Around the house:

Ken Moon — Around the House

Dear Ken: My 12-year-old windows have condensation between the glass panes. Is there any way to fix them besides replacing them? — Marty

Answer: There are sites online that discuss procedures to evacuate the moisture by drilling two small holes in opposite corners of the outside window pane. Then, the theory goes, the sun will heat up the window to drive out the excess moisture. But even if it were successful, you’ll still be left with a hazy residue layer on the inside of the window, and of course the seals that failed to let in the moisture in the first place will still be broken.

So the bottom line is the window glass itself should be eventually replaced. But the good news in the meantime is that the insulating characteristics of the window are little changed, since it’s the air gap between the panes that discourages heat transfer — either in or out. So it’s really a cosmetic problem. Now that you know that there’s no hurry, you can replace them gradually, staring with the most visible unit.

Dear Ken: Can you repeat your directions for draining the water heater? — Craig

Answer: This procedure, done once a year or so, will save money by removing sediment — which inhibits heating —from the bottom of the tank. It’s a good idea for those folks who have a well or are on a small community water system where there is apt to be more grit and sand in the piping. For us city folks, it’s usually not necessary; one way to tell is to lift the top of a toilet tank and see if there’s any sediment in the bottom.

Anyway, the procedure is to (1) Turn off the gas valve and close the cold-water valve feeding the tank; (2) Attach a hose to the drain at the bottom and run all the hot water into a floor drain; (3) Open and close that cold water valve, “blasting” cold water through the heater several times, until the drain runs clear; and (4) Reverse the procedure to restore the system to normal (but don’t turn the gas back on until the tank is filled with new cold water).

If yours is an electric water heater, you can skip this whole thing since the heat elements are higher up in the tank.

Dear Ken: The window in my bathroom is clear glass. How can I frost it for privacy? — Lisa

Answer: You can buy privacy film that mimics expensive frosted glass. Some versions have a sticky back while some go on with a squeegee and soapy water, just like darkening film is applied in a vehicle.

One of my listeners who is into home hobby projects suggested the following, which she swears works every time: Buy some inexpensive lace at a cloth store, cut it a little smaller than the window, then soak it in liquid starch. While still wet, apply it to the inside of the windows, and, when it’s dry, it creates a pleasant, decorative translucent coating.

Dear Ken: We’re going on vacation. Should we turn off our water heater? Or just turn it down? — Josh

Answer: Many gas water heaters have a “vacation” setting on the main temperature dial. This keeps the tank at a lukewarm temperature until you come back. If you’re going away a week or more, turn the other dial (the on-off-pilot one) to “pilot”; electric water heaters can be turned off at the main breaker panel.

Dear Ken: My new cabinets have a funny smell, like varnish, which bothers me. How can I get rid of it? — Pam

Answer: That smell will eventually fade, but nothing beats charcoal for absorbing odors. You can use plain briquettes set around the inside of the cabinets. Or look for cloth bag sets of activated bamboo charcoal on line.

Dear Ken: There’s a leak somewhere around our tub, which we can’t track down. Can you help? — Angie

Answer: The most obvious place to start is the grout between the tiles and the seal between the tiles and the tub. Use pre-mixed grout applied with a big sponge for the tiles and a good siliconized tub and tile caulk for the tub/tile transition. Another common culprit is in the shower head’s threaded connection behind the wall. Unscrew that bent arm from its fitting, wrap some new Teflon tape around the threaded end, then retighten.

Sometimes a leak from a toilet close to the tub will mask itself as a tub/shower leak. Feel the area behind the bowl where the tank sits for unauthorized water.

Dear Ken: Our house is on a septic tank. When the washing machine runs, we smell a sewage odor on one side of our house. Can it be cured? — Steve

Answer: Modern washing machines blast waste water into the drain at a pretty high rate, which can create surges and siphoning in the house drains. Try cutting down on the flow by clamping a piece of copper pipe of the next smaller diameter in the end of the drain hose.

You can also extend the vent pipes on the roof so the wind will carry the odor away more quickly. Add a foot or two of new pipe or use a 45-degree fitting and point the new angled pipe in the direction of the most prevailing wind. Another idea: Look for filters by a company called Sweet Air; they come in standard sizes that you simply glue on to the vent pipes.

Dear Ken: I have a hard time pulling the key out of my door knob. Can I fix it myself? — Jeanie

Answer: Before you call a locksmith, buy a tube of powdered graphite and squirt some in the keyhole. Locks tend to accumulate blown-in dirt, which can bind the pins inside.

Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 4 pm Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit www. aroundthehouse.com

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