Renovation & Design

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Renovation & Design

Wet and wobbly cheesecake good to go

Question: I am a fairly new baker and trying to bake a cake for my husband. What is the doneness test for homemade cheesecake? Carrie

Answer: If the internal temperature is 150 F, the cake is done. But…when it comes to cheesecake, avoid the typical toothpick piercing test, as you want to avoid making a hole in the cake. Also, if you insert a toothpick and it comes out dry, the cake is already overbaked. Instead, use your finger to lightly press the middle of the cake. If it feels firm, it is ready. If your finger sinks into the crust, the cake is underbaked. If you jiggle the cake and the centre is a little wet and wobbly, the cake is ready.

Question: Can you please give me some advice on how to clean my computer keyboard without buying a bunch of expensive cleaning products? Julie

Answer: Dip a soft toothbrush into white vinegar. Brush your keyboard with plain vinegar; no need to rinse.

Question: A year or two ago you printed a cinnamon bun recipe in the paper. It called for two cups of potato water, what is that? Thanks for your help! Gabe

Answer: I was referring to the water in which potatoes are cooked. The water with added starch makes excellent bread dough. When making potato water, wash, and peel three potatoes. Cut potatoes and add to a half pot of water. Boil for about 20 minutes (or until potatoes are soft). Drain the potato water into a measuring cup. Cool before using in dough recipe. Cooked potatoes or leftover mashed potatoes may also be used for potato bread recipes.

Question: How do I remove stains from toilet bowls? Mike

Answer: Make your toilet bowl sparkle by pouring a little shampoo or dish soap onto a pumice stone and gently, rubbing the inside of the toilet bowl, to remove stains. Or clean the toilet with a product called ‘Iron Out,’ use according to the directions on the bottle.

Spring Hints and Hacks

To clean dirty baking sheets, place a fabric softener sheet onto the pan with dish soap and hot water. Leave for a few hours and scrub with a non-abrasive cloth. Rollie

Remove pet hair from furniture using a window squeegee. Carolyn

The fastest way to clean plastic or vinyl shades to get rid of any bugs and dust is to use a can of compressed gas/air duster. I also use this method to clean my computer keyboard. With the little straw attached, cleaning is a breeze. Johnny

The fastest way to cut up a kiwi is to cut the kiwi in half, horizontally. Use a spoon to scoop out the insides. Kevin

Cut off the opening of a pop bottle. Wash and save as a measuring tool for pasta. To portion out spaghetti, fill the opening with raw noodles. One pop bottle opening equals one portion. Kevin

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email at: info@reena.ca. Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website: reena.ca.

Reena Nerbas
April 9

Renovation & Design

Cause of blinking lights difficult to diagnose

Question: We hope you can help us. In the summer of 2021, we decided to upgrade and improve our electrical system. We moved our panel from the basement bathroom and installed a new one in our laundry room. We added new outlets in our kitchen, because the old ones kept tripping. We put in new pot lights in the living room, basement rec room, and bedroom downstairs. Previously, we had 100 amps total for our 1080 sq. ft. house and garage. The new house service is 100 amps. and we added a 200 amp. new panel in the garage. The service wires were buried in our yard 30 years ago. We also put in CO alarms, smoke detectors, dimmers, furnace disconnect switch, and GFCIs. Our problem is that our dining room light, kitchen light, upstairs master bedroom and bathroom lights flicker, only when we run our washing machine, which is five years old and energy efficient. This only occurs during the wash and rinse cycles. If we use an extension cord from the rec room outlet for the washing machine, we have no flickering.

Expert Electrical was called back to address this issue and they did several alterations, none of which fixed the problem. They changed our old LED bulbs to incandescent bulbs, and then back to brand new LED bulbs. They changed the dimmers to upgraded new dimmers, and then to regular on/off switches. They tried to change phasing in the new panel and tightened all connections inside. They bought a new LED fixture and changed the breaker and outlet for the washing machine. Finally, they ran a separate circuit for the problem lights. After all of that, the lights still flickered.

We called Manitoba Hydro to check their connections at the pole for both panels. When the work was first being done, numerous mistakes were made and had to be corrected. Now, the contractor is stating that they have done all they can do. They suggest hiring another company to come and see if they can fix it, and depending on what is repaired, they will pay for some of the cost. We did not have this issue with flickering, pulsating lights before all this work was done.

What do you suggest we do and how do we correct this problem? Both Manitoba Hydro and Expert Electric stated that this is safe. We are disheartened that we spent thousands of dollars to make our electrical system safer and to Code, and now this.

We are looking forward to your reply.

Thank you, Shirley and Mitch Kiesman.

Answer: Analyzing the unusual effects of your washing machine on your lights, to determine the exact cause, may not be worth the extensive time or effort. It may be more economical, and much less effort, to replace the washer rather than spend countless more hours trying to remedy this unusual but harmless problem.

It would not be proper for me to second guess Red Seal electricians, when attempting to determine the exact cause of your problematic light issue. These licensed individuals are some of the best-trained tradespeople in our area. They often deal with highly technical installations, frequently in difficult locations. While modern electrical conductors and fixtures are very safe and straightforward in their installation, they sometimes are defective. These defects can range in nature, from faulty GFCI receptacles and breakers to wonky switches. Just like any other mass-produced products, components of our electrical system are not foolproof.

The causes of the blinking lights could be numerous, from improperly grounded receptacles or boxes to something with the washer or wiring. It may be very difficult to pinpoint the issue, unless an electrician has seen the identical situation before, and knows the remedy. I would have initially suspected the washer itself, but your comments about it not happening when plugged into an extension cord, powered by a different receptacle, makes that less likely. Since that works, it would be logical that there was something wrong with that particular receptacle, conductors, junction box, or circuit breaker? Even a loosely connected wire, ground, or another component may be responsible. Did the contractor install new wires for the new dedicated receptacle for the washer? That would be the obvious conclusion, that something was wrong there, since the problem goes away with the alternate source of power and extension cord.

