Monthly Archives: May 2014

Maintain your home appliances with these tips

Cleaning and caring for your appliances not only helps them look and smell nice, it allows them to run more efficiently, use less energy and save you money. Follow these maintenance and cleaning  tips to help keep your appliances running smoothly.

Refrigerator

Clean the condenser coils and fan on the rear or bottom of your refrigerator. You can use a vacuum cleaner or a condenser coil cleaning brush.

Check and clean the gasket of your refrigerator using warm soapy water. Make sure the seal is free from cracks and is tight fitting. A loose or cracking gasket allows cold air to escape from your fridge and costs you money. If the gasket seal on your fridge is sagging, replace it with a new refrigerator gasket.

Appliance care tips

Check and clean the gasket of your refrigerator using warm soapy water.

If your freezer door is no longer closing on its own, replace the hinge’s cam riser.
Oven and stove top

Clean your oven by placing a bowl of non-sudsy ammonia on a cookie sheet and leaving it in a cold oven overnight. The fumes from the ammonia will help soften up any baked-on gunk or spills. Be sure to open a window and step back while opening your oven door to avoid the fumes from the ammonia. Use a non-abrasive damp sponge to clean the inside of your oven.

Mix up and spray on a mixture or water and vinegar to clean your oven’s door. A crumpled up newspaper makes for a streak-free shine when drying.

Check the seal of your oven door and replace the gasket if it’s broken, torn or otherwise deformed. A tight seal keeps heat inside your oven and allows food to cook quickly and evenly.

Remove and clean stove-top drip pans with warm soapy water, or replace them if damaged.

Clothes Dryer

Remove and clean the clothes dryer lint filter before or after each load of laundry. Unplug the appliance and detach the exhaust venting from the back of the clothes dryer (usually it is attached by a clamp) and clean out any lint inside the duct work and in the machine. You can use your vacuum attachments to do this, or use a clothes dryer lint brush.

Clogged ducts and vents not only make your dryer work harder to clean your clothes, it can lead to a fire.  Dirty, clogged ducts are the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Washing Machine

Regularly clean your washing machine. High efficiency front-loading washers are especially prone to mold and mildew smells due to being tightly sealed and just their design in general. Using a specialized HE cleaner, like Affresh Washer Cleaner can help eliminate odors.

Check your washer hoses for any cracks or leakage. Even if you do not see any external leaks or cracks, you could have an internal clog. Replace appliance hoses every five years for optimal performance and to avoid problems.

Dishwasher

Clean the dishwasher trap located below the bottom spray arm. Lots of food and debris (and sometimes broken glass, so be careful!) accumulate here. If removable, remove the trap and rinse out in the sink before replacing it.

Remove the utensil basket and wipe down with a cloth to remove any debris that might get stuck to it.

Remove and clean the spray arms to make sure that the holes are not plugged up with debris.

Use a cleaner like Affresh Dishwasher cleaner to remove odors and mineral deposits in your appliance.

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Cut your AC usage and energy bills this summer with these tips

woman-sitting-under-air-conditionerSummer is right around the corner and according to the Farmers’ Almanac, this summer is supposed to be a scorcher with intense heat and oppressive humidity. Along with hot, humid weather come hefty utility bills.  Electricity and energy prices are projected to rise by 4% this year. Here are some tips on how to cut your energy usage, save money and remain cool this summer.

Get the most out of your air conditioning this summer

Make sure you have the properly-sized air conditioner unit for your room. Most people buy large air conditioners thinking that larger and more powerful is better, but they end up with a room that is cold and clammy. Buying the proper air conditioner for your room’s size will not only save your money, but will remove humidity effectively as it cools. To figure out what size A.C. unit is best for your cooling needs, consult the “Properly Sized Room Air Conditioners” page from energystar.gov.

Change or clean the air conditioner filter once a month. Dirty filters use up to 10% more energy.

Utilize any of your air conditioner’s technology such as timers, temperature sensors and programmable thermostats. These features can save you money through better temperature control and by running only when programmed.

