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Dear Jim: It is a hassle fumbling for the laundry room or closet light switch with my arms full. Also my kids are always leaving lights on. Are there any easy-to-install automatic light switches? -- Peg H.

Dear Peg: I used to have the same problem as you when I come in from the garage with greasy hands from working on my car. Now I just walk past a special wall switch and the kitchen lights come on.

There are many new designs of simple-to-install light switch devices available at hardware stores. The electricity savings from not leaving the lights on longer than necessary pays back the cost of the switch. With absentminded kids, the savings are even greater.

There are even new phone-in switches that allow you to turn on your slow cooker, fan, lights, etc. from work. These are a real money saver if your schedule varies. You just plug it into the wall outlet and any telephone jack and then plug your appliances, lights, etc. into it.

The simplest switch device to operate closet lights automatically is a motion-sensor socket. Screw the sensor into the light socket and then screw in the bulb. Open the door and the light comes on -- look Mom, no hands!

There are various light control options for the needs of each room of your house. Any of the motion-sensing wall switch designs will meet your laundry room needs. Just remove the old wall switch and install the new one.

For kid's rooms, install a model with an adjustable off-delay. The best ones can stay on for 12 seconds to 30 minutes after no motion is detected.

Although all of these switches have electric eyes so that the lights do not come on in the daytime, choose one with an adjustable daylight sensor. This allows you to set the level of darkness when motion begins to turn the lights on.

The better models have built-in touch dimmers. Just push on the switch to dim the light. Others have touch dimmers that brighten the light in 20 percent steps each time you tap it. This is a great electricity saver because you do not always need bright light in your utility room, hall, etc.

If you spend a lot of time in a room in the evening, watching TV, reading, etc., install a light control that gradually brightens the lights as night falls. It senses and maintains a preset brightness level in your room.

To cut your electric bills when you are away without sacrificing security, install a new electronic timer/light switch. The best ones allow you to set different light schedules (six on/off times) for each day of the week. These also have built-in random lighting schedules for a true at-home look.

Write for Update Bulletin No. 479 -- buyer's guide of 12 automatic light switch, timer and appliance control manufacturers, design types, sensitivities, wattages ratings and convenience features. Please include $3 and a business-size self-addressed envelope to James Dulley, The Buffalo News, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45244. Or instant download

A stubborn door

Dear Jim: Our sliding glass door is difficult to open. I found a small metal cylinder in the track. Did this cause the problem and how can I fix it?
-- Sarah K.

Dear Sarah: I would guess that the small metal piece was a roller from the gliding assembly. It is important to fix it so that your door will be aligned properly for an airtight, efficient fit.

If you are handy with tools, you can remove the sliding door section to get access to the gliders. Most home centers have door replacement parts. To have it professionally repaired can cost up to $200.

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