00:00/ 00:00

Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • Transcript

    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

    (Note: The timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio files of this show.)


    (theme song, commercial)

    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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Why would you want to call that number, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Well, maybe I have a question about something that’s going wrong in my house.

    TOM: That’s possible.

    LESLIE: Maybe I need a recommendation of a product.

    TOM: That, too.

    LESLIE: And I know that we just got back from the International Builders’ Show so maybe we’ve learned something cool and exciting.

    TOM: Maybe we have.

    LESLIE: (laughing) Maybe we want to share that.

    TOM: We are trainable. (laughing)

    LESLIE: Well, maybe you are; I don’t know about me.

    TOM: That’s true, that’s true. I did have to drag you through a few booths kicking and screaming the whole way.

    LESLIE: I just like the freebies. I like to learn about stuff. I like being the first to know; it’s very exciting.

    TOM: Yes. Yeah, Leslie has learned a new line from me. It’s asking for an evaluation copy. (laughing) And you know, Leslie, I thought you were doing okay with that. But when you asked the guy for a washing machine as an evaluation copy. (laughing)

    LESLIE: Listen, you’ve got to try.

    TOM: (laughing) It was a good shot.

    LESLIE: You can’t say, ‘I didn’t try.’ I tried last year, I tried this year, I’ll try next year. Heck, I’ll try every year until I get one.

    TOM: You know, they’ll give you CDs; they just won’t give you an appliance.

    LESLIE: Here, you can watch this DVD about the washing machine all day long. Thanks.

    TOM: Just not the same as trying one out for myself.

    LESLIE: It’s just not the same. So we have an exciting guest this hour. This is exciting.

    TOM: (overlapping) We do, we do, we do. Mr. Secretary’s going to be here – Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman – and we’re going to put him to the task. We want to know why we’re paying so much darn money for energy this year.

    LESLIE: Man, you know if we can get the Secretary of Energy, why not the president? I’ve got some questions.

    TOM: You know what? Let’s work on that.

    LESLIE: Maybe we can ask him; maybe he’ll make that call for us.

    TOM: Well, the way I look at it, when the government starts looking for ways to save energy money, you know we’re in trouble. (laughing)

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, and speaking of saving energy money, we’re going to give you a fantastic prize. It’ll save you money because it’s free and it’s even more cool because it’s two tools in one. It’s the Measure-Tech Plus from Ryobi and it’s a stud finder and a sonic measuring device. And one of you will win this great prize just for calling up and asking a question on the air. So call us.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s go to the phones.

    LESLIE: Well, more and more, people are looking into building homes that are considered green or environmentally conscious. And that’s exactly what Viola in Michigan would like to do in regards to insulation. What are you working on?

    VIOLA: Well, I’m working on improving the condition of my house – the insulation – and I need to add on a little …

    TOM: Okay.

    VIOLA: And so I’m looking for … I’m looking for something more user-friendly for insulation. Other than the fiberglass and cellulose.

    LESLIE: Which is terribly itchy if you get any on your hand or your skin in any way.

    VIOLA: Yeah.

    TOM: Well, there are a couple of things that you could tackle, Viola. First of all, are you familiar with the term ‘encapsulated insulation’?

    VIOLA: Well, not really but …

    TOM: That’s an insulation and it’s, typically, a fiberglass insulation. But instead of having the batch be completely raw fiberglass, it’s wrapped …

    VIOLA: Like blown in?

    TOM: No, it’s wrapped inside of like a very thin plastic sheeting. So you’re actually handling the plastic sheeting; you’re not touching the fiberglass. And that’s a really easy product for you to put in. It’s made by a couple of different manufacturers. ‘Owings’-Corning makes one called ‘Miraflex.’ Johns Manville has one that’s encapsulated available at any local home center. And that’s a fairly easy one to handle.

    VIOLA: And so if you go up into the attic, you won’t breathe it? It will stay in there but if it gets punctured it could still come out, right?

    TOM: Well, the fibers are fairly tight. Now, even though it’s encapsulated, you want to wear a dust mask. But it’s a lot easier to handle is what I’m telling you. Because you really only have to cut the ends of it; you don’t have to handle the whole batch.

    Now the other thing that Johns Manville came out with is formaldehyde-free insulation. So they have insulation, now, that has no formaldehyde in it because that’s an environmental concern to some folks. You also could consider blown-in insulation and probably the cellulose would be the best choice there.

