Dual-Flush Toilet, Harnessing Solar Power to Save Money, Affordable and Sustainable Housing and More
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: Standing by to answer your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma or perhaps it is a direct-at-yourself dilemma. Maybe you don’t want to do it yourself. Maybe you want to get a guy to do it for you and you don’t know where to begin. You don’t want to get ripped off, you don’t want to get frustrated, you don’t want to waste your time. Well, spend your time right now to call us at 888-666-3974, because we are ready and raring to go to help you get that project done.
Well, here we are at Labor Day Weekend. And late summer often means very dry weather. You might be experiencing water restrictions, possibly, even in your area. And even if you’re not saving water, it is always a good idea and that’s why today we’re kicking off a campaign in partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program, to help you save water and money.
So, for the next few weeks, we’re going to be sharing water-saving tips, tricks and even some very cool products that we think will help you do just that.
LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, solar power, it isn’t just gaining popularity among those who want to be green and be cool because they’re all environmentally-friendly; it’s also a big draw for those of us who want to see green in our wallets. We are going to tell you how you can go solar and start saving on your electric bills immediately.
TOM: And if you’re looking for some other ways to lower your energy bills, you might want to be on the lookout for the latest technology coming out of New Orleans. This is the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and we’re going to tell you how one organization is transforming the most devastated areas into a shining example of affordable, green living.
LESLIE: Plus, this hour we’ve got a great prize up for grabs. We are giving away a copy of our very useful and very fun-to-read book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure.
TOM: Now, will that be a clean copy or a graffitied-up copy with our signatures all over it?
LESLIE: I’m always happy to sign things but if you don’t want it, we’re cool with that, too.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Lots of great ideas and advice standing by at your fingertips right there. Just pick up the phone and give us a call. We are here to help.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Rose in Pennsylvania has a question about some gutter guards that she saw. How can we help you?
ROSE: Yes. I was wondering, how well are those rubber, black sponges that you insert into the rain gutters?
TOM: Yeah, they’re not black sponges, they’re brushes.
ROSE: Oh, brushes?
TOM: Yeah, they’re brushes. I think the product you’re talking about is called …
LESLIE: They look like a bottle brush, right?
TOM: Yeah, it looks like a big bottle brush and it fits inside the gutter.
ROSE: The gutter, yes.
TOM: Right, yeah. Well, first of all, I think a gutter guard is an important thing to have because I think if you don’t keep your gutters clean, then as a result of that, you have lots of opportunities for gutters to become clogged, basements to flood as a result of that, foundations to be negatively impact, sidewalks get slippery. So for all those reasons, I think it’s a good idea.
The product seems to have a pretty good reputation. I’ve never used it personally. We do have an article on our website, though, about the cost of gutter guards, where we go over all the different types of gutter guards that are available out there and what some of the strengths are of each particular style or design.
ROSE: I see.
TOM: So if you go to MoneyPit.com and you search “cost of gutter guards,” you will find the wide array of gutter-guard products that are out there and perhaps get closer to choose one that will work well for you.
LESLIE: Dennis in Michigan is on the line with a septic-tank question. Dennis, tell us what’s going on. Because the whole idea of septic tanks, I know about them; it still grosses me out. What’s going on?
DENNIS: Yeah, I have a 1,500-gallon septic tank and I moved into my house in 2007. And the neighbors say they pump theirs every four years but I’ve called numerous septic-tank guys and they say two years, four years maximum. And I was just curious, what do you recommend?
LESLIE: Well, how many people are in the house and how many bathrooms?
DENNIS: Actually, there’s two people: me and my wife.
TOM: Well, it’s interesting that the neighbors do it every four years but you call the guys that get paid for pumping and they go, “Oh, no. Do it every two years.”
LESLIE: That’s true.
TOM: “That’s why we get to charge you twice in four years.”
DENNIS: Yeah, that’s why I was just curious: there’s so much discrepancy.
TOM: Well and I think with just two people in the house like that, if you did it every four years, you’d be fine. Have you ever done it at all?
DENNIS: No but I do open up the tank every year and I’ve got a cover on it. And I look inside and it’s not overflowing, you know?
TOM: Right. Well, it’s to get some of the solids out of the bottom of it; it’s not because it’s going to fill up and overflow. But if you did it once every few years, I think you’d be fine.
