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    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: Call us right now with your home improvement project. We want to hear about that do-it-yourself dilemma. That job, it’s on your list. We know that it’s this close to being done; you just need a little motivation, a little advice, a couple of suggestions, a couple of tricks of the trade. We’re here to help you. Give us a call, though, and help yourself first at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Hey, if you’ve ever stared in bewildered amazement at the size of your electric bill, you probably wondered exactly where is all that electricity being used in your house. Well, the fact of the matter is that you don’t need to guess anymore; you can learn for sure with a whole-house electricity-monitoring system. We’re going to show you how that works, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, we’re going to talk about other ways to save energy this winter, by evaluating how your doors are built and how they’re insulated. And we’re going to include some tips on some beautiful, new fiberglass doors that are more than five times more efficient than wood doors and they also qualify for a potential $1,500 tax credit. We’re going to have all the details on that, in just a bit.

    TOM: Plus, we’ve got a great way for you to enjoy your outdoor space well into the fall, with tips on creating an outdoor fireplace; one that can be done on any-size budget.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a $100 gift card, courtesy of our friends over at Pella Doors and Windows.

    TOM: But to qualify, you’ve got to pick up the phone and call us right now with your home improvement question. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

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

    LESLIE IN ILLINOIS: I am getting ready to put log-cabin siding on the outside of my house and I’m trying to decipher whether I’m going to use pine or cedar.

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE IN ILLINOIS: And I wanted to see what you guys thought about that and what the advantages and disadvantages were to both.

    LESLIE: Are there any differences in the process that they put or the sort of weatherproofing that they use on either of the lumber?


    TOM: Well, you know, cedar is more naturally disease and decay and insect-resistant.

    LESLIE: Insect, as well.

    TOM: So cedar would definitely be the optimum choice. Is the cedar more expensive than the pine?

    LESLIE IN ILLINOIS: It’s double the cost.

    LESLIE: Of course.

    TOM: Yeah, yeah, of course.

    LESLIE: And the pine is just going to be …

    LESLIE IN ILLINOIS: That’s why I’m leaning towards the pine but …

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE IN ILLINOIS: And I just wonder, if I keep up on it and keep it stained, is that going to …?

    TOM: Yeah, it’ll protect it, sure. Yeah, it’ll protect it. There’s plenty of pine siding and Douglas-fir siding out there but what you’re going to want to do is use a solid-color stain. So, the proper way to do this would be to prime it – use an oil-based primer – and then on top of that, you would use a solid-color stain. And a properly-applied primer and stain combination can last you 8 to 10 years in between coats.


    LESLIE: Just double-check, Leslie, with the folks that you’re getting the siding from. Find out what length of time do they recommend for that lumber to sort of season or sort of dry out from whatever weatherproofing solvent that they use on the lumber. Because if you don’t wait that proper amount of time, whatever you apply on it isn’t really going to stick very well. So just make sure you allow it whatever that timeframe is, to sort of get ready to be prepped.

    LESLIE IN ILLINOIS: OK. Makes sense. Alright. Well, I appreciate your guys’ help and I appreciate the information.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Alright. Good luck with that project, Leslie. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Freddy in New York is calling in with help on a flooring – actually, a tiling project. You’re using floor tiles on the walls. How can we help you with this, Freddy?

    FREDDY: Oh yeah. My son is installing some tiles on a wall for me. They’re actually floor tiles, so they’re a little bit heavier than wall tiles. But we’re using normal thinset – it’s like the cement that you attach the tile to the wall with – but the tiles seem to be slipping; they’re apparently a bit too heavy. So I was wondering if there’s something you can mix with the thinset or maybe there’s another product …

    TOM: Yeah, I think you’re using the wrong product. Thinset usually goes on the floor; tile adhesive is what would go on a vertical surface.

    Right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yeah, which is like a mastic.

    TOM: Yeah. There’s actually another option. Now, where are these tile walls? Is this in a bathroom or …?

    FREDDY: No, no. It’s in the living room.

    TOM: OK.

    FREDDY: As a matter of fact, it’s just the sides and on the face of a fireplace.