    VIOLA: Well, how dangerous is that? I mean is there a lot of ink that can seep through where …?

    TOM: No, it’s not dangerous at all. But if you’re going to do this yourself, I think probably the easiest one for you to work with, of all those, is simply encapsulated fiberglass insulation. The way they make the fibers are different in that, too; it’s not quite as itchy. It’s more like a wool. Or like a woven product.

    VIOLA: Can you seal the attic enough?

    TOM: You don’t … you really don’t have to, Viola. You’re not going to get a lot of airborne fiberglass with that. I’m telling you. It’s encapsulated so that moisture can move in and out of it but it’s just a lot easier to handle.

    VIOLA: Okay.

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

    LESLIE: Alright, now we’re going to talk to Chris in Maryland who listens to The Money Pit on WJFK 106.7. And you want to talk about mold growth. Let’s hear it, Chris. What’s going on?

    CHRIS: Well, we were relocated from South Carolina last spring …

    TOM: And you brought your mold with you?

    CHRIS: Yeah, we figured you guys didn’t have enough of it. (laughing) Doesn’t grow well enough; not enough humidity. I’m just kidding. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: No, it’s a whole different animal, up here.

    TOM: Yeah, it is. Actually, it grows more because we have more condensation here.

    CHRIS: What we had happen was when we – after we moved out of our house in South Carolina – of course, it’s very hot down there and humid at that point in early June – and a realtor turned the temperature down to about 50 degrees and that caused the AC just to be running constantly. And over the next couple of weeks, the walls got saturated and shortly thereafter mold began to grow. We think it’s mostly surface mold but it’s all over the upstairs walls and ceiling.

    TOM: Hmm.

    LESLIE: Oh.

    CHRIS: Yeah, and what we’ve done is we had the humidifier in there and we have turned the temperature back up to the 75 where we had asked that it be kept so it’s not continuing to grow. But we’re trying to find our best and least expensive solution.

    TOM: Man, your realtor put you in a really bad spot. You know, there’s a lesson to be learned here. And that is air conditioners are lousy dehumidifiers; especially when you turn them down quite so low. Because what happens is they cycle; they run so much that the thermostat is almost always satisfied and so it just keeps going and keeps going and keeps going and it doesn’t take the moisture out of the air. It takes the moisture out of the air when you have it on a normal – you know, 75 degrees. But if you turn it down to 50, it’s just going to run and run and run and run. And it’s going to leave a lot of humidity and then you’re in for a lot of …

    LESLIE: Yeah, like you can always feel, when a room is that cold, it does have a very moist, damp …

    TOM: Clammy.

    LESLIE: … feeling to it.

    TOM: Clammy kind of feeling. Right. And so how much mold are we talking about? Because it sounds like, if this is on the walls, it might be a toxic mold; it could be stachybotrys.

    LESLIE: Is it black?

    CHRIS: We’ve had them look at that and they have not said it was that. They said they think it is just mostly surface mold and can be cleaned …

    TOM: Well, but it’s …

    CHRIS: … with the exception of ripping out the sheet rock around the air conditioning vent.

    TOM: Yeah, but it’s all surface mold. I mean does anyone take a test of this mold? I mean you can’t visually identify it. You’ve got to take a sample and send it to a lab. Typically, you take a tape sample of it by taking a piece of scotch tape and pressing it into the mold, pulling it out, stick it inside of a plastic bag – like a baggie – and then you send it to a lab that does mold analysis. And there, a microbiologist looks at it and identifies the type of mold it is. And if you have a lot of it, you really should be identifying it before …

    LESLIE: (overlapping) You try to do any repair.

    TOM: … you start cleaning it because it’s – yeah, it’s all going to be surface mold. I mean drywall is just a great mold food.

    LESLIE: It’s paper. They love it. They eat it.

    CHRIS: (laughing) I don’t know which kind it is. I know that they did test it. It was a mold remediation company that came and looked at it but we’ve kind of been stagnated at trying to pursue the real estate company for the damages. Obviously, the house is not inhabitable right now.

    TOM: What about your homeowner’s insurance company? Have you put a claim in with them?