Don’t put things like lamps, computers or TVs near your A.C. thermostat.  The air conditioner will run longer due to the heat given off

Ceiling fans are a great way to make sure cool air is circulating around your home.  Make sure the “summer” setting is on: flip the switch down and the fan should rotate counterclockwise

Tips for keeping your home cool

Keep your windows, curtains and blinds closed during the day.  This will keep direct sunlight and outside heat from entering the house.

Landscaping not only can add curb appeal to your home, but it also can help save energy.  Trees provide shading which can help keep your house cooler and therefore, require less energy to cool down when it comes to turning on the A.C.

Use a programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts cooling settings when you are away from home. A programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs according to energystar.gov.

Save up to $100 per year by switching your incandescent light bulbs to CFLs or LEDs.  They use as little as one eighth of the energy as older incandescent light bulbs.

Avoid using big appliances during the day.  Your washer, dryer, oven and dishwasher create heat while in use.  This heat circulates throughout the house and therefore requires you air conditioner to work harder than is has to in order to keep the house cool.  Cut energy costs down by using these appliances only early in the morning or at night, when outside temperatures cool down.

Avoid using the dryer by hanging your clothes up to air dry outside.

Make cold meals during the day that do not require the oven.

Use the crockpot outside! Crockpots are an easy-to-use alternative to the oven.

Use the microwave instead of an electric range or conventional oven.

Hand wash and air dry dishes instead of running a load in the dishwasher as much as possible. Or, if your dishwasher allows, use the energy saver feature or the dry without heat feature to keep the process at a minimal.

Also, don’t wait till the hot weather arrives to break out your air conditioner. You might find out it does not work, or you need a part or accessory for it in order to install or run it. Test out your air conditioner now to make sure it works and it is ready to go before the hot weather arrives.

Visit Every Appliance Part  for any air conditioner replacement parts  and accessories.

Towel tips: cleaning, shopping and donating

Sunday is Towel Day, a tribute to the late author Douglas Adams.  Here are some towel cleaning and shopping tips, along with what to do with old towels (hint: don’t throw them out!) Don’t panic and read on.

Washing and drying towels

First, always read and follow the directions on the care tag. If the tag says, “no chlorine,” don’t use it as it may weaken the fibers of the towel.

Wicker laundry basket with two folded towels

Don’t panic! Grab a towel.

Remove musty odors from your towels by washing them in very hot water with one-to-two cups of vinegar. The water must by very hot in order to kill the bacteria causing the smell. Wash them again using one cup of baking soda. Immediately hang them up to dry or dry them in your clothes dryer.

If your washing machine is the source of musty smells, use a cleaner like Affresh, which is designed for HE washers.

Add the proper amount of detergent to your wash. Too much detergent traps odors and dirt and can fade colors.

Skip liquid fabric softener as it will interfere with the towel’s absorbency. Instead, opt for a single scent-free dryer sheet to soften your towels.

Wash new towels separately to avoid lint from transferring onto other items inside the wash.

Mix in some vinegar with your detergent in order to keep new towels looking bright and colorful.

Shopping for new towels

Are you shopping for new towels? Check the label or tag and look for 100% combed cotton, suggests GoodHousekeeing.com. 100% combed cotton towels naturally attracts water and can hold almost 25 times its weight in the liquid. They are also stronger and prevent pilling.

Don’t be deceived by the feel of the towel in-store, most manufacturers add softeners to the finish of a towel, so they feel softer.

What to do with your old towels

If you have kids, spread an old towel underneath your child’s car seat to catch juice spills and crumbs.

Cut them up and use them for cleaning rags and for washing your car.

Make a beach towel tote bag.

Turn them into a bathroom rug mat.

Donate them! Many animal shelters accept clean towels (along with hand towels and wash clothes) for animal bedding, bathing and general clean up. Contact your local animal shelter to find out what donations they accept.

Homeless and women’s shelters also accept used towels. Find a shelter near you.

Who invented your favorite household appliance?

May is National Inventors Month founded in 1998 by United Inventors Association of the USA (UIA-USA), the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest Magazine. Do you know who invented your favorite household appliance? Read on to find out.

