Ask BOB and FAQ’s

questionEven though I try to answer most of your questions within the text of my articles, sometime a short quick  answer is all you need. I will categorize them to try to make some order of it all. Add your questions to the comment section, and I can usually respond in a day or so. Take note, the answer to the question and the solution may be beyond your skill set, if so, call a professional.

Automatic Lawn Sprinklers:

  1. Some of my sprinkler head still pass water well after the zone has run, and never seems to stop,  what do I do? AKA weeping heads. Typically, the sprinkler valve has dirt or grunge in it, and even though it is closed it is still leaking, much like a leaky faucet. You will need to turn the water off, disassemble the valve and clean it. Don’t be surprised if it takes multiple times to get it to stop.
  2. Water sprays in the air from the head around the shaft, how come?  This is a dirty or worn head. I like to keep replacement heads as spares and change them out like for like. Either use the same nozzle or the same pattern head. Disassemble the removed head, clean it, replace any bad parts and reuse it.
  3. My sprinkler valves chatter, what do I do? If it occurs immediately as the zone comes on or as it is shutting down, this is fairly normal. It’s about water and air, and the pressurized water is rushing to fill the empty pipe.
  4. How do I find a lost sprinkler valve?  The easiest way is with a cable locater. They are expensive and not easy to find rental units. If hiring an irrigator is too expensive for you try my method described in  Searching for Sprinkler Valves.  
  5. Why does the last sprinkler in the zone leak? Probably because it is also the lowest head in that zone. Sprinkler zones always drain a little bit after they are shut off. If the head location creates a lot of mud or is in a bad place you can purchase and install an in-line drain that can be placed in the ground upstream of the head reducing the amount of water coming out of that head.  It it seems to never stop, see #1.
  6. What do I do with a sprinkler valve that is cracked and why did it crack? A cracked sprinkler valve is an indication that it froze during the winter and will have to be replaced. There is not a real simple way to do it other than 1) turn the water off, 2) dig up the dirt around the valve, 3) cut the PVC on either side of the valve and replace the valve by splicing in new PVC.
  7. Why does my sprinkler sprays over the sidewalk. Assuming the head is not broken or incorrectly adjusted, it may be due to poor design. As a cost cutting measure some irrigators spray over a sidewalk to avoid digging underneath it to add heads. You may be able to reduce the nozzle to a 1/4 or 1/2 pattern but it may leave the area across the sidewalk dry. If you are happy with those results, you have solved it, on the other hand, the solution may be to add more sprinklers which can get expensive. Read my sprinkler articles in full to see all your options. 
  8. Can I turn one sprinkler head off? If it is a pop-up type the answer is yes. There is a small screw in the middle of the nozzle that can be turned to reduce/increase or turn off the water.
  9. I have a sprinkler head that pops up but doesn’t spray water, whats wrong? See #8, try adjusting it first. If that doesn’t work the nozzle and filter is dirty. Remove the nozzle, clean the filter and nozzle with pressurized air and or a tooth pick to get the little pebbles out.  If that doesn’t work, replace the nozzle (like for like).
  10. How many heads will be on each zone?This is not a short answer as it’s an engineered number based on water pressure, water volume,  pipe size and type heads used to figure GPM.  Check out this Rainbird link for details.
  11. Can I change the sprinkler nozzle to increase the distance of spray? Yes, but there are additional issues to consider. Each sprinkler zone is designed with a water budget. Each head/nozzle use part of that budget. If you change a nozzle to one that consumes more water (larger spray pattern), it will consume more water. Simply put, you can change as many nozzles as you wish, but you may deteriorate the performance and spray patterns of the  heads on that zone giving you more problems than you started with. Even though this is a calculated value, to keep it simple; change one at a time and run the system to make sure you have not made a negative effect on the entire zone. If you notice a loss in water pressure and the existing heads no longer spray to cover, you have exceeded the water budget for that zone. If you want to know how to mathematically calculate the sprinkler zone water budget, send me a note and I will provide you the long answer. 

Roofing:

  1. How do I fix nails popping up in the roof? Besides being an indicator your roof may be approaching end of life. Hammer the nail back into the roof and apply some roof rated caulk or  clear 25 year silicone caulk will work too. Just a dab!  Otherwise it will be ugly-looking from the ground up.

