Dear Ken: We hear water flushes several times during the night. Should we be concerned? – Margo
Reply: About wasting water, yes. It’s one of your toilets trying to tell you that it needs help. Most toilet valves have a built-in “leak detector” that alerts you to a problem. That’s the sound you hear when water drips so slowly into the bowl. It is easy to find out who is acting. Add a little food coloring to each tank and wait about half an hour. If you see thinned paint in the bowl, you have the right one. Just replace the flap valve with a new one and you’re done.
I like the FluidMaster brand. You can buy both a new flap and a fill valve on a plastic-covered card for around $ 10. They are extremely homeowner friendly to install as they do not require any special tools or expertise.
Dear Ken: We have a house from 1974 and we want to improve the insulation. Should we remove the old attic insulation first or just leave it in place? – Karen
Reply: Let it be. If you remove it, you could contaminate your home with irritating pollutants like heavy metal particles and fiberglass. Simply ask the contractor to blow another layer of cellulose or fiberglass directly over the old material. Shoot for about 15 inches total of material – you get roughly an R-50 or so.
Dear Ken: I heard you talked about a “loop” in the hot water pipe to avoid long waits for hot water in the farthest bathroom. How you do that? Does it need a pump? – Keith
Reply: If you have access to this distant bathroom from the under-floor water heater, you can lay a piece of 1/2 inch PEX (plastic) pipe from the bottom of the tank to the sink or shower pipe in that bathroom. You will need to reconfigure the drain hose on the tank to accommodate the new pipe and install a check valve in the new line so that the water only flows in the correct direction.
This creates a simple convection loop, based on the principle that hot liquids rise as they cool and then sink to circulate warm water around this loop so that it is available more quickly when the faucet is turned on.
If you don’t have access under the house, you can put a circulation system with a small pump under one of the sinks far away. They are very homeowner friendly and come with a timer so you have hot water in the morning when you need it. Google Watts Premier hot water system to try out any of the different kits available.
Dear Ken: I want to add a second bell, but I need a heavier transformer. My house was built in the 1970s. Where do you think they put it? – Lee
Reply: During this time it was usually placed on the side of the stove. Otherwise, it may be on the attic side of the central hall light. It’s probably buried under the insulation. When you deploy the new one, build a circular, fireproof barricade around it – like metal or plastic. This allows the heat to escape.
But why not do what I did: disable the wired system and replace it with a wireless doorbell. For around $ 20, you can use a two-location carillon system and choose from a whole library of ringtones. After installation, disconnect the old wired transformer.
Dear Ken: We have a ceiling fan with a light on the floor. Can I use one of these motion detectors for this? – Tanya
Reply: There are high performance versions of motion detector switches that are designed to be used with fans and motors, but are quite expensive. And anyway, you don’t want the fan to turn on and off all the time. The ones you find in the home center are generally for lighting only. If the fan and the light are controlled via separate switches, you can only attach a motion detector to the light side and leave the fan on a conventional switch.
Ken Moon is the House Inspector in the Pikes Peak area. His call-in radio show is broadcast on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240 on Saturdays at 4 p.m. Visit aroundthehouse.com