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posted: 5/4/2012 5:59 AM

Super handyman: Get your A/C in tiptop shape now, before hot weather sets in

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So far, so good for most of us. The really hot weather hasn't hit most of the country yet. So now is a good time to make sure your air conditioner is ready to handle it.

Turn off the power to the unit, inside the house and out, to avoid accidents.

Take off the side to expose the coils and blower inside, wherever the unit is located.

Start cleaning with your vacuum cleaner. A bottle brush can get more dust and debris loosened for the vacuum. Use a pot scrubber and some mild cleaner to get off the rest of the grime.

Oil the fan motor and spin the blades to make sure they are running smoothly. If your blower has a belt, make sure it still looks OK. Replace it now if it looks bad.

Close it all back up and seal around all of the edges, except where the filter goes. Replace the filter, too. Stock up so you have a clean one every month.

Make sure your ductwork is properly sealed with mastic so air won't leak and be wasted.

The outside unit needs to be cleaned, too. Use water pressure or air pressure to clean the intake areas on the outside unit.

Make sure no grass or vines or anything else is blocking the air flow in and out of the unit. The fan on this unit also should be lubricated if it needs it.

If your thermostat was troublesome last year, consider replacing it with a programmable model or a high-efficiency one for comfort.

Flip the breakers back on, then test it. If you find any other issues, have it serviced before the really hot weather sets in.

Make a paint booth

Would you like a booth or a table? Most folks would take a booth. It's more secluded, and it keeps you away from the rest of the room. So it is with a paint booth on a table. You easily can create a paint booth from a cardboard box. Whatever you need to paint should fit inside the box. Then you can spray the paint on the item without getting the overspray all over everything in the room. The box also shields the item from flying dust that could settle on the finish before it has dried and ruin all of your hard work. Recycle the box when you've finished.

New doggy door

A doggy door is designed to let pets go in and out of your house. What you don't want to see coming in is hot summer air, cold winter breezes and rain. That's why most doggy doors have a heavy flap that will allow the pet to push it aside to enter or exit but that will fall back into place to keep the "outside" outside. If your flap starts to decay or fold, or for some other reason won't stay closed, replace it. You can buy a replacement from the manufacturer in most cases, or you can make your own. Try using a car floor mat or a rubber welcome mat. Cut them to fit, and use screws to attach them to the frame.

Super hints

• If you need new artwork for your home, office or workshop, why not take photos of your tools and hardware? Have them blown up and framed to make really creative artwork on the cheap! Your biggest expense would be the frames.

• Window boxes can be really spectacular. But you want to avoid too much dripping down the side of your house. Use drip trays inside the boxes under the pots to hold water in order to avoid some of the dripping. This also helps keeps some of the water accessible to the plant roots.

• We think keeping an eyedropper full of oil on your workbench is a great idea. You can use it on tools, when drilling and for lots of other small repairs. The small bottle with a dropper makes it easy to use a small amount without making a big mess.

Q. I have a standard garage door opener with a light on it. The light is hard to reach, and when it goes out, there's no light in the garage at all. How can I easily add some without doing any electrical work?

A. You can remove the old light bulb and install a dual outlet, which would allow you to have two light bulbs -- even if one burns out, you'll have a backup. If you have an outlet in the room, you can install a lamp, which can be attached to the wall, set on a shelf or hung on a hook in the ceiling. These are a couple of simple solutions for you to try.

Q. We have light-colored brick on our home. We also have dark-brown shutters. I realize the house is older, but the shutters are starting to fade down onto the light bricks. What can I do?

A. Some exterior paints fade like this as a means of self-cleaning. It's called "chalking," and it really does work. It probably means you need to repaint the shutters. Use trisodium phosphate (TSP) to clean the bricks. That should take care of the problem.

Q. We have a tree that drips some type of dark sap onto our driveway every spring. It's impossible to get the stains up. Please help us find a way to clean up this mess!

A. Have you tried mineral spirits paint thinner? If that doesn't work, I would try using trisodium phosphate. A power washer also can be a great tool, used with the recommended cleaners available for it. Use a water sealer on your driveway once a year to prevent future stains.

Reader tips

• I got out my grill last weekend, and in the process of cleaning it, discovered several rust spots. As I scrubbed it, the rust spots got even worse. I stopped using the abrasive cleaner and scrubber pad, and switched to lemon juice and salt. This removed the rest of the rust without making the spots larger. This weekend I plan to finish up and use primer and paint on the spots. It should look new in no time at all.

• I have a nice set of sockets and a wrench that I keep stored in the original case. The only problem with the case is that it's hard to tell the top from the bottom. When you open it up in the wrong position, all of the tools fall out of place. My wife suggested that I put a sticker on the top. I did that, and also added a layer of thin foam rubber over the top of the sockets. This keeps them in place better and still allows the box to close securely.

• I found a great way to keep ants under control in my landscape. I was told that sprinkling baby powder around the anthill would kill them. It works. They don't like the powder and won't walk through it. It also seems to kill them quickly. I tried it on several mounds, and it really works. Best of all, I don't have to worry about the dogs accidentally getting into it.

• I keep my garden tools in the garage. I think they are more secure there, and they are out of the weather so they won't rust and fall apart. Another thing I do is store them in a bucket of sand with a little motor oil and kerosene mixed into it. This cleans the metal and protects it, too. The tools are always clean and ready to use.

• We put a concrete topper over our old, cracking patio. It was thin, but it covered all of the bad spots to give us a new and improved patio. As it was setting up, I sprinkled some concrete pigment on the top. I used several different colors to get the mottled effect I was looking for. It really looks fantastic!

Shoptalk

• Fences are put around our yards to offer better security and privacy. So whether it's metal or wood, 6 feet or 10, you can add one more layer of protection with a spike strip. Actually, spike strips have been used for centuries, but these are a lot more modern and sleek. They are available in a variety of sizes and styles, to be used with several types of fences, and the simple design makes it barely noticeable. They are priced right and easy to install yourself. The ready-made strips can be cut to fit, and are glued into place. They even can be painted if you like. Go to www.maxguard.net and take a look at the system to see if it might work for you.

• One of the things you need to do before painting is patch up all of the small holes and cracks. Then you need to prime and, finally, paint that is, unless you are using Glidden's new Performance Edge 3 In 1. The special formula hides many minor imperfections on your walls, even small nail holes. It is available in 282 different colors and three sheens. It covers old paint without any difficulty, and can allow you to paint a whole room in just one day. You can find out more about the paint at www.glidden.com and at Home Depot's paint department.

• 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.

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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