Last update 02-18-2018 - PAGE INDEX:
Solve problems with petroleum jelly
6 Common Home-Maintenance Goofs
House Noises You Should Never Ignore
8 Easy To Make Homeowner Mistakes
A Whimsical, Practical, & Interesting Hint Sight
Removing Recessed Light Bulbs
Download Digital User / Owner Manuals
Reusing Pill Containers And Water Bottles
New Uses For Old Aluminum Foil
Is It Safe To Use E-15 In My Car?
Cleaning rusty tools
Today's Dishwasher Detergents Are Less Effective
More things to do with Dental Floss
Oil Change Recomendations
Keeping your house cool
CFL Bulbs and the Facts
Spring Hints
Unclogging Toilets and Drains
Family Hack Household Hints site
Home Security - Doors
Stain Removal
Replace or repair a broken appliance?

Solve Problems With Petroleum Jelly as published in BottomLine PERSONAL December 1, 2017

Remove candle wax: Apply petroleum jelly around the edges, let it sit for a minute and then wipe the wax and jelly away with a soft cloth.

Remove stuck stickers: Rub on a little petroleum jelly, and after a few hours, use the edge of a credit card to remove the sticker.

Deter squirrels: To keep squirrels away from your bird feeder, apply petroleum jelly to the pole. The squirrels will be unable to climb up the slippery surface.

Silence hinges: Apply it on hinges of cabinets or doors to eliminate squeaks.

Open a rusty padlock: Rub a thin coating of jelly on the key and ease it into the opening to access a rusty padlock.

Unstick a zipper: Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly to the teeth to loosen the zipper.

Prevent blisters: Put some jelly on your shoes where they are irritating your feet.

Keep lids loose: Cover the insides of the lids or the necks of bottles of glue and nail polish, and the caps will come off easier.

Return to top of page.

6 Common Home-Maintenance Goofs

They Can Cost You a Lot of Money

By Danny Lipford, Today's Homeowner, as published in BottomLinepersonal July 1, 2016

Replacing an air conditioner filter...lubricating a lock... cleaning dust off a refrigerator coil; what could possibly go wrong? More than you would expect! Make a mistake with seemingly simple home maintenance tasks, and you could create a big home repair bill. Here's what home owners need to know before tackling six common and commonly mismanaged maintenance chores...

MISTAKE: Backward furnace and air conditioner filters. Most home owners know that furnaces and air conditioners have filters that should be replaced every few months when they are in use. (Certain filters can be cleaned rather than replaced.) But some home owners do not realize that these filters are designed to work in only one direction, and even home owners who do realize this often get the direction wrong. Install them backward, and not only will they do a poor job filtering airborne particulates; they will inhibit airflow, making the system less energy-efficient and potentially burning out components. Look for the arrow on the side of the replacement filter. This arrow should point in the direction of airflow; which almost always means it should point toward the furnace or air conditioner, nor away from it, because air going through the filter should be flowing into the unit, not out of it. Most home owners also neglect to vacuum out the filter compartment when they replace these air filters. This is an important step that is easy to do with a vacuum or shop vac wand.
Similar: Even home owners who change their furnace and air conditioner filters usually ignore the air filters in their oven range hoods. These should be popped out and cleaned at least a few times a year. Most can simply be washed in the dishwasher. Failing to do so can reduce a range hood exhaust fan's ability to remove smoke and cooking smells from the kitchen by as much as 50%.

MISTAKE: Cleaning central-air drain lines without checking for clogs. You might already know that in order to inhibit mold and mildew growth, once or twice a year it's smart to pour one cup of bleach down an air conditioner system's condensate drain line; the plastic pipe through which condensation produced by the evaporator coil drips off. But if you're like most home owners, you probably don't bother to check this line for clogs. Clogs caused by mold, algae or insect nests could cause water to back up in the line, potentially leading to musty odors in the home and even water damage, particularly if the air conditioner evaporator is located in the attic. Before pouring bleach into the condensate drain line (there typically is an access opening in the drain line near the internal component of the A/C system), ask someone to watch the other end of the line where water from the line drips outside the home or down a basement drain. If you're not certain where to find the end of your condensate drain line, follow the PVC tubing leading away from the A/C unit inside your house. If you pour water in and your helper does not see water flow out, you'll need to clear away clogs before treating the line with bleach. The easiest way to clear clogs is to use duct tape to create a seal between the end of a shop vac hose and the external end of the condensate line (or purchase a shop-vac hose adaptor), then turn on the shop vac to suck out the obstruction. You'll save $150 or more by avoiding a maintenance call. (The bleach method does not apply to systems that pump condensation upward. Check with the pump maker if you suspect a clog.)

