Contributed by James Dulley

Sensible Home: DIY-ers can make inexpensive, efficient storm windows

Q. I would like to install exterior storm windows on my home, but they are expensive. Will storm windows improve my windows’ efficiency very much? Is there a low-cost, simple storm-window design that I can make myself? A. Installing exterior storm windows can be a wise choice for some homes, but they are not an … Read More »

February 18th, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Portable battery pack can shed light during power outage

Q. We have had electric power outages from storms lately. It is inconvenient, so I want to find some type of backup electric power. What are some options that are not extremely expensive to purchase or install? A. A small gasoline-powered generator, which you can buy at any home-center store, is a reasonably priced option, … Read More »

January 21st, 2018 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Compare alternative heating sources for energy efficiency

Q. My old heating and air-conditioning system must be replaced. With current energy-cost volatility, how can I determine which type of fuel — oil, gas, propane, electric, etc. — is best to go with? A. It might make economic, environmental and life-style sense to switch to an entirely different type of heating source for your … Read More »

December 18th, 2017 at 8:14 am

Sensible Home: Insulating window coverings provide added comfort, savings

Q. I would like to replace my old windows before winter, but I cannot afford more debt right now. Is installing insulating window shades or curtains a viable alternative? If so, which types are best? A. Old, inefficient windows can account for a substantial amount of heat loss from a house. A single pane of … Read More »

November 19th, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Chimney maintenance is important both inside and out

Q. We use our woodburning fireplace for heat. It has not been cleaned out for the year, and we noticed bad spots on the outdoor chimney brick. What maintenance steps can we do ourselves? A. There are some maintenance items you can do yourself, but you must first have the chimney flue professionally cleaned by … Read More »

October 15th, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Durable, eco-friendly roofing options abound

Q. The old, dark asphalt-shingle roof on my house is leaking — again. I prefer to install a longer-lasting roof this time, even if it costs a little more. Other than metal, what durable roofing materials are available, and which ones are environment-friendly? A. There are many nonmetal roofing options that have a significantly longer … Read More »

September 17th, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Harness sun’s energy to efficiently prepare food

Q. I want a solar cooker to help keep my kitchen cooler and save energy. It would also help in case of a power outage or emergency. Can I make one that really works, or should I buy one? A. It is wise to try to do some of your baking and cooking outdoors in … Read More »

August 13th, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Portable air conditioners offer economical comfort

Q. We have central air conditioning, but it seems wasteful to cool the entire house when just the two of us are home. Is using a portable air conditioner in various rooms more efficient overall? A. Natural ventilation is the most efficient method of cooling. In many climates, though, such as hot, dry areas or … Read More »

July 16th, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Screen-door options provide ventilation, increase comfort

Q. I like screen doors for natural ventilation, but they are expensive and inconvenient, and they don’t look really good. Are hideaway retractable screen doors easy to operate, and are they durable? A. Natural ventilation is obviously more efficient than using fans or air conditioning. Just a gentle breeze can make it feel like the … Read More »

June 18th, 2017 at 6:00 am

Sensible Home: Cordless mower offers eco-friendly lawn-care option

Q. I am tired of the maintenance for my old gas-powered lawn mower. I might buy a rechargeable cordless mulching one. Are these mowers powerful enough for a normal yard, and what features are best? A. I have used cordless lawn mowers for many years, and I would never switch back to a gasoline mower … Read More »

May 14th, 2017 at 6:00 am