Q My sump pump is 11 years old and still works well, but I'm told that many sump pumps give out long before 11 years. I don't want to see my basement flooded, but I'm reluctant to buy a new pump that might not work as well as the old one. What do you think? -- J. Jensen
A I think you have two problems: An aging sump pump and what sounds like the lack of a backup power supply. As I'm sure you know, many storms are accompanied by power failures, and even the best electrically powered pump is useless unless there is backup power.
If you want to keep the old pump, you should check it regularly to make sure it is working properly. You can do this by running some water into the sump from a hose. The pump should start running when there is enough water in the sump to activate the switch. Make sure that the pump is pumping water to the outside. Keep the sump and the pump's inlet screen free of debris.
For safety, you should consider installing a battery-operated backup pump. This would not only help protect against flooding if there is a power failure, but also provide a backup if the main pump fails.
Most back-up pumps use a high-quality, 12-volt marine battery. Several brands of pumps are available, with prices starting at $150, excluding the battery. Some backup pumps can pump more than 1,000 gallons of water per hour. Some have built-in chargers to keep the battery fresh and start automatically if the main pump fails. Sources on the Web include www.northerntool.com (go to the site and type "backup sump pump" in the search space) and www.sears.com (select "lawn and garden" and type "backup sump pump" in the search space).
We have sliding glass doors in our family room that get a lot of sun, which heats the room to the point where we must keep blinds drawn much of the time. Is there another way to solve this problem that would let us keep the blinds open? -- Mariners
Plastic films are available that can significantly reduce heat gain through windows and glass doors. An example is Gila's Heat Control Platinum, which Gila contends will reflect up to 70 percent of summer heat. This film has a silvery tint but permits some visibility.
Gila also claims that the film also screens out up to 99 percent of ultraviolet rays, which can cause fading of carpets and other surfaces inside the house. It also says that during the heating season, the film reflects "up to 55 percent" of heat back into the room. The films come in rolls up to four feet wide and are simple to install. A solution of distilled water and baby shampoo is sprayed on the surface and the film applied with a squeegee. For more information, including installation instructions, check the Web site www.gilafilms.com or call 800-528-4481.
I live in a condominium and recently had my kitchen and bath redone with new plumbing. Now when I turn on the water in the tub, the first burst of water is a bright orange. The water quickly clears up, but I'm wondering what is going on. No one else in the building has this problem. Can you help? -- D. Reiss
I think that the plumbing installation stirred up some rust in the pipes to your tub, and the rust is coloring the water. My guess is that all the rust will eventually be flushed out and you will get clear water from the start. But if the problem continues more than a few weeks, you should discuss it with the person who installed the plumbing.
Several older sliding glass doors in our house don't slide so well anymore. How can we fix them? -- P. DiFalco
Try lubricating the tracks and rollers with a silicone spray lubricant, sold at most home centers and hardware stores. If that doesn't make the door slide better, the problem is probably worn or defective rollers. Rollers can be replaced, but there are many different types and you will need an exact match for the old rollers.
One source of rollers and other sliding door parts is www.swisco.com. Go to the Web site and type "sliding glass door parts" in the search space. You will get a list of links that includes a link to an illustrated list of rollers. The illustrations will help you match your rollers.
Questions and comments should be sent to Gene Austin, 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, Pa. 19422. Send e-mail to email@example.com.