Zero Energy Homes and More
TRANSCRIPT FOR APRIL 27, 2009, HOUR 2
Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
(NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
BEGIN HOUR 2 TEXT:
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: Pick up the phone, give us a call. Let us help you with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, we will help prevent you from becoming a do-it-to-yourselfer. If you want to tackle a project – maybe it started small, maybe it grew totally out of control – we’ll help you (Leslie chuckles) narrow it down and get it done.
You know that kind of happened to me …
LESLIE: Help you rein it back in.
TOM: It did. It kind of happened to me this weekend. I’ve been thinking about painting my kitchen for a long time and in our kitchen we have an air conditioner – like a window air conditioner – because it gets a little warm in there. And I had pulled it out, you know, last fall; and underneath, I saw a little bit of a depressed area in the sill. I said, “Oh, you know, that air conditioner has been leaking; it probably rotted the sill out.” Well, now that I got ready to do my paint project, turns out it wasn’t rot; it was termites.
LESLIE: Oh, goodness.
TOM: Had eaten halfway up the wall. So you see, it happens to us too, folks. The little projects – some become big projects but we’re here to help you get the job done. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
And all this month, we’re going green for Earth Day here at The Money Pit; instead of giving it just one day worth of service, we’re going the full 30 days with green tips and advice. Coming up, more and more homeowners are looking for green features when buying a home. Tip the scales in your favor by greening up your home now. We’re going to tell you what you need to know.
LESLIE: And also ahead, we’re going to tell you why you don’t need to use hot water to wash your clothes. You can actually cut down on energy use at home and your clothes will still get sparkly clean.
TOM: And how would you like to live in a home that produces every single bit of energy it takes to run the home and then some? It’s called the energy-producing home; it can change the face of home construction forever. We’re going to hear from the builder of the energy-producing home in just a bit.
LESLIE: And this hour, we’ve got a great prize that we’re giving away. We’ve got for you a set of Husky Tough Tapes. It’s worth over 50 bucks. You will be measuring to your heart’s delight but you’ve got to be in it to win it.
TOM: So pick up the phone and give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to those phones.
LESLIE: Going out to New Mexico to discuss window repairs with David. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.
DAVID: Oh, I’ve got an old, old adobe home.
TOM: Oh, interesting.
DAVID: Probably 120 years old; something like that. The adobe is very thick at the bottom; it’s about two feet wide and it tapers at the top to about, oh, maybe 16 inches. In that wall, I have double-hung wood windows with the pulleys and the sash cords and the sash weights, et cetera.
DAVID: I need to be able get into the inner part of that window. Now, I’m familiar with that. I restored an old Victorian here a few years ago. But my question is, the adobe – the window is set into the adobe and the adobe has been molded to that thickness in a curve up to the edge of the window. So the entire outer frame of the window is covered with this adobe. I’m going to have to take that off. I’m going to have to remove that to get into the cavity where I can work on the sash cords and …
TOM: Can you open up the trim from the inside of the house or is the adobe surface also wrapped to the inside? In other words, isn’t there window trim on the inside?
DAVID: I’m going to work from the inside. The adobe is wrapped on both sides.
TOM: Oh, boy.
DAVID: OK? So what I need to do – and I know how to get to it but what can I use to make that – to fill in and make that – it’s about three inches thick of adobe trim curve …
TOM: Let me ask you a question, David. How in love are you with these old, wood windows? Have you considered replacement windows?
DAVID: No, I like them. I’m going to keep them.
TOM: (chuckling) OK. Alright.
DAVID: They’re not – I understand that they’re not real efficient but, where I live, the climate is not real fierce.
DAVID: You know? So it’s not a real problem.
TOM: The reason I say this is because this is a situation that is – that a replacement window would be perfect for because the replacement window could fit within the existing wood window jambs. In other words, you would just take the sashes apart, leave the weights inside the wall and slip the replacement window in exactly the same space. All replacement windows are custom made so they can be made to fit that exact space of the old window.
DAVID: I have more in mind to take out part of the adobe – maybe a 16-inch section – and be able to work in – I have to get the sash weight tied to the sash cord. That’s my problem. (laughs)
TOM: David, one of the tricks of the trade for restoring an old adobe building is to actually save the chunks of material that you’re taking off and then to regrind those and use that material to actually create the replacement mortar for the same space. Now, obviously there’ll be some coloration differences but perhaps that could be taken care of with either a dye or a paint.
