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posted: 2/1/2013 2:51 AM

Super handyman: Go green to save green

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Going green outdoors isn't all about the plants, although plants do play a part in being energy-efficient and environmentally conservative. Here are some great ways to become more "green" and save some green, too.

First of all, you need to make the switch to LED lights. They will last about 25 times longer than older, incandescent bulbs. They also use much less electricity and don't heat up as much. You can even switch to solar lights if you want. You probably will have to replace the batteries occasionally but no wiring or electricity will be required. You can further reduce your energy consumption by using lights with timers, motion detectors or light sensors, to cut them off when they are not needed.

Conserving water also is crucial. Fix all water leaks as you find them. Make it a priority. Use rain barrels to collect rain water to use in your landscape. You can make your own even if you are an average DIY'er. Soaker hoses are much less wasteful than automatic sprinklers in most landscapes. You even can replace some of your automatic sprinkler heads with bubblers to save a significant amount of water. You can put timers on these systems, too, so they won't run too long.

Using plants that are native to your area also is a smart way to save water, as most are bred for that purpose. They usually don't have pest problems or require a lot of pruning.

Composting is a smart way to take care of yard debris and can even make use of kitchen scraps. Compost is an organic way to feed your plants and condition the soil, which also reduces water consumption in the landscape.

Growing edibles is a very green thing to do.

So, go green to save water and energy and make your life a little easier, too!

Feel secure using this spot-the-lock trick

You wouldn't walk out of your home and leave the doors unlocked, would you? Of course not. But here's a neat way to be able to see, from a distance, whether some of your doors are locked or not. With some doors that have a lock that is turned or moved into position, you can make a bright-colored mark just behind the lock when it is in the locked position. White is the easiest color to spot from across the room, in case you were wondering. When the lock is in the proper position, you will not see the bright color. When the lock is not in position, the color is highly visible and you quickly will spot the problem before you leave the house. It won't work on all locks, but perhaps it might work on some of yours.

Super hints

• When a wooden joint fails, you should reinforce the joint. Just drill a hole through the center of the joint, making sure to go through both sides or pieces of the joint. Then put some glue into the hole and drive a wooden dowel in and let it dry, trim it and you're finished.

• Before painting trim, indoors or out, it's often a good idea to caulk so your joints will be smooth. I have also found that, when you do paint, going just slightly over the edge, and over the caulk, will give you another layer of protection against a splitting joint later on. This is especially good on exterior areas where moisture can cause damage should it get into a joint.

Q. I have been wondering what the problem is with my front entry light. It's a nice lamp but the bulb has to be replaced about every six months. I'm not sure why. I have even tried the "service" bulbs that are supposed to last longer. What can I do?

A. Some lamps are made in a way that causes heat to build up inside, which can cause a bulb to fail. It's time to switch to an LED or CFL bulb -- these won't heat up as much and will last a lot longer.

Q. I have a concrete patio behind my home that slants back toward the house. This causes a lot of problems when it rains, as water builds up by the back down and eventually comes in if it gets deep enough. What can I do to remedy this?

A. If there is adequate space, you might add a topper over the existing concrete and have it slope away from the door. If you don't have space for this, you might try cutting the concrete out where it buts up against the house and install a small French drain system to carry the water away from the foundation. You didn't say whether it has a roof over it. If it does, then make sure you have guttering to carry the rain away. That should cut down on some of the water coming into the area. Even a swale or French drain in front of the patio could help cut back on some of the water issues.

Reader tips

• One of our New Year's resolutions was to clean out all of the kitchen drawers. My wife did the ones she uses, and I did the junk and tool drawers. I have to admit that mine were a lot worse than the rest. But I made the chore go much faster by just vacuuming them out. I put a scrap of screen wire over the end of the vacuum hose, and started cleaning the drawer out. The screen wire prevents the vacuum from sucking up anything that might be important. I did take a few items out to make room for more junk. That's how I clean out a drawer!

• We have several plant stands with wheels on them. They are really handy for large plants when you need to move them. I also have found that they come in handy when I need to move other heavy objects around. The bases usually are pretty heavy-duty and they have more than four wheels, which makes them a lot more stable. They do come in handy.


• Petroleum jelly is an incredibly useful concoction. It's perfect in the shop and super in the home. We bet you would love a list that we have put together of some of the many uses that we have found for this stuff in and around the house. Some you may have tried, but hopefully, others will be new to you. Heck, you may have some clever uses that we didn't list. If so, let us know and we will add them to our list. We also will have it posted on our website at

• Keeping your air conditioner compressor clean is important to efficiency, and the Kleen-Screen is a neat, wraparound filter that makes this chore a lot easier. The extra layer of protection is easy to install and easy to clean. It blocks grass clippings, weed seeds, pet hair and other debris from clogging your coils. You can find it at several outlets but, if you go to, you can find out more about how it works and where you can purchase it.

• 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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