Q: We have a passive solar house built during the “first” energy crisis in the ‘70s in Shelburne, Vermont. It includes three large (49-inch by 70-inch) double-paned windows, directly facing south, of course. These are the original windows.
The middle of these three windows has streaks of fog inside, which I assume means there is no longer a complete seal and there is likely a pinhole or opening on the outside of the window letting air and humidity enter.
What are my options to correct this situation? Is there a solution short of complete window replacement? Thank you for any help you can provide.
— Shelburne, Vermont, via email
A: Yes, the seal is broken, and it is not surprising considering that the glass is about 40 years old. It can happen with age, vibrations or poor installation, etc.
Although this does not materially diminish the insulating value of the glass, it is unsightly and impairs the view. The only solution is to have the glass replaced.
Q: We have a lot of trees in our development, so we have to have our gutters cleaned out a couple times a year. My husband is not able to do this anymore. Would it be worth it to have commercial gutters and drain pipes installed? Would it take care of the clogged gutter problem? Thank you for your help. I never miss reading your column.
— Essex Junction, Vermont, via email
A: Commercial gutters and downspouts can handle a lot of leaves, but they can also be overwhelmed if you have a lot of them. Commercial downspouts are the most valuable part of the system, as they tend not to get clogged because their cross section is twice that of residential downspouts. But if your downspouts discharge into an underground drain, the underground pipe may get clogged and cause a backup.
If this is your major problem, you can have commercial downspouts installed on residential gutters. Be sure that the gutter specialist you call is making such installations using the properly sized outlet and does not try to sell you new gutters as well. This may be what I would consider your best solution.
Although I haven’t found a gutter guard that does not have some problem, in your case you may want to consider one; the problem is which one — most of them are quite expensive.
In the long run, it may be less expensive to have your gutters cleaned after all the leaves have fallen. With commercial downspouts, you may need to have the job done only in the fall; the spring blooms may simply wash off harmlessly.
Q: Our Cape Cod-style home is 22 years old and has a circulating hot water furnace with baseboards (Slant Fin). Last year, the upstairs zone stopped working.
It was suggested to us that the problem might simply be the thermostat, so we replaced the thermostat and the heat worked for one day, and then stopped again.
We are not sure who to call to fix the problem. The furnace is working fine downstairs, so would a plumbing/heating service professional help? Is it more likely an electrical problem and the thermostat, so an electrician would be the answer? I can’t bear another winter with a freezing bedroom, so your suggestions would be appreciated.
— Westford, Vermont, via email
A: Since the boiler works well for the first floor, it is not a thermostat problem; you may have wasted your money changing it.
The person to call is an experienced HVAC contractor to check the pressure on the boiler, which may have dropped below the needed 20 pounds to reach the second floor. Most boilers are cold-start, so the pressure needs to be set at 12 to 15 pounds when cold. As the water heats up, the pressure goes up and can push hot water to the second floor.
There could also be an airlock or other problem, such as a malfunctioning zone valve or circulator.
Q: I have been trying to find the best air filter for my furnace that will remove the most dust from my home as I have been having a problem with quite a bit of dust.
Someone suggested a Dynamic filter; another person told me put in a Honeywell. I also read that filters can be put in the vents or to try a media air filter, which is better than an electronic filter. It must be HEPA-rated.
I am so confused by all this information. All I want is the best filter that will remove the most dust from my home. I respect your opinion and will be waiting for your reply before I make a decision. There is so much information out there; it is very confusing.
Thank you so much for your column that has helped so many of us.
A: Your best option is to use a medium-efficiency filter with a MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) between 7 and 13. These filters are almost as effective as true HEPA filters, which are not usually suitable for residential buildings as they may require modification to the system.
You can buy pleated MERV filters in hardware stores. The ones I buy at Ace Hardware have a MERV of 8.
This is a lot less expensive than having electrostatic or HEPA filters installed.
By Henri de Marne