Homeowner Tips Number 6

                              

WINTERIZING YOUR ATTIC

We have been told that heating bills will not be as severe as in the past. My feeling is that heating bills are just like the price of gasoline. They are seasonally affected. The season that causes them to drop the most is the election season. Regardless of the price of fuel, it makes sense to reduce your usage any way you can. One way most home owners can conserve energy is adding insulation to your attic access.

Just about every home has access to an area above the living space. It is often accessible from a small hatch located in closet. New homes have small access hatches and they are tucked away so access is difficult. This is done for a reason. They donít want you going up there. If you have a small access panel, insulating it is pretty simple. Buy some weather stripping. The type you put around an exterior door is fine. The access panel is often a piece of 3/8Ē plywood or drywall. Remove the panel and clean off the ledge on the inside of the access area. Then install the weather stripping just as you would insulate a doorway. While youíre at it, take a look at the access area. If there are dark streaks, that evidence of heat loss in the past. The streaks are caused by dust traveling in the heat as it says good bye.

Next, pick up a 4í x 8í sheet of 2Ē rigid insulation and construction glue. You will also need a utility knife and a caulking gun. Cut at least two pieces of the insulation and glue them to the top of the panel. This will give you an R value of between 15 and 20 on the hatch. An R value is a rating given to materials to determine its ability to resist the flow of heat. Most of your attic should have an R value of 30 to 40. You can add more pieces of insulation to the panel if you like, but be sure you can still tilt it and get it back into the hatch. If you climb up into the attic to add the insulation to the hatch, you can build it up more and just lower it down over the opening. The access to your attic has been acting like a chimney allowing heat to pour into your attic. No insulation on the hatch is a little like leaving a window open in a bedroom. The heat loss is significant. Donít seal the opening with caulk or tape. You may need to get up there in the future and removing it can damage the hatch or the ceiling around it.

If you have pull down stairs for your attic, it gets a little tricky. Pulls the stairs down and get into the attic. Now, have someone fold up the stairs and close the access. Make sure you are on good terms with this person or they may decide to leave you up there for a while. Measure the height of the stairs and the size of the opening. Now take the same type of insulation I recommended for the small access hatch and make a box to cover the stairs. Be sure to make the top piece several inches wider and longer than the opening to allow for the insulation on the sides of the box. You will need long screws to hold the sides together. You can try gluing the edges together but when you cut the insulation, the edge is often a little uneven and glue is not very effective. If you want to give the box some rigidity, make a frame from 2Ē x 3Ēís and screw the insulation to the wood. This will do two things. It will make the box more permanent, and it will add weight to press down around the sides. You can caulk the seams in the box to make them more air tight. Now climb down out of the attic and slide the box over the opening. The stairs should fit inside the box without lifting it. Obviously, making the box a few inches bigger is fine.

Here are a couple of tips for those who never venture into the attic. WALK ONLY ON THE WOOD CEILING JOISTS! This is very important. If you walk on the insulated areas, there is only drywall supporting you and you will fall through. We performed a home inspection where the home owner fell through his ceiling when he went into the attic to change the filter on his A/C unit. He fell eight feet and landed on his bed. If he had fallen about five feet to his left, he would have fallen over his front door center hall. The fall there was about thirty feet onto a tile floor. A tragedy!

A few last ďwinterizingĒ items. While you are in the attic, donít insulate the vents to the outside. You need these vents open more in the winter than you do in the summer. Closing them off will trap moisture contained in the warm air that works its way into the attic. This moisture condenses and rots the wood in your attic. If you have rust on the nails coming through the roof deck, you may need more ventilation in your attic. Are you looking for something to do on Thanksgiving weekend? I thought so. Itís a great time to clean your gutters. Just about all the leaves are down and the gutters havenít frozen yet. But once again, be careful. Most home accidents involve a home owner and a ladder.