There’s a good website that has lots of adobe repair techniques – it’s called Old House Web – that you might want to take a look at for some more detailed ideas. It’s OldHouseWeb.com.
DAVID: Excellent. Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome, David. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Gee, you don’t get an adobe repair question every day, do you?
LESLIE: No. How interesting. It’s such a nice, historic home.
You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Pick up the phone and give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whatever your repair or your home improvement to-do list is made up of, we can help you get the job done right the first time at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
TOM: 888-666-3974. Up next, learn an easy way to save energy on laundry day that doesn’t cost a dime.
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 is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Call us right now. One caller who gets on the air with us is going to win a set of three Husky Tough Tapes from Iron Bridge Tools. These are extra-tough with numbers on both sides of the tape and magnets to help when you’re working alone. It’s a prize package worth over 50 bucks; going to go out to one caller that reaches us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with their home improvement question.
LESLIE: Yeah. Pick up the phone and give us a call. Maybe your project is updating your laundry room, you want to make a folding area, you need some help with correcting the plumbing. Whatever it might be, when it actually comes to washing your clothes, here’s the dirt on how to save money while doing your laundry and it doesn’t actually cost a dime.
Try not to use hot water; that’s why they give you the other options: cold, warm, hot. Choose something else. Now, you might think that hot water is the best way to clean really, really dirty clothes but improved cold-water detergents and modern technology mean that you’re going to need a lot less hot water to do your laundry.
Now, if you want to go a step further, replace your old washing machine with one of those newfangled, energy-efficient models. This way you can absolutely use freezing, ice-cold water while saving cold, hard cash in the long run.
TOM: I think it would be great if we always just had one choice of water temperature; it would have made doing the laundry so much easier (Leslie chuckles) when I was in college.
LESLIE: And it would have saved a lot of your white clothes from becoming pink. Is that where you’re going, Tom? (chuckles)
TOM: It probably would have saved a lot of work for my poor mother who had to wash my clothes when I came home on the weekends. (Leslie chuckles) 888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: We’ve got Texas on the line with Gary who’s got cracks on the inside and outside. Tell us about them. Where are you seeing them? Are they new? Are they big?
GARY: Yes, I have cracks outside. We’ve been in the house three years and after we’d been in the house about six months, they started on the outside of the house and then eventually they started on the inside of the house. The builder came in and patched the ones on the inside but they just kept getting bigger and bigger on the outside until I have gaps in the brick up to an inch in several places outside.
GARY: And in the inside they have repaired the cracks twice and I have cracks that are continually coming up. The builder has had his engineer here and they’ve done all sorts of foundation testing and everything and last Friday they told me that they can find nothing wrong with the house and just simply contact my 2-10 warranty company.
TOM: Listen, you’ve got a serious problem here, Gary, and you need to get some independent, expert advice and I don’t mean from the builder’s engineer. If you have cracks that are continuing to re-form, you have an active problem with your foundation and I would do two things: I would get an independent expert to review this – preferably a structural engineer; and secondly, if you haven’t done it yet, make sure that you are notifying not only the builder but the warranty company of the ongoing structural problems with your home. And actually, there’s one more thing: you may want to also consult an attorney because I’ve got to tell you that those warranty programs are written to protect the builders, not the consumers.
TOM: They love to wrap that around you like it’s a warm blanket but it’s really a wet blanket and it doesn’t have a lot of protection, so you really need to take some steps to protect your investment here. The fact that this home – they continue to patch this home and it continues to open up to the point where you have gaps of one inch is a very serious structural problem and any engineer that says otherwise is just not being forthright with you.
GARY: OK. Well, the engineer told me that in the initial package that was given to him by the builder, my back patio was not on that package. But now the roof line comes down and goes over the back patio – which is the way the house was originally built – and he said the house was not approved to have that on there.
TOM: Well, I mean these are problems – this is why you hire a builder. They’re supposed to be responsible for making sure the home is built safely in accordance with plans and if it’s not, it’s not your fault. So you need to protect yourself here, Gary. Talk to an attorney, get a good engineer to review that and find out what’s going on and, once you have the information, then you can determine what the next step should be.
