- High-efficiency washers are on the rise, and Energy Star-certified dryerscan cut energy by an impressive 25% — BUT are these more efficient (and more expensive) washers and dryers a smart buy?
- We could all use a little more sunshine this time of year…spotless windows can help! We’ve got tips on how to clean your windows like a pro, and you won’t even need any paper towels.
- Has Valentine’s Day got you feeling extra romantic? Wondering what the best quality SHEETS are to cuddle up in? We’ve got pros and cons of every material from Egyptian cotton to bamboo, in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
- Winter is the most common time of year for house fires. We hear from leading experts on the best way to know if your smoke detectors are really working, and will cover all types of fires, from slow burning smolders to fast flash fires.
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: Give us a call with your home improvement project questions. That’s what we do: we answer them, help you get the project done on time, on track and on budget. If you got hung up with a part of that project and you don’t know which way to turn or maybe you’re just not ready to begin, because you’ve got open questions about what you want to get done, those are all great questions to ask us.
You can get in touch with us several ways. You can call us, 24/7, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Leave your question and we will call you back the next time we’re in the studio. Or you can post that question to MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Coming up this hour, are you thinking about organizing your laundry room and maybe even upgrading what you’re using in there? Well, high-efficiency washers are on the rise and ENERGY STAR-certified dryers can cut energy usage by an impressive 25 percent. That is a lot. But are these more efficient and more expensive washers and dryers a smart buy?
TOM: And we could all use a little more sunshine this time of year. Spotless windows can help. So we’ve got some tips on how to clean your windows like a pro and you won’t even need any paper towels.
LESLIE: Yeah. Those are in high demand these days, so let’s use them wisely, everybody.
TOM: That’s right.
LESLIE: Alright. Valentine’s Day is around the corner and are you feeling maybe a little extra romantic? Maybe you’re wondering what the best sheets are to cuddle up in. Well, we’ve got pros and cons of every material, from Egyptian cotton to bamboo, in today’s Smart Spending Tip.
TOM: But first, we want to hear your how-to questions, so here’s how to reach us: call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to MoneyPit.com.
Let’s get to it.
LESLIE: Karen in Nebraska is having some issues with her automated lighting. What can we do for you?
KAREN: Well, I have a porch light on the side of the house and one in the front of the house. I got these timers. The one in the back works perfectly fine. At dusk, it’ll come on and then when the daylight comes, it’ll turn off. And the one on the front will not. So I took the timer back on the front and I thought, “Well, maybe it was a faulty timer.” But it still doesn’t work and I had a man look at it and he can’t figure out why it’s not working. It would be helpful if that one would work, too, because now you don’t have to turn it off and on.
TOM: But the switch works. So you know that without the timer, it comes off and on. It’s just when you add the timer into this?
TOM: What kind of timer is this? Is this the kind of timer that takes the place of the switch or what?
KAREN: Well, you just screw the light bulb into this timer and then you screw the whole unit into the – you know, in the light-bulb area.
TOM: Oh, I see. This probably isn’t it but are you using a high energy-efficiency bulb in one or the other?
KAREN: Well, I thought about using those but at this point, I’m using 40-watt bulbs.
TOM: OK. Just regular incandescents?
TOM: And you’ve tried two of these and they’re still not working?
TOM: But without it, the light comes on and off normally?
TOM: Wow. It sounds like something’s wrong with the timer. I wonder if, because of the configuration of the way the timer screws into the fixture itself, that maybe it’s not making contact.
Like, for example, sometimes when you have a timer that screws into the socket where the bulb goes and then you screw the bulb into the timer, maybe it doesn’t get close enough to actually make a contact because the fixture’s a little bit different. That’s the only thing that really comes to mind on this, Karen. Because it wouldn’t make sense that it’s not working.
Have you done this? Have you taken one that doesn’t work in the front and screwed it in in the back and see if it works in the back? Because that will …
KAREN: I did, I did. And then I took the one from the back and put it into the front and it didn’t work either, so …
TOM: And put it in the front. So then I think it’s pretty clear that for whatever reason, the timer is not getting power from the light fixture. So …
KAREN: How would I be able to fix that?