    TOM: Alright. I have a better suggestion for you. There’s a new product out called Bondera – B-o-n-d-e-r-a – and it’s a tile mastic; it’s a tile adhesive but it comes in a sheet, like a roll. And basically, you peel off one side, you apply it to the wall, in your case, and then you peel off the other side and you stick the tiles right on this. It’s like a two-sided adhesive sheet.

    LESLIE: And then you can immediately grout, once you get all the tiles on.

    TOM: Exactly. No fuss, no muss.

    FREDDY: It sounds very easy. Bondera.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And I think that’s a Lowe’s product, right? You can get it at Lowe’s?

    TOM: Bondera TileMatSet and yes, it’s available at Lowe’s.

    FREDDY: Fantastic. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re 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. Well, it’s official: it is the Halloween weekend. So if you find yourself at the bay of little ghosts and goblins, we can help you clean up everything from Mischief Night or make your house super-scary to scare those little goblins away.

    Give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, as the cooler air makes its way into your part of the country, you might be feeling some drafts around the outsides of your doors and windows. We’ll have tips to make that all go away, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Therma-Tru doors are Energy Star-qualified and provide up to five times the insulation of a wood door. To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    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: The number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $100 gift card for Lowe’s, courtesy of Pella Windows and Doors. Lowe’s is actually making it easy to jumpstart your next home improvement project, with 31 ways to save during the 31 days of October. Spend your money wisely with energy-saving products like the Pella Designer Series 750 Windows.

    These are those really cool windows, Leslie, with the blinds in between them – in between the glass panes – so you never have to dust.

    LESLIE: Yeah and you’ve got to love that; a chore-saver. And there are so many different options. You don’t have to go with the blinds; you can go with interesting fabric panels, some really cool details. They offer a lot of great options.

    And replacing old windows and doors with more energy-efficient ones from Pella, sold at Lowe’s, can actually help you save energy year-round and could help you save at tax time, too, when it comes to deal with Uncle Sam, because one caller that we talk to this hour is going to win. So give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Linda from North Carolina who’s calling in with a gutter question. What can we do for you?

    LINDA: I have gutters on my house right now but I want to switch them out because I think I need seamless gutters. So, my question is, what is the best type of gutters to get? Because I have a lot of pine trees in the yard, so my gutters right now are filling up with pine.

    TOM: Your question is not so much what kind of gutters to get but what kind of gutter guard to get.

    LINDA: OK.

    TOM: And the gutter guards that I like better than any others are the ones that have a micro-mesh surface to them.

    LESLIE: A micro-mesh.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a very, very fine screening material.

    LESLIE: Almost like a screen on the top?

    TOM: And it really stops everything from sticking not only to the mesh itself but certainly stop stuff from getting in. And then my second-favorite kind are the types that have sort of a louvered surface where they work on the surface tension of water, sort of hugging them and then rolling over them.

    The only problems with the ones that rely on surface tension is that if you have a really steep roof and you get a big flow of water, that water can sort of wash right over the edge and down.

    LESLIE: Just going to run right off.

    TOM: But the gutter guards that have a micro-mesh, very, very effective.

    LINDA: OK.

    LESLIE: The only – my only concern there would be having a pine tree in the yard and knowing the tremendous amount of sap they do like to give off would be, you know, an issue with the sap sort of clogging up that mesh. It might be something you just want to ask the manufacturer, to ensure that that sap isn’t going to be harmful to it.

    LINDA: Right. Well, just a follow-up question: does the house really need gutters?

    LESLIE: Yes.

    TOM: Yes. Absolutely, Linda, and here’s why. That gutter system is going to control the water around the foundation. You don’t want the water to get too close to the house. It can undermine the foundation; it can flood a crawlspace or a basement. If it gets cold enough, it can freeze and be dangerous; cause slippery sidewalks. It can cause your foundation to shift and move.

    So a gutter is actually an important part of the structure of the house, believe it or not.

    LINDA: OK. Well why do I see some without them?

    TOM: Well, because some folks just don’t want to put them on. I mean if your soil is really, really sandy, you might be able to get away with it but for the most part, we think gutters are very, very important.

    Why don’t you head on over to our website at MoneyPit.com? I actually wrote an article about all the reasons that you should have gutters. It’s online at MoneyPit.com.

    LINDA: OK, I sure will.

    TOM: There’s also several articles there about gutter guards, too.