    CHRIS: We did and they declined it. They said that they had a clause in there saying, ‘We don’t cover anything to do with mold.’ We tried to take the approach that this was really moisture damage and mold was a by-product because, obviously, it resulted from the condensation from the air conditioning running constantly for several weeks. They didn’t go for that route.

    TOM: This might be a good case for a private insurance adjuster to tackle. Have you talked to a private insurance adjuster?

    CHRIS: No, I haven’t. I didn’t know that the claimant could do that. I always thought that that was what insurance companies hired for their …

    TOM: Oh, no no no no no. No no no. They … you want to hire a public adjuster. And a public adjuster basically works, typically, on a percentage of the claim. And especially when you get into these very technical areas of the policy. Because there may be a way for this to be claimed and the insurance company might decide to pay it off rather than face the lawsuit.

    LESLIE: Well, and the adjuster knows the laws and the ways around all of these wordings …

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: … to make it so that it’s in your – claimant’s – best interest.

    TOM: But it sounds like you’ve got a claim here one way or the other. And clearly …

    LESLIE: You know, it sounds to me like just cleaning that drywall isn’t even a proper step. I would even recommend just removing it all and starting fresh.

    TOM: Yeah, and if you’re going to remove the drywall, you’re going to probably want to use on the new GP products – the Dens Armor products – which is basically drywall that doesn’t have any organic material in it so it can’t grow mold.

    LESLIE: It has a glass surface instead of a paper surface. And so it finishes like traditional drywall but it resists that moisture saturation so mold won’t grow because it’s not a food source for them. And it’s only a fraction of the cost a little bit more expensive so it ends up being so much more worthwhile and it’s such a great product.

    CHRIS: Okay, great.

    TOM: If you had a mold company in to do this analysis, did they send you a report telling you what it was?

    CHRIS: They did not send me a report of what type of mold it was. They simply – I got some estimates on what the repair costs might be but I did not see … I did not get a report as to what …

    TOM: Well, I can’t imagine even looking at a repair estimate without knowing what kind of mold it is. And I’m very surprised that they didn’t give you a report. The first step would be to work with a mold company that does just an inspection and give you a report …

    LESLIE: And doesn’t do services.

    TOM: Yeah. Because it sounds to me like they may have just been going in there to inspect it for the opportunity of getting the job but not really telling you what you’re dealing with. And if it’s not done correctly, you could actually make the problem worse …

    CHRIS: Right.

    TOM: … because it could contaminate other areas of the house. So first step here, Chris, is absolutely to figure out what kind of mold it is. Once you know what it is, then we can give you some better advice on what to deal with it. And I tell you what, if you get that report from the mold company and you want to send it to Leslie and I at helpme@moneypit.com, be happy to take a look at it for you and perhaps give you some more direction that you should be taking on this.

    CHRIS: Thank you so much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Alright, everybody, we’re really excited. We’ve got a great guest this hour. We have the Secretary of Energy – that’s right, he works for the government; this is a big guy. Samuel Bodman is going to tell us how we can save some money with these high energy costs this winter season. But you know what? You don’t have to wait to learn some tricks of the trade on saving some money. You can go to the moneypit.com website – moneypit.com – and check out the repair and improve section of the website and you’ll find our latest column, ‘Hot Tips for Warm Winter Projects,’ and we’ll get you saving money if you can’t wait a couple minutes to hear what the secretary has to say.

    TOM: In fact, one of those money-saving tips is so easy, you could do it right now. Right this minute, you could do it. Even you could do it, Leslie.

    LESLIE: Is it close the front door?

    TOM: (laughing) No, it’s a little more intuitive than that.

    LESLIE: Okay, what is it?

    TOM: Well, it has to do with how you can easily heat just the rooms you want to. We’ll tell you what that is, after this.

    (theme song, commercials)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by Kenmore, makers of the Kenmore Elite Induction Cooktop which cooks food faster and more efficiently than gas or electric ranges. To learn more, visit your local Sears store or call 1-888-KENMORE. Now, here’s Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The Money Pit website is moneypit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright, so I want to know about this money-saving tip that is more than closing the door.

    TOM: Oh, it’s dirt cheap.

    LESLIE: Okay. Do I put pillows in front of the vents?

    TOM: Close. (laughing) For a cheap way …

    LESLIE: Do I close the doors and just turn off the heat in those rooms?

    TOM: Yeah, pretty much.

