Dear Ken: Would you tell me how to pick out a whole house humidifier? — Brenda
Answer: Designs without moving parts and that are continuous self-cleaning operation are best; the AprilAire brand is one. It simply dribbles a flow of hot water over a mesh screen. Warm air then blows over the screen and this more humid air is delivered to the rooms. Install it offset from the furnace — that is on one of the side ducts, so it doesn’t sit directly over the combustion chamber. That way, the inevitable leaks and drips won’t corrode delicate parts.
There is even a version that contains a small computer that actually takes charge of the furnace. Since the humidifier only operates when the furnace fan is running, you seldom get enough humidity with just the normal heating cycles. The computer engages the blower circuitry and turns it on and off when humidity is called for. Within these cycles, the gas flames come on and off as needed.
With our super-low humidity in the winter, you’ll probably find it difficult to get the humidity much above 30%. I set my humidistat at 40% and hope for the best.
Dear Ken: We are at our wits end. We purchased our home about four years ago and have battled a dust problem ever since. It gets all over the furniture and in our closets. Is there anything we can do to seal the house? — Anthony
Answer: There are several potential sources for dust infiltration. The builder may not have adequately sealed the walls where they sit on the foundation. Sill sealers are usually a strip of foam or fiberglass that it is rolled out on to the foundation and squashed down by that first board — the sill — to fill in the discontinuities of the concrete and keep dust from creeping in. You can at least partially make up for it by caulking or injecting foam into either the inside or outside of that concrete/wood gap; you can also chink some insulation into the space up under the first row of siding where it hangs down over the foundation.
Another potential source are those tiny weep holes in your window tracks. They drain away excess rainwater that blows against the glass panes. In addition to letting water out, they can let dirt in. Look for a small slit in the bottom outside corners of each window. You can plug each with a small piece of sponge.
Dear Ken: I have a new home with warped cabinet doors. The builder wants to wait awhile to fix them. Should I go along? — Chad
Answer: What appears to be warping may simply be hinges that are a little out of alignment. Sometimes drilling new holes and repositioning the hinges is all that’s needed
One way to tell what you have is to sight down the edge of the doors. If you see some curvature, then it is a true warp. Wood with an excessive moisture content may have been used in the doors. When they get sealed and lacquered, the drying out process is impeded, causing the wood to bend. Give it another month or two, if you’d like, but they’re probably not going to get better by themselves.
Dear Ken: What do you think of pellet stoves? I’d like to know the pros and cons vs. gas fireplaces. — Steve
Answer: Pellet stove prices have come way down over the last several years. Decent free-standing units that can be vented directly outside are available for $1,200 to $1,500. They use recycled wood chips and sawdust pressed into the fuel pellets. These stoves are very efficient and don’t induce that typical wood smell into the living space, like older wood stoves for example. Because the pellets are a little costly compared to natural gas, they make more economic sense as a supplement in propane- or electrically-heated homes.
Most gas fireplace inserts regular are as efficient as a regular furnace — about 80 percent these days, and they can heat several rooms. But they tend to be a little pricey because the city will usually require a new metal flue pipe to be sleeved up and out of the existing chimney.
Dear Ken: I’m removing the linoleum from my bathroom floor. Now I have the paper backing still stuck. How do I remove it? — Mitch
Answer: There may be asbestos fibers in older resilient floor coverings installed in the ‘70s or earlier. So it’s a much better idea to leave it in place and cover it with new material. Apply a 1/4-inch underlayment as a base for the new floor.
Speaking of hazardous materials, I ran across a dangerous situation recently. A homeowner had applied Styrofoam insulating panels on to the concrete foundation in a small storage room and the furnace room — both of which were near some basement bedrooms. When this stuff smolders, it releases extremely toxic fumes, which could overcome sleeping occupants before they could escape from an otherwise survivable fire. So foam insulation should not be used in the living area of any home; remove it or cover it with a layer of sheet rock!
The same precaution applies to certain insulation batts with a paper facing. Look for a fire hazard warning on the face of each piece.
Moon is a home inspector. His radio show airs at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit aroundthehouse.com