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posted: 3/2/2012 12:30 AM

Super Handyman: Points to remember when making the switch to CFL bulbs

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Compact fluorescent lamps -- CFLs -- are the most popular choice for lighting your home these days. They use about one-third less electricity than a standard incandescent bulb and will last about 10 times longer. They have been around for a long time now, and since they can be used in a standard light socket, they are the best choice for most places in the home.

Some folks still would prefer the standard bulbs, and in certain cases, they do give off a "warmer" look than the CFLs. We suggest a smart compromise by putting CFLs in all closets, halls, outdoor lights, utility areas, kitchens and bathrooms. You can use those incandescents in your family room if you need to.

CFLs also produce a lot less heat, so this can be an advantage in some situations.

It might seem like a no-brainer, but there are some issues to be concerned about with all fluorescents. They do contain a small amount of mercury, and this can be hazardous if you are not careful. Should a bulb break, you need to make sure to wipe it up with a wet paper towel, and be very careful not to get anything on your skin. Don't vacuum up the debris. And try to dispose of the waste properly, if possible. Wash your hands thoroughly afterward, too. Try to recycle the bulbs or dispose of them safely when they do burn out.

Some of these bulbs can be used with dimmers, but others can't, so check the package label before buying them if they will be placed on a dimmer-switched lamp.

Some bulbs now have built-in sensors to shut off during the daytime and turn on at night, making them ideal for outdoor lighting. You'll save even more with these, and you don't have to use timers or your brain to remember to switch lights off and on.

They're not perfect, but over time, they will continue to improve and, as incandescents are phased out, should be our No. 1 choice for home lighting.

Easy work around

Cup hooks, eye hooks and other screw-in items can be a lot easier to install when you know this little trick: Once you get the screw started, stick a screwdriver through the hole of the hook and use the whole screwdriver like a handle to turn the screw into the wood. It's so much easier with this extra leverage, and you can install a lot of them this way in a fraction of the time. Give it a shot and see for yourself.

New uses for old handles

Sometimes it's less expensive to repair an old, and dear, garden tool than to buy a new one. Some have wooden handles that get old and can break or just wear out. You can buy replacement handles and install them, but what do you do with the old handles? Turn them into stands that hold drinks, planters or candles. Use cable ties or screws to attach a drink holder to the sides of an old handle, and stab it into the ground. Attach pots to a handle to make it a great holder for plants, and attach candle holders to one to hold citronella candles to keep the bugs at bay while you are outdoors. You can make it easier to stab into the ground by cutting the end to a point with your saw.

Super hints

• There is nothing worse than finally getting around to ironing, only to have your iron make marks on your clothes or spit instead of spray while you are ironing. These problems are all due to clogged steam holes, which are easy to fix. Just fill the water reservoir with vinegar, let the iron heat up and steam. The vinegar will dissolve the minerals that are clogging the holes. Spray and steam until all of the vinegar is gone, then refill with water and repeat to clean out the vinegar. Now you're good to go. You can use distilled water rather than tap water. Or don't use any water directly in the iron, and just use water from a spray bottle for ironing.

• Pre-made lattice panels are so easy to use, but cutting them can be a little tough to do without damaging them in the process. Sandwich them between a couple of scraps of wood, or use two-by-fours as a fence with your saw. A secure mounting will add some stability when you install them.

Q. My guttering needs help. It's installed with long spikes that go into the trim of the house. Many are no longer holding and are starting to pull away from the house. What can I do to secure them again?

A. You can add additional spikes to the gutter in other places, or try some new hangers that will hold better. Once secured, remove the old spikes and fill the holes with wood putty, prime and then paint to protect the wood from decay.

Q. I have a yellow porcelain sink. I would like to change the color, but I don't know if painting it would be worth the trouble. What are your thoughts?

A. The epoxy paints made for porcelain are pretty good, although they won't last forever. They are costly, too. Do a little shopping around and see if you might be able to find a nice sink for less than the cost of the paint. We love to shop at surplus stores for items like this. Perhaps they will even take your old sink as a trade. Good luck!

Q. We had some water damage in our basement, and we need to try to make some repairs on a tight budget. The problem is our wood paneling got wet. Can we dry it out and repaint it, or do we need to replace it?

A. The most important thing to know is whether the area behind the paneling has any mold growing on it. Ideally, you should remove the paneling, at least up to where the water damage stops, then clean and disinfect the area behind the paneling and re-cover it. One option might be to remove the paneling sheets, clean and disinfect the wall behind the paneling, make sure everything is dry, then paint and reinstall the paneling.

Reader tips

• I have a couple of pairs of fairly nice suede gloves. I also have some older leather gloves that are near and dear to me. I wanted to share with you a super way to clean them. You can put them into a box filled with cornmeal, enough to cover them completely. Leave them inside the box for a day or so. The cornmeal absorbs any oil that is on the leather and draws it out. When you take out the gloves and brush them off, they are clean and fresh again.

• We've used Teflon tape for years on plumbing connections. The thin, filmy tape is a little hard to work with but really adds a layer of extra protection. It's also great for helping to seal up glass and metal jar lids to get a tighter seal on them.

• We just painted the guest room and adjoining bathroom. We were trying to give a "spa" feel to the room for our guests. My wife added a few drops of lavender oil to the paint before we rolled it on. I think it's the first time I ever enjoyed the smell of a freshly painted room. I know that the strong chemicals that used to be in paints are no longer much of a problem, but the lavender oil really added a nice touch to the room. I'm not sure how long it will last, but it's nice for now.

• We found our basement to be the perfect spot for a home media room. With no windows and plenty of room, we started renovating with this plan. We did some checking around and found that by putting cork on the floor under the carpet, we were able to dampen the sound, especially the bass, more than without it. The cost was minimal, so we tried it, and it does seem to have helped. We also feel like it has added a layer of insulation to the floor.

• My car is older, and over time it has dripped oil on my garage floor. Most of the time I just put some cat litter on the spot and let it absorb the oil. But sometimes the oil doesn't come up with the litter, so I give it a spray of WD-40. This is sort of like a solvent, and it helps dissolve the oil and loosen it up. Then I cover it with the cat litter and sweep it up the next day. The WD-40 really helps complete the clean up nicely.

• Our front door is really nice looking, but it lets a lot of sun and heat into the house, not to mention the privacy issue. I wanted to install drapes but didn't want to drill into the metal door to do it, so I found some peel-and-stick Velcro strips that I cut to fit the top and bottom of the window. Then I found some sheer fabric, hemmed the top and bottom, and sewed the other half of the Velcro to that. The new "curtains" look nice and block a lot of the light and view inside our home. I can easily take them down when I need to clean them, and even can replace them with new fabric if I want to later.


• Skil's Lithium Ion Power Cutter is a lightweight cutting tool that is perfect for cutting carpet, plastic, fabric, leather, paper, cardboard, vinyl flooring, wallpaper and a lot more materials up to one-quarter-inch thick. It holds a charge for an incredible 18 months and has a battery-fuel gauge. To find out more, see it at your hardware dealer, home center and at

• The Stanley 4-in-1 Bi-Material Pocket Driver is a must-have for all homes and cars. The compact screwdriver has four bits on board and is ideal for all small projects in and around the home. Check it out at your hardware store or home center, and at

• 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

2011, Cowles Syndicate Inc.