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Use Your Ladder Safely, Capture the Magic of Radio City’s Decorations in Your Own Home, How To Pick Energy-Efficient Holiday Lights and More

  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Here to help you with your holiday home improvement projects. We know there is one or two to-dos on your home improvement fix-up list, so give us a call and let’s tackle them together. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Now, this is the holiday season and one thing that typically happens, besides all the relatives showing up, is that your electric bills tend to spike up this year because of festive holiday lighting, especially if you’re the kind of person that likes to have a holiday lighting display that can be seen from outer space. You probably have …

    LESLIE: Hey, the astronauts need to feel festive, too, OK?

    TOM: That’s right. You probably will be feeling the pinch. Fortunately, though, there is a lot of new technology in lighting, as you’ve been hearing us talk about LEDs. They are coming out now with very effective, very inexpensive LED holiday lighting. And we’re going to tell you what to look for to cut those energy bills and still have the house on the street that will make all of your neighbors jealous, coming up in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, it’s really one of the best known Christmas traditions in America. I’m talking about the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. And we are so lucky to have designer Thom Filicia joining us this hour. And he planned the decorations and really created just a sparkly spectacular. And he’s going to tell us how you can have a little bit of that very same magic in your own home.

    TOM: And if you’re looking to add the magic of a beautiful wood floor to your home, you’re in luck. One caller this hour is going to win a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators.

    Now, Lumber Liquidators, of course, is the company that guarantees their prices are the lowest and they’ll meet any price if you find your wood cheaper. But we’re going to give it to you really cheap this hour if you pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, because one caller will qualify to win the $250 gift certificate from our pals over at Lumber Liquidators.

    So, what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Bonnie in Texas has some dryer-venting issues. Tell us what’s going on.

    BONNIE: Yes. I have a dryer – gas dryer – that vents right into the garage from the utility room.

    TOM: OK.

    BONNIE: And it just has one of those little flappy doors on it that’s kind of close to the floor of the garage. And the door that goes into the kitchen is right there, so all that heat and lint will come into the house, heats up the kitchen bad.

    TOM: Yuck.

    BONNIE: And it won’t be up – it’s not to code, that’s what I understand, so I need to know how to vent it out of the garage without trying to go through the brick wall.

    TOM: Yeah. Hmm. Well, if a brick wall stands between you and the outside, you’re going to have to find a way to go through that brick wall.

    Yes, it’s not vented correctly and all of that lint is a fire hazard. You really do need to get it outside of the house. You know, you have the ability to duct it a little bit. I mean you can run a dryer duct with metal duct if it’s properly installed. You can run it 20, 30 feet so – can you go out the back of the house instead of the front of the house? Is there a wall that you might be able to get to if you reran it so that it didn’t have to go through the brick?

    BONNIE: Well, it – there is – the exterior of the house has got the brick veneer and it has a big, double-door garage door. I’m wondering about how I could vent it up through the ceiling of the garage. There’s not a room up there, just attic.

    TOM: Well, either up through the roof or you can go out through sort of the gable end of the house.

    BONNIE: OK.

    TOM: Or you could drop it down and you could actually run it across the ceiling and then drop it down towards the soffit. And then just open up the soffit there and have the vent kind of go at the soffit area. So you can vent it out at a number of places but the thing is, every time you put a bend in it, that reduces the air flow. So you want to make sure that it’s got as few bends as possible.

    BONNIE: Right.

    TOM: And you want to do it with metal duct, not the flexible plastic duct. You want to do it with hard metal duct.

    BONNIE: Oh, OK. A hard metal duct.

    TOM: Yeah. Because the other reason you do that is because it can be cleaned, too.

    BONNIE: OK. So if I did it straight up in the attic, can I go through the roof? Is that a bad idea?

    TOM: You can, yes. Yep, you can go straight up through the roof if it’s – that’s the closest way to go. But just remember, you can’t go too terribly high because, again, you have a lot of back pressure. But yes, you can go straight up through the roof and there is a type of a roof vent that can – for dryer exhaust – that goes up through the roof, can be properly sealed against the roof and it’ll just drop the exhaust around the roof. You might end up seeing some of that lint collect around the roof but at least it won’t be stinking up your kitchen anymore.

    BONNIE: Yes. Thank you. I’ve got some options there then.