TOM: Well, you’ve got to try to look at it closely and figure out why that’s happening.
LESLIE: Now, this may sound crazy but I actually had a light fixture inside my home – a lamp that I’ve had for a gajillion years – that suddenly stopped working. And I thought, “Oh, I have to replace the socket. What’s going on with this?”
And I brought it to an electrician friend of mine who looked inside the socket and there was a little tab that the bulb makes contact with. And I guess over the – I think we’ve had it 10 years – of putting in light bulbs, we may have gotten aggressive and the tab just got pushed down. And he simply reached in with it unplugged and raised the prong.
Yeah, make sure you’ve got this whole breaker turned off. For me, it was a table lamp, so I knew it was unplugged. But for you, make sure it’s completely turned off at the fuse box. And just pull that tab up and surprisingly, that did the trick. The lamp works amazingly. The guy didn’t charge me. It was awesome. So this could be a simple fix. I mean it’s worth a shot; anything’s worth a shot.
KAREN: Oh, I know it is. Because I thought, “It’s really a pain to have to turn that off every morning.”
TOM: Yeah. No, I think that’s definitely the easiest thing to do, Karen. Clearly, it’s not getting power. You need to figure out why. Fix that, you’ll be good to go, OK?
KAREN: OK. Thank you so much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Andrew in North Carolina is dealing with a plumbing issue. How can we help you today?
ANDREW: Bought a house about three years ago. It was built in the 1950s.
ANDREW: And two-and-a-half baths. We bought it – I had it replumbed with all modern PVCs, CPVCs, the whole bit. And after that, the one bathroom – whether you use the toilet, the sink or the shower – on occasion, it’ll have a hum in the pipes. Not consistent. No rhyme or rhythm. Then we had a new septic tank put in and I was thinking maybe if they redid that, it would – something would change and it did not change. And we still have this problem. I was wondering what can be done to stop that.
TOM: Well, the humming noise in the pipe is probably caused by a valve that’s not completely closing. So this could be the toilet fill valve, for example. As the toilet goes to refill, sometimes the valve doesn’t fully close. You get sort of vibration as the water continues to move over it and that can cause that sort of what you’re describing as a humming noise. It might just be a vibration or it could be something else somewhere down the line from that, where you’re running a sink or a faucet or something else that’s just running water through the pipe. It has a bad valve associated with it and that’s causing that vibration, which is leading to the noise.
Does that make sense as a possibility?
ANDREW: I would understand that in the toilet but what about the sink? If you draw a cup of water, just that little bit it’ll cause it. That water …
TOM: Yeah, well, that makes perfect sense because there are valves inside the sink faucets that this happens to, as well. So, if it’s happening when you’re letting water out or when the toilet’s refilling, I would simple replace those valves. A toilet fill valve is very easy to replace, very inexpensive. Probably about $10. Easy do-it-yourself project. Sink faucet, a little bit more money and not quite as easy but it can be a do-it-yourself project if you can fit under the cabinet to get to all the fittings and the fixtures and the faucets and so on.
But generally, it’s a noise in the valve and it’s a simple fix. And the good news is that it will have no ill effects on the plumbing system whatsoever. So it’s just more of an annoyance that you can make go away, Andrew, if you replace those valves that are affected. OK?
ANDREW: OK, so we replace the toilet valve and the sink valve, that should stop it.
TOM: That should do it.
ANDREW: OK. Well, we’ll give that a try.
TOM: Alright, Andrew. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
You’ve got to believe, buddy. You’ve got to believe.
LESLIE: Dana in Iowa, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
DANA: Well, I have a shelf that needs to be cut down so it’ll fit in the base of our A-frame cabin that we just bought in the Ozarks. And so it’s about 20 inches tall and it’s about 3 feet long and it kind of has those baskets that fit in it. And so, what I’d like to do is I’d like to cut it at an angle so that it fits back in there and it’s not just sticking out into the flooring space.
LESLIE: So, Dana, what you need to do is that – really, what you have to do is sort of resize this piece so that it will fit into that open-bay portion so that it’s not, as you say, sticking out into the room. And you really need to be creative with the angles to sort of figure out what needs to come out of where.