    LESLIE: Yeah?

    TOM: For a dirt cheap way to redirect forced air heat, close the heating vents in rooms that are not often used. Like the guest rooms, the guest bath or the basement. Now, you can either close the vent right in the room itself or what many people don’t know is on the HVAC system, in the ducts themselves, there are dampers; actual panels that rotate and close off and regulate how much air goes to different places.

    So let’s say you have some rooms in your house that are super hot, you want to locate the damper that is feeding those rooms and turn it down so it closes off the airflow a little bit. And then, the rooms that are super cold, you want to make sure it is wide open. And so, try to find the damper. It’s usually pretty easy to spot; it’s a lever on the side of your duct work. And look for the place where it goes up to those different rooms in your house. You’ll probably find it. If you can’t, you can do the same thing with the registers themselves; although that ‘allows’ the heat to go that far and, I say, stop it in the basement before it gets that far. It’s a far more …

    LESLIE: Before it even gets that way.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s a far more efficient way to go.

    LESLIE: Well, that is a fantastic idea. You know, it always seems so complicated because I don’t have a forced air system in my house. So it’s a luxury when I visit people who do and I still dream of having one. And it might not be that far off.

    But we have a great prize this hour. It’s the Measure-Tech Plus from Ryobi. It’s worth 40 bucks but it’s free for one lucky caller who calls in and gets their call answered on the air. And then we reach into the Money Pit bag and pull out who the lucky winner is. And this is a great tool. It’s two tools in one. It’s the professional-grade stud finder; it can detect wood and metal studs. It also has a 50-foot sonic measuring device and it’s so cool it even features a handy conversion reference that can add lengths, find square and cubic measurements and even convert to and from foot and metric measurements. So no more trying to figure out that mathematic equation; it does it all for you.

    TOM: It’s available for 39 bucks at The Home Depot. But if you call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, come on the air and ask your home improvement question, you will get a chance at winning that great prize. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: John wants to talk about a crack in the drywall. John, describe to us where the crack is.

    JOHN: The crack is along the seam, ‘sort of over’ the windows. I live in a condo building built probably in the late 70s, early 80s. Has aluminum frame windows and sort of on the … I guess, towards the bottom corner of the windows. As it’s gotten to be winter, there’s started to be a crack down the drywall. And I haven’t noticed really any moisture coming from the windows. The windows themselves aren’t sweating and there doesn’t seem to be a water problem. I’m just wondering what might be leading to this crack.

    LESLIE: And you say the crack is just at the seam where it meets the window?

    JOHN: The crack is coming from the … I guess, the bottom corner of the sides of the window; almost in line with the seam of the window.

    LESLIE: So is it on a seam in the drywall or is it crossing the drywall?

    JOHN: That’s a possibility, too. I don’t believe it’s in the seam in the drywall but, because it is linear, I guess that’s a possibility.

    TOM: And that’s actually a very common place to have cracks. You know, your wall is going to have the most movement wherever you have a hole in it which could be for a window or a door. And in the year the home was built – late 70s, early 80s – it was pretty fast and dirty years of home construction. (chuckles) We were banging them up pretty quick, back then. So it doesn’t really surprise me that you’re getting this movement. I wouldn’t be too terribly worried about it. If it doesn’t seem to be happening beyond this one area, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. But how you fix it is going to be important because it’ll come back again.

    What I think the best thing to do is to use some of that fiberglass drywall tape. It looks like netting and it comes on a roll and it’s a little bit of a sticky back. What you want to do is gently sand that area and then put this tape across the seam and then, using several coats – thin coats – of spackle, build it up. Because I find that that fiberglass tape really bridges the cracks better than the paper tape.

    Leslie, have you ever had to fix …

    LESLIE: (overlapping) Well, and also because it’s …

    TOM: … holes in something that you were working on with that tape? It works pretty good.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah. I mean we’ve even had to hang drywall. And when you’re working with paper tape, if you’re not – because it goes mud, tape, mud – so if you’re not exactly putting it up right or putting the mud up in the right way, the tape is not going to stick as well as it should and the problem’s only going to come back that much quicker. So if you use that sort of netted fiberglass tape, it allows the mud to get in between the tape and really sort of adhere that crack together. And it works well just to really join all of that space. So it’s not difficult; it’s a pretty good easy repair to do yourself.