    LINDA: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Rodney in Alabama who’s calling in with a water-quality question. What can we do for you today?

    RODNEY: Well, I live right outside of Birmingham, in a rural area, and my house is about 18 years old. I have a coal (audio gap) water-softening system that runs off of the salt tablets. I recently saw an advertisement for something called EasyWater and when I looked it up on the internet, it looks like it’s a control box that you mount on the wall with a wire coming off of it. And you wrap the wire around your incoming water supply and it’s supposed to reduce the hardness (audio gap) water and take the place of that other unit. Do you know anything about how effective that type system might be?

    TOM: Yeah, Rodney, the EasyWater system is one that actually we are familiar with. They sent us a couple of units some years ago. Had a chance to put it in a friend’s house who had very good experience with it. It is a less-expensive alternative to a salt-based system.

    Installation, as you said, is pretty simple. You do have to wrap a wire basically around your main water line. And what it does is it sort of takes the mineral deposits inside the water and polarizes them in the sense that it pushes them against each other so that they won’t stick …

    LESLIE: Like reverse-polarizes them.

    TOM: Yes, so it won’t – they won’t stick together. Kind of like when you take the two positive sides of a magnet and try to push them together and they don’t stick? That’s what happens; they sort of bounce off each other and they don’t stick. So as a result, they flow through the plumbing system; they flow through the faucets and the screens and the restrictors.

    And people have had very, very good success for it, with it. They also have a real solid guarantee. And I tell you, Bill Freije – is the guy’s name that’s behind it – is a very solid guy and a really industrious – a really good inventor. So I would definitely give it a shot and if you’re not happy with it, they’ll take it back.

    RODNEY: Alright. That sounds great. It sounds like a good alternative to the old salt-lugging thing there, so I appreciate the information very much.

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

    LESLIE: Frank in Iowa is calling in with a countertop question. What can we do for you?

    FRANK: See, I have a Formica counter and we left a cast-iron skillet on it over the weekend and the water stains that it left is terrible.

    TOM: Uh-oh.

    FRANK: And I was kind of wondering if you guys knew of anything that I could use to remove it, barring harsh chemicals or anything like that.

    TOM: So it was just a water stain? It wasn’t a heat stain?

    FRANK: No, it was rust from the bottom of the pan, kind of soaked into it.

    TOM: OK. Have you tried CLR?

    FRANK: I have not.

    TOM: CLR, it’s a household cleaner product. It stands for Calcium Lime Rust; very effective at lifting the rust stains out of various types of surfaces. That would be my first stop right there.

    FRANK: OK. Yeah, yeah. My wife wasn’t real happy about it, so I’m trying to fix it.

    TOM: Well, we hope it gets you out of the doghouse.

    FRANK: I hope so, too. Thank you very much.

    TOM: Frank, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Jamie in Nebraska needs some help with a furniture-refinishing project. What’s going on?
    JAMIE: Hi. I have a couple of old pieces of furniture, a pie hutch and a table that are painted and they have the really neat patina of age.

    LESLIE: OK. Mm-hmm.
    JAMIE: But I also have two little kids, so I’m worried about lead paint.
    JAMIE: So my question was if I should maybe put a polyurethane on it or if I could repaint it; if that’s enough for the lead paint. And I don’t know that it’s lead paint but because it’s so old …
    LESLIE: And it’s chipping and your kids’ll probably pick it up and put it in their mouths …
    JAMIE: Could be. But right now it’s in storage but I would like to see them someday.
    LESLIE: Is the paint so loose in a lot of areas that it’s just constantly falling off or is it just a couple of little problem areas where you see the paint lifting?
    JAMIE: Well, it’s not really like falling off. It’s just – it’s kind of – you know, it’s got probably a couple layers of paint, so it’s kind of – you can see other colors coming through.
    LESLIE: But you like that look, right?
    JAMIE: I’m sorry, what?
    LESLIE: But you like that look, right?
    JAMIE: Yeah, I like the look but I didn’t know if I should just kind of forget it and repaint it or I could polyurethane it or …
    TOM: Well, I think if you take the piece out and you lightly sand it …
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. I would sand the edges that are sort of picking up. I wouldn’t sand the whole thing; I would just sand where you think your kids could get a nail-hold underneath.
    TOM: Right.
    JAMIE: OK.
    TOM: And then prime it. Use a good-quality primer.
    JAMIE: OK.
    TOM: Then you should be able to repaint the whole thing and have no worries.
    LESLIE: No paint.
    TOM: No paint?
    LESLIE: I say don’t paint it. I say …
    TOM: Well, she said it already has paint on it.
    LESLIE: I know but if she likes the look – because I know exactly what she’s talking about. There are areas where there’s sort of different washes of color and then there’s natural wood showing through and it has this really interesting, age-y look that people long for when it comes to sort of this country decorating style.
    JAMIE: Right. Yes.
    LESLIE: So what I would do is lightly sand, like Tom suggested, but just in the area where anybody could sort of get a nail-hold underneath and pick off a chunk of paint. And then I would get a water-based, clear topcoat and I would do it in a flat finish. Don’t get a gloss; don’t get a semi-gloss. Get flat as flat can be; matte is what it’s probably going to be called.

    And then put it over that and that’ll seal those edges down so that it’ll take a good bit of work to get under there. But having a one-year-old, I know that their magic fingers can take apart anything; I don’t know how.

    But I think if you put that clear coat on it, it’ll seal everything in there as best as it can and this way, they won’t be able to pick the paint off and you’ll still have that look.
    JAMIE: OK. Good to know.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Bill in Arkansas who’s dealing with a moldy roof. Tell us about it.

    BILL: I live in Arkansas – North Arkansas – and my shingles – asphalted shingles – keep accumulating a mildew. Fungus growth is what it’s referred to sometimes and I wonder if you have a good solution or a good remedy …

    TOM: Yep. Well, first of all, is your roof covered by trees? Is it fairly shady?

    BILL: No, it’s – well, since we had our ice storm and lost a lot of limbs, it’s exposed totally now.

    TOM: OK, well that actually will help because the more sunlight you get here, the less fungus you’re going to have on this roof. But what you need to do is you need to wash the roof down and you need to use a siding wash like JOMAX, which you can find at a home center, which is a cleaner that’s mixed with bleach and it’ll kill the moss or the fungus that’s there. Let it sit for a while and then you wash it off.

    Now, once it’s washed off, what I want you to do is to add some copper strips to the ridge and you can do this with a copper ridge vent or simply using copper flashing; wrap it right across the ridge of the roof. Because as it rains, the rain will strike that copper and release some of the metal and it acts as a mildicide, as well, and washes the roof as it comes down.

    So, that’s the way you clean it and slow it from coming back. And the fact that you lost a lot of branches is going to keep more sunlight on that and make it a little bit more difficult for that roof moss to grab hold.

    BILL: OK. OK. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Bill. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, it won’t be long before the winter winds will start to howl outside your home. That’s OK; we just don’t want them to howl inside your home, because that could mean that you have a very, very drafty house.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: So before the temperature drops, it’s a good time to inspect your home for areas that could provide an easy entry point for cold air, as well as an easy escape route for that warm air that you paid to heat up.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, this winter, you can actually limit your energy loss with simple improvements starting right at your front door. Now, the latest styles look just like wood but they’re far more energy-efficient.

    For example, fiberglass doors from Therma-Tru, they offer five times the insulation of a traditional wood door and they’re Energy Star-qualified, meaning that they provide excellent thermal protection.

    TOM: Plus, right now, there’s even more reason to upgrade to energy-efficient doors, because homeowners who buy and install them right now, you can get a $1,500 tax credit; up to a $1,500 tax credit.

    For more tips, you can go to ThermaTru.com/TaxCredit.

    LESLIE: Up next, are you an energy hog? Well, if your electricity bills have been steadily climbing, you might just be using too much in one area of your home. Up next, we’re going to get tips from This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor, on how a whole-home electricity-monitoring system can show you where your home uses the most energy and exactly how to use less.

    TOM: And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you by Trewax All-Natural Hardwood Floor Cleaner. Since 1935, Trewax products have set the standard for quality floor care, with a line of waxes, sealers and cleaning products.

