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Do It Yourself: Mix of shapes, longer life give LEDs an edge

Sun., Feb. 10, 2013, midnight

Q. I’m gradually using up my stock of old incandescent light bulbs and am going to have to choose from the new, energy-efficient offerings. I don’t care much for the corkscrew-shaped CFLs. What do you suggest?

A. As you probably know if you have visited home centers recently, three types of energy-efficient bulbs (properly called lamps) are on the market: CFLs (compact fluorescent lights), halogens, and LEDs (light emitting diodes). Each has some advantages and disadvantages.

CFLs are still the most popular, mainly because of their low cost and excellent energy performance, although some users say they don’t like the spiral shape, the quality of their light, that they won’t work with most dimmers, and that they contain a tiny bit of toxic mercury.

Incidentally, not all CFLs have the spiral shape anymore – some look just like the old incandescents; General Electric’s Energy Smart A-21 is an example.

Some experts say LEDs are having a surge in popularity despite their cost, which is considerably more than CFLs or halogens. LEDs have an exceptionally long life, so the cost is reasonable if pro-rated. LEDs are made in a wide variety of shapes; they have good energy performance but like CFLs can’t be used with some dimmers and can contain some toxic materials.

Halogens are inexpensive, give excellent quality of light, contain no toxic materials and work with most dimmers. But halogens have relatively low energy efficiency, relatively short life and, like incandescents, give off a lot of heat. But until something a lot better comes along, my own choice for ordinary household use will continue to be CFLs, which have significantly reduced the cost of electricity at this address.

Q. There are a couple of ventilating skylights in my bedroom. They are very nice in fair weather and are supposed to be energy efficient, but in cold weather I am getting drafts and losing heat through them. Is there some way I can temporarily insulate them?

A. Buy a roll of fiberglass wall insulation at a home center. Get the kind with a plastic cover on both sides. The insulation will be about 18 inches wide and if your skylight well is wider than that, you will need to insulate it by using several pieces of insulation long enough to span the width. If your skylights are narrow enough, you can use a single piece of insulation to span it lengthwise.

You will also need some friction-type curtain rods – the type with rubber tips that can be adjusted to various lengths. The rods, which are needed to hold the insulation in place, should expand to slightly more than the width of the skylight well.

Measure the skylight’s length and width and cut enough insulation from the roll to fill it. Cut the pieces several inches oversize so that friction will help hold them in place. Stuff the insulation into the skylight well. Put as many curtain rods as necessary under the insulation to make sure it doesn’t fall out; three or four rods will do for most skylights.

Some people dress things up by attaching fabric to a couple of curtain rods to form a decorative cover under the insulation.

This is a simple and very effective way to insulate the skylights. You can pull the insulation out at any time, of course, and it is easy to replace. Keep in mind that the plastic on the insulation is flammable, so use common-sense precautions when it is installed and when storing it.

Q. My solid-surface kitchen counter developed a crack when a utensil that was too hot was set on it. I’d like to fix the crack myself, but people I’ve consulted say the repair should be done by a professional. Trouble is, I can’t find a pro to do it. What next?

A. You were getting good advice. Solid-surface counters, which blend resins and natural material, should be repaired by pros. Any do-it-yourself material you use in the crack will probably only make it more difficult to make a permanent repair.

If you can’t find a pro who handles your brand, look for dealers of more popular brands, such as Corian, Avonite, Swanstone, Wilsonart and so forth. Meanwhile, you can probably hide the crack with a cutting board, which can also absorb some of the rougher treatment given some countertops.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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