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

    LESLIE: Tom in Oregon is on the line with a water-heating question. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    TOM IN OREGON: Well, I have a home that couldn’t be laid out any worse. The master bathroom and the secondary bathroom, both of which have showers – shower/tubs – are at least 45 or 50 feet from the water heater.

    TOM: OK. Mm-hmm.

    TOM IN OREGON: The water heater and the showers couldn’t be further apart. I use approximately 2 gallons of water just getting the hot water to either of the two bathrooms to take a shower.

    LESLIE: The reason why you’re having such a hard time getting the water is, as you mentioned, the distance. You’re correct: it takes a long time for a conventional water heater to heat up that water, get through all of the plumbing and then get to those two bathrooms, which are on the opposite side of your home. A great solution, if you’ve got the space for it, is a tankless water heater.

    And now, they’re not gigantic; you can put one in a small closet. And that could really do a great job of just sort of zoning your water heating and making this tankless water heater take care of those two bathrooms that are far from your tanked option. And really just heats up this water when you need it for those two baths and comes out super-hot.

    TOM IN OREGON: OK. Do the tankless water heaters keep a pretty steady temperature or do they run hot and cold and they constantly cycle?

    TOM: No, they keep a very steady temperature when they’re installed correctly with the right size gas lines, if you’re using gas. If they’re properly sized and properly installed, they will keep a very, very steady temperature.

    And the good news is that they’re really tiny, too. So you can fit them in a lot of places that you couldn’t fit a traditional tank water heater.

    TOM IN OREGON: OK. So it takes some rerouting of the pipes and what have you. But it’s an all-electric home, so I don’t have any gas.

    TOM: OK. Oh, it’s all electric. Alright. So if it’s all electric, obviously you can’t have a gas tankless water heater. But you could consider using an electric tankless and this is probably one of the only times I would recommend this. Because if you used it for a spare bathroom like that, you’re probably going to keep the electrical costs under control. But what I would do, in this case, is I would make sure that when I hooked it up, I’d put it on a timer so that it only really ran – it didn’t keep the water hot like in the middle of the night, because that would be a total waste.

    TOM IN OREGON: OK.

    TOM: But splitting it into two runs like that is definitely the hot ticket. And that’s going to save you some of your cost and make you more comfortable, to boot, OK?

    TOM IN OREGON: Great. Thanks so much for your help then.

    TOM: You’re 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 MoneyPit.com. Pick up the phone and give us a call with your home repair, home improvement, holiday décor question. Whatever it is this busy time of year, we are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, getting up on a ladder to hang that holiday holly? Well, if you do, you need to keep yourself safe and avoid a holiday trip to the E.R. We’ll show you how, after this.

    MIKE: Hey, this is Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs and look, if you think I’ve got it dirty, listen to Tom. He works in a pit. Well, it’s a money pit but you get the idea. It’s still filthy.

    (theme song)

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And you should pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. I mean come on, we’re all making lists this time of year. Everybody is super-busy. Let us help you get all of your home improvement projects done just in time before the big holiday.

    And you know what? We’re feeling so generous that we are going to give away a great prize to one lucky caller this hour. We’ve got up for grabs a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators. So if you’ve got a flooring project on your to-do list, heck, Happy Holidays; this is a great prize. They’re going to carry solid, engineered hardwood, laminate, bamboo, cork, vinyl, you name it. If you can put it on a floor, they’ve got it and they’ve got it at the lowest prices on the market.

    So give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, if you’re getting ready to decorate, no doubt you are about to get up on a ladder, maybe for the first time since last year. You want to save yourself a trip to the E.R.? Well, follow these foolproof safety tips.

    First, check the ladder before taking even one step on it. You know, worn or broken ladders cause hundreds of thousands of serious injuries every year. It’s really a pretty dangerous tool. It might be one of the most dangerous that you have in your house. So make sure your ladder is safe. Make sure it has slip-resistant rungs and feet and inspect it for any split rungs or loose rivets.

    Have you ever stepped on a ladder and had a tread break out from under you, Leslie?

    LESLIE: No but I can imagine that that would be super-terrifying.

    TOM: I have and it’s very scary. And if it wasn’t for the wire reinforcement that goes from side to side, I would have taken quite a tumble. So it’s very important to inspect those ladders before you climb up on them.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you really have to be careful and especially if you’ve got an extension ladder, which so many people have, and you’re working on the outside of your house, they’re really convenient. You want to make sure that when you lean it against the house, you don’t want it to be too steeply pitched.