    TOM: Okay, John. You want to take a shot at it?

    JOHN: Okay. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now, we’re going to go to Michigan and talk to Dawn whose got a question about drywall dust. Dawn, how can we help?

    DAWN: Well, we just had drywall put in my house. And I am trying to get it off the subfloor before I put the new subfloor and the floor down. I want to know what … how is a good way to get that off the floor?

    LESLIE: Oh, and it’s so fine and it’s like a thin … almost like a baby powder, everywhere.

    TOM: Is it the subfloor – like a plywood subfloor?

    DAWN: Yes.

    TOM: And what are you going to cover that with?

    DAWN: With a ceramic.

    TOM: Well, you don’t have to worry too much about it. Go ahead and vacuum up as much of it as you can; you know, with a shop vac or with even a regular household vac. If there’s a little bit left behind, it’s really not going to affect the installation of the ceramic tile. Because you’re going to use an adhesive there or … on top of that. And it’ll just bond with the adhesive. And I don’t think it’ll have any effect whatsoever. As long as you don’t have piles of that dust around, you’ll be fine.

    DAWN: Alright, that helps because we’re going to start priming and then paint and then put the floor down.

    TOM: Alright, well don’t obsess over that, okay? That’ll be fine.

    LESLIE: It’ll soon be hidden from your memory.

    TOM: There you go. Once and for all. And by the way, with all that dust around, when you do get done with that construction, one thing I would recommend you do is have your heating vents vacuumed. Have the heating vents cleaned and replace all of the filters because that ends up being where a lot of that will be.

    LESLIE: Oh, and also, if you have like a smoke detector hardwired into a security system, they react very, very poorly to dust and even paint fumes. So be very careful. If you can, cover them up with aluminum foil when you’re doing the work.

    DAWN: That’s a great idea. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, Money Pit listeners. Have you seen your heating bills? Are they out of control? Do you think you’re going to pay way too much, this winter, on energy? Well, we think so, too. Well, you’ve really come to the right place to get those answers. And we’re going to get advice and tips from the top energy official in the country. The Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman, will be joining us right after the break. So stay with us.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by Reiker Room Conditioners, available at all Menard’s, selected Lowe’s and Home Depots and as a special order in all Lowe’s and Home Depot stores. Or contact Reiker at www.heatingfans.com. Or call 1-866-4Reiker – that’s R-e-i-k-e-r – for additional information.

    TOM: Welcome back to this hour of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, heard coast to coast and floorboards to shingles. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The telephone number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The website is moneypit.com. We are very excited because standing on the line, waiting to talk to us right now, is Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman who recently unveiled a comprehensive national campaign to highlight how American families, businesses and the federal government can save energy in response to rising winter energy costs. And Secretary Bodman, I understand that even the lights at your office have been dimmed, recently (laughing), to try to save some money.

    SECRETARY BODMAN: Well, we’ve got the lights off in the whole building and so we’re pleased with the response we’ve had from our own folks. And this has really come about, Tom and Leslie, because of the hurricanes that have devastated the energy infrastructure down on the Gulf Coast. And we’re going to … we’re facing a winter where there are going to be real challenges with respect to the availability of natural gas and heating oil. I think we’re going to get through it fine but we’re all going to be paying higher prices. And so the goal, here, is to try to get a message out to our citizens that there are a lot of things they can do to improve the usage patterns of energy.

    TOM: Mr. Secretary, let’s start by talking about that. Because I think that a lot of our listeners don’t understand and are just angry and upset at the fact that they are going to be paying a lot more for energy this year. Is it a domino effect? I mean, why is it that it happened so quickly that we get one storm like that that affects one coast of the United States and all of a sudden, across the entire country, we’re hearing estimates of 50, 60 percent rising energy costs? How does that exactly happen?

    SECRETARY BODMAN: Well, first of all, gasoline – which is largely what you’re talking about here – gasoline is … largely moves with crude oil prices. And crude oil has been in shorter supply than we’ve ever seen it in my lifetime.

    TOM: So it starts in one small corner of the country and it really works its way off … I guess the domino effect is a pretty accurate description because everything is connected and when you get one part of your infrastructure that’s hit like that, it seems to bounce around and affect all the way to our pocketbooks.

