/ Home & Energy

Are you pro at turning the useless into the useful?

Selection of tools on wooden backdrop

As someone who likes to build and tweak things, I love the idea of altering household objects to give them a new lease of life. Do you tweak things or have little cheats in the home to save the pennies and the pounds?

At a young age I was a big fan of Lego, and as an adult I’ve moved on to projects with tempered steel and kilowatts. However, when it comes to ‘home hacks’ it was an engineer friend who trumped my recent projects.

He’d built himself a sous-vide – an appliance used to cook meat to perfection by controlling its temperature in water. How? He attached a temperature control unit to a slow cooker. He loved the end product but decided that, despite his engineering expertise, it wasn’t safe to mix water and electricity in the longer term, so he used it to demonstrate to a sceptical girlfriend that it was worth investing in the proper thing.

Home hacks

He’s not alone in doing this. My home has some old wall-mounted shelves that I recycled into freestanding ones with a bit of doweling rod to avoid costly conversations with the landlord.

Likewise, the recent Conversation on unusual uses for home appliances had feedback from those who like to not just use their appliances in an unusual manner, but built their own from parts. Take Chris, who got creative with coat hangers:

‘I have a pair which support 4 horizontal bamboo poles. They hang below pulleys on cord strategically knotted. In my conservatory the device dries washing when the weather outside is not suitable. Total cost under a fiver for poles, pulleys and cord.’

In the office, our researcher Victoria Pearson saves the water from the condenser dryer collection tray to use as deionised water in her iron.

Dryers seem to be a bit of a theme in Which? HQ, as Adrian Porter uses the lint from his tumble dryer to kindle barbeques (though it’s unclear if it leads to softer tasting sausages).

Picture perfect adaptions

They’re not the only ones modifying or making best use of objects in the house. Sites such as Lifehacker and Makeprojects are dedicated to things people build, while Pinterest has examples of tips for hacking your home with items that cost pennies but can benefit your life.

Of course, the key thing with any of these hacks is safety – it’s not worth saving a few pennies only to set fire to your kitchen. But there are some great, simple, safe ways to save money by reusing other objects around the house.

One of our favourites is using fizzy drink ring pulls to hang pictures. The first question was “how?”, the second “why?”, so perhaps I best let the creator do the talking at Makeprojects.

How about you, have you been a Dr Frankenstein in the house and created something new from an assembly of appliances, or do you have tips for things that cost pennies but can save time and stress?


I’m not too sure about this

I’m a keen DIY-er with a large very well equipped workshop – Most of my furniture is made to measure as ‘gaps’ annoy me. Some years back I was quoted £3000 to fit a kitchen to my design – I actually did it for £79 for materials plus the cost of the oven – fridge -and sink top.around £350.

Deedles says:
3 August 2012

Our DIY expertise extends building custom made shelves in awkward widths. This meant our kitchen cost of about 1000 for the raw materials and lots of following of Tommy Walsh’s book on how to do it properly but it saved us a lot. I did not want to cut the worktop in the kitchen but I did ge the raw material which was only 160. The installation of a worktop in the kitchen cost us 300. If we had got it made to a template by a firm it would have at least been more than 1000.
Years ago I was told never to do plastering as it is a really specialist skill which I do agree with having seen how they just know what mix is the right consistency and how quickly they slap it on..