MISTAKE: Wrong lock lubricant. Home owners typically spray lubricant into keyholes when door locks start sticking. Unfortunately, they usually use the wrong lubricant; the most common household lubricant in the US is the multipurpose WD-40, which is poorly suited to this job. A multipurpose lube might provide some short term improvement in a lock's function, but soon it will start gumming up the intricate mechanism, leaving the lock worse than ever. Graphite is a far better lubricant for sticking locks. Graphite lubricants are available in home centers and hardware stores, but you don't even need to buy these. Just rub a #2 pencil liberally all over the surfaces of the key that will enter the sticking lock, then insert this key into the lock several times, turning it each time. (Wipe any remaining graphite off the key afterward so that it doesn't make your purse or pocket messy.)
Similar: Home owners tend to use a multipurpose lube on garage door hinges, wheels and chains; if they bother to lubricate their garage doors at all. This is the wrong lube here, too, because it tends to drip all over the garage and cars below. Lithium grease lubricant, available at home centers and hardware stores, is a better choice because it is more likely to cling without dripping.

MISTAKE: Damaging floors when cleaning refrigerator coils. Most home owners know that they're supposed to remove dust and pet hair from their refrigerator condenser coils a few times a year. Doing this helps refrigerators work efficiently, reducing energy bills and ext ending the life of fridge motors. But cleaning these coils has become more difficult. Traditionally, a refrigerator's coils could easily be accessed by removing a kick plate on the front of the fridge. But the coils of refrigerators made in the past decade or two often can be accessed only from behind the fridge; and home owners sometimes damage their kitchen floors when they try to slide the fridge away from the wall to access the coils. To avoid this, slip a thick piece of cardboard or a carpet remnant under the fridge before sliding it.

MISTAKE: Using chemicals to clear clogged sink, tub, toilet and shower drains. Not only are drain cleaning chemicals often ineffective, they sometimes damage pipes and septic systems. The best way to clear drain clogs is almost always with a plunger. Buy a small plunger; this will be easier to fit over sink drains. When plunging a bathroom sink, cover the overflow drain hole with your hand so that the plunger can create suction. Try moving the plunger up and down in a series of small, quick movements; that's a good way to form a seal and dislodge drain debris.
Similar: To avoid garbage disposal clogs, run cold water when you use the disposal, not hot. Hot water tends to soften food debris, increasing the odds that it will stick. Cold water tends to solidify food debris, making it easier for the disposal to chop it up and send it down the drain.

MISTAKE: Cleaning out gutters but neglecting to clear the roof. Removing dead leaves and other debris from gutters is an essential autumn home maintenance chore. Fail to do this, and leaves might clog your gutters and downspouts in the winter, leading to ice dams and, potentially, water damage. But while most home owners do clear leaves from their gutters (or hire someone to do this for them) once tree branches are bare each year, some neglect to also clear leaves and debris off their roofs. This roof debris eventually gets swept into their gutters by rain or wind and ends up causing the clogs they worked so hard to avoid. When you clean your gutters, clear off your roof, too.

Return to top of page.

House Noises You Should Never Ignore

By Danny Lipford as published on April 15, 2016 in BottomLine PERSONAL

Young children are not the only ones frightened by things that go bump in the night. Fully grown home owners often become terrified when they hear bumps, bangs or other noises emanating from their houses. That's because these unfamiliar noises might mean steep home repair bills. Although some house noises do indeed mean that it's time to call in a pro, others point to simple problems that home owners can fix on their own, and certain sounds can be ignored entirely. Here's what home owners need to know about 11 worry inducing types of house sounds...


Heating and air-conditioning can make any number of noises...

Pings and dings from ducts and radiators are perfectly normal and can be safely ignored, they're just metal expanding and contracting due to temperature changes.

High-pitched squeals or a grinding noise from a furnace or an air conditioner could mean that a moving part is not moving the way it should and requires quick action. Immediately shut off the system, then wait a few moments and turn it back on. (If the troubling sound is a whine, replace the unit's filter before turning it back on the restricted air flow caused by a dirty filter could be the cause.) If the sound returns, shut down the system again and leave it off until a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) professional can take a look unless temperatures are so extreme that you have no choice but to use it. The problem could be something simple such as a worn bearing or belt that an HVAC pro can replace for just $100 to $150.* But the longer you allow the unit to make the sound, the greater the odds that the small problem will cause a larger one as parts strain or overheat and then a motor or pump may have to be replaced.

