Today, I want to stress the importance of preparing your furnace, before you need it. There is much more to it than just changing a filter. During the winter, a furnace can run 16-20 hours a day, and there are many things to be checked in advance of those long continuous runs. Of course, safety issues always come first. For years I’ve watched the professionals from Pyramid Heating and Cooling as they tune-up and inspect mine and my customers’ furnace each fall.
They check the flue pipe to the furnace to make sure it’s not blocked or leaking. Mice and birds have a nasty habit of nesting in the flu during the summer and when you fire up the furnace, you run the risk of having carbon monoxide laden air not escaping from your house. At best, you’ll just end up with a recurring headache. But, every year people die all across this country from carbon monoxide poisoning, too.
All of the newer, high efficiency furnaces condense moisture that needs to be carried outside. If the condensate line gets plugged, you can end up with a wading pool in your home. So, how does that line get plugged? Insects and spiders love to crawl up into the small plastic pipe and build a nest and that blocks the pipe from draining. The service techs from Pyramid always test that line to make sure the water flows freely through it and it drains outside.
They check for any electrical issues, paying particular attention to all the connectors and insulated wires, looking for any signs of overheating. A charred wire today may very well end up being a fire tomorrow.
The control circuitry on a modern furnace is downright sophisticated. To provide current to all of the circuits, there are several different transformers and the technician will check to make sure the voltage is correct on all of them.
They check the blower motor and the blower wheel. The wheel has fins in it that are slightly cupped and if those cups fill with dust, and they often do, the furnace won’t move the air that it’s designed to move, and that causes the heat exchanger to heat up more than it should, which can potentially cause cracking of the heat exchanger. Cracked heat exchangers result in carbon monoxide in your home, which results in those recurring headaches, or worse.
The burner and heat exchanger are disassembled, cleaned, and inspected, looking for cracks or other signs of fatigue that might result in a failure.
Gas pressures are checked to make sure you’re getting enough supply from the meter and not getting too much.
The ignition system is thoroughly checked out to make sure the furnace ignites in the proper sequence and in a timely manner, whether it’s a pilot or a hot surface igniter or electronic spark.
Even the thermostat gets included in the inspection to make sure it operates properly.
Of course, most of this is assuming you have a gas furnace like I do or an oil fired furnace like the one I had replaced. So, what if you have a heat pump or an electric furnace? Well, you need to have them serviced now, too.
The heat pump has some electronic control systems that need the same level of attention, the blower assembly has the same dusty fin issues, the condensate drain can get plugged by insects and spiders, operation of the thermostat needs to be checked, and then there are at least a dozen other unique things the service tech will look at.
Things like checking the indoor and outdoor coils to make sure they are clean so air will flow freely across them. Things like checking refrigerant pressures to make sure the system will actually extract heat from the outside air this winter. They measure how many amps of current the compressor and fan motors are drawing to make sure they are still operating within specs. The defrost operation is tested to make sure the coils don’t freeze up.
And, if you happen to have an electric furnace, I can’t stress enough the importance of inspection of the wiring and control circuitry. We’re talking high current circuits and even one loose connection can result in a fire due to overheating. Of course, the current will be measured at each heating element and proper staging of the elements will be verified.
I’ve learned a lot watching the pros from Pyramid Heating and Cooling as they service my personal equipment as well as the systems in all my customers’ homes. I trust them, which is why I recommend them. That said, they can’t be everywhere, but heating systems everywhere need to be serviced right now. This would be a good day to set an appointment to have your system serviced. Do it now, and let them be the ones to turn your furnace on, so you know it’s being done safely.
Temperatures may soon be heading north of TOO HOT! That means we’ll all be running our air conditioners 24/7 in an attempt to stay cool and that means we better check to make sure they can handle the load. So, what can we do as homeowners and Do-It-Yourselfers? Make sure the furnace filter is clean, make sure the outside fan unit is free from shrubs and weeds, and make sure the condensate is actually draining to the outside. That’s about all we can do for ourselves.
Let’s quickly review how an air conditioner works, so you’ll understand why those three things are so important. The A/C system is a closed loop, made up of tubing that circulates refrigerant, along with a compressor and a couple of fans.