GARY: OK, sir.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: E.T. in Tennessee has a question about a deck. What can we do for you?
E.T.: About 10 years ago, when I moved to Tennessee, I bought new construction here. Matter of fact, I bought the first house in a new subdivision. And it had a deck on it and then …
E.T.: … about four or five years ago we had a roof put on the deck and then last year we turned that into a sun room and built another deck.
TOM: (chuckling) OK.
E.T.: And when I built the other deck, I had them to put plastic down over the ground so the weeds wouldn’t come up through it and now I’m starting to experience some light green moss or mold on the one side of the deck there and I thought maybe the plastic being under it might accumulate moisture and cause that. And if so, I was wondering what I could do to alleviate that problem.
TOM: OK. Is it a shady backyard?
E.T.: It’s shady on the side that that’s affecting, yes.
TOM: Mm-hmm, yeah. Well, what happens is you have a humid area and you don’t have a lot of sunlight so you get a lot of moss that’s going to grow. And you know the only solution here is regular maintenance, regular cleaning. There’s a …
LESLIE: Yeah, there’s no magic solution that’s going to make it go away forever.
TOM: (overlapping voices) There’s no magic here, right.
LESLIE: What you can do is trim back whatever trees that you can to help get more sunlight to this area because that will be a natural preventative.
TOM: But of course, you don’t want to do that because then you’re going to have a hot deck.
E.T.: Well, that particular side of it is next to the house so there’s no way to remedy that.
TOM: (overlapping voices) I see.
E.T.: So what I’ve been doing is just pressure-washing it with bleach and then putting the sealer back on it, you know.
TOM: There’s a product called JOMAX – J-O-M-A-X – that is a good product for controlling this issue. It’s made by Zinsser; available at home centers, hardware stores, et cetera. You mix it up with water and bleach and it does a really good job of killing what’s there.
It’s important that, you know, when you apply this type of product, or even bleach, that you let it sit there for enough time to do its work and then wash it off with a pressure washer; you can’t do it all in one fell swoop.
LESLIE: Lee in Oklahoma has a cleaning question. What can we help you with?
LEE: My question is about the grout that is in between the ceramic floor tiles in the kitchen and bathroom.
TOM: (overlapping voices) OK.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm.
LEE: And I would like to know how to safely clean that.
LESLIE: Was it white when it started out?
LEE: No. It has a – it’s a light grout; it’s tinted.
TOM: Well, there are kind of two levels of grout cleaner out there: there is grout cleaner and there is grout stripper. If it’s really dirty, you would use a grout stripper.
TOM: And with a grout stripper you want to let it sit on there for a while and then use a good brush and scrub it and sort of work it clean. Sometimes, you have to do a couple of applications. When you get done cleaning it, Lee, it’s important to use a sealer. There are silicone sealers that are out there that seal the grout and that stops the dirt from being absorbed quite as quickly the next time. You’ll find that it stays …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Dirt will still sit on it but you’ll be able to clean it easier because, you know, it’s not going to penetrate into the grout itself.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah.
LEE: OK. I had – my second question was about sealing and you answered that as well.
TOM: There you go; you got the two-for-one special today, Lee.
LEE: OK. OK. Thanks a lot.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Now, I’ve heard of a dog eating my homework but John in Colorado is claiming that the dog ate the carpet. (Tom chuckles) What happened?
JOHN: She’s a Labrador and if you don’t watch her, she’ll lick and lick at the carpet for some reason and then she’ll start to chew and she chewed about – oh, it’s about a quarter or half-dollar-sized hole in the carpet right by the couch.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Oh, boy.
LESLIE: Can you move the couch? (chuckles) No, I’m kidding.
TOM: Yeah, really.
JOHN: (chuckling) Right.
TOM: Well, first of all, do you have any extra carpet?
JOHN: Yes, we’ve got some out in the garage.