    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 you can learn everything you need to know about Halloween safety, at MoneyPit.com. We’ve got your tips on costumes, lighting and décor. Just search “Halloween safety” at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to talk to Kay in Virginia who needs some help with a basement. What’s going on?
    KAY: Hi. Thank you for taking my call. My issue is with my unsealed, concrete basement floor.
    TOM: OK.
    KAY: I have a sick cat in the basement for, actually, a couple months, who tended to miss the litter box on a couple occasions and …
    TOM: OK, enough said. We got it.
    KAY: Well, I’ve been able to clean up the debris, so to speak, but – and I’ve sprayed the floor with …
    LESLIE: But it’s the odor, right?
    KAY: Yes. So I still have the odor and I still have the stains that won’t go away.
    LESLIE: OK. Are you willing to paint or finish the concrete floor when you’re done removing the odor?
    KAY: I can certainly paint.
    LESLIE: OK. What you want to do, there’s a product that I’ve used when we were training a puppy and she wasn’t very well-behaved and carpeting and yada-yada-yada. It’s called Just Rite.

    It’s R-i-t-e, right?
    TOM: Yes, correct.
    LESLIE: JustRite.com is the website. And it comes in like a set. It’s a couple of different products that you use together and basically it’s an enzyme that kills this bacteria that’s living in the concrete, causing the odor to constantly be there. So if you do the process, it’ll make that odor completely go away.
    Now, once that odor is gone, you’re probably still going to – you may still have some remnants of the stain. If that’s the case, I would use an epoxy coating on that floor. It’s going to finish really nicely on the concrete, it’ll hide the stains, it’ll wear very, very well – it’s very durable – and it comes in one kit, so it’s very easy to install.
    KAY: Wow, that sounds like a great – I can do that. I can do that myself.
    TOM: Yeah, the product actually is called 1-2-3 ODOR FREE and, again, the website is JustRite – spelled R-i-t-e – .com.
    KAY: Alright. Listen, I really appreciate it. Thank you guys very much.
    TOM: You’re welcome, Kay. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, your electricity bills are through the roof and you know you could stand to cut down on energy use at home but just where are you using the most electricity? And is there even a way to find out?

    TOM: Well, it turns out there is. Whole-house electricity-monitoring systems can do the detective work for you. Here to explain exactly what they are and how they work is This Old House host, Kevin O’Connor.

    Hey, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys.

    TOM: You know, as green becomes more popular, so has a whole host of tools to help you monitor your electrical use. But while most of them have only been capable of monitoring what was plugged into them today, now there’s a whole-new array of whole-house monitoring systems that are becoming more and more common and more affordable. How, exactly, do they work?

    KEVIN: Well, at the very basic level, they work by giving you information about what’s going on in your house. It’s all about empowering you, as the homeowner, to know how much of your electricity you’re using and what things in your house are using that electricity. Because until you know that, you can’t really change your behavior.

    So, there are a couple different items out there. There are the simplest ones that I call point-of-use monitors and that means that you can take your refrigerator, unplug it from the wall, plug it into the monitor and then that back into the wall. And what it will tell you is how much energy that refrigerator is drawing every minute of every hour of every day. Why is that important? Well, it’s going to tell you just how efficient that refrigerator is and it’s going to allow you to make a decision. Is this refrigerator too old and too efficient? Does it make sense to upgrade it?

    And you can take this simple, little device that costs just a few dollars and go around your house and plug it into whatever – your television, your dryer, your stereo component – and it will allow you to make those decisions. It’s basic but that doesn’t mean it’s not powerful.

    TOM: OK.

    KEVIN: Now you take it up from a step from there and you can talk about monitoring the entire house. And there are some great gadgets out there right now that will allow you to understand how much electricity the entire house and everything in it is using. Some of these you actually clip on to the electrical meter outside of the house and it will give you a report.

    And again, what’s good about this is it starts to set benchmarks. You can actually see how much your house – how much electricity your house uses and then through behavioral changes, you can say, “Well, listen, this is how I get it down 5 or 10 percent.”

    And this is going to become a very important tool because as the grid becomes more intelligent – the smarter a grid becomes more intelligent – we’re going to be able to buy power and use power at different times of the day, when it’s more efficient and costs less for us.

    TOM: Now that’s going to happen when we start to become more – have more and more smart meters installed around the country. And we don’t have so many yet but I think we’re getting there.

