handyman on call

Humidifier on new furnace is leaking water

Q. When I installed gas heat I included a humidifier on the hot air furnace. Now the unit leaks water on the basement floor. The installers adjusted filters or something without success. How can I stop the leaks?



A. Turn it off. These units have a drain that is supposed to drain condensate water, and often, it seems, they don’t work very well. I had one and it also leaked, so I shut it off. You can do the same. If you feel you really need humidity, install a console model on the first floor. Since humid air rises, the one console should work for both floors. They are easily adjusted and cleaned.


Q. I dropped a nice dessert dish into an equally nice coffee mug, and they stuck fast. I can wiggle them, but they won’t separate. Can I do something about it?

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A. Spray WD-40 where they touch. Still no luck? Put boiling water into a large, separate bowl. Put the coffee mug into the hot water, then put a bunch of crushed ice cubes in the dessert dish. The cold dish will shrink and the hot mug will expand, and, voila: Separation!

Q. My first-floor bathroom fan light works well enough when it’s on, but when it shuts off in winter, it creates a big back draft. How can I prevent that draft when it’s off?


TOM, Holliston


A. You mentioned that you put a lead fishing weight on the flapping lid of another fan. Do the same with your fan light. You will have to experiment to reach a point of opening for power and closing properly when closed.

Q. I’ve moved back into my childhood home. It has oil heat with baseboard radiators. I can remember my Dad “bleeding” the radiators when I was a kid. Is this something that needs to be done? If so, is there somewhere I can go to read about how it is done? Again, if so, how often should this be done?



A. Sounds similar to my childhood home in Michigan, but mine goes back maybe further than yours, and I never saw my father bleed the radiators, let alone show me how. It was a gravity system, and maybe that’s why. So call your oil dealer and ask him the same questions. He knows the answers.

Q. John Deegan wrote Dec. 8 regarding adding insulation to his attic. He wants to remove his old insulation and have “TAP insulation installed to a minimum of 14 inches to bring the attic to R-49. For an additional $600 he could have more insulation added to bring it to R-60.” You advised him to go ahead, as he has oil heat.


I simply do not understand the question or reply. What is TAP insulation? What does he mean by 14 inches, R-49, and R-60? I own an antique Colonial home. I have a large unfinished attic, and I also have oil heat and very high heating bills. I believe there is little or no insulation in my attic.

I had an energy audit two years ago. At the time, I was interested in learning where I could add insulation to reduce my heating bills. The man who performed the audit told me that my walls are not insulated, but he would not recommend adding insulation to the walls without first having an electrician replace the electrical wiring. He said nothing about insulating the attic.

Although I am not planning on replacing wiring or insulating my walls at this time, I would be interested in adding insulation to the attic if it would reduce my heating bills. What would you advise?



A. TAP insulation is just another insulation such as cellulose or fiberglass. Fourteen inches is simply the thickness of the insulation, and the R-49 and R-60 refer to how well the insulation resists the passage of heat from inside to outside.

The man was talking telephone numbers (how great I am!) to confuse you. His advice not to insulate until an electrician removed wiring was also talking telephone numbers because he neglected to say what kind of wiring. If it is BX (steel clad), or Romex (cloth or plastic clad), it is OK to insulate in the walls and attic floor. If it is knob and tube (cloth-covered wires exposed), you cannot put in the insulation. Since this man confused you, fire him and call Anderson Insulation in Abington, who will tell you in plain English what you can and cannot do. If he is too far away to help, he can find a competent insulator.

Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions. Call 617-929-2930 or e-mail He also chats online 2-3 p.m. Thursdays on