Full Episodes of Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford

Solving Common Problems Around Your Home

By: Danny Lipford

Watch this video for solutions to annoying problems around your home, including:

  • Dryer Vents: Periodically cleaning a dryer vent pipe with a special brush allows clothes to dry faster and can prevent dryer fires.
  • Dryer Booster Fan: Installing a dryer booster vent fan (Fantech DBF110) and roof vent to expel moisture and lint from a clothes dryer out of the attic will help the dryer work more efficiently and keep moist air and lint out of your attic.
  • DIY Dumbwaiter: Constructing a dumbwaiter from a garage door opener is a great way to carry groceries from a downstairs room or garage to the kitchen.
  • Recycling Chute: Making a homemade recycling chute from metal duct pipe mounted inside a kitchen cabinet makes it easy to recycle aluminum cans and plastic bottles to bins located in the garage.
  • Instant Hot Water: Installing a hot water recirculation pump in the hot water line allows you to have hot water instantly whenever you turn on the tap.
  • Water Heater Maintenance: Draining your hot water heater annually removes sediment and allows the water heater to work more efficiently and last longer.
  • Tankless Water Heater: Installing a tankless hot water heater is a great way to save energy, since it only heats the water when needed.

Read episode article to find out more.

Print   Video Transcript

Danny Lipford: Every house some kind of problem. This week, we’ll show you the solution to some of the more common ones.

They say that the house has never been built, and fact is, almost every home has some kind of problem that maybe nagging every single day. Now that may be waiting for the hot water at your bathroom vanity, or maybe your clothes dryer is drying a little slower than it used to. Or, if you have a multistory home, you may be tired of carrying those groceries up stairs and carrying the trash downstairs.

You know, part of home improvement is finding solutions to these kind of nagging problems. And on this week’s show, we’ve got a number of solutions for all of those problems and a few more. Stay with us.

This house is about 15 years old. By now, the homeowners know which systems in the house are working and which ones maybe a bit deficient. Now even small problems can grow into big aggravating problems if you’re dealing with them every single day. A good example of that is the story these homeowners told us about their little small laundry room and how slow their clothes dryer is in drying clothes now. It used to take only 45 minutes, now it takes close to two hours to dry a load of clothes.

Now, they went and bought a brand new dryer which helped a lot, but they even realized even it started slowing down the time to dry the clothes. So, obviously is not the dryer, but most likely, the dryer vent that goes from the dryer to the outside.

What happens is, over the years, the accumulation of lint inside the vent restricts the size of the pipe so it prevents the dryer from exhausting all of that moisture to the outside in a timely fashion. So, the first step in correcting this problem is to clean all of that lint out of the dryer vent. If your dryer vents to an exterior wall, the easiest way to access the vent may be by removing the cover on the outside. Then you can used a brush just like this one, which is specifically designed for cleaning duct work to remove the lint and dust that decreased the dryer’s efficiency.

When the dryers have to work harder, they tend to overheat, which often leads to fires. In fact, thousands every year. The risk of fire is even greater if the flexible vent hose attached to the dryer is flammable like this plastic one. It should be replaced with a flexible metal hose.

Another factor that effects the efficiency of a clothes dryer is how long the dryer vent is and how many turns it has to take to make it to the outside. Now, in this particular home, the laundry room is located in the center of the floor plan of the home, so it’s about 30 feet from here to an outside wall.

Now, when this house was originally constructed, the builder decided to vent the dryer straight up into the attic and that hasn’t worked too well. It’s not really that unusual to have a dryer that vents through an attic space. This is the metal vent pipe that comes up through the wall behind the dryer, and then at some point, someone has attached a series of plastic elbows and pipe to route it back into the attic space, allowing not only the lint, but also the moisture, to dump into the attic space. That’s not the way it should be done.

Now, it’s really a challenge in a situation like this because there’s so much resistance when you’re trying to exhaust that hot, moist air with all the elbows, with the vertical rise, it’s a wonder this dryer is working at all. The solution here is to install an in line booster fan.

First, the plastic pipe has to be removed. And, as Scott quickly discovers, it’s loaded with lint, which, combined with all the twists and turns in this thing, it was seriously handicapping the dryer downstairs. Not to mention, it was dumping all this damp air and lint into the attic. It looks like this PVC pipe was nothing but a lint magnet. Not a good choice for a dryer vent.

