The Loophole That Can Cost Renters Big, and Learn Which Old-Fashioned Housing Style Offers Big Energy Savings

  • 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: What are you working on this fine day? We are here to help you get your projects done, if it’s a home improvement project that is. If you’ve got to go shopping, you’re on your own. But if you’re shopping for a new appliance, a new color paint, perhaps some new outlets for your house, perhaps you want to improve the insulation, you want to improve the ventilation, you just want to make a nicer space so you’re more comfortable in it, that’s what we do. We’re here to help you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s show, President’s Day is just ahead. Can you guess which American president lived in an early, eco-friendly home? We’re going to have the story and tips for doing it yourself, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And do you or a loved one rent your home? Well, it probably feels like a safe bet but there is a loophole that’s costing renters big. We’ve got the details, coming up.

    TOM: And also ahead, we’ve got a new way to save water with every single flush. We’re going to teach you about the world’s most efficient toilet, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And one lucky caller this hour will never drill or hammer the wrong spot again. We are giving away a stud finder.

    TOM: It’s a must-have prize for do-it-yourselfers worth 20 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. Pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Jeff in Michigan is on the line with an ice-damming issue. How can we help you?

    JEFF: What we have – we have a house that was built 20 years ago. It’s Cape Cod. And on the front part of the house, during the cold season when we get snow and ice, it seems to be building up ice dams in the front. And it has, oh, probably 18 inches of insulation in the upstairs. So I’ve even tried the electric heat tape to try cutting it back and it still seems to ice up. So I’m just trying to figure out what I can do to solve that problem.

    TOM: OK. So the insulation, does that sort of get pressed right up against the underside of the roof sheathing? Or do you allow ventilation to pass over the top of the insulation?

    JEFF: What it does is they have Styrofoam ducts up to it, down to the front of the fascia.

    TOM: Is there ventilation in the soffit areas that air can pass over that? Because the problem here is this, alright: heat is passing up through that insulation and it’s warming the roof directly above it. And as a result, the overhang is staying super cold, so it’s freezing there and causing that dam to build up. If you have proper ventilation where the air is getting into the soffits, running up underneath the roof sheathing and out at a ridge, that will protect against ice dams. That’s all you can do, really, inside.

    From the outside, do you – have you had to do any repairs as a result of these ice dams? Have you actually gotten water leaks or anything like that?

    JEFF: No, we have not.

    TOM: Because if you do, the good news is that they’re covered by homeowner’s insurance. And if that was the case, I would have that portion of my roof removed and make sure I have ice-and-water shield installed, up 3 or 4 feet from the roof edge, to make sure I never got any leaks in there again.

    JEFF: OK. Alright.

    TOM: So I would take a look at the insulation, make sure you’re getting good ventilation above it. And if it does happen again and you ever get a leak, call your homeowner’s insurance agent, get a claim filed, and then have ice-and-water shield put in so it never happens again, Jeff.

    JEFF: OK. Great. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to Arkansas where Deborah is on the line thinking there might be some mold at her money pit. Tell us what you’re seeing.

    DEBORAH: The last rain that we had, water got in one of my bedrooms. And once the water got in, I noticed that there were black spots on it, which was mold that was on there. And I was just inquiring about should I get someone to come out and clean it or if I would be able to clean that myself.

    TOM: Have you fixed the leak yet, Deborah?

    DEBORAH: No. I have not fixed that.

    TOM: OK. So the first thing you need to do is fix the leak. Because if you don’t fix the leak, it’s just going to come back over and over and over again. So do that, first off.

    Secondly, with respect to the mold, I would spray a bleach-and-water solution on that, about one-third bleach, two-thirds water. Protect the surrounding area so you don’t stain the carpet or the furniture or anything like that. Let it sit for a good 15 or 20 minutes and then you can clean it up after that – rinse it off and clean off the wall after that. And I’d spray a product called Concrobium Mold Control over that, which will leave sort of a residue behind that will stop any future mold from growing.

