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The Super Handyman: Use bubble wrap as insulation

Pipe wrap foam is great for insulating exposed pipes during the winter. But if you don’t have what you need on hand and you see a place you missed, try using bubble wrap. You easily can wrap it around most pipes, and it works pretty well. If you order holiday gifts online, you’ll have some of this stuff hanging around. Larger sheets also can be used to add another layer of insulation to your windows.

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Dear HandyMom: We used our circular saw to cut up some branches for the fireplace. It really messed up the blades, and they were coated with the gummy stuff. I brought them into the house and sprayed them with oven cleaner, and let it sit on them for the standard 10 minutes. This got the gunk off them, and they are ready to cut real lumber now. (My husband is getting a chain saw for Christmas this year!) – T.D.

Super hint

Vinegar is the best way to clean mineral deposits from the inside of your toilet tank and bowl. But to clean the water holes under the rim, soak some paper towels in vinegar, press them into the area where these holes are and let it sit overnight to work. That ought to do the trick!

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Dear Kelly: I wanted to make scented pinecones. I’ve seen them in stores, but they are expensive. I did a little research and found out how to do it. I picked up several in the backyard and placed them on a cookie sheet in the oven at 200 F for about 15 minutes. This doesn’t scent them, but it will kill off any bugs or fungus that is on them and help them dry out and open up. After you take them out of the oven, you spray them with some cinnamon essential oil. Then put them in a large sealable plastic bag. That’s all it takes. I made a ton of them and gave them as gifts to my neighbors. – R.S.

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Q: We are considering adding a second water heater, as our twins are getting older and we seem to run out of hot water more than we used to. Do we replace the one we have with a larger one, or add one to another area of the house? – T.H.

A: This is something you really need to talk to a plumber about. Another couple of options might be to add a second water heater, in series, to one you already have or add a tankless water heater. Your choice depends on your existing utilities, your budget and the age of your current water heater.

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A tip from the Super HandyMom: My neighbor was throwing away her birdbath after the top bowl fell off and broke. I got to it before the trash guys did and brought it home. I took a large clay tray meant to go under a large flowerpot and set it on top of the base. It’s in the backyard now, and the birds are loving it!

Shoptalk

You probably already know about most of the “smart” controllers – like the type you use on your burglar alarm, thermostat and other products – but did you know that there’s one for your landscape? The Blossom is a smart control for your automatic sprinkler system. The controller can be plugged into any electrical outlet to extend the range on your household Wi-Fi. It uses real-time weather data to personalize your watering plan. You can control the system with your smartphone which enables you to optimize your water usage and save hundreds of dollars a year on your watering bill. Your plants will look great, too. To find out more, go to myblossom.com

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