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Adding Insulation for Added Warmth, the Home Appliance to Splurge On, and Sheet Shopping 101 for a Better Night’s Sleep

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Welcome to this hour of the program where we are here to help you with your home improvement projects. If you’ve got a décor dilemma, that’s up for assistance, as well. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT. Homeowners, apartment dwellers, condo kings, whatever is going on in your money pit, we’re here to help you make it safe, make it comfortable, make it attractive and make it right. Pick up the phone and help yourself, first, by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Hey, coming on today’s program, you’re probably feeling the chill about now. Well, one way to warm things up is to add insulation. Problem is most homeowners are not doing it right. We’re going to have tips on the right way to add that extra insulation and increase your home’s comfort for the winter ahead.

    LESLIE: And this weekend is Valentine’s Day. Does it have you feeling romantic? Well, maybe you might be even wondering what are the best sheets to cuddle up in. We’re going to share the pros and cons of every material out there, from Egyptian cotton to bamboo, coming up.

    TOM: And are you thinking about picking up some new appliances and wondering if this is a good time to perhaps upgrade your efficiency? Well, it might or it might not be. We’ll explain why, just ahead.

    LESLIE: See, a dishwasher would make me happy on Valentine’s Day. Not sheets.

    TOM: Nah. There you go. Wouldn’t that get a lot of guys in trouble, though? It’s like buying your wife a vacuum or something.

    LESLIE: I don’t think so. Huh. That would also be a nice gift. Maybe I’m just weird.

    Also ahead this hour, everybody, we’re giving away an 11-piece screwdriver set for comfortable grip and strong, steel construction.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth 15 bucks going out to one lucky caller. So pick up the phone and make that you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Laurie, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    LAURIE: We have a Chamberlain ¼-horsepower garage-door opener and it has no remote.

    TOM: OK.

    LAURIE: We bought the house as-is, so we have no remote for it. Also, it has a keypad on the outside, which I’m unable to use. So, my question was: if I go to Home Depot or Lowe’s, would a universal remote work or do I have to call a garage-door company out to sell us a Chamberlain remote and program it?

    TOM: Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you get the model number of the Chamberlain garage-door opener, which is probably printed on the back of the unit, go to the Chamberlain website and get the owner’s manual for the door opener? With that owner’s manual, you should be able to program the keypad. It’ll tell you the right sequence to do that. And also, you most likely can find out from Chamberlain exactly which remote is designed to work with that unit.

    Now, Chamberlain is a very good company and in fact, they have a new technology that’s called MyQ. And the cool thing about the MyQ technology is you can actually put this MyQ unit in your garage and then you’ll be able to open and close your garage door with your smartphone. So, they’re way ahead of the game on this stuff.

    LAURIE: Yeah. That’s what I was going to ask you, too. Is this one too old to do that?

    TOM: I think it actually works on every garage-door opener that was built after 1996, so it may not be. It might be fine.

    LESLIE: Can’t remember if it’s ’96 or ’94.

    TOM: Yeah, it goes back over 10 years.

    LAURIE: Good. OK. Because this one is about six years old.

    TOM: I think that’s how I would proceed. I would not just go buy something and hope it works. I would do the research and you’ll figure it out. OK, Laurie?

    LAURIE: OK. I’ll go on their web page. Thank you for the advice.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Mike in Iowa on the line who needs some help insulating a garage. Tell us about it.

    MIKE: Hi. I have a three-and-a-half or four – basically, a four-car garage underneath a house that’s a ranch. The trusses – the floor, it has trusses in it and it’s cold in there. And it gets cold here in Iowa and it stays 35, 45 degrees during the winter, even in the coldest day.

    And it has batting insulation in it but it’s still cold. And our bedroom is above it, so I was thinking about putting some insulation in it, either in the – blowing some – drilling the holes and blowing it in or just doing it around the outside, the outer walls. Or am I just wasting my time trying to do any better?

