Garage doors, springs and openers are complex pieces of equipment with many moving parts. It's best to let a professional handle them. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Dear Ken: One of the springs on my garage door is broken. Is this something I can fix? — Mitch

Answer: I wouldn’t. Those springs are wound to a high degree of tension so they can lift the door (the electric opener contributes only a small portion of the lift). When they are installed, they are wound with a steel bar hand over hand. One slip or a moment of inattention and you’ve got a broken arm — or worse. So leave this job to the experts.

By the way, you need to replace both springs when one breaks so that the lift is even on both sides. Also, there are heavy- and light-duty versions; the ratings are based on the number of cycles you can expect before it breaks again. Sometimes the garage door company will throw in the heavy-duty version at the same price.

Dear Ken: We are in a one-bedroom condo. Our furnace is in a separate room off the patio. Do we still need a carbon monoxide detector? — Laura

Answer: Yes. The hot air from the furnace still blows into your living space regardless of the furnace’s location. If there’s some sort of breach in the heat exchanger, you could be overcome by this insidious, odorless gas.

An apartment or condominium complex with a central hot water boiler is an exception. In that case — as long as there are no gas water heaters, stoves, fireplaces or other appliances in the units — the only requirement is a detector in the boiler room with a central alarm notification to the manager.

To summarize, the presence of any of the following mandates a detector, regardless of the heat source: attached garage, wood or gas fireplace, gas range or dryer, water heater, boiler and, of course, a gas hot air furnace.

Dear Ken: I have an 18-year-old wood fireplace with a gas log set that was added after the fact. Can I use my gas log to light a wood fire above it? — Jacob

Answer: I don’t think you should. For one thing, the controls for the gas log aren’t designed to have burning embers dumped on them. Also, the tiny holes in the burner will soon plug with soot.

You might be thinking of the old, so-called log lighters. These consisted of a steel pipe with holes drilled on one side shoved directly into the firebox under a log grate. The valve is outside, perhaps mounted inside the wall. You simply turn it, throw in a match and then — voila! — a gas fire to light up even the dampest log. Trouble is, they are illegal since they lack approved safety controls.

Bottom line: If you want wood fires, it’s best to remove the gas log set.

Around the House: Save money and heat with simple steps in attics and crawl spaces

Dear Ken: I’m thinking of finishing the walls and ceiling in my garage. Good idea? — Bruce

Answer: It’s a great plan to add insulation and sheetrock to the interior surfaces. If you think of your attached garage as just another room with a common wall to the living space, you realize that any energy-saving projects can help with utility bills. The higher the temperature in the garage, the less heat will flow through that common wall and the bedroom floors above.

The garage door is also a heat-waster. It’s nothing but a 16-by-7-foot hole to the outside world. An insulated steel door is a good investment, especially if it replaces one of those older wood units.

The flip side is summer heat. You’ll need to pull some outside air through the garage space on those hottest summer afternoons. Install a bath fan tied into a thermostat on one outside wall and a grill on the opposite side to minimize the hot air that accumulates near the ceiling.

Dear Ken: The pilot light in my gas fireplace comes on and then goes out, over and over. Can I fix this? — Wes

Answer: You can try. There is a thermocouple tip that protrudes into the blue pilot flame. It can get dirty with scale over time and then not produce enough voltage to keep the pilot lit. Carefully remove the glass door — with one person on each side — and lay it on some newsprint. Use an emery cloth to scour the thermocouple tip until it’s clean and shiny. Also, make sure its bracket is straight and parallel with the pilot light tube.

If it still gives you trouble, it is probably a bad gas valve; that requires professional attention.

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

Load comments