Crawl Space:

  1. I have a wet crawl space, how do I get it to stay dry.  Sorry, there is not a good short answer for this one. But here is my capsule answer. Usually caused by poor drainage. 1) You need a 3-5 degree slope away from the house, 2) good clean gutters to push the water away from the house, 3) Possible french drains and or transfer (sump) pumps. Look for a future article on this item. 

Electrical

  1. I have a standard electrical outlet that is warm to touch, what do I do?  Turn the power off, carefully pull the outlet out of the wall. The connections may have become loose over time but if there is enough wire, cut back the copper wires (about a 1/4 inch) then re terminate the wires in the outlet. If that didn’t solve it, replace the outlet. Or just do them both at the same time. Outlets are cheap.  For more details read Warm Outlets and Electrical Switches and Outlets.
  2. I have an electrical switch that seems warm to the touch, is it bad? Could be. If it is a standard switch (not a dimmer) and it is warm, follow the method described in #1 and replace it if necessary.
  3. How do I install a new ground rod?1) Make sure you have identified all your buried utilities, 2) find a location within about 3 feet or less from the AC Utility entrance, 3) Dig a hole about the size of a bucket, 4) Drive your new ground rod into the center of the new hole to the point that the top of the new ground rod is 6″ below ground, 5) Run the new ground wire between the Circuit Breaker panel and the ground rod, 6) Connect the new wire with the appropriate grounding termination material, 6) Put the dirt back in the hole.  If you have no electrical experience, have an electrician make the terminations.
  4. What type of TVSS do I use for a refrigerator?Any class A should work fine. As with many appliances, clearance can be a challenge. For me, I replaced the standard wall outlet with a Leviton 5280 series TVSS outlet as a direct replacement. 
  5. Is it okay to use a standard 2 prong outlet for my computer or digital TV. NO. NO. NO. Thats the simple answer. The short answer is you need a grounded 3 wire circuit to properly protect your equipment (plus a class B TVSS). For me, I would run a brand new circuit to these devices from your AC panel. There are other ways, but this is the best.  This goes for that big flat panel TV too! A $300 bill from an electrician is cheap insurance.
  6. One outlet has a dead plug-in it, the other one is okay?You probably have an external switch associated to that plug, try activating some switches in the room to see if that changes the condition, otherwise change the plug.
  7. I tested my outlet as reversed, checked the wiring on the outlet and the breaker and it looks good, whats wrong? Many electrical circuits are wired in series or can be “daisy chained” all together. This saves wire and the amount of terminations at the circuit breaker box. Some where in your circuit, the wires are reversed. You will need to isolate the circuit by determining all outlets powered by the same breaker, and inspect all of them. Leave the power off while you are making your inspection. 
  8. Do I need to ground my microwave any different from any other appliance? No, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a single class A surge protector at the outlet between the outlet and the microwave. 
  9. Does fiber optic equipment need grounding? Yes and no. Since there is no way to carry current through a glass fiber, the answer is no. However, the electronic equipment at the ends do. This has to do with protection from any spike or voltage imbalance that may be transmitted from the AC source as well as serving as a “ground reference” for the fiber optic equipment (NID). Its lack of proper grounding has been associated with video reception pixiling.
  10. Should I ground my Gas Meter? There have been recent changes in the code that may allow it. Personally being old school, I would never ground my gas meter. If you have followed the ground schematic as listed in my grounding articles I see no real advantage to it.

 Miscellaneous

  1. Can I bury my HVAC Condensate Drain? I wouldn’t. Some Building codes require the drain to be visible at all time to ensure that the homeowner can inspect the fact that it is properly draining. 
  2. What do I do about excessive static electricity in my dryer vent? 1)Make sure the entire vent from the dryer to the exit is metal, 2) Make sure there is continuity from end to end of the vent, 3) Ensure the dryer is correctly grounded, 3) Check the grounding of the AC Breaker panel, 4)Make sure there are no plastic fittings or section in the system. By having a properly grounded dryer and the metal vent is connected to the dryer, the static electricity will more easily find its way to ground. This will also help reduce the potential of a fire.
  3. Can I use a general purpose 12 volt battery for a solar landscape lighting system? The short answer is yes. A 12 V battery will provide DC current to power the lights. However, battery chemistry and cell designs are typically engineered for the application. For instance, a battery used to start your car is different from what is found in a golf cart even though they may be the same voltage (12vDC). One is used to provide a  burst of power for a short interval, where the golf cart battery is designed to provide output over a long duration. Between the two, the golf cart battery or a battery that is used in a similar fashion is the better choice. The car battery will work, and if it is oversized, you may not recognize a difference for a while. The continued (long duration) cycling of the car battery in this application will cause it die quicker than the golf cart battery. 