    TOM: Alright. So, the garage ceiling – the walls between the garage and the house – should already be insulated. So what you’re asking is: can you add additional insulation to the exterior garage walls? Is that correct? Because that would be, theoretically, the only part of this garage that was not insulated.

    MIKE: Correct. Well, the outer walls are concrete.

    TOM: Oh, OK.

    MIKE: So it’s basically the ceiling I’m after. Would it be – because the cold air goes up the rooms above the garage.

    TOM: So, do you have any – the way the ceiling is configured, it’s drywall right now?

    MIKE: Correct.

    TOM: So there may not be any additional room above that to add additional insulation. You mentioned blown-in. If that ceiling was built correctly, there’s already insulation there, so you may not be able to add more to that.

    This might be a situation where you need to improve the heat more than add to the ceiling insulation. Because short of building it downward so that you have more depth, I don’t see how you’re going to add additional insulation if it’s already insulated.

    MIKE: Well, there’s batting up there. I didn’t know if it would do any good to have them blow it in and pack it as tight as they can get it with that blown-in insulation.

    TOM: No, because insulation doesn’t work on being packed as tight as possible. Insulation works on the principle of trapped air. And so if you overpack the insulation, it becomes less effective, not more.

    MIKE: Right. Alright. Well, that tells me I would’ve wasted my money if I’d have – went and had somebody come out and blow it in.

    TOM: I know it might not be the answer you want but at least we didn’t have you spending money on something that wasn’t going to work, Mike. I hope that does help.

    Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Coming up, a good night’s sleep starts with the right sheets. We’re going to have the ins and outs on everything from bamboo to Egyptian cotton, when The Money Pit continues after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement how-to or décor question. We’re here to help you get the job done. And we might just give you a set of tools to help with that, because one lucky caller is going to receive an 11-piece screwdriver set. Make that you. Call us, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Cheryl in Texas on the line who’s looking to redo a bathroom and make it more modern with just a shower. How can we help you?

    CHERYL: Well, I am the mother of four sons and as they get bigger, they no longer like to get in the bathtub.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: OK.

    CHERYL: And we find that they are always in my room, in my shower. We’re wanting to take out the tub that’s in their bathroom and turn it into a shower. My issue is I don’t have a lot of space. It’s a Hollywood bath and then the tub and toilet are in a separate little room that you can close off. And the door facing – of that little room sits right next to the tub itself.

    So, my question is – when I pull that tub out, the plan was to put a shower pan down and tile the area and then put a glass door – either a sliding door on there. Will that be a wide-enough space if it’s only the width of a standard tub?

    TOM: Cheryl, I think you definitely can find a shower pan that can fit the width of that tub, sort of elbow to elbow if you’re standing in it. I mean think about it: if you’re in the tub, you’re taking a shower, right? You’ve got room on – to the right and to the left of you. So we want a shower pan, essentially, that’s the same size.

    Now, when it comes to residential, prefabricated shower pans, they start at around 24×24, so that’s 2-foot-square. You know, that would be probably the smallest that you would need but you might be able to go up even bigger.

    But a little trick of the trade: if you were to find, for example, that for whatever reason – the way this room is configured – a 24×24 would not work, then you should shop for a smaller shower pan, which you will find, sold for RVs – recreational vehicles. Because they have tiny showers in them, right? And there’s a whole host of RV shower pans that are smaller than 24×24. I don’t think you’re going to need it. I think you’ll be fine starting there, maybe even going up.
    But the size of the shower pan is what you want to figure out first. Then you can basically build around that, OK? Does that make sense?

    CHERYL: Sure, sure. That’s what I want to do.

    TOM: Well, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the key foundations of health and well-being. And one way to get better rest is to make sure you have good-quality bedding. But there’s a lot of options out there, so how do you know which type of sheets will suit you best? There’s a couple of things to consider.

