Hard to Kill House Plants: Find out the easiest to care for indoor house plants to bring live greenery inside your home and keep them thriving all winter long!
Disappearing Window Screens: Storing your window screens is a lot easier with an innovative new product from Pella Windows that offers convenience and a beautiful view.
Hot Water Heating: High energy costs got you down? We’ve got 5 ways to save energy and reduce your hot water heating bills.
Plus, answers to your home improvement questions about:
- Soundproofing: Want to block out the sounds of those noisy upstairs neighbors? We have two suggestions for Gloria on how to soundproof her ceiling to muffle those loud footsteps.
- Patching Concrete: What’s the best way to patch the concrete driveway near a garage? John gets a recommendation on a product that makes it fast, easy, and durable.
- Cleaning Siding: Water runoff from the narrow gutters is staining the aluminum siding of Patricia’s home. Cleaning products may help, but it might really be an erosion of the siding finish that needs painting instead.
- Insulation: Blown-in insulation around the ceiling AC ducts has gotten compressed over time. Robert gets tips on whether to remove the old insulation and start over or add more insulation to supplement what’s there.
- Windows: Old steel-framed windows that are screwed into brick walls are hard to repair. Deanne is better off hiring a professional who can measure and install replacement windows that will fit just right.
- Basement Walls: Brenda wants to know the best wall materials to use when renovating her basement. She should leave space between the concrete block wall and the framing to allow moisture to evaporate and use fiberglass-faced drywall.
- Propane Stove: How can Glen replace a wood-burning stove with a propane heat stove? He gets info on installing a propane burner and converting from natural gas.
- Sinking Concrete: A poured concrete slab for a porch is sinking because the sand wasn’t packed properly. Charles will have to break up the slab and fill the space before pouring new concrete.
- Countertops: Sam’s Formica kitchen countertop expands and contracts, pulling away from the wall. We offer tips on adding a foam backer rod to fill the gap and using caulk so she can install a backsplash.
TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And we are here to help you take on the projects you want to get done around your house. You working inside? You working out? You’ve got a project? You’ve got a repair? You’ve got a redo? Maybe something didn’t go so well? You’ve got an old house? You’ve got a new house? Hey, whatever is on your list, you can slide it right over to ours when you reach out to us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or post your question by clicking the blue microphone button on MoneyPit.com.
Coming up in today’s show, if you love the look of greenery around the outside of your house but you seem to only have a black thumb when it comes to getting that greenery to flourish inside your home, we’re going to share a solution.
LESLIE: And also ahead, cleaning and storing those window screens is an annual home project that’s definitely a hassle. But now, there’s a new window design that eliminates that chore by hiding the screens inside the window itself. So you never have to take them out, you never have to store them. It’s an industry first, you guys, from Pella. We’re going to explain, just ahead.
TOM: And are you watching money go down the drain with high water-heating bills? We’ve got the top five tips for cutting those water-heating costs.
LESLIE: But first, guys, what’s going on at your place? How can we help you get your Money Pit in tip-top shape this holiday season? We’re standing by to lend a hand. No project is too big or too small. We can definitely help you out, so give us a call.
TOM: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s go, DIYers.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Gloria in Massachusetts is on the line and needs some help keeping things quiet.
What can we do for you?
GLORIA: I live in a condominium. There are three floors. I’m in the middle floor. The person over me has put wooden floors in throughout her condominium. I feel like I’m living in a bowling alley. She gets up at 5:00 every morning – she’s a schoolteacher – and leaves at 6:00. There’s no way that I can sleep beyond 5:00.
GLORIA: I called MIT looking for some kind of guidance. They said they don’t know anything about soundproofing.
TOM: Well, that’s a little shocking but OK. But I wouldn’t imagine that MIT usually takes tech-support help calls like that. But we know a little bit about soundproofing, so I can give you a couple of ideas.
TOM: Now, because you’re in a condominium, I guess you probably need to get permission to do this. But there are two ways to soundproof the ceiling, that I can think of. So, one of which is that – well, in both cases, you’re going to have to add another layer of drywall on top of the one that’s there now.