Can you tell me a little bit more about this A-frame and the size of the shelf?
DANA: Well, the A-frame is just a regular A-frame; it goes all the way from the top to the peak, all the way to the ground level. And so I was trying to figure out, how do you figure the angle so that I know what angle to cut this shelf on?
LESLIE: Well, there’s a tool that you’re going to want to get: T-bevel. And it’s like a plastic handle with this sort of a tic-tac, oval-shaped blade that’s got a slide set in the middle of it.
TOM: Blade. Mm-hmm.
LESLIE: And you’re going to open that up. You can get that at any tool area at the home center.
LESLIE: And you’re going to want to open it up and you put that right in the corner at the angle and then lock it in that position. And then you go ahead and put that at your T-square and that’s going to tell you exactly the angle that you need to cut at. Or you can then take that T-bevel and go right up to the bottom of your shelf, put it exactly where you’re going to want to put that cut and mark that line.
TOM: Yeah, it’s like an adjustable square and it’s called a “T-bevel.” And you should be able to find an inexpensive one, like Leslie said, at home center.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It really is going to save your day and make this the easiest project.
DANA: Ours …
TOM: I use that all the time for different types of fancy mitering cuts in, too, because there’s a couple of tricks of the trade where you can measure an angle and then divide it so that you can make a miter that ends up perfect on both sides.
And we also use it sometimes to set the angle on saw blades, so I think you’ll find that it’d be a very handy tool for this particular project. OK, Dana?
DANA: Alright. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, if you’re in the market for a new washer or dryer, you might be asking yourself if buying the most efficient one available is worth the additional cost. It’s an important consideration because some washers and dryers use even more energy than a refrigerator.
TOM: Yes. But while high-efficiency washers and ENERGY STAR-certified clothes dryers can cut energy, are these more efficient and much more expensive, I might add, machines a smart buy? The answer is a definite it depends, right?
LESLIE: I mean really, it’s true. First of all, let’s talk about how energy-efficient washers and dryers work differently from a standard appliance.
Now, a high-efficiency washer is going to spin faster, use less water and wring out more per load and less energy use. Now, front-loaders are still most popular but top-loaders are gaining momentum again.
Now, high-efficiency dryers feature moisture sensors. And that’s going to detect when the clothing is dry and then shut off the dryer automatically because normally, they’ll just keep drying until that timer runs out. But this one will turn off when the clothes are sensed as dry. And they also combine traditional vented heat with a heat pump. And that’s going to cut costs and energy output by recycling that generated heat.
Now, reviews for these high-performance washers and dryers have been pretty positive. But high-efficiency dryers do require longer drying times, meaning that more air is being vented outside. And that can have the effect of driving up your overall heating and cooling costs.
TOM: Yeah. And that’s not something that’s calculated within those energy ratings. What’s the impact on all the heated and cooled air inside your house that’s being vented out?
Now, if you want to choose the best high-efficiency appliances, here’s a few things to look for. First of all, rely on the EnergyGuide label. That’s that big, yellow sticker and it shows yearly energy usage. You can use it to compare model to model in the same category.
Now, as washers go, know that front-loaders spin fastest and they’re the most efficient and they’re gentlest on the clothes. But they shake more, so you’ve got to make sure they’re absolutely level. And you may need to add what’s called an “anti-vibration pad” underneath. It’s kind of like a rubber block that sits underneath each leg. I’ve used them for years and they work fine. Not that big of a deal but you need to be aware that they exist and that you should be using them.
Now, top-loaders cost about 200 bucks less but they do save energy. And one perk: they let you add clothes mid-load, because there’s always that extra shirt or whatever that you want to throw in the machine after it’s started.
Now, if you want to maximize your savings, look for labor-savers – we’re talking about the delay-start settings that can let you preset cycles for when the utility costs are lowest – and quick-wash cycles, another convenient feature. They work great for lightly-soiled loads that need less cleaning and save you big in the process. They reduce the time it takes to wash your clothes, by about 10 percent or more.
