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posted: 12/14/2012 5:50 AM

These energy-saving tips help get you cooking

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The average kitchen stove and range can use a lot of energy, and you'll certainly see this on your bills after a holiday with heavy cooking schedules. But there are some ways to save energy while using your electric or gas cooking appliances. Here are some super tips.

• When purchasing new appliances, buy Energy Star-rated appliances to save money.

• Read your owner's manual to make sure you are using them correctly, and follow any tips.

• During the winter, cooking can offset some of your heating costs, so cook early in the morning to warm up the house or whenever your family is hanging around in the kitchen area.

• If you are going to bake or use your oven, cook several dishes at once. Even two dishes, cooked together, will halve your energy usage. You also can shut off the oven early and leave the dish inside to finish cooking with the residual heat.

• Keep the door closed while cooking. If you need to take a peek, turn on the light and look through the glass door.

• If you use a self-cleaning oven, plan to clean it as soon as you take out your food. A hot oven will clean much faster.

• For stove tops, use quality flat-bottom pans with lids to cook faster.

• Use small pans on small burners and large pans on large burners.

• Consider using the microwave to heat some items. Boiling water is much faster and more energy-efficient if done in a microwave rather than on the range.

• Crockpots also are a great way to cook meals that take a long time. They use much less power than a stove or oven. Pressure cookers can be used to cook faster, too.

• Outdoor grills also are a nice way to cook with less electricity. On nice days, you can cook a variety of foods on a grill and freeze them to warm up later.

Cook smarter and save energy at the same time!

Turn old book into a bookshelf

Want to create a supersmart bookshelf? It's easy to do. Get a heavy book and add two angle brackets directly to the book. Open the back cover, trace around one side of the angle bracket and cut the area of pages away where the bracket will go. Drill holes for the screws and install the brackets into the book pages. When the cover is closed, flip the book upside down, and the brackets should be facing upward. Install the brackets on the wall where you want your shelf to sit. Now you can stack a couple more books on top of the first to hide the bracket. Use it as is, or add items on top of the books.

Here's a 'reel' great idea

Our neighbor, Rick, had some great ideas, but one he used for his Christmas lights was super bright! He set them out and then wound them back onto a garden-hose reel after the season was over. This made storing them and getting them back out easy. When it came time to set them up again, he would just start from one end of the house and unroll them as he went around the house. It was so much easier than doing each strand, one at a time.

Super hints

• Clean your wood-burning fireplace often to allow for more air to circulate for a hotter fire. This will burn the wood more completely and will give you the most heat for your money.

• If you have a sliding-glass door, you should put decals at eye level to keep people from running into the glass. If you have kids or pets, you might want to add more decals at their eye level -- it might keep them from running into the glass, too. Of course, you won't need to if you let it get dirty. You can choose your method of prevention!

• Candlelight may be romantic, but scraping wax off a table or rug after it has dripped is not. Hold ice to the wax to make it brittle, and then use a plastic putty knife to scrape it off. It works pretty well on most surfaces.

Q. Is it still safe to use older lights for decorating the house at the holidays?

A. If the strings are in good shape, it's OK to use them. The problem with older lights is that they get very hot and use a lot more power than the newer types, especially the LED strands. If you want to make the switch, check with your hardware store, as many will give you a discount on new strands when you trade in your older ones.

Q. When we close up our lake cabin for the season, we turn everything off -- the gas, electricity and water. Is there anything else we can do to prevent damage?

A. You might want to make sure your pipes are drained. Even though the water is off, if there is any water left in the pipes and they freeze, you could have a problem. Even worse, with the water off, you might not know that you have a burst pipe until the water is turned back on in the springtime. You also can keep a little water, mixed with antifreeze, in your toilets to keep the traps sealed. A heavy coating of paste wax in the bowl before adding the water can help prevent stains.

Q. We have considered installing or painting a new floor in our garage, since we like to keep it rather clean. What do you recommend?

A. Make sure that whatever you use is OK for the weight of a car and that it can take the heat from your tires. Epoxy is the best floor paint, and they make a formula just for garage floors. There also are some excellent tiles that are easy to install and will allow you to customize the look. There even is a rolled vinyl flooring made just for garages. Check them all out and get estimates, and then measure these against your budget. You'll love the looks and will really appreciate the lack of maintenance involved with these new surfaces. Good luck!

Reader tips

• The new lamps we bought for our bedroom looked good, but they didn't have enough light for me, only allowing for one 60-watt bulb. I decided to replace the socket with a three-way so I could get more light for reading. I decided to replace the cord, too, so it would more easily reach the plugs behind the bed. I loosened it all up, cut off the plug and then used electrical tape to hold the new cord to the old wiring, and pulled it through the lamp until the new wire was in place. Then I connected the plug and new three-way socket. It took only about 30 minutes to do both lamps. They are perfect now.

• I had to get into the crawl space under our lake house last weekend to add some additional insulation on the plumbing pipes. I grabbed an old pool float and used it as a mat to lie on. It was much easier to slide around on, and kept me dry and off the dirt while I did the work.

• My wife loves to buy "antiques" -- what are really just flea-market finds. I try to make repairs so they work and look better. Sometimes I find a screw that is rusted and won't loosen. I have found that if I put my hot soldering iron on the head of the screw and heat it up, this makes it easier to turn. I'm not sure what this does to the screw, but it works almost every time. I don't have to use WD-40 or anything, and this is good for some items that the grease would stain.

• Warm vinegar works wonders on old, paint-clogged paintbrushes. I clean them as best I can and then let them sit in a bowl of warm vinegar for a few hours. This really seems to loosen the old paint. Then I can use a little more solvent or soapy water to get this residue out. The brushes are almost like new again, in most cases. It's amazing how well this stuff works.

• I love rechargeable tools, and I have several of them in my arsenal. I have set up a nifty charging station in my utility room. I have a good power strip that has room for several chargers on it. I keep it plugged in so that all of my tools are ready to go when I need them. I've even started charging my phone on this charger, so it's the last thing I pick up when I leave the house. It's right next to the garage door!


• Valspar Max has a line of anti-rust paints that is really great for extremely corrosive areas -- twice as effective as standard anti-rust paints, in fact. The new twist-and-lock cap design is an added bonus and makes spray-painting faster and cleaner, too. The line can be used indoors and out, and is perfect for iron fences, automobiles, appliances and outdoor equipment. It will withstand moisture, chemicals and abrasion. Check it out at or at your paint or hardware store.

• If you are looking for more garden-tool storage and your walls are filling up too fast, check out Securehold by Racor. Securehold Tool Storage can be installed easily on most walls, and can hold several tools instead of just the one without taking up additional space. The brackets are made of rugged steel and come in three difference versions -- a single, double and triple tool holder. A steel spring opening holds tools securely, and a deep-V groove keeps them in place, no matter what size and shape the handles are. Check out the line at You can see all of the storage solutions, including items for garages, sports equipment and other products, as well as where to purchase them locally, or just buy them directly from Racor. The website has some great tips for storage, too.

• 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

2012, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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