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"Durable insulating house, wall, roof paint improves comfort"

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Dear Jim: The walls in a few rooms and the exterior of my house need to be painted. I thought about using insulating paint on them to lower my utility bills and for comfort. Are these paints really effective? - Carlos J.

A: The special insulating paints really do work and when applied, they resemble any other house or interior wall paint. I rolled insulating paint on the walls in the game room in my house. I did not install temperature sensors, but the room does feel more comfortable year-round.

Most of the insulating paints include a ceramic material similar to the heat shield tiles on the space shuttle. After the recent Columbia disaster, most people are aware of the insulating and heat dissipation properties of ceramic material. With a layer of ceramic powder over your hand, you can point a propane torch flame on your hand and not be burned.

Another advantage of using ceramic insulating paint is the dried paint film on the walls is thicker than with standard non-ceramic paint. This tends to fill tiny cracks and imperfections in the wall surface similar to using a thick primer coat first. Filling all these spots can improve the appearance, reduce air leakage into your home and improve sound-deadening qualities.

Ceramic insulating paint is available in one- and five-gallons cans similar to standard paint. The super-fine ceramic powder is already mixed in. If you already have the paint or like a particular brand, you can purchase a 32-oz. bag of ceramic powder and mix it in a gallon of paint yourself.

Whether you buy premixed insulating paint or stir in ceramic powder yourself, the paint rolls or brushes on thicker, so you need a little more. With its insulation qualities and the longer life of the thicker coating, it may be less expensive in the long run.

The ceramic material in the paint lowers the emissivity of the wall surface similar to efficient low-e window glass. The heat from your body, instead of passing through the wall, radiates back off the walls to your skin. This makes it more comfortable to sit near an outdoor wall during the winter.

During the summer, the greatest benefit is gained from painting the exterior of your house. Although the paint looks normal and is not reflective to visible light, it is highly reflective to sun's intense heat. All of the manufacturers also offer special roof paint that can keep your house cooler. It can be painted over shingles and will increase their life.

Most of the ceramic paints use microscopically tiny hollow ceramic spheres. Some paints also include solid glass spheres or ceramic platelets. As the wet paint dries and shrinks, these form a continuous efficient ceramic layer.

Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 712 - buyer's guide of 11 insulating ceramic and low-emissivity wall, house and roof paint manufacturers listing particle types, coverages, colors, features/uses, warranties, prices, typical application instructions, cleaning and maintenance, painting tips and chart showing the temperature of coatings and other materials in sunlight.

Dear Jim: We just bought an older house with hardwood floors and apparently the previous owner had cats. The smell keeps coming back. I hesitate to make the home more airtight because of the smell. What can I do? - Kathy G.

A: A seller can make a home smell fresh enough to get it sold, but many of the pet odors will come back. First you will have to find the sources of the smell. Sometimes, a using a black light will indicates urine soaked areas.

There are many products on the market to treat the odor-causing spots. You may have to end up sealing and refinishing some of the floors. A heat recovery fresh air ventilation system will also help a lot.

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