As colder weather settles in along the Front Range, crawl spaces and attics require attention.
Do you have rotating turbine vents on the roof? It’s a good idea to shroud them with a garbage bag until spring. That way they won’t suck warm air out of the attic; plus, you’ll increase their longevity since they will be motionless for several months.
During winter, you save money by capturing passive energy from the sun in the attic. If you can preserve that energy until nightfall, it will help lower interior heat transfer through the ceiling, ensuring the furnace runs less often.
One precaution, though: Moisture can build up in a sealed attic space, so make sure there are a couple of openings to allow it to escape. That could be a south-facing gable vent in the wall, a flat roof vent or two cut into the top roof shingles.
Cover all but one of the exterior crawl space vents this time of year. The easiest approach is to don a mask and gloves and stuff a chunk of fiberglass insulation against the inside of each grille. That will prevent crosswinds from stealing your hard-earned heat. But sometimes these vents provide combustion air to the furnace and/or water heater, so you’ll need to get additional air though grilles or louvers from inside the house. In that case, check with an HVAC contractor. Finally, remember to open the vents in the spring to relieve excess humidity.
Dear Ken: We want to stick the washer and dryer in the garage. What kind of heat would we need to help protect the washer? — Julie
Answer: You probably don’t need any. My garage stays at or above 40 degrees. However, I do have an insulated garage door plus the walls are insulated and sheetrocked. If that’s not the case with you, and if you’re still worried about a freeze-up, you could add a piece of baseboard electric heat. Since you’re near the electric panel anyway, it will be easy (and cheap) to wire it into a new 240-volt circuit. Choose, say, a 6-foot strip and attach it on the wall next to the washing machine. Then set its thermostat at the lowest number. Finally, make sure that all the pipes serving the washer are on an inside wall.
Dear Ken: We are at 9,000 feet. I have a wood entry door that’s in tough shape. Which would be the best type to replace it: fiberglass or steel. — Dustin
Answer: High elevation or not, I prefer fiberglass. It is very stable, doesn’t warp or twist, and seems to take temperature extremes with ease. If yours is a south-facing entry, with year-round sun, I would avoid installing a storm door in front of the fiberglass unit. Why? Heat from the sun becomes trapped in the space between doors; the high density foam in the new door will not let it escape into the house very readily. So the temperature soars in that space, deteriorating the finish and shortening the life of the door.
Otherwise, I’d recommend painting — not staining — the new door. Prime it with two coats of Bulls Eye 1-2-3, then apply another two coats of high-quality exterior latex.
Dear Ken: What do you think of those heavily advertised electric room heaters; are they worthwhile to save energy? — Pete
Answer: They’re fine in limited applications. The major brands use a multiple heat lamp and fan system to produce hot air blown from the side of a handsome wooden cabinet. Since they plug into the wall, they are substantially more expensive to operate per BTU than a natural gas furnace, but they can save you money anyway. How? If you spend entire evenings in one room, you can turn down the thermostat in the rest of the house and use your electric room heater only. So instead of heating, say, 3,000 square feet, you can electrically heat the 500 square feet you’re hanging out in.
Dear Ken: We have white cabinets with some sort of plastic or acrylic finish. We are having a heck of a time repainting them. Any ideas? — Theresa
Answer: This is one for your local name-brand paint store. Take a cabinet drawer with you and show it to the experts. Generally, the selection of primer is the key to recoating these surfaces. But if the cabinets are covered with plastic laminate or melamine, they might not be paintable.
Dear Ken: Is it too late to apply concrete caulk outdoors on my driveway? — Maria
Answer: Not at all. Wait for a warmish day when the highs will be at least 60 degrees. Apply the material right after sun-up so it will have time to cure before the cool evening air arrives. I prefer the liquid, pour-out material. It is extremely easy to use, is self-leveling and holds up well because of its perpetual flexibility.
Ken Moon hosts the Around the House radio show each Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. on KHOW 630 AM in Denver and KCOL 600 AM in Fort Collins. Visit aroundthehouse.com.