    KEVIN: No, I think we’re definitely getting there, because people are understanding that the more information we have, the more we can actually change our behavior and the more (inaudible at 0:24:46) we can use.

    LESLIE: So, wait, with this smart meter thing that you’re talking about, it would say – alright, if you use your, say, dryer right now, it’s going to cost you $15 to dry this load of laundry.

    TOM: Oh, God, I hope not.

    LESLIE: But if you – or whatever it might be. But if you wait an hour, it’s only going to cost you $3. Is that sort of what the sense is your getting out of what the capabilities could be someday?

    TOM: That’s where it’s going to. I don’t think that we’re there yet but eventually, the meters are going to be so smart that they can actually be tuned into different appliances and communicate with those appliances in your house. And it might trigger, say, a warning light that says – it’s blinking and you know when the light blinks, it means if you dry your clothes right now, it’s going to be more expensive than if you wait a few hours.

    KEVIN: Imagine the day when you can tell your dryer, “You know what? I don’t care when they’re dry, just so long as they’re dried by tomorrow. Dryer, you dry them when it’s most efficient.”

    LESLIE: When you see fit.

    KEVIN: And it will go out to the grid and say, “Well, guess what? It costs a lot less money to buy electricity at 2:00 a.m. than at 11:00 p.m. when everyone else is watching television.”

    These are great tools that are coming our way and I will tell you that on some of our projects recently, we’ve been installing things like hot-water heaters that have that Cat-5 plug built into them. So you can already see the day when a wire carrying information is going to be plugged into your appliances, into your equipment, so that it can start communicating with you and with the utility companies.

    LESLIE: How far down the road do you think that is?

    KEVIN: The technology, I think, is right around the corner. When mass-adoption happens, I think, is anyone’s guess. I would literally be throwing a dart at a dart board if I said somewhere in the next, say, 5 to 10 years.

    TOM: Yeah but there’s never been more interest in being energy-efficient and being green and being environmentally-friendly, so I think that the market is demanding it right now and that’s what’s really going to drive it over the edge.

    KEVIN: Yeah and I think that’s why we’re seeing a lot of these companies coming out with even more sophisticated systems. There’s one more whole-house system that we’re familiar with and rather than just monitoring the whole house sort of in the aggregate, this is a device that you put down next to your electrical panel and it clips on to every circuit in that box.

    And now it tells you two things: how much electricity is the entire house using but also how much electricity is each individual circuit using. And so now you don’t have to go around and unplug the refrigerator and plug in the TV; to plug in the dryer. You can get a very comprehensive report and it comes with sophisticated software, to empower you to actually save a lot of electricity.

    TOM: And if you’re concerned about getting lost in all that sophisticated reporting, even Google is getting into the monitoring business right now.

    KEVIN: Is Google not getting into anything?

    LESLIE: I think …

    KEVIN: Yeah, they’ve got a software program out there. No surprise, it’s free. But basically, what it does is it allows you to aggregate the data that you’re getting from either smart meters or your whole-house meters, to take all that data, to put it into one place and report it back to you. And of course, because it’s Google, you can do it remotely over the internet.

    TOM: And that’s called the Google PowerMeter at Google.com/PowerMeter.

    Kevin O’Connor, host of TV’s This Old House, great advice. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: My pleasure, guys.

    TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot, more saving, more doing.

    Still ahead, as the weather turns chilly, an outdoor fireplace can help you enjoy it. We’ll have tips on how to do just that, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Noritz. Get an Energy Star-qualified Noritz tankless, gas water heater installed in your home and save up to 40 percent on your water-heating costs. Visit LoveMyHotWater.com and never worry about running out of hot water again.

    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’d love to hear from you, so give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because one caller that we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $100 gift card for Lowe’s. And that’s courtesy of our friends over at Pella Windows and Doors.

    Now, Lowe’s is making it super-easy to jumpstart your next home improvement project, with their 31 ways to save during the 31 days in October. You can spend your money wisely with energy-saving products like the Pella’s Designer Series 750 Windows. And these are those really cool windows and they even have doors with those blinds that are built in between the glass panes, which cuts a chore right off your to-do list; no more dusting the blinds, which really is a pain in the butt.

    Right, Tom?

