January 06, 2011

Freezer Buying Guide


Did you know that the average life span of a freezer is 20 years? That's a major commitment! So when you buy a new freezer, you want to be sure you find the one that meets all of your needs and criteria. Here are a few things you should keep in mind before you buy a new freezer.

Emphasize Efficiency
Here at the Home Know-It-All, we find ourselves recommending ENERGY STAR qualified appliances often, for a variety of applications. This one is no different! An ENERGY STAR qualified freezer can save you up to 40 percent of the energy used by a freezer from only 10 years ago, and uses 10 percent less energy than a new, non-ENERGY STAR qualified model.

Choose the Chest
Upright freezers, though they take up less floor space, are somewhat less efficient than chest freezers. Here's why: heat rises and cold falls. Chest freezers, when opened, don't leave the cold anywhere to fall to, but opening an upright freezer allows more cold air to escape, reducing efficiency.

Select Your Size
Be realistic when choosing the size of your freezer—saving an extra five percent on your purchase price by buying the next bigger model isn't necessarily a better deal. Bigger units use more energy, and space left empty inside a freezer is a major energy drain. Typically, a family of four shouldn't need larger than a 10-cubic-foot model. 

Decide About Defrosting
A freezer with manual defrost can provide big energy savings compared to one with automatic defrosting. But with manual defrost, you have to remember to do it, and defrosting does require a little time and effort. ENERGY STAR suggests not letting more than a quarter of an inch of frost build up inside your freezer before defrosting. Visit Green Energy Efficient Homes for more freezer purchasing and energy saving advice.

Until next time, 
The Home Know-It-All



January 04, 2011

Caring for Cloth Grocery Bags


Reusable cloth grocery bags are a great way to help drastically reduce the number of plastic "disposable" grocery bags that end up in landfills. Those plastic bags, which are made from nonrenewable petrochemicals, can take more than 1,000 years to decompose! Though cloth grocery bags are more environmentally friendly, their longer life spans mean they can become moldy or messy with frequent reuse. Here are some tips on storing and cleaning your cloth bags, including how to remember to use them each time you go to the store. 

Cloth grocery bags are reasonably inexpensive and don't take up much room, so my wife and I both keep several in our cars—then there's no way we can leave home without them. Storing these bags near your grocery list can be helpful too. After a while, you'll instinctively reach for the bags when you grab the list. To find a broad selection of reusable cloth grocery bags in styles and patterns you'll be proud to carry with you, visit reusit.com. Keeping plenty of these good looking and eco-friendly alternatives around will make it easy to remember to use them. 

Some grocery items can be messy, especially meat, produce, and frozen food. Watch out for any leaks or drips on your reusable bags that could cause mold or contaminate other foods. Even if your bags look clean, washing them every few uses is a good idea. After all, they carry the food that will end up on your plate! Many reusable cloth bags can be thrown in the washing machine alongside your clothes. Bags with plastic inserts in the bottom for rigidity should be hand washed. Because cloth bags can be made from a variety of materials, including hemp, bamboo, and burlap, check the bags for any washing instructions. When in doubt, hand wash bags in hot, soapy water and let them air dry. 

Until next time,
The Home Know-It-All 

January 01, 2011

Happy New Year!


December 30, 2010

Electric Space Heater Buying Guide


A space heater eats plenty of energy, but it doesn't use nearly as much as your furnace. Place one in a drafty room to supplement heat, rather than crank up your furnace, and you'll save energy and money. Here's what to look for when buying one. 

Thermostat and Adjustable Power Levels 
Choosing a space heater with a thermostat and adjustable power levels allows you to set the temperature and power as low as possible to comfortably heat your room and avoid energy waste. 

Oscillating Blower Fan
A space heater with an oscillating blower fan warms a space quickly and efficiently. A unit with a higher heat output but no oscillating fan leaves a room feeling colder than one with a lower output and a fan. 

Overheat Protection and Tip-Over Switch
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 25,000 residential fires are started every year as a result of space heaters, leading to more than 300 deaths and 6,000 emergency room visits for burns. Fortunately, many new heaters come with great safety features. One is overheat protection, which automatically turns off the unit when the heat rises to high. Another is a tip-over switch, which shuts off the unit if it falls over. Some units even have infrared sensors that cut off power if anything gets too close to the heater—a handy feature for those with kids or pets. 

Testing Company Approved
Always look for space heaters that have been tested and labeled by a nationally recognized and reputable testing company such as the Underwriter's Laboratories Inc. (UL). Many companies manufacture cheap imitations of popular brands, but these devices are untested and possibly dangerous. 

Until next time, 
The Home Know-It-All

December 28, 2010

Building a Winter Fire

103990823 Snow storms, freezing temperatures, and brisk winds can often leave you couped up indoors all winter long. This holiday season move the party outside and stay warm by enjoying a fire. If you have a fire pit, encourage guests to gather around for hotdogs and s'mores. No fire pit? Start a bonfire.

Here's what you'll need:
1. A fire starter: newspaper, birch bark, dead pine needles, or cotton balls dipped in Vaseline
2. Tinder: twigs with a small diameter
3. Kindling: sticks as thick as your thumb
4. Fuel wood: logs too large to be broken by hand.

Your fire starter, tinder, and kindling should be dry, or you’ll struggle getting the fire burning. However, some of your fuel wood can be damp. Start out with the driest wood, and once the fire is roaring, place the stack of wet wood near the flame (not so close it catches fire!) to dry. 

How to construct: 
Unlike starting a fire in the summer, you have to build a solid base in the winter. Try compacting snow, laying down a layer of thick logs, or digging down to frozen ground before building your winter fire. Otherwise, the flame will melt through the snow it’s sitting on and suffocate. Build your fire using a traditional “tepee” method. Angle the larger fuel wood to form a pyramid, and place the kindling on the ground to serve as a floor. Your fire starter and tinder can be placed on the kindling. This design protects the flame, giving you a better chance of igniting a blaze. 

What to avoid: 
Don't build your fire under snow-laden trees. The heat can cause snow to shift and melt—and a big pile of falling snow can extinguish your fire and give friends a cold surprise. As with any fire, avoid burning polystyrene (also called styrofoam) cups, plates, plastic, or other waste—the resulting smoke is considered 300 times more likely to cause cancer than cigarette smoke, and it damages the atmosphere.

Until next time, 
The Home Know-It-All


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