    And Leslie, you’ve been doing some research on this.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I’m kind of always looking for the most comfortable and luxurious bed. And being a set designer and a production designer, you’ve got to make beds look really good. And sometimes you forgo comfort to make the beds look good. But if you want a good night’s sleep, you really have to start with a good, quality sheet.

    So let’s start with organic Egyptian-cotton sheets. They’re soft, they’re comfortable, they’re machine-washable, which is great, and they have little to no shrinkage. Also great. But they wrinkle and they can wrinkle a lot. So if you hate ironing, you might want to avoid them. Although a trick of the trade – what I do a lot for sets is that if I’m doing – I’m trying to make a bed look really nice, I’ll fold over that top sheet over the quilt or blanket or whatever. And I’ll just iron that piece that I folded over just to give it that extra look. Really that’s what everybody’s looking at. So if you want a sheet that wrinkles, you can go that route. But otherwise, it’s a lot of ironing, guys.

    TOM: Now, here’s another material that actually surprises me because we usually talk about it as a flooring material. And that is bamboo. But bamboo sheets are a good option and some people actually compare them to the feel of cashmere. Now, the sheets are also machine-washable, they also resist pilling but they can shrink. And processing – well, it does take a bit of chemical. So if you’re looking to go totally green, it might not be the best choice.

    LESLIE: It’s interesting. I even have workout clothes that are made out of bamboo. They’re supposed to be antimicrobial. It’s an amazing, amazing material.

    Now, for those of you who want the best of the best for your money pit: cultivated-silk sheets. They are legendary for their softness and their luxury. They absorb perspiration – so if you get the night sweats or you’re a hot sleeper, these are for you – and they also resist mildew. Plus, they’re naturally hypoallergenic and fire-retardant. So it’s really kind of an amazing sheet out there. But they’re very expensive and since silk does trap heat, they can be kind of uncomfortably warm in the summer months. And you also have to be careful in how you care for them and in cleaning them, so it’s not for the faint of hearts when it comes to laundry.

    TOM: So you can pick up a set for the winter and maybe go back to the organic Egyptian-cotton sheets in the summer. A sheet for every season and a season for every sheet.

    If you want more details, you can search “luxury sheets” at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. We’re heading over to Virginia now where Greg is dealing with a hard-water situation. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    GREG: I have a little farmhouse up in Virginia and very hard water. And was looking at some of the options of how to address that – salt-based, salt-free, reverse osmosis, magnetic, et cetera – and it’s all confusing. What’s real and what’s reasonable, from a price standpoint?

    TOM: Alright. So, you’re on well water, I presume, correct?

    GREG: Correct.

    TOM: And have you had the water tested for other contaminants?

    GREG: When we first bought it, it’s safe to drink. We haven’t tested it in the last several years but …

    TOM: OK. So, the first thing I would do is I would have the water tested so that you know exactly what you’re dealing with. Because if there’s some contaminants in there, that’s going to change the type of system that you put in.

    Now, if the water test reveals that your only problem is hard water, then I would try what you’re calling the “magnetic option.” And there’s a product called EasyWater – E-a-s-y-Water.com – that I have had good success with. And what EasyWater does is – essentially is installed at the pump or actually where the water enters the building. And it charges the hard-water particles and then gives them a charge so that they don’t stick together and they pass through the plumbing system without causing all of the types of issues that are associated with hard water: hard-water deposits, iron stains and that sort of thing.

    And the reason I’d suggest EasyWater is because if you don’t like it, they have a money-back guarantee. And they seem to be good people and I think the science behind it is solid. There’s a lot of folks out there that once they saw the success that EasyWater was having, copied or tried to copy the technology. But I think if you go to E-a-s-y-Water.com, try that product, see what you think, I think you’ll be good to go.

    But again, test first because we want to make sure that there’s no other contaminants.