DENNIS: Oh, OK. I appreciate that.
TOM: Alright. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, where we happily answer all of your poop questions.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Doris from Delaware on the line who’s dealing with a dryer that thinks it’s a washing machine.
LESLIE: Tell us what’s going on.
DORIS: More frequently now, I have puddling in the bottom of the dryer, in the drum. It seems that on the top – and I’m going to call it the rib that’s in the inside, the drum – there’s condensation that drips. There’s no wet clothes in there and it’s probably maybe four or five days that – since I have used it. But this last couple times, it’s actual puddling.
TOM: Is it in your basement? Is that where the washer/dryer is?
DORIS: Yes, it is.
TOM: OK. And you must have …
LESLIE: Is it a newer dryer? Is it a steam dryer or is it your traditional dryer?
TOM: I don’t think it matters, Leslie. I think what she’s got is condensation and I think it’s because the basement is very humid.
Do you have a dehumidifier going down there?
DORIS: Yes, we do.
LESLIE: And is the dryer vented outside?
TOM: Yeah, I don’t think it has anything to do with the function of the dryer; I think it’s just warm, moist air striking a cold surface and condensing. And so, the solution is to lower the relative humidity in the basement space. And I – that work would start on the outside of your house.
I suspect that your downspouts may not be extended away from the walls, that the grading may be very flat. It could be very mulchy or lots of topsoil. You’re probably holding a lot of water right around the immediate foundation perimeter and you want to try to move some of that water away from your house. If you do that, the relative humidity will go down in the basement, because there’ll just be less water to accumulate at the foundation perimeter, and you should see some of that problem go away.
And by the way, as you get into the chillier months, you probably won’t see this coming back; it’s pretty much a summer type of a thing.
DORIS: Oh, OK.
TOM: Just think about it. It’s like when you take a glass of iced tea outside in the summer, you get water that forms on the outside of it?
DORIS: Right. Right.
TOM: Well, it’s kind of like that.
DORIS: OK. That’s something I will check out but thank you. I appreciate that. I would have never thought of that.
TOM: You’re very welcome. 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. Even on air on Labor Day Weekend. We are here for you, to help you with your home repair, home improvement, design, décor. Whatever question you’ve got at your money pit, we can help you get the job done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Well, saving water is always in season but especially important during these final, hot summer months. That’s why, next, we’re going to tell you about a new product that can literally stop you from flushing money right down the drain.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Icynene. If you’re building, remodeling or reinsulating, demand Icynene spray-foam insulation. Icynene fills the spaces other insulations miss, for up to 50-percent energy savings. Learn more and find a dealer at Icynene.com. I-c-y-n-e-n-e.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Call us right now with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you might just win a copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. And in it, you’ll find tips on everything from how much paint to buy to which type of flooring stands up best and much, much more. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: That’s right. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’d love to give you a hand with whatever project you are working on this Labor Day weekend.
Well, saving water, it’s always in season but right now, during the sort of tail-end of this hot summer, it’s way more important than ever. That’s why we want to kick off our water-conservation campaign on The Money Pit by telling you about a very innovative product that can save you thousands of gallons of water every year. And it’s called HydroRight.
TOM: That’s right. HydroRight is a product that quickly and easily converts your toilet into a water-saving, dual-flush toilet. You’ll get a quick flush for liquids or paper and a full flush for solids. So, you might be thinking, “How much water can I save?” Well, you’ll actually use up to 70 percent less water when flushing liquids and paper. Seventy percent. I mean that’s a lot of water and money that you’re going to save over the course of the year.
It’s also very easy to install; it takes all of 5 to 10 minutes. You don’t need any tools, you don’t have to take the tank off. It fits most standard toilets and it also works with all of those standard flush valves.
LESLIE: Yeah, it’s a really great product so there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t have one at your home, in your toilet. You’re going to start saving money and water right away. HydroRight is available at The Home Depot and other fine retailers.
And if you want to check it out to see exactly how it works, the website is awesome. It’s SaveMyToilet.com.
TOM: That’s SaveMyToilet.com. 888-666-3974. Let’s back to those phones.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Bela on the line from North Carolina who’s dealing with a bathroom that’s just got chilly water. Tell us what’s going on there.
BELA: Well, we have a two-story house, about 3,400 square feet. And on the first floor, in a bathroom, it takes forever for the hot water to come.