    But there’s no sense doing all that if you still have a leak, because that leak’s going to cause the mold to keep growing. So fix the leak first, then get rid of the mold after that. OK, Deb?

    DEBORAH: OK. Alright. Thank you. Appreciate it.

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

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

    SUSAN: I was calling because I have a large room that was converted from a garage into a living room but it’s got some dark, ugly paneling on it. And what’s the best way to remove it or how do you undo paneling?

    LESLIE: I mean it really depends on how much work you want to do and how that paneling that’s there was attached to the existing structure.

    Now, it was the garage previously?

    SUSAN: Yes. And it was ridiculous. It was paneled and – like it was a really elite garage when we moved in. It was crazy.

    LESLIE: Now, do you know, is the paneling just attached directly to the studs of the wall? Or is it attached by glue to drywall? Have you had any clue what’s behind it?

    SUSAN: I don’t.

    LESLIE: I wonder if there’s a place, you know, where you can lift up a piece of trim or remove a switch plate and see what’s sort of going on with that? Because it could be that it was a garage. It could just be that the paneling was put directly onto those studs and then you could pull that off and have a clean slate and just go ahead and put some drywall up. And while you’re at it, add some insulation. Because if it was a garage, there’s a good chance there wasn’t any there before.

    Now, if you do find that it was attached to some drywall, it’s probably glued on and everything behind it is going to be a mess. So you’ve got two choices there. You can either just make that paneling look attractive by painting it. And you know what? When paneling is painted like a glossy white or a glossy neutral color, it actually doesn’t look so bad. It can kind of be that great, interesting base texture with sort of a modern country feel, if that makes sense.

    But if that’s something that you’re like, “Oh, God, no, I don’t even want to see it,” you can easily go over it with ¼-inch drywall. The only thing is where you’ve got switches or outlets or trimming, those things are going to have to bump out a little bit. So that requires a little bit of carpentry but it’s not the end of the world and it is a do-it-yourself project.

    SUSAN: OK. So it really depends on what it’s over.

    LESLIE: Depends on what it’s over, how it’s attached and how involved you want to get.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I guess the first thing I will need to do then is take a piece off or figure that out and go from there.

    LESLIE: Don’t sound so down; it’s not a difficult project.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, I appreciate the advice.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. Good luck with that project. 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 Give us a call with your home repair or your home improvement question. Basically, if you’re doing something that’s related to the inside or outside of your house, we can help. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, do you rent your apartment or your house? There’s little known risk associated with that that can wreak havoc on your finances. We’ll have the details, next.

    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: Hey, give us a call right now. You’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour we’re giving away a stud sensor, which is a great tool for finding studs so you can hang stuff up without it coming crashing down. Worth 20 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random. The number, again, is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Leroy on the line who’s got a painting question. How can we help you today?

    LEROY: Yes, I had some water damage on my ceiling. It has left a stain on the ceiling in the bedroom. I was wondering, what can I do to repair that? I paint over it and it still comes through.

    TOM: Yeah, if you don’t prime it first, Leroy, it will come through. So the key is that you have to prime the stain spots. Because the chemical reaction that occurs in the stained area absolutely has a way of pulling right through the topcoat of paint. So if you prime it and then paint over it, you’ll be OK.

    Now, I will say this: if you spot-prime it and then flat-paint over it, you may see a slightly different sheen, even though it’s a flat sheen, because the absorption rate is going to be different on the primed versus the non-primed spot. If you really want to do it right, you would prime the entire ceiling and then repaint the entire ceiling and then it would be completely invisible. But if you don’t prime it, you will see the stains pull through.

    LEROY: Great. Hey, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jackie in Colorado on the line with a wood-paneling question. How can we help you today?

    JACKIE: Well, I’ve got this old, medium-colored, wood paneling, which is really light, that was put over concrete walls. It’s one that’s got the black stripe in it.