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BEES AND YOUR HOME

A few weeks ago I was putting away a few things in our crawl space, when I noticed a large bulge in my insulation along the wall. There was a low decibel buzz coming from it. I like to believe that my home is mine, and that anything moving into it should be polite enough to at least ask my permission. Apparently what ever moved in, didnít agree with this. I then went outside and realized that our shrubbery in this area had taken over the corner so I couldnít get near my house to investigate. One of the tips I give my clients during a property inspection is to keep your shrubbery trimmed back and one or twice a year walk SLOWLY around the perimeter. Look for any insect activity or any signs something may have decided your home would be a good place for their home. I didnít follow my own advice and now I had some unwanted tenants. I spent the rest of the day cutting back the shrubbery, but still could not really find any signs of entry. Whatever was living in my home, had to be getting in somewhere.

The next question is what do I do? I had only one answer, I called Anthony Buzas of Flourtown. Anthony is an apiculturist. He is a bee specialist. He has been involved with bees professionally for thirty years. I called him, described the circumstances, and he said, ďIt sounds like bumble bees.Ē They are the large bees with the pretty yellow and black backs that look like fur coats. He gave me some advice. ďDonít disturb them. They are territorial, and they will sting.Ē Iím thinking, this is my territory, but to the bee, itís their home, not mine. We set an appointment. He asked me to clear a path in the crawl space for him. As most home owners know, junk expands to the size of the container. Since we have a crawl space, we, naturally, have to fill it with things we will never use. I cleared the path quietly, and kept the crawl space access closed.

When Anthony arrived, he suited up in complete body protection including a mesh mask and boots. He told me he has been stung more times than I have hairs on my head. I didnít know how to take that. He entered the crawl space with a five gallon bucket with a sealed lid. His helper kept the hatch closed, and he emerged about 15 minutes later with the nest tightly sealed in the bucket. He told me to leave the crawl space sealed, and leave a light on in there. The few bees that were out would return and they will be attracted to the light and die in there.

What should you as a home owner do about bees? Letís begin with a basic premise: All bees can sting you. That includes carpenter bees which many people think are harmless. Carpenter bees like soft wood. They drill perfectly shaped 7/16Ē holes in your siding or trim and then lay their eggs in the hole. There are treatments to deter them, but the only sure way to get rid of them is aluminum or vinyl siding and trim. Next we have honey bees. Bees are the only insect that produce an edible food for man. They form nests and like all bees, will defend their home if you disturb them. If you find a honey bee nest, call an expert like Anthony to get rid of them. They form nests of anywhere from a few thousand bees to as many as eighty thousand. You really donít want a few thousand bees charging out of the nest at you. Bees may leave the nest year round. If the temperature is above 55 degrees in winter, they leave the nest to defecate.

Yellow jackets nest in the ground as well as small openings in your home. They move in and you will see a steady flight pattern of bees in and out of the nest. The activity can be busier than an airport with landings and take offs every few seconds. Itís best to have a professional address this nest, particularly if it is in the wall or overhang of your home. Wasps tend to nest in wood areas. They use the cellulose material in the wood to build their nests. These nests are often hanging in the soffit or overhang areas. They will also nest behind shutters and louvers. In my experience in walking around homes, I have found wasps to be particularly aggressive, but Anthony said, all bees will be territorial and defend their home. Hornets also use cellulose in their nest construction, and they form those large nests you often see in trees or again in overhangs. If you decide to be brave and take on a nest of hornets or wasps, spray at night. They are all in the nest at that time. Spray from a distance, and give it several applications spaced over a few hours.

Some basic rules to follow: All bees can and will sting. Your reaction to the sting may vary. Some people are highly allergic and require immediate medical care at a hospital. If the nest is large, the danger is large, call in a professional. Once the nest is gone, caulk any openings around your home. Any openings around the foundation can be sealed with spray foam insulation. And lastly, donít do what I did. Patrol your grounds regularly. Check your childrenís play areas. Those wood play sets are very inviting to bees and wasps, and remember, in their mind, itís their home, not yours. If you have a bee problem and want professional advise, Anthony can be reached at 1-800-47STING.