TOM: Well, you could patch it. You may see the seam. So you’re going to have to decide what’s going to be less obvious: the little hole in the carpet where maybe, as Leslie said, you could strategically move some furniture or a patch.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. If you did want to patch it what you would do is you would get a utility knife – a good, sharp one – and you’d cut a square shape around that hole. And you want to make sure that you don’t cut all the way through to the pad but you do want to make like one nice, clean cut on each side so that you do get out a nice, smooth area. And then that piece that you cut out, you want to use that as your template to cut a piece out of the new carpeting. And you need to pay attention to the pile.
JOHN: Oh, yeah.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) As wood has a grain, carpet also has a grain, if you will. So you want to make sure that you’re not putting it in in the opposite direction where all of a sudden you’re going to see a different sheen or a different color tonation.
TOM: Because then it’s super obvious.
JOHN: (overlapping voices) Right.
LESLIE: Yeah, then it’ll like stare right out at you. And what you want to do is you want to get some carpet adhesive and you want to put that on the backside of the patch and on the pad – it’s almost like a contact cement – and then you want to take carpet glue and you want to – or the same adhesive, whatever you find – and put it on the edges of that pile and then shove it in there and really press it down into that hole and then fluff up the pile with your fingers and really let it dry and then vacuum your patch area.
TOM: Yeah, there’s another way to do it too with carpet tape, which is heat-activated. But for that you need some special tools and it sort of goes underneath the open sides of the hole and then it glues down to the carpet and holds the whole thing in place.
JOHN: Sounds good.
TOM: Alright, John, and listen; keep an eye on that dog, will you? Get a pen. (Leslie chuckles)
JOHN: Yeah, she’s a menace.
TOM: (chuckling) Alright, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: (audio gap) New Jersey is looking for a way to test the water hardness. Did you just move into a new place?
ED: I’m there about a year-and-a-half now.
ED: And I tested the water with a retail water-tester kit …
ED: … and it turns out that my water is actually soft. So, I’m a little confused now because my region is supposedly a hard-water region.
TOM: OK. Well, I would certainly believe the test results rather than what the rumors are about the region. Let me ask you this: when you use soap, say, to wash your hands or something like that, does it seem to have any problem lathering up?
TOM: Well, then your water is probably soft.
ED: So is soft water OK?
TOM: Yes. So I would not get too worked up about the quality of your water. Most municipal systems are just fine.
ED: OK, that sounds great. Thank you so much for your help.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Thanks so much for joining us at The Money Pit. Up next, we’re going to give you details on the very first, energy-producing home that not only does it power itself; this home even makes extra energy that you can sell right back to the grid, so stick around.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru Doors, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Did you know that adding a Therma-Tru entryway can add as much as 24,000 to what others think your home is worth? To learn more, visit ThermaTru.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, where home solutions live. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And every time you open that heating, cooling or electric bill, you probably grumble under your breath and wonder what you can do to stop ever-increasing energy bills. Wouldn’t you love to live in a home that created its own energy; say, enough to heat it and cool it, run all the appliances, even power your car for your daily commute to work?
LESLIE: Well, it sounds like a futuristic pipe dream but it is a reality that is happening right now, thanks to our next guest. We’ve got Marc Newman of Newman Development and he’s created the first energy-producing – the EP home, as it’s become known – and he’s here to tell us more about it.
Marc, this is just really very exciting. So, what exactly powers this home?
MARC: It is really exciting and the technology is here today. It’s cost effective. When you look at your payments, your payments actually – if you take into account that you have no gas or electric bill – you can live in this home for less money than you would live in a corresponding or a same type of home right next door.
We’re powering it with geothermal. A geothermal system has, of course, a heat exchanger and it takes actually a liquid through the ground. Eight feet under ground, the temperature is a constant approximately 54 degrees. It circulates the liquid through this pipe, it comes back into the house at a constant 54 degree temperature, goes through the heat exchanger and then, depending on whether we’re heating or cooling the home, we either extract heat from that liquid or add heat to it. And then it goes back out through the tube again and comes back in at the constant temperature.
TOM: Now, this house is a lot more than a ground loop heat pump though; I mean, you’ve got a lot of technology in here that provides many ways to generate the energy that you need to run it. So you mentioned that it’s cost-effective; that’s been an issue with this type of technology for a long time but is it your view now that the prices have come down enough where we can actually generate enough power to not only power our own house but have a little bit more to throw back into the network?
