Ivan Penn, who writes the Consumers Edge column that appears regularly in the Times, also answers reader questions about consumer issues daily on our website (www.tampabay.com/news/business; look for Consumer's Edge heading).
Dishwasher is more efficient
Which is more environmentally friendly: to hand-wash dishes or use a dishwasher?
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy recommends using the dishwasher, but only after it is full and without the heated dry cycle.
Also, rather than rinsing the dishes before loading them in the dishwasher, simply scrape them, Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer, notes in her consumer newsletter. "A study by scientists at the University of Bonn found that the dishwasher uses only half the energy, one-sixth of the water and less soap than hand-washing an identical set of dirty dishes," Sink states. "Even the most sparing and careful washers could not beat the modern dishwasher."
For more on the efficiency of dishwashers over hand washing, visit: www.myfloridacfo.com/pressoffice/newsletter/2010/092410/September_2410.htm#g.
Assessing windshield damage
How do I know when I should replace my windshield or whether a small crack can simply be repaired?
"Is the size of the damage less than 6 inches, or the size of a dollar bill?" asks Melina Metzger, spokeswoman for Safelite AutoGlass Group. "Then, it's likely it can be repaired instead of completely replaced."
Metzger says if you repair minor damage early, you decrease the likelihood you will have to replace it. She says about 50 percent of chips will crack within a year, 80 percent within two years and 90 percent within three years.
Here's what you should consider:
• Avoid sudden, extreme temperature changes. Turning on your defroster or heat when the weather first turns cold, or turning on your air conditioner when temperatures start to rise, creates significant stress on the windshield, causing small chips and cracks to spread.
• Beware windshield companies that pressure you into repairs. Some small chips and pits do not threaten the windshield's integrity. Have a trusted expert examine the windshield.
Smart coupon use
What tips do you have for getting the best use out of coupons?
Here are some tips for coupon use from online shopping and coupon expert Andrea Woroch at surfmyads.com:
• Stock up to increase savings. Sometimes purchasing larger quantities helps you increase your coupon's value.
• Consider other brands. Going off your usual brand often can save you big bucks.
• Avoid paying for coupons — this is a sign that a website may be untrustworthy.