BELA: I talked to a plumber and he said we need a recycling loop or something.
TOM: Yeah. A couple ways you can tackle this, Bela. You can add a recirculating loop that will constantly move warm water around the house, because it’s a distance thing. You know, you’re a certain distance from the water heater and as a result of that, you’ve got to wait for the warm water to get from the water heater to your bathroom.
TOM: Or you could consider something that’s going to be a little more expensive but probably more energy-efficient in the long run and that is to add a second water heater closer to the bathroom. You can do this very easily today with tankless water heaters because they’re very small and they can fit in virtually any space that you have. And in doing so, you would basically shorten the distance – the physical distance – from the bathroom to the water heater.
BELA: Well, the other – they have two water heaters, electric. Each 40 gallons.
TOM: Are they side by side?
TOM: Well, why don’t you move one up closer to the bathroom? I bet you it’s on the same loop. Yeah, that would definitely shorten the distance.
Now, by the way, with those two electric water heaters, do you have them on timers so that they go off in the middle of the night, say, when you don’t need hot water?
TOM: That would be a smart thing to do because they’re very expensive to run. So you can put those on 240-volt timers, set them to be off between 10:00 at night and 8:00 in the morning. It won’t take that long for the water to heat back up again but you could turn them off for 8 to 10 hours a day and not have to pay for that electricity. That saves you a lot of money.
BELA: I appreciate that.
LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Lynn from New Jersey on the line who’s dealing with a rust stain. Tell us about it.
LYNN: Hi. I have a marble window sill in my bathroom, in the tub shower. And I had a razor on it and it rusted. It made a spot about the size of a quarter.
TOM: Oh, well, wasn’t your husband shaving or what?
LYNN: That was me.
LESLIE: It was her. Girls shave in the shower; boys do not.
TOM: Oh, OK. Alright.
LESLIE: Lynn, let me guess. It’s like a white, Carrera marble, too.
LYNN: Yes. The house was built in the early 50s so it’s the kind that they would use as saddles, too, for the doorway and the window sill.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And how old is this rust stain? Is it fairly new?
LYNN: Yes, it’s just a few weeks.
LESLIE: OK. Because the newer the better. The longer it sits there, the more chance it gets to sort of permeate into the marble since it’s so porous.
LYNN: Oh. Right.
LESLIE: And generally, with marble, because it’s a hard, natural surface – but it’s softer than, say, a granite and it leaves it a little bit more vulnerable, so you have to be really careful. And here’s a tip with your can of shaving cream: take clear nail polish and paint the bottom of it when you first get it.
LESLIE: This way, when the bottom of the shaving-cream can gets wet and it sits on the marble, it won’t form a rust ring because it’ll be sealed with the nail polish.
LESLIE: So just …
TOM: See, these are things that guys would just never think of because, first of all, we wouldn’t have the nail polish.
LESLIE: It’s a girl thing. Exactly. Well, you might but that’s a pantyhose thing. Never mind.
TOM: We’d just let it rust.
LESLIE: But, Lynn, what you really need to do is you need sort of – not something that’s super-abrasive but you need a rougher, liquid type of cleanser that you kind of have to create. And when you’re dealing with marble, it’s called a poultice or poultice? I can never say it. But you can make it out of a variety of things and you want it to be kind of thick and you can use something called kaolin or fuller’s earth or diatomaceous earth.
And these are things that you would find if you ever went for a facial, because they absorb oil or in this case, stains out of a porous surface like your skin.
LYNN: Oh, OK.
LESLIE: And if you Google-search them, you can – they’re not expensive; you can buy them at a bunch of different places because they’re sort of meant for the beauty industry. Most of them are all-natural.
And then what you want to do is sort of mix it with water until it gets to the consistency of peanut butter?
LESLIE: And then you want to spread it on the stain to about a thickness of a ¼ to a ½ of an inch, with a wood or a plastic spatula. And then you cover it with white paper towel or in this case, a gauze pad: something that would absorb the stain up through this poultice and then into that piece of fabric or whatever it might be?
LESLIE: And then let it sit there covered for a day or two.
LESLIE: And it should draw out the stain. Of course, if it’s a rust stain and it’s been there a while, it could just be permanent. But because you’re dealing with a light marble and a lot of these are skin-lightening products, as well, you’re not going to have – you should not, I should say, have a discoloration. But that should do the trick.