    TOM: OK.

    JACKIE: I just want to know how the best way to clean it. Years ago, I used Murphen (ph) Oil.

    TOM: You mean Murphy’s Oil?

    JACKIE: Uh-huh.

    TOM: Yeah, Murphy’s Oil Soap is the best way to clean wood. Have you used that again?

    JACKIE: Well, I just used maybe a tablespoon with a bucket of warm water. Would that be OK?

    TOM: Yeah, I think you can actually use a little more than that. Follow the label directions. But when you’re trying to clean old, wood paneling like that, Murphy’s Oil Soap is really the best way to go, because it’s not going to dry out the wood and damage it. It’s very, very gentle. Just follow the instructions but I think that’s the best product to use for that situation.

    JACKIE: OK. I really enjoy your program. It’s just very enlightening for me and I’m not – you know, if I need to find something else, I’ll just call you guys.

    TOM: Well, if you rent your home rather than own it, there’s a good chance that you do it to save money or perhaps to control spending. But it turns out that renters are vulnerable to one very serious expense: the cost of replacing personal belongings that are ruined by a fire or a flood or other home-related weather damage.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, on rare occasions, landlords will include clauses in the leases that guarantee they’ll cover renter’s damages in the event of an emergency. But those clauses are very uncommon, which means most renters are vulnerable.

    TOM: Yeah. And especially vulnerable during cold-weather months, when most home fires take place. Without content insurance, furniture, your clothes, your other belongings that are damaged by smoke or flames or water from hoses are just not covered by the landlord’s insurance, which is why renters really need their own.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Now, a standard content insurance policy will run between $10 and $20 a month, which really isn’t that expensive. And it will cover everything from fire and lightning damage to items lost to an explosion, burglary, even wind, hail, or other kinds of scenarios known as perils, if you want to talk in insurance speak.

    TOM: So don’t be perilous. Pick up that content insurance. It’s going to cover you from mechanical problems, fires, floods, you’ve got it. Make sure that if that happens to the house you’re living in, that your stuff can be replaced.

    LESLIE: Clarence in Nebraska is on the line with a basement that’s cracking up and he wants to fix it. What can we do for you today?

    CLARENCE: Yeah. I had a contractor come in and pull my basement walls back. And I’ve got these cracks in the mortar. Some are pretty big; other ones are hairline. What can I do to fix that? Do you have to cut it out or is there a tool you can chip it out and then re-tuckpoint that or what do you think?

    TOM: The common mistake is kind of what you just explained. When you say “tuckpoint,” you’re assuming that you’re going to put more concrete or mortar mix into that crack. And that’s not going to work, because the patch in the wall surrounding it are going to have different expansion and contraction rates.

    So, concrete-product manufacturers have products designed specifically for crack repair, because they’re flexible and designed to stick to the old concrete surface. So, for example, you could go to – Q-U-I-K-R-E-T-E. They have a concrete-repair product that comes in a tube; it looks like a caulk tube.

    And you apply it with a caulk gun and it’s like a sanded acrylic-latex formula and it’s designed specifically for crack repair. You can buy it in a 10-ounce size or a 5½-ounce sort of squeeze-tube size. And you can fill the cracks in with that. You know it’s going to dry solid and it’s not going to open up again. And it’s good for either vertical or horizontal applications.

    So you want to use a product like that that’s designed specifically for crack repair because if you don’t, Clarence, it’s just going to fall out and you’ll be doing the same thing over and over again.

    CLARENCE: Hmm. Starting to re-crack. I don’t know if it would fall out, would it?

    TOM: Well, it may and very often, it does, especially if you get any moisture in there, as well. If it’s a basement wall and it gets cold, you get some frost heave, it can pop out. So, I would use the product that’s designed for it and that’s just one by QUIKRETE. And I’m sure that that will work out for you, OK?

    CLARENCE: Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Kathy in Indiana is on the line. Is dealing with a bald spot on her roof when it’s snowy out.