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WATER IN YOUR BASEMENT

My high school biology teacher, Brother Lewis, justifiably, had serious doubts about my academic commitment. He taught things like capillary action, osmosis and evaporation to a sometimes glazed over audience, myself included. Little did he know that, possibly by osmosis, I was absorbing the information and would use it on an almost a daily basis later in life.

Every day I am in homes talking to people about water. There are many sources of water in a home. These sources of water can and will damage the home. The location we will discuss is the basement. The areas where damage can take place is everywhere that there is very little air flow or warm air hitting a cold surface. Do you have a sump pump? It is not enough to pump water out of the home when it reaches a certain level. The pump will deal with the overflow, but a sump full of standing water in the basement is pouring water into your home. The water is evaporating into the home. Every sump, which is the hole in the ground, should be covered. It is a fairly easy home owner installation. Get a piece of Plexiglas and cut it to cover the opening. You will have to cut a slot to slide it over the piping so that you can remove it to test the pump every couple months. Plexiglas is recommended so you can see in the sump and check the water levels. Covering the slot with a piece of plastic, even a heavy trash bag held down with some sort of ballast is good. The goal is to keep the dampness in the sump.

The next source of water vapor to address is the clothes washer and dryer. I inspected a home last year where the washer drained into a large tub. A pump then lifted the water into the sewage system which was at the basement ceiling. Water then sat in the tub continually. This system is wrong on many levels, but the issue I wish to address is any container that has standing water in it. It should be covered to reduce evaporation. The ideal situation is to not have standing water anywhere in the home. Water can become stagnant and create health problems, and the evaporation can damage the home.

Your dryer should vent to the outside. A clothes dryer with a full load of wash puts several gallons of water in the home. I often see the dryer venting into a small bucket to gather the water vapor. The bucket is then connected to a pumping system that takes the water to a laundry tub, sump, or directly to the exterior. If you canít vent the dryer directly to the outside, vent the dryer to a sealed bucket where the dryer vent discharges. This is not recommended from the dryerís position as it creates back pressure on the dryer and can shorten the life of the fan. The air pressure will find other openings somewhere in the system and the air leakage will contain lots of water. The approved method of pumping the water to the exterior is either via the sump pump or the pump in the bucket draining directly to the exterior. Personally, I feel you should not use this system. Even if you have to hire a contractor, connect the dryer vent directly to the exterior. If it involves cutting a hole in a concrete wall, I can certainly understand some reluctance to venting it properly. The absolute worst system and I have seen rarely, (thankfully), is venting the dryer into the attic. This will rot your roof deck. And it will do it very quickly.

Most basement floors are covered by concrete. In very old homes, they are sometimes dirt, but this is very rare. Crawl spaces, on the other hand, often lack a ground cover. They should be covered with concrete. Often they are not. Gravel or crushed stone is not a ground cover. Heavy weight plastic does a great job at holding down the moisture that evaporates out of the ground. Roofing felt paper also works. I would recommend a minimum of #30 felt paper. It wonít tear as easily when you are laying it down. As you lay it down, weigh down the edges. They have done studies on water vapor in homes. A damp crawl space dirt floor will put more water in a home than a swimming pool of the same size. The reason is the surface tension of the water reduces the evaporation, while the uneven surface of the dirt actually increases the surface area thereby increasing the moisture transfer. Personally, I would much rather have a swimming pool in my basement than have a crawl space. The study didnít say anything about the chlorine smell, but I think I could get used to it.

The last item that creates so much excess moisture in the home is a humidifier. Unless you are really into maintaining them, disconnect them, take them off your heater, and put them out at the curb. I am yet to find a humidifier that is not caked in deposits, brown, green, grey or black with growths, and in general, a pretty sick looking appliance. Many homeowners change their filter on their heater every heating system when they should be changing it once month or at the most, every three months. If they cleaned, scrubbed and disinfected their humidifier that often, I would say, maybe, just maybe, itís a good idea to have it. Government publications recommend every 3 days for cleaning and running it on distilled water. If you have a humidifier, and you do actually service it, set it at about 35%. If you get electric shocks from the static electricity, or wake up with a dry nose, deal with it. Raising the humidity levels will rot your house away. If you have those small room vaporizers that we often use for children with breathing problems, they are fine. Mom cleans that out every morning. And it also puts a relative small amount of water in the air in comparison to the other sources we had discussed.