Outside your house is a metal housing with a fan, a compressor and a coil of tubing with refrigerant in it. The tubing is a continuous loop that comes from and returns to another coil attached to the furnace inside your house or maybe it’s in the attic or basement or garage. The whole system is really a heat exchanger. By manipulating the pressure of the refrigerant in the tubing, the manufacturer causes the coils in the furnace unit to be very cold, somewhere in the 30 degree range.
So, here’s what happens when you turn the A/C on and set your thermostat below the existing room temperature. The outside fan comes on, the compressor begins to operate, and the furnace blower comes on, circulating air in your home. As this circulating air passes across the cooling coils, heat energy is exchanged, leaving cooler air to return to the house. The refrigerant, now warmed by the heat exchange, continues to the outside coils where the outside fan helps to cool it down and the process continues until the air in the house reaches the desired temperature and the system shuts off. A typical system is designed to reduce the ambient temperature by about 20 degrees, so on a 95 degree day, your system should be able to keep your home at about 75 degrees.
Air conditioners perform another function that increases our comfort; they remove most of the humidity from the air. Think about what happens on the outside of a glass of iced tea in the summer; moisture forms and drips onto the table. That’s water vapor in the air condensing into a liquid and that’s exactly what happens in an air conditioner. The moist air, leaving your home and passing across the chilled coils in the furnace, condenses and drips into a drip pan. The collected water then drains through a pipe to the outside or, if your furnace is below ground level, it flows into a floor drain or condensate pump that pumps it to the outside.
Now, let’s tie it all together. If the furnace filter is dirty, air flow is restricted, so you won’t get all the cool air into the house that you expect. Also, restricted air can result in the cooling coils freezing up, which is really hard on the equipment. If shrubs and weeds are allowed to block the outside fan unit, it can’t draw in enough air to properly exchange the heat from the system. And, finally, if the condensate isn’t finding its way to the outside, that means it’s staying somewhere in your home – in the attic, in the basement, in the crawl space, or in the garage – and you don’t want water in any of those places.
So, be sure to add these three things to your honey-do list:
1. Check the furnace filter and change it if necessary.
2. Check to make sure the outside unit is free of weeds and shrubs.
3. Check to make sure the condensate is draining outside your home.
Rosie the Riveter was well known in 1944 as she, along with Margie the Mechanic, Ellen the Electrician, and Paula the Pipe Fitter all worked side by side in the shipyards of America while their husbands, fathers, brothers and nephews went off to fight the war. So, the fact that women are capable of carpentry, plumbing, welding, electrical, sheetmetal and every other trade is a given. In 1946, after the war ended and all the men returned home, women returned to what they had nearly always done – they were once again mothers and wives keeping house for the family.
Through the years, mostly for economic reasons, American women have left the homefront again to earn a second income or, in many cases, to simply earn a living for themselves. Of course, these jobs were typically teaching, nursing, cooking, and secretarial or a few other skills that were commonly considered “women’s work”. Well, as the song lyric says, the times they are a changin’; women are once again proving they are capable of holding their own in “blue collar” jobs.
Joining me on air today to talk about some of the opportunities for women in the trades was Connie Ashbrook, Executive Director of Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc, http://www.tradeswomen.net. We learned that the core of the program is the Trades and Apprenticeship Career Class (TACC). This is a free, seven week, pre-apprenticeship training class that helps women prepare for a high skill, high wage career in construction.
During this 7 weeks of training, they learn basic trades math and measurement, recieve an introduction to green building, learn to use hand and power tools, and gain 30 hours of hands-on experience working alongside skilled female instructors on real job sites. Upon graduation, OTI career counselors assist the TACC graduates with their job search and application to apprenticeship training programs.
So, how would a young girl have any idea that she might want to work in the trades? OTI also offers a Building Girls Summer Camp. This day camp for middle and high school girls includes basic math and measurement, construction basics (such as measuring wood, using a skill saw, and hammering nails), tools use and safety, visits to construction sites, teamwork and project planning. The camp’s activities culminate in a cooperative building project, such as the construction of a tool shed, which is then donated to a community garden.
Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. has something going all the time to attract women to the trades. This will be the 21st year they have sponsored a Women in Trades Career Fair, they hit hot buttons like offering free green jobs construction training, and they encourage mentorship with events like their Dads & Daughters special workshop.
Yes, women make fine nurses, but so do men. Women can sew wonderful garments, and some of the most famous designers are men. And, as we learned during WWII, women can weld, wire, cut, and do anything else in the construction trades. So, let’s make sure we don’t forget that not all our children want to go to college. Many of them want to work with their hands as well as their heads. Many of them, including our daughters, wives, sisters and nieces just need to be shown that there really is an opportunity for them in the trades. We need to have them look at Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc.
All building materials have specific applications for which they are best suited. Many have multiple applications. One of the most common building materials is wood. One of its worst applications is retaining dirt. This picture is dramatic evidence that even pressure treated wood will break down and decay. A retaining wall should be thought of as a permanent structure, unlike a raised garden bed or even a fence post.
A better choice of materials for this application would be concrete or stone. Concrete can be formed and poured, laid in the form of building blocks, or built up using pre-cast Manor Stone or similar product, all of which are wonderful Do-It-Yourself projects. Just know going in that it is back breaking work. Stone makes a beautiful statement, but it is best left to the professional to lay.
If you find yourself with a slope that you would like to retain, few companies do this work as well as The Wall. Nearly 30 years ago, they started their business building retaining walls using recycled concrete slabs that otherwise ended up in the landfill. They still build those walls today, but now do ever so much more as well. Whether it’s brick, block, concrete, or stone, the guys at The Wall are masters at turning your vision into reality. Retaining walls are just part of their business. They can do everything from driveways and walkways to patios and pool decks or even fun stuff like fire pits and pizza ovens.
See examples of what The Wall has done for your neighbors at www.bythewall.com or give them a call at (503) 735-9255 for a free estimate.
Spring will soon be in full bloom throughout the Pacific Northwest, but not everything green will be in the garden. As the rains subside, we will see green concrete everywhere – walkways, driveways, and patios. Looking closely at the house, we’re even likely to see the tell-tale sign of moss on the roof and mildew on our siding. This time of year, the most frequent request I get is to pressure-wash something. But, thanks to modern chemistry, getting rid of moss, mildew, and slime molds isn’t nearly as tough a job as it once was and many times I don’t even need the pressure washer.
There are several really good products available at all the big box stores, department stores, and most hardware stores. In fact, Lilly-Miller introduced a new moss remover designed just for concrete last year. The product I’ve been using very successfully for several years is 30 Seconds Outdoor Cleaner and I guess I’m reluctant to change just because it is so darned effective. In many cases, all I need to do is spray it on the concrete or siding, agitate it with a stiff bristle brush, and rinse it off with a hose. And, it’s effective at killing slime molds and mildew as well as the moss. The same company released a product last year which promises to be as effective, but with even less work. It’s called Spray & Walk Away. Spray it on using a garden sprayer, and Mother Nature will wash away all the black and green yuk over time. This is also the only product I know of that will deal effectively with lichen. And, if you are planning to paint your home, leave the pressure washer in the garage, because they just released 30 Seconds Outdoor Painter’s Prep. Best part of all, these products are manufactured right here in Troutdale, Oregon.
Occasionally, I do have to break out the pressure washer to deal with really tough jobs. It’s important to remember, though, that just washing moss, mold, and mildew from the surface is usually not enough. The “roots” are still embedded and remain alive in any porous surface like concrete or roofing materials. They will continue to grow and do damage, unless a chemical is used to kill them before using the pressure washer.
While the power of high pressure water can really speed up the cleaning process, it’s important to remember it can also do extensive damage very quickly. It will cut through vinyl and cedar siding along with composition roofing materials like a sharp knife. Be sure to use a wide enough tip angle (usually 25 or 40 degree) to disperse the water while still getting the surface clean.
As a final note, when it comes to removing the “green” of springtime, remember to always wear personal protective clothing and equipment. Read and follow all the warning labels on any chemicals and always wear close-toed shoes along with eye and hearing protection when using the pressure washer.