33 Responses to Ask BOB and FAQ’s

  1. sam rhodes says:

    Bob,
    I really appreciate your website. I found it while tracking down Whole house TVSS. I wanted to see if you had found a source for 230v-30a dryer POU suppression?
    Thanks
    sam

  2. homeownerbob says:

    Thanks for your comments Sam. To date I have not found a residential grade 208/230/240 VAC surge protector designed for appliances. If you find one before I do, let me know. Among the many sources, I have found Smarthome.com as one of the leading edge e-tailers but they don’t have anything yet either.
    Thanks,
    BOB

  3. nick stamatis says:

    I have some piping left over from a central vacuum installation that I did. I need to put a couple of small hvac runs into an unfinished basement area to do minor conditioning and just move the air around to freshen it up a little. Is is ok to use that plastic piping?

    • homeownerbob says:

      Interesting question. The new pipe may be undersized based on distance, but it will technically work. Here are some questions/comments for you that might impact your decision. 1) What size is the new pipe? If it’s smaller than 6″ diameter, it may not be effective for long distances. 2) How do you plan to connect the pipe, having the right transition pipe to connect the two may be problematic as this would not be a normal transition coupling. 3) Insulation, most HVAC ducting is insulated you may consider insulating it; again this may be problematic for the application. 4) Depending on the distance, you could negatively impact the entire system by unbalancing it. 5) Are you planning to put louver covers over the pipe exit? Could be more problems finding something that fits. Personally, for about $50 bucks you can get insulated flexible HVAC duct, transition fitting and distribution diffusers to do the job. You may still need to consider having the system balanced after your work.

  4. Thanks for this post, helped me with some research. As a roofing contractor I really like the post, Thanks again!
    best
    Vancouver Roofing Contractor

  5. Darci says:

    Bought a fixer built in 1961. I have 2 outlets that have 3 slots for 2 prong plugs. Also in my kitchen a plug that has a switch on top, tiny light bulb in the middle, and switch on the bottom. Couldn’t find anything resembling these at my home depot. Also at the top of stairs and in basement have 3 light switches, that are rocker type. Push one way for a second, turns on lights. Push the other end and turns them off. Someone in the electrical dept. said there was no way to replace these switches? Have all other outlets and switches taken care of, but these have me stumped. Thank you, Darci

    • homeownerbob says:

      Thanks Darci,
      1. When you say 3 slots, I assume you mean 3 pair of 2 slot holes for 2 prong plugs. If this is the case, this was a not so popular plug used in the day to allow for more than two items. You can simply replace this with a standard 2 prong outlet/fixture. If you have read any of my other posts, you know that using a 3 prong outlet in a system that was originally designed for 2 prong is discouraged and not safe. Hope fully you are replacing the wiring as you have converted the other outlets and switches.
      2. Plug with switch/light: I assume this outlet is wired so the plug is active when the switch is on as well as the small light is on. You still see some of these in commercial applications. It was a way to alert the user that the device plugged into the plug was still active. You might find this in applications where a clothes iron might have been used. If you still want one, look at this link, it includes the switch and outlet with an illuminated switch (this is about as close as you can get). Otherwise it can be replaced with a standard outlet. If you are looking for a direct replacement, to retain the look, you might try an architectural wrecking yard.
      http://www.fruitridgetools.com/storefrontprofiles/processfeed.aspx?sfid=136763&i=191259156&mpid=8171&dfid=1
      3. 3 Light Switches: I am not totally sure I know what you have. Send me a picture, and I can probably narrow it down.. There is a remote chance they are low voltage switches. There are options, but I will have to dig them up. Send the pics to homeownerbob@gmail.com.
      Hope this helps.
      BOB

  6. kevin russell says:

    i have a sprinkler head leaking from the nozzle with the system off and no others in that zone are leaking , there’s no damage to the head either , could this still be a valve problem ?

