Home Improvement

Published on Thu, Mar 6, 2003
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Home Improvement

Retire, recycle, reuse those old appliances

Replacing an old appliance with a more efficient one can be easier on your pocketbook-and the environment.

Once, appliances ended up in landfills. That was true 20 years ago. Today, they're typically recycled, transformed into a new car, cans, or any number of other steel products. This saves enough energy to power about a fifth of all U.S. households each year.

Each used appliance provides an average of 66 pounds of steel, says Greg Crawford, vice president of operations for the Steel Recycling Institute.

Recycling is a four-step process:
1. Collection is the first step. Many retailers and delivery services pick up appliances.
2. Next, processors carefully disassemble the appliances and remove coolants, mercury switches, oils and other hazardous liquids.
3. Now the appliance is ready for shredding. A machine called a hammermill, armed with metal mallets, shreds the appliance into small pieces in mere seconds. The recycler then uses magnets and other things to separate metals and "fluff materials," mostly plastics.
4. Finally, manufacturers reconstruct materials into new products in "minimills" after recyclers sell them the metal.

�A 10-year-old refrigerator uses twice as much energy as a new enery star qualified model,� says Marsha Penhaker, of the U.S. Department of Energy. �That�s why energy star is encouraging the three R�s for aging refrigerators and other inefficient appliances: retiring it, recycling it into new steel, and replacing it with an energy star qualified model. In one fell swoop we�re saving precious resources and reinstalling more efficient products.�

If every U.S. household with a refrigerator over 10 years old replaced it with a new, energy-efficient model, annual energy savings would be enough to light every household in Washington, D.C. for 40 years.

Energy star is a government-backed program helping businesses and individuals protect the environment through superior energy efficiency. To learn more, visit the energy star Web site, www.energystar.gov, or the Steel Recycling Institute's Web site, www.recycle-steel.org.

Building for the birds

By Michelle Ensinger

Bird houses can go up now and be left all year round for nesting and roosting. Whether you are planning to build your own nest boxes or buy them there are a few all around basic requirements.

The inside of the box, especially under the hole entrance, needs to be roughened, gouged or a layer of mesh attached to the inside. Young birds are unable to fly up to the entrance/exit hole, so they climb up to it. The hole size, the hole entrance above the floor, height placement, zone placement is defined as the following:

Zone 1 � Soil
Zone 2 � Seedings, taller grasses and weeds
Zone 3 � Young/short shrubs Edge � Two different environments coming together and highly attractive to wildlife.
Zone 4 � Young trees and mature shrubs
Zone 5 - Forest = Tree grouping.

Houses should be located away from feeding area, and whether the same family or a different species, most birds do not like nesting near each other; i.e. robins are extremely territorial and if you wish to have two robin nests, one could face south and the other one located in one of the other directions other than south. Cliff swallows are tolerant of other swallows nesting nearby.

To deter starlings from using your nesting boxes the hole entrance shape can be made more triangular or oblong � horizontally. You can also cover the entrance hole until late May. A predator guard (which creates a tunnel effect to the entrance hole) discourages any predators from stealing the young. It is a square piece of wood, holed out to the size of the entrance hole and attached to the front of the nest box.

Please check your feeders for sprouting seed, and clean where necessary. Hydrogen peroxide, diluted down, will �bubble-out� seed and make them easier to clean. Rinse thoroughly and dry before refilling.

As we have had a mild winter, many Anna�s hummingbirds remained in the area, so putting up your hummer feeders (four cups water to two cups of melted sugar) will help them until our flowers are in season again.

Chip away at your home project

If you are among the three in four Americans who maintain a home improvement to-do list, experienced home handymen have suggestions to help you chip away at this plan with little stress and much success. The key, they say, is an organized workspace that can be adapted to the task at hand.

The top-ranking tasks on these timetables, according to a national retail survey, are as wide-ranging as reorganizing storage, enhancing the yard, hanging pictures, and painting. That's why the experts call for flexibility in a workspace.

Walk through a job mentally from start to finish before you begin. Then set aside the tools you don�t need and place those you do need within easy reach.

If you're assembling something, or following instructions, clip the directions in front of you at eye-level. A family of self-stick products with Command adhesive from 3M helps make any workspace flexible. The series includes spring clips for holding instructions and hooks for hanging tools and lightweight equipment.

The products adhere firmly to most smooth surfaces and can be removed quickly and easily, without leaving holes, marks or sticky residue. They're cost-effective because you can use them again and again with replacement strips.

To see clearly, place an inexpensive swivel lamp near your project. Safety goes hand in hand with efficiency. Make sure electrical wires are directed away from tools, sharp objects and the immediate work area. 3M self-stick cord clips and a cord bundler allow you to direct them out of harm's way, off the work surface and along the wall.

Hang safety gear, such as safety glasses and dust masks nearby. Keep a whiskbroom and dustpan handy. Stop what you're doing and clean up periodically.

Never continue to work if you are stepping on fallen debris that can trip you up. A neat workspace makes for a safer and more efficient one.

Creating a warm, dreamy room

If you harbor a warm feeling for a cozy fireplace but don't want the hassle and mess of burning wood, a propane-fueled fireplace might be your answer.

Gas fireplaces are rising in popularity as homeowners realize the versatility and convenience they offer. According to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, 70 percent of the hearth products in homes today are gas.

Because gas fireplaces use direct-vent technology, they don't require chimneys. This means you can put them almost anywhere in the home�versatility unheard of with wood�burning fireplaces.

�Homeowners often think installing a propane or gas�fueled fireplace is a time�consuming and costly renovation project,� says Roy Willis, president of the Propane Education & Research Council. �The reality is that it is a relatively inexpensive project that can be accomplished in a matter of hours even if you don�t already have a fireplace.�

Gas fireplaces also are more convenient than traditional woodburning fireplaces. Simply flip a switch and you have a warm cozy fire in seconds. You also have more control over the amount of heat given off with a gas unit.

Many even come with a remote control to adjust the fire from anywhere in the room. Finally, there is no wood to chop or have delivered to your home. And, with no bugs, sap, or dirt dragged in with the wood, gas fireplaces are much cleaner.

Most importantly, gas fireplaces are safe to use. When you�re finished enjoying the fire, you simply switch it off. Gas fireplaces cool down in minutes and many come with automatic shut-off capabilities. Since there's no soot or ash, direct-vent gas fireplaces maintain indoor air quality. All combustion air is drawn from outside the home and 100 percent of the combustion by-products are sent outside. Since no room air is used for combustion, direct-vent gas fireplaces are also efficient (up to 70 percent).

For more information on the benefits of using propane as a home energy source, visit www.usepropane.com. For information on finding fireplaces or hearth products, visit the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association web site at www.hpba.org.