QUESTION: My husband and I are planning to move from the damp, dark Northwest to dry and sunny Green Valley. Should I be concerned about my wood furniture drying out in the arid Southwest? I am particularly concerned about our antique wood furniture. Will there be wood cracking and joints pulling apart?
ANSWER: Yes, our lower humidity levels in some months — when we sometimes hit triple digits — can be a little hard on some wooden furniture. But I haven’t witnessed or heard of anything too terribly severe taking place. Your antique pieces have probably gone through enough humidity and dry spells that would have taken most if not all movement out of the wood. I don’t think that they will have any further problems when you get here.
Q: I’m thinking about switching from a traditional gas water heater with a tank to a tankless water heater. Should I go with gas or electric for the tankless?
A: We used to say that gas would be better, but now electric tankless systems have improved a lot in efficiency. But keep in mind that a tankless system can be a costly investment. First, you need to install a water softener or the company that sells the tankless unit will not warranty their product. That’s because our hard water can calcify inside the tankless heater. The tankless system will cost about $2,000, and you’ll also pay to remove the old tank and to add electricity for the new system. A water softener can cost more than $1,000 if you don’t have one now. In all, your costs could total $5,000, compared with $1,500 at most to buy a traditional gas water heater.
Q: I live in a 2,000-square-foot, 1950s-era concrete block home, with ductwork from the 1960s. I want to replace my 15-year-old air conditioner now. There can be from four to seven people living in our house at times. We also have a swimming pool. In summer we set our air conditioner at about 78. I want to know what SEER rating I should look for in a new unit. We pay about $400 a month for our summer electric power now.
A: Air conditioners you consider should have a SEER (seasonal efficiency rating) of about 13 to 14. It doesn’t make sense to put a 15 SEER air conditioner on an older home. Before buying an AC, you should have a whole house energy audit done and see what it says about your ductwork.
Q: I live in a 1950s-era Hallcraft home with a range hood that was installed when the house was built. When the light on the hood was turned on yesterday, there was a strong electrical odor. I didn’t throw the circuit breaker. What should I do?
A: You need to get a licensed electrician to trouble-shoot the situation before you do anything else.
Q: If I put a water softener on an old, old house with heavily corroded pipes, will it start cleaning out the pipes to the point that they fall apart? I ask because I’ve been told that my plumbing is actually being held together by the corrosion and rust.
A: It is true that some old plumbing systems are partly held together by corrosion. But it would take a very, very long time to remove the corrosion in your pipes. A water softener won’t kill your plumbing system prematurely. You probably need to start thinking about what it will take to install new pipes or repair your pipes in the near future.