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Turn off unused heater

Dear Jim: I have two electric water heaters because I had a whirlpool that used a lot of hot water. I no longer use the whirlpool. Should I keep both electric water heaters working or turn one off?

-- Greg H.

Dear Greg: You should definitely turn off one of the water heaters to save electricity. Even if the water heaters are new and energy efficient, heat will still be lost through the walls of tanks.

Do not disconnect the extra water heater because you may need it if the other one fails or if you decide to use the whirlpool again. Switch off the circuit breaker to it. Install valves to stop the water flow into it and from it and drain the tank.


Dear Jim: I have been looking at new garage doors and I want to get an energy efficient one. I cannot see how to compare various ones because some quote R-value and others quote U-value. What is the difference?

-- Jack R.

Dear Jack: U-value is the inverse of R-value. An R-value of 5 is equivalent to a U-value of 0.2. R-value is more commonly used by manufacturers to state the insulation of doors, but either value can be used.

Also compare the energy efficiency of the glass if the door has many windows. Even the best window glass will be less efficient than no windows at all, but you may save electricity with windows by not having to turn on lights.


Dear Jim: Our house is built into a hill for energy efficiency. This provides us with a daylight basement. We want to add air-conditioning to the basement, but do not want window units. What are our options?

-- Patty F.

Dear Patty: Building a house into a hill, called earth-bermed, is energy efficient. I am surprised your basement does not stay cool, but perhaps the sun warms it through the glass during the afternoon.

A mini-split ductless system is probably your best cooling option if you do not want a window unit. These systems have the cooling coils and blower mounted up on the wall. The outdoor compressor is connected to it with a small refrigerant tube and wiring.


Dear Jim: I just installed a new flapper valve in the toilet tank because the old one did not seal properly. Now I have to hold the flush lever down for a while to make it flush properly. What did I do wrong?

-- Steve H.

Dear Steve: This is not uncommon and you probably installed it properly. It sounds as though you bought a water-saving flapper valve (fits in the tank bottom). These often require a slightly longer hold for flushing.

Also, check to make sure the chain connecting the flush lever to the flapper does not have excessive slack. Tighten it up if necessary. If the flapper has adjustable drain hole sizes, try different settings.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit