Q: We recently moved into a home with electric forced-air heat. In the winter, every time the furnace kicks on, the lights in the house dim for a nanosecond. Is this something that can be addressed or fixed?
Before we moved in we had to replace the electrical panel (it was made by a company that went out of business years ago because their panels were known to start fires), and I’m wondering if there is something associated with that we can correct. Any help before furnace season starts is greatly appreciated! –Lea
A: The dimming of the lights is caused by a voltage drop that occurs during the startup phase of the furnace. When your thermostat calls for heat, the electric elements in the furnace begin to heat up before the furnace motor kicks on, a process called "heat anticipation." It’s set up that way so that the furnace fan doesn’t blow cold air through the ducts before the furnace itself heats up. So when you hear the furnace kick on, that’s actually the sound of the fan motor starting up and activating the fan itself.
A couple of possible problems come to mind: The wires leading to the furnace may be too small, or you may have a loose or corroded connection. There should be two circuit breakers on the furnace itself, and they may be loose or faulty. It’s also possible that the furnace motor is going bad, or that you have some problems with the fan, the belts, or other internal furnace parts that are requiring an excessive amount of electricity in order to get turning.
Given the fact that the panel was replaced recently, you definitely want to have an electrician come out to inspect everything — the new panel, the circuit breakers, wire sizes, connections (including the connection to the utility company wires), grounding, etc. All this should be covered under the one-year warranty from the electrical contractor who did the work. I would also strongly recommend that you have the furnace checked and serviced by a heating company that deals with your particular brand of furnace.
One other thing: Since the electrical panel was replaced recently, your local building department will have a record of the permit. I would suggest that you obtain a copy of that, and make sure that the installation was inspected and approved and that the inspector didn’t note any problems. …CONTINUED
Q: My new home has a small deck and I don’t know how to clean or care for one. My deck appears unstained and has several mildew stains where potted plants and furniture once were. Do you recommend using a pressure washer and then staining? Or another option? I’ve read that pressure washers are damaging to the wood. Since I just closed I’m looking for the minimal price and minimal elbow grease required! Any help would be appreciated. –Kristen
A: Unfortunately, wood decks and minimal elbow grease don’t often go together. If you have an older deck with no finish and some mildew stains to deal with, it’ll take a little bit of work initially to get it looking good, but from there the regular maintenance will be pretty straightforward.
To remove the mildew stains and get everything ready for a new finish, you need to first clean the wood. I would definitely recommend against using a pressure washer for this task. The high-pressure water can damage the wood and raise the grain, leaving you with a fuzzy deck and a whole lot of sanding work to get everything back to where it needs to be. Instead, you want to use one of the liquid or powdered deck cleaners currently on the market, which make the cleaning process relatively easy. I personally like Wolman products, and you can check out their Web site at www.wolman.com to see the different products and get specific tips on how to use them.
Once the deck is clean and the mildew has been taken care of, you’ll want to apply a coat of quality, oil-based transparent or semi-transparent deck stain in whatever color you like. The stain will provide protection from ultraviolet light and moisture, and prolong the life of the wood. Depending on the severity of the weather in your area, you should plan on reapplying the stain every two to three years.
Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.