    So follow this formula. Say, if your roof is 12 feet high, the base of your ladder needs to be at least 3 feet from the house. So you want that base to sort of kick out a quarter of the height that it’s running up, if that makes sense. And really follow that rule, because it’s going to be sturdy that way.

    And you really should have somebody hold that base steady and you know what, folks? When you’re climbing up your ladder and you get to that rung that says “never stand above here,” really listen to it. If you climb up on that one – and we’re all guilty of it; I know I’ve done it. But you really are risking injury, so be very careful. Don’t climb above it, have a buddy when you’re working on a ladder and just be safe. We don’t want to end up in the hospital this time of year or any time of year, so follow ladder safety instructions.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us for the instructions you need to take on your next home improvement project.

    LESLIE: Kim in Michigan has got a ducting question. How can we help you with your project?

    KIM: I recently needed to replace a furnace in a rental house that we had. So we got a couple of estimates and went ahead and got the furnace replaced. The furnace is, I don’t know, a couple of feet tall, big square box. Up from the furnace comes a metal ducting – duct work – that goes up. And then that goes up maybe, I don’t know, a foot-and-a-half, 2 feet. And then beyond that, it’s – the ductwork is made of cardboard. I don’t know what kind of cardboard and I’m sure there’s a name for it; I just don’t know what that is.

    TOM: Right. It’s probably fiberboard.

    KIM: Then the duct work goes over to the left to hook into the cold-air return, which looks like a big box that’s built into the wall. So I’m not really sure what that is, like just a big cold-air return.

    Anyway, so that’s also made – so it goes – the duct work goes to the loft and it’s about 6 inches thick. In the middle of that, there’s a furnace – yeah, a furnace filter. And so all that is made of cardboard, which makes – where you slide into the furnace filter, it just seems really flimsy. So we’re not really sure who to contact. Of course, the gentleman that did it said it was done right. And if we went with all metal all the way up, like most ductwork is made out of, then it would be really noisy.

    TOM: Well, not necessarily. That’s not true at all. So if you were to replace this fiberboard ductwork with metal ducts properly constructed and installed, it would not be noisy at all. Now, some people complain about metal ducts because when they fill with air, they have – sometimes they have a popping sound. That’s called oil-canning but it’s very easy to fix and frankly, it’s very easy to avoid if you do the metal ducts correctly.

    So I think that the best option for you is to think about replacing those with metal ducts and then also flex duct where it makes sense to do that. It’s a pretty quiet system and it’s real sturdy and you can have the contractor build in a place for the filter at the same time.

    KIM: OK. And shouldn’t that have been put in with the filter or with – in there originally? Or should we have to pay extra for that?

    TOM: No, the filter should – the filter area should be built in at the same time. It all should be one price.

    KIM: Yeah, that’s kind of what I wanted to know, where to go from here so …

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Richard in Illinois needs some help with replacement windows. What can we do for you today?

    RICHARD: I wanted to find out what you think would be the best window to replace my existing windows and also find out if it’s a do-it-yourself project.

    TOM: Can be, can be. It’s not a difficult project to do. I will tell you, Richard, that you really want to start by investing in the best energy-efficient window you can find: one that’s Energy Star-rated. And if you go to MoneyPit.com and click on the Book section, we have an entire replacement-window guide there that you can download. It’s actually a free chapter from our book, My Home, My Money Pit. And we walk you through everything you need to know about how to pick the type of frame, how to pick the type of glass.

    But generally speaking, you want to buy an Energy Star-qualified window and you want to make sure that you compare apples to apples when you’re talking to multiple contractors.

    RICHARD: OK.

    TOM: And we tell you how to do that in the download because there’s a lot of numbers associated with understanding energy efficiency of glass. There’s measures that the National Fenestration Rating Council has come up with that measures things like thermal efficiency and how much UV gets through the glass and that sort of thing.

    And so we’ll tell you how to read that label if you download the chapter. But conceptually, Energy Star-qualified windows and being careful to understand what you’re being promised in terms of glass, so that you can make a fair comparison between multiple bids from multiple contractors, OK?

    RICHARD: OK. And how much work am I looking at to replace them myself?

    TOM: How many windows do you have?

    RICHARD: Five of them.