The bottom line is, look, if you need a new appliance now, it’s generally a good idea to always choose one that’s ENERGY STAR-rated. Considering the high amount of energy traditional models are going to use, you will mostly likely earn back the cost increase sooner rather than later. And you’ll have a lot of nice features that you didn’t have before.
LESLIE: Hugh in North Carolina needs some help with a beach home. What can we do for you?
HUGH: Hi, Leslie and Tom. Thank you for taking my call.
TOM: You’re welcome.
HUGH: A little quick summary. We bought a beach house last year that we live in full-time. It was new but hadn’t been lived in for four years. Basically, it’s a reverse floor plan, which means your living quarters are on the top floor and you’re sleeping – bedrooms are on the second floor (inaudible).
HUGH: And when you’re laying in bed at night, if the dogs are walking around or if anybody’s upstairs, you can hear through the ceiling. And the floor is just – I’m trying to figure out a way to dampen that noise or maybe soundproof. But the walls are intact, so I don’t really want to tear anything out. I didn’t know if you had any ideas how to retro some kind of dampening – sound dampener.
LESLIE: In the ceiling of the bedrooms, are you dealing with a lot of high hats or hard-wired light fixtures? Like would it be a huge pain in the butt to put a second layer of drywall up there?
HUGH: Really, the only thing that’s on the ceiling is a fan and a light.
TOM: Well, there are a couple of ways to quiet the transference of sound between rooms. Unfortunately, most of them require taking apart your existing ceiling or walls. There are specialty types of wallboard that can go up that will deaden the sound. These are laminated wallboards that are designed to have sort of a sound baffling inside them.
I know Lowe’s sells one called QuietRock but replacing the wallboard is only part of it. You also have to get into the frame of the ceiling and seal up any gaps – like where wires go through, plumbing vents go through, things like that – because it really is a comprehensive solution. And that’s the right way and sort of the long way to do that.
Short of that, I guess you could try to do this from the top side by replacing the floor, pulling the carpet up if that’s what’s down there, putting some sound deadening underneath that and then re-laying it down. But it’s kind of hard to chase it after the fact. The best sound deadening is done when the walls are open and not drywalled.
HUGH: Yeah, I agree with that. Yeah, I was trying to think of a way without doing a big remodel. We’ve only been in here not quite a year.
TOM: Well, you could put a second layer of drywall on. Maybe it wouldn’t be as good as if you tore the whole thing out but you could do something really inexpensively and use a product called Green Glue, which basically creates sort of an insulation space between different layers of it. The Green Glue is still pretty expensive but it is designed to stop some sound transfer.
HUGH: Well, have you ever heard of anything – I’ve been trying to work this through my mind and I just don’t know enough about it – if there’s any type of that – maybe doing holes and using some type of expanding foam or something that would be designed to do that maybe.
TOM: You know, there’s a rumor that insulating spaces like that will quiet the sound and it does a little bit but it doesn’t make a big difference. So, no, I don’t think you can do anything like that.
HUGH: OK. Well, I do appreciate your help.
TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Debbie in Texas is on the line and is dealing with a basement project. Tell us what you’re working on.
DEBBIE: Well, I have a cement floor that, right now, has indoor/outdoor carpet that’s glued down. And I’d like to peel the carpet up and then paint the floor. So my question is: what type of prep – once I get the carpet up, what type of prep do I need to do and then what type of paint should I use?
LESLIE: Now, have you started to try and remove this outdoor carpeting?
DEBBIE: Yes, we have and it is glued and so there’s a glue, I guess, base that’s on the floor. So we’d need to somehow scrape that off?
LESLIE: Yes. And that – and did you say this was a screened-in porch or a covered porch?
DEBBIE: No, it’s an indoor – it’s indoors.
LESLIE: Oh, it’s completely indoors. OK. That’s going to make it a bit of a chore. The reason I was a little excited that you had a lot of fresh air while you were working is because you’re going to need to use an adhesive remover if your plan is to paint this floor. Because you’re going to end up with so much residue from that glue, that’s going to be all over, and there’s a good chance that it’s going to be uneven and raised and spotty in some areas. You’re going to have pieces of carpeting on it and it’s going to be a mess.
