Q: I heard something about self-cleaning windows from a buddy of mine, but thought he was pulling my leg. Can you help me out here? A: Actually, there is...

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I heard something about self-cleaning windows from a buddy of mine, but thought he was pulling my leg. Can you help me out here?


Actually, there is one product: PPG’s SunClean glass is supposed to be self-cleaning. The glass has a baked-on coating that absorbs UV rays and decomposes organic matter on the exterior of the glass. Water sheets up over the glass, carrying away dirt, and the glass dries with minimal spotting or streaking. This works great for those high, hard-to-clean external windows. Internal windows still need to be cleaned conventionally, however.


I own a house that’s about 50 years old. I’ve been living here for about five years. It has steel pipes. I plan to remodel both bathrooms and wonder what, if anything, I should do about the plumbing. The pipes in the bathroom have rust on the inside. You can tell from the yellow stains on the sinks and bathtub. I don’t know when they were last replaced. Should I consider changing over to copper pipes? Do I have to change all the pipes in the house to copper?


Don’t “consider” changing the pipes to copper, do it. Remodeling is the best time because you will have access to the insides of the walls. It is cheap and easy this way. If the water flow is acceptable in the rest of the house and the pipes have minimal rusting at the joints, there is no good reason to upgrade any of the older plumbing there.


Last summer I flushed out our gas water heater for the first time, according to instructions provided by the installer. It is probably seven or eight years old. Ever since, we have had white particles collect in faucet screens, restricting water flow. We also have extremely low hot-water pressure. Can you help?


The white chips are from the dip tube in your water heater. Your tank must be a bit older than seven or eight years. All water heaters (except Sears) built between 1993 and 1996 had defective dip tubes from a common supplier.

The chips are not toxic, but quickly clog faucet aerators, valves, washing-machine screens, dishwasher solenoids and everything else in the system.

You need a new water heater. With a failed or failing dip tube and continued use of that tank, your available hot water will decline because cold water will mix with hot inside the tank. Replacement dip tubes are available, but a tank that age is not worth repairing.

After the new unit is installed, you need to clean all your screens, particularly the dishwasher. The shower likely will require a cleaning and back-flush at the mixing valve to free the particles that are reducing flow.


I am considering installing a gas fireplace for heat in my small basement. I understand there is a vent-free type. What do you think of this? Could it be used without electricity?


Ventless gas fireplaces have a sensor that will automatically shut off the gas valve if oxygen levels get too low in the room. They are efficient because none of the energy goes up the chimney.

The problem is that the exhaust contains large amounts of moisture that must be dealt with. If you run a ventless fireplace for an extended period, the windows will fog, and condensation will form in hidden areas. You likely will end up battling moisture issues that will be worse if the home is newer or if the fireplace is in the basement.

I would own a ventless unit only if I could ensure that it would run for no more than a few minutes at a time and I could vent the room with a door or window.

Almost all gas fireplaces, including electronic ignition types, can start and run without power.

Trex decking settlement

A settlement has been reached in the Trex decking class-action lawsuit. Trex and Exxon/Mobil have not admitted fault but have agreed to alter advertising claims and replace deteriorated or swollen composite decking material bought between 1992 and 2004. More information is available online at www.trex.com/legal/classaction.asp or by writing to Trex Decking Settlement Administrator, P.O. Box 4349, Portland, OR 97208-4349.

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.