TOM: And there’s two ways to do this. There is a product called Green Glue, which is kind of like a silicone-looking greenish caulk. And you need an extraordinarily large amount of it. But basically, you apply it to the ceiling and the drywall gets put on top of that. And it creates sort of a damper that absorbs some of the sound.
The easier way to do it is there is, actually, sound-resistant drywall. One of them is called QuietRock. And it’s sound-deadening sort of built into the drywall sheet. You’ll find that it’s very heavy but it’s pretty effective. And that would be installed in a traditional way, again, probably screwed right through into the current ceiling. And then – and of course, you have to tape and spackle all the joints. But where most people miss an opportunity for soundproofing is around the fixtures that come through the ceiling or the walls, if that’s the case. So in your case …
GLORIA: I luckily have none.
TOM: You have none. So you have no lights or anything that comes through that ceiling? It’s just a plain, flat ceiling?
GLORIA: No. Uh-uh. Nope.
TOM: Well, then it’s pretty easy, you know. And you could probably have a general contractor do this or a carpenter do this for you. But you’re going to have to re-drywall the ceiling with sound-resistant drywall, like QuietRock. And you’ll find that at Lowe’s.
There’s another one that’s called Quiet Fix and there’s one called SoundBreak. And just keep in mind, though, that you’re not going to completely silence those heels from your upstairs schoolteacher that gets up at 5:00 in the morning. But it will be a lot better if you install this properly. So, I think the easiest thing to do would probably be to pick up at Lowe’s, since it’s so readily available and then have a contractor install it.
GLORIA: OK. I will do that.
TOM: And keep in mind you’re going to have to tape all of the seams, like you normally would, around …
LESLIE: Tape all the seams, paint the ceiling.
TOM: Yeah, paint the ceiling. And between the walls and the ceiling, you may have to either tape that or use molding to cover that seam. So, it’s a bit of a project and you’re going to want to move all your furniture while all this goes on. But I think it’ll make a big difference for you, especially since you’re so sensitive to that sound. Maybe you’ll get some better sleep that way.
GLORIA: Oh, wonderful.
LESLIE: Yeah. But make sure that your board approves everything. Whoever you’ve got to ask, make sure they’re OK with it before you invest this.
GLORIA: I will do that. Thank you so very, very much for your help.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading to Delaware where John has got a question about patching concrete.
How can we help you today?
JOHN: At the end of my driveway, I have a garage. Concrete around it.
JOHN: And where it goes into the garage, whoever did the concrete work before that made the seam right where the door comes down instead of having it out.
TOM: OK. OK, got it.
JOHN: Alright. Now, I have two spots that’s around maybe 3 inches long and maybe 2 to 3 inches wide. I want to try to patch that. I listened to your show one time and you said that there was a certain concrete to use.
TOM: So, John, the product is called Re-Cap – R-e-C-a-p. It is made by the QUIKRETE Company. And it is designed, as you say, to adhere to old concrete. And that’s the key: it’s got to stick. You’ve got to use the right type of patching material and Re-Cap is designed specifically for that. In fact, it adheres so well it becomes stronger than the older – than the old concrete was.
So, you need to pick up a bag of that. It comes in all different sizes. Mix that up, clean out the old concrete. I think the instructions will tell you to wet it down before you apply the Re-Cap. And it dries pretty quickly and it’s real hard. And that will solve your problem once and for all.
LESLIE: Patricia in Louisiana is on the line with a siding question.
How can we help you today?
PATRICIA: I have listened to a program that you guys had done just a little while back and somebody was asking about putting gutters on the side of a manufactured home. Well, I – it was funny because I had actually done that. And it does not work very well because most of the siding on a mobile home is corrugated, so it really doesn’t work really well. And they put these really skinny gutters on.
