Dear Ken: I have a refrigerator in my garage. In the summer it does OK, but usually not in the winter. I can’t keep it cold enough. What can I do to have it run more normally? — William
Answer: The cold air starts in the freezer compartment and then runs down into the fresh food side. And that’s where the thermostat is that tells the compressor to come on to start the cooling process in the first place. Your cold garage environment doesn’t allow the fresh food area to warm up enough to kick it on, so it helps to add a little heat. Buy a clamp-on trouble light — the kind with the big aluminum reflector shade. Remove the shade, which leaves the clamp and bulb socket. Clamp it to one of the shelves in the fresh food compartment and thread the cord though the hinge side of the door.
In my fridge, I use a 13-watt CFL (compact fluorescent) bulb — equivalent to a regular 60-watt incandescent — and leave it burning 24/7. That provides just enough warmth to fool the thermostat into starting up the compressor once in a while. You’ll find that your frozen food will stay just right.
What about damage to that cord? The magnetic gasket around the inside edge of the door is soft and pliable enough to prevent any significant pinching of it as it passes through the gap. Even so, make sure this heat light is plugged into a GFCI (ground fault) outlet; it will be safer that way.
Incidentally, it is always a good idea to have a thermometer sitting in the freezer side of all refrigerators. The goal is to keep that compartment as close to zero degrees as possible.
Dear Ken: My water heater makes strange noises. It gurgles and sort of spits, which you can hear while standing next to it. Is this OK? — Sally
Answer: Probably so. What you’re hearing are tiny boiling points. These are small dots of minerals that precipitate out onto the tank’s surfaces; they encourage tiny bubbles to form around them, and this is what you’re hearing. You should drain the sediment out of your water heater at least once a year. Additionally, installing a water softener might help.
Finally, exercise that little gizmo with the silver lever on the side of the heater — the pressure-relief valve. How often? Also at least once a year — perhaps at the same time you drain the tank. Lift up on the lever and let a little water escape until it’s clear, then let it snap back into place. If it dribbles or is stuck, have a plumber replace it.
Dear Ken: I have a finished basement in my condo, and there is a problem with the heat. There is only one heat vent down there — in the ceiling — and I just can’t seem to get it warm enough. Any suggestions? — Kay
Answer: You didn’t say how big the basement space is, but it sounds a little odd to have only one heat vent. Anyway, you’ll need to get a heating contractor involved to do a couple of things. First, analyze the space to see if one or two more vents are needed; second, install a cold air return duct near the floor. That will pull the warm air from the ceiling vents down and across you and the furniture. Once that’s done, I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable down there.
Dear Ken: I have a concrete slab patio serving as the roof of my garage. The expansion joint in the center leaks into the garage. Any ideas of what I can use to seal it that will stay flexible? — Jim
Answer: There are innumerable concrete patching materials available at the hardware store or home center. Most come in caulking gun tubes and have some sort of epoxy formulation. My favorite, however, is a liquid pour material called Quikrete Liquid Crack Filler. It comes in a bottle and is just the right color. It’s also self-leveling and stays pretty flexible. You might try a couple of layers of this stuff. But first, don’t forget to blast the dirt out of the crack with compressed air; the efficacy of these products is only as good as the initial surface preparation
Dear Ken: I have a Hampton Bay ceiling fan with a remote control that comes on all by itself sometimes. What’s going on? Can you help point me in the right direction to get some help from the company? — Jerry
Answer: Sometimes, you can “reset” the remote by removing the batteries for 10 minutes or so. Or there may be another control in the house that is spooking your fan. Also, static charges from the carpet can scramble the electronics. Spray some diluted fabric softener or a store-bought static retarder on the carpet in that room. For help from the manufacturer, go to the Home Depot we site and look for ceiling fan Q &A’s.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His radio show airs at 4 pm Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit www. aroundthehouse.com