Kathye has a carbon monoxide detector that isn't working:
We had a CO leak in our 5-year-old furnace. The detector didn't alarm, but our old windows leaked so much air that we are OK. I checked the fine print and the manufacturer says you should replace the detectors every three years or so. Can you help me spread the word?
• Absolutely. In fact, the fixed life of the sensors inside carbon monoxide detectors are a lot shorter than those in smoke detectors. Electrochemical and gel-type detectors (the kind most of us have) should be replaced every three to five years. They have a date stamped on the back to use as a reference. Here's a Web site for more information: www.knowaboutco.com.
Speaking of detectors, the AP reported last week on deaths in New England from the smoke of a smoldering fire that wouldn't trigger the ionizing type of smoke detector, the most common variety.
When smoke detectors came out in the '70s, they were mostly the photocell type, which seem to be more responsive to a slow-burning fire than ionizing varieties. So now, fire departments are beginning to think it would be a good idea to have both types in your house. You can buy separate models, or a combination of the two. Check them out at your nearest hardware store or at www.smokesign.com.
Michael has dishwasher troubles: Our glasses aren't coming out totally clean, and the dishwasher is a newer model. Any ideas?
• First, make sure the spray arms are rotating. Set the timer on a wash cycle, then quickly open the door to see if the arms are moving. Next, check your water temperature. The manufacturers say 120 degrees, minimum, but I think 130 or even 140 is better. Remember that those levels introduce a scalding hazard for the young, disabled and infirm, so be careful.
Are you using enough detergent? Many folks don't. Check the water's grains of hardness, especially if you are on a well or small community system. The soap manufacturers have recommendations on the box and at their respective Web sites for the recommended scoops of powder. Also try a rinse agent.
Ev has moisture issues: The instrument we have says there's 50 percent to 60 percent humidity in our house. That can't be right, so how do we measure it?
• Hygrometers - whether analog or digital - need calibration at least once a year. Set the instrument outdoors for at least two hours to stabilize it, then check one of the TV station weather pages, weather.com or the NOAA forecast site for the current relative humidity. Adjust the calibration screw to that number. Do this for two or three days in a row, and you'll be able to zero in on a pretty close calibration. That should help you determine the indoor level at your place.
By the way, don't scoff: Many poorly ventilated homes in our area can have high levels of indoor moisture. Those levels need to be lowered as soon as possible so mold issues don't develop. Inadequately ventilated crawl spaces and attics are the primary culprits, as well as poor wall insulation, the misuse (or nonuse) of bath fans, and whole-house humidifiers set too high.
Greg wants new windows: It's so confusing. I have a wide range of bids with all sorts of bells and whistles. Can you help me sort through this?
• It sounds as if you're in an "apples and watermelons" mode. It's hard to compare dissimilar proposals, isn't it? So I recommend that your "spec sheet" include only the following: a set of good basic vinyl windows with low-e glass only. Avoid expensive add-ons, such as argon gas and triple panes. And be sure to get three estimates. A good rule of thumb that most commercial contractors use is to be skeptical of a really high or amazingly low bid. They've figured the estimate wrong, are making excessive profit or want to "bait and switch" you. The best experiences usually lie somewhere in the lowermiddle of the bid range. When you narrow it down, ask the company for the phone numbers of the last two window jobs they did: homeowners like you are the best references of all.
Write to Moon c/o The Gazette, P.O. Box 1779, Colorado Springs 80901 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His radio show airs 9 to 11 a.m. Saturdays on KRDO (AM 1240 and FM 105.5).