Dear Ken: I have a 3-year-old refrigerator but lately the ice cubes don’t taste right. What can I do? — Tiffany

Answer: This is a “use it or lose it” situation. If you don’t run fresh ice through the system, then the cubes will start to take on the flavor of whatever is in the refrigerator. Plus, they get stale and nasty with age as the chemicals in the original water do their thing. Every few months, I dump the accumulated ice cubes into the sink. In addition to getting a fresh batch, it allows me to clean out the frosty chunks that might be impacting the dispenser and the inner mechanisms of the icemaker.

By the way, how does the water from the dispenser side taste? If it too is stale, you might consider an in-line charcoal filter system to sweeten up the incoming liquid. These systems are pretty cheap and usually last four to six months before a new cartridge is needed.

Dear Ken: What do you think of solar-powered attic vent fans? — Marty

Answer: While pricey at about $300, it’s the only way to go if you have a cathedral ceiling that creates an attic space too cramped to crawl into. The solar-powered fan is installed on the topside of the roof and immediately starts purging hot air accumulated at the peak of the attic and replaces it with cooler outdoor air pulled through those soffit vents behind the gutters.

Check with the manufacturer’s recommendations, but, if allowed, I would cover them with black plastic in the winter so the passive solar heat gain is retained in the attic.

Dear Ken: I live in an old house. I don’t want to chop a hole in the siding or the roof, so how can I vent the new bath fan into the attic? Do we worry about mold issues up there? — Les

Answer: The moist air from this fan needs to go somewhere. If it simply blasts into the attic space, it might eventually produce mold. You need to aim the end of the tube directly at one of the attic vents (my preference is one of the gable vents in the end of the house). That way, you’ll avoid building high humidity in the attic.

This arrangement was permitted for years, but I need to tell you that building codes now require it to exhaust directly outdoors. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which way to go.

Don’t forget to create a flat spot in the tube by bending it just above the bathroom ceiling. Why? As moisture condenses in the cold pipe, it will remain in the “trap” you’ve created — eventually evaporating — instead of dripping through the ceiling.

Dear Ken: I have a cat issue; they come into my yard to do their business. How can I get them out of here or at least discourage them? — Barb

Answer: You can buy a cat/dog repellent spray at pet stores, garden stores or online. Also, red pepper sprays and moth balls can work. Trouble is, you have to renew them once or twice a month.

If your feline neighbors go in a specific area every time, scatter dried pine cones around so they can’t find a smooth place to walk and squat.

Another option is motion detector alarms. They’re battery-powered and mounted on posts poked into the ground. When they sense animal movement, they emit an ultrasonic squeal that cats find irksome.

Finally, I found a charming antidote online from a woman who camouflaged one of those singing fish in the garden. When the cat came by, the fish began howling and twitching, and she says the animal went straight up into the air, ran from the yard and was never seen again!

Dear Ken: I need to replace my rain gutters. What would be best recommended for replacement: vinyl or metal or something else? — Brad

Answer: If you want to do this yourself, you can buy steel gutters — either pre-painted or with a galvanized finish — or colored vinyl gutters in 10-foot sections you join together. But, personally, I wouldn’t use either. You’ll have innumerable seams all around the house and each one represents a potential leak.

To avoid that extra maintenance, I’d choose aluminum. The company will bring a machine to your house and extrude custom lengths of gutter to fit along each edge of the roof. That way, the only seams will be in the corners and at the end of each section. Choose 5-inch gutters, which are the most popular style for asphalt-shingled roofs. If you have tile, then use 6-inch gutters. And insist on primary aluminum — not recycled — because it’s stronger and more reliable. There are 20-plus colors available and, since they are baked on at the factory, they are maintenance-free.

Finally, since virtually anyone can buy an extrusion machine and bolt it to a pickup truck, check homeowner references for the company you’re considering.

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 aroundthehouse.com

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