Ask Questions – Get Help – Ask THE Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

AirI recently had to make a decision regarding my air conditioning unit, which was out of freon.  As this is an area that I am not experienced, I knew that I had to find someone else.  (The last company I had used on my home had come to trouble shoot the air conditioner not working.  Within 10 minutes, a loose wire was found and all was good.  Imagine my discomfort when the bill, beside the diagnostic fee, was well over  $200.  I knew that this would not be the company I called for an estimate).

After searching Angies List, I found several companies to talk with.  They each came out and evaluated the situation, talked with me, and came up with a proposal.  With each person I spoke with, I gained new knowledge and felt better about making the correct decision.

We have zone air conditioning (one system for the main floor and another for the second floor), and both furnaces and air conditioners were of the same age, about 25 years.  Each person I talked with let me know that this was way over the age of the units.  So, I had choices to make.  Repair the unit or purchase a new one?  Then, did I want to replace both the air conditioner and the furnace?  And last, should I replace one or both systems?

It is at times like this that the professionals come through.  Professionals know that a consumer doesn’t know everything.  A good company will explain all that the customer wants to know and happily answer questions.  I am in the habit of telling customers that questions are encouraged.  The more my customer knows, the better I can give them exactly what they want.  Even after the person has left, never hesitate to give them a call with another question.  You will quickly find out how serviceable they are by how quickly they return the call.

Without going in to too much detail, air conditioners are rated by “Seer”,   The higher the Seer, the better.  Furnaces on the other hand are rated by efficiency.  Today,  furnaces can be up to 95% efficient, which means the system is going to do a better job for less money.

I found one company owner, Ken Ross of Total Comfort, that was just great.  He not only answered all my questions, but was happy to compare his thoughts to other companies that I had talked with.  In addition, Ken showed me that if I purchased a higher Seer, I would get rebates from the electric company, as well as the gas company for the furnace.  No one else had explained this, and it ended up saving hundreds of dollars.

Being in the service business, I enjoy meeting people and being of help.  Answering questions and informing customers is something I enjoy doing, and most people in the service business are the same way.  So, always remember, ask the questions!  If you don’t know what question to ask, simply have the person explain the nature of the product or repair.  The same is true with a simple visit to the hardware store.  Professionals enjoy sharing their expertise and helping others.

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Staining My Deck – Get It Done – Ask THE Handyman St Louis

StainI just moved in to a new home.  The deck apparently hasn’t been kept up to date as far as staining.  Is this something I can do myself?

Not only can you refresh your deck by yourself, you might even find it to be fun (well, maybe).  The first step in restoring the finish of a deck is to clean it.  There are a number of products available at the hardware stores and paint stores.  Basically, they combine cleaning agents and bleach.  A typical product requires spraying the liquid onto the deck, waiting a while, then brushing the deck and then rinsing.  For a deck which has not been cleaned  in a while, this process may have to be repeated.

An alternative to this would be to power wash the deck.  Power washers can be rented at some hardware stores, or a rental store that carries tools, ladders, etc.  This is where the fun happens, at least for me.  A few things to think about however: a power wash can be heavy, so you may need some help getting it into and out of your car; a power washer can damage wood and siding if you aren’t careful; be sure to use a tip on the wand which is suitable for decks.  It should have a 30 degree spread or more.  If the spread is lower than that, it can easily mark up your deck beyond a quick repair.  Please allow yourself plenty of time for this project.  Power washing a medium size deck can take all day.  Add more time for stairs, posts, and the outside portions.

Start in an area that won’t readily be seen, so that you can get the hang of it, and be sure to start by holding the wand about a foot off of the decking.  Once you get the feel of it, you can get the wand closer to the wood and the cleaning will go more quickly.  Take your time and be sure to achieve a uniform cleaning.  You will immediately see the dirt being removed from the wood.  In many cases, the color of new cedar wood will come through.  However, be aware that power washing will not take off any stain that was applied.  Therefore, when restaining the deck, you should go with a similar color of stain.

Once the deck is clean, you should wait for at least three days for the deck to dry.  I recommend talking with the experts where you buy your stain.  They will help you with a brush and roller and all the supplies you might need to apply the stain.  If by chance you have a patio below your deck, it would be a good idea to cover it with plastic, as the stain can drip down between the boards if you aren’t careful.  While staining, try to stain only an area that will let you follow the deck board continually until the end.  In other words, start with one or two boards and keep staining these boards until they end, rather than going across on several boards, then coming back and continuing.  This way, you won’t have areas on the boards that get two coats of stain, which will show when you’re done.

This next step is important.  As soon as your deck is dry (about 2 or 3 days), have a Bar-b-que with some friends so that they can see what a great job you did.

Trouble with Exterior GFCI – Ask THE Handyman St Louis – Get It Done

GFCIWhen I had my Christmas lights up, I found that the outlet they were plugged into kept tripping and I continually had to reset it.  Do I need an electrician?

There could be a number of items that cause this.  First, it sounds like the outlet you have the lights plugged in to is a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter).  If there is any rain or snow which comes in contact with the outlet, it could be shutting down because of that.  If so, you may want to consider installing a perpetual cover for this.  It is a simple installation, similar to changing an outlet cover, and costs about $10.  It will allow you to leave something plugged in (Christmas lights, low voltage lights, etc.) while still allowing the cover to protect the outlet. 

A second item to check would be the plug connections on the lights.  It is a good idea to use electrical tape on each connection, especially on the ends.  Again, rain or snow could cause the GFCI to trip.

It is also a possibility that the GFCI needs to be replaced.  A GFCI will cost about $15.  Unless you are familiar with household wiring, it is probably best to have a professional take care of this.  One thing you don’t want to do is replace a GFCI with a non-GFCI outlet.  The electrical code requires exterior outlets to be either GFCI’s, or to be protected by a GFCI (a GFCI located somewhere else in the home bringing power to this outlet).

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