Now, the booster fan itself comes with a mounting bracket so that it can be attached almost anywhere. Here, Scott is screwing it into a piece of two by six lumber which will then be attached to the attic floor next to the vent duct. Then the fan housing itself is sealed to the metal duct using foil tape for an airtight fit. Now above the fan, more four inch duct extends straight up towards the roof so that Scott can locate it’s cutout.

Now, to simplify the wiring, we’re going to connect the fan to an extension cord, plug it right into an existing outlet in the attic. But with the cord unplugged, the ground, neutral and hot wires are each secured to their designated spot on the wiring block. In a situation like this, it really pays to take your time and get everything just right before cutting anything, because you never want to cut any unnecessary holes in a roof.

Scott starts with a pilot hole, then he opens it up to fit the metal duct using a reciprocating saw, cutting through the plywood, shingles and everything at the same time. He pries up the edges of the shingles, just above the opening so that when the duct is fished trough the hole, the booth, which keeps the rain out of the vent, can tuck under them. Roofing cement and a few nails will keep the rain out of the attic.

This in line booster fan was very easy to install and it’s a completely independent system. No need to run a wire from this fan down to your dryer because here’s how it actually works. When your dryer turns on, the air pressure switch on the booster fan will sense that air coming through the fan. It’ll turn it on and help you to remove all of that hot, moist air out of your house. This should really solve this problem that the homeowners were having with the dryer taking so long to dry a load of clothes.

Now, you can find out more information about this on our website at todayshomeowner.com. Now, if you live in a two story house, you’re probably sick and tired of carrying all those groceries from the garage up to the kitchen area. When we come back, we’ll show you how we can solve that problem for you, right after this.

Announcer: It’s time for this week’s Simple Solution from home repair expert Joe Truini.

Joe Truini: Okay, I admit it, I hate cleaning glass, It’s not that it’s that difficult a job, but it’s just time consuming, especially when your placed with a light fixture like this that has six curved pieces of glass. I mean, who would design a piece like this? Well, obviously a guy who didn’t have to come back and clean it.

But I recently discovered a trick that works really well. First remove the top of the fixture so you can gain access to the inside. Then pick up two foam brushes. These are two inch wide brushes, which are the perfect width for this particular light fixture. Get some glass cleaner and a paper towel. You start by spraying a little cleaner on the foam brush, then reach inside the fixture and wipe the glass clean.

Now this is an ammonia base cleaner, so it evaporates pretty quickly. But even so, I like to come back with a dry brush and wipe off the excess. Now remember when you do this, do the inside and the outside, and wait until the light bulb is cold. You don’t want to reach in with the hot bulb so hot because you could actually burn your hand.

Danny Lipford: This week, we’re looking at a number of very common problems people have with their homes and offering a few solutions to take care of those problems. Now we’ve already talked about a problem that homeowners had with a dryer that just was not drying the clothes quick enough. We solved that problem by installing an in line booster fan.

Now, the second problem. You have a set of stairs you know that any time you need something, it’s not where you standing. And you’re having to go up and down the stairs, hauling groceries up stairs and bringing trash downstairs, especially if you’re primary entrance to your home, like this one, is right off the garage and it’s on the lower level.

Now, a dumbwaiter is a great solution to this problem. It’s basically a miniature elevator that can bring the groceries up, trash down, very convenient. But if you’ve every priced one of these, boy, the factory made dumbwaiters are very expensive. Here’s a more reasonable option by using a garage door operator to actually construct a dumbwaiter.

Now, basically what we have is the garage door operator down below mounted to the wall, then the track continues right on up to the next level, and we have a little wooden tray here that’s been constructed, and attached with different brackets to the bracket that should be carrying or moving the garage door itself. So, with all of this in place, you push the button, and away it goes. Now, instead of this dumbwaiter costing three or four thousand dollars like the manufactured ones do, this one only costs about $300.

Now, you have to have the unique situation where you have a closet directly above another closet that’s down below on the lower level. Here, we had a little pantry in the kitchen, and the closet directly below it in the basement. It worked out perfectly, and that’ll save a lot of time running up and down the stairs with the groceries or trash. Now it’s very important if you have small children around your house or if you have guests that have children, is to make sure you have a lock on the door both upstairs and downstairs.

