Q: Is there any real value in purchasing a hot water heater blanket? The outside of the water heater always feels cool to me. — Doris
A: Believe me there is heat loss anyway. But try this: Buy an insulating blanket at the hardware store. They are usually a fiberglass batt wrapped in heavy plastic and cost around $15. Use the sticky tape included to hold it in place. (Be very careful when you install your insulating blanket to avoid incoming air vents, the access panel, the controls, and the pressure relief valve.)
Give the system 24 hours to stabilize; after that, stick your arm between the wrap and the water heater tank. You’ll be surprised how warm it will feel, as the insulation retards heat transfer out into the room.
You may wonder — since the water heater is in the same room temperature space as the furnace — why worry about it? Water is harder to heat than air, so by cutting down that radiation from the tank you’ll shave 10 percent or so off the gas bill. And since the water heater is a year-round appliance, the savings will add up quickly. This is doubly true for water heaters in crawl spaces, in manufactured home exterior compartments and all electric water heaters.
The blanket is so cheap relative to its energy-saving effectiveness, that you’ll pay for it in a very short period of time, and then start saving real money.
Q: Should I cover the air conditioning compressor this fall? — Glen
A: I think you should. The unit will stay prettier and shinier longer, and will rust and corrode less quickly. You’ll also keep out the leaves, pine needles and tree sap. You can buy an inexpensive plastic cover with an elastic cord for around $15. If you want a fancier one or a custom size, try accovers.com.
Q: How can I get a hard water ring out of my toilet? — Harry
A: Use an oxalic-based product, like Barkeeper’s Friend, Zud or a product you’ll find on the web called Watkins Toilet Bowl Cleaner. After the product soaks for awhile, use one of those green plastic kitchen scrubbers on the ring, but gently Also, you could try a pumice stone available at a drug or department store. It’s a slightly abrasive (volcanic in origin) “rock” that will really get the job done. But again, easy does it.
Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.