MARC: Yes. And, actually, this house will produce more energy according to all the computer modeling that we’ve done. It will actually produce more energy than it needs and we’re looking to get a check back from the utility company every month; if you can imagine that.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Wow. Great.
TOM: (overlapping voices) So how exactly does it produce energy? What are the elements that produce energy in it?
MARC: Well, the geothermal system, of course, requires electricity to run. So what we’ve done is installed solar panels on the roof and the solar panels then produce the energy for the geothermal part and that provides the heating and the cooling.
LESLIE: So now, do your photovoltaic cells provide enough electricity then for all of the appliances and whatever else on the house might need electric power?
MARC: Yes, it does. It actually – for the stove, the refrigerator, the lights – and we’ve actually gone the next step and we have planned an electric car to be parked in the garage to get you back and forth to work and we’re producing enough electricity to – of course, you have to plug that car in at night to recharge the battery – we’re producing that electricity as well.
LESLIE: And your house is not on the sun, correct? You’re just getting (Leslie and Tom chuckle) normal sunlight like anybody anywhere in the country could get access to?
MARC: Sure. And you know, actually, a lot of people think up here in Wisconsin that it doesn’t work out very well and in fact, it works just fine up here.
TOM: Yeah, that’s a good point.
MARC: (overlapping voices) One thing we did do is we made the roof pitch at the correct angle that we needed the solar panels located at, so the solar panels literally lay right on top of the roof. And it makes it so, aesthetically – I had a person in the home this morning, as a matter of fact; he didn’t know the solar panels were up there.
MARC: (overlapping voices) So, aesthetically – that’s the other thing – is we try to make the home just like any other home that you might walk into.
TOM: You know, it’s really interesting, Marc, because a lot of times solar panels are an afterthought and you’re right: if you could start from scratch, you could design this at the absolute perfect angle to absorb every ounce of solar energy that’s out there.
Now, the cost of solar panels has always been pretty high. Is that adding to the cost of this home? Is this home going to be more expensive than any other traditional home that would be powered, say, by fossil fuels?
MARC: It is. Actually, it’s about $75,000 more to put this equipment on the home after the tax credits but if you look through the whole thing and you say, “I’m going to borrow the additional $75,000 in my mortgage,” – let me give you an example. At a 5-percent interest rate and 20-percent down payment, your payments on the EP home are $1,504 dollars a month …
MARC: … compared to – on a regular home standing right alongside it – $1,181 a month.
MARC: So, the other home would be cheaper for your bank payments but in the normal home you’d have approximately $260 for gas and electric bills and we’re figuring about $122 a month to get you back and forth to work so when you look at the total picture, our home is costing $1,504 dollars; the other one costs $1,563 per month to live in.
TOM: And there’s more of a tax benefit because you’re paying that through your mortgage, I would imagine.
MARC: That’s correct. You know what? I hadn’t even thought of that. That’s absolutely correct. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: That’s what we do around here. (Tom and Leslie chuckle)
MARC: I have to add that to my notes.
TOM: OK. Alright, Marc Newman. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit and telling us all about the energy-producing home.
MARC: You bet. Thank you.
TOM: If you’d like more information on the energy-producing home, you can go to their website which is simply EnergyProducingHome.com.
LESLIE: Alright, Marc. Well, now that you’ve got all our wheels a-turning on how we can save money, now you folks out there, you might not live in an energy-producing home but we can tell you how to make your home more green with a few simple ideas. Now that’s next.
ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Citrus Magic, the 100-percent-natural, odor-eliminating air freshener. Unlike other air fresheners, Citrus Magic actually eliminates odors and lasts up to four times longer. Visit CitrusMagic.com for more information. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
TOM: Where home solutions live. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and we want you to be part of The Money Pit, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. This way, you are going to ask your home improvement or your repair question on the air and then you might just win a prize. And we’ve got a great prize this hour. Up for grabs we’ve got three Husky Tough Tapes. Now, they’re measuring tapes that are in 16, 25 and 40-foot lengths and they’ve got measurements on both sides of the tape. They’re worth over 50 bucks; they’ve got like an 11-foot standout. They’ve got magnets on the end in case you’re doing a project on your own and you just can’t quite get the tape to stick where you need it to. Great prize; excellent home improvement prize this hour. All you need to do is pick up the phone, dial 1-888-MONEY-PIT. That’s our number. You’ve got to ask your question on the air and you’ve got a chance to win.