    GREG: Excellent. And it’s not a permanent process. So the water from downstream, this process reverses itself. But from the time it comes into your house until it’s out …

    TOM: Yeah. From the time it comes in until the time it leaves, that’s when it’s your responsibility, right?

    GREG: Hey, I agree. Very good.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Greg. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joan in Illinois on the line who’s dealing with a mold issue. Tell us about it, Joan.

    JOAN: Well, I’m wondering what causes dry rot and how you can tell if you have it.

    TOM: OK. Well, what are you seeing, Joan?

    JOAN: Coming down to the floor, there’s about an inch below the molding. And I took the carpet up and I saw sawdust down there. And I wondered if it was dry rot.

    TOM: Alright. So, first of all, there’s no such thing as dry rot; there’s only wet rot. Wood that gets wet – it gets over 25-percent moist – can start to decay. Then, if that wood also dries out, that’s what people call “dry rot” but it’s really sort of a misnomer because it’s not really dry rot; it’s wet rot that has dried out.

    JOAN: Oh. So we can’t cause it by overheating or under-humidifying a house.

    TOM: No. Well, not overheating but if you over-humidify, I guess it’s technically possible because you’d put a lot of water in there. But no, you’re not going to cause it by overheating.

    In terms of what you’re seeing under this molding, I think that would bear some further investigation. When you mentioned “sawdust,” I think about carpenter ants, for example. And so, I would make sure that I know exactly what’s causing this.

    One of the things that you could do is you could take a picture of it and you can post it to our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit. We’ll take a look at it and give you an opinion. Or you could post it to the Community section at MoneyPit.com. How about that?

    JOAN: That sounds great.

    TOM: Alright, Joan. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Randy in Delaware is on the line doing a bathroom project. Tell us how you’re working on it.

    RANDY: So, a shower stall – you know, an old shower stall – was removed with an old pan just all cruddy and moldy and just outdated. So, installing a new shower base. It’s not a mud base; it’s preformed epoxy and cement. And then, I was wondering about what type of flashing you might recommend from the framing members, behind the corners and any of these areas. How susceptible are they to these moisture issues where the corners may, with expansion and contraction, may break open or get some kind of moisture penetration? What’s the extent of the flashing system that you put behind cement board?

    TOM: OK. So, when you put on tile backer board, you don’t flash like you would if you were putting up shingles and intersection – intersecting – with siding. I mean essentially, what you do is you put the pan in, you put the backer board on, you overlap the pan and then you put the adhesive on and the tile right on top of that. That’s sort of the normal procedure for doing a tile job. You don’t really flash the board any further than just making sure it overlaps the prefabricated pan.

    Is that what I’m hearing? Are you using a prefabricated, say, a fiberglass tile pan?

    RANDY: Right. But a lot of – there are a lot of recommendations out there to run a 6-mil plastic sheet behind the backer board so that any penetration that could occur in the future hits this plastic wall. It overlaps the pan and in front of that, the backer board overlaps it. But anything that penetrates the backer board and the tile and all that hits this plastic and eventually makes its way to the pan, never actually getting to the framing members.

    TOM: I don’t have a problem with that. But let me put it to you this way: for many years, the way that tile showers were done is they simply put the green board – the water-resistant drywall – right on top of the studs and that was it; there was nothing more than that. So, by putting on a tile board, you’re already making it a lot more durable. And if you want to put a polyethylene sheet behind that, I have no problem with that. Just make sure that the shower pan that you choose goes up enough to create that good overlap at the bottom so you don’t have water that backs up into it.

    RANDY: I think that’s it.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Still to come, are you feeling the chill? Well, we’ll tell you about the single most important thing that you can do, right now, to warm up your money pit, when we return.

    KEVIN: I’m Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. When I’m not working on old houses, I’m making sure my house doesn’t turn into a money pit, with help from Tom and Leslie.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we invite you to fan us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter so you can get the same great advice you hear each week but on the go. We’re at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit or @MoneyPit on Twitter.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You can connect with us and get a sneak peek into what we’re up to and learn some pretty cool things for your money pit, right online.