LESLIE: And next time, just be careful.
LYNN: OK. Thank you.
LESLIE: You’re welcome.
TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Christina in Michigan on the line who’s dealing with some mold stains on her siding. Tell us about it.
CHRISTINA: I had green mold on the siding and used a commercial mold remover for it and it took the green mold off. What was left were little black dots and I’m wondering if maybe it’s from little bugs of some kind. And I can’t get them off.
TOM: Do you have mulch around your house?
TOM: You may have artillery fungus. Artillery fungus …
LESLIE: Which may have been hiding under the other mold.
TOM: Yeah, probably was hiding underneath the green mold. See, artillery fungus lives in the mulch, especially if it’s the shredded kind, which is what most of us have as opposed to just the bark chips. And it will get up into the air and it will attach to siding and it loves to attach to vinyl siding. And it’s really, really hard to get it off.
You can try a TSP – trisodium phosphate – in a paste right on some of the spots and see if it’ll release.
TOM: But it’s very difficult to get that stuff off and one of the long-term solutions would be in the next time, maybe next spring if you decide to update that mulch, rake out that old stuff and replace it with wood chips. And that’ll stop it from coming back.
CHRISTINA: OK. Thank you.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Kelly in Nevada on the line. What can we do for you today?
KELLY: Oh, I want to know maybe what my options are here. After I installed this five-eighths particle-board underlayment over my subfloor, I was going to put some laminate flooring down – quite a bit – but I also wanted to put some tile in certain areas, like the kitchen and in front of the sliders and stuff.
KELLY: I got some ½-inch HardieBacker but the HardieBacker says to install it, you need some thinset to put down for – in the …
TOM: Right. To adhere the tile.
KELLY: But another guy says you can’t do that because that thinset moisture will absorb into the particle board and raise up and ruin the floor.
TOM: So, wait a minute. Wait a – let me back up here for a second. I think you’re getting all your …
LESLIE: He’s talking about doing a base of thinset, then the Hardie board and then the thinset and then the tile.
LESLIE: I’ve never put a base of thinset or any sort of adhesive beneath the backer board.
TOM: No, I don’t see any reason to. You put the backer board down on the subfloor and then you add the thinset to the backer board and you’re done.
KELLY: Oh, so I don’t need to put any underneath there.
TOM: No, no, no, no, no. The HardiePlank – the Hardie board mechanically attaches with nails or fasteners; it doesn’t get glued down. Alright? You just had your process a little bit discombobulated there, Kelly. Alright?
KELLY: Well, this is not the first time.
TOM: Happy to straighten you out.
TOM: Good luck with that project, my friend. 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. Do you remember when you first saw the shocking pictures of the devastation that was left in the track of Hurricane Katrina? Well, maybe you haven’t heard about what’s happening now. So up next, the director of Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation is joining us with an update on the emerging green and sustainable Ninth Ward. It’s a really cool project, so stick around.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Skil’s complete line of routers, with Soft Start technology. You experience less kickback and better control. Pro features at a DIY price. That’s what the Skil routers are about.
TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: Well, with first an earthquake and then the cleanup of Hurricane Irene continuing across much of the Northeast, natural disasters have certainly been top of mind. That said, it’s hard to believe we’ve recently marked the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It was August 29, 2005 when that monster storm roared onto the coast of Louisiana. And what followed was the costliest and most horrific natural disaster this country has ever seen. There were more than 1,800 deaths and $81 billion in property damage.
Now, the suffering, the chaos, the destruction of one of America’s most beautiful and beloved cities are now permanent images in our country’s history. But there is an organization working to make it right once again. It’s a non-profit organization started by actor Brad Pitt and it is called Make It Right. Cesar Rodriguez is the product coordinator and joins us now with details.
CESAR: Thanks for having me on today.
TOM: Now, you must be one of the busiest guys in the city of New Orleans; you’ve got a lot going on there. And tell us, first of all, how is the city doing right now on this anniversary?
CESAR: The city is doing great. Six years after the storm, we’re still – it’s still a building – city that is rebuilding but a city that has got in fully back on its feet. The tourism industry is up and running, the hotels are up and running, more and more folks are coming back – making their way back home. And we really have a city that finds itself in a great place right now. It’s had a great opportunity from this horrible disaster to really be one of the leaders in sustainability in America.