Now, you know today’s families are a lot more environmentally conscious than those in the past and that mean more than one garbage can, usually in a kitchen for all the recyclables. Now, to save time in running the recyclable goods up and down the dumbwaiter, we’re going to try something we’ve never tried before, and that’s to kind of use the concept of a laundry chute to move those recycled goods from this level downstairs.

Now, we’re going to do that by cutting a couple of holes in this cabinet, and there’s another closet downstairs. And, we’re going to position a couple pipes to act as that recycled chute that’ll allow you to deposit those recycled goods directly into containers below. I hope it works.

The first step is clearing out the downstairs closet. We hope to keep as many of the shelves as possible for storage space but Scott’s helper Tim is taking everything out of the closet so that we’ll have plenty of room to work. Now we’re kind of making this up as we go so we want to have plenty of room to change the plan if needed.

Meanwhile upstairs, Scott is busy cleaning out and laying out the locations for the two chutes. Now this is important because we have to line up holes on two different floors so that they can be connected by the pipes. The first hole is a small pilot hole, followed by a slightly larger one so that we can see what obstacles might be in our way between the floors.

We’re in luck, because it’s a straight shot with no joists or framing to work around. Now Scott can begin cutting the larger holes to the finish size for the second chute. Directly below it, he marks and begins cutting another hole in the drywall ceiling of the closet. With the mystery of where it will come out resolved, the other holes can be cut to size and the closet ceiling opens further to accept the two pipes.

The closet shelves don’t have to be removed, but the will require some modification. Finally, we’re ready for the pipe. This is the same metal duct material we used on the booster fan. The short sections more real well in a tight spot and can be joined together quickly with the foil tape. On the top side, the pipes are secured and the holes are covered with a little trap door that we’re rigging to lift up when the cabinet door opens. Finally, it’s time for a test run.

These are the kind of things the homeowners plan on recycling. Newspaper, aluminum, and plastic bottles. Every household has plenty of these items. Now what we plan on doing is aluminum here, plastic here.

And we could roll our newspapers up and also use another chute for those, but they had this little roll out tray on these cabinets that had been here since the cabinets were built and we can throw it right in there, and once the bag gets full, put it in the dumbwaiter, and it will go right downstairs.

Hey, speaking of downstairs, let’s see where these chutes end up. With this set up, you’re able to come right downstairs, open the closet door, and take your recyclables to be recycled.

Hey, we’re solving a lot of problems on this week’s show. And next, we’re going to look at a problem that a lot of people have at their house—having to wait so long for hot water at their bathroom vanity, right after this.

Announcer: Let’s join Danny at the home center to check out this week’s Best New Product.

Danny Lipford: Whether you’re hauling a load of supplies from the home center, helping a friend move, or trying to hang up tools in the garage, there are dozens of times you need a quick and easy way to secure something. A good length of rope or maybe some bungee cords will work but the problem is the rock is often hard to untie and may unravel and weaken over time and metal hooks on bungee cords can sometimes scratch surfaces.

Now this is a cool solution called Kwiktwist, and it can be used anywhere you would use a rope or a bungee cord, but with much less hassle. To secure it you simply twist the ends together instead of tying them as you would a rope. Kwiktwist is rated to hold up to 100 pounds, but the way you twist it will determine how well it holds, so the manufacturer recommends three full twists very close together.

If one of these won’t span the distance you need to cover, you can simply remove the end cap and thread the ends together to double or triple the length. I can think of tons of uses for this thing, and for less than six dollars, I think I need one in my truck.

Announcer: For more information about the products featured in this segment, visit our website at todayshomeowner.com.

Danny Lipford: This week we’re looking at a number of very common problems that people have with their homes and offering up a few solutions.

Now one problem I hear about from a lot of homeowners is having to wait so long for hot water at their bath vanity. Now this can be very annoying, because some people have to wait up to a minute before they even feel hot water. It can also be a tremendous waste of water itself, up to 50 gallons per day.

Now, one solution that this problem is to install a hot water recirculation pump. The pump itself is installed at the water heater in the line that carries hot water to the rest of the house. The unit is powered by 110-volt circuit and it only uses about 25 watts of electricity.