    And we’ve been getting a lot of snow this winter, so your house must look like it’s in need of a toupée. What’s going on, Kathy?

    KATHY: Hi. Yes, we just moved down here from Wisconsin, down to Indiana. We bought this house and we’ve been doing a lot of work on it. And when we got our first snow, I noticed, on the back part, there is a – like a foot-and-a-half-inch diameter bald spot every time we get a snowfall. And we had a friend – a contractor – come down. He went up in the attic and he’s like, “There is nothing going on here.” So the only thing we thought, well, maybe is going on is we have a heat pump and we also have our dryer vent in that same area back there.

    And so now I had two different suggestions. He said to put a soffit venting on that whole area to get more air going up through there and possibly maybe it’s coming from the heat pump. But then I went to The Home Depot and I was talking to the guy there that seemed to know quite a bit. And he said – and what he would do is take it and remove all the vented area – vented soffit in that area. And so if there is heat coming up – he said, “But this shouldn’t happen.” He said, “This is what people do. They put their heat pumps outside.” And he’d never heard of anything like this before.

    So we ended up doing that and so we don’t know yet if that actually helped it or not but …

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not hurting the roof not having snow on that one spot. If you want to know why it’s happening, it’s because that spot is warmer than the other spots around it. Now, why is it warmer? Well, you mentioned there is a dryer exhaust duct near there. If the dryer exhaust duct is not completely sealed, if it’s dumping warm air in there, that’s going to heat up that spot over the roof and then any snow that hits there is going to melt and roll down. If the insulation has some gap in it of some sort in there, where more room air can get up and heat that area right above it, that could cause it, as well.

    But I would not tell you to start messing with your venting and everything else just because you’ve got a foot-and-a-half spot that doesn’t – where snow doesn’t stick. You know, it’s curious but it’s not a major problem and I wouldn’t recommend major work for it.

    KATHY: OK. So it’s – we don’t have to be concerned that there is heat getting up there and it’s going to cause mold and issues going on?

    TOM: Well, I mean I would try – I would determine if there’s an obvious source of warmth that’s getting into that spot. But actually adding heat to that area is not necessarily going to cause mold. You’ll get more mold in the less heated spaces, frankly. Because when you warm moist – when you warm air, it uses more moisture, essentially. That’s why the warm air holds more moisture, so that’s not really a concern. It’s just kind of a curious thing.

    And if you’ve got a dryer vent that’s right near there, I’d start with that because that would make perfect sense. If the dryer vent is losing some of its air right in that space, that’s not a good idea, either, because you don’t want to be dumping any lint into the attic. That could be dangerous, OK?

    KATHY: OK. Well, very good. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright, Kathy. Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Anastasia in Colorado is on the line with a bathtub question. What’s going on?

    ANASTASIA: Well, I have a tub drain. Trying to get that out – the drain out because it’s – I can’t put a plug in it now. So, what I’ve tried is the drain-remover tool or it’s a plug wrench. And then I also tried that flaring tool to get it out and neither one of them works, because the little crosshairs in the bottom aren’t still in there, because it’s from 1960 tub.

    TOM: Oh. So you have nothing to grab onto, is that what you’re saying?

    ANASTASIA: Yeah. So, I’ve tried to get WD-40 in there, underneath the tray, but I can’t reach under there. And then I could crawl under the house but I don’t want to do that. So I was trying to think of a better way of getting it out.

    TOM: If I understand it correctly, this normally would unscrew but what you’re driving – what you’re trying to grab onto is either stripped or completely gone.

    ANASTASIA: Correct.

    TOM: I have only two suggestions for you. Number one is to hire a plumber, which is probably – you didn’t need me to tell you that. But I will say that the plumbers deal with this kind of thing all the time. And secondly, if I was a plumber and I was faced with this and there was absolutely no other way to get this off, I would probably drill it off and chisel it away, which you could do with a cold chisel.