    SECRETARY BODMAN: I think that’s right, Tom. It’s been … first of all, we’ve had this imbalance of supply and demand and that drove oil prices up before we had the hurricanes. And the hurricanes – first Katrina, then Rita – have been the major bad actors here; and they both damaged our energy infrastructure – refineries, gas processing plants, offshore platforms, pipelines – throughout the Gulf Coast. We have a very heavy concentration of all of that equipment in that part of the country and it was really damaged and is still not completely back to where it should be.

    LESLIE: When do you expect it to return to its full operative?

    SECRETARY BODMAN: It’s going to be, Leslie … a lot of it will be a year from now; it’s going to take a number of months for it to go. The refineries, however, we expect all the refineries to be back online by the end of this calendar year. We think all the gas pipelines and product pipelines are now functioning; that deliver product throughout the country. So we’re seeing a situation that gasoline prices, in particular, are starting to moderate; you probably noticed that yourselves. Locally, you’re going to see gasoline prices coming down back to pre-Katrina levels. But natural gas is still high because we don’t have the ability to import natural gas as we have the ability to import gasoline.

    LESLIE: So we’re talking to the United States Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman, about ways you can save energy costs this winter. We’re going to take a short break but when we come back, Mr. Secretary, we’re going to get to your recommendations for the top five ways we can all save some energy this winter.

    (theme song, commercials)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi power tools. Pro features, affordable prices. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    LESLIE: Welcome back to The Money Pit. Our number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT and if you call right now, you’ll get a chance to win a great prize. It’s the Measure-Tech Plus from Ryobi. It’s worth about $39. It’s two tools in one. It’s got a professional-grade stud finder which will detect wood and metal studs. And it also has a 50-foot sonic measuring device. It’s a great tool. Call in now for your chance to win.

    Alright, we’re talking, this hour, with the Secretary of Energy, Samuel Bodman.

    TOM: Mr. Secretary, I have to congratulate; you guys have done a really good job on your website and with the programs that you’ve rolled out over, not just this year but in past years. You really do work hard at educating people how to try to save money in their homes. And folks, if you’ve not seen their website at energy.gov, you really need to go there and see all the different programs that the Department of Energy offers.

    But let’s talk about your latest program, which is called Easy Ways to Save Energy. Can you run down, for us, what you think are, say, the top five things that folks ought to be doing right now to try to cut some of those energy costs?

    SECRETARY BODMAN: Well, first, there are a number of short-term things; things that people can do that don’t cost a lot of money, Tom, but are … could really help us this winter. First, a simple thing: turn off everything that’s not used; whether it’s lights in your rooms or your offices or cell phone chargers, power tools, that sort of thing.

    We’ve found, in my home, a lot of use for new compact fluorescent light bulbs.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a great point, boy. They’re a little bit more expensive but they do a great job.

    SECRETARY BODMAN: They’re doing a terrific job. They knock your lighting bill down by 50 percent and so that’s …

    TOM: And they look cool, too.

    SECRETARY BODMAN: They actually do. Yeah, I was surprised, frankly. And we’ve installed them and they make a lot of sense.

    LESLIE: And they last a lot longer than traditional light bulbs, so it’s worth it.

    SECRETARY BODMAN: Up to eight or ten times longer. And so there’s … there are all kinds of reasons to do it. It’s just something, I think, that requires all of us to change what we’re used to doing and maybe break some old habits.

    To go on down the list of things. Closing fireplace dampers when you’re not using the fireplace.

    TOM: Now, that’s a good one because a lot of people forget that that fireplace – you know, a fireplace is beautiful and it’s warm and it’s fun but it’s not really an energy-saving appliance. That flue being open all the time just sucks a lot of very expensive heated air out of your house.

    SECRETARY BODMAN: Exactly right. There tends to be more loss than gain, I think, in most fireplaces; not true of all of them but it’s true of most.

    Installing programmable thermostats so that you can turn the temperature down a few hours a day when either no one’s at home or while you’re in bed or some such thing. And you can really, also, reduce your energy bill.

    And then, lastly, plugging air leaks by caulking, sealing or doing weather-stripping. All of that is … these are all things that are relatively inexpensive. You can buy the products and equipment for relatively small amounts of money. For example, that thermostat … I was asked … I was visiting a do-it-yourself store in Louisville a couple of weeks ago and the fellow pointed out to me that they had a rebate program the electric utility offered. I think the thermostat cost $28 and you got $25 back; so it only cost $3 to buy the thermostat. So it was … and it could really help you with energy use.