TOM: Well, that’s terrific. Now, right now, you guys are building a lot of new homes for these folks. And one thing that’s interesting about this project is you’re making them all green and safe. In fact, that has been a real identifier for all the work that you guys are doing with Make It Right in New Orleans. Tell us about your philosophy and what got you guys going on this.
CESAR: The philosophy in how Make It Right works and everything that we’re focusing on really comes not only from Brad and the great team that he was able to put together to launch Make It Right but also a lot from the community. I started to meet with the community and started to plan what the program would look like, what we would look like. A lot of the things we heard were things that were basic concerns: safety, affordability, sustainability, right? All these things that kind of continue to come up and up.
And another important piece that came out is how to preserve our culture for the next generation. So out of those – out of that, we really focus the project and what we’re doing based on those suggestions from the community. So we do – we build – each Make It Right house is built to meet a LEED platinum status.
LESLIE: Oh, wow.
CESAR: Yeah, from us, from the very beginning, there was no compromise. It was LEED platinum and that’s it; there was no other option, right? And it really become how do we then – how do we make LEED platinum – how do we make affordable – how do we make it affordable? How do we make it safe? How do we make it healthy? How does it help preserve that culture for the next generation? Those were really the things that we focus on.
And currently, we’ve been able to do it 75 times?
LESLIE: That’s amazing.
CESAR: And have just a little bit under 70 more to go to hit our final goal of 150 homes.
LESLIE: And the 75 homes, are they currently occupied?
CESAR: Yes. As part of the program, we build for folks that lived in the Lower Ninth Ward prior to the storm. So all of our homeowners, before we even break ground, already have a homeowner attached to them.
TOM: Now, did I read that your average monthly energy bill is in the neighborhood of $50 to $60 for these homes?
CESAR: Correct and in some cases even lower. We have one particular homeowner that at times gets a bill for as low as just a connection fee, which can be anywhere from $8 to $12.
LESLIE: Wow. Cesar, is that something that’s only achievable because you’ve built to platinum standards? Or is this something that our listeners can take and implement into their own homes?
CESAR: Exactly. You have to build for what your needs are and that’s when that became very apparent. As you guys are probably – you guys are aware of, each system – each rating system, whether it be USGBC’s LEED or whether it be the National Home Builders Association standards, they all focus on different things. With some – in gold, we took the things that were most important to our homeowners and focused on that.
For our homeowners, the most important things were going to be affordability and durability long-term. So we built houses that are extremely well-insulated, that have Energy Star-rated appliances and light fixtures, that have low-e windows, that have all your tankless water heaters, things of that nature. And we build them durable; we build them with using – you guys are probably familiar with certain products that help reduce mold and help fight off termites when it comes to the wood or the siding and so on. So we focus on the things that are going to have the most impact on our homeowners’ lives.
TOM: We’re talking to Cesar Rodriguez. He is the project coordinator for Make It Right Foundation in New Orleans, doing an amazing job down there. So far have rebuilt 75 – or I should say built from scratch 75 homes with 75 more on the way, all for the purpose of giving housing to those folks that actually lived in the Lower Ninth Ward.
Now, Cesar, if the unthinkable ever happens again in New Orleans, what kinds of changes are you making to these homes to make sure that they could stand up, for example, to flooding?
CESAR: The most apparent one, for anybody who has ever visited the neighborhood or seen it, will be the elevation. We built no lower than 5 feet from [center of our street] (ph) and no higher than 8 feet from [center of our street] (ph). We’ve also made a house – made sure that houses can withstand 130-mile-an-hour winds. We have also added certain features like a hurricane fabric to help protect the windows. In cases, it’s also a lot safer and easier for homeowners to install.
We’ve added – we have an area that we usually call a “safe haven.” Within the houses, there’s an area that the homeowners can reach through an egress window to let them out into a flat portion of the roof or in some cases, a roof hatch that they can just open and be out onto their roofs. So we’ve taken a lot into accommodation. But also, the most importantly, we are always mentioning, always educating our homeowners that the safest thing they can do is to evacuate.
With the houses that we’re building, with all the features that are in them, we’re giving them the peace of mind that their house will be there when they return.
