Q: I have a large family, and someone always seems to be opening the refrigerator. I imagine it wastes a lot of electricity. What can I do to cut the cost?
A: A refrigerator, especially a large older one, is one of the primary electricity consumers in your home. It can easily add more than $100 to your annual electric bills. Fortunately, there are many no- and low-cost methods to significantly cut its operating costs.
For about $20, you can install an energy-saving clear refrigerator curtain across the door opening. It takes about five minutes to install and it can greatly improve the efficiency of your refrigerator.
The curtain is made of 2-inch or 4-inch wide flexible clear vinyl strips. When you open the refrigerator door, you can see the foods through the clear curtain without letting warm air quickly fill the refrigerator. It is easy to reach through the curtain to the shelves.
The strips of clear vinyl hang from a special spring-loaded curtain rod. One curtain design has loops in the top of each 2-inch-wide strip. Another design (4-inch-wide strips) uses hook and loop strips, which wrap around the rod. It also has clear plastic loops at the bottom to add decoration and provide weight, so the strips hang straight.
More efficient habits can reduce your electric bills. Every several months, gently clean any dust off the condenser coils behind or beneath your refrigerator. Use a soft brush or the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner.
Set the temperature at 38 to 42 degrees in the refrigerator section and 0 to 5 degrees in the freezer section. Setting the temperature just 5 degrees colder can increase the electricity consumption by more than 10 percent. Check the temperatures with a standard bulb thermometer.
Open the refrigerator as little as possible. Put frequently used items near the door. Put leftover foods in clear plastic containers, so you can quickly see what's in them.
Make sure the door gasket is sealing well. Replacement magnetic-sealing gaskets are available and are easy to install yourself. Keep the refrigerator and freezer compartments reasonably full. Milk cartons filled with water are very effective.
You can write to me for "Utility Bills Update No. 414" listing addresses and telephone numbers of manufacturers of efficient clear vinyl refrigerator door curtains, a sample piece of the vinyl strip, product information and installation instructions, and a list of 20 refrigerator efficiency tips. Include $1.50 and a self-addressed business-size envelope.
Q: While installing some replacement windows with white vinyl frames, I got some stains on the frame. How can I clean it off?
A: Be careful not to damage the airtight weatherstripping with any scrapers or razor blades. Try to use the mildest cleaners first. Hand cleaner with lanolin often works well on vinyl. Naphtha, mineral spirits or turpentine are also effective.
Always try any cleaning procedure in a small corner area first. Never use steel wool or even very fine sandpaper on the vinyl frame.
Write to James Dulley, c/o Baltimore Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.