Handyman Bob offers home improvement advice on his radio show, Around The House, every Saturday from noon to 2:00 on FM News 101 KXL. He is also a voice-over artist. Getting your business message across may be as simple as having a professional deliver it for you. Let The Strong Voice of Handyman Bob carry it to your desired audience in videos, PowerPoint presentations, radio commercials or telephone messages-on-hold – samples available at www.TheStrongVoice.com
Geoff McPherson of GMX Environmental, LLC shared this news release with me as a reminder to both contractors and DIY’ers alike that the EPA is serious about the control of asbestos. Contractors have to be licensed to deal with it and DIY’ers probably ought to leave it to the contractors. Here’s what happens when everyone just turns their head and looks away:
For release: Jan. 31, 2013
Esther Westbrook, Compliance and Enforcement, Portland, 503-229-5374
Dottie Boyd, Air Quality Division, Salem, 503-378-5086
DEQ Issues $13,200 in Penalties to Both Contractor and Property
Management Company for Asbestos Violations in Albany
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has issued penalties
totaling $13,200 to Hodgie Construction LLC and JPM Real Estate
Services, Inc. for asbestos violations at a duplex located on 1985 Cedar
Circle in the Pine Meadows Village housing complex in Albany, Ore.
Hodgie Construction received a $7,200 penalty for performing an asbestos
abatement project in October 2012 on the property managed by JPM Real
Estate Services without first obtaining the required license. While
renovating the duplex, workers removed asbestos-containing popcorn
texture material from the ceiling of the garage. The texture material
was scraped and crumbled likely causing the release of asbestos fibers.
Workers also allowed the asbestos-containing waste material to openly
accumulate at the duplex. During an inspection on Oct. 22, a DEQ
inspector discovered the ceiling debris on the floor and other surfaces
in the garage and scattered throughout the interior of the duplex.
As the property manager of the facility, JPM Real Estate Services is
responsible for ensuring that asbestos on the property is properly
managed. JPM Real Estate Services received a $6,000 penalty for allowing
Hodgie Construction, a contractor without the required license, to
perform the project.
Upon notice of the violation, JPM Real Estate Services hired a licensed
asbestos abatement contractor to clean up the asbestos and dispose of
the waste material. DEQ considered these efforts when determining the
amount of the penalty.
Asbestos fibers are a respiratory hazard proven to cause cancer,
mesothelioma and asbestosis. Asbestos is a danger to public health and a
hazardous air pollutant for which there is no known safe level of exposure.
Hodgie Construction LLC appealed their penalty on Jan. 8. JPM Real
Estate Services, Inc. appealed on Jan. 24.
*Check It Before You Wreck It is the catch phrase shared by Geoff McPherson
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you already know I wasn’t able to do a show live from the studio on December 15 or 22. You see, I chose that time frame to have a total hip replacement. Everything is healing nicely and I expect to be back in the studio just in time to wish you a Happy New Year, on December 29. My only regret is that I won’t be able to wish you a Merry Christmas, in person, on air this year.
Selecting interviews from past shows was really a lot of fun; I hope you enjoyed re-visiting some of the best of the past. In the event you heard something you want more information about, I’ve collated contact info for everyone you heard and I know they’d love to have you get in touch:
Angela Todd, Interior Designer
Decorating for the holidays
American Family Insurance
Insuring your valuable gifts
Bows and gifts the easy way
Scott Cohen, All-Time Favorite Interview!
Designing the perfect outdoor kitchen
Molly and Debbie McCabe
Molly’s Fund Fighting Lupus
Troy Farnsworth, Custom Home and Remodel Design
Concrobium Mold Control
(888) 398-4192 toll free
Jeremy from Shur-Way Building Centers
What makes wood floors different?
Repair, don’t replace, Christmas light strands
(888) 858-2548 toll free
Steve Gemmell, Earthquake Tech
Seismic retrofit your older home
The following article was originally published in Ask The Builder, a newsletter from Tim Carter, who also publishes the website, AskTheBuilder.com, a site I refer to constantly for how-to information. None of us can be expert in everything, so all of us do research constantly in order to provide the best quality information on-air and in writing. If you haven’t ever visited Tim’s site, I encourage you to do so and, while you’re there, subscribe to his newsletter.
