Each year, thousands of Arizona residents email or call Rosie Romero’s radio show with questions about everything from preventing chimney fires to getting rid of tree roots in their sewer systems. 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.
QUESTION: I’m living in a 35-year-old slump block house. It has about 800 square feet of floor space. I’ve had foam insulation put into my masonry walls and now I’m getting ready to have an air conditioner installed to replace my swamp cooler. But I notice that a lot of houses around here have their AC condensers on the roof. Is that a good idea?
ANSWER: Having the condenser on the roof can work well for you, particularly if you have limited square footage inside your house to handle a furnace and AC. A rooftop installation can also be less noisy than having the condenser standing just outside your house. Congratulations on getting that insulation; it will go a long way toward making your home more comfortable.
Q: I’m a very poor rose grower, but I’m wondering if a mini-moisture tester for the soil would help me check my watering more regularly. Perhaps then my roses might bloom more often? I feel I am already doing all the right things that people tell you to do, but I still don’t get good roses.
A: Yes, you can use one of those devices to check the soil. If it says it’s wet, you shouldn’t have to water them right away, and you certainly should cut back on watering roses during the winter. Overwatering is just as big a problem as not watering roses enough, however. Even with a moisture meter, it’s still going to be a bit of a trial-and-error situation. Roses do their best in a well-drained soil mixture, so the soil should stay moist but not saturated. You might also check with a local nursery about what fertilizer works best for local customers and then be sure to use it monthly.
Q: I have an older home with single-pane, aluminum-frame windows. How can I make them more efficient without replacing them? I don’t have a lot of money to spare, so are there any solutions that I might be able to do myself?
A: There are new window systems on the market that can be easily installed on the inside of your home over existing single-pane windows. A metal frame is mounted on the interior of your existing window casing. Then a clear sheet of acrylic with a magnetic edge on it is secured against this metal frame. The new secondary windows help insulate your home against heat and cold and can also reduce the sound of noises coming in from outside. The windows can be easily pulled off so that you can open the original windows underneath.
Some versions of these magnetically installed windows have sliders so that they can be moved out of the way to open the original windows. Dealers sometimes offer kits as well that you can order to do the installation yourself.
Q: I live in an 1,150-square-foot home with a kind of flat roof with a little pitch to it. I haven’t had my roof checked out for about 10 years. Last time I had it redone, it was covered with some kind of paper and then coated with silvery stuff.
A: You probably have a built-up asphalt roof with a cap sheet on it. That “silvery stuff” aluminum isn’t used any more on these types of roofs. But my advice is to take the old roof off and foam it. Then your roof will be in great shape. Foam doesn’t seem to be as popular in Tucson as Phoenix, and I don’t know why. The truth is that once a roof is foamed and if it is properly maintained, it will last forever, as well as providing an additional layer of insulation.