Dear Jim: I have an enclosed light fixture at the top of the stairs. It is difficult to reach to change the bulbs. I would like to use one of the long-life compact fluorescent bulbs. Will it get too hot for the fixture?
-- Jane F.
Dear Jane: Replacing the standard incandescent bulb with a CFL (compact fluorescent light) will be fine. In addition to the bulb life, which is about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb, it uses 75 percent less electricity.
With every type of light bulb, nearly all the electricity it uses ends up as heat. Since CFL's use so much less electricity, heat generation is seldom a problem. The only drawback is some of them take a few seconds to attain full brightness.
Dear Jim: I have an old water heater and refrigerator in my garage/workshop. I have wrapped the water heater with insulation. Will it help to also wrap the refrigerator with more insulation?
-- Sam S.
Dear Sam: Extra insulation blocks heat flow in both directions. When around the water heater, it blocks heat from flowing outward. When around the cold refrigerator, it blocks heat from flowing into it through the walls.
When insulating the refrigerator, you must be careful not to block the air flow through the condenser coils. If the air flow is reduced, efficiency drops. The coils are usually on the back or underneath the refrigerator.
Dear Jim: We have a recirculating system on our hot water tank. We recently had to replace our water heater with a new, more efficient one. Now the recirculating system does not work. What caused the problem?
-- Jane N.
Dear Jane: A recirculating system must allow for the free flow of water through your plumbing. Assuming the water heater was installed in the same way as the old one, the water heater itself should not be the problem.
There probably are heat trap fittings on top of the new water heater to reduce heat loss. They allow water flow in only one direction. Have your plumber remove the heat trap fittings and replace them with standard fittings.
Dear Jim: My house had a leak at the roof flashing which I have since had repaired. The wall had been wet inside for a long while. When they removed the drywall, some studs were rotten. How can this be fixed?
-- Marie K.
Dear Marie: You can either add new studs next to the rotten ones and leave them there or remove the old ones. It can be a job to get the old ones out. If they are dry now and you find no evidence of mold, you may leave them in.
The insulation in the wall should probably be replaced. Fiberglass insulation may dry out satisfactorily, but it may be matted somewhat and less effective. Cellulose insulation should definitely be replaced.
Dear Jim: My steam iron does not work as well as it used to and it sometimes makes brown streaks on the clothes. It takes longer to do the ironing which I imagine wastes electricity. Should I buy a new one?
-- Willa F.
Dear Willa: The steam holes are probably clogged. Pour an even mixture of vinegar and water into the iron. Set the iron to steam and hold it horizontal in the air. The steam solution should remove most deposits.
After the iron cools down, wipe the faceplate with a cloth dampened with dishwashing detergent, alcohol or baking soda. If it has a nonstick heating surface, rub it with some folded wax paper.