul and install. They even score and snap cleaner than standard panels. So when you are ready to replace or renovate, shop for USG's Ultralight Panels by Sheetrock. For additional information and technical data, visit www.usg.com.
• Reciprocating saws are the perfect tool for demolition, and with Milwaukee Tools' new accessories, they also can be a great tool for other jobs. A grout-removal tool makes superfast work of renovating bathrooms and kitchens, and the new scraper blades are fantastic at removing old vinyl flooring, paint, tile, floor adhesives and more. The blades are extremely strong and resistant to breakage and chipping, and they hold their edge for maximum accuracy. You can find them wherever Milwaukee Tools are sold. You can learn more about these accessories at www.milwaukeetool.com.
• Write to Al and Kelly Carrell in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006 or visit the Carrells' website at thesuperhandyman.com.
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