    TOM: Oh, five? That’s a weekend’s worth of work. If everything goes well and if the window is properly measured – you need to be really careful on the measuring of the window. Because if you measure it incorrectly, then you’re going to have a big problem.

    What do you have now? Do you have wood windows? Do you have vinyl windows? What do you have?

    RICHARD: Vinyl.

    TOM: Vinyl windows. Do you have to tear out siding to get them out of the house or can you just move – remove the sashes and slip the new windows inside those?

    RICHARD: No. I have to tear the siding off.

    TOM: Well, it might be a little bigger project then. If you’re going to do a new-construction style window – which if you have existing vinyl, you may have to – what kind of siding do you have?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you want to make sure you get the flashing correctly.

    TOM: Yeah, what kind of siding do you have?

    RICHARD: Like a fiberboard.

    TOM: So you can cut out the siding in pieces and get it out from around the windows?

    RICHARD: Yes.

    TOM: OK. So, yeah, I think you’re – if you have to do it that way and if you’re pretty talented, you could probably spend a half a day on every window. So I would probably expand that estimate out to about two weekends’ worth of work.

    RICHARD: OK.

    TOM: OK? And plan the – plan around the weather, Richard.

    RICHARD: OK.

    TOM: It’s kind of hard to explain to the insurance company why your house got wet and damaged when you opened up a big hole in its house – in the side.

    RICHARD: Yeah. Alright.

    LESLIE: “It seemed like a good idea.”

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

    LESLIE: Sandra in Florida needs some help with her stilted beach house. Tell us about it.

    SANDRA: Yes. I have a beach house and it gets really cold in the winter, because it has only plywood underneath and carpeting on top of the plywood and a whole floor that is on stilts underneath that where the air can just go through. And so I was wondering – the wiring is all in between the joists and so I’m wondering if there’s any way I can insulate that where we would still be able to get to the wiring if there were a problem. Yeah, it’s exposed to the elements.

    TOM: No, you can just add fiberglass insulation. Now, if the fiberglass is exposed – not sure if you have any type of covering on the underside of that beach house. But if the fiberglass is exposed – another thing that you could do is you could use the blue Styrofoam sort of foam board as the bottom there. So you would fiberglass in between the floor joists and you would add the blue foam over that, make sure it’s properly attached and you should be good to go.

    SANDRA: Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, this is definitely a stressful time of year and do you find yourself just freaking out over getting your holiday decorations just right? And that’s only for your family. How would you feel if millions of people were going to see your holiday décor? Well, decorator Thom Filicia is joining us next and he was selected as the celebrity designer for the world-famous Radio City Music Hall Spectacular. And he’s got some tips on how you can create your very own spectacular at home, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Skil. And now you can easily cut through the most difficult projects with ease, with a Power Cutter from Skil. With powerful, lithium-ion technology and an auto-sharp blade system, Skil’s lightweight Power Cutter will soon become your favorite tool, too. The Skil Power Cutter. It cuts just about anything.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And hey, if you think you’ve got a lot of work to do decorating for your home for the holidays, wait until you hear what our next guest has to take on.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Yeah, how would you like to have to decorate Radio City Music Hall in New York City for its Christmas Spectacular? Oh, no pressure.

    Well, designer Thom Filicia is the man orchestrating it this year and Thom joins us now with a glimpse into the Christmas magic that he created.

    TOM: Welcome, Thom.

    THOM: What’s going on? Happy Holidays, almost.

    TOM: Happy Holidays. Man, you have got your work cut out for you. I can only imagine – I’m always overwhelmed this time of year when we start getting the boxes down from the attic and just thinking about where we’re going to – what are – first of all, what are we doing with all the stuff? Because you collect it over years. And then where are you going to put it all? But you’ve got to decorate the entire Radio City Music Hall for this incredibly famous and historic spectacular. How do you start with something like that?

    THOM: Well, the first thing you do is you work with a great company like American Christmas, which is who – actually, American Christmas are the people that decorate Radio City Music Hall every year and get ready for the Holiday Spectacular with the Rockettes and the whole deal.

    TOM: OK.

    THOM: So they’re there every year, so they know it inside and out. And basically, what I’m doing is – you know, Martha Stewart did it last year and she had a different kind of take on it. So I found some things that – and it was beautiful what she did but it was just – it was a little bit more traditional and kind of like – sort of lots of green and sort of green garlands and all that sort of thing.