One last note, go up in the attic and look at the roof decking. If you see black rings around the nails, if you a black film or growth on the wood, if you see stains on the floor where condensation has dripped onto the attic floor, there is a good chance you have serious moisture problems in your home. You must address the sources of the moisture or your home will rot away. Water wins.

Brother Lewis would be proud, and shocked!

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DISHWASHERS

My daughter is currently living out of state in our vacation home. She called me at 8:00 AM the other day so I knew there was a problem. Money calls are usually later in the day. She said she walked into the kitchen and the floor was covered with water. She checked under the sink and there were no leaks. She had run the dishwasher the night before so she concluded it was leaking. It didnít surprise me. The dishwasher is a beautiful shade of avocado so you can guess itsí age. They normally last about 15 years so I knew it was due. My daughter said, ďWhat should I do?Ē I said, ďWash the dishes by hand like I did as a kid!Ē There was silence on the line.

Dishwashers leak in two places. The seal fails where the motor under the unit attaches to the mechanism. This can leak slowly and create a wet spot under the unit that can sometimes breed mold. If you have a basement, you can check under it for wetness. If you have a home built on a slab, you wonít discover this leak until the water flows out onto the floor. This seal was the culprit on our dishwasher. The repair involves pulling the unit out, removing the pump and replacing the seal. The repair costs a few hundred dollars. The second way they leak is the gasket on the door. This can also be replaced and the cost is, you guessed it, a few hundred dollars. Either way, a dishwasher leaking is going to cost you a few hundred dollars. If a dishwasher is not run for six months or more, these seals may dry out and leak. If this happens, clean up the mess, and run it again. The seals can sometimes swell and stop leaking. Itís worth running it a second time to save the money.

If it leaks the second time, you now have to make a decision. Do I repair or replace? If the dishwasher is over 10 years old, my suggestion is replace it unless it was a very expensive model when new. Keep in mind that if the seal at the pump fails this year, the seal in the door may fail next year. The next decision is buying a new unit. What do I get and why. My suggestion on any appliance that uses a significant amount of energy is to include the efficiency of the appliance heavily in your selection. I donít see anything getting cheaper to run in the foreseeable future. There are units that have a setting so you wash only the bottom shelf of dishes. This might be handy for a single person that rarely fills a dishwasher to capacity.

Are you one of those people that washes the dishes BEFORE you put them in the dishwasher? With newer dishwashers thatís not a good idea. Most of the newer models have a sensor that monitors the dirt in the water. If the water is clean, it shortens the cycle, and stops washing. If you rinse the dishes off too thoroughly, the sensor will think the dishes are clean and not run a full cycle. You will then look at your dishes that may still be soiled and think your dishwasher is malfunctioning. So, the best bet is to put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. The next matter to consider is noise. The cheaper the dishwasher, the louder it will be. The very inexpensive models have the motor and controls in the front with very little insulation. These tend to be very noisy creating decibel levels in the high 50ís. The rock group the Who used to perform at about 110 decibels so itís not quite deafening, but it will interfere with normal conversation in the kitchen. The higher end models produce sound levels in the low 40ís. Some are so quiet they put a light in the front that indicates the unit is running. This might be very important if you have a small living area such as a condominium. The better units have a timer that allows you to run it when you are gone or in the middle of the night.

We run ours when we go to bed, but that might not be the best system. If the unit leaks during the night, you might end up with flood. The better units have a sensor that detects leaking and will shut the unit off if it starts leaking. The interior of the better units are stainless steel. The more expensive models also have stainless steel cabinets which are the current trend. What ever happened to avocado? If you have a model with a plastic lining, it tend to yellow in time. This is due to the water being basic rather than acidic. If you run the dishwasher through a cycle with Tang in the soap trays rather than soap, the ascorbic acid in the Tang will help reduce the yellowing. Lemon juice will also work.

