Working with wiring on your electrical service panel can be dangerous, so an electrician should do it.


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 in their sewers. One of his goals is to provide answers that suit the specific lifestyle wherever someone lives in Arizona.

QUESTION: I have heard you recommend that Arizona homeowners should think about installing full-home surge protectors. I've wanted to add one of these to my house for a while. Is this something that homeowners can install by themselves?

ANSWER: Whole-house surge protection is a great investment for yourself and your computers and appliances during the lightning storms we have here in Arizona. These devices operate like a giant version of those surge-protector strips that many homeowners use to protect PCs or flat-screen TVs, and they often come with great guarantees. We recommend hiring an electrician to install these units since working with wiring on your electrical service panel can be tricky and sometimes dangerous. For your safety and everyone else's in your home, hire a professional.

Q: We have just moved to Green Valley and are considering building a home with a walkout basement or at least a crawl space. But all we see here are concrete slabs. What are the reasons for having a slab?

A: In one word, the answer is: termites. A damp, cool place like a crawl space is extremely attractive to termites, and it's a place where they can do a lot of damage without a homeowner noticing what's going on. Even if you have the wood pretreated for your home against termites - which is common now - you are still asking for trouble. We advise against crawl spaces because of the chance of weakening the integrity of your home. Stick with a concrete slab. And if you can, we advise using as much masonry as you can instead of wood framing for a house.

Q: To conserve water, I collect tap water in containers in my kitchen and bathrooms whenever I need hot water. That's because I have to run the water for quite a while until the temperature gets hot enough. In this way I save more than 5 gallons of water each day, and I use this for watering plants.

But since I have a water softener, will the softened water I collect indoors be OK to use for my plants? I have been told the salt used in a water softener will harm plants.

A: Softened water is usually not recommended for use with tender house plants, but it can be used to water hardier plants indoors and out. Of course, most water softeners are not hooked up to outdoor sprinkling and irrigation systems anyway. In part that's because it's more expensive to water with softened water that has been pretreated and run through a water softener that is powered by electricity.

Q: I have a fairly young shamel ash tree in my yard that is about 15 feet tall. But during a hard freeze last winter, it lost its leaves. It has some new growth, but doesn't seem to be coming back very well from the freeze. Should I replace this tree?

A: Your ash tree probably will recover, but it could die a slow death down the road. It's a tree that originated in tropical areas of Mexico and can be a beautiful shade tree when fully grown. It's basically an evergreen. But if temperatures drop to the 20s, there can be severe damage. The trunk can also be sunburned during the peak of the summer heat and sun. You may need to paint the trunk or wrap it to keep it from suffering damage.

If you want a similar but hardier tree to replace it, try planting a Fan-Tex ash or a Chinese elm.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to Rosie Romero, an Arizona homebuilding and remodeling industry expert for 25 years, 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.