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James Dulley

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    Dear Jim: My heating and cooling system is 20 years old, and I think it is time to replace it. I am trying to decide which type of furnace (gas, propane, electric, oil) is best. What do you recommend?
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    Dear Jim: I plan to use my fireplace more to lower my utility bills. I see some deteriorated spots on the outside of the chimney, and it has not been cleaned recently. What type of maintenance items can I do myself?

DIY shops flush with new toilets

Dear Jim: Our old master bathroom toilet does not flush well, and we are thinking about adding a first-floor half bath. What are the best types of toilets to get for each room and which ones save the most water? – Connie H.

Dear Connie: You can probably repair your old toilet yourself so it works better, but it would be better to just install a new water-saving model. Toilets typically account for 30 percent of the water usage for a family, making it the greatest single water usage appliance.

Depending upon how old your master bathroom toilet is, it may use either 3.5 or 5 gallons of water per flush. The average family can save up to $100 a year in water costs by installing water-saving toilets. I recently bought and installed a low-flush model at Home Depot for $60.

The federal standard for new toilets is a maximum of 1.6 gallons per flush. Many of the new toilets now use only 1.28 gpf and some are as low as 1.1 gpf. With the new internal water flow designs, they flush effectively with these smaller amounts of water. There are techniques and kits to reduce water usage for old toilets, but they sometimes require double-flushes for solid wastes.

A standard gravity-type 1.28- or 1.6-gpf toilet would be your best choice for your master bathroom. They flush effectively and are reasonably quiet. Two-piece (tank and bowl) models are usually less expensive than more stylish one-piece models. They are also easier to handle in two pieces. The only drawback is the gap between the two pieces is more difficult to keep clean.

There are dual-flush gravity models available which use either 1.1- or 1.6-gpf for liquids or solids respectively. On some, you push the handle up or down depending upon the flush volume needed. On others, there is a dual push button located on top of the tank. Both are equally effective.

For your new first-floor half bathroom, consider installing a pressure-assist model. The incoming water compresses air in an internal tank. This compressed air creates a forceful, rapid flush.

If you have several men in your family, consider installing a small wall-mounted urinal in the new half bathroom. It uses less than 1.0 gpf and some collapse into the wall and are hidden when not used.

If your house is built on a slab or when putting a toilet in a basement, it can be difficult to install the drain. In this case, use a macerating toilet that grinds up the wastes and pumps them upward to an existing drain. These toilets are expensive but less costly than installing a new drain.

Dear Jim: I thought about installing a fiberglass insulation kit on my garage door. It has a one-half horsepower opener and the door has torsion springs. Will an insulation kit be too heavy for the opener? – Steve W.

Dear Steve: People often think the opener motor has to be powerful enough to lift the garage door. Actually, the torsion counterbalance springs should almost support the total weight of the door. The motor just moves it up and down.

An insulation kit with fiberglass batts or panels is not heavy, so it should not be a problem. The torsion springs may have to be cranked just a little tighter, but mostly likely not.

James Dulley is a columnist with Starcott Media Services. Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Journal Gazette, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244 or go to