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"Pet door kits are secure, easy to install, save money"

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Dear Jim: We have several pets and they like to go outdoors into our fenced backyard. They drive me nuts running to the door and insects and hot, humid air come in. Would installing a pet door kit be secure and efficient? - Jeri W.

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A: Although a small pet door kit is not as efficient as an insulated wall, door or window