Homeowner's first-aid kit

Reset the electrical power

When the power goes out in part of your house, it means a circuit breaker has tripped or a fuse has blown, shutting off power to an electrical circuit. Usually the cause is an overload, meaning too many electrical devices are trying to draw power from one circuit.

Most homes have electrical panels with circuit breakers, switches that flip when there's a problem with the circuit. Resetting it isn't rocket science, but there's a little trick to it: You have to turn the switch all the way off first before you can turn it back on.

It's a good idea to turn off or unplug all the lights, appliances and other devices on the circuit before you reset the circuit breaker. When the power is back on, leave some things shut off, or plug them into a receptacle on a different circuit.

Sometimes a circuit shuts off because a ground fault interrupter has tripped on a receptacle. You can fix that by pushing the reset button on the receptacle. (GFI receptacles are usually found near water, such as in bathrooms and kitchens.)

If your house has older-style fuses, you fix a blown circuit by unscrewing the bad fuse in the electrical panel and screwing in a new one. However, it's important to use a fuse with the right wire gauge to handle the circuit's amperage.

You can foolproof that process preventively by screwing a Fustat fuse adapter into each fuse socket on your electrical panel. It will change the socket size, so you can't screw in a fuse that's the wrong size.

If the breaker continues to trip or the fuse keeps blowing even though you've reduced the electrical load, you have a bigger problem and a potential safety hazard. Call an electrician.

Restart a garbage disposer

When disposal blades jam, a little force is required to dislodge them.

Most units have a hole on the underside of the disposal that an Allen wrench fits into. Check underneath the unit to see if the wrench is attached. If not, you can buy a set of Allen wrenches fairly cheaply.

Unplug the disposal, or turn off the power at the electrical panel. Then insert the wrench into the hole and work it back and forth until the blades are freed.

Remove the offending debris from the disposal. (You did turn the power off, right?) Press the reset button, which is usually on the bottom of the unit near the point where the electrical cord enters the disposal, and then turn the power back on.

Open garage door when power goes out

This one's easy. There should be a cord - probably red - hanging overhead from part of your garage door opener. When you pull the cord, it disengages the opener. You can then open the garage door by hand.

If the door is open when the opener fails, however, don't try pulling the cord. If could cause the door to come crashing down.

Put out a grease fire

The best way to deal with a grease fire is to use an ABC extinguisher, a multipurpose extinguisher that can be used on fires caused by grease, electricity or ordinary combustibles such as paper, plastic and wood. It's a good idea to buy one and keep it in an easily accessible place in your kitchen.

If you don't have one, smother the flames with a lid that covers the pan completely. That will cut off the oxygen that feeds the fire.

Turn off the burner if you can do so safely, and don't touch the pan until it has cooled.