    TOM: But if you’re listening right now, pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT because we want to talk to you.

    LESLIE: Jim in Pennsylvania is on the line with a metal-roofing question. How can we help you today?

    JIM: My question is – metal roofs. What’s the advantage of the metal over the shingle or vice versa? The cost? I see a lot of my neighbors putting the metal on.

    TOM: So, metal roofs are probably the most durable roof available today. And so the main advantage is durability. The other thing that you can get with a metal roof is today, they’re coated with low-E coatings so they can actually reflect the sun in the summer and lower your cooling costs, as well. The downside of metal roofs is that they’re very expensive. They’re called “investment-grade roofs,” very frequently, for a good reason. Because it’s the kind of roof you put on when you really want to invest in the house and it’s the house that you’re going to be in for the long haul. If it’s a short-term house for you, I probably would not recommend a metal roof because I don’t think you’ll get the value out of it when you sell. Certainly, you’ll get some value out of it but I don’t think you’ll get the cost of it. But if you’re like, “Listen, this is the house I’m going to be in for the next 20 or 30 years, maybe longer. I want to really do something that’s going to stand up with literally no maintenance,” then maybe a metal roof is for you.

    Aesthetically, they’re beautiful. They come in all sorts of colors, all sorts of designs and they can really make your house stand out. But they are costly. Probably, I would say two to three times the cost of an asphalt-shingle roof.

    JIM: But they’ll last 30 years, you say, or more?

    TOM: They’ll last 50 years, they’ll last 75 years. They can last even longer than that.

    JIM: Hey, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, no matter where you live, it’s hard to stay comfortable and keep your energy bills in check if you don’t have enough insulation in your attic. The truth is that most of us just don’t and adding more is almost always a cost-effective project.

    TOM: Yes. But as simple as it might seem to add insulation, it’s a project that many do-it-yourselfers just get wrong. With us to make sure that doesn’t happen to you is Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys.

    TOM: Now, insulation is one of those building components that’s always out of sight and out of mind. That is, of course, until you open your very first energy bill of the season. How much insulation do we need?

    KEVIN: Well, that’s a really good question and I think it is a great project for folks to do themselves but, as you say, they need to get it right. And how much you need is the first question. That depends on where you live.

    So in the warmer-weather states, you’re looking for something that’s like an R-38. And in the colder climates, that goes all the way up to an R-49. Now, these are metrics that come to us from ENERGY STAR. And that means – I mean think about this: R-38 to 49, that’s about 10 to 16 inches of fiberglass insulation batts.

    TOM: That’s a lot of insulation and I think most folks, just taking a look up in their attic, are just not going to see that.

    KEVIN: Well, they’re going to see that they might have insulation but the rule of thumb is, more insulation is generally better, so add it on.

    LESLIE: Now, Kevin, increasing the amount of insulation you have in the attic really is a very, very helpful project that you could have in your home. But is it a do-it-yourself project?

    KEVIN: Oh, it definitely is a do-it-yourself project, whether you’re increasing the amount of insulation or you’re just adding insulation for the first time. Imagine when you’re working up in the attic, if you don’t have anything in those bays between the ceiling joists, well, these batts are designed to lay right down into those bays, 16 inches on center. So you can fill in those bays and add insulation.

    If it’s already there, it’s a great idea to increase the amount of insulation. The only tip that I would say is that you want to lay the second layer of insulation perpendicular to the first and to those ceiling joists so that you cover up any of those gaps.

    LESLIE: And you want unfaced-batt insulation, correct?

    KEVIN: You do. Because that facing is actually a vapor retarder and you don’t want that in the wrong spot. So you want to make sure that you use unfaced insulation. Lay it across, cover up all those gaps and cracks and pile it up.