    I found, in their archive of things, that they had this crystal Christmas tree that they used to hang in the middle of the grand foyer. So I said, “Let’s pull that out and build on it.” So we took that out and I was really inspired by it. It’s all this beautiful crystal and it hangs on this really incredible sort of Christmas tree form that they hang in this five-story grand foyer, which is right before you go into the auditorium, which is just incredible.

    TOM: It’s magnificent.

    THOM: And so that was really what I – I did it. I used that as kind of the springboard and I’ve just been adding to it. I’ve added these really kind of fabulous swags that are basically like kind of connecting it to the ceiling. And it’s just such an incredible architectural landmark. I mean it’s such an amazing slice of Americana and it’s just so much fun.

    I think the most fun about this is, aside from sort of looking at all of the photographs of all of the holidays and Christmas décors that they’ve done, is really just kind of really just going behind the scenes. I’m behind stage, I’m in all over the – I’ve been in every men’s room, women’s room, lounges, the private room for the – where if you’re a rock star and you go there and perform, like the place where you go, your green room, which is really cool.

    TOM: Right.

    THOM: It’s called the Roxy Suite and there’s like – there’s just – we’re kind of going through all the catacombs in the back and the elevators for the talent when they go from – when they go on stage. It’s just really cool.

    So it’s – I have to say, even if we were just doing a tour of Radio City Music Hall, it’s really cool.

    TOM: We’re talking to Thom Filicia. He is the designer for Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular.

    So, Thom, you mentioned that in this case, you started with this beautiful crystal tree and kind of built your décor after that. That’s a way that a lot of home décor starts, doesn’t it? Don’t you find that one cherished piece and kind of build from that? If our listeners are thinking about doing something special – their own sort of spectacular for the holidays – any tips to help them move that process along?

    THOM: Well, I think you hit the nail on the head with what you – we know – with what you were just saying in terms of – you really do what to find your inspiration: the thing that kind of is the sort of the springboard for what you’re trying to accomplish and what you’re going for.

    So, with Radio City Music Hall and with the interior design, I was looking at – the grand foyer was a lot of red and a lot of gold, so I wanted whatever I designed to pop off of that. So I was really working with lots of the shimmery, crystally silvers that were going to pop off of the reds and the golds.

    And so, for me, I think that being inspired by finding that inspirational piece is really important. And also, I think – thinking about the interior design and the architecture that you’re dealing with is also very fundamental. So the first thing I would recommend to anyone at home is – that is a – it’s a very strong foundation to start with.

    First you want to do is look around and see what type of architecture you’re dealing with. Do you have high ceilings? Do you have low ceilings? Is it a mid-century kind of modern piece of architecture? Is it a classic piece of architecture or is it Mediterranean? Is it Tudor? Is it Georgian, which has roots in England? So you really want to understand your architecture and understand what you’re dealing with before you start to think about colors and finishes and all of that sort of thing.

    LESLIE: And should you also take an inventory of everything that you already have, just because so many of us are on a budget, especially around the holiday season?

    THOM: Yep. Right.

    LESLIE: But we want to freshen up our holiday décor.

    THOM: Right.

    LESLIE: So what’s the best way to keep it not so much trendy but current, fresh but still on a budget?

    THOM: I think what you should always be doing whenever you’re looking to redesign or redecorate, and certainly when you’re decorating on a budget, is you want to look and see what are the pieces that you really think are – look that you like individually and that collectively still work. And I keep those. You might want to rethink of them.

    I’ve seen just a great, standard set of dining chairs that are very traditional – Queen Anne or whatever – and you just do them in a really great color like a lemon yellow. Or you do them in a robin’s egg blue and you just – inexpensive fabric on the seat cushion and you can reupholster them yourself; it’s really easy with a chair like that. And a little coat of paint and all of a sudden, it just gives it a whole new look to a dining room.

    TOM: Thom, you’ve also got an HGTV special that’s airing throughout the entire season. Tell us about it.

    THOM: Well, it’s called Radio City Holiday. It’s really fun. It’s just getting ready for the Christmas at Radio City Music Hall and the Holiday Spectacular is about to – it’s exciting. It’s about to take off and it’s amazing. The Rockettes. It’s the – it’s just incredible. So it’s really fun and I mean you just check up on your HGTV and you’ll be able – it’ll be playing throughout the holiday season.

