Q: I need help settling a longtime disagreement that my father and I have. My parents own a second home on Puget Sound that gets used about...

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Q:
I need help settling a longtime disagreement that my father and I have. My parents own a second home on Puget Sound that gets used about five to seven days a month by our family, and more frequently in the summer.

The house was built four years ago. Every time my dad leaves the house he turns off the thermostat for the house and the hot-water tank by throwing the switches in the circuit-breaker box.

He says this will save him money and conserve energy as the hot water will not have to be kept warm and the heat for the house won’t have to be on.

I have argued with him that it probably takes more energy (and money) to reheat all that water in the tank every week or two, and my concern with the thermostat is that he is contributing to potential moisture and mold problems.

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He says that there are no signs of mold in the house; I tell him that harmful molds can start inside the walls and he would never know it.

Who is right? I’ll stop nagging him if there is some advantage to being this “thrifty,” but I worry about the long-term effects on this lovely home.

I am also one of those people who insist on guests removing their shoes in my house. I feel it cuts down on the dirt and germs being brought into my home.

Is there any research to show that “no shoe” houses are more sanitary houses? This is another bone of contention between my father and me when he comes to visit at my house.

A:
Turning off the water heater will always save money, even for a short amount of time.

This is the premise behind the efficiency of an on-demand water heater (that we have so few of in this country). Dad could even buy a timer that will shut down the electric water heater overnight and fire it back up before his morning shower. Score: Dad 1, Daughter Zip.

Turning the thermostat down is a good idea for saving money. But I wouldn’t turn it down much below 55 degrees.

Molds you may have seen on TV that start inside the wall, grow tentacles and eventually eat your children and kill the neighbors are rare and are generally from construction errors such as window, roof or siding leaks — no amount of heat is going to stop that.

Lack of heat for weeks at a time in an otherwise watertight house may in some cases lead to topical mold, and swelling/shrinking of moisture- and heat-sensitive materials, such as books and wood trim and drywall.

The healthiest houses are heated 24/7, leak air like crazy through every gap, and have zero insulation. Moisture will find no quarter in that home. But that building isn’t comfortable or practical.

Score now tied: Dad 1, Daughter 1.

EPA did a study years ago measuring the amount of lead dust inside houses. The study found homes (with a doormat) where shoes were not worn had 60 percent less lead dust, allergens, bacteria and other contaminants compared to those homes where shoes were always on.

A 3M study found that most dirt that enters a house comes in on feet, from both humans and pets, and that 42 percent of the floor finish that is removed as a result is attributable to those darned shoes.

Carpet wears a lot better without shoes also. Of course on the flip side we all have been to that house with a shoes-off policy where your socks come out dirtier than they went in.

And from personal experience, I need something to keep my feet warm (only wishing I had radiant floor heat).

Between the two of you I would walk into that freezing cold house as a guest with no shoes on, listen to you sniping at each other, and not even have a place to wash my hands for 20 minutes.

Final Score: Daughter 2, Dad 1.

Good comeback.

Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. He answers reader questions. Call 206-464-8514 to record your question, or e-mail dhay@seattletimes.com. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.