So you’re going to have to find exactly what type of adhesive that is and what is the best remover for it. Because depending on what the base is of that adhesive will depend on what type of adhesive remover you use. So it’s really going to be an experimentation to sort of see what works well.
And then once you find what really is working well at loosening up that adhesive, you’re really just going to have to use a heavy-duty scraper and work on that glue residue until that’s up. And then even then, your painted surface is going to look really not that great after all of that work.
DEBBIE: So, I guess your recommendation would be go back with indoor/outdoor carpet.
LESLIE: Well, in a lower-level space, carpeting really isn’t the best idea – whether there’s padding or not, whether it’s glued or not – only because you’re dealing with a dust trap that’s sitting right on top of a concrete slab that tends to get moist. All of that moisture gets up into that carpeting, whether or not it’s indoor/outdoor.
Now, that moisture sort of sits with that dust and creates all sorts of allergens and mold and it’s really not the best idea. Tile would work fantastically. And if you got that floor fairly even-ish, even with the adhesive, you could go ahead and do something with that with tile.
It depends on what you want the space to look like. If you’re OK with seeing an uneven surface and you want to paint over that, then an epoxy coating is perfect for a floor in that situation. But it depends. I spend a lot of time in my basement, so I wouldn’t want to see such an uneven floor surface, whether it was painted my favorite color or not.
DEBBIE: And what harm would come if I just peeled the carpet and scraped the glue – scraped it smooth – and then painted? Would the paint not stick if there was still all the glue there?
LESLIE: I don’t think so. The systems, like the epoxy-coating systems, are usually sold in kits. There’s several steps. The first one is an etching or a cleaning step. Then there’s your topcoat that you mix in with, I guess, all of the different process that sort of cures it and solidifies it. And some of them have that little decorative speckle and that gets sort of sprinkled in there at the end. And you want to work yourself out of a corner so you don’t get trapped down there. But it should stick fairly well.
It just – is this a utility space that you’re strictly storing things in? Is this your family hangout? You have to think about what that space is and how you want it to look.
DEBBIE: OK. Well, that gives me some ideas. I guess I first need to get the carpet up and see what it looks like underneath and go from there. Alright. Well, thank you so much.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, cleaning windows is something that takes a lot of time to do. But have you ever felt that even after all of that work, they don’t really look all that much better? Well, it might be because you’re using the wrong cleaning materials.
For example, rubbing glass with paper towels or even a cloth towel is going to create static. So before you know it, dust and dirt are sticking to that window all over again. Now, a better idea here is to use a squeegee. You just want to start at the top corner and move that squeegee back and forth while you move it down, like you’re drawing the letter S.
Now, here’s the real secret. After each stroke, you need to wipe the blade of that squeegee dry and not just with any towel. You need to use a lint-free towel, like a cloth diaper or if you’ve got some old table linens kicking around. Because if you use something that’s got lint in it, you’re just, you know, generating that static and that dust all over again.
TOM: Now, if your window has panes or dividers, you want to use a utility knife to cut that squeegee down so it fits the exact width of the pane. I mean after all, you’re going to use it over and over again. Why struggle with one that’s too wide?
Then, when you use it, be sure to pull it down in one single stroke. You don’t need any multiple strokes. You don’t need any fancy store-bought cleaners. Just stick with the basics. You can use a homemade solution made of liquid detergent and warm water.
And when it drips, use a [cami cloth] (ph) to soak up that extra water, because it absorbs without leaving streaks. What you don’t want to use? Paper towels. They get all over the place. All of that paper-towel lint becomes a real mess. And that’s why sometimes your window is going to look worse when you’re done than before you started the project.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Steve on the line who’s dealing with a vinyl-siding issue. Tell us what’s going on.
STEVE: I bought a house last summer and was further looking at it closely. I noticed that the siding is severely oxidized and I was – I tried a little baby oil on a section of it and it looked good for about a month but I think there’s one …
TOM: Baby oil?
TOM: Baby oil?
TOM: Well, is your house your baby?
TOM: And a house is certainly as expensive as children, that’s for sure.
STEVE: Like I say, it looked good for about a month. It brought all the color back to it.