    TOM: Terrific. Thom Filicia, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    If you’d like to follow Thom, you can learn more at his website, which is ThomFilicia.com. And that’s T-h-o-m-F-i-l-i-c-i-a.com.

    Thanks, Thom. It’s terrific work. We can’t wait to see it.

    LESLIE: Yeah, congratulations.

    THOM: Thank you. Happy Holidays.

    LESLIE: Alright. Do you beam with pride over the holiday light display that you’ve created at your home, until you open up your first electric bill with that glorious display on? We are going to tell you how you can still make your neighbors super-jealous about your awesome holiday cheer, without breaking the bank, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by ODL’s Add-On Blinds. Enclosed behind tempered glass, they eliminate the need for dusting and exposed cords, both problems with traditional blinds. Plus, they easily install over your existing entry glass. Visit www.ODL.com to learn more.

    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Pick up the phone, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a $250 gift certificate to Lumber Liquidators. They offer the lowest prices because they cut out the middle man and buy directly from the mill.

    One caller to the program at 888-MONEY-PIT is going to win that $250 gift certificate and get a head start on their next home improvement project. So if that’s you, pick up the phone and call us right now. You must have a home improvement question to qualify. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Pick up the phone and give us a call; we’d love to give you a hand. And if you find that you are the person who really must have the brightest holiday decorations on your block but you want to kind of do it without blowing your budget on your electric bill, you have to choose the right lights. And you know what? You can actually save a bundle using LED or fiber-optic lights.

    Now, the variety and versatility of these products are really better than ever.

    TOM: That’s right.

    Now, LEDs have come a very long way since their early, which were somewhat dimmer, days. How they work, they convert energy into light rather than heat. And each one uses only about 4/10 of a watt, which is a 90-percent efficiency improvement over incandescent lights. They also contain no mercury and they can burn for more than 50,000 hours.

    Another option? Fiber-optics. They can also help you save on energy. With this option, a single incandescent bulb sends light through many tiny fibers: typically dozens upon dozens of these little fibers. And the result is a very cool-to-the-touch, spectacular lighting display.

    LESLIE: Yeah, guys. You know what? With any holiday lighting endeavor that you’re working on, let’s think about it: common sense and safety should really be part of your scheme when you’re decorating with LEDs, fiber-optics, whatever you choose. Just be safe.

    Why not check out our website, MoneyPit.com? And you’re going to find there a whole bunch of advantages about using these types of lights and also a safety checklist to make sure that you are putting everything together correctly, so that you can keep your money pit safe and sound this holiday season. Just search “energy-efficient LED holiday lighting” and you’ll get all the help you need there.

    TOM: 888-666-3974 is the number you need to know for help with your home improvement project. Call us right now at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Joanie in Wisconsin is on the line with a cleaning question. What can we do for you?

    JOANIE: Hi. It’s a pleasure to talk to you two.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Joanie.

    JOANIE: I have a screened-in patio. It spans about 3½ feet wide and about 4 feet tall. There’s a wooden break in the middle, so basically it’s about 8 feet tall. But there’s the span of the screen I need to clean. It’s not the real strong screen, so I don’t want to bow the screen. How do I clean that?

    LESLIE: Now, we have a screened-in patio ourselves at my home and the screens are not removable. They do take a beating because we get a lot of wintery weather and just particulates in the air. And whenever I’m doing my weekly cleaning, I’ll take my vacuum attachment with the upholstery brush and just kind of go over it from the interior. And that does a great job, actually, of getting a lot of the muck out and I don’t really have to press too hard. Because like yours, it’s not the most durable screening but it does its job.

    And then what I like to do come springtime, when I’m really going to be out there a lot more, is from the inside or outside, depending on if I’ve got furniture out there and how wet I can get it, I’ll do just a soapy water with a soft-bristle brush and lightly give it a good cleaning and a rinse. And that really does a great job of doing it.

    And if you want some more step-by-step instructions or maybe if you’re looking to replace it yourself, Tom and I have written a sort of a guide – a bonus chapter to our book – on MoneyPit.com and it’s called “A Fix for Every Season.” And we do have a project in there with Arrow Fasteners about replacing your screens for your screened-in porch or doors. And that might be something you want to tackle come springtime.