Who invented your favorite household appliance?

Who invented your favorite household appliance?

The Washing Machine

Alva J. Fisher is credited with creating the first commercially-sold electric powered washing machine in 1908. The machine was called “The Thor” and was produced by the Hurley Machine Company of Chicago, Illinois. It featured a galvanized tub, blades which lifted the clothes as the cylinder rotated and the ability for the drum to change rotation direction in order to prevent the laundry from becoming bunched up into a ball. An electric motor turned the drum.

The Refrigerator

Although refrigeration technology was already being used for industry, especially in food and drink-related industries, Fred W. Wolf of Fort Wayne, Indiana, is credited with inventing the first electrical refrigerator for home use in 1913. The appliance was called the “Domelre,” standing for Domestic Electric Refrigerator and sold for $900.

Wolf used an old fashioned ice box with a mounted refrigeration unit on top which required external plumbing connections. His invention also used a closed system of circulating refrigerant driven by a compressor to cool the hot humid, air.

In 1918, General Motors’ President William Durant bought the Guardian Refrigerator Company and renamed it Frigidaire. It purchased the patent for the Domelre and through its own engineering and manufacturing, introduced improvements to the refrigerator and began mass producing it.

The Oven

British inventor, James Sharp patented a gas oven in 1826 and began to commercially produce gas ovens after installing one in his own house.

Gas cookers became more popular after the invention of the oven thermostat in 1923 which allowed the temperature in the oven to be controlled precisely.

William Hadaway was issued the first patent for an electric oven on June 30, 1896.

The Air Conditioner

Willis Haviland Carrier of Buffalo, N.Y. is credited with creating the first modern air conditioning system and such systems were used in factories, department stores, theaters and in the homes of wealthy people. It wasn’t until 1931 when the first individual in-window air conditioning unit was created by H.H. Schultz and J.Q. Sherman. The units were not wide-spread due to their exorbitant costs between $10,000

Fail: softening a t-shirt using salt and water

Pinterest is filled with many how-to tips, but how many work? I came across this simple recipe graphic on how to soften a stiff t-shirt (“How to make your tees feel vintage soft”) and it is very popular, getting a lot of pins. I thought it sounded genius, but then I also came across these two different blog posts about this method. Their results? Not promising.

softeningatshirt

Two bloggers try out several methods for softening a t-shirt using baking soda, vinegar salt and water. The results were not impressive, but one method got the t-shirt very clean.

One blogger, Christy Kirwan, (“How to Soften a New T-Shirt”) tried two different t-shirt softening methods: one involving a baking soda and vinegar mix and a wash through the washing machine, and another involving a boiling salt water soak.

“(I) couldn’t tell any difference in the shirt’s texture or softness,” wrote Kirwan about the baking soda and vinegar mix wash.  “It (the t-shirt) felt just as scratchy against my skin and wasn’t more pliable or flexible.”

She did note how fresh and clean the shirt looked and the mixture did not hurt her washer, so she attempted the other method involving soaking the shirt in a salt water mixture (in a pot on the stove, not in her washer.)

“The fabric in general feels softer, but only slightly,” she wrote.  “The shirt is not noticeably more pliable or flexible, as far as I can tell. It feels about the same.”

She only soaked the shirt for 30-45 minutes and some of the commenters told her to soak her shirt for several days in the salt water mixture.

Natalie Dee followed the method from the graphic on Pinterest (“Private Pinvestigator/T Shirt Experiment”), which recommends soaking the shirt in salt water for several days. She picked four different t-shirts and soaked them in the recommend mixture for three days yet, did not notice a difference in the fabric or feel of any of the t-shirts.

Do you have a recipe or tip for how to soften a stiff t-shirt that works? Share it below or via social media.

Simple, cheap DIY fixes that will increase the value of your home for sale

A new coat of paint and some other simple, inexpensive fixes can spruce up your home for the spring or help you get better offers for your home or rental said licensed real estate agent and property investor Rob Karp.

House for sale

Simple, do-it-yourself fixes that will increase the value of your home for sale or property for rent.

