Dear Ken: I have a ceiling fan with a light attached and a remote control. It goes on and off at random times. My husband thinks we have a ghost. How about you? — Sallie
Answer: I think it’s much less spooky than that. Interference from other electronic sources — such as garage door operators, ham radios, public service transmitters and maybe a neighbor with a similar fan — can trigger your fan. Does the fan setup have DIP switches, which are tiny toggles inside the remote and the fan receiver that are configured to establish compatibility between the devices? If so, choose other combinations of settings until you find one that behaves properly.
Also, check the grounding of this circuit. You should have a continuous ground wire path through the wall switch and all the way to the metal body of the fan itself. If not, stray static charges could make the fan unpredictable. An electrician can perform the tests to determine the status of the grounding connections.
Dear Ken: I used d-CON in my dirt-floor basement. Now I have some carcasses to dispose of. Do I need to worry about getting sick if I handle them? — Larry
Answer: Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome can be contracted by inhaling the virus — if it’s present — in the feces or urine of infected mice. Some strains can be fatal, but it’s extremely rare.
Use common sense when handling dead mice. Wet down the area with a mixture of Clorox and water, wear rubber gloves and a mask, and seal all the remains in plastic bags before disposing of them. For more details, visit cdc.gov/hantavirus.
Many folks have crawl spaces that they must enter when changing the furnace filter. A mask and gloves are important attire for performing this chore even if you don’t see mice.
Dear Ken: We had a carbon monoxide leak. The detector didn’t alarm, but our old windows leaked so much air that we were OK. I checked the fine print, and the manufacturer says you should replace them every five years or so. Ours was older. Can you help me spread the word? — Kathy
Answer: Absolutely. The sensors inside carbon monoxide detectors have a fixed life that’s a lot shorter than smoke detectors. Electrochemical models (the kind that most own) should be replaced every five to seven years. They all have a date stamped on the back you can use as a reference. Plus, most detectors now come with a built-in calendar. When the computer counts down to the time limit set by the manufacturer, the unit starts to squawk, reminding you it’s time for a replacement.
My favorite detector is the Nighthawk plug-in style. Look for the combination carbon monoxide and combustible gas detector; it not only alarms for carbon monoxide but also senses natural gas and propane leaks. It has a battery backup, digital display and keeps track of prior readings.
Dear Ken: I removed some old paneling and now the glue won’t go away. We’ve used KILZ, but the old glue stripes keep showing through. Help! — Eileen
Answer: Did you use the water- or oil-based KILZ primer? The original (oil) product is a better choice for covering difficult imperfections such as old glue. If the old blemishes still show through after using it, you’ll need to remove them by brute force. Wet the lines down with warm water from a spray bottle and try to ease them off with a razor blade scraper.
Trouble is, you’ll probably end up scratching the drywall paper surface, which creates another problem. The wall then will need retexturing before you paint. That’s why I typically recommend wallpaper over these previously paneled surfaces. Choose a muted texture that blends into the background. It will cover a lot of sins and is the least frustrating way to finish your project.
Dear Ken: My daughter has bought a new home in the foothills with a really high radon reading (way above 4.0). If it is brought down, will they still be in jeopardy from other houses in the neighborhood? — Carrie
Answer: Probably not. We worry about radon levels inside houses, not outdoors. When the house is repaired to mitigate the radon exposure level, air will be pulled from under the basement floor, sent through a tube and then exhausted from a vent high up in the eaves. That way, the prevailing breeze disperses and dilutes it.
The mitigation company will guarantee to get it below the recommended 4.0 maximum reading. Keep in mind that standard is somewhat arbitrary; it was set by the government in the early 1980s since that was the lowest level they could measure at the time. Nevertheless, it has become ingrained into the real estate sale process and so must be addressed if it’s higher. Check out epa.gov/radon for more information.
Dear Ken: My patio has settled and now water runs toward the house. If I were to mudjack it, wouldn’t it affect my foundation? — Van
Answer: The reason it sank in the first place was because it wasn’t tied to the house. Usually, we leave pieces of steel (rebar) bent out from the foundation to tie into the patio structure. That provides an anchor if the dirt settles underneath; that’s not the case at your house. Bottom line: Mudjacking will raise the patio back to its original spot with no structural effects.
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