If the wiring and breaker supplying the washer receptacle have been replaced and made no difference then there may be one simpler but less pleasant option. Getting rid of the old washer and replacing it with another model may be the simplest alternative. There is a possibility that the frequency of the washer motor, the vibration of the unit while in use, or some other electrical defect within the unit is causing the issue. One would think that the problem should still be there with the unit connected to a different receptacle, but that anomaly may remain a mystery.

While the flickering lights may be a real nuisance, it is doubtful that they are a serious safety concern. Especially since the bulbs, fixture, and switches were all replaced several times, any signs of overheating or damage would have been visible. If there was any arcing or other major safety concerns, there should have been readily identifiable evidence in the boxes or the fixtures.

It appears your electrical contractor, despite your comments about the initial mistakes, has tried their best to locate the cause of the newly problematic lights and find a remedy. While I agree that another experienced electrician may be able to shine a light on the situation, it may be easier and cheaper to replace the washer, instead.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)(cahpi.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.

trainedeye@iname.com

Ari Marantz
March 26

Renovation & Design

Electric water heater has advantages over gas-fired units

Question: We had a gas high-efficiency furnace installed in our 1991 built, one-storey house, about eight years ago. Seven years ago, our gas water heater was changed, with no modifications made to the chimney. I heard that a chimney liner is now required before a new gas hot water heater can be installed. Is this correct? Is there an alternative? Who should do this work and do you know an approximate cost?

Is it better to switch to an electric water heater, as this conversion requires new electrical work? As far as gas versus electric, what is the payback over time?

Robert S.

Answer: Switching to an electric water heater, after you have upgraded to a high-efficiency furnace, makes sense for several reasons. Overall, the slightly higher costs over the lifetime of the unit will depend on several variables, but should not be the main criteria for this upgrade decision.

The first thing I would like to address is the information you have received about the need to upgrade the metal chimney liner when you replace a natural gas-fired water heater. This may be a requirement if your current liner is improperly sized, corroded, or none is installed. Since your house is relatively modern, the chimney will undoubtedly have a metal liner, or will be a B-vent surrounded by a constructed chase. The issue with the current liner may be that it was properly sized to handle both the old furnace and water heater flue gases. Since the furnace no longer vents through this metal piping, it may be considered too large for only the water heater. If that is the case, any gasfitter replacing your current water heater may be required to install the properly sized liner to accommodate only that unit, regardless of the condition. This may have also been the case seven years ago, but was not enforced by the local building inspector.

The National Building Code (NBC) is the document that makes recommendations for most forms of construction in Canada. There are several parts, which are regularly reviewed and modified to adapt to changes in construction materials, techniques, and building science. The thing most misunderstood about the NBC, by many homeowners, is that following its guidelines isn’t mandatory. Adoption of the NBC, either in its entirety or various portions, is at the discretion of the local municipality that regulates construction in a certain area. Also, the building officials for each area under its jurisdiction may further decide to apply or waive various portion of the codes, as they see fit, to adapt to varying conditions in different locations. So, the only way to verify or rebut that statement is to contact the local building officials in your area for their current requirements.

As for changing your water heater to an electric unit when your current one fails, that should be much more straight forward. The negative aspects of switching to heating your water with electricity can be summed up in three segments. Firstly, it takes longer for the water to reheat in an electric tank, once emptied, than gas-fired units. This is normally solved by installing a larger sized tank, which prevents running out of hot water. Secondly, your electrical service must be large enough to accommodate adding the circuit breaker for the new unit. This should be no problem for a home of your age, but will add a cost for the technician or electrician to install the breaker and wiring. Finally, it currently is more costly to heat your water with electricity than with natural gas, which will depend on fluctuating utility rates.

The pros for switching to an electric model are more numerous, and in my opinion, outweigh the cons. No. 1, the current chimney will no long be needed and can be sealed top and bottom and largely forgotten. This will prevent repairs due to a damaged liner, leakage, or other maintenance issues. In some cases, the chimney may be completely removed and the roof patched and shingled over the old opening. This will provide one less item to maintain, and potentially save money in the long term. For sure, it will make the question of changing the liner a moot point.

The second benefit of installing an electric hot water tank is due to the longevity and lack of maintenance. These units are less costly to purchase and will have a longer life expectancy than the average gas-fired units, typically 25 to 50 per cent. Also, there is almost no maintenance or inspection required for the lifetime of most electric units, contrasting with gas heaters. Any gas-fired appliance is more likely to have a failure. This could be in the gas valve, supply piping, vent pipes, thermocouple, or other components related to the delivery and combustion of the fuel. Any problems with these issues can be a major life-safety hazard and will be an added cost to repair by a licensed gasfitter.

The last plus for electric water heater replacement may be more intangible, which is the environmental advantages. Heating your water with electricity, at least in most areas of our province, will have minimal carbon output compared to a gas-fired unit. Since the majority of our power comes from Hydro generating stations, the emission of greenhouse gas is almost nil. So, changing from natural gas to electric will be one small step in the goal of reaching a carbon-neutral future.

Changing your current natural gas-fired water heater to an electric unit, once it reaches the end of its serviceable life, has several benefits which are not all economic. Choosing an upgrade that lasts longer, requires less maintenance, and is more environmentally friendly, may outweigh the slightly higher overall costs.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)(cahpi.ca). Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at trainedeye.ca.

trainedeye@iname.com

Ari Marantz
March 19

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