    TOM: Now, another thing to watch out for are the light fixtures, especially those high-hat sort of ceiling can lights that protrude up into the attic. If you don’t have the right kind and you cover them with insulation, it could cause an overheating situation.

    KEVIN: It can. And so there are basically two different kinds: those that are rated to be in contact with insulation and those that are not. You need to make sure that the cans or these recessed lights that you have up there are rated to be in contact. If you don’t know, err on the side of caution and don’t cover them up with insulation.

    TOM: Now, Kevin, besides putting a lot of insulation in an attic, we also have to have enough ventilation so we don’t make the attic either too hot or too moist in the wintertime or too hot in the summertime. So I think it’s important to be very cautious, despite the fact that you want a lot of insulation, to not block your ventilation, correct?

    KEVIN: Right. A lot of these attics are designed to be vented, as you say. And that means the air will come in through the soffit through a soffit vent, go up through the rafters and then out either a gable vent or a ridge vent. And if you block those, your roof’s not going to – your attic’s not going to perform like it should. So they have cardboard baffles that you can use and you actually put the baffles in there to make sure that the insulation doesn’t cut down on any of that venting.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, what if you have any sort of open areas or cracks where you might get some air leakage between your living spaces and your attic? How should you fill the …?

    KEVIN: Well, you want to fill all of the cracks as much as possible. You can do it using caulk or you can actually use expanding-foam insulation. You’ve seen these cans at the home center; you can actually use those to fill in those gaps and cracks. Because it’s not just about the R-value but it’s also about the movement of air. So air sealing is a great way to go.

    TOM: So this could be the areas where pipes come through the walls or wires come through the walls. All those little holes add up.

    KEVIN: They sure do add up.

    TOM: Now, what about the difference between blown-in and batt insulation? It seems that blown-in insulation is great because it absolutely covers everything and you don’t have to worry about positioning it as much. But because it covers everything, you can’t get to anything once you’ve installed it.

    KEVIN: Yeah. Blown-in insulation is great, as you say, because it covers all those nooks and crannies. But imagine if you have to go back to that place to do some work: you either have to fix a light or you want to run some new wires. Well, it’s not easy just to peel out of the way like a fiberglass batt.

    So if you think you’re going to need access to that space, fiberglass batts may be the way to go. And in terms of storage, if you want to use that space for storage, well, maybe you carve out a little area for storage and don’t insulate it with the blown-in but blow in around that area.

    TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’ Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Thank you for having me.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and some great articles on how you can improve the energy efficiency of your house and the insulation, as well, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. More saving, more doing.

    Hey, still to come, are you looking to shop Presidents’ Day sales for maybe a good bargain on a new washing machine? Well, one piece of advice: don’t scrimp too much.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Find out why spending more now will save you later, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will help you with whatever it is you are scrambling to get done in your house as a Valentine’s Day gift for your loved ones. That’s right. I assume that fixing things and painting things and making things look really lovely is an excellent Valentine’s Day gift. Ladies, if I’ve messed up your plans for jewelry, I apologize. But in the long run, this is really going to be better.

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got a great prize up for grabs to help you guys get all sorts of DIY projects done. We’ve got an 11-piece screwdriver set. It’s got some great, super easy-to-identify markings on it, a soft-grip handle, which will allow you to do many more projects for a longer time around your house. And it’s a prize pack worth $15. So give us a call for your chance to win and of course, help with whatever you are working on.

    TOM: 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: We’ve got Cindy in Michigan on the line who wants to talk about reducing energy costs. How can we help you?

    CINDY: Is there a way to lower your electric bills by generating your own electricity? I’ve heard of solar panels and windmills and seems like they cost a lot of money to get them going. And I’m wondering, is it actually feasible, financially, to do something like that?

    TOM: Yeah. Well, first of all, the most effective way to cut those energy costs – and especially if we’re talking about heating and cooling energy – is to improve the energy efficiency of your home. And the single most important way or easiest way to do that is by improving insulation. It’s amazing how many people simply don’t have enough insulation. And in a state like Michigan, you’re certainly going to want to have 15 to 20 inches of insulation in your attic.