LESLIE: Wow, Cesar. That’s incredible. If our listeners want to help out, how can they get their monies to Make It Right?
CESAR: Well, the easiest way is to visit our website: MakeItRightNola.org. And there are just very simple, little areas you can follow that will take you directly onto our donors’ page. And you can contribute to the foundation and help us accomplish our goal.
TOM: Cesar Rodriguez, the project coordinator for Make It Right, thank you so much for all the great work that you do for the folks in New Orleans. And I am sure there are folks in other parts of the country – most recently, of course, Joplin, Missouri – that can get inspired by the good work that you guys are doing to a place that was completely destroyed and now is growing into an amazing, new, energy-efficient, very green and very happy place to live.
Cesar, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
CESAR: Thank you so much for having me today. I really appreciate it.
LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, do good by your pocketbook while doing good for the environment. Why not go solar and start saving some big dollars while going green? We’ll tell you how, next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by InSinkErator, instant hot or hot/cool-water dispensers. Delivering 200-degree hot or cool filtered water in an instant, at the touch of a lever right at the kitchen sink. Perfect for homeowners looking to save time in the kitchen. For more information, please visit www.InSinkErator.com.
TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a copy of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure. And in it, you’ll find advice on everything from pest control to converting an attic into a bedroom. Lots of tips, lots of advice, lots of ways to save money. You want to win it? The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Well, after this glorious summer that we have had across this United States, you know that there was one thing that we really just could not get enough of this summer season and that was sunshine.
Now, it’s gorgeous and it’s beautiful but did you know that if you can harness that sunshine’s power, it’s not just good for the environment, it’s good for your wallet? So it’s pretty much a win-win.
TOM: Well, that’s right. You know, solar-panel installations in this country have shot up a whopping 66 percent, which is the equivalent of powering about 20,000 houses. And a lot of that growth is due to the falling prices for these systems that capture the sun’s energy and turn it into electricity.
Now, typically, a solar system can deliver somewhere between about 10- to 15-percent drop in your energy bill from the very first month that you install it. But on top of that, you also get lots of subsidies and tax breaks.
Now, if this sounds like a good idea to you, you might want to consider working right through a solar company, because these guys are kind of set up to do all of the paperwork that’s going to be required to save the money. And they can do that for you even before the installation. If you want to learn about getting power from the sun and decide which systems are best for you, we have a great story about this on our website at MoneyPit.com. Just search “solar power.” That’s “solar power” at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Now we’ve got Henry from New York on the line, calling in about a basement question. What can we do for you?
HENRY: I have a full basement – a cinder-block basement.
HENRY: And I used the Bitustatic on the inside and now with the humidity, when it sweats, I’ve got a really bad moisture problem. And I was wondering, what can I use to get the Bitustatic off of the cinder blocks?
TOM: And you put it on the inside?
HENRY: I put it on the outside and on the inside.
TOM: You were really trying to make your house float, weren’t you, Henry?
HENRY: Right. Exactly.
TOM: You turned it into a boat.
TOM: Yeah. So now what you have is the same problem you had when you started. And that is that you’ve got a serious moisture problem that’s got to be managed. So, there’s a couple of things that we want you to do. Number one, we want you to take some steps to reduce the volume of moisture that’s getting into that block wall and that’s going to start outside your house.
So you need to take a look at your gutter system. We want to make sure that you have adequate downspouts, that the gutter system is clean. You need one spout for every 600 to 800 square feet of roof surface and the downspouts are extended well away from the house. And by that, I mean at least 6 feet.
TOM: Now, once you do that, we want you to look at your grading. We want to make sure the soil around the house is sloping away from the walls. Now, if the soil is flat – if it’s settled, like most homes have – you need to add more. You’ll add clean fill dirt and you’ll tamp that down so you’ll have a slope of about 6 inches over 4 feet.
TOM: Now, those two things are going to stop all the water from collecting around the foundation and wicking back into the house. Inside, you’re going to need to do some dehumidification.
What kind of heat do you have? Is it a forced-air system?
HENRY: Yeah. Forced air.
TOM: And is your basement covered by that system?
HENRY: Yes, part of it.
TOM: Well, one of the best things you could do is put in what’s called a whole-home dehumidifier. If you have a real serious moisture problem, that’s going to help a lot. That gets installed into the HVAC system and that can take out, oh, somewhere around 11 gallons of water a day from the air.
