Q. My house still has several older single-pane windows. They are equipped with older aluminum storm windows. I would rather not spend a lot of money for replacement windows. Are storm windows adequate and can they be improved to make them more energy efficient?
A. Storm windows are an excellent, lower-cost alternative to replacement windows, but they won’t match the energy efficiency, convenience or appearance of high-quality replacement windows.
Storm windows and storm doors are listed among the energy improvements eligible for federal tax credits, but you might have a hard time finding storm windows that meet the tough standards required for that. A note posted on the government’ s Energy Star Web site ( www.energystar.gov) in May said there are no eligible storm windows or doors because there is no program to certify them.
Even without federal tax credits, though, and assuming interior (prime) windows are in good condition, a big chunk of money can be saved by choosing storm windows. If they are of good quality and are properly installed, they will definitely improve the comfort and energy efficiency of the windows involved.
You can probably improve the effectiveness of your old storms by making sure they are well caulked around their perimeters. The tiny “weep holes” at the bottoms must be left open to allow condensed moisture to escape.
If the storm-equipped windows are drafty even after caulking, consider new, top-quality windows with tight weather-stripping. Weather-stripping should also help tighten up the interior windows.
Q. I had several large trees removed from my property and had the stumps cut close to the ground but not removed. The contractor wanted more money than I wanted to pay to remove them. Can I do it myself?
A. There are some money-saving options. One is to rent a stump grinder from a tool-rental agency and grind the stumps to about 6 inches below the ground level. This is similar to what the contractor would have done. Once the stumps are ground down, clean out the chips and fill the cavities with soil.
However, stump grinders are big tools and they are hard to handle. You’ll need a strong back and arms, and you should get some operational tips for the grinder from the dealer.
Another option is to use chemical stump remover. The chemicals are sold at some garden-supply stores or can be bought on the Internet.
Follow directions for the specific remover, but the usual method is to drill a series of 1-inch holes deep into the stump, add some chemical and fill the holes with water. In about two months, the stumps should become soft enough to break up rather easily.
During the process, cover the stumps with plastic sheets to protect children and pets. Chemical removers work best on stumps that are at least a year old.
Still another option, if the stumps are cut smooth and level, is to leave them in place and place planters, birdbaths or decorative objects on them. Eventually, the stumps will rot enough to be broken into pieces and removed.
Q. What is the best way to lubricate door locks? Mine are sticky and hard to open and lock.
A. Many experts recommend powdered graphite for lubrication. It is sold in small squeeze bottles that let you inject graphite into the keyholes. Also spray some on the keys and work them back and forth in the locks until they open and lock freely.
If you have balky padlocks, spray some graphite into the holes in the body of the locks as well as the keyholes and open and close them several times.
I have also used WD-40 and silicone spray lubricants to make balky locks work better, using the tiny tubes furnished with the spray cans to inject the lubricants. Some people say these lubricants pick up dust, but I haven’t had any problems.