TOM: When those oils dry out, of course, that’s going to be the end of it. Vinyl siding is not really designed for oil but I will tell you this: there are paints that you can put on top of vinyl siding. So it is possible to paint a vinyl-sided house.
That said, you know what comes after paint, don’t you? Repaint. So, once you start this process, you’re going to end up having to paint it again, Steve. But you can paint vinyl siding. You just need to make sure – I would go to a Sherwin Williams or a good-quality paint supplier like that and make sure that you pick up a paint that is rated for vinyl siding.
STEVE: Does it peel pretty easy?
TOM: No. It’s designed to adhere. That’s why it has to be special for vinyl.
STEVE: Oh, I see.
STEVE: OK. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome, Steve. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the key foundations of being healthy and well. And a way to get better rest is to make sure you invest in high-quality bedding. But there are a lot of options, so how do you know which type of luxury sheet will suit you best? We’re going to sort out the pros and the cons of the most popular types, in today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card.
LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, cotton remains the go-to material for most bedsheets. It’s easy to wash and care for. It’s durable and it’s comfortable year-round. Now, it’s also available in a wide variety of thread counts and colors.
For example, organic-cotton sheets, they’re super soft and comfortable. They’re machine-washable and they have little to no shrinkage but they wrinkle. So if you hate ironing, you’re not going to want to have those as sheets.
A better cotton-sheet option could be percale sheets. Now, these are a specific type of cotton sheet that’s known for their super-tight weave. And that’s going to provide a smooth and satiny finish and that’s going to give you an elegant feeling. And they also do not wrinkle. These sheets are great.
TOM: Now, bamboo sheets are another way to go. If you go with bamboo, the fibers are woven together into a fabric that creates a cool and comfortable sheet. And it’s also an eco-friendly bedding option. There are four types of bamboo fabrics out there, so you want to read the label carefully. The most popular and most widely available is the bamboo rayon. But if softness of your sheets is the most important thing to you, then bamboo-sateen sheets are more likely to be your best bet.
LESLIE: Now, for those of you who want the best of the best for your money pit, cultivated-silk sheets are legendary. I mean they are super soft. They feel luxurious. They absorb perspiration. They resist mildew, plus they are naturally hypoallergenic and fire-retardant. But guys, they are very expensive. And since silk traps heat, they can be uncomfortably warm in the summer. And you also can’t just throw them in the washing machine. Silk sheets need, you know, dry-cleaning, special care. So it’s a lot of work but they are fantastic.
I have a silk pillowcase, because it’s good for your skin and your hair, and that thing’s a pain in the butt.
TOM: Now, that’s what I’ve been missing all these years.
LESLIE: That’s why you look like that.
TOM: I need a silk pillowcase. All this time, I didn’t know.
LESLIE: I’ll get you one. I’ll send you a matching scrunchie, too.
TOM: And that’s today’s Smart Spending Tip presented by the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card. Hey, we’re all shopping for essentials online these days. Get rewarded for it with the Bank of America Cash Rewards Credit Card. You could choose to earn three-percent cash back on online shopping.
LESLIE: Visit BankOfAmerica.com/MoreRewarding to apply now.
Ann in Missouri is on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you?
ANN: Hi. I don’t have very wide walls in my home. And so the – there’s not much insulation between the outdoors and the indoors. And what I was wondering – I want to add to it and so I was wanting to extend the walls out a little bit. I didn’t know whether I should just leave the covering up and put a line of 2x4s on it or if I should take the wall covering off for the insulation.
TOM: The walls do have some insulation in it now and you’re wanting to know how you can actually …?
ANN: Yeah, I want to add to it but I didn’t know whether I should just take the wall covering off …
TOM: Ann, what kind of walls do you have right now? They 2×4 walls and are those 2×4 wall cavities filled with insulation? When you say they have a little bit, how do you know how much they have and how much they don’t have?
ANN: I’ve looked in between them. I’ve looked in the outlets and it’s just cold in there.
TOM: OK. Mm-hmm, OK. Well, look, I don’t think adding more insulation to the walls is going to be the solution to why it’s cold. There’s probably another reason it’s cold.