There are a wide range of options and choices available in dishwashers. The life expectancy on the new models is still about 15 years according to the sales people we met. This may vary with usage. A dishwasher is one of those things that was once a luxury, but has become a necessity. At least, thatís what my daughter has told me. I still havenít figured out how the appliances know when I get caught up with my bills, and they then decide to fail, thus keeping me from getting ahead.

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HEATING AN ADDITION

You paid the Contractor the last check on the new addition a few weeks ago. You are settling back in your easy chair, and it feels a little chilly. You go back into the older part of the house, and check the thermostat. The heat is on, the thermostat says 70 degrees, you feel warm in the house, but that addition just doesnít seem to get warm enough. The Contractor ran some duct work off the heater and said it would be fine, but you swear you can see your breath. Do you put on gloves each night to read the paper in your new addition? You may have to if you try and heat the new wing off the old heater.

If you are planning to add or have already added a finished basement or new addition, an item that is often overlooked is heating and cooling it. Home heating systems are built to heat and cool the original structure. Changing the size of the heated or cooled area can throw the balance of the system off. Lena Gelenberg of ReMax Services had a rather large addition built on her home. She found it was always cold in the Winter and warm in the Summer. She called me in to take a look at it. The first thing I noticed was the floor of the crawl space under the office wasnít insulated. This will result in cold feet.

I then asked about how she heated it and the Contractor ran the heat off the existing system. She had added about 30% more living space to her first floor. I told her that isnít going to work. She is going to have to address the heating and cooling needs of the new addition. She called in three Contractors to assess the situation. The time they spent studying the situation varied between 5 minutes and an hour and half. The depth to which they examined the house varied proportionately.

Some said, ďYou need a new heater,Ē and gave her a price. They said they could be there next week. They just happen to have one that would fit in stock. The one who studied the system and came up with the most elaborate approach was back up several months with work. He was also three times the price of the fellow that could be there right away. There are all sorts of lessons to be learned in this study.

In any trade there are parts changers and there are people who know what they are doing. If you change the dimensions of your home, either by an addition or adding living space in the basement, you will have to look at your heating and cooling. Adding heat to the basement is usually easier. Electric heat works well. You only turn it on when you are there and you are only raising the temperature about 20 degrees. Below grade you are often about 50 degrees in the winter. Air conditioning is also not as big a concern, and often the issue in the basement is de-humidifying in the Summer, rather than cooling.

If you add an addition, the duct work for your home is sized to handle a specific amount of air. That air can only carry so much heating or cooling. It is all mathematics. A bigger fan isnít going to produce more heat. It will often make more noise, and the actual temperature of the air will be cooler because it is diluted by the greater volume of air. Your car air conditioner doesnít produce more cooling when you turn up the fan, it only moves more air and the air is actually warmer. The same applies to your central HVAC system. People often cringe at the thought of a heat pump but there are many options in that area that are perfectly suited to an addition. Some donít even require ducting, are mounted on the wall, very quiet, and very efficient. There is also the option of radiant heat in the floor. Radiant heat is like the slogan that Packard used to use. (Iím dating myself.) ďAsk the man who owns one.Ē Ask people with radiant heat how they like it. They tend to be so thrilled by it that itís hard to get away from them.

Back to the Contractor. When picking a Contractor, you are most likely to find out there was a reason for a low price and the reason often is not positive. They make the job fit the price. Get several opinions. Do your home work. Ask lots of questions. The contractor with no work load has no demand for his work. Itís like going to a restaurant. One place has a one hour wait and the other one across the street has no line. Thereís a reason. The only difference is a bad meal you can cure with Tums, while bad contracting jobs have on some occasions, been the impetus for a divorce. That might be a slight exaggeration, but the bottom line is a bad contracting job is a very expensive mistake. If you have a new addition, and it doesnít seem to get as comfortable as the rest of the house, the first thing to consider is how it changed the original heated area. This is an item often miscalculated. When you are stretched out in that easy chair, watching your favorite team, you donít want to be bundled up like the fans at the game. Be sure the heating system fits the new addition.

