Ken's latest blog post:
Dear Ken: Is using brick pavers over an existing patio a good idea? If so, what kind of mastic or mortar should be used? Carl
Why not bed them in sand? If you were to glue the pavers to the patio slab, you run the risk of cracking and heaving as the patio moves, shifts, or responds to thermal changes. Build a barrier around the patio first out of, say, 2" x 8" treated lumber or redwood. Then, if you need to, apply a layer of fine sand to even out any variations in the patio's surface. Lay the pavers in whatever design you want and lock them in place with more sand dribbled into the gaps. You should probably study one of the several books available on traditional sand bedding, which contain more detail than I can provide here. But the main point is: by not gluing the pavers to the slab, the system will be much more flexible, and you can "adjust" individual pieces anytime you need to.
Dear Ken: What should I do to my evaporative cooler this time of year before I start it up? Deb
It's a pretty simple process. Basically, these units--called "swamp" coolers by most folks--need only a good cleaning this time of year. They accumulate dust and dirt on their insides over the winter season, no matter how tightly they've been shrouded. Scrub and hose out the reservoir and clean parts that have accumulated mineral salts with some white vinegar. It's vital that you replace the evaporative media each year with a new set. This is usually ground-up wood fibers--like aspen--that evaporate water from their tiny surfaces and so cool the incoming air. Avoid the so-called permanent versions; they are usually a plastic, foam-like material that's a little pricey for my taste.
If there are lubrication cups on the cooler fan motor, you can squeeze a little light oil into each. Finally, check the pump, incoming water float valve and associated hoses, to make sure they are intact and operate properly.
Finally, do you have a bleed-off kit installed on your cooler? This is a little hose arrangement that purges a small amount of water each time the pump runs. It helps prevent scale and algae buildup plus the water is always fresher. That means less odor in the house from your swamp cooler. You can buy the kit at the hardware store or online for less than $10.
Dear Ken: My icemaker is producing cubes that taste funny. What might be going on? Nancy
There are usually two causes for yucky ice cubes. If you don't use your icemaker all that much, food odors in either the refrigerator box or the freezer can contaminate the ice supply.
So, you should deodorize the refrigerator with some baking soda, plain charcoal briquettes or a deodorizer stick-on (like the Arm and Hammer brand). Then you can start using the manual ON-OFF lever on the icemaker control box to make only the small amounts of ice you think you'll use within a week or so.
The other cause of distasteful ice cubes is the presence of stale water in the feeder pipeline or the reservoir. Using the fresh water spigot on the door more often will insure a fresher supply and more appetizing cubes.
Dear Ken: One of my circuit breakers in the panel won't un-trip. I've tried to turn it all the way off and then on again with no luck. Any ideas? Terry
Replace it. Breakers are relatively inexpensive--usually less than $10. They are electro-mechanical devices which heat and cool as they operate under various loads in the circuit, and eventually they just get tired. Plus they can accumulate fine dust and dirt inside--especially if your panel is on the outside of the house.
It's a good idea to cycle all your breakers--including the main switch labeled 100, 150 or 200 amps--once a year to make sure they aren't misbehaving, like the one at your house.
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