    TOM: And you guys are really, also, trying to reach out to the children of America, too. I know you have a new campaign called the Energy Hog campaign that you did in partnership with The Home Depot. Tell us about that.

    SECRETARY BODMAN: Well, we’ve … we’re trying to have a little fun in doing this, as well. And the Energy Hog is a creation of the Ad Council who worked with the folks here at the Energy Department. And the Energy Hog is a … one of those animals that kids love to hate (laughing) and the idea is that the Energy Hog is sort of the embodiment of all the things that one can do wrong. And it’s a good way of learning and teaching the kind of lessons that we think are important.

    TOM: You know, your spouse can tell you not to waste energy but when your kid tells you you’re wasting energy …

    LESLIE: You have to listen.

    TOM: … what are you going to do? You’ve got to listen, you know? (laughing)

    SECRETARY BODMAN: Makes a big difference, it really does. Or, in my case, your grandchildren, I have to say. (laughing) ‘audio gap’ that even they have an important set of lessons to learn.

    The other things I might mention, that we have a program called the Energy Star program which the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency have been working on for a number of years where we have created, if you will, a line of products – it’s really almost a brand name – that are appliances – clothes washers, dishwashers, refrigerators, ovens, those sorts of things – for home use.

    TOM: You know what’s amazing about that program, Secretary Bodman, is that you have set the standard for saving energy when building appliances and windows and doors and all sorts of things. And even Energy Star houses. And what I’ve noticed by watching this industry as a journalist is that, now the manufacturers are competing to come up with the most efficient Energy Star-rated appliance. So if one manufacturer’s going to match the 2006 standard, somebody else is going to try to hit the 2008 standard. So these guys are actually working many years in the future to try to reach the goals that you guys have set out there. And the consumer wins.

    SECRETARY BODMAN: You said it better than I could. The enthusiasm for this – among the retailers, among the equipment manufacturers – is palpable. It just … it’s just terrific.

    LESLIE: And there are also so many local and national incentives to get rid of the appliances that don’t operate up to par by sort of a rebate or any sort of a check that comes back to you by upgrading your appliances. So it’s really worthwhile in all aspects.

    SECRETARY BODMAN: Absolutely. Each state has a little different program; whether it’s a local utility or the state government or city government, in some cases, where there are rebates or different kinds of financial incentives that encourage consumers to buy the kind of Energy Star equipment that I mentioned. Even thermostats – that, remember, I mentioned before – or for example, insulating; insulating your attics and ceilings and floors and so forth. There are various programs that encourage that kind of activity.

    TOM: Where’s the best place for consumers to go for more information? Is energy.gov the best place to start?

    SECRETARY BODMAN: Energy.gov is a good place to start. Energysavers.gov is a website you can … you get to that, that’s the link to the Department’s energy website. But those would be the two places. There’s also an EnergyStar.gov website that deals with the Energy Star appliances that I mentioned.

    TOM: Well, you said it best. Energy.gov, energysavers.gov or EnergyStar.gov. Folks, go there. If you’re not saving money by improving your house this winter, it’s your own fault. The Department of Energy is making it pretty easy.

    Secretary Bodman, thanks so much for taking some time to talk to us today.

    SECRETARY BODMAN: I appreciate it very much, Tom. You and Leslie are terrific and I appreciate the chance to tell our story and, hopefully, get the message out to our citizens.

    LESLIE: Coming up, we reach into our email bag and answer a question we’re sure is plaguing you: how to keep warm air in and cold air out.

    TOM: You know, McDonald’s used to have a sandwich that they claimed did that. It was packaged to keep the hot side hot and the cold side cold. And, pretty much, that’s what you have to do with your house, don’t you think?

    LESLIE: And you’re comparing energy to a sandwich?

    TOM: Sure. (laughing) Hey, whatever works.

    LESLIE: Interesting.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi power tools. Pro features, affordable prices. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Standing by. There are two ways we’re standing by. 1-888-MONEY-PIT and moneypit.com. We’re standing in our website right now (laughing). If you don’t believe us, go to moneypit.com; we will roll across the screen right in front of you. And we are waiting for your questions.

