Weekly home and garden rail, with items on correctly mounting a flat-screen TV, quick kitchen upgrades, tips on picking a carbon monoxide alarm, and more.

Home Improvements: Correctly mount flat-screen TV

Prices have plummeted for flat-screen TVs in the past year, making it a sure bet they'll be a hot gift item this holiday season. If you're thinking about giving the gift of high-definition entertainment, don't forget to give the gift of good advice as well.

Be sure to talk safety with the recipient of a shiny, new flat-screen. Flat-screen TVs, like other types of heavy furniture, can tip over and hurt someone if it is not properly secured.

Fallen furniture claimed the lives of 180 Americans between 2000 and 2006, according to the most recent data available from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Eighty percent of those deaths involved children younger than 10. Thousands more adults and children are injured by falling furniture each year, and the CPSC ranks danger from tipping furniture among its top five hidden home hazards.

The experts at Sanus Systems, makers of furniture and mounts for TVs and other electronic accessories, offer some safety advice:

- Don't be fooled by the sleek, thin build of a flat screen - it's still very heavy. These TVs can pack 100 pounds or more into a compact design, so they need to be well secured with mounts specifically designed to hold them safely.

- Wall mounting a flat screen looks great, keeps your expensive technology out of reach of little hands, and, when done properly with a high-quality device, is much safer than placing the TV atop a piece of furniture.

- Look for a product that incorporates a wall plate that secures into the studs behind the wall, and attaches to the TV with mounting brackets.

- Wall mounting may not always be practical, however. If you must place a TV on furniture, keep in mind both the TV and the furniture piece tend to be top-heavy. You should secure the top edge of the TV to the back of the furniture, and the furniture itself should be secured to the wall, following the manufacturer's guidelines.

-- ARA

Decorating Tip: Quick kitchen upgrades

- Add an island. Mix in a brightly colored piece for a decorate accent, or repurpose an older piece of furniture to complement your current setup. It doesn’t have to perfectly match your countertops or cabinets.

- Update the knobs on your kitchen cabinets. Remove some of the cabinet doors to create open shelving. It’ll give the impression that the room is larger than it really is.

- Add a fresh coat of paint to the walls for an instant change. If the windows face south, east or west, select a darker color, as you receive the most light in these areas and the dark hues will stand out more. Choose a lighter color in rooms where the windows face north. Lighter tints will help make the walls appear both brighter and larger.

-- Hunter Douglas

Home-Selling Tip: Protect your privacy

When potential buyers come into your home to view it, make sure your financial documents, mail and other personal items are in a safe, inaccessible place. You don’t want credit card bills or similar documents to influence a buyer in any way.

-- www.coldwellbanker.com

How To: Pick a carbon monoxide alarm

Carbon monoxide is an invisible gas that builds up in your house and can cause dizziness, nausea and even death.

For maximum protection, the Home Safety Council recommends installing carbon monoxide alarms on every level of the home and near each sleeping area. You have several options:

- Plug-in alarms that use electricity from any standard electrical outlet and have battery back-up.

- Battery powered devices that provide basic protection and require two AA batteries.

- Combo smoke/carbon monoxide alarm, which helps protect you from two dangers in the home.

- Multi-gas alarms, which provide protection from carbon monoxide as well as natural gas, propane and methane.

-- First Alert

Did You Know …

In a test of paper towels, Consumer Reports gave high marks to Bounty Extra Soft, Walgreens Ultra Quilted, and CVS Big Quilts.

Garden Guide: Landscaping provides wind protection

Properly selected and placed landscaping can provide wind protection, or windbreaks, which can reduce heating costs in the winter.

The best windbreaks block wind close to the ground by using trees and shrubs that have low crowns. Dense evergreen trees and shrubs planted to the north and northwest of the home are the most common type of windbreak.

To use a windbreak effectively, you need to know what landscape strategies will work best in your regional climate and your microclimate. Visit www.energysavers.gov/your_home/landscaping for more information.

Backyard Buddies

When the ground is covered with snow and ice, it's hard to resist just tossing seed out the door. But it's healthier for the birds to get their "hand-outs" at a feeding station, off the ground.

Regardless of the season, food that sits on the ground for even a short time is exposed to potential contamination by dampness, mold, bacteria, animal droppings, lawn fertilizers and pesticides.

It's best, for the birds' sake, to use a feeder.

-- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

GateHouse News Service