“Just cleaning it up (your home) and throwing a coat of paint on everything; it can really mean the difference between how many offers you are going to get on your home and how much more you can sell your house for, especially depending on the neighborhood,” said Karp.  “This is all stuff you can do within a reasonable budget.”

Karp, who has been selling and investing in real estate around  Buffalo, N.Y., for nine years, gave some tips on how to inexpensively improve a home for sale or an apartment for rent during the “Spring Cleaning Show How” event by Communify  Buffalo.

Kitchens

Most home buyers want a nice kitchen and you can easily re-do a kitchen by adding a new countertop, painting your current kitchen cabinets and adding new modern hardware, such as brushed nickel, to cabinets and doors.

Bathrooms

Easy fixes for updating a bathroom include adding a new vanity (either by yourself or hiring a handyman to do it for you) and refinishing the tub with a refinishing spray kit. You can also add new sink and shower fixtures to update the look of a bathroom.

General Interior of a house

Paint goes a long way in improving the look of your home says Karp. It’s something you can do yourself or with the help of a few friends.

“Wood paneling actually doesn’t look bad if you use a nice flat paint on it,” said Karp. “You might have to prime it first.”

Check to see if there are hardwood floors under your carpet. Chances are the floors have been protected from wear and tear by ugly carpeting which can be ripped up. Wood floors can be easily revived with a little Murphy’s Oil Soap. Refinishing hard wood floors is another possibility although more work. Plenty of how-to videos exist on YouTube.com and they can teach you how to do this yourself.

“It’s something that I know plenty of people that have never touched a tool before have done themselves,” he said.

Change out light fixtures with simple dome lights or inexpensive sconces. Replace outlet covers and switch plates and match them with your lighting fixtures to give a room a nice modern uniform look.

Exterior of a house

Use top soil and seed to liven up your yard or, just throw down some black mulch to improve the look of your yard said Karp. Colored gravel is also another option that will give more of a “presentation” to an area.

Use Habitat for Humanity ReStores for inexpensive materials for remodeling your home or rental

ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, home accessories, appliances and building materials to the public at prices below retail. Proceeds from sales go to support Habitat for Humanity programs, including new home builds locally and around the world. Find a restore in your area at http://www.habitat.org/restores

In Buffalo, Buffalo ReUse Stores sells donated and salvaged building materials and architectural items to the public.  Their stores carry unique, one-of-a-kind architectural pieces such as cabinets, vanities, doors, radiators, sinks and more. The philosophy behind ReUse is “repurpose, reuse and recycle.” View photos of items purchased from the store and re-purposed for new use on their website.

States and utilities offer free air conditioners to those in need

With summer fast approaching, those who are elderly, disabled or have health issues can be severely negatively affected by the heat. Programs run by states, charities and utilities often offer free air conditioners for those who qualify, but it is important to apply early as funds and AC units are often limited.

Window air conditioner

Programs run by states, charities and utilities often offer free air conditioners for those who qualify, but it is important to apply early as funds and AC units are often limited.

New York State will offer free window air conditioners to low-income residents with heat-related health issues beginning May 1 part of the Cooling Assistance Component of the New York Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP).

In June 2013, Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW) partnered with the Neighborhood Christian Center to give free air conditioning units to low-income seniors and disabled residents part of the “Play It Cool” program.

The Houston Department of Health and Human Services and Reliant Energy also distributed 100 portable air conditioners to Houston seniors and the disabled in need of relief from the heat in June 2013.

If you are a senior or know someone that would benefit from a free air conditioner, you can always contact these organizations to inquire if a similar program will be offered this year. Usually to qualify, applicants must meet age, income or health-related guidelines.

For the New York State program, applicants must meet income-guidelines and have a household member whose medical condition is impacted by extreme heat, along with documentation from a health care provider. AC units will be available on a first come, first serve basis May 1 – August 29 or until funds are exhausted, whichever comes first.

When calling for information, be sure to also inquire whether the unit will be installed or if someone needs to pick up the unit from a location. The program in NY offers installation of the unit by a participating Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) vendor, but residents will be responsible for the maintenance, care, removal and storage of the unit after installation.

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