From: Ask The Builder, December 8, 2012, reprinted with permission from Tim Carter
This is really timely since we’re in the heat of the Christmas shopping season. I don’t know about you, but Kathy and I are really interested in saving money and getting the best value for what we do spend. Kathy does all of her shopping online.
More and more people shop online each year, so it’s critical that you choose wisely when clicking. Remember that scene in the Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade movie where the old knight told Harrison Ford after he drank from the nondescript Holy Grail, “You chose wisely.”
Well, you need to choose wisely, That means the odds need to be stacked in your favor, not someone else’s.
A little over two weeks ago we were watching TV one night and this weird commercial got our attention. Actually it got Kathy’s attention as I was starting to drift into the comatose state that overcomes me about 8:45 pm each night. Kathy backed up the DVR so we could watch it again.
It was an edgy commercial with a young couple in a kitchen. They talked about how Google is not being as transparent as possible with the search results on their Google Shopping platform. It appears the only companies that show up in the search results are ones that have paid to be there.
Do you use Google Shopping? Did you know that? I know I didn’t suspect that to be the case.
The companies that pay the most to Google probably get the highest position in the rankings. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re selling fantastic products. You have to keep that in mind.
I visited the Scroogled website to find out more. Here are some of the quotes I saw when I was there:
Founders IPO Letter: “we do not accept payment for [search results] or for inclusion or more frequent updating.”
Google’s 2004 SEC Filing: “Our search results will be objective and we will not accept payment for inclusion or ranking in them.”
Google’s 2012 SEC Disclosure: “After all, ads are just more answers to users’ queries.”
Google Commerce announces shopping results will be paid for and exclude merchants who don’t participate.
So, the questions that come to my mind are: Has Google crossed the line in their regular search results?
Is Google putting search results up at the top of page one that make them the most money?
Something tells me they’ve either crossed that line or they’re testing it now.
If you read the quotes of the founders of Google at the top of the pages of the Scroogled website, you’ll start to wonder what their philosophy might be now.
Remember that line the day sergeant used to say at the beginning of each week’s TV episode of Hill Street Blues? ”Be careful out there.”
Indeed. Be very careful with the information you get from websites at the top of Google’s search results! They may not be in your best interests, but that of Google’s voting and non-voting stockholders.
Dry Steam Commercial
Speaking of television commercials, I’ve been seeing a regular commercial for a dry steam mop that “converts to a vacuum cleaner is two seconds”.
I want to alert you to a simple fact that steam, hardwood floors and laminate wood floors do NOT play well together. The last thing you want to do is inject water vapor into a wood floor. That can cause it to swell.
Steam is steam. It’s hot water vapor. How they get away with calling it dry steam is beyond me. That’s an oxymoron.
You can do what you want at your house, but I can tell you that I’d NEVER use a steam machine of any type to clean any wood floor or any material that contained wood.
Thanks, Tim, for allowing me to publish this on my blog. I hope you and Kathy have a very Merry Christmas. Maybe you’ll take time some Saturday to join me on air, so we can compare notes on home maintenance. Handyman Bob
What an incredible show today! It all started with a great interview on the subject of trust. My guest was Greg Link, co-author of the book, SMART TRUST: Creating Prosperity, Energy, and Joy in a Low-Trust World. I read the book in preparation for the interview and recommend it to you heartily. You can listen to the interview by playing the podcast of Hour 1 from my December 1 show at http://AskHandymanBob.info.
The book is available to purchase at all bookstores as well as on-line at http://amzn.to/VdzVYI. Happy reading.
My friend from the Home Builders Association, Brandy Marsh has just inked an agreement between her stores, Area Floors, and the Oregon Food Bank. She has signed on to act as a year-round food drop-off site accepting canned goods and other non-perishable foods to help fight the growing need for food baskets across Oregon. To keep interest alive throughout the year, creative marketer that she is, Brandy has announced a monthly contest to be judged on-line through her Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/AreaFloorsOnline. Both of her stores have a food donation barrel that will be decorated. Each month the decorations will change. Your vote will determine which store wins bragging rights and a trophy for that month. Simply visit her page, click on the OFB Barrel Contest link, and cast your vote. Ideally, you will also decide to cast your vote in person by stopping in at one of her stores and dropping off your donation for the Food Bank. The stores are located in Portland at 8112 SE Foster Rd and in Tigard at 11945 SW Pacific Hwy.