    And it’s not a pleasant process and it’s time-consuming and kind of a pain in the neck but when all else fails and you’ve just got nothing to grab onto, that’s a way to get it done.

    ANASTASIA: Alright. That’s what I thought but I thought you might have a little trick up your sleeve.

    TOM: But that’s a trick but it’s a lot of hard work. Anastasia, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Still ahead on today’s show, we’re going to tell you about the world’s most efficient toilet. It uses less than 1 gallon of water with each flush. That’s very little water, guys, when you’re talking about toilets, so stick around.

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    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call, right now, with your home improvement question. We’re here to help.

    LESLIE: Joe in Georgia, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today with tankless questioning? What’s going on?

    JOE: Based on the high capital cost and the fact that natural-gas prices seem to be at an all-time low, what is the return on investment or payback period and does the federal government still offer tax credits? Second part of that question, is the annual maintenance contract that the installers offer really needed?

    TOM: OK. Well, first of all, the tax credits are less and less today. I believe there are some still, some small tax credits.

    I do like tankless water heaters for a number of reasons, though. First of all, they last a lot longer than a standard, tanked water heater. Secondly, they’re really energy-efficient and you never run out of hot water. Very important to me since I’ve got two teenagers in my house. If I’m the third one to get in the shower, forget it; it’s not going to happen. So I like the fact that they never run out of hot water.

    And I think if you compare the cost of tankless against not a standard, inefficient, tanked water heater but a high-efficiency, tanked water heater, you will find that the difference is not that far apart.

    The contractor’s service contract? Look, you need to have this thing serviced like anything else. I don’t think it needs a big, expensive contract. What it’s typically going to need is a yearly service. And so I would have to probably judge that against what this contract covered. If the contract covered all of my gas appliances in the house and I felt like it was reasonable, I might do that only for the reason that we know that these gas appliances need service, because they burn dirty and they eventually have to be cleaned. But I will say that these newer, more efficient ones need a lot less maintenance than the older, inefficient ones ever did.

    JOE: OK. I guess what I’m hearing out there on the installers is these are stand-alone service (audio gap) and if you compare that to a traditional hot-water heater, you typically don’t see any service required. And I think the capital is maybe 10x difference. I mean it maybe $800 for a – maybe 900 for a hot-water heater and you’re looking, I think, upwards of $4,000, I should say.

    TOM: Yeah, that sounds a little crazy. I’m not seeing that. What I’m seeing is if you bought a high-efficiency, tank water heater, it might be 1,500 bucks. And if you bought a tankless water heater, it might be 2 grand or something of that nature. I’m sure you’re going to run into contractors that are really driving the prices up and trying to charge you crazy money for service contracts and things like that. You just might not be talking to the right guys, Joe.

    JOE: You endorse any particular manufacturer?

    TOM: Yeah, there’s a bunch of good ones out there. Rinnai makes a good one. Rheem – R-h-e-e-m – makes a good one. I’d take a look at those. We’re talking about gas, right?

    JOE: Yeah, natural gas.

    TOM: Yeah, I would take a look at Rinnai and Rheem.

    JOE: OK. Excellent.

    TOM: Two good brands. OK, Joe?

    Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: So when I was growing up, the standard toilet used 5 gallons of water with every flush. Now, I grew up in a family of five and that is a lot of water. Well, toilets have come a very long way but this year, at a trade show called Greenbuild, we learned about a toilet that’s being touted as the world’s most efficient toilet on the market today.

    TOM: Yeah. It’s made by Niagara Conservation. Now, that’s a company that’s been around for a really long time, maybe way before saving water was cool, so to speak. They’ve really been at this for that long. And Shane Miller from Niagara talked to us about what’s different about the Niagara Stealth Toilet.

    SHANE: Now, these toilets are a little different than what probably what you’re used to, where water is the driving force pulling the waste down. This one relies more on compressed air and the air pulling the waste down the line.

