Editor Linda Becker warns that sometimes elbow grease works best.

It's human nature to want to spend as little time as possible on unpleasant tasks while lingering over those we enjoy. It's the very reason I can find two hours each evening to walk my dog with a friend while I can barely spare five minutes to tidy up the kitchen. When I can no longer avoid my housekeeping responsibilities -- after all, even a kitchen that's seldom used collects dust, junk mail and other detritus of daily life -- I look for products to make the unpleasant task take a bit less time. I used to try every new product on the market in the (often vain) hope that this one would make the chore feel a little less like work. In the process, I found some great products that will always have a place in my cleaning arsenal. Others, though, didn't do much more than give me another bottle or package to house in my storage cabinet. Sure, they cleaned as advertised, but not noticeably better than others I'd tried. The marvel I'd hope for -- that simply using the product meant no real effort was required on my part -- never materialized.

Miracle Solutions for a different purpose -- but sought with the same vain hope as my search for the Magic Kitchen Cleaner -- are again the focus of Dick Bennett's Energy Notes column. In “Whiffle Dust, Mouse Milk and Miracle Solutions, Part 2,” Bennett picks up his discussion of products that claim to improve fuel economy and reduce stack emissions the quick and easy way by looking at fuel additives and vapor-injection devices. As Bennett asserts on page 16, a lot can be done to improve combustion system operation through good housekeeping, frequent maintenance and the use of legitimate, accepted energy-saving technologies. The magic devices popping on the market are a lot like my new and improved cleaners -- to use them, you have to do a little housekeeping, and it is that effort alone, and not necessarily the magic of the wonder device, that makes the difference.

Improving combustion system performance is also the focus of a new series we're introducing. In “Combustion System Management: A Methodical Approach,” John B. Clarke of Diamond Engineering Co., Fort Wayne, Ind., notes that most facilities have opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their process heating equipment. Clarke begins his series on page 32 by helping you determine how to best identify, evaluate and execute worthwhile energy-management projects.

Elsewhere in this issue, John Dauer of Siemens Building Technologies, Buffalo Grove, Ill., explains how linkageless burner management systems can help you improve combustion system efficiency, starting on page 29. And, Len Gigantino of Glenro Inc., Paterson, N.J., explains how infrared heat tunnels can help you heat narrow and multiple-strand products uniformly. “In the (Process) Zone” starts on page 24.

Some products really do work better than others, so don't be afraid to try them if you believe they can help improve your process heating system. Give them a fair test though -- set benchmarks, perform the necessary maintenance, then try the new product and test to see whether it works any better. If it doesn't, you'll at least have a clean system, and if it really is improved, so much the better.

Linda Becker
Editor and Associate Publisher