Dear Readers: It’s hard to believe that it’s time to hang those Christmas lights again. Nonetheless, here are a few safety reminders to keep you out of trouble. Make sure the light strings are plugged into a GFCI (ground fault) protected outlet. That way, you can be sure that any stray voltage leaking into the ground (or you!) will trip the breaker and take that outlet off line until the fault is repaired.
The GFCI circuit usually protects the bathroom, garage and exterior outlets. To help identify it, look for those tiny push buttons in one of the outlets. If you need to wire in another one someplace else, don't fret, a ground fault device with the self-contained safety circuit is less than $15.
Don't plug strings of lights into any one circuit endlessly without checking how much current you're using. Sum up the amperage rating of each light string, and when you get to a total of about 12 amps or so, you should think about utilizing another circuit.
Also, check the amperage ratings of the extension cords and timer you plug your display into (but never use less than a 16 gauge, outdoor-rated cord). Finally, each plug and socket connection should be wrapped with a plastic grocery bag and rubber bands or twist ties.
Dear Ken: My furnace air has a musty smell to it. Any ideas why this would be happening? -Peter
You may be drawing intake air into the system through a return air grill from a damp basement or crawl space area, which mixes with the main level. Or some ducting may have pulled apart creating gaps, which can also pull in stale air. Check with your HVAC contractor for advice on this. You also might need a good cleaning of the insides of your entire system. You can use a swivel mirror and a strong flashlight (this works best after dark) to look through some of the floor vents and down the metal duct tubes. If they are coated with a layer of dust, your contractor can recommend a reliable duct cleaning company.
Dear Ken: After several months in our new (to us) home, the doorbell started buzzing. We replaced it and the transformer located on the furnace. That worked fine for about two months, but now it's buzzing again. Should we give up and contact someone to fix it? -Dennis
Not quite yet. You're going to love this answer: it might have been the doorbell button all along! They wear out and can leak a small amount of current across the contacts. So unscrew it form he wall and then disconnect the bare wire ends. You can then see if the buzzing has stopped and you can also "ring" the doorbell by touching the ends together to make sure everything works okay.
If it's not the button, the wires somewhere in the circuit may be shorting together. Usually you can't get to the trouble inside the walls to make the repair. Don't despair, however, because you can replace this traditional set-up with a wireless setup – many of which are less than $25.
Dear Ken: Our carpet is getting loose. We have waves in the middle. Is this a sign of bad carpet or installing? -Cheryl
It usually is an installation problem. If the carpet was somewhat cooler than the inside of the house when it was laid, it can "relax" later and lose its stretch. This is an easy job for a good carpet layer (the hard part is removing and replacing the furniture). They will probably use a power stretcher – a telescoping gizmo that pushes against the opposite wall – to stretch all of the undulations out of each room.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 9 a.m. Saturday and is carried on KRDO, AM 1240 and FM 105.5. Visit www.AroundTheHouse.com