Every year, thousands of Arizona residents email Rosie Romero's website or call his radio show with questions about everything from how to prevent fires in their chimneys to what to do about the tree roots invading their sewer systems. One of his goals is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona. In this column, he focuses on questions about home maintenance and improvement in the Tucson area.
QUESTION: I remodeled my kitchen a few years ago, and at the time, we decided to install track lighting with halogen bulbs as well as other halogen lights. The bulbs are MR16 with a GU10 base, about 50 watts each. They were supposed to last several years, but they generally last only six months. They also put off a ridiculous amount of heat. Since the bulbs cost $7 to $9 each, I spend about $100 a year replacing them. Can I replace them with LEDs (light emitting diodes) and how will those do?
ANSWER: Yes, there are LED bulbs you can use in your fixtures. The LED equivalent to the 50-watt halogen bulb will probably burn only about six or seven watts. These LED bulbs cost more, $30 to $35, but because they will last for years, they are worth the price. And LEDs give off relatively no heat at all. One word of caution: Don't try to buy these bulbs online; you need to visit a lighting store where you can talk to someone about the type of bulb you want to buy. It's not good to buy the cheapest LED bulbs out there either, because there can be significant differences in the quality of the diodes used to manufacture the bulbs.
Q: I have a mostly flat-roofed home that was built in 1960 with nothing but foil-backed craft-paper used as insulation. The flat parts of the roof slope up to a small peak that is about 8 inches high and 2 feet wide. I would like to blow in insulation through the vents in this peak. My concern is that I may fill up this small attic area too full and not have enough airspace between the top of the insulation and the roof.
A: Using blown-in insulation can be an easy do-it-yourself job, but usually it takes two people to do it correctly: one to feed a hopper with the insulation on the outside of the house and the other to direct the hose from the hopper into the area where the material is being blown in. The quality of blown-in insulation has improved greatly over the years. A do-it-yourselfer can rent the necessary equipment and protective gear to do the job very economically.
However, you are right in your situation to be worried because you cannot see what is going on while blowing in insulation. You could accidentally fill up this attic area completely with material. If you accidentally cover the ventilation areas in your roof, then heat and moisture will not be able to exit the area. If you cannot get into the attic area while blowing in the insulation, you will also have trouble aiming the hose so that the insulation spreads evenly around the area. You may want to investigate opening up more of your roof or changing your roof to improve insulation, though that could prove to be a much more expensive job than you want to do.
Q: We always have water standing in our yard after a heavy rain that flows onto our flagstone patio; what can we do about it?
A: Regrading the yard, you can use false river paths, add new planting groups, lay down various ground covers, and on and on. Talk to a local nursery or consult a landscaper about your situation. The installation of gutters and downspouts with positive drainage away from your foundation at the downspout location can also help in eliminating the water that may accumulate in your landscaping.
For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry expert for 25 years, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning "Rosie on the House" radio program, heard locally from 8-11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) and -FM (97.1) in Tucson and KGVY-AM (1080) and -FM (100.7) in Green Valley. Call 1-888-767-4348.