Spring Has Sprung with Consumer Reports Home & Yard Spruce-Ups and Safety Tips

April 6, 2010

CR Rates the Top Lawn Gadgets in Their Biggest Mower Tests to Date

YONKERS, N.Y., April 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Spring time signals a fresh start for homeowners to tackle home repairs and rejuvenation projects they may have put off over the winter. Consumer Reports’ latest issue is loaded with advice on how to spruce up the home and yard this spring and work vital home safety checks into the regular spring cleaning routine.

“Let’s face it: Many spring-cleaning and repair projects can be financially daunting. It’s also easy to get sucked in to so-so products with a come-on price,” said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor at Consumer Reports. “In our testing, we look at more than just price, since value also includes which products perform well and help you get the job done faster and more effectively with less hassle.”

The full report, which packs in more than 500 home and yard products, including mowers, tractors, and string trimmers, appears in the May issue of Consumer Reports and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Recommended Home & Yard Spruce-up Products

  • Cordless Drills and Tool Kits. Almost any cordless drill can handle light fix-it jobs like hanging pictures, but consumers will need more power for decking and tougher do-it-yourself projects. Consumer Reports’ top picks include nickel-cadmium-powered drills that perform more like pricier lithium-ion models. Combine a drill, reciprocating saw, and circular saw, and it makes a cordless-tool kit. The Porter-Cable PCL418C-2, $300, drove screws and sawed 2x12s almost as well as a $500 kit.
  • Sewing Machines. When facing spring fabric fix-its like sprucing up window treatments or patching clothing a mechanical model will do, but don’t be intimidated by electronic sewing machine models. Consumer Reports tested models with user friendly software that automated tedious tasks, such as the Brother Innov-is 40, $400.
  • Interior Paints. Low-luster paints, also known as eggshell or satin, are ideal for most rooms. Consumer Reports recommends Behr Premium Plus Ultra Stain Enamel, $33, sold at Home Depot. The paint had impressive one-coating hiding and stain resistance, and did not need a primer. Pass on Sherwin-Williams Duration Home Satin, $47, which was only so-so at hiding and stain resistance.
  • Compact Fluorescent Bulbs. Many homeowners don’t consider changing light bulbs a spring spruce-up, but the money saved by switching to CFLs — about $56 over the life of each bulb –can add up. Try replacing a 60-watt incandescent with a 13-to-15-watt CFL, such as the Eco Smart 423-599EDXO-14 sold at Home Depot, and lighten up your electricity bill.
  • Gas Grills. Kick off the warm weather with a new grill. Stainless-steel or coated cast-iron grates provided better searing in Consumer Reports’ tests and should last longer. Look for a full report on the latest Consumer Reports grill testing in the June issue.

Recommended Home Safety Products

  • Carbon-Monoxide Alarms. During spring safety checks, take the opportunity to install an alarm on every level of the home but not near a cooking appliance, furnace or water heater, which can trigger false alarms. Consumer Reports recommends replacing units every five years.
  • Smoke Alarms. Photoelectric alarms, such as the BRK 7010B, $25, are the best choice outside a kitchen or bathroom because they are less prone to nuisance alarms from burning food or shower steam. Use dual-sensor alarms everywhere else for best protection, such as the Kidde P12000, $30.
  • Lead-Detection Kits. For homeowners looking to do a deep clean sweep of their home, the Homax LeadCheck 5250, $8, was relatively easy to use, gave quick results and can be used on dark colors except red or pink. All kits take some practice to properly expose old layers of paint where lead lurks.
  • Radon Kits. These kits test for the naturally occurring invisible radioactive gas radon, the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. In need of fast results? Only the RTCA 4 Pass Charcoal Canister, $28, was accurate enough for Consumer Reports to recommend. But always confirm results with a long term kit, such as the Accustar Alpha Track, $100, which was more accurate.

Spring Lawn Gadgets: The Top Mowers, Tractors and String Trimmers To Create a Well-Groomed Lawn

Consumer Reports’ test of 91 lawn mower and tractor models is the biggest to date and it unveils top values in every category. For example, consumers could shell out $700 for the top-scoring gas-powered, self-propelled Honda HRX2172HXA mower and get a carpet-smooth cut, or pay roughly half that price for the $420 Toro Recycler 20332 which cuts nearly as well.

Rather ride than walk? For lawn tractors, the John Deere LA115, $1,750 and LA105 — the $1,500 gear-driven version — are among several CR Best Buys for lawns of half an acre or more. Both save hundreds over the priciest models.

Once the grass has been mowed, cutting what the mower or tractor can’t reach is the finishing touch to a well-groomed lawn. Consumer Reports’ ratings of more than 30 string trimmers found that the best are easy on the arms and budget.

Gasoline trimmers are still the best overall and pollute about 70 percent less than a decade ago. The top-scoring Stihl FS 45, $150, is a Recommended model, while the Echo SRM-225, $220, is among those that meet emissions standards for 300 hours of use. A budget-friendly pick: The CR Best Buy Homelite UT21006, $70, the lightest gas model tested.

Corded models cost less, start effortlessly, and produce no exhaust emissions. The Black & Decker GH1000, $70, offers lots of performance for its price and weight. Cordless models are fine for light trimming within their roughly 15-minute run time. The Homelite UT41110, $30, has two cutting strings like more expensive models for faster cutting.

MAY 2010

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SOURCE Consumer Reports

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