Your Place: Keep attic-steps insulation in summer

Posted: June 14, 2013

Question: We have an attic with a set of steps that pulls down from the ceiling. In the winter, we keep an insulated foam dome in the attic that covers the folded steps and the trap door that they are attached to.

This helps to keep the heat in the house and to keep the cold air in the attic. My question is, should we leave the foam dome in place in the summer?

My thoughts are that heat needs to escape and we should move the foam dome off of the folded steps and door.

But then I'm concerned that the heat going up to the attic will also pull our air-conditioned air along with it.

Answer: Warm air rises and cold air falls, but since your attic gets hot in the winter, you might want to have the dome in place to keep the warm air in the attic and not leaking into the space around the folding stairs where it might add to the efforts of the air-conditioning.

You wouldn't remove the insulation from your attic in the summer, so I wouldn't remove the foam dome.

Q: I'm hoping you can point me in a direction - any direction. Our electric bill has been rising for the last few months.

We had the smart meter installed about six weeks ago so I can now look online to see our usage.

Usage is normal for one or two days, then surges for the next day or two. There is no pattern to the surges. It's almost like a timer is turning on. I have a call in to our electrician but don't know if he can help.

Originally I thought it was the refrigerator, but why the 24-hour surge? I've been turning the computer totally off at night to see if that helps.

We only have one TV and one computer, but have well water and a freezer in the basement. Internet, TV and phone is provided by Verizon Fios. Our phones are on chargers as is the Roomba vacuum cleaner.

We have electric candlelights in several windows that go on at dark, but I can't imagine them causing this big surge or usage.

A: That's fascinating and perplexing.

Heating and cooling typically use the most electricity in a house, but you never mention what your heat source is or how your water is heated, which is another higher-cost item.

Gas or oil would be less of a burden than all-electric.

It is time to ask the experts for help. Anyone with ideas, reply to the e-mail at the end of the column.

Maybe the meter isn't so smart.

Q: We just purchased a new Bosch SHX55R dishwasher a couple of months ago. It cleans well but we noticed a strange smell after just a couple of washes. It smells whether it's empty or full, even right after it runs. Could it be the plastic coating on the baskets? We know the drain is clean.

I have been sprinkling a little cinnamon on the bottom to help. We tried different dishwasher detergents and pods, and they make no difference.

A: I could find nothing describing your symptoms on the Internet, nor were your questions addressed by Bosch or Consumer Reports.

Maybe the odor is something akin to a new-car smell. Plastic is an odd duck in that way.

Give it a while, and if it persists after six months, contact the manufacturer.

From a reader: "By fortuitous coincidence, your publication today of the white blister problem that I had brought to your attention has been definitively solved.

"My wife and I purchased a new 'art'-painted table from a Chestnut Hill artistic furniture dealer."

On delivery, "I noted to her the damage of white spots on my dining room table" and she immediately took the fine gauge steel wool and brushed off the stains in five minutes.

She then finished it off with a coating of leather shoe polish.

"She did recommend however that I use beeswax as the preferred surface treatment for this and all fine wood furniture."


Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.

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