Dear Ken: I have a hot garage. It faces west and when the sun hits the garage door it’s like an oven in there. We have tried to insulate it with foam. Is that OK? Or is there something else we can do? — Laurie
Answer: You didn’t say what kind of garage door you have — an older wood style or newer steel. If it’s the former, there’s not much you can do, because the inside is flat. Steel doors, however, have a built-in slot to accept insulating panels. You can contact the dealer or manufacturer of the door to purchase a set and install them yourself. They come with handy plastic retention clips so they stay put.
If you’ve glued Styrofoam panels on to your old door, you should cover them with heavy duty plastic sheeting to discourage fire spread; it’s not a good idea to have raw foam exposed anywhere in your house.
One other reason that garages get so hot this time of year is lack of insulation and ventilation. If there are bare walls in there, you should insulate and sheetrock them. That will cool the space down now, and also will help retain your engine heat inside in the winter. Ditto for the garage attic. About 6 inches of fiberglass batts would be about right.
It would also help to install a vent fan near the ceiling on an outside wall. Wire it to a timer or thermostat so it runs during the hottest portion of the afternoon.
Dear Ken: My window well collects water at the bottom. Can you recommend someone to find the drain and redo things? — Daniel
Answer: You may or may not have a window well drain, depending on the age of your house. You can lean out the window and poke around with a small shovel to see if it’s buried. If it exists, it will be a black plastic 3-inch pipe and cap that usually extends down to the perimeter drain around the foundation. Installing one would be a real pain and quite difficult because of the tight working space in the window well.
However, you can mitigate your water problem yourself by scraping out the soil to about 6 inches below the level of the sill. Then add a layer of relatively coarse rock to abet evaporation and to prevent splashing mud when it rains.
Dear Ken: What is the name of that paint that you use to stop or reverse mold? — Barbara
Answer: You’re thinking of the primer/sealers we’ve mentioned here before. They are KILZ or Bullseye 1-2-3. Each has a shellac-like chemical that can seal the mold away from the indoor air environment. But first, it’s a good idea to kill it with some Clorox and water. Let that dry, and then spray a couple of heavy coats of the primer on top. Then you can paint with any top coat you would like, whether oil- or water-based.
Also, these products can also be used to seal away pet stains and odors. When recarpeting, for example, spray the sealer right over the stains, whether on wood or concrete.
Dear Ken: I don’t have a lot of room for a regular hot water heater tank. I am on hard well water, and asked a Rinnai rep if one of their on-demand water heaters would be a good idea. He said no. What do you think? — Carl
Answer: He’s probably worried about excessive mineral buildup inside the tankless water heater that would eventually reduce its efficiency, if not plug it up altogether. One idea is to install a water softener in the pipe leading to the hot water side of the plumbing system; a traditional sodium/ion exchange softener would work. One precaution however. You shouldn’t run its brine discharge into the septic tank — run it outside instead.
I’ve explained before that in existing homes, these tankless models are too pricey for me. By the time you increase the size of the gas line and maybe the flue pipe, you’ll have around $3000 invested in the system. That extra cost will take many years to amortize itself before you start saving actual money. Considering that you can buy two or three regular water heaters for that kind of money, I would probably stick to a traditional model.
If space is an issue, why not try an electric water heater? They can go almost anywhere — even in an out-of-the way closet. However, if you’re still set on a gas-fired model, check out a direct vent version, whose flue pipe pokes through an outside wall. That way, you’re not limited to one central location near the chimney.
Dear Ken: My radio is acting up. There is a pretty bad hum/buzz when I listen to AM radio. How can I get rid of it? — Cliff
Answer: The interference usually originates in one or more of the fixtures in your house. It’s pretty easy to isolate the source. Simply turn off one circuit breaker at a time until the noise quits. Then you can check out which of the devices on that circuit is to blame.
The usual culprits include LED bulbs, fluorescent lights with bad starters or flickering bulbs, night lights and porch fixtures with a photo cell sensor, touch-to-dim lamps, ceiling fan speed controls and slide-type light dimmers, like many of us have in the dining room.
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