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posted: 7/12/2013 5:54 AM

Super handyman: Keep your cool this summer

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Most of us have air conditioning now and we take it for granted, but it can get costly during the summer. If you really want to save some money on your utility bills, you might consider shutting off your air conditioning, at least part of the time, and trying some alternatives, or old-fashioned ways, for cooling your home down. Here are some of our favorite tips:

• You can always open some windows and let the cool air flow through your home. Make sure to open the windows on opposite sides of the house for the best cross-ventilation.

• Fans will help the air move faster and won't cost as much as the A/C to run. You can use box fans, oscillating fans, window fans and/or ceiling fans.

• Window screens can let air in without also letting in bugs, and solar window screens will do that and block the sun at the same time.

• When the windows are closed, solar screens, blinds, shutters and drapes add another layer of insulation to help block out the heat.

• Window film that blocks and reflects the sun from coming into your home can help keep it cooler, and also can protect your furniture and other household belongings from fading.

• Keep lights off when you don't need them, and switch to fluorescents where you can. They don't put off a lot of heat.

• Awnings placed over windows can help block out the sun and heat.

• Shade trees also are very helpful and can keep your whole house cooler in the summertime.

Sometimes, when you see those cooling bills get smaller for all of your efforts, it will be a lot easier to make these compromises. Challenge yourself and your family. So stay cool and have a great summer!

Mirrors handy when changing landscape lights

The new landscape lights that we just installed look really super at night. They put just the right amount of light into those dark areas of the yard. One little issue that we had is that the light bulbs are hard to install because you cannot see where the terminals of the bulb plug into the fixture, unless you have a small hand mirror. We just held a small mirror up above the receptacle and below the shade on the lamp, and it's much easier to see how the bulb fits in. Ta-da!

Transform your closet with new shelving

Wire mesh shelving can transform a plain, ordinary closet into a really deluxe closet space. But when you are ready for an upgrade, you can recycle those mesh shelves into some pretty great storage space in your workshop or garage. The wire mesh is easy to mount on most surfaces and, because it allows for plenty of air flow, is great for moist and dusty areas. Another benefit is that you can hang a lot of things directly on the mesh or with the use on "S" hooks. It's really inexpensive, too, so if you arenrecycling, you can buy it new and still get great shop storage on a budget.

Super hints

• Waxing your car with paste wax is time-consuming, but gives great results. Park it in the sun to heat it up, then pull it into the shade to wax it. The warm finish makes the wax just flow right on and easier to spread. It'll dry faster, too.

• I know that some of you were interested in how my Haint Blue porch ceiling is doing. I am happy to report that the old wives' tale that it keeps wasps from building their nests on this color of blue actually is true. I have not seen one single wasp nest on it since I painted it last year!

• Replace metal paint can lids with plastic lids made for this purpose. These are sold at most paint stores and make it easier to pour, stir and seal paint cans so you can open them back up again later.

Q. My aunt has a nice kitchen and has some storage shelves in a corner cabinet that turn around and pull out so you can get to everything stored on them. I've seen the pullout drawers, but am looking for more items like these. Where can I find something like that to add to my kitchen cabinets?

A. Check places that sell cabinets for these. Some home centers also sell them. If they don't have them in stock, see if they will order one or two for you. You'll love them!

Q. I have a dilemma. I hung pegboard panels up in my garage years ago. They have lasted a good long time, but I am starting to see one of them is a little warped and bows in toward the wall behind it too much. Is there any way to straighten it out, or should I just replace it?

A. If you can get to the sunken-in area from the front side, see if you can wedge a spacer between the panel and the wall and then, without even removing the panel, you should be able to add several spacers and screws where the material is touching the wall. By doing this top and bottom, the warp should go away.

Q. I have a lot of soap scum on my shower walls. I would really like to find an easy way to clean them on a regular basis to keep them from looking so bad. What can you recommend we try?

A. Hot vinegar does a great job on soap scum and mineral deposits left on shower walls. A plastic scrubbie will be the best tool to use with it. It can harm your skin, so consider wearing gloves. It might be hard to clean the first time, but if you do it on a weekly basis, it will be a whole lot easier. A lot of people say that body wash also will prevent a lot of the shower-wall scum from forming, as bar soap has things like wax in it that tend to stick and build up on tile walls.

Reader tips

• I am always amazed when I watch these antique shows to see what they do with odd pieces of old furniture. I do the same thing just for fun. I have an old ironing board that, with added support, is now a cool desk. I also made a table for the patio out of three large clay pots and a wire mesh tabletop. It's fun to do this, especially when you have an old piece that has some sentimental value.

• I know you are supposed to wash the coils on your outside air conditioner/compressor. I tried using the sprayer and the garden hose, but it didn't seem to do much to clean them. I flipped the circuit breaker off just to be extra safe and pulled the top screen off. Then I sprayed it from the inside through the coils to the outside. It really seemed to get a lot more dirt off this way.

• My son is in elementary school now, so we buy a lot of popcorn and other fundraising treats. I love popcorn, and the cans are super for storing things in your garage or shed. The lids usually fit tight and they are fairly waterproof, too. I just spray paint them one solid color and put a label on them. I can store things like concrete mix, potting soil, fertilizer and extension cords in them. It's a good thing, too, because I've got another son starting school next year!

• I painted the front entryway a nice cream color. It goes really well with the dining room and kitchen colors. I have found a couple of drips on the wood floors and I was trying to figure out how to get it off without taking the finish off the floor, too. I tried a variety of things, and found that mineral oil removed the paint better than anything else and didn't harm the floor finish. It's all up now, and the entry looks wonderful.

• I learned the hard way to do this, so I'm hoping you will print my letter to help others. If you have to remove all of the drawers from a dresser or cabinet to clean them or paint, number them or note on them where each was taken from. Many times each drawer will fit a little differently in each space, so some will not fit right if put them in the wrong spot. I painted a dresser without doing this and am still trying to get the right drawers in the right places. It's ridiculous!


• If you are trying to be "green" -- and who isn't these days? -- you might be considering starting a compost pile. This is so easy to do, and once you know the basics, you can have a steady supply of FREE plant food and mulch for your yard year-round. It doesn't cost much and is a great way to get rid of vegetable waste from your home, as well as many other items destined for the garbage can. Learn how to build and manage your own compost pile with our instructions.

• If you're not trying to save energy around your home, you may be paying more than you need to every month on your utility bills. You might consider Energysavr Window Inserts as one way to increase your odds. These can be used on both single- and double-pane windows. The added air space between the insert and the existing window really adds insulation and, since they are made of clear, high-strength film glazing, they are very lightweight and durable. They won't shatter and easily fit into the interior window sill, frame or trim on your existing windows. The compression fit means there's no hardware to install and you can remove them if you need to. Check them out at and see if they might work well for you, and start saving money on your utility bills today.

• If you are looking for a sealer for a variety of exterior concrete and masonry surfaces, Seal-Krete Original is a great choice. It penetrates deeply into the pores, binding sand and cement particles to form a super tough, flexible, breathable film. It will improve paint adhesion, strengthen mortar joints and even brings the color back on older painted surfaces. To find our more, go to and check it out.

• 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

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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