Well, in the areas that it didn’t exactly go flush to the metal siding, there has been runoff that’s gone down and just in a few places, so it’s not horrible. But I’ve tried to clean it and I’m afraid to push on it too hard because, obviously, the corrugated aluminum bends. And I’ve used a product that you guys also suggested, which is a spray that actually gets rid of mold and mildew and stuff like that on the side of buildings. That works fabulously but it did not clean off the staining from the rain.
And I was wondering what I could use to either cover the staining or – I’m afraid of painting anything for fear it looks like I painted the side of a mobile home.
TOM: Right, right. So, a couple of things. I’m glad that the Spray & Forget that we recommended works so well.
PATRICIA: It was wonderful.
TOM: So, there are house cleaners that are out there that are a little more corrosive. I mean the reason that works so well – the Spray & Forget works so well – is because, basically, it’s kind of like a mildicide: it kills the mold and the mildew and then it just sort of falls off. The house cleaners are more like old-fashioned sort of soap and water and that sort of thing.
One that I used to recommend a lot, that works pretty well, is called JOMAX – J-O-M-A-X. You’ll find it at a home center or hardware store. And that’s a house cleaner that you might be able just to mix up a really small batch of it and see if that will take out that stain.
It also occurs to me that the stain could be an erosion of the finish, so it might not be a stain that’s on top of the siding; it might actually be sort of some of the siding – some of the finish on the siding deteriorating. In that case, obviously, there’s nothing that you can do about it short of painting.
Why are you reluctant, though, just to paint the whole side of the house?
PATRICIA: Because I don’t have that kind of money at hand to do. I’m actually selling my lakefront property and this is a really cool, little mobile home that I put on it. And I just – I’ve spent so much money on these 2 acres recently that it became a money pit but a good one. It’s a nice one but it’s just – everything I have has gone into this place.
And to be quite honest with you, I have tried to use those sponges that have a little bit of rough on the other side: you know, one side sponge, the other side is abrasive. And I’ve tried to use that and the color of the stain does not change at all, whether I use a little bit of baking soda, not super abrasive but abrasive.
LESLIE: It sounds like it’s either a chemical reaction or some of the finish has changed due to sun fading. That’s what it seems like rather than something you can clean.
TOM: Yeah, that’s a really good point.
PATRICIA: It’s not in the sun. I actually have a carport. And so some of it, you can just see where it’s been runoff from the little, teeny, tiny gutters that they put up alongside these mobile homes. Which I’m not kidding you, it’s not even a ½-inch wide.
TOM: So, here’s what I would suggest you do: take a picture and post it to The Money Pit’s Facebook page. It’s Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. Give us a little bit of history and we’ll take a look and get you an answer. Sound good?
PATRICIA: Thank you very much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, if you’d like to choose the best plants for inside your home this winter, the first step is really knowing your house, like which rooms get west, north, south and east sun. Sunny in the morning versus sunny in the afternoon. And then choose those plants according to that sun pattern. That’s really important.
LESLIE: Now, once you’ve figured out the sunlight situation in your home, you really need to think about which type of houseplants are going to work best in your levels of light. Is it bright? Is it low? Whatever it is, you’ve got to choose the plant that’s going to work for that, not the one that you think is the most popular, OK, guys? It’s got to be the right thing.
Now, the number-one plant that’s requested from nurseries is a Ficus but it’s not really a practical plant for your house. They’re difficult to maintain, they grow in full sunlight and they are going to drop a lot of dense foliage. And you’ll just be cleaning up a ton of leaves and really sad that the plant’s not doing well at home.
Now, a good alternative to that – seriously, it’s like set yourself up for success, guys. Don’t get one that’s automatically just not going to work. Now, a good alternative to the Ficus is the Kentia palm. It’s popular in parlors and dens of Victorian homes and each leaf is gradually smaller on that palm frond. So, it’s very rich in green color, it’s elegant-looking. And also a good option is the lady palm. Each leaf is like a lady’s hand with a paper-like texture. My hands don’t have paper-like texture. I don’t know. So let’s …
TOM: You work too hard for that.
LESLIE: I work too hard to have delicate lady hands but I do love that fern. It really is very lovely.