    TOM: Absolutely. And that $100 gift card is going out to one caller who reaches us with their home improvement question, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, as the weather turns chilly, are you disappointed that you’re not going to be able to use your patio or your deck anymore, for perhaps a long, long while, depending on where you live?

    Well, not to worry. Creating a fireplace outside will help you enjoy it through the late fall and depending where you live in the country, perhaps even all winter long, making it possible to get yourself outside of your living room or your den or your master bedroom; get back out-of-doors.

    The fireplace is now becoming the centerpiece of your outdoor living center. And there are a couple of ways to accomplish this. You can buy a simple fire pit at almost any big-box retailer near you. And this type will be portable, so you can bring it into the garage or shed when the weather gets really, really cold.

    TOM: You know, we’ve actually gone through about three of those as our kids grew up and we just love the portables, because they were so easy to take on and off the patio.

    LESLIE: They’re so great.

    TOM: They really don’t take up much room and …

    LESLIE: And they come in so many different styles, so there’s really a choice for you.

    TOM: Oh, God, we’ve had so much fun with that. S’mores galore around here. We run out of marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate and graham crackers from all of those cool nights outside.

    And there’s also the possibility of doing a little bit more of an elaborate fire pit. You could actually have one custom-installed and it can be fueled by wood or gas, so you don’t have to deal with the wood if it’s a hassle for you. If you want something really super and easy to do, consider a chiminea, which is a clay fire pit that’s inspired by a Mexican, wood-burning bread oven.

    They kind of look like little clay pot-bellies, don’t they? And the great thing is that they’re very, very small, they’re very portable and they’re very inexpensive.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And they’re super-cute, also, and you can get some of them where the clay is like really ornately detailed; sort of a true Mexican detailing on it. So there’s really a gorgeous option there.

    Well, whatever you decide to do, if you go all out and have a custom-built outdoor fireplace added to your patio, if it’s in your budget, fantastic. Whatever you decide, a roaring fire outside will extend the use of your outdoor space, pretty much for most of the year depending on where you live.

    But as Tom mentioned, there is one downside: you have got to make sure, if you’ve got kids, that your cabinet has the essentials; graham crackers, chocolate, marshmallows, skewers because s’mores are fantastic.

    And we all know if you have any scouting history, you are a champion at making s’mores, Tom.

    So make sure you are well-stocked, because your kids are going to be asking for it.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Let us help you stock up for your next home improvement project. Give us a call right now.

    LESLIE: Pat in Washington, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
    PAT: I have a linoleum floor in a bathroom that we hardly use and I put a bath mat in there that has a rubber backing on it.
    TOM: Oh, you’re not a regular listener of this show, are you, Pat?
    PAT: I am.
    LESLIE: See …
    PAT: But I thought I’ve heard you say before there’s no way to get it off.
    TOM: And I’m going to say that again. What happened, you’ve got a yellow stain under it, right?
    PAT: Yeah, it’s chemical. Correct?
    TOM: Yeah.
    LESLIE: It is.
    TOM: Yep, it’s oxidation between the rubber-backed mat and the vinyl or linoleum. It’s a chemical reaction and you’ve basically discolored the floor by doing this and you cannot get it out because it’s not a stain; it’s just that you’ve changed the color of your linoleum from whatever it was to yellow.
    LESLIE: To yellow.
    PAT: OK. That’s what I thought I heard you say before but I wasn’t 100-percent sure and I thought …
    TOM: You could always try to redecorate and try to pick up some of those yellows; maybe some yellow towels, yellow wallpaper.
    LESLIE: Well, what you can also do is lay that bath mat around the floor in different areas to create a pattern.
    PAT: I think I’ll change the floor.
    TOM: You could buy a bigger bath mat, too.
    PAT: Yeah, there you go.
    TOM: Alright, Pat.
    PAT: Alright. Thank you.
    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Man, how many times have we answered that question?

    LESLIE: It’s funny. You know, we get the calls on a little screen, so we know who’s calling in, and I saw Pat’s question and I thought, “Aw, Pat’s not going to be happy with this answer.”

    TOM: She’s not going to be happy.

    Alright, Pat. Thanks again for calling 888-MONEY-PIT.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Up next, high water bills can sometimes be avoided if you know how to read your water meter. We’ll teach you how to become water-meter literate, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Professional-quality hand tools. Pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers. Choose the brand that pros trust most: Bostitch. Available at Lowe’s and other retailers.