    • homeownerbob says:

      Kevin, yes it could. Take a look at your water meter with everything turned off. If you see movement in the water meter, the valve is probably leaking. However, if you see no movement in the meter, that would tell me the head is the low head in the circut and is draining down after a run. Take a look at my FAQ’s for more trouble shooting ideas.

  7. Karl says:

    Mr. bah humbug, I mean BOB,
    I just got back from the south visiting family and noticed that it had snowed. However, I noticed something interesting about the snow left on the roofs of individual houses in my neighborhood. Some houses had snow on their roofs and some did not. Yes, I know that the north face and roofs under trees will have less melt than the south, west, and east. But when looking down the street and noticing the same micro climate conditions (same direction, same tree coverage, etc.) the amount of snow on the roofs varied. My question(s); Could this be a tell that you have inadequate insulation in your attic? Too much heat rising into the attic space and warming it up. You’re gone for the holiday and the heat in your house is minimal to save electrical cost. Therefore, the ambient temperature is lower and creates less heat to melt the snow? Or simply wind and where the house is situated?

    I live in a neighborhood where the houses were all built in the mid to late 50’s and and range from 1100sf to 1800sf. Most houses are either original or have been completely renovated.

    Thanks,
    Karl

    • homeownerbob says:

      Hi Karl,
      I recognized the email address, so you can’t hide! From my experience, there are two things going on. 1) shade/ sun exposure as you mentioned and/or 2) lack of adequate insulation in the attic. I have found #2 to be a big issue. I haven’t done any, but it would be interesting to do a temperature differential study to see what exactly is going on. As you know, in our climate, we don’t have enough sample rate to make a worthy test. Even on well insulated housed you will find melted snow around many of the roof vents. Merry Christmas Karl, I hope you and your family had a good one.

  8. Larry FitzGibbon says:

    Bob,

    I have a small leak that has to be located between meter and the valve. No obvious water or ground sogginess. I have 6 zones. How do I locate this without digging?

    Larry

    • homeownerbob says:

      Larry,
      As you figure, the water is going somewhere. Even though the leak could be underground, it is more likely you are having some leakage through one of the six valves. Try this:
      • Turn the system controller off, so it doesn’t cycle, at all.
      • If one of the valves is leaking you should eventually see some degree of water leakage out of one of the heads. If not, try this:
      • Get a cheap automotive type stethoscope and listen at the bodies of each valve. If you hear some water flow, you have found the leaking valve. If you don’t turn anything up, try this:
      • Kind of last resort, but you can take each valve apart and clean them. This may actually cause more problems as you could induce dirt you did already have.
      Good Luck, BOB

  9. Larry says:

    Bob,

    Have already did these things. Is there anyway to find the leak between the meter and the valve short of digging up? All of my valves are functioning correctly.

    Thanks
    Larry

    • homeownerbob says:

      Larry,
      You never mentioned it, but I assume it is a very small leak. I am about at the end of my list without being able to look at the system. Here are just a couple more items.
      • If you know the path of the pipe, does it pass within 10 feet of a large tree? I have seen roots pull joints apart over time.
      • I assume no recent yard activity by someone other than you that might have nicked the pipe?
      • I am not aware of any device used in the sprinkler industry that might pick up this tiny leak.
      BOB

  10. Larry says:

    Bob,

    Great site and thanks for the input. I think it’s time to get the shovel out.

    I have signed up for the newsletter and have your icon on the desk top.

    Larry

    • homeownerbob says:

      Good luck Larry,

      Wish I had some more magic dust to spread your way , but sometimes pulling out the shovel is what it boils down to.

      BOB

  11. Anthony says:

    I had one of my sprinkling zones that water kept leaking water, even when the system was off.The only way to stop it was to turn the main water valve off. I cleaned and replaced the diaphragm and this cured the problem. However, now the other 2 zones keep running. I cleaned and replaced both of those diaphragm, but this did not stop the leaking water. What else should I check?