Now, they’re saying – these landscaper folks at the nursery are telling us that orchids are a great option. I love to look at them. I love to have them in my house. I cannot ever get them to reflower. I’m sure there are many of you out there that have a wonderful green thumb and know the way. Please call me and tell me, because I need some help. This is where you guys can lend a hand. But orchids are beautiful and if you do it right, they are going to last a long time and give you lots of flowers.
TOM: Now, one of the things you need to know is when to repot a plant if you want to keep your garden growing inside. And if your plant is not absorbing water, either it’s full of roots and not absorbing properly or it’s so full of roots there’s nowhere for the water to go. And that means it might be time to repot it.
In general, you can go up about 2 inches in pot size and use potting soil. Don’t confuse this with topsoil, which is used outside. Use rocks or a piece of broken clay pot to line a pot with holes. This way, the dirt doesn’t clog those little holes and the plant can actually drain. Then add the soil, go almost to the rim and then add your plant. Fill with dirt to cover and then water it thoroughly. If you stay on top of that, you won’t get to the point where you have just too many roots for the plant, literally, to drink.
LESLIE: Well, hopefully that helps you guys out. If you want some more tips on how you can keep your plants kicking all winter long, you can check out our post, “13 Hard-to-Kill Houseplants,” on MoneyPit.com.
Robert in Arkansas is on the line with a question about insulation.
How can we help you?
ROBERT: Yes. I have a pier-and-beam home and the insulation – I happened to be up in there sealing my ducts in my air – for my air-conditioning in my house? And I happened to be up there looking at the insulation and it was real thin and it had a white backing on it. And it was only about an inch high and I thought, “Wow. I need to put some insulation there.”
So I went to my local Lowe’s store and I rented the machine from them and I bought the blown insulation. And I bought like 20 bags and I just started blowing it in. And that was approximately 10, 12 years ago. I happened to be up there again this year, looking around, and I noticed that it has kind of compressed and turned into little, tiny BBs. And I’ve heard you all talk about insulating the attics of people’s homes but I didn’t know what – how to go about trying to put something else up there, if I need to vacuum all that stuff out of there and try to lay some actual good insulation and what the number would be.
TOM: Well, if the insulation has settled, I mean generally speaking, you want 15 to 20 inches of insulation. If it’s settled so now it’s a lot less than that, you can either remove it and put new insulation in or you could add an additional layer on top of it, depending on how difficult, I guess, it is to work up in that space.
ROBERT: Right. It’s pretty tight in some of the spots.
ROBERT: That was the reason I went with the blown.
TOM: Yeah. No, I hear you. So I think what you probably want to do is just supplement what’s there. It’s not unusual for it to settle over the years, a little bit. But perhaps you need to add a little bit more to that space. That’d probably be the least complicated way of improving that insulation right now, given the fact that you’ve already got blown in there, Robert.
ROBERT: Now, I’ve heard some other insulation questions asked on your show, because I listen to it every Sunday, religiously. And I’ve heard them talking about laying them in between but I’ve also heard them going over the top of the beam.
TOM: So, if you have fiberglass insulation that’s flush with the ceiling joists – let’s say you had 2×8 ceiling joists and you had maybe 8-inch batts laid in between those ceiling joists – to put the next layer of insulation on top of it, we always advise that you do that perpendicular. So you go the other way, the opposite way and across the beams at a 90-degree angle.
In your case, it sounds like it’s all covered already with blown-in insulation. Is that insulation above the ceiling joists right now or has it settled down below it?
ROBERT: No, it’s settled down way below it.
TOM: OK. So if it’s settled down below it, then maybe you could add another – you could add some unfaced fiberglass batts if you think you can get those up in there. And lay those perpendicular to the beams.
ROBERT: OK. That was going to be my next question, if it needed to be unbatted if it – or if I did buy the batting, in certain areas would I want the batting up or would I want that paper down?