    JOANIE: OK. Well, I thought of cleaning it with like a sprayer from the inside but I have a wooden base. So I didn’t really want to get that wood wet.

    LESLIE: Too well.

    TOM: You can get it a little bit wet and not have to worry about it, you know? As long as it doesn’t stay soaking, sopping wet for days on end. But certainly, getting it wet to clean the screen is nothing you should be concerned about.

    JOANIE: Oh, thank you very much.

    TOM: Well, steam heat is one of the most comfortable ways to stay warm, if you’re fortunate enough to have that in your money pit. It’s a moist and healthy heat for your home but it’s only that if you take care of the boiler that delivers the steam. We’ll tell you what you need to know for that project, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Professional-quality hand tools. Pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And you know what? Keeping warm this winter does not have to cost you an arm and a leg. If you’re looking for some great energy-saving advice, why not head on over to Money Pit or even Google “money pit stay warm for less”? And you’re going to get a list of energy-smart improvements that you can do to save yourself some green and of course, to keep your toes from turning blue.

    TOM: And while you’re on MoneyPit.com, head on over to the Community section and post your home improvement question right there. That’s what Kay did. She’s in Wisconsin and says, “I have a steam boiler system. My husband says the water level should not be all the way to the top. Is this true and do I need a professional to come in and check it each year?”

    No. Actually, Kay, you don’t need a professional to answer this question, because your husband is correct. You should trust him when it comes to these things.

    A steam boiler has a glass tube on the side of it. We call it a “sight glass.” And that shows the level of the water in the boiler and it is never all the way up to the top. In fact, it’s typically, oh, about halfway full, maybe three-quarters of the way full. Because as the steam heats, as the water boils, it’s going to expand and push it up. So if you fill the boiler with water all the way, that water would have nowhere to expand to and hence, wouldn’t be able to create the steam.

    So, no, your husband is correct; the water level should not be all the way to the top with a steam boiler. And for your second question, yes, you should have a professional come in and not necessarily check your system but service it.

    LESLIE: Annually.

    TOM: Because if it’s fired from gas, oil, any type of propane, that’s – those are all fossil fuels. And what’s going to happen with fossil is it burns dirty, just like your car. If you don’t tune it up, it’s going to be inefficient; you’re not going to get good gas mileage, so to speak. And what that means to you is your system is going to have to run longer to do the same thing.

    Another tip, by the way, on steam systems: most of the original steam systems had asbestos-enclosed pipes. If the asbestos was taken off of your heating pipes over the years and nothing was put back, that’s a huge waste of energy. So if you’ve got heating systems that are steam and the pipes are not thoroughly insulated, you really should do that. You can use fiberglass insulation for that. There are special types of fiberglass insulation that fits around the steam pipes.

    And the reason for this is very simple: you want to keep that heat in its steam form until it gets up into the radiator. That’s when you want to let it sort of transfer to the air, cool and then the condensate runs back. If you don’t have them insulated, the boiler has to run far longer to heat your house and that does exactly what you would expect: it drives up your heating bills through the roof.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, Kay? If you want to keep things budget-friendly, you should sign up for a service contract from your energy provider. Because this way, they’re going to give you priority when scheduling your annual services and if anything goes wrong, they’re going to get you in when you need the service and they’re going to keep those costs down. So look into it.

    TOM: Well, one of the fastest ways to give a room a new look is to change the color of the paint. Leslie has tips on what new colors are going to be hot in 2012, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, if you want to keep your interior color up with the trends, currently you want to look toward natural colors drawn from the American landscape. And I’m not talking about all beige here. You want to think about the blue of the ocean, the green of the forest and of course, the purple mountains’ majesty.

    Now, a dash of purple can absolutely punch up any room. And you’re going to see lots of patterns, like houndstooth and lacy designs running all around trendy homes these days.

    Now, the classic combo of black and white is really gaining popularity again. And adding black and white can really freshen the interior of any home, whether you’ve got a classic Colonial or a modern apartment.

    And you can read more about decorating trends for the upcoming year on our website. Just go to MoneyPit.com and search “2012 paint color trends,” because we’re kicking off the new year in style over at MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, we’re going to have tips on how you can keep your vacation home flood-free. It all comes down to knowing how to drain the pipes. We’ll tell you how to do just that, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.

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    END HOUR 2 TEXT

    (Copyright 2011 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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