    TOM: So when we look inside the toilet, we see the sort of a black box, right? And what that does is that sucks up the air from the lines itself, doesn’t let any of that sewage gas get to the outside? Stays inside. But then when you actually use the lever to flush it, it takes that air and pushes the waste down so the water coming behind it, that .8 gallons, is really just cleaning the bowl at that point.

    LESLIE: Alright. The entire interview is featured in our Top Products Podcast, online at

    TOM: And if you’d like to learn more about the Stealth, it’s at

    LESLIE: Up next, he’s known for so many things and you can add green-home pioneer to that list now. We’re going to tell you about the energy-savings trick used by none other than Abraham Lincoln, when The Money Pit returns after this.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’re going to help you with whatever you are working on around your money pit this weekend. Plus, we’ve got up for grabs a truly useful prize that pretty much every homeowner should have. And if you don’t, here’s your chance to nab one. We’ve got up for grabs a stud sensor, which really helps you locate the studs fast, very easily. It’s got a built-in erasable marker, which will help you mark the spot that you want so you know exactly where you’re going.

    And it’s worth 20 bucks but it could be yours for free. So give us a call for your chance to win.

    TOM: Going out to one lucky caller drawn at random. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    BETTY: We live in a ranch-style home and we have several bedrooms and bathrooms where the door frames, up above the door frames on just one side, are cracking. And we have repeatedly had contract workers out here to repair them and it has not held.

    TOM: You feel like it’s Groundhog Day? You’re fixing the same thing over and over again?

    Yeah, it’s pretty common. Around the door frame and around windows, those are the weakest portions of the wall. So if you have some movement from the normal expansion and contraction, that’s where it’s going to show. Typically, what happens is you’ll have a painter or a handyman come out and they’ll spackle the crack and paint it and it seems to go away for a while. But of course, as soon as the wall moves again, it shows up.

    What you really have to do here is sand down the area around the crack.

    BETTY: OK.

    TOM: And then you have to cover it with a perforated spackle tape. And that usually looks like netting and it’s a little sticky. You put it across the crack and then you spackle over the tape. And that does a permanent repair, because it actually sort of melds one side of the wall with the other and it should not separate again the next time the wall moves.

    BETTY: OK. Well, that sounds wonderful. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Murray in Illinois is on the line and he needs some advice on buying a new water heater. What can we help you with?

    MURRAY: Well, my issue is I have a house full of females and myself and we are having an issue with keeping up with hot water.


    MURRAY: I presently have a 40-gallon, natural-gas water heater and I was wondering if I could get you guys’ opinion. The bathroom they shower in is upstairs and we also have a washing machine up there.

    And I was wondering what you guys thought of the instantaneous water heaters. I’ve seen some small ones that it said would put out 3.3 gallons per minute and I had no idea what an actual shower takes. And I just wondered what you guys thought about that supplement, maybe, to the hot-water heater.

    TOM: OK. So, first of all, we are fans of tankless water-heating technology. And so, we do believe that if your water heater was failing, then that would be an appropriate thing to replace it with.

    In your case, you’re talking about supplementing, which is a bit different because you really have to have your water-heating needs zoned into two separate loops if you want to supplement. Because then you have half on the tank water heater and half on the tankless.

    The issue of your water heater being located a distance from the plumbing fixtures that you want to use most frequently is not going to be solved, regardless of what kind of water heater you have, because the water still has to travel the same distance. But if you’re concerned about running out of hot water, that’s not going to happen with a tankless; it just won’t. And you buythe tankless based on how many bathrooms you have in your house. And there’ll be plenty of hot water to keep everybody in those bathrooms showered for as long as they want to stay in there.

    MURRAY: So you’re saying just – it’s best just to replace the natural-gas one I have and get a whole-house tankless?

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. How old is that one you have now?

    MURRAY: It’s probably, I’m guessing, five or six years, maybe.