TOM: No, you want unfaced. Because the moisture barrier goes towards the living space and that’s already inaccessible now because it’s going to be the ceiling that’s under all that blown-in.
TOM: So, if it – and if it’s – if you think it’s about flush with the top of the ceiling joists right now, then I would just add a second layer perpendicular to that. And you can do that with batts.
ROBERT: OK. That’ll work. I appreciate it. Thank you all so much.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Deanne on the line who needs some help with the windows at her money pit.
What’s going on?
DEANNE: I have old, steel-framed, metal commercial windows in my house. And the outside walls are double brick. There’s no wood in the outside walls, so these are screwed right into the brick. And we took out one and replaced it and we had a very hard time doing that. And I don’t know if we should replace them or just try to repair them.
TOM: Well, if you repair them, they’re – I can’t imagine they’re very energy-efficient. So, repairing them and making them operational could restore some of the function but I don’t think they’ll be energy-efficient. Replacing them is a better option but of course, as you cited, because they’re built into the wall it’s a difficult installation because you’ve got to get the old ones out.
So, is this a project you want to do yourself or you think maybe you want to have a pro help you?
DEANNE: I used to have a builder’s license but I – physically, I can’t do that anymore. So I’d probably hire someone.
TOM: Yeah, I think you might want to think about doing that. Because taking out those old, metal windows that are screwed into the brick is an awful lot of work. And also, if you’re going to put replacement windows in, they’ve got to be measured just right and they’ve got to be installed just right so that they don’t leak. And I don’t think you want that responsibility. You ought to have a pro measure them and install them. I think this way, you’ll be assured they come out just right.
LESLIE: Hey, guys. Would you like to win a whole workshop full of tools to take on your fall fix-up projects and more? Well, you can, when you enter The Money Pit’s Fantastic Fall Fix-Up Sweepstakes, presented by our friends over at Arrow. Now, one grand-prize winner is going to receive $750 worth of Arrow tools, including the Magnesium Hammer Tacker and the Cordless Glue Gun.
TOM: There’s also going to be five runner-up winners who will get the Arrow Holiday Light Helper Prize Pack. That’s got a WireMate Staple Gun and a Wiring Tacker. Basically, you’re going to have everything you need to decorate your house with. Plus, all winners are going to get plenty of staples and glue sticks to get those projects done.
You can enter once a day at MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes and you can also earn bonus entries for additional chances to win. Just go to MoneyPit.com/Sweepstakes.
LESLIE: Brenda in Michigan, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
BRENDA: Yes, hi. We were just wondering – we have a basement that we’d like to remodel. And the only problem is that, right now, it currently has a glued-on carpet. It has paneling in the walls. And we had a termite problem. So we want to know: what would you put for – once we gut everything all out, because the termite problem has been corrected, what kind of walling material could you use that would be anti-termite, anti-mold-resistant and moisture? And it’s against a block basement. What would you recommend?
TOM: So, first of all, what you would do is you would frame the wall out away from the block wall. You don’t want to attach anything directly to the block wall, because you need to have sort of an air space between the wall and the concrete block so that it can breathe. If there’s moisture that gets into the wall, it can evaporate.
In terms of what kinds of materials you use, you’re going to use either steel framing or you’re going to use a pressure-treated sill plate. That’s the bottom piece of wood – the bottom 2×4 – and then typical, traditional 2x4s on top of that.
In terms of the wall covering, there’s a type of drywall called DensArmor, which is fiberglass-faced as opposed to paper-faced. And that’s a good option for a basement because this way, that paper face can’t feed a mold problem.
In terms of the termites, if the home was properly treated, you shouldn’t have to worry about those. It’s not like you need to worry about building a termite-proof basement down there. The termite-proofing is the application of the right pesticides that keep them at bay. Typically, today they use a type of pesticide that’s called an “undetectable pesticide.” It goes in the soil, at the foundation perimeter. As the termites pass through that, as they go to the nest, they pick it up and spread it to the rest of the insects in the nest, kind of like germ warfare. And that wipes out the whole colony.