    • homeownerbob says:

      Anthony,
      Believe it or not, I have cleaned some valves as many as 4 times, given up and just replaced the entire valve. As you have figured, by repairing the first one, you may have brought in more dirt. Sometimes there can be hairline cracks that get bigger due to the activity of trying to clean the valve. Do this:
      1. Try cleaning the valve one more time.
      2. Still leaking, get a repair kit with a new bladder.
      3. Still leaking, cut the entire valve out and replace it.
      Good Luck, BOB

  12. Mike says:

    Bob,

    I am trying to vent a cook top vent inside my cabinet to existing flexible ductwork in the basement already going out of the house. Is it okay to use flex duct (metal) exposed in the kitchen cabinet?
    Thanks

  13. jan holland says:

    Our house burned and was rebuilt. We were not using our sprinkler system then or now. We are finding standing water in our yard. Is there a water turn off for the sprinkler system only?? The wiring was lost in the fire. Thanks

  14. Joe Mahawash says:

    I’m looking at purchasing a house with a sealed crawl space and dehumidifier set up. there is no insulation under the house. does it need it? or is the fact that it is sealed not require it?

    • homeownerbob says:

      Joe,
      It depends, it wont be as impactful as attic insulation. I have never done a study on it, but if you live in a moderate climate, positive results will be marginal. You might see a little lest noise and hard-surface floors might be a little warmer, but not real sure it will add that much value. Like I said, you would get more value out of adding attic insulation. BOB

  15. jack says:

    I live in an older home (50’s) and we have had the electrical system checked by 3 different electricians, yet i am consistently smelling a burning smell every 3-4 weeks and I own a thermal guns that can tell temp of the wall. The dining room is the problem spot- it will smell like burnt popcorn or paper -electrical burning. The outlets are 70-72 and look in good shape- the only thing that bothers me is the outlet in the bathroom is 80-85 degrees even when the breaker is off. When it is on- the temp goes up to 106. The electrician I hired told me “it’s normal” even though we were having flickering and the outlet was extremely hot. What would cause the outlets to be hot even when the breaker is off and why would the outlet get up to 106 degrees?

    • homeownerbob says:

      Hi Jack,
      Okay, this one takes the cake. Looks like you have done most of the obvious stuff, now it’s time to start looking at finite details as well as some obscure items. Not sure if you are planning to do this yourself or hire someone, but here are some thoughts, questions and action items.
      • Is the wiring still original? The original wire would probably be dark or black cotton braided type sheath compared to a plastic sheath on new wire.
      • Can you physically trace out the entire circuit in the attic and beneath the house?
      o If the circuit at the panel is a different wire than what you find in the outlets, you have splices either at the outlet or in a junction box (somewhere)
      • Since you have found higher temperature even with the circuit turned off, is there something in the wall that could be radiating heat, such as a space heater, pipe, HVAC pipes or ducts?
      • Is there a grounded conductor in the sheath, typically called the “bare copper” conductor
      o This conductor needs to be a continuous circuit back to the circuit breaker panel
      • If you have a VOM (volt/ohm) meter, have you done a continuity test or looked at the resistance on each wire?
      • Identify every outlet and splice in the circuit.
      • At this point, I would replace all the outlets and any switches on the circuit
      o If there are any splices in the circuits, cut them back and re-terminate or make new connections with newly exposed copper
      o If possible, if you find sections of cable that are the old cotton, I would replace them too.

      As for the smell, make sure you have eliminated any electrical device that could be plugged in anywhere in the house.

      Hope this helps,
      BOB

  16. John Wagner says:

    Can I add a drip line to an existing zone or would I need to add another valve for its own zone?

    • homeownerbob says:

      John,
      Technically it will work, but it may be difficult to properly manage the water usage as the zone you add it to may need more or less water than what you need for the drip line. It will work better if its on its own zone. That is the way my system is set up, and I may run the drips for an hour or so, where the lawn zones may only run for 15-20 minutes. BOB

  17. ron knight says:

    Really like your articles about sealing crawl space and adding air from house by using a pv fan on a timer dated 2010. Do you have any followup articles how effective the fan has been 5 yrs later. I am getting ready to do the same. Thank you.

  18. Nancy Peterson says:

    I had a raccoon in my attic. The wildlife company says due to matted insulation it needs to be removed and replaced. Is this necessary? Great site. I just wish I would have found it 10 years ago!

    • homeownerbob says:

      Hi Nancy,
      Thanks for your positive comments. This whole thing just started from answering questions around the neighborhood, and it kind of grew from there. I guess its a little CYA on their part. Obviously, wild animals and rodents can poop and urinate along the way. If you find an unpleasant aroma, removal is the solution. If you don’t seem to smell anything, you can add insulate right on top and it should be fine. BOB

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