Frequent clicking sounds from a furnace or air conditioner often mean an electrical relay is malfunctioning. This too, requires a call to an HVAC pro, but the repair bill shouldn't be much greater than the basic service call rate, usually less than $100.*


Humming or buzzing sounds from an outlet or switch usually mean that a wire has come loose. (Dimmer switches can hum for other reasons, see below.) If so, the switch or outlet might be warm to the touch as well, although not necessarily. A loose wire is a fire hazard, so call an electrician right away to check out the humming or buzzing. If it is just a loose wire, fixing it should cost no more than the basic service call rate, typically less than $100. *

*All repair prices cited include parts and labor and are based on typical component and service rates. Prices may vary by region.

Humming or buzzing noises from a lighting fixture could point to a loose wire as well, but with lights, there's a good chance that something else is to blame. If the humming light is on a dimmer switch (or the dimmer switch itself is humming), replace the bulb with a different type of bulb or one made by a different company. Some bulbs mention on their packaging that they are designed to work well with dimmers. If that doesn't end the sound, replace the dimmer. If a fluorescent bulb is making the noise, the fixture's "ballast" might need to be replaced (the ballast is the part of the fixture that controls voltage to the bulb).


Scratching or scurrying from within a wall or ceiling. You can probably guess what this means a rodent (or some other small animal) has gotten into your house. Get it out as soon as possible. The longer this uninvited houseguest lingers, the greater the odds that it will chew through wiring die in your walls causing an unpleasant lingering odor or give birth to babies. A pest-control professional should be able to solve the problem for between $100 and $300* (potentially more with major infestations or in expensive areas). Or purchase and set traps, avoid poisons which could be consumed by your pets or result in the pests dying and rotting inside your walls. Do not just evict the pest, also search for and seal the opening that it used to get into your home so that other animals can't get in. Expanding spray sealants are a simple and effective way to fill small gaps. One spot to check: If you have a crawl space under your house, look under tubs and showers, builders often fail to properly seal off the openings beneath drain assemblies.

Dripping. A water leak inside a wall can destroy wallboard and insulation and lead to mold or mildew problems. Fortunately, not every water sound signals a problem sometimes the water is safely inside pipes. First, check your basement or crawl space below the spot where you hear the water sound. If there is a water leak, that water likely would find its way down there. If you see water or water damage, call a plumber immediately (or a roofer if the water dripping sounds occur only when it is raining and/or when there is ice or snow on the roof). If you do not find water beneath the location of the dripping sound but the troubling water sound persists, conduct a water-loss test. Stop all water use in your home for 30 minutes and instruct family members to refrain from flushing the toilet and using the sink, tub, shower, dishwasher and washing machine during this time, and turn off the ice maker, sprinkler system and any other systems in the home that use water on their own.

Note the exact reading on your water meter at the beginning and end of this half hour. If this reading has not changed, it's unlikely that you have a leaky pipe. If it has changed even slightly, shut off the water to your toilets and redo the test. Leaky toilets are the most common source of phantom water use. If this second test still shows water use, consider replacing the toilet's flapper valve or call a plumber.

Alternative: If you have a heating system that uses hot water or steam, the leak could be from there. Monitor the boiler's pressure gauge, if the system is leaking, this is likely to show a loss of pressure over time.

If you have a well: You won't have a water meter to check, so instead, stop all water use and then stand near your water pump for 30 minutes. If you hear clicking sounds from the pump, that could mean you have a water leak.


This is called "water hammer" and is caused by water changing direction or being brought to a sudden halt in pipes. Water hammer almost never causes any problems for the home, but the noise can be annoying. If you want it to stop, install "water heater arrestors" in the waterline near appliances and fixtures that tend to trigger the noise. These cost just $10 to $15 at home centers and provide a cushion of air that absorbs the force of the water, greatly reducing the noise. If you call in a plumber, it should not cost much more than $100* (you can save $85 by doing it yourself).


Water heaters fueled by natural gas or oil make a subtle "poof" noise when the gas ignites at the start of a heating cycle. Other than that, water heaters should operate almost silently. If you hear gurgling or popping noises coming from your water heater, that means it's struggling to operate and might soon fail, most likely because sediment has built up around its coils. You might be able to save the water heater by draining it to flush away this sediment. Check your heater's manual for specific instructions, but typically the procedure involves shutting off the water and electricity to the water heater, attaching a hose to its drain spigot near the base, running the other end of the hose to a drain, then opening the drain valve. After the water heater has drained, close the drain valve and turn on the electricity and water to the tank. Do this every year.


