Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing fires in their chimneys to getting rid of tree roots invading their sewer system. His goal is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona. Here are questions about home maintenance and improvement from the Tucson area.
Q: We own a home in Tucson with a huge backyard with almost nothing in it. Can we start raising cacti and agave plants and sell them for a profit? We have plenty of room to plant things.
A: It’s going to take a fair amount of research and work to start a business like this. You might start by visiting local nurseries to find out if they buy young plants that you might grow. You probably also need to find a special niche to fill; ask about plants that might have high value — like totem pole cacti, for example. That way you can make more money per plant. Once you decide to do this, it’s going to take you about six months to get started. You’ll have to buy containers and get “pups” or small plants to use as starters. It’s probably also going to take you a couple of years before you show a profit on your investment, however.
Q: I was thinking of putting in a propane generator that would serve as a backup to my electrical system. But then, I wondered, can I do something like that using solar power instead? Then maybe if there is a power failure, I could switch over to a solar-powered battery backup?
A: Yes, you can certainly do that. But depending on how big a system you might need, it could be very expensive. Battery systems that are very large can be very costly, but then generators are costly, too. You need to be conscious of comparing the practical application of the system you intend to install against the capital expense and maintenance of the system. Keep in mind how much actual use the system will get.
Q: The back bedrooms in our house where our children sleep do not have adequate air conditioning. We had someone inspect our heating and cooling system and found out that one room was not even connected to the air conditioner installed when we switched over from an evaporative cooler. We had that fixed and had the ducts taped, but the system is still not cooling off the bedrooms enough. Is there anything we can do ourselves to fix this problem without spending a lot more money?
A: It’s not scientific, but you can try to balance your cooling system. Walk around your house, and while the AC is running, close all the vents in every room by about 60 percent – a little over half. Then go back to the children’s bedrooms and open the vents in those rooms completely. That way, you’ll be trying to force the air into those rooms. See if that works. Then retrace your steps and open the vents in the other rooms a little bit more.
You may have to keep adjusting the vents several times to reach the amount of air flow that you want in each room. You don’t want to close any of the vents, however, to the point where you hear air whistling through them while the HVAC system is running. These changes in the vents may make the air flow more even throughout the house.
Q: I planted a Meyer lemon last year in a spot in my yard that turned out to be a real wind tunnel. To protect it, I put up some stakes around the plant and wrapped burlap around them to cushion the tree against the wind. The burlap is not touching the tree itself. The tree is doing well and has a lot of blossoms this spring. So when can I take that burlap down, if at all?
A: If the tree is doing well, you can probably remove the windbreak in about six months. It was a great idea to do what you did because the burlap helps protect the blossoms from being knocked off. Those blossoms should turn into your crop of lemons later this year.