And those treatments are effective for 10 years-plus. So, if it was done, you shouldn’t have to worry about that. Just concentrate now on the best materials for finishing that basement.
BRENDA: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
LESLIE: Well, window screens play a very key role in keeping the bugs out of your house and letting the fresh air in. But most of us don’t like the look of the screens and we definitely don’t like cleaning them and storing them in the cooler months. Well, now there’s an option in screens that’s going to eliminate all of those hassles.
TOM: Yeah, it’s called a “hidden screen” and it’s the newest innovation from Pella. It’s a hassle-free window screen that basically appears when you want it and then it folds away into the window itself when you don’t. This is going to give you a crystal-clear view and improved curb appeal. Because with most windows, you’re looking out the window and through the screen but when the screen is not there, you have a much better view and that’s going to make the whole place look a lot nicer.
LESLIE: Yeah. Now, this new, hidden screen, which is so cool, is available as an option with the Pella 250 Series windows. And the screen is designed to maximize that natural light, give you lots of fresh air, keep that view beautiful all while keeping those bugs out.
TOM: Yeah. And you know what’s really cool about this new, hidden screen design is that, if you think about it, you no longer need to take your screens out of your windows to clean them and store them, because the screen reels up inside the window. So, the window itself actually stores the screen year-round.
LESLIE: Yeah. It’s really cool because the hidden screen is designed to appear when you open the window and then it folds away when you close the window. And it also gives you the clearest view, allowing 44-percent more natural light into your home than a standard screen.
TOM: Plus, the screen’s made of a super-durable polyester weave that lasts a long time.
You know, this is interesting: it was actually tested to 9,400 cycles, which is equivalent to opening and closing your windows once a day for 25 years.
LESLIE: Wow. And who does that?
TOM: Yeah, right? I was also thinking about the fact that one of the reasons window screens wear out is because they’re exposed to UV. They’re basically on the window from spring through fall. Well, these are only going to be exposed when you need them to be, so there’s really no opportunity for the UV to actually wear out the screen cloth at all. So, really cool idea.
LESLIE: I mean this is a great innovation. You know what, guys? Now is a really good time to replace your windows, because even though the weather’s turning cooler across much of the country, Pella can actually replace those windows in cold-weather conditions.
So, it’s definitely not a problem and you can replace old, single-pane windows with ENERGY STAR-certified windows. And that’s going to help save you hundreds. Plus, window projects deliver a very fantastic return on investment. And that’s going to recoup about 70 percent or more of that replacement cost when it’s time to sell.
TOM: Hidden screens available for purchase through a local Pella showroom. There are over 200 Pella showrooms across the country. You can learn more at Pella.com – P-e-l-l-a.com.
LESLIE: Glenn, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
GLENN: Hi. I was calling to find out – I was looking to purchase, used, a propane heat stove for the house to replace my wood stove. And my question is – I live in town, in a home now that has natural gas. And I’m wondering if a propane stove could work in a natural-gas environment.
TOM: Not unless it has a new burner put into it. Because the burners are different for propane and for natural gas, Glenn. So you can’t just use one in place of the other; you have to have a different burner. Because the orifice, the size of the holes where the gas comes out, is different.
GLENN: Oh, OK. Now, I know – I’ve had experience in taking something that’s natural gas and converting it. I would guess, then, that you would make it smaller.
TOM: Same idea, yeah. And you have to have the right parts to do that.
GLENN: OK. So it sounds like probably more than a project and probably more expensive than I would want to tackle.
TOM: Probably, yeah. You might be – just want to pick up a new stove. By the time you get the parts for it, you’d probably be halfway there. And this way, you’ll be starting clean, OK?
GLENN: Well, thank you for letting me know that and I really appreciate your help. And I enjoy listening to the show.
TOM: Well, thank you so much, Glenn. Good luck with that project. Thanks for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Charles in Tennessee, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you with your porch project?
CHARLES: I bought a house and the front porch is made out of concrete. It’s got block – brick – surroundings and it’s got a poured-concrete slab.