Occasional clicks from a well pump are normal, it just means that the pump is working. Frequent clicks when no water is being used in the house suggest that either an electrical relay in the pump is faulty or that there is a water leak in the house. Use the leak-check procedure described in the water-dripping section above. If that does not turn up a problem, call in a well professional to see if there's a faulty relay switch. Replacing the switch shouldn't cost more than $100.* Don't let this problem linger, until it is fixed, your well pump is under unnecessary strain, which could shorten its life.


If you hear dripping from your fireplace when it rains, it could mean that rain is finding its way down your chimney. You need to put a stop to this or the metal firebox inside your fireplace could rust, creating a fire risk. The source of the problem could be as simple as loose flashing or a dislodged chimney cap. If so, a roofer probably can correct it for less than $100.* You even might be able to solve this yourself, perhaps using caulk to seal gaps between the flashing and the chimney if you are comfortable walking on your roof. If bricks are coming loose, you might need a brick 2 mason, which could cost hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on what's needed.

Return to top of page.

8 Easy To Make Homeowner Mistakes

Overloading Upper Kitchen Cabinets - Upper kitchen cabinets are usually hung on the walls with only a few small screws or nails. If you put a lot of heavy things in them they could come crashing down. Better Idea - If you want to store heavy stuff up there, see if you can add some longer screws that will anchor themselves deep in the wall studs. If the cabinet's rear panel is made from a thin panel you want to reinforce it with a stringer board (1/4" thick by 1" wide board along the stud line or top of the cabinet) or put large fender washers on the head of the screws.

Hanging A Ceiling Fan From A Light Box - When replacing a ceiling light with a ceiling fan be sure the box can support the added weight, vibration, and twisting force. Better Idea - If you are not sure replace it with a box specially made for fans. These usually have arms that reach out and attach to both sides of the ceiling joists. Or hire it done for about $150 or less.

Improper Attachment Of Trellises - Homeowners may unknowingly attach these to only the siding causing it to pull the siding off, or fail to waterproof the bolts/nails causing water damage. Better Idea - Locate a wall stud to anchor to. Then drill thru the siding, calk the hole, and insert the screws. If using plane untreated wood you may want to use metal flashing as a termite barrier. Be sure to check local building codes to see if you need a permit.

Connecting Fences To The House - Same problems as above. Better Idea - Same solution as above, or use a fence post as recommended leaving a gap of about 1" between the house and post.

Overloading Upper Floors - Heavy furniture such as waterbeds, pool tables, aquariums, pianos, and exercise equipment can overload 2nd story floors. Even some that are built to code.Better Idea - Keep these items on the 1st floor or in the basement. If you must have them upstairs, keep them along an outside wall or the center wall. You can check with your local building codes to see how your 2nd floor can handle. If you see the 1st floor ceiling sagging or cracking, you have a problem.

Tinting The Inside Of Multi-pane Windows - Some homeowners in sunny climates like to tint their windows to limit strong sunlight and UV rays from getting thru. This can help reduce A/C bills and limit fading of carpet and upholstery. But tinting the inside pane of glass usually causes damage to the inner seals by increasing the temperatures inside the window. Better Idea - Only tint the outside of multi-pane windows. If you tint the inside pane it may void your warranty, but usually it is OK to tint the outer pane. You might want to check with the manufacturer, they might even do it for a reasonable amount.

Installing A Patio Or Sidewalk That Blocks Water Drainage - Never forget that rain water MUST drain away from your house! If water is left puddling along side your foundation it will eventually seep down your basement walls and may leak inside. Remember - concrete, brick, and cinder blocks are porous. Water very slowly wicks thru them. You may never see standing water, but you will smell the musty odor and feel the humidity.Better Idea - Always, always, always be sure to slope grass, landscaping, concrete, and decks away from your house. If you can't slope it properly, figure out a way to add a drain that takes the water away from your house. This also applies to gutter down spouts! I use drywells 10' away from the house and down 6' connected with PVC pipe to the downspout.

Walking On Roofs - Walking on tile roofs and other brittle roofing materials is a very bad idea. They can easily crack or shift out of place even with gentle walking. Asphalt roofs can stand a minimum of walking, but will lose some of the granules that protect them every time you walk on them.Better Idea - If you have a tile roof and need to get something off it, use a ladder (against the house with padded ends) and pole to retrieve the item. It may be best to hire a licensed and insured roofer to go up and inspect the roof or repair something as most warranties will not cover damage due to you walking on the roof.

Return to top of page.

A Whimsical, Practical, & Interesting Hint Sight:

"Life hacks are little ways to make our lives easier. These low-budget tips and trick can help you organize and de-clutter space; prolong and preserve your products; or teach you something (e.g., tie a full Windsor) that you simply did not know before." - Twisted Sifter

Return to top of page.