    TOM: Yeah. So it’s still pretty new. I mean they usually last about 10. So you’ve got a decision to make, you know? If you’re running out of hot water, then maybe it’s worth doing.

    MURRAY: OK. I appreciate your help.

    TOM: Well, hey, we talk a lot about energy efficiency on this show. And it turns out that there’s one president in our nation’s history who was actually a pioneer in green living and probably didn’t even know it. I’m talking about Abraham Lincoln. Now, he spent his young years in a log cabin in Kentucky and that’s where the green living steps in.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Log homes, they might sound old-fashioned but they actually score very big when it comes to the R-value. And that’s the factor used to calculate energy efficiency.

    TOM: Yeah. And the reason is because the log walls contain millions of tiny air pockets, which store cool air in the summer and warm air in the winter. So, if you think about it, a log home is really the original form of a green building.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? It’s not actually a far-fetched idea to have a log home today. And thanks to today’s building technologies, you don’t have to run for the hills to build it. Many of today’s log homes are actually constructed from kits and they’re really easy to assemble.

    TOM: Yep. So with factory-milled logs and a selection of over 200 manufacturers out there that build these log homes, the choice is really yours and you’ll be very green in the process.

    LESLIE: Barry in North Carolina is on the line and looking for some help with a sunroom. Tell us what you’re working on.

    BARRY: Well, we’ve got a 12×15 sunroom and it’s just – it gets cold and it gets hot. It’s double-pane glass, insulated and it’s about 2 inches thick for the bottom part. But it’s like all metal, all aluminum and it’s just cold and hot. And I just want to know – and it is ducted; there’s an air duct out there.

    TOM: OK.

    BARRY: And is there anything I can do to make it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer?

    TOM: Well, what’s going on here, Barry, is you are not putting enough cool air or warm air in that space to deal with the heat loss that’s going on. So, I presume now this – what you did is extended your HVAC system into this space? Is that how it’s ducted, when you say it’s ducted?

    BARRY: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. And this is typical. The HVAC system is not sized correctly for that area and for the heat loss in that area and for the heat gain in the summer. This is a perfect scenario, though, for you to add a kind of system called a “mini-split ductless.” A mini-split ductless is basically three pieces: you have an indoor unit that hangs on the wall; you have an outdoor unit that’s a very small, very quiet, very efficient compressor; and you have copper tubing that connects the two.

    And you would buy one that’s just big enough for this sunroom and what it would do is supplement the central heat or cold air that’s coming through the duct systems and balance it out. It can have its own thermostat and can supply warm air in the winter and cold air in the summer and make that room totally comfortable. There’s little else that you can do to insulate the structure. It’s just a very cold structure by its very nature, a sunroom. But a mini-split ductless is a good product to install to balance this out.

    You might want to take a look at this website: That’s the website for the Fujitsu Company. I personally have a Fujitsu mini-split ductless in my office because the room, just like you say, it’s too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter. And it’s been the perfect addition to my HVAC plan, because it really makes this space comfortable.

    BARRY: I’ve seen those units mounted before but usually they’re mounted up high.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    BARRY: Can they be mounted down low?

    TOM: I believe they can. But the higher the better, especially for the cold air so it falls.

    BARRY: But there’s only like 2½ feet of solid piece down below; the rest of it is all window.

    TOM: Well, what about the wall against the house where the ducts come through?

    BARRY: That’s a point. I hadn’t thought about that.

    TOM: Yeah, see, it doesn’t have to be on the exterior wall.

    BARRY: OK.

    TOM: It can – and in fact, you would want to have it on the interior wall – against the house, where the ducts come through – and mounted up high. And you’ll be amazed at how comfortable that space will be.

    That website, again, is You can check out the Fujitsus there. And they also have an energy-efficiency calculator so you can figure out pretty much how much energy you save.

    Problem is that we build these spaces and we add them on to our house. We try to extend the heating and cooling systems …

    LESLIE: And it just puts too much pressure on the system.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s just not enough.