TOM: 888-666-3974. You might have a question about how you can green your home. You know, more and more homebuyers are looking at green features when choosing new homes, according to the National Association of Home Builders; so you can add value to your home while using environmentally-friendly products and materials.
Now, here are some ways that you can do just that. First up, choose paints that are labeled as containing low-VOCs. They’re much better for the environment. These paints won’t off-gas or produce any noxious smells. You know, Dutch Boy makes one called Refresh that’s actually zero-VOC; that’s pretty cool and it contains Arm & Hammer odor-eliminating technology to give walls sort of a fresh, clean, refrigerator-like smell. (Leslie chuckles) Well, that’s what I use it for; I put it in my refrigerator, right? It works for there; I guess it will work for the paint as well. (Leslie chuckles)
You can learn more about it at DutchBoy.com/refresh.
LESLIE: (chuckling) And also, when you’re making home improvements, try to use natural materials like stone or quarry tile or even brick instead of those synthetic materials that are available. And go around your house and replace those incandescent light bulbs with those CFLs – you know, compact fluorescents – and those are going to last three to four times longer and have a much lower impact on our environment.
And consider using renewable resources like bamboo for your flooring or even furniture choices.
TOM: And finally, always dial low-cost or no-cost phone numbers like 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Marilyn in California, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
MARILYN: I’m the president of a homeowners association in a condo building. We have six small townhouses and one water heater. It’s about 16 years old and one of these days it’s going to go. And I’ve been wondering if it’s possible to use a tankless water heater to replace this for, you know, six units.
LESLIE: Well, it would be a tankless per unit, correct?
TOM: Not necessarily, Leslie. It depends on the size. Now, you would have to have it sized correctly by the plumber that installed it but it might be that a single tankless could do it or there could be a series of two or three tankless that are hooked up together side-by-side that work together. This is a very common situation in a commercial building and very often the solution is some number of water heaters hooked up in series. But they have to be done correctly because they’re all computer-controlled and in order to keep the flow where it needs to be, they need to be properly installed. But certainly, tankless is a good option. I presume here, Marilyn, that you have a gas-fired water heater?
MARILYN: We do.
MARILYN: But here’s an issue because I’ve been in some condos where they had them in individual units and one person I know had it retrofitted and it’s on the third story and it takes forever to get hot water in her kitchen downstairs. And we have a pump, a circulating pump, that keeps hot water going for a good portion of the day.
TOM: I see.
MARILYN: So how do you stop from having to use a lot of water to get to your hot water or could you?
TOM: Well, you would have to do some new plumbing.
TOM: The advantage of tankless water heaters is that they’re small. I don’t think you need one per unit but maybe one per floor or something like that. You may be able to get additional ones but, remember, that’s going to require additional plumbing work to close that loop. The idea that you’re circulating a hot water loop throughout the whole building is wasting an enormous amount of energy, an enormous amount. And I’d love to see you find a solution around that but I think that at this point, considering the age of that unit, it’s a good idea to bring in a good contractor or a number of them and let them give you some options and some pricing for those options because, as an association, you have the ability to fund that perhaps over some number of years so it wouldn’t be a dramatic cost all at the same time.
MARILYN: (overlapping voices) Right. OK. Alright, I really appreciate all that feedback and I love your show; I listen to it every week.
TOM: (overlapping voices) You’re welcome, Marilyn. Thanks so much.
LESLIE: Now, we’re going to help Mark in New York with a heating question. What’s going on at your money pit?
MARK: Bought a house three years ago and it’s time to update the heating system.
MARK: So my question is I have an old oil heater and – it’s old; about 30 years – heated by radiator heats; you know, converted from steam now to water so all of the pipes are about three inches big. So my question is how should I upgrade?
TOM: If you have a 30-year-old boiler; you have an old, honking oil burner; you want to update it, I think installing a gas, modern, high-efficiency boiler would be the right thing to do because it’s going to save you a lot of money moving forward.
MARK: OK, great. Thank you very much, guys. I’ll look into that.