    Now, as to your question about generating your own power, there are some programs that are run by state governments and by utility suppliers that include different sorts of rebates and different sorts of purchase – I don’t want to say “schemes” but sort of plans for getting that equipment to your house.

    So, for example, in my part of the country, they have offers where you don’t actually pay for the initial installation. You partner with an energy company that does the installation of solar panels and then as it generates energy, you get to keep some of that and some of that goes back to the utility company and eventually it pays off the cost of that installation. So I would investigate solar programs in your area and rebates that might be available. Start with the utility companies and go from there.

    Because if there’s a favorable program, that’s the only way it makes them cost-effective. You are correct in that a lot of these things are very expensive and don’t make a lot of economic sense. But if there’s rebate money available – either locally, at the state level or federally – it does make sense.

    CINDY: OK. So you would just call your energy company then?

    TOM: I would start there, with your utility company, or just simply do some research online for rebates that are available in your area. OK, Cindy?

    CINDY: Alright. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project.

    Well, here’s a quick tip if you’re in the market for a new washing machine. You might be tempted to buy the least expensive model out there, to save some money. We certainly understand that. But consider this: you will get much better savings in the long run when you buy a high-efficiency washing machine.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, this is because high-efficiency washing machines, they use half of the energy of a conventional washer and a third less water. Plus, they’ve got a super-fast spin cycle, so your clothes really don’t need as much drying time, which will then save you energy with your dryer and of course, save you energy dollars.

    TOM: And they also use about two-thirds less detergent in a high-efficiency washer than a traditional washer. And the machines can even handle really large and bulky items, like comforters and blankets and sleeping bags, which is important in my household with all the camping the boys and I do. So, very important to have something that can handle all of that. But do it efficiently so you avoid those trips to the dry cleaner or Laundromat for all the big stuff.

    And you know something else? These high-efficiency machines today are also connected appliances. Whirlpool, for example, has got an appliance now that you can hook up with an Amazon account. And when you’re low on soap, it will automatically place the order for you. How about that? You don’t even have to go to the store. It will self-fulfill.

    LESLIE: Great. I have to worry about my kids spending money on iTunes accidentally and now my washing machine is going to be shopping on Amazon? Great.

    Now we’ve got Sparky in Georgia on the line with, fittingly, an electrical question. What can we do for you?

    SPARKY: Hi. I’m in a prewired home that has RG59 coaxial cable coming into each room. I need to replace that now with RG6, which is a thicker coaxial cable. What is the best way of going through to replace all those?

    TOM: Well, generally, whenever you want to rewire anything in the house, it doesn’t always make sense to remove what’s there. What you’ll generally do is cut it back. And you’ll just essentially – you’re going to run the new cable as if you were putting it in for the first time. Of course, because the house is already up, it’s tricky to do this to run it through walls and stuff but you would use wire snakes to do this. And sometimes, if the cable is loose in the wall, you can actually attach the new cable to the old cable and pull it through at the same time.

    Sometimes you can get away with that but it basically takes a lot of skill to run new wires in a house that’s already up. And that’s pretty much the way you do it. The answer is: any way you can. So, if your cable is loose and you can pull one end up and tie the other end to it so that you’re kind of pulling it all the way through, you do that. If you can’t do that because it’s nailed in place, then what you might do is just sort of snip off the ends, tuck it away in the wall and run a new cable next to it. But basically, it’s a bit of a tricky job and you try to get it done any way you can.