Now, the places to add insulation are in ceilings or floors – those are easy to access to – but most importantly ceilings. And if it’s just plain cold there, you may not have enough BTUs of heat getting to that space. How is that area of your house heated?
ANN: It’s just a furnace, gas.
TOM: Ducts? What, like …?
TOM: Ducts, OK. And is this an addition?
ANN: Nope. It’s just my regular domain. So probably underneath more than any – and up above would help tremendously.
TOM: That’s where you would add insulation: in the floor structure underneath and in the ceiling above but not the walls. The walls you can seal, you can caulk. You can replace windows or doors that are drafty. But that’s a difficult place to add insulation. The easy place to add it is in the ceiling or the floor below, OK?
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: One way to reach Tom and I on Team Money Pit is to send us an email through MoneyPit.com, just like Paul did.
Now, Paul writes: “How much smoke does it take to set off a smoke detector? The Test button sets the alarm off but I held it over an extinguished candle and the smoke didn’t set it off. I keep spending more and more on things that I’m sure we don’t need but I also don’t want to be an idiot and be unprotected.”
TOM: We can appreciate that, Paul.
Listen, using a candle to test a smoke detector not only doesn’t work, it’s potentially dangerous. Because the next guy that hears this is going to try to do it with a lit candle. It’s really not how these things are built.
I figured this was a good question, so I reached out to some folks we know at First Alert, who gave me kind of the experts’ spiel on this. And essentially, they said that the product owner’s manual and the national guidelines are very clear: alarms should never be tested with an open flame.
Lots of reasons. First of all, it’s dangerous. It could set off a fire. A consumer could inadvertently damage the smoke alarm. And a candle, like that type of flame or from a lighter or other source, it’s just not going to produce the same level of smoke that’s needed to set off the alarm itself.
So, the only proper way to test an alarm is by pressing the Test button. These alarms are tested in nationally-recognized testing laboratories to a very specific, approved, recognized standard. It’s actually called UL 217 for smoke alarms or UL 2034 for carbon-monoxide alarms. And consumers should look for that mark from a recognized testing laboratory before they purchase an alarm.
And even more dangerous would be to attempt to replicate a carbon-monoxide incident, like running a car in a closed garage. Because believe it or not, we’ve heard stories of people doing that. And some of them end very tragically, as you would expect.
So, this advice from First Alert makes sense. As a consumer, what you should be doing is testing those alarms regularly by pushing the button on the device to make sure that they work. And when you buy a new alarm, look for alarms that have the markings of a nationally-recognized testing laboratory.
Follow the guidelines. These alarms are designed to signal any issues, including a malfunction. So, the chirps, for example – on the back of each alarm, usually there’s a guide that tells you what they mean, in the user’s manual. That’s important to follow, as well.
But do not test your smoke detectors with a candle or any other smoke- or heat-producing device, because you’re just not going to get the right answer.
LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Laura.
Now, Laura writes: “I can get hot water out of my bathtub faucet if I take a bath but I have no hot water out of the showerhead. I’ve got water pressure, just water that’s not hot. Any ideas about the problem?”
TOM: Well, the only way that can be happening is if the diverter valve has failed. And that’s that mixing valve that mixes hot and cold and sends it up the shower pipe, basically, and out the showerhead. The fact that you’re getting water out of that showerhead means it’s not clogged. And the fact that you’re getting hot water out of the tub spout means the water is getting that far. It’s just not getting up out of the shower. So, I think you’ve got a bad diverter valve. You’re going to need to get a plumber in there to fix that, Laura.
You know, it shouldn’t be a difficult project. It shouldn’t be an expensive project. I would go to HomeAdvisor.com and find a contractor that’s got some nice reviews and works in your area and start right there.
LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps, Laura.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Show. Hey, thanks, guys, for spending this part of your day with us. We hope we’ve given you some ideas and information that helps you as you care for your money pit. Maybe we were able to help you plan a project for the future. We’d love to hear your questions. If you thought about a project you’d like to get done while you’ve been listening to us today, do us a favor: reach out and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 and we will call you back the next time we’re in the studio.
Until then, 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.
(Copyright 2021 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)