TOM: Alright, Mark. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, a kitchen question; one of our e-mailers has a question about concrete countertops. How hard are they to build, to install and to maintain? Well, I will tell you they’re beautiful but they’re a lot of work. We’ll share those tricks, next.
TOM: Where home solutions live. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
TOM: And there are many places in your home where you can save money, energy and the environment. In fact, there is something that you can do in every single room. Go to MoneyPit.com/green to find out just what you need to do. You can even watch the Energy Star podcast while you’re there. It’s all there; it’s all free at MoneyPit.com/green.
LESLIE: Hey, and something else that’s free on MoneyPit.com: advice. You can click on the Ask Tom and Leslie icon and e-mail us your question. We’re going to answer those right now.
I’ve got one here from Myrtle who writes: “I had concrete countertops installed last year and I now see dull spots in areas that look stained. Can this top be stripped down and redone to have a high, uniform, lasting shine? If so, can it be done?”
TOM: (overlapping voices) Hmm. You know, concrete countertops are beautiful but just like granite and other natural stone materials, they are a boatload of work. I mean the finish is going to wear on it; it is going to be susceptible to staining. If the stain – you know, the tomato sauce or whatever else you spilled on the counter – gets into the concrete …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And if you don’t clean it up right away.
TOM: Yeah. It’s going to be hard. So you’re basically looking at doing some more finishing to that, Myrtle. You have to get the old finish sanded down just a bit and you’re going to have to put a couple of new coats on it; it’s really the only option you have at this point. Just something to keep in mind before you choose those concrete or natural tops; they are a lot of work.
LESLIE: Yeah, but they can be beautiful. Just take care of them.
Alright. We’ve got one here from Linda in Rhode Island who writes: “I have a 1970s faux brick application on a kitchen wall that has been painted with two or more coats of latex paint. I applied paint remover but it has now turned into a glue-like substance not known to man. (chuckles)
TOM: (chuckling) OK.
LESLIE: Scraping with a putty knife and wire brush has not worked. Should I try heat removal?
TOM: Only if you want to burn your house down. I mean you’re talking about a synthetic brick here, Linda, and it sounds to me like what happened is you had a reaction between the paint remover, the paint and the brick. I think you’re going to either end up getting this down to the point where you can repaint the brick, which is probably the easiest thing to do; if not, you’re going to have to take it all the way down to the wall and start again.
LESLIE: Not the news you were looking for, Linda. You know, it might be worth a shot: pick up some gesso at, you know, an art store. That’s something that people use to prime surfaces for painting, as far as murals, and that might be thick enough to sort of cover over things; but, hey, anything is worth a shot at this point, right?
TOM: Well, here’s one thing that we are short on in this house, Leslie: it’s places to stick more stuff. (Leslie chuckles) I know this because my kids always seem to leave everything out, everywhere. (Leslie chuckles) If this is going on in your house; if you’re always suffering with loose schoolwork, forms, paper, receipts, stuff cluttering your desk every place you go, well, Leslie has got a simple and inexpensive solution in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
LESLIE: That’s right, folks. If you are looking for instant organization, here is a super-fun idea for you. Why not paint the side of a freestanding bookcase or cabinet or even a dresser – this works great in your kid’s room – with a layer of magnetic paint? Now, if you didn’t know that paint existed, it certainly does; it’s very readily available at the home centers.
And then, just like regular paint, you want to make sure that when you’re working with magnetic paints that you mix the paint itself frequently. This way, when you’re working on the project, as it sort of – you know, as time passes the magnetic sediment is going to like settle down in the bottom and then it’s not going to be as magnetic as you roll it out, so just keep mixing it. This way you keep up the levels of magneticism. What is that? You know that word, Tom.
TOM: (chuckling) Magnetism.
LESLIE: Magnetism. You know, because you’ve got the animal magnetism. (chuckles)
LESLIE: And once you’ve got that magnetic base layer dry, then take any color you like, use it as your top coat and paint right over it. Then you can attach all of your important notices, invitations, assignments, family photos or even just showcase your prized magnet collection. I’ve got quite a big one from my years traveling around with my home improvement shows; sort of something fun that I like to pick up at the airports.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, it’s staycation time. We know that a lot of you will be staying home this summer and taking care of your house. We’re going to have some great projects to help you do just that.
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 2009 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.)