    SPARKY: I gotcha. Very good. You’ve been helpful. Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Up next, are you one of the lucky ones that get to enjoy a toasty fireplace during the winter? Well, the way you store that firewood might very well be inviting damage into your house. We’ll share those details, next.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Glisten. Glisten makes it easy to clean, freshen and maintain your dishwasher, disposer, microwave and washing machine. So improve the performance of your appliances with cleaning solutions from Glisten, the machine-cleaning experts. Visit GlistenCleaners.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call, right now, at 888-MONEY-PIT or post your question to MoneyPit.com or to our Facebook page at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit, where you’ll always get a steady stream of tips and tricks and ideas and more. That’s what Kim did and Kim says, “How should I be storing and maintaining my firewood supply? I hear that storing wood too close to the house can invite termites.”

    Well, that is absolutely correct, Kim.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And other things too, though. Right?

    TOM: No kidding. Yeah. I mean it’s like throwing red meat to the lions. You don’t want to store that firewood right up against the foundation because termites are sort of Mother Nature’s way of getting rid of dead wood. And that’s great if you’ve got a dead tree on your property and you’re trying to wait for the stump to totally go away. Termites are one of the ways that happens.

    But if you store firewood right against your house, they will infest that firewood. Eventually come right from the ground up into the wood. And then they might just sort of continue up on the foundation or through the foundation, up into the lumber that makes up the structure of your home.

    So, good idea to store firewood away from the foundation and up in some sort of a rack where you have a bit of air that circulates underneath it. And that will keep it dry and keep your house from becoming a termite buffet.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you know what, Tom? You bring up a good point. I know we were just – a few weeks ago, we’ve been talking about how, during the winter months, termites are still active, though not as obviously so and not as in large of quantities as you see in the warmer months. So you’ve got to be careful. You know, just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean that you’re not setting yourself up for some trouble.

    TOM: Well, especially in the spring, right? It’s like set it and forget it. You stack the wood and you’re not going to move it.

    LESLIE: And then, of course, you have this pile of wood which then becomes a nice home for mice to nest in. It’s just a bad idea all around.

    Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Laurie who writes: “My kitchen isn’t that big and my one window is a precious source of natural light. Can you suggest any window coverings that provide style but don’t block out the light?” Well, listen, this question has got me all over it.

    I think it’s important with the window in the kitchen that you want to maintain the view and the light that comes in. Because, usually, you’ve got your window above the sink and you’re looking out into your backyard or somewhere lovely. That’s generally how kitchens are designed. And you don’t have to do a full window treatment there unless you happen to face right to a neighbor and you’re looking for some additional privacy.

    So what I usually do for a kitchen window is I’ll do either a valance or a cornice, which is just like a 12-inch or so – it could be a little smaller, a little bigger, depending on the scale of the window. But that’s just a piece that’s affixed permanently to the top of the window. A cornice is something that’s harder that’s then upholstered with batting and fabrics so it’s got a rigid shape to it. And a valance is something that usually hangs from a rod and it’s softer and it can be more flow-y. And that’ll just occupy the top third or quarter of your window and give you just something so that you’re not looking at a bare window.

    Other things that I’ll do is I’ll do a custom Roman shade or even some sort of a wood blind or a woven shade and just keep it all the way up. The only thing is if you’re buying a stock item, woven shades tend to come very, very long and kitchen windows usually aren’t as long as regular windows through the house. So you end up with a lot of shades sort of tucked up to the top.

    So you want to make sure you get something that fits and think about if you need that privacy. Because if you don’t, a valance or a cornice really is the way.

    TOM: What about cellular shades as an option? Because they come in different opacities. Some of them can be very sheer.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah. I mean you can go with all kinds of opacities. Hunter Douglas makes a great cellular shade. They also do a shade that’s sort of two pieces of very sheer fabric, that has another piece of fabric almost like a blind inside, that you can louver to control the amount of opacity you get. So there’s a lot of options out there if you want that shade down.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. What a great hour of calls. I hope we’ve helped you all out with some good tips and advice to make your homes more comfortable and more energy-efficient. Remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at 888-MONEY-PIT or always online at MoneyPit.com.

    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 2016 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.)

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