Homeowner Tips

Be careful when heating liquids in your microwave. A phenomenon called superheating can occur where the liquids temperature exceeds the boiling point (212 degrees), but shows no signs of boiling. If the liquid is moved or stirred, it can ignite violent boiling, potentially burning someone. Items heated in tall containers are especially prone to this. To help prevent it, stir the liquid before placing in the microwave; don't heat for more than two minutes; and allow the liquid to cool in the microwave undisturbed for at least 30 seconds.

One of Lancia's concrete suppliers, Erie Haven, offers some tips on caring for exterior concrete:

During the first year, Erie Haven advises against using any de-icing chemicals. The only safe materials are plain sand, kitty litter or birdseed.

Regardless of the concrete's age, de-icers containing ammonium sulfate or ammonium nitrate should never be used.

Be careful when applying herbicides and pesticides near your home. Some can cause discoloration of the vinyl siding. Warping of your siding can occur when exposed to high heat. Common causes of excessive heat are BBQ grills and open flames, such as burning leaves. Distortion often occurs at temperatures of 160 degrees or above.

Your sliding glass door will require some occasional lubrication to keep it sliding freely. Lubricate the wheels with silicone spray, making sure to avoid getting the slippery spray on the floors. Also check to be sure that drainage holes in the tracks are kept clear. They can be cleared by using a nail or ice pick.

Although vinyl siding doesn't require extensive maintenance, it does need cleaning to stay looking new. The Vinyl Siding Institute recommends using general household cleaners for non-specific cleaning. Do not use solvents, undiluted chlorine bleach or other harsh chemicals.

Vinyl siding can be washed with a soft cloth or a long-handled soft-bristle brush. A power washer can also be used, however, only point the washer straight ahead. Aiming it upward can force water under the siding and cause moisture problems.

The steel, insulated garage door on your Lancia home can be painted to give your home an updated look. Overhead Door®, Lancia's garage door manufacturer, recommends that you lightly sand the exterior before painting. Use a satin latex exterior paint. Overhead Door® advises against using oil-based paint.

The International Door Association recommends inspecting and testing your garage door and garage door opener monthly.

To test the reversing safety feature, completely open the door. Place a 1 1/2" thick piece of wood on the floor in the center of the door opening. Press the button to operate the door. If functioning properly, the door should reverse automatically.

Instead of using regular incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent light bulbs provide a longer-lasting option and use much less electricity. With typical household use, they can last seven years. Although they are more expensive than their traditional counterpart, their energy savings combined with long lifespan can make them a better value. Consider using them in places where it's difficult to change a bulb. For outdoor use, use a compact fluorescent made specifically for that capacity.

The U.S. Department of Energy has found that carefully placed trees can cut up to 25% of a household's energy bill.

For example, deciduous trees on the south and west sides of your home keep it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter by blocking the intense summer afternoon rays and allowing the sun to warm your home in the winter.

You can find more information about how landscaping can improve your home's energy efficiency at the department's web site.

Although it can be tempting to hide extension cords under throw rugs or carpet, it is unsafe. The cord can overheat and cause a fire. Cords should not be run underneath furniture either. Also, don't staple or nail cords to the wall or floor.

Are you getting funny-tasting ice cubes from your ice maker? Your ice cube bin may have absorbed freezer odors over time. It may need to be replaced to fully solve the problem. You will also want to empty and wash the bin every two to three months. If your ice cubes are too small, you may need to replace the water filter. Consult your refrigerator''s owner manual on how to change the filter.

Cover liquids and cover or wrap foods in your refrigerator. Not only will it reduce refrigerator odors but it will also keep the humidity at the proper level. Ideal humidity levels reduce wear and tear on the compressor.

Cover liquids and cover or wrap foods in your refrigerator. Not only will it reduce refrigerator odors but it will also keep the humidity at the proper level. Ideal humidity levels reduce wear and tear on the compressor.

The fresh food compartment of your refrigerator should be kept between 37 and 40 degrees. The freezer compartment should be 5 degrees. A separate freezer should be kept at zero.

To test the temperature of your refrigerator, place an appliance thermometer in a glass of water in the center of the refrigerator. Read it after 24 hours. To test the freezer compartment, place the thermometer between frozen items. Read after 24 hours.

Keep your clothes dryer operating at its best by making sure the dryer and exhaust vents are free of excessive lint and dust. The more blocked the vents are, the harder and longer it takes to dry clothes.

Always clean out the lint before and after each load of laundry. Periodically clean out dust and lint around and behind the dryer. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers also recommends having a professional cleaning of the dryer and ductwork.

Here are two hints to get your dishes as clean as possible:

1. Run the hot water in your sink before you start the dishwasher. This will get the hot water to your dishwasher faster.

2. Leave a small amount of food residue on your dishes. The protein from the food will react with detergent and boost its cleaning power.

Have some cooked-on splatters in your microwave? Try microwaving three or four cups of water for 8 to 10 minutes. The steam the water generates will loosen the particles, and make them easier to clean off. Clean your microwave frequently, because the food particles absorb the microwave energy and make heating/cooking times longer.

Over time, detergent residue can build up in your dishwasher. To remove this, run an empty cycle, but put a 1/2 cup of white vinegar in just after the dishwasher drains the residual water (during the first part of the cycle).

If you purchased a new refrigerator for your home, don't be surprised if you hear unfamiliar noises. Today's more energy-efficient refrigerators make different sounds than their older counterparts, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers. To reduce sounds like the high-pitched whine or a soft hum, make sure the refrigerator is level and the defrost water pan is in place. If your refrigerator compressor coils require routine cleaning, vacuum them at least twice a year -- more often if you have pets.

Towels and other heavy-weight cotton fabrics, such as denim, should be dried separately from lighter-weight fabrics. Consider using the moisture-sensor setting or the cool-down setting, which uses the residual heat to complete drying. By avoiding overdrying your clothes, you will prevent static cling without having to use a fabric softener.