In the studio with me today, on Guest Expert Saturday, was painting Contractor, Matthew Litkie. With 40 years experience as a general contractor and painting contractor, it quickly became clear that he was a good choice for my guest expert status. He is available to share his knowledge as well as to provide a quote on your next interior or exterior painting project. You can find contact information at: http://litkie.com/.
Joining me on air just in time for holiday decorating, Brian Gleason from Ulta Lit Technologies, describes ways to troubleshoot and repair strands of miniature incandescent lights as well as LED lighting strands. See How-To videos by clicking on the pictures below:
And, to keep that evergreen tree from becoming a fire hazard this year, you may want to use the Christmas Tree Safety System, which includes a heat detector, wireless alarm, and a water minder:
For complete advice before you start dangling from your roof or the top of you chimney, remain calm, stay on the ground, and call the experts toll free at 888.858.2548.
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, Bob took a wealth of construction knowledge from Benson High School with him when he entered the US Coast Guard. There he added to his skills, while inspecting construction projects on numerous assignments around the world. After retiring from the Coast Guard, Bob became a field supervisor for a regional home builder. As he built relationships with the new home owners, he was frequently asked where they could find a company that specialized in handyman projects. Intrigued by these questions, Bob moved away from new construction and launched Oregon’s Home Handyman, LLC in the fall of 1997.
In January 2008, Bob filled in for the regular host on the home improvement radio show, Around the House, and now the rest is history. Every Saturday from Noon to 2:00, on FM News 101 KXL, he takes calls on air from listeners throughout Oregon and Washington seeking advice on maintenance, repair, renovation, and remodeling of their home. Handyman Bob is quickly becoming a trusted source of information for all projects “Around the House”.
Around The House 11/23/13It's just you and Bob today. Bob takes calls from the listeners on a variety of topics. Bob is never better than when helping listeners in need.
Around The House 11/23/13Bob is joined in studio by Gerald Rowlett and Jodi Bailey from the Building a Better America Council. Later Bob is joined by TV's John Ratzenberger to discuss his upcoming made in america themed television show.
Around The House 11/16/13Bob speaks with Royal Harris, outreach coordinator, for Constructing Hope. Bob and Royal discuss the importance of teaching the trades. Bob is then joined by Sue Crosby, Director of the HBA, to talk fireplace safety. Plus Bob takes all your home improvement calls.
Around The House 11/09/13 Hour 2Bob is joined in studio by Mike and Shannon McKinney. Mike and Shannon join Bob for ask a pro Saturday.
Around The House 11/09/13 Hour 1Bob is joined in studio by Mike and Shannon McKinney. Mike and Shannon join Bob for ask a pro Saturday.
Around The House 11/02/13 Hour 2Bob talks to Jenn Robbins from Muse Interior designs. Jenn and Bob discuss affordable options for decorating your home for the upcoming holidays.
Oregon Convention Center
1/23 - 1/27 -- Tacoma Home and Garden Show
1/25 - 1/27 -- Portland Renovation and Remodeling Show
2/16 -- Handyman Bob Remote Broadcast
Oak Hill Settlement, Forest Grove, OR
2/20 - 2/24 -- Portland Home and Garden Show
3/9 - 3/10 -- Tour of Remodeled Homes
Scattered Home Tour
3/22 - 3/24 -- Better Living Show
4/26 -4/28 -- Clark Public Utilities Home & Garden Idea Fair
Handyman Bob Remote Broadcast
4/27 - 4/28 & 5/4 - 5/5 -- Ultimate Open House
Scattered Home Tour
7/27 - 8/25 -- NW Natural Street of Dreams
Stonehenge Terrace - Lake Oswego
10/3 - 10/6 -- Fall Home and Garden Show