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Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006 04:39 pm

Pile on the insulation

A few inches isn’t enough to keep you warm and tingly

Dear Gene: Our house, built in the 1960s, has several inches of insulation in the attic. The upstairs rooms get warm in summer and cold in winter. Should we add new insulation to improve the comfort?

“Several inches” of insulation in the attic of a house is not enough in any climate of the United States. Even in areas with the warmest climates, such as Florida, the recommended level of insulation for attics is R-38, equivalent to about 12 inches of fiberglass. In the coldest climates, such as New England, the recommended level is R-49 (approximately 15 inches of fiberglass). In every climate, the attic or topmost ceiling is the most important place in a house to insulate.

It often isn’t possible to achieve these levels of insulation in existing homes, but experts recommend that homeowners try to come as close as possible because adequate attic insulation can mean significant savings in heating and cooling costs and major improvement in comfort.

It is often possible to add new insulation right on top of existing insulation, either by using fiberglass blankets (no vapor barrier should be attached) or by spraying cellulose or fiberglass. In unfinished attics (not used for living space), all of the insulation should be on the floor: Good ventilation is also important in an insulated attic, so make sure that vents in soffits (roof overhangs) are not blocked by insulation.

Dear Gene: We recently moved into a house with beautiful carpet on the floors. There are several stains on the carpets that we suspect were caused by pets. Can you help?

The age of the stains, and the fact that you aren’t certain of what they are, might make them very difficult to remove.

In general, it is not a good idea to use strong household cleaners or solvents on carpets. The cleaner recommended for pet urine by the Carpet and Rug Institute (www.carpet-rug.com), a trade group, is one-fourth teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent in a cup of warm water. Blot the stain with some of this solution on a white paper towel, then rinse by blotting with warm water. For detailed directions, consult the institute’s Web site and click on Spot Solver.

Some special cleaners are available for pet stains; Nature’s Miracle is one widely sold example. These cleaners are generally sold in pet stores. Any cleaner or solvent should be tested first in an inconspicuous area to make sure it doesn’t harm the carpet.

At this point, and because the stains are so old and unidentified, I think your best bet is to have a professional carpet cleaner check the carpet. Anything you might use on the carpet, other than possibly the mild solution described above, might do more harm than good.

Quick tip: When preparing gasoline-powered tools such as lawnmowers for off-season storage, there are two ways to help ensure easy starts next spring. One is to clear the carburetor by running the tool out of gas. Another is to use fuel containing a stabilizer (fuel stabilizer is sold at home centers and hardware stores), which helps prevent the gasoline from gumming up and clogging the carburetor. If fuel stabilizer is used, it is not enough to simply add some to the gasoline tank of the tool. The tool must be started up and run for about five minutes to distribute the stabilizer in the carburetor.

I prefer to run tools out of gas after pumping most of the gasoline out of the tool into a container (I use a plastic hand pump designed to fill kerosene heaters). The extra gasoline can be dumped into a car’s gas tank. I prefer this method because I feel that gasoline left in lawn tools creates an extra fire hazard.

Send questions and comments to Gene Austin at doit861@aol.com or 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Copyright © 2006 Gene Austin

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