There are water droplets under the plastic in my crawl space? Should I roll back the plastic to let the water out?
Please do NOT roll the ground cover back or remove it to let the water out. The plastic is there to keep the water out of the crawl space. If the water drops are under the plastic, it means the plastic is doing its job, just like shingles keep rainwater out of the attic.
If there are puddles of water under the plastic ground cover, you may want to consider some kind of ditching or piping to direct this liquid water out of the crawl space. These ditches should also be covered with plastic though. Also look at keeping roof and yard water out of the crawl space.
My hardwood floors cup in the summer and flatten in the winter. What should I do?
Hardwood floors cup because the upper side of the wood is dryer than the bottom side. Wood changes size relative to its moisture content. And the wood moisture content depends on the relative humidity of the air. So when wood cups, it usually means that the crawl space is damper than the air in the house. Adding crawl space vents will NOT solve this problem. Fix the moisture imbalance before you consider sanding the floors.
Are replacement windows a cost-effective way to lower my energy bills? Some companies are claiming that my energy bills will be up to 49% lower.
In most situations, replacement windows are NOT cost effective from an energy standpoint. From analysis of several houses using energy auditing software, I see realistic savings closer to $50-$100 per year. In one recent house with a replacement window estimate of well over $10,000, the savings were estimated at $52 per year. You’d be better off putting the money in the bank and drawing 1% interest.
I do see a couple reasons for considering replacement windows: 1) You can’t see through the old ones, 2) The old ones won’t open, 3) The old ones are rotten, falling apart, or expensive to maintain, 4) Personal belongings are subject to fading, or 5) You have a lot of unshaded windows facing east, south or west.
Be aware of a couple items. The glass in replacement windows will probably be smaller than in the old windows. The light coming in may be less, especially with Low-E coatings. Air infiltration may change significantly, which may cause some borderline situation to become problems.
Should I use energy-efficient (LED or CF) light bulbs?
Yes. energy-efficient light bulbs will not only save you money on lighting over the long term, but they produce less heat so your air conditioner will run less. Lighting technology is changing rapidly. Compact Fluorescent (CF) light bulbs were the first step in energy-efficient light bulbs as replacements for incandescent bulbs. Growing pains with CF bulbs included bulb cost, flicker, slow start, and bulbs that did not fit some fixtures. About the time most of those issues got corrected, LED bulbs made their appearance. LED bulbs are rapidly replacing CF bulbs as the better choice. Though some of the growing pains are the same, these issues are getting ironed out, and LED bulbs are one of the easiest, most cost-effective energy saving steps you can make. Start by replacing bulbs in lights that you use the most.
Should I have my ducts cleaned?
How did the dirt get in there? If you can’t find out how or where the dirt is getting into the ducts, cleaning them is only a temporary step. I believe that duct cleaning ought to be combined with duct sealing. In other words, keep the dirt from getting back in there. Otherwise you’ll end up with dirty ducts again shortly.
You can clean some of the ducts yourself. Remove the supply registers from the floor and vacuum out everything you can reach. Flex ducts should not be cleaned as the brush can tear holes in the ducts. Ducts with interior liners like duct insulation should also not be cleaned as the cleaning will often damage the lining. The air handler can be cleaned when the unit is serviced. Keep your filter clean and in place. A good website on this topic is www.nadca.org.