HENRY: Oh, OK.
TOM: Now, that’s going to be expensive. If you want to try something that’s less expensive, there’s a system called E·Z Breathe, which is at EZBreathe.com. And what that does is it actually helps depressurize the basement ever so slightly and replace it with conditioned air from the upstairs. Do you have air conditioning in the house?
HENRY: Yeah. Not central air.
TOM: You have window units.
LESLIE: Window units.
HENRY: Yeah, yeah.
TOM: So that would help, as well. So take a look at EZBreathe.com, think about a whole-home system. But most importantly, you really need to reduce the amount of moisture that’s against the house.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Still ahead, do you have a concrete surface that’s dangerously slick? We’re going to have some tips on how you can rough it up a bit to make it safe again, after this.
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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. And we love to hear from all of our Money Pit listeners out there. And you know what? We actually get lot of questions from you guys who want us to repeat an answer, a tip or a product to – that we’re recommending or whatever advice it is for a project.
And if that’s you and you’re about to pick up the phone and call 888-MONEY-PIT, why not try something super-fun and easy right now? Go to MoneyPit.com and you can search our show archives. Put in the topic or whatever you may have heard and you’re going to get everything that we ever spoke about on that exact topic right there, verbatim, printed out. You’ve got it; you don’t even have to write anything down.
And while you’re online, why not check out our new Community section? This way, if you’ve got a question or maybe you want to show off what you’re working on, you can post that right there. And I’ve got a question here from Joanne who wrote: “I love listening to your program. My problem is when my home was built in the early 50s, they did not broom out the concrete in my carport or my front porch and my neighbor slipped and fell and I felt terrible. Is there a product or something that I can do myself to make this smooth concrete surface rougher and less slippery?”
TOM: Well, you can’t really rough it up again but what you can do is add a paint that’s got a sand additive to it and that will give you some texture. It won’t be quite as rough as if it’d been broomed out. And by brooming it out, we mean that when the concrete was wet, a lot of masons will run a very stiff broom through it to give it some real texture. But adding the silica sand to epoxy, that should go a long way to keeping everybody a lot safer around that house.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? Since it’s the carport and the front porch, if you wanted to pick an epoxy in a different color or something sort of interesting and make it look cool and unusual and spruce up the design of your home, you can do just that right then.
TOM: Were you thinking about tackling a project, say, with your children this fall? Maybe you’re redoing a kid’s room? Leslie has got some fun and easy ideas for sprucing up those spaces for the young family members, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You know, designing kids’ spaces is just super-fun and it really can be a place where fun and creativity have nearly no boundaries, as long as the mom and dad say it’s OK. So here are a few of my favorite ideas.
Why not – if your kid’s got an action-figure collection or bendy dolls or Barbie dolls, you can show off their collection by adhering little iron-on pockets to an existing plain, old drapery panel. You just cut out fabric, put the iron-on sort of adhesive on the back side and iron them right onto the panel? Then you could stick the little dollies in there or the superheroes. It’s a fun way to show them off and it’s also a good way to get kids to put things away.
Or if you’ve got an older child that you need to sort of keep track of homework or after-school activities, you can create a scheduling center on a door with chalkboard paint. Or you could even put a United States map – say you’ve got an older kid who’s learning the geography and they’ve got a fun, little hangout area in their room.
Take a map of the country, put it between a tabletop and a layer of clear Plexiglas and then you sort of screw it in at the corners. Make sure you come in deep enough so you’re not cracking the Plexi and even put a little bit of tape there. And that does a wonderful job of giving kids a great way to look at the map. Plus, if you’ve got Plexiglas, you can use a dry-erase marker and sort of do a geographical lesson right there at the table and then erase it when you’re done.
Now, when I work on kids’ spaces, I always find it really important to get the kids involved in the design plan. This way, you can keep their interest in mind so they’re going to love hanging out in their new space and they’re going to keep it tidy, which is a big key. If you give them a space that they love, they’re going to do their best to keep it looking that way.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, installing a bathroom in your basement is a project that can definitely add value and comfort to your home. But do you know how, especially with basement bathrooms where, let’s just say, gravity plays an important role? We’re going to give you some tips on how to get that project done, on the 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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(Copyright 2011 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.)