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Robert Lamoureux: Speed bumps slow emergency response

Your Home Improvements

Posted: January 21, 2011 10:23 p.m.
Updated: January 22, 2011 4:30 a.m.
 

Hi Robert,
I’m the president of a fairly large homeowners association community in Santa Clarita. We’ve noticed lately there are people who are always racing through our community, so we have decided to put in speed bumps. Are there any regulations we should know?
Reg H.


Hi Reg,

There are regulations for height and width. It varies depending on which types of speed bumps you install. Many boards contact their local asphalt company to learn what kind of speed bumps they are allowed to install, but this information sometimes conflicts with the Fire Department.

I would recommend instead taking a footprint of your property and sketching in the areas where you want the speed bumps located.

Take this to the county Fire Department office, within the Department of Building and Safety. Your map will be reviewed and the necessary adjustments made.

Every speed bump you put in slows down an emergency vehicle.  

Also, be sure to install the proper signage. The presence of speed bumps need to be posted at every entrance of the community. 

Hello Robert,
As an aging hippie, I am anxious to save the world! Has rooftop solar electric collection technology reached the point of efficiency where it might pay for itself in a few years?

And is it reliable enough that service calls are not needed on a regular basis — say, every other month or so?

 If so, is there any particular format you can recommend? Do you know of any companies that are straightforward, reliable and responsive to the consumer?

For 20 years we had a huge, clunky solar collector that heated our water. It was somewhat fidgety, requiring frequent visits to the roof that my husband no longer performs.

However, we loved it, and we have what I believe is the ideal roof for such a set-up. Our house is two stories high, and the roof is straight up-and-down, with the two sides facing almost directly east and west.
Carol M.


Hi Carol,
The Department of Energy just announced another $50 million to support innovative solar technologies. This is in addition to $18 billion allocated last month to wind and solar projects. 

There is no doubt we are moving forward fast with alternative energy options which will only make solar more and more cost-efficient in the future.

Currently, however, there is a lot of conflicting information on how efficient it actually is.

The average home uses 1 kilowatt of electricity per hour. At today’s standards, solar panels generate about 10 watts per square foot. So you would need 100 square-feet of solar panels to produce 1 kilowatt of electricity.

That’s plenty if the sun was out 24 hours a day, but California has only about five or six hours of daily usable sunshine on average.

This means you would need to install 400 to 500 square-feet of panels for average home use. 
Since solar panels cost approximately $8 per watt installed, a 5 kilowatt array would cost $40,000 — less rebates and incentives.

At those figures, if you are currently spending .12 per kilowatt hour with the electric company, it would take almost 40 years to pay off the system.

Although it may take a long time to recover your investment, solar is a clean, renewable energy source that is better for the environment, which should make any hippie happy.

Robert,
We are interested in adding an elevated deck to our home to be accessible through a rear patio door.  As it is now, you have to go down two steps to get into our backyard. I’d rather not make any improvements, unless it makes financial sense. Do you think adding a deck will raise the value of our home? Thank you,
Charles B.


Hi Charles,
No, it would not raise the value of the home in those terms, but you can count on recouping about 60 percent to 70 percent of the costs involved with the installation. 

This applies to swimming pools as well. It makes it easier to sell if someone is looking for a pool, but it’s an amenity a person does not have to purchase.

You, as the installer, are paying for the costs. 

You do get added value back from the enjoyment a pool or deck may bring. That’s what life is about. It’s OK to do things without weighing in the possible return on the dollar. 
So if it’s something you want and you’re going to stay there for a while, enjoy your money. Don’t just hang onto it.      

Robert,
Can you shed some light on attic ventilation? I’d like information on a radiant barrier, gable fans and roof fans. Cost, installation and noise, too. Thank you.
Ricardo F.

Hi Ricardo,
Radiant barriers are reflective materials installed in the attic to help prevent absorption of radiant heat from the sun.
Such materials lower your cooling costs somewhere between 5 percent and 10 percent. These materials also are commonly installed around water heaters and pipes.

There are several materials and different methods of installation.

For example, you can use a double-faced foil-type barrier. Let it sag between connection points to leave a 1-inch space between the sheets mounted to the bottom of the roof and the rafters. This way, you have face up and face down reflectivity.

Depending on budget, there is also foil-covered plywood available and metal shingles with a reflective underside.
Roof fans — or whirly birds — are roof-mounted. As long as the bearings are in good shape, they are completely noiseless. The radiant heat escaping out of the attic drives the fan which in turn pulls out more hot air.

They are not aesthetically pleasing, so you want to keep them at the back of the house. 

Gable fans, on the other hand, run on a motor so permits are required to run wiring for the installation. They are thermostatically controlled, as a rule.

Some folks like to have them switch-operated but I prefer a thermostat for automatic operation.

They do produce a bit of a vibration and they expend some energy, because of the electric motor, but they move hot air out of the attic.

In addition to whatever attic fan you decide to install, insulation is the most critical component.

Also, if you have any gaps around the windows or doors, get them sealed. 
We have designed a custom, full-color The Signal/Your Home Improvements T-shirt we will give you if we answer your question. The T-shirt is available to be picked up at our office.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contacting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to Robert@IMSConstruction.com.

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