CHARLES: And one side of the slab is just falling in. I’m thinking that when they built it, that they didn’t pack the sand that they put in before the slab on.
TOM: Right. Yep, yep.
CHARLES: And one side of it is now settling and it’s falling in. It’s about 4 inches down.
CHARLES: I’m wondering how to get under that thing.
TOM: Yeah, well, you’re not. You’re not going to be able to get under that thing. And I think you’re exactly right and I’ve seen that happen before. They’ll use maybe concrete block to form the outside edge and then they’ll just throw whatever is around the construction site in that hole to fill it up. And sometimes, you get settlement or you could have a tree stump in there that rots away. And then it rains, you get the water in there and it can’t hold that slab anymore.
You are going to be much better off breaking that slab out of there and properly backfilling that space, tamping it in well and then pouring a new slab. It’s only a piece of concrete. It’s not like you’re lifting the whole house. I don’t think you’re going to be – the expense of doing any kind of pump-jack or something of that nature is just not going to be worth it. I would simply break up the slab and replace it.
LESLIE: Hey, did you know that water heating is the second largest expense in the average home? That is a lot of money. Now, all of that hot water that you use adds up to a few hundred dollars a year. But here are five things that you can do to save energy and to keep those costs down.
First and foremost is the obvious suggestion: use less hot water. But come on, you don’t like taking cold showers. I certainly don’t. I love to …
TOM: Try telling that to teenagers.
LESLIE: And I love to take the hottest showers ever of life, so it’s like I’m not doing that. So, as long as you’re using soap, researchers, guys, actually confirmed that cold water is just as effective at killing germs. So, think about it. Maybe take that cold shower. But seriously, consider washing your clothes and rinsing your clothes and dishes and whatever you wash around the house with cold water instead of hot. Because that’s going to save you some bucks.
TOM: Now, some other things that you can do: think about replacing your showerhead with a low-flow model. They’re inexpensive to buy. They’re easy to install. They use up about 60-percent less water every time you step in the shower.
You can also turn down the thermostat on your water heater. Keeping the temperature at 120 is smart. It’s also a good safety measure to prevent accidental burns. I actually keep mine a bit lower than that, about 110.
And another inexpensive and easy DIY fix is to add insulation around your water heater and pipes to prevent any heat loss.
LESLIE: And guys, if you’re shopping for any new appliances, make sure you look for the ENERGY STAR ratings, especially on your dishwashers, washing machines and water heater to find the most energy-efficient model that you can. It’s really going to do a great job for you and save you some money.
Sam in South Carolina has a question about a counter.
What can we do for you?
SAM: I have a countertop that – I guess it’s Formica on wood. And it comes up at the back, kind of rolls like maybe it’s a cove. Anyway, it rolls. It’s about 3½ inches up the wall. And then it rolls on the edge, too. I’m thinking Formica on wood? It was constructed in maybe ‘80.
My question is – it expands and contracts away from this wall during different cycles of winter/summer and just a little bit. It pulls away from the wall and I wondered – I wanted – always wanted to put, oh, glass or tile as a backsplash up from it. But as it expands and contracts, there’s no way to seal it next to the wall.
TOM: So, first of all, you’re talking about something that’s called a “post-formed countertop,” with that sort of rounded edge that sort of goes up and over. Now, what you can do is you can put in what’s called a “backer rod,” which is like a foam tube that goes right – push it down behind the countertop in that space. That kind of takes up the gap. And then you could use a flowable caulk on top of that, which would stick to the wall and the countertop. And it would expand and contract as the house moved.
But I do like your idea of the backsplash and that sounds like a perfect application for that.
LESLIE: Yeah. And the small, glass tiles really do look great on a backsplash. And they’re really easy to install as a do-it-yourselfer, because there’s not a lot of cutting or snipping or shaping of tile to make it work for the puzzle that becomes the backsplash.
SAM: Fantastic. Now, what did you say to put in there?