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NATURAL PRODUCTS

Do you have that annoying friend that eats and drinks particular products and keeps reminding you that they are healthier because they are natural? Todayís society seems to be built on the belief that whatever the condition, there is a drug or a chemical that was recently developed that will cure you of everything from cancer to the heartbreak of psoriases. The truth is a lot of what that annoying friend is saying is right. Our homes and our lives are loaded with many chemical solutions for situations that can be solved with very unsophisticated nontoxic products that have been around for decades. In many cases, they are healthier products for us and our children, and they frequently cost less. Letís take a look at baking soda and vinegar. Vinegar makes an excellent weed killer on our block patio and it doesnít stain the bricks. Also pine trees love it. Pour a small bottle around the base of your pine tree each spring. Your pine tree will thank you. While on the subject of the pine tree, the condensate from newer high efficiency heaters is acidic and your pine trees will love that also. Run a plastic hose off the drain line over to tree that needs fertilizing. The other item, baking soda, we use in our pool. We use it to lower the ph. If the ph is too high, the chlorine wonít be effective. Now, letís mix the two of them together. Take the box of baking soda out of your refrigerator and dump it in your garbage disposal. Now, add about a pint of white vinegar. Throw in a few ice cubes. When all the bubbling stops, run the cold water and turn on your disposal. The combination of the vinegar and baking soda cleans the disposal, loosens fat in the drain, and the ice cubes sharpen the blades in the disposal. Always run cold water in your disposal. The cold water cools the motor and extends itsí life. Heat creates wear on any motor.

About a half a cup of vinegar and a quarter cup of baking soda in a half gallon of water makes a good cleaner for shower stalls, chrome fixtures in the bathroom, and mirrors. Air freshener? Add some lemon juice to the baking soda and vinegar and leave it around the house in small dishes rather than those chemical air fresheners that coat your nasal passages and diminish your sense of smell. Have problem with fruit flies? No, donít throw out the fruit. Put a couple table spoons of lemon juice in a saucer with liquid hand soap and set it next to the fruit. The scent attracts the flies, and once in the liquid, they canít get out.

Mold in the bathroom? A black mold often develops along the grout in the tub area. To clean it, mix one part of hydrogen peroxide, and two parts water together and apply with a spray bottle. Leave it on for about an hour before cleaning it off. If you have ever used any of those tile cleaners, you know how strong they smell and they are loaded with warnings about proper ventilation. For cleaning carpet stains, use the vinegar with equal parts of water. Allow the cleaner to sit on the carpet for a few minutes before cleaning off with a sponge and mild warm soapy water. No, this is not an advertisement for the vinegar makers of America. Itís just that vinegar has a multitude of applications. Club soda is also very good on carpets.

In general, never using anything containing phosphates as a cleaner in an area such as your basement Also, never use them in any poorly ventilated area. Phosphates are like steroids for molds. They will stimulate their growth. Your house has mold spores. Every house does. Donít fertilize them with phosphates. Never mix bleach with any cleaner containing ammonia. The combination gives off a very toxic gas.

Does your roof have black or dark green streaks down it? If it doesnít, your roof is the exception. The streaks are caused by algae. You can treat them with tri-sodium phosphate, bleach and water, or you can reduce the streaking the natural way. Get Z-stop zinc strips and have them installed at the ridge area of the roof. Z-Stop can be contacted at 1-800-845-5863 or www.zstop.com. The rolls are 50í long, last 20 years and cost about $15.00 per roll. If you treat the roof with chemicals, count on going back up there in a few years and doing it again. Also, donít expect the lines from the streaks to completely go away.

Do you do windows? Cleaning windows can be a difficult job. I use rubbing alcohol. It seems to streak less than chemical cleaners. When cleaning windows use a horizontal motion on one side and a vertical motion on the other so if you get streaks, you know which side needs more work. Using old newspapers is good since it doesnít leave any lint. Coffee filters are also excellent for cleaning windows and other surfaces. Are you having a problem with ants? Pour rubbing alcohol on their colony. It kills them quickly. By the way, the old adage of using moth balls to get rid of squirrels is a fallacy. A loud radio in the attic near their nest helps, but you really have to close off the openings if you want to keep them out. That often involves a professional. While on the subject of moth balls, the vapors given off by moth balls can also coat the nostrils and reduce your sense of smell. Get a bag of cedar chips and leave them in the closet to keep moths away. Itís the same idea as a cedar closet.

