Dear Jim: I want a strong window shutter for security and storms, but I don't want it to block my outdoor view. Is a rolling shutter strong enough and will it improve the efficiency of a large window? - Celeste N.
Dear Jim: I am looking for a new dishwasher. My very old one is noisy, has only two cycle settings and does not clean well. What features should I look for in a new efficient model? - Kathy K. Dear Kathy: Even the least expensive new dishwasher will be more efficient and quieter than your old one. As with most appliances, if you do not want to do much research on a product, just select one which meets EnergyStar standards ( www.energystar.gov ) and it will be reasonably efficient.
Dear Jim: We think adding a sunroom would give us more space and assist with winter heating our house. What design factors should we consider when building one from a kit or from scratch? - Larry H. Dear Larry: Adding a sunroom can be a good investment by providing more living space at a reasonable price. This is particularly true if you build a kit yourself or one from scratch. It will still be a substantial investment so design it properly.
Dear Jim: We are adding a family room and a bedroom to our house. We are considering electric radiant in-floor heating. Is it costly to operate and does it work well with carpeting? - Anne V. Dear Anne: Electric in-floor heating is one type of electrical resistance heating. Resistance heating is typically the most expensive to operate, but in-floor electric radiant heating is the exception. In addition to keeping your feet toasty warm, it offers some advantages over forced air heating systems such as gas/oil furnaces and heat pumps.
Dear Jim: I added a blower and will use my fireplace often this year. I have had a problem getting fires started. What is the best way to lay a fire and get it started without filling the room with smoke? — Yvonne B. Dear Yvonne: There are some fire-building basics, but if you ask 10 old-timers about the best method, you will probably get 10 different answers. Although there are many effective and efficient tips for laying a fire and keeping it going, most have some basic fire-building concepts in common.
Dear Jim: We need to replace two living room windows. We looked at glass block windows because of the security for our family. How energy efficient are they and is it possible to get ones with ventilation? — Brian M.
Dear Jim: Our doors are old, inefficient and drafty. One is made of solid wood and one metal. I cannot afford new doors. What inexpensive improvements can I make myself to increase their efficiency?—Rick P. Dear Rick: People often do not realize how leaky an old door has become. Chairs and sofas are typically not very close to a door, so drafts are not noticed. Check doors for leaks by moving a stick of lighted incense around the edge on a windy day. Observe the smoke trail for signs of leaky spots.
Dear Jim: I cook a lot at home usually just for my husband and myself now that the kids are older. I was wondering if it is more efficient to use smaller countertop appliances instead of the range and oven?—Peggy H.
Dear Jim: I should replace my noisy, old central air conditioner with a more efficient one. I want steadier room temperatures and humidity along with cleaner indoor air. What type of system do you recommend?—Cyndee O.
Dear Jim: I like wood front doors, but mine is leaky and needs refinishing. I would like something more maintenance-free. Are stainable fiberglass doors more efficient and durable and do they look like wood? — Sharon G.