TOM: So you want to use – there’s a foam rod called a “backer rod.” It’s like a thin foam tube that you’ll find at home centers. And you kind of want to fill that up. Because if you just caulk the caulk, it’s going to sort of fall down into that big gap. So you want to stuff something in there so the caulk sort of sits on top. And then you push it down just right below the surface and then you caulk over that.
SAM: Great. OK. That sounds like a perfect solution. I really appreciate that and I’m looking forward to having it just much more attractive.
TOM: Alright. Well, we’re so glad we could help you out and thanks, again, for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Ronnie in New York City has reached out to Team Money Pit and he says, “My home is 50 years old. Central air and heating were installed 15 years ago, which included 5 vents in the basement. An energy auditor suggested sealing off those basement vents since it’s not used as a living space. But an HVAC expert says that closing the vents is going to build some pressure and then strain the HVAC system. I want to save money each month but not if it’s going to cost me in the long run. So what is the right move?”
TOM: So, it’s a good question. Now, I suppose that since the heating system is 15 years old, it was designed, basically, to provide heat to the basement and air conditioning to the basement, as well. Will it strain the system? It might because if it’s not heating or cooling the same volume of air that it was designed to, you may find that the system is kind of working harder than it needs to to deliver the same amount of heating or air conditioning.
So, I don’t feel like you’re going to have a lot of savings by closing off those basement vents. If anything, you might want to consider insulating the basement walls or insulating, certainly, the floor between the basement and the rest of the house. But I don’t like the idea of shutting such a huge part of the system off. One or two rooms, OK. But I mean you’re maybe talking about 25 percent or more of what the system is designed to do. So in my view, I think I would leave it as is. I don’t think it’s adding a lot to the expenses of your HVAC system.
LESLIE: Alright, Ronnie. I hope that helps you out with your lucky New York City apartment. Maybe you guys are rent-controlled, maybe you own. Whatever that is, it’s awesome to be a New York City resident.
TOM: Well, before winter’s wrath really sets in, it’s important to make sure your home is good to go. Leslie has some top tips for winterizing your home in today’s Power Tip of the Day, presented by Kohler Residential Standby Generators.
Leslie, what do you got?
LESLIE: Yeah. You know, I think everybody just loves autumn weather so much that no matter when it hits, we never seem to be totally ready for winter. So here’s a quick to-do list to make sure that you’re good to go now for when that cold winter arrives.
First of all, before you have to start digging out for a snowstorm, definitely go in the garage now, shed, wherever, closet, look at all of your snow-removal gear and make sure that it’s ready. You want to wire-brush any rust that may have developed on the shovels. And you go ahead and wipe a thin coat of oil and that’s going to help the fresh snow slide easily off that shovel.
Now, you want to check the oil level, you want to add fresh gas and fire up that snow blower and make sure that it starts. And this way, it starts easily when you need it and you’re not struggling with it at the worst moment.
Now, you also want to make sure that you have your heating system tuned up and replace the filter. Even if your furnace seems to be working fine, a pro service can make sure that it’s running safely and efficiently. So, avoiding the problems by treating them beforehand.
Now, then go and check your windows and your doors for any drafts. Update your weather-stripping, caulk around the exterior trim. That’s all going to keep those drafts away. Clean up your patio furniture and your grill and put it away for the winter season. That’s going to keep everything out there in tip-top shape.
And then think about investing in backup power, because when the temperatures are low outside, it really doesn’t take long for temperatures in your home to drop. So, with reliable whole-home backup power, like a Kohler standby generator, you can be sure that you and your family are never without heat and never without power.
If you want to learn some more and find a dealer near you, just go to PoweredByKohler.com today. That’s PoweredByKohler.com. PoweredByKohler.com. It’s K-o-h-l-e-r.com. Kohler Generators, backup power from a name that you can trust.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Coming up next time on the program, your washer and dryer, I think they just might be the hardest-working appliances in your house. But they can also be a source of major leaks and even fires if they’re not operating safely. We’re going to share tips to keep them humming happily along, on the very next edition of The Money Pit.
I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.
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