Q: I have a question about fluorescent bulbs and power usage. I have been told that fluorescents draw the most power when they are turned on and almost no power to keep on. Therefore, they should be turned on and left on, and should not be turned on and off during the day because it would end up using more power in the process. Is that true? –Richard C., via e-mail.
A: A fluorescent light does consume some additional energy when first starting up. This is known as “inrush current,” and is equal to about five times what the operating current is. However, with today’s rapid-start bulbs, that initial surge only lasts for half of one cycle. Electrical current is 60 cycles per second, so the initial startup surge lasts only for approximately 1/120 of a second. In other words, you would have to turn the lamp off only for a couple of seconds to save the equivalent amount of energy that it takes to turn it on again.
With any type of light bulb in your home — incandescent or the new compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) — it’s best to live with the old rule of thumb of turning off the light whenever you’re going to be out of the room for more than just a couple of minutes.
Q: We have some stucco houses on our street. A couple of them had dry rot, and they had to remove the siding and some of the wood. We were wondering if there is a way to check to see if our stucco house has dry rot. –Art W., via e-mail.
A: There can sometimes be some telltale signs. Since water runs downhill, if moisture has been getting behind the stucco it will often migrate down to the bottom of the wall. On some older stucco houses you may be able to see or feel soft spots at the very bottom of the exterior walls, where they meet or overlap the foundations. Also, examine the stucco carefully for signs of discoloration and cracking, and press on those areas to see if there is any movement in the stucco or if the wall underneath feels soft.
You can examine the wood around window and door casings, both inside and outside, for signs of rot or water intrusion, and examine baseboards and flooring around the inside of the exterior walls to look for softness or water stains. Finally, you can check under the house at the exterior walls, looking for the same indicators.
You mentioned that a couple of the houses on your street had dry rot problems. I would also suggest that you stop by and chat with neighbors who have had work done and see what occurred with their homes. They can tell you exactly where and how extensive the rot was, and if the homes were all built around the same time and by the same builder, that should also get you a few additional tips on where to search.
If you do suspect dry rot or other moisture problems, you can contact a contractor who specializes in insurance-related home repairs. These specialized contractors typically have moisture meters that are capable of detecting moisture inside walls. You can also see if any contractors in your area have thermal imaging cameras, which can “see” inside walls for differences in heat patterns that can indicate moisture problems.
Q: I have a microhood that has to be replaced. I’m not a big do-it-yourselfer person, but I’m OK with most straightforward projects. On a scale of 1 to 10, how difficult is it? Can you give me some basic instructions? –Michael T., via e-mail.
A: If you are replacing the microhood with one that is the same size and type, with the same venting arrangement, then the replacement should be pretty easy. There could certainly be some variables with your installation, but in general the steps should be as follows:
1. Unplug the old microhood, and remove the tape that seals the vent duct to the transition on top of the hood.
2. Remove any bolts that hold the microhood to the bracket, and slide it out of the bracket (you may need two people for this).
3. Remove the old mounting bracket, unless it’s identical to the new bracket.
4. Install the new mounting bracket, slide the new microhood into the bracket, reconnect the vent, and plug the unit in. Complete installation instructions are included with the new hood, and because it just plugs in there is no electrical wiring required.
As long as there are no alterations to the vent — which there shouldn’t be if you’re using the same make and model — then on a 1-to-10, simple-to-difficult scale, I would rate the job about a 3. You can always give it a try on your own, then hire someone to complete the project if you end up not feeling comfortable with it.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at email@example.com.