Removing Recessed Light Bulbs

Be sure the bulb is cold. Tear off 6 to 8 inches of the handyman's secret weapon (duct tape) and fold back 2 inches of tape on each end. You will have 2 or 3 inches of sticky tape in the center to gently press against the end of the bulb. Use the two ends to twist the bulb out.

Return to top of page.


Thanks to PC World for telling us about They are a shoping web site with a HUGH digital library of owner / user manuals for consumer electronics. Here is a direct link - User Manuals for Consumer Electronics

Return to top of page.

Got a home workshop? Perhaps you do your own auto maintenance. Got a bunch of small parts, screws, and things you need to store AND then find them when you need them? Me too. If you have a baby in the house you can use baby food jars. Being an older adult I have a bunch of pill containers. I soak the labels off, and then remove the glue with a paper towel and rubbing alcohol (buy the 99% strength). You can use Brake Cleaner from the auto store but it might eat the plastic so test it first. It cleans glue much faster and is great for cleaning glue off glass. The light brown and light green bottles let you see inside enough to know what is in it. I have no children living at home and ask for non-adult proof tops and in the bigger bottles.

Are you using store bought plastic or stainless steel water bottles for you're on the go needs? Ever left them behind? Whoops! I was reusing ice tea glass bottles at work and play but switched to Gatorade plastic bottles because they are 20 oz. and have a wider opening to get ice cubes thru. Also they don't break like glass can and if they get lost, so what. I am well into the plus column.

Return to top of page.


Hate To throw away gently used aluminum foil? Try these alternate uses :

  • Scour the barbeque grill or pots and pans;
  • Remove rust from chrome and steel;
  • Sharpen dull shears and scissors buy cutting thru several layers of foil;
  • Reduce static cling by putting a clean crumpled piece in the dryer:
  • Repel birds and deer with hanging strips of foil.

    Return to top of page.

    Here is a helpful Disaster Preparedness site:

    READY.GOV - Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed.

    Return to top of page.

    Email Question - Is It Safe To Use E-15 In My Car?

    Newer cars can tolerate up to about 20% ethanol blend without ill effects; with 10 to 12% being the sweet spot. Ethanol is an oxygenator for gasoline in small quantities making it a great fuel extender. However ethanol has about 1/2 the BTU's per gallon of gasoline. Therefore you burn almost twice as many gallons of pure ethanol per mile as compared to pure gasoline. Right now ethanol is being marketed and subsidized by the government as the 'Holy Grail' for high oil prices. Keep a log book of your gas mileage and cost for at least a month. Then try the E-15 (75% gas / 15% ethanol) blend and see if there is a drop in mileage. Also compare $ / mile. If you come out ahead keep using it. I would recommend you change your fuel filter if you stay with it after 2 or 3 months, and then every year just for luck. Every other year maximum. Most people do not change the fuel filter often enough. Keep in mind that ethanol burns hotter than gasoline and may cause the early death of your catalytic converter.

    Return to top of page.

    Cleaning rusty tools

    Let small tools soak overnight in white vinigar. The next day remove any remaining rust with a scouring pad. Cover larger tools with a clean rag soaked in white vinigar and sealecd in plastic wrap. Rinse tools in warm water and dry immediatly. Now apply a rust preventor or paint. For more tips see Family

    Return to top of page.

    Today's Dishwasher Detergents Are Less Effective

    The new formulas lack Phosphates which are bad for the environment but great for cleaning. USA Today reports that tablets and packets clean better then gels or powders and running the hot water faucet nearest the dishwasher until the water is hot helps the dishwasher start with hotter water for better cleaning.

    To remove the white film from dishes place 2 cups of vinegar in a bowl on the bottom rack with the film covered dishes. Wash without detergent, then with detergent.

    Return to top of page.

    More things to do with Dental Floss

    Regular old unwaxed (and unflavored) Dental Floss is good for a lot more than just flossing.

    *Fixing Eyeglasses - Lost a screw? Tie your glasses back together with floss until you can get them repaired.
    *Button popped off? - Floss is usually stronger than cotton thread.
    *Faucet Dripping? - Try taping or tying floss to the spout so the drip glides down the floss.
    *Cutting hard to cut things - Use floss to cut cheesecake, cheese, bread, hard boiled eggs, etc.
    *Cleaning hard to reach things - Got a hard to get at crevices, corner, or curve? Use a lenth os floss to gently wipe crud away.
    *Tying things up - Floss can be an emergency shoelace, tie up a roast, etc.

    For more helpful hints try Bottom Line Secrets

    Return to top of page.