We live in our homes. We take twenty to twenty five thousand breaths in our home each day. Our houses are far tighter than they were twenty five or fifty years ago. It just makes sense not to add more and more chemicals to the air we breath. One last piece of advise. Get a de-humidifier and run it year round. It the first step in reducing mold growth in your home.

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TANKLESS WATER HEATERS

Our water heater is tired. Water heaters, ( and please donít refer to them as ďhotĒ water heaters, they get offended,) have a life of about ten to twelve years. Ours has just turned double digits in age and right on schedule, the pressure relief valve on the side of the unit has been leaking. In a newer unit, it makes sense to replace this valve, but in ours, itís not really cost justified. When a water heater fails completely, they leak severely, so you want to replace it before the flood, not after it. Water heaters are not one of those home items that you get excited about buying. Itís not a fun purchase, at least not for me.

So we headed out to the store to see what is available. Once we got past the sticker shock we started looking at our options. If you buy an appliance every ten years, the price jumps a lot in that time. The latest concept in water heater is a ďtanklessĒ model. The old concept in water heaters is to fill a large container with water, heat it, and store it. Then when you want hot water itís there waiting for you. As you pull water out, it refills, and heats the new water entering the tank. With a larger family and more demand, you normally get a larger model. Gas water heaters have faster recovery time which can be important in bigger families. Tankless models, on the other hand, store no hot water. They contain a coil that heats the water as it flows through the unit. The heater sits there cold, using no gas or electric until you turn on the faucet. It then heats the water instantly, and only heats the water on demand. You can actually set an exact temperature you want, and it comes with remote. If you plan it right, you can lean out of the shower and change the temperature with the push of a button!

These new units have a lot of advantages. They are small and fairly attractive, at least compared to the big tank models we are used to seeing. They look a little like the room heaters and A/C units you see in hotels, but they are much smaller. You can mount them on the wall. They require a slightly larger gas line than some of the older units. The gas jets in the unit will ignite based on demand and part of that demand is determined by the temperature of the water entering the unit. They will burn hotter and use more gas in the winter when the water entering the home is colder. They should be mounted on an outside wall and gas units must be vented directly to the exterior. They fit in the smallest places, so you can install it near where the demand for hot water is greatest. This will increase their efficiency.

They come in several sizes. They are rated by demand. Some will allow two showers running simultaneously. The smaller unit costs about six hundred dollars and the larger units over a thousand. Thatís the price out of the box with installation being additional. The cost of the installation can vary depending on your home and what the plumber has to do. Paloma has a video that shows how ďeasyĒ they are to install and explains how most home owners can install one in about a half hour. I watched the video. My suggestion is watch the video yourself before you take on this project. After watching the video, I personally would hire a plumber. You are dealing with gas, water, and electricity. I am not very fond of spilling or leaking any of these items in my home. If not properly vented, the exhaust from the heater can burn your house down, or allow fatal carbon monoxide to enter your home. So, you decide if the safety is worth a few hundred dollars.

The last thing to keep in mind about these units is they are extremely energy efficient compared to old water heaters. I personally donít anticipate natural gas prices dropping any time soon, even though we have all the natural gas we need and itís not imported from the volatile Middle East. So my guess is these units will realize more savings as the years go by. Another consideration is, believe it or not, within the last five years there was a tax credit applied to these heaters as an incentive for energy conservation. I donít know all the details on this, Iím not an accountant. I personally am extremely skeptical of the present administration when it comes to conservation, but I have read that you can receive up to three hundred dollars in tax credit for some models. The way I see it, that can cover the installation. It sounds like a win all the way around once you get past the fact they are about almost double the cost of a conventional water heater. It looks like the future of heating water will be a tankless job.

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