But what makes this system work is the thermal valve that’s installed under the vanity to grade assistance from the water heater. The valve is positioned between the hot and cold water line. When the water in the hot line cools off, this valve senses the change and opens, allowing the pump to force th cold water out of the hot line and over into the cold line. When true hot water reaches the valve, it closes again so you can always have hot water at the tap.

The thing I like about this system is it really is very, very simple. You have the valve underneath the sink and then you have the recirculating pump on the water heater itself and that’s about all there is to it. But I would still suggest having a master plumber install this for you so that you can be sure that it’s working the way it should.

Now another problem a lot of homeowners have is not enough hot water, especially you have large tub or someone that really likes the long shower. Now, whether it’s a gas water heater or an electric water heater, most of the time the problem is that the water heater has not been maintained properly.

One of the biggest problems with water heaters is sediment. Minerals and other particles settle to the bottom of the tank, reducing its efficiency, capacity and lifespan. Now draining the tank regularly, say once a year or so, will remove the sediment, making it easier for the water heater to do its job. To prevent overheating, you’ll want to turn off the electricity or gas supply before you begin this process.

The average life expectancy of a traditional water heater is around eight to 12 years, but if you properly maintain it, I’ve seen them last up to 20 years. Either way, eventually they’re going to wear out and you’re going to have to replace it. When you’re faced with having to replace a water heater, there is another option.

This is a tankless water heater, and it replaced a traditional water heater in this home just recently, and they’re fairly easy to retrofit in almost any home, but here’ the big difference between these two types of systems.

Now, a traditional water heater will have a large tank. In the tank will be water and the water heater has to work 24 hours a day to keep it a comfortable temperature. With an on demand, in line water heater like this, it only heats the water as you need it. So, when you turn the valve on at your bathroom vanity or in the shower, it starts going to work. And as soon as you cut it off, it stops working, so you can see where it saves you a lot of money over the years.

And the basic set up of this allows you to install it on the outside instead of inside, saving a lot of closet space. And it’s powered natural gas in this case. There are also models available in propane. Then you have a need for a little bit of an electrical work inside the unit in order to control everything, and this one even has a little switch to turn everything off if needed. Then you have cold water coming in on this side, going through the unit and coming out hot water here, going into the house. So, it only heats it when you need it, and it’s going to cost a little bit more initially, but it’ll save you a lot of money down the road.

Announcer: Let’s head outside for Around the Yard with lawn and garden expert Trisha Craven Worley.

Tricia Craven Worley: I live in Southern California where it practically never rains, and you undoubtedly have had some problems with drought. Seems to be happening a lot more frequently these days. But you know there are some ways you can cope with drought and one has to do with lawn.

Now, if when you go to cut your grass, if you raise your blade about two inches up, then when you cut it, the blades will remain a little bit longer and that’s going to retain some of the moisture.

Also something else I talk about all the time is mulching. Well this is when it’s really very important because the mulch is going to help keep the roots cool, and again, it will help retain the moisture.

Now something else, when you’re walking around your garden and you look at some of your flowers and maybe their heads are drooping a little bit, whatever you do, don’t fertilize them. That will cause them to go into distress. Actually they’re saving their energy, kind of like suspended animation.

And also, regarding your trees, just don’t even think about pruning them. That will also send them into shock. If there’s a dead limb, take care of it. Other than that, let everything go until it rains again.

Danny Lipford: It’s not uncommon for a typical home to have a few little problems an we’ve been able to show you some of the solutions for some of the more common problems. And the ones we’ve looked at are the ones that can be so aggravating, because you have to face them every single day.

Though a poorly performing dryer is annoying, the solution may be as simple as cleaning the vent and lint screen. Or you may have to add a little horsepower with a booster fan as we did.

By applying a little engineering, we cut down on all those trips up and down those stairs with a homemade dumbwaiter and our recycle tubes. Those are sure to be a hit with the kids.

And the wait for hot water is over thanks to our recirculation pump, not to mention the water and energy it will save.

Some of these ideas used a lot of creativity, with our recycled chute and our dumbwaiter. Others, we had to dig down a little bit online and do a little research to solve the problem with our dryer vent. But all of these did so well, but we’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg. For more information on some problem solving around your house, check out our website at todayshomeowner.com.

Hey, I hope we see you next week.



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