    LESLIE: It’s like Tron; we live in there.

    TOM: That’s right.

    LESLIE: Alright, well, William from Oregon writes: ‘How to recover the thermal energy that is usually discharged to the outdoors by our clothes dryer. I wish to preheat cold air from outside the house in a heat exchange or by using the hot moisture-laden discharge from the clothes dryer. I think a counter-flow heat exchanger with a lint filter and a water drain would do the trick.’

    TOM: He’s thought a lot about this, hasn’t he? (laughing)

    LESLIE: I’m like, this is kind of confusing and maybe I don’t understand it. (laughing)

    TOM: Well, I think what he is trying to talk about, here, is the principle of a heat exchanger. Now, the easiest way to understand what a heat exchanger is – and all hot air systems have heat exchangers – think of a radiator. A radiator for your house, for your hot water-heated house, Leslie …

    LESLIE: Okay.

    TOM: … is a heat exchanger. The hot water circulates inside the radiator and the cold air blows over the outside of the air – of the radiator – and there’s an exchange of temperature. Hence the term heat exchanger. So he’s kind of thinking along the same terms for this …

    LESLIE: But don’t you need the two different temperatures to create that flow of air in the room?

    TOM: Well, there are two ways to create the flow. In a hot air system, you have a blower that creates the flow. In a hot water system, you have convection that creates the flow. That’s why radiators are on outside cold walls.

    LESLIE: Okay.

    TOM: Now, in his case, you would need to have all of these things working together. First of all, you’re not talking about that big of a supply of hot air. Secondly, you’ve got to move the air across that heat exchanger, somehow. And since bathroom – excuse me – since washing machines and dryers can be anywhere in the house, not necessarily in the place you would want them to be, that’s another challenge. And thirdly, you have the lint issue which is potentially dangerous. Because if you don’t … if you trap that lint inside the dryer vent by putting some sort of an obstruction – which you would have to have if you were trying to use that heated air because, remember, it’s not clean heated air; it’s dirty lint-filled heated air …

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: … and if it gets trapped and clogged, you can get a dryer fire and that could be super dangerous.

    LESLIE: Yeah, but it’s so much fun to see the smoke billow out of the side of your house when you have the dryer on in the cold weather.

    TOM: No, it’s fun to see the smoke billow out of the chimney when you have a lovely, cheery warm fire.

    LESLIE: (overlapping) No, not like a fire. But when the warm air is coming from the dryer, it’s nice to watch it come out on the side of the house. And it smells nice.

    TOM: (overlapping) You, who have seen your dryer exhaust duct cough up lint balls, should know.

    LESLIE: (overlapping) Yes, but we took care of that problem.

    TOM: Yes, we did solve that problem.

    LESLIE: So you don’t recommend this?

    TOM: We don’t recommend that, William. We think that you are probably barking up the wrong tree and doing something potentially dangerous. Although, we do compliment and commend your thoughtfulness in trying to figure out ways to collect that energy. But you know what, William? Spend that energy up in your attic. Throw down some – more – insulation. That would be a far better use of your energy time.

    LESLIE: Well, a very creative question from our friend William in Oregon. So thanks for writing in at helpme@moneypit.com.

    TOM: Finding places, in your house, to store stuff is a challenge. I mean there’s always too much stuff and not enough space to store it in; especially if you have kids, like me. But when it comes to a really small room – like your bathroom – that storage problem becomes particularly difficult. And that is the subject of today’s Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Well, Tom, it’s the ultimate quest to just get more things. You must have more things. Acquire things.

    TOM: More stuff.

    LESLIE: More stuff.

    TOM: Need more stuff.

    LESLIE: Exactly. And small baths don’t exactly provide many places for storage. But hidden storage areas abound, if you know where to look. For starters, the space above a toilet is large enough for a full 12’x30′ storage cabinet. Or inverted sink base cabinets are another option, where a large drawer is designed into the base of the cabinet. And kitchen spice racks on the back of the door, as well as finishing the area between wall framing studs, can provide lots of room for storage for bath essentials. So some good ideas and some creative ways to get more stuff into that tiny room.

    TOM: Well, we hope that you have enjoyed our stuff which takes very little storage space (laughing) on this hour of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 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 2006 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.

Leave a Reply


More tips, ideas and inspiration to fuel your next home improvement, remodeling or décor project!