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posted: 5/4/2014 12:01 AM

Window air conditioners do not take up much space

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Q. We want to put an in-the-wall air conditioner in the kitchen of a small summer home. The kitchen gets unbearably hot, even when just using the stove burners. There really is not an available window or space for a portable air conditioner.

There are two windows, but I don't want to give up either one for a window unit, plus we are too old to be taking it in and out of the window. The wall is about five inches deep. I can't seem to find from the Internet how far these units can protrude from the inside wall. They all seem like they would extend at least a foot into the room.

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A. Most window and wall air conditioners do not stick out that much into the room -- maybe 3 to 5 inches. Through-the-wall air conditioners are usually installed in a sleeve that sits flush with the inside finish of the room. These sleeves are around 18-inches deep, and the air-conditioning units are around 20 inches or so.

Frigidaire makes highly rated wall units, and if you are in the Chicago area, you may wish to contact Alan Martinez of Abt Electronics as the company can offer installation at an additional cost. Martinez's direct line is (847) 544-2786.

Q. I live in western Pennsylvania, and this year I am going to replace my old windows. I was wondering if you had any thoughts of which kind to use as far as brand name. Which ones are the best? Should I get double-pane or triple-pane, and what about the E-value? I want maintenance-free. Should I use vinyl or fiberglass? I already looked at the Marvin fiberglass; is Marvin as good as everyone says it is? The windows will be awning and the crank-out style, and one bay or bow window. Also, I am looking for new storm doors and entrance doors -- do you have any suggestions in this department? Where is the best place to shop for all the above?

A. When designing our additions, I found Marvin windows to be very competitive with high-quality vinyl windows. So we chose Marvin casements for our renovations, and are very happy with them. I have no experience with its awning windows, but I have been very impressed with Marvin's service. Hopefully, this service is national and not just regional.

I have also used Andersen windows in the past and have found them to be very satisfactory, but this was before the company brought out its 200-series, which I haven't tried, and they are a downgrade from the 400-series.

Although my experience with Andersen's service has been very satisfactory over the years, I have heard from readers who have not had such positive results.

I would advise you to get the highest-performing windows; by all means, choose triple glazing and the best U-value with low-E glass. You won't regret it over time.

Quality glass shops are a good place to shop for storm windows and doors. So are building supply houses. Choose one that handles the brand of windows you decide on, and look at its offerings in primary doors.

Q. I read your recent column on mold and a wet attic. You are correct that the soffit and ridge vents work together for ventilation. However, the writer did say he had vents on each end of the home, which I do not agree with from past experience. If you have adequate soffit and ridge vents, you are golden. Rule of thumb, look down each rafter and if you see light, you should have good ventilation.

Now, he said he had black mold, which is serious to human health. I would have told him to immediately correct the ventilation problem and then call in an expert mold removal company and remove the mold in the attic before it becomes a health problem for the occupants.

It's best to shop for prices, as they vary greatly. However, ensure testing is done before and after and secure the results. Just spraying the mold will not be the solution if it's black mold. It needs to be removed and then sprayed to seal the area that was contaminated.

A. If you read this column regularly, you must have seen my oft-repeated comment that gable vents should be sealed if there is a working combination of soffit and ridge vents.

I disagree with you about the mold on the roof sheathing. I have studied the subject extensively over the years and spoken with experts. I have also inspected many attics with black mold, which is generally caused by excessive moisture convecting from the living spaces into the attic through a variety of avenues. These avenues should be found and sealed.

Once this is done, and if there is effective ventilation, the black mold will die as the moisture content of the wood drops below 17 percent and will generally flake off harmlessly. It is not a danger to health if it is confined to the attic and there is no communication between the attic and the living spaces.

Involving a mold remediation specialist in these cases is overdoing it and incurring an unnecessary expense.

Dear Readers: Last fall, you may have read my comments on a new line of Black & Decker cordless tools. I was particularly impressed with its 8-volt impact screwdriver.

Although B&D claims that this driver is aimed at the homeowner attempting small jobs, I found it able to handle several of those, as well as a very large job, with no slack in power. It only required recharging after a long period of use. I would recommend this tool to anyone.

Earlier this year, B&D came out with a new line of 20-volt cordless tools aimed at more advanced DIYers. B&D sent me samples of a regular drill, an impact drill, a circular saw, a reciprocating saw and a work light. Because of the beastly cold weather we have endured in most of the country, I was not able to test these tools until now.

The first thing a construction professional looks for is how solid a tool feels when you pick it up. The two drivers and the circular saw felt solid; the recip saw less so. It was light and probably would not fare well if dropped too many times.

Cordless tools do not usually have the same power and torque as corded ones, so I was very interested in putting the saws and the drills to the test.

The circular saw easily made a straight cut through a two-by-four, but because it only has a 5½-inch blade, it couldn't cut through the two-by-four at a 45-degree angle. The recip saw had no trouble cutting through a stud. The impact drill delivers great power, but I got some resistance with the regular drill using a quarter-inch drill bit; perhaps my bit is a little dull. The kit includes two battery packs, making it possible to suffer no interruption in your work. These tools would be highly suitable to the very active and experienced home handyperson.

The tools came with a large and sturdy tool bag, which can hold all of the tools with ease.

I highly recommend the set I received, and I assume that the various other combinations offered by B&D would work as well.

Dear Readers: In a recent column I answered a question relating to the Aero-Stream aerobic system, which can alleviate the replacement of failed septic systems by introducing air in the tank, which speeds up the digestion of its contents. The effluent entering the leaching devices is clear and is less likely to clog them. It also allows a smaller leaching device.

I have just received two comments from readers: one from Massachusetts, who has researched what is involved in the installation of the Aero-Stream, and the other from Illinois, who actually bought the system. Here are their comments:

"In a recent column, a reader asked about Aero-Stream for failing leach fields. I live in Massachusetts and I have a failed septic system that must be removed and a complete new system installed.

"The reader should check with his local board of health before purchasing. I researched Aero-Stream, and while it is very affordable and is approved by the Department of Environmental Protection in Massachusetts, there are so many regulations one must follow. I received a 10-page document of rules and regulations such as an ongoing monitoring protocol by an operations and maintenance firm that is approved by the health board. Because of so many rules, I opted to go the conventional way. I hope this information is helpful." -- Massachusetts

"Recently, I had to replace my septic leach field and was enamored with the aeration approach, for all the reasons you mentioned in your column in the Daily Herald, and because it allowed me to reduce the size of the new leach field. The cost of the aeration unit seemed like a good investment, so I bought it.

"What I didn't realize is that there are also operational costs. First, the air compressor runs continuously, adding to my already high electric bill. I searched the Aero-Stream website for details on the compressor's power consumption, but without success.

Second, after the unit was installed, I learned my county requires my aeration unit to be serviced by a licensed contractor every six months to be sure it is operating properly. While keeping equipment in good operating condition makes sense, there is an associated cost that should be considered. If I had understood these ongoing operational costs up front, I never would have made this investment. I enjoy your column." -- Lake County reader

Thank you both for sharing your experience with Aero-Stream, which would apply to any aerobic system. I hope this is helpful to anyone thinking of investing in this advanced technology.

• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via email at henridemarne@gmavt.net.

© 2014, United Feature Syndicate Inc.

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