    BARRY: OK. Very good. That answers my question then.

    LESLIE: Still ahead, have you ever wished that maybe you and your partner could each have your own his-and-hers houses? Well, agreeing on design doesn’t have to be as hard as it is sometimes, guys. We’re going to teach you some design tips for marriage harmony, when The Money Pit continues.

    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: Well, this is a homeowner’s worst nightmare and a very common one, too: getting water into the basement, from mold, the structural damage. If you hit basement moisture, it can quickly breed other problems. The good news is that keeping that water out in the first place isn’t really that tough. If you want tips on how to do just that, it’s on our home page right now. Check out The Money Pit’s basement-waterproofing tips at

    LESLIE: Alright. And let’s jump into our e-mail questions where Leo writes: “I recently had recessed lighting installed throughout my home. The lights in the living room won’t dim sufficiently, even though the bulbs are dimming recessed light bulbs. They only dim a tiny bit and the lowest level is still bright. What can I do?”

    TOM: It sounds like you’re maybe dealing with LED bulbs. LED bulbs are great energy savers but they don’t have the dimming range of incandescent bulbs. What you might want to do is look into Lutron dimmers. They have a dimmer called the Maestro that has an adjustable range feature that can truly make sure that the entire range of dim that’s available – in whatever bulbs you have. Even if you’ve got a mixed load of, say, LEDs and CFLs and incandescents, they can all work on one dimmer, properly adjusted to handle exactly what you are trying to accomplish.

    LESLIE: Yeah. That’s a smart move.

    TOM: Well, with Valentine’s Day around the corner, love is in the air. But if there’s one thing that can bring an end to warm fuzzies and all the fireworks, it’s a man and a woman trying to agree on home design. Whether it’s designing for him or her, it doesn’t have to involve so much sacrifice. Leslie has got a few design ideas for marriage harmony, in this week’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Guys, women get a bad rap for wanting frilly or lacy homes, and men get a bad rap for lacking a sense of design. And while neither is often 100-percent true – I mean I know a lot of girls who like super modern, clean things and I know a lot of guys with a lot of design sense. So, right there, those are bad stereotypes. But we really have some great ways that you can increase the chances that both you and your partner are going to love the look of the place that you live in.

    For starters, why not try to let neutral colors dominate? You know, they’re generally well liked by both men and women and they’re really the perfect canvas for small splashes of color that both of you are going to love. Now, you can let him or your partner, whomever it is, choose the throw pillows or things in their favorite colors, while the other partner could choose the throw rug or the curtains. You’ve got to kind of try to work together to find things that both of you like, find common ground and then bring them both into the space.

    Now, men often lean toward earthy, durable fabrics and materials, like leathers and hardwood, which conveniently are perfect partners for softer fabrics and patterns. So you can mix and match these materials throughout your home and that’s going to keep everybody very happy.

    Now, another trouble spot in relationships, we’re talking about the couch here. So you want to give equal attention to comfort and appearance when you are shopping for one. The ideal sofa is going to be cozy enough for football games and sick days but it’s also going to look great in the space and stay tidy and be cleanable. Those are key factors right there.

    Now, when it comes to adorning your walls with art or photos or prints, supply is your friend. So if one of you loves rugged landscapes and sailing vessels while the other one prefers cottages and flowers, well, just keep shopping. Whether you’re looking online or in a gallery or in a store, there is so much artwork out there that eventually you’re going to find something that works for you both. And remember, it doesn’t have to actually be an image; it could be a texture or a wall hanging or a basket or something like that that gives you just a décor item without being so specific. Really, keep looking, guys. You’re going to find stuff you like and you will find a way to make your home work for everybody who’s involved.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on the program, we’re going to talk about insulation, specifically fiberglass-batt insulation. It makes the space cozier and more energy-efficient but only if it’s installed properly. Learn how to do that the first time, 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.


    (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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