    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: We like you. We hope you like us, on Facebook, that is. You can like The Money Pit by simply texting “Fan The Money Pit” to Fbook at 32665 from your cell phone and you will be instantly added as a fan to our page, which will look so much better by virtue of the fact that we have your mug on our site.

    LESLIE: And while you’re snooping around online, if you want to e-mail us your question, you can do so by heading over to MoneyPit.com and clicking on the Ask Tom and Leslie icon.

    And I’ve got one here from Evelyn who writes: “My water bill went up 65 percent for the same service in one year.”

    TOM: Wow.

    LESLIE: “Nothing has changed in my usage. The water company checked the main water meter while all the service was shut off in the home and told me the meter indicated no movement, so therefore no leak. Next they instructed me to open up the main meter, checking the reading numerically and then wait three hours and check it again to see if the meter reading has changed at all. Is this appropriate advice or are they giving me the runaround?”

    TOM: Hmm. Yeah, I can see how you might feel that way but they’re actually giving you pretty good advice, except that I doubt that three hours is enough time to show you where a slow leak could be forming.

    Here’s what’s going on. First of all, if you have everything turned off in the house and you’re staring at your water meter and you see movement, that means you have something on in a very big way and it should be very obvious to you.

    LESLIE: So if you have a slight leak, you’re not even going to see a little movement on the meter.

    TOM: Right, because the water meters turn so slowly that that’s just not going to be obvious to you. So now, the second thing they had you try was to turn everything off and then wait three hours and recheck it. Even then, if you had a pretty good leak it might show something. I’d tell you to turn everything off at night, read the meter, wake up the next morning and then check it. Then you might see some movement. And if you see no movement, then there is no leak inside the house.

    So that doesn’t answer the question as to, well, what caused your water usage to go up so much. It could possibly be A) you didn’t really keep track – maybe you were watering or something like that more – B) maybe there’s a neighbor hooking up to your outside hose bib and stealing water or C) there’s just a billing snafu at the water company.

    So, those meters are pretty dumb in the sense that they generally tell you exactly what was being used, so I don’t think anything’s going to be wrong with the meter. It’s more likely that you had something going on that caused this usage, like excessive sprinklers or like a leaky fill valve or something that may have been temporary, then sealed up again.

    But you need to go back to the water company and demand they work through this issue with you, because it’s definitely something to be concerned about; you don’t want a surprise like that ever, ever again in the future.

    LESLIE: Alright. I hope that helps because I mean it really is quite a surprise. Your water bills, it’s – it really is kind of anyone’s guess when you get those bills. So really work through that, Evelyn, and I hope they get to the bottom of it.

    Alright. Sarah writes: “My smoke detectors haven’t been replaced in the last several years but still seem to work well when I test them. How long should a detector last?”

    TOM: Good question. And a detector really should be replaced every five years. You tend to think that the detector is not really doing anything, because it’s not going off all the time unless you happen to be a really bad cook. In which case, it might be getting plenty of exercise.

    But really, all kidding aide, it’s always on, it’s always sampling the air thousands and thousands of times a day. So, anything that works that many cycles is eventually going to break down. So my rule of thumb is five years. If the smoke detector is older than five years, replace it. You want it …

    LESLIE: Well and the technology is always changing so much. In fact, some of the batteries now, they come with batteries that you don’t even need to replace, that will just last for an extended amount of time. And when, essentially, the date on the back says, “Expires in five years,” you sort of recycle and get a new one.

    TOM: That’s right. And you can also get one now that’s called dual-sensor technology, so it both is an ionic sensor and a photoelectric sensor. And that covers both flash fires and smoldering fires.

    And by the way, while you’re thinking about it, also pick up a carbon monoxide detector. If you don’t have one, it’s essential that you have at least one in your house.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You should have one on every floor and you should have them outside of the sleeping areas, because these things will save your life. So make sure you get them, replace the batteries when you’re supposed to and just be safe out there, guys.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We’ve had fun. We hope that you learned a couple of things and got some ideas on how to improve your home this weekend and turn it from money pit to palace.

    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 2010 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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