Dear Ken: I have a dancing washer. It’s a front-loading, stackable unit that literally moves several inches across the floor while it’s spinning. How can we keep it in its place? — Matt
Answer: These low-water-using washers spin at hundreds of RPM’s — much faster than their traditional top-loading cousins. I hear complaints not only of waltzing around the house, but also of excessive noise when they are installed on the second floor. You can find anti- vibration and anti-walking rubber foot pads for your washing machine online for about $20 a set.
But try this: If you have a pedestal under the washer and dryer with integral drawers, add weight inside each one — maybe concrete blocks, a few bricks or even a stack of ceramic tiles. The added ballast in that pedestal quiets everything down — guarantee it.
Here’s another reminder to install a water alarm and valve set kit up there. The alarm is a little pad that sits on the floor behind the washer, and when it senses moisture from a broken hose, it instantly closes the hot and cold water valves and sounds an alarm. One brand to look for is Floodstop.
Dear Ken: I recently saw an infomercial about a device that sets up a “field” around the house to keep rodents and other pests away. What do you think of these? — Jeanie
Answer: Not much. The feedback from readers and listeners about these electronic deterrent devices is not good. They usually rely on ultrasound or electromagnetic field technology, but it appears that, eventually, mice and other pests get used to them and come back into your life. Traditional exterminating techniques — including humane spring traps and hardware store insecticide sprays — seem to produce better results.
Dear Ken: I have central air. I want to know if it’s a good idea to use the ceiling fans to help keep the house cooler. Which way should they turn? — Lynne
Answer: It does help. The warm air accumulates on the ceiling, and so ceiling fans can help push that air downward, into the return system, so it can be recooled.
On most ceiling fans, the air is forced down when the blades are turning counterclockwise (looking up from the floor). (FYI: We spin them oppositely in the winter to wash that warm air down the sides of the cold walls and windows.)
Many readers complain of the difficulty of cooling the upper floor of a two-story home. In that case, installing a ceiling fan in the central bedroom hallway in place of an existing light fixture is a great idea for the very same reason.
Dear Ken: It looks like our attic insulation has gotten “less tall” over the years. Tell us how much we need and what kind. — Jerry
Answer: Indeed, insulation does shrink as it ages. Vibration from traffic going by and you tromping around down there — plus moist air in the attic — will lower the total number of inches over the years.
The recommendation these days is around 14 inches to 16 inches of total material. That will give you about an R-48, depending on what kind you choose as an overlay. The two options are cellulose or fiberglass — which I prefer because it seems to settle less over time.
Whatever you have up there now — Rockwool, vermiculite or the old sawdust type blown-in material — leave it in place.
Simply cover it with new material to the total depth I mentioned. The good news is that whatever you end up paying, insulation is so cost effective that you will recover your expense in about two heating seasons.
Dear Ken: I desperately need a bath fan. But I hate to think about breaking through the brick to run it outside. Can I join it to the dryer vent? — Dick
Answer: No. The dryer will backdraft into the new pipe and fill the bathroom with moist air and lint. And it’s not allowed by the code authorities; all vents must be independent.
The brick is no big deal, though. Simply borrow an electric chip hammer from the neighborhood rental center. It’s a handheld minijackhammer that will blow through brick veneer “like butter”. Then use a 3 ½-inch hole saw to cut an opening to the outside. Finally, caulk the exterior flapper vent in place, and that’s it!
Dear Ken: I have an old boiler, so I want to make the system more efficient. Should I buy a new one or maybe add some solar backup? — Andy
Answer: You’re right to be concerned. If the boiler is about 25 or more years old, it’s probably only about 50% efficient. A new copper or stainless steel one will be around 80%, so you could save $200 to $300 over a typical heating season. I’ll let you do the math to decide if it’s worth it, considering how long you intend to live in the house.
A solar supplement could be installed to maintain hot temperatures in the boiler water without using natural gas, but I wouldn’t do it. These “wet” systems are expensive to install and are a pain to maintain.
One solar backup I do like, however, is solar hot air. It’s incredibly simple: You blow cool room air through several dry solar panels and send it back through a ceiling register.
It’s ideal for use here in the Rockies, since most of our really cold days are bright and sunny. The system can gather solar energy all day long while the boiler sits idle.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His call-in radio show airs at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com