    Oil Change Recomendations

    I just answered an email question that I thought would be a good one to share. After 28 years of professionaly rebuilding engines for a living I have a pretty good idea of when to change the oil in our cars.

    About oil:
    The 1st number is the actual flow weight or grade of the oil. The 'W' may stand for weight or winter depending on who you ask, but is actually irrelevant. The 2nd number is the 'protects like' weight or grade. So 10 W 30 is a 10 grade multi-weight oil that protects like a straight 30 weight grade oil. 10 W 30 if a fine multi-weight oil for year round use. For winters where it is below freezing for months, or If you have many weeks of below zero weather I would use 5 W 30 oil. It really does flow better on engine start-up on a cold winter day. NEVER EVER use a straight weight oil in a modern car (anything built after 1955). Most cars built between 1985 and about 2005 will be most happy with either 5 W 30 or 10 W 30 oil. Personally I think 5 W 30 is a bit thin for summer use (above 80), but many newer cars built after 2005 are built to run 0 W 20 or 0 W 10 oil year round. Using thicker oil than the manufacture recommends can cause the lifters to pump up and stick and starve bearings due to not a fast enough flow rate (can't get enough oil volume to properly protect). High mileage cars (over 100,000 miles) may need one grade up in weight to maintain oil pressure. For example - if you were using 5 W 30, you may need to use 10 W 30. 10 W 30 and 10 W 40 are the same weight oil - 10 weight!

    The quality of the oil is as important as the weight. Always buy a brand name oil because they have all of the recommended additives in the oil at the proper concentration. Many white box/no name brands do not have the proper additives or may not have the correct amount of additives.

    Synthetic VS Mineral oil:
    Synthetic oil flows better, protects better, and lasts longer than mineral oils. When in doubt stick to the manufactures recommendations for which kind and what weight oil to use. The only exception I have found to this rule is their drain/change intervals are too long for the average driver.

    Oil change Intervals:
    For mineral oil I recommend changing oil and filter every 3,000 miles or 3 months winter/4 months summer. If you drive a lot of highway miles (over 50% of total miles and 30 minute or longer trips) you can stretch it to 4,000 miles. Lots of short trips in the city (less than 15 minute trips) shorten it to 2,000 miles especially in the winter. Why? Because it takes approximately 15 minutes to bring the oil up to temperature. Then it takes approximately 15 minutes to burn off any contaminates in the oil. Even more time is needed on really cold days.

    For Synthetic oil I recommend changing filter every 5,000 miles & add a quart of oil. After 15,000 miles change both oil and filter. If you drive a lot of highway miles (over 50% of total miles and 30 minute or longer trips) you can stretch the change to 20,000 or 25,000 miles. Lots of short trips in the city (less than 15 minute trips) shorten the change to 10,000 miles especially in the winter. I don't have enough personal experience with synthetic oil to be absolutely positive, but these change intervals are based upon friends who use synthetic oil in the engine building profession. It is better to change a little too often than too late.

    Cars with Flat Tappet Camshafts (pre 1995) and Classic Cars:
    YOU MUST use a 'High Zinc (ZDDP)' additive or an oil especially designed for older cars! This additive is NO LONGER USED in current motor oils nor is it needed in roller camshaft equipped engines. I use Cam-Shield additive for my 1974 Duster, or for vehicles which are used only on special occasions Joe Gibbs 'Hot Rod Oil' which also has an extra anti-corrosion additive.

    Return to top of page.

    Keeping your house cool.

    With energy costs going up, here are a few tips for keeping your cool:

    Check your air condition's efficiency occasionally by letting it run for at least 15 min to cool the room. Place a thermometer on the incoming air vent closest to the air conditioner. After 5 min read it and move it to the return vent. Wait 5 min and read it again. If the incoming air temp is 14 to 20 degrees cooler than outgoing air the system is working properly. Less than that or more than 20 degrees cooler your system may need cleaning or other service work. It is a good idea to get your Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) system cleaned and checked at least every other year.

    There are several simple things to help your AC run less:
    Closing the blinds in rooms with the sun shining in. Change your furnace filter every month for a potential saving of 9%. Get an AC tune-up every other year. Clean dirt and debris off the outside unit. Run dishwashers and other heat generating appliances at night. CFL light bulbs are considerably cooler than incandescent bulbs. Turn your thermostat up a few degrees and use ceiling or box fans to compensate. Potential saving of 14%. Apply mastic tape (regular duct tape dries out in a few years) to duct seams to prevent air loss. Close all stairway doors. Otherwise the cold air will flow across the floor and down the stairs to the lowest floor. Using your programmable thermostat to dial back the AC when you are not home can save up to 10%.

    A little more expensive items are:
    Adding insulation and better ventilation to your attic. Adding awnings or solar screens to sun facing windows. Plant trees and shrubs on the sunny side of the house. Replace any AC system that is more than 10 years old due to advancements in energy efficiency. You could reduce your AC bill by as much as 40%. Put a ceiling fan in each room. Ceiling fans blowing down help you feel cooler and on low blowing upward help keep a room at a more constant temperature during the heating season. Mine run 7 or 8 months a year.

    Do without.
    If humidity is not high you can use a whole house fan, or a pedestal fan blowing out a window. A whole house fan blows air from the house out thru the attic drawing cooler air in from the windows. If you don't have a whole house fan you can accomplish the same thing placing a fan in one window blowing out. Then open wide the windows at the other end of the house and just barely open one window in each other rooms. We use a window in the upstairs hall and can cool the upstairs only by closing the stairway door, or the whole house with the door open.

    Return to top of page.

    CFL Bulbs and the Facts

    Proponents claim CFL Bulbs can save you bundles of money, use less electricity, and are better for the environment. At first I bought into it. I started to change over the lights in my house as the incandescent bulbs burned out. But I noticed several disturbing things:
    1. CFLs take up to 1 minute (cheap ones take longer) to get to full brightness. Not too good for a hallway in the middle of the night.
    2. CFLs are not as bright, especially the cheaper ones.
    3. The color was funny. Not a nice warm white like incandescent bulbs.
    4. They are expensive!
    5. My electric bill did NOT go down.

    So I decided to do a little research. First let us agree on some terminology.
    A. Watt - a unit of power. A measurement of the amount of electricity used.
    B. Lumen - a measure of the power of light perceived by the human eye. In other words how much light is produced, or how bright the light is.
    C. Lifetime - how long the bulb will last under ideal laboratory conditions.
    D. Color Rendering Index or CRI - what color the light appears to be. Yellowish (called warm or soft white) to white (called cool or bright white) to bluish (called natural or daylight). An incandescent bulb = 100. 99 to 80 = good, 79 to 60 = average, 59 down = poor.
    E. Estimated Lifetime Savings - How much money the CFL bulb will save you over its entire lifetime. I would take these claims with several grains of salt.

    Now do you know what is the biggest user of electricity in your house? The Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioner system. Followed by your appliances, i.e. Washer, dryer, refrigerator, water heater, dish washer, etc. Then at less than 20% of total electric usage is lighting.

    My answers to the several disturbing things I mentioned above:
    1. While some come up to full light power quicker than others, and the manufacturers are working on the problem; I only use them in rooms and applications where the light is turned on for long periods of time. Such as in our ceiling fan that we use as background light in the living room and outdoor security lighting. Turn it on at dusk and off when we go to bed or in the morning. I do NOT use them in my motion detector lights or hallways that need instant bright light.
    2. Many CFLs designed to replace a certain wattage incandescent bulb create less lumens. Especially the cheap ones. So be sure to compare the lumens produced to the bulb you are replacing. I found out that I was using a 75 watt CFL in place of a 60 watt incandescent bulb to get the same amount of light. There was still quite a bit of savings by wattage. So remember to compare the lumens to get the right amount of light from the CFL bulb.
    Click to see a comparison chart.
    3. The color of the light is determined by the temperature at which it is made. Incandescent light comes in 2 or 3 basic colors. CFL light comes in about 6 different colors. Click to see a comparison chart.
    4. Actually the initial cost is coming down somewhat. However you have to wait quite a while to recover your initial investment. Let's take a G.E. 13 watt CFL. The package says "Saves $38 in energy". The life of the CFL bulb is 8,000 hours vs. 1,000 hours for incandescent. So you save $0.00475 per hour. If you have this bulb on for 4 hours a night times 30 days a month; you save $0.57 per month and the CFL bulb should last about 5.4 years vs. 0.7 years for the incandescent. The CFL bulb cost $3.00 in a 3 pack as opposed to the $0.40 for the incandescent bulb in a 4 pack. It will take you 4.5 months to recover the extra cost of the CFL bulb. After that you start saving money. When used where CFLs are turned on and left on for long periods of time, they last real close to the listed times. But where turned on and off constantly the life is shorter than listed times.
    5. If you were to replace 10 incandescent bulbs with CFLs you should save about $5.70 a month. Almost enough to offset one yearly increase in electric cost. Next year you would have to replace 10 more incandescent bulbs to offset that yearly increase. Oh well, I guess every little bit helps.

    So should you change to CFLs? Sure, why not. You will save a little money in the long run, and use less electricity which is good for the environment. Just learn to choose the right bulb for that application and realize you are not going to save tons of money. Not to mention incandescent bulbs will no longer be sold in a few years Due to a 2007 Bush administration law. Starting in 2012, federal law mandates phasing out all incandescent bulbs starting with 100 watt bulbs. In 2014 manufacturers must stop making 75, 60, and 40 watt bulbs.

    I am just learning about LEDs but do not know enough about them yet to compare them to CFLs or incandescent bulbs.

    Return to top of page.

    Spring Hints

    1. Change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, alarm clocks, thermostats, and anything else that has a backup battery. Even if you have hard-wired electric detectors, they have backup batteries too. You might want to change the batteries in your key fob and garage door openers before they fail.

    2. Clean (vacuum) or replace older smoke alarms. National Fire Protection Association

    3. Clean out your dryer vent pipe and lint trap. The vent pipe can get large amounts of lint trapped in it and may become a fire hazarded. The lint trap/screen's tiny holes can get plugged too. The more air that goes thru the lint trap the better. If the holes get plugged the dryer must work harder to get the cloths dry. Pull the trap out, clean the lint off it, and see if water will quickly run thru it. If the water just dribbles thru it, clean the trap with soapy water and a regular scrub brush.

    4. Check the air in your tires. Hey, you want good gas mileage and tire wear don't you? Develop the habit of checking your detectors and tires once a month.

    Return to top of page.


    Most fire departments recommend replacing any smoke or carbon dioxide detector every 6 to 10 years? The detector eye can become dirty and cause a false alarm or even malfunction and not go off in a fire. When replacing any detector look for one that is self cleaning.

    Return to top of page.

    Unclogging Toilets and Drains

    If you have a new 'low flow' toilet, you need to buy the correct plunger. Instead of the traditional red domed plunger, you need a black one with a fold out flap. This flap enables the plunger to seat properly in the new toilets shape. Don't work that plunger hard. Resist the temptation to push down hard to the bottom of the bowl. Gently work it up and down about a 1/2 to 1 inch several times to establish a good seal. Now pull firmly but gently up and out to remove the clog. Repeat as necessary.

    Drain augers. Like me you probably bought one with a 7/8 inch head. Guess what? Unless you are working with a 1 to 2 inch drain, it is probably too small and can pass right thru a clog without breaking it up. That is exactly what happened to me on my 2 1/2 inch cast iron main drain for my master bathroom. Go to a plumbing supply house or a really good hardware store and get a larger (1 3/8 inch or so) head or second auger for larger pipes.

    Return to top of page.

    MSHDA has a loan program to help homeowners and landlords repair and upgrade their properties.
    MSHDA Brochure

    Return to top of page.

    Problem: Kids put sticker everywhere and they can be difficult to remove.

    Solution: Get out the hair-dryer and apply heat to the sticker. After heating up the sticker it will then easily pull off (without leaving much residue). The remaining residue can be removed by using a touch of lighter fluid on a rag.

    Isopropyl alcohol (99% works best) is a safer way to remove glue residue from most surfaces. It is also a very good cleaning agent for almost anything. - Brian

    Return to top of page.

    Every burglar's favorite method of entering a home is thru a door. Are all of your doors as burglar proof as possible?

    Are your doors equipped with strong pin tumbler locks?
    Do you lock every door every time you leave your house?

    Do you have Dead bolts on all the doors?
    Do you use them every time you leave and at night?

    Do you have chain latches on every door?
    Do you use them when answering the door?

    Are your doors equipped with the type of hinges that can not be forced open from the outside?

    Do you have high quality steel doors with steel door jams?

    Return to top of page.

    Return to top of page.

    Do to the cost of repairing most small appliances and electronic items, a basic rule of thumb is if the replacement cost is under $200.00, buy a new one. Or if it is more than 6 years old, you may want to buy a new one for the newer technology.

    For major appliances got to National Association of Home Builders for a listing of the average household appliance life expectancy. If the age of the appliance is less than 3/4 of its life expectancy AND the repair bill is less than 1/2 of the cost of a new one. Conceder repairing it. Again if it is much over 6 years old you may want to buy a newer more efficient model. You would have to factor in utility cost savings and price VS estimated repair cost and remaining life. If there is a large utility cost savings or large technology advancement, bite the bullet and buy new.

    Washers - New front-loading washers are so energy, water, and detergent efficient that they have rendered top-loaders obsolete. So unless that top-loader is an expensive model and only a few years old, consider replacing it for the more efficient model. Here the utility savings will be huge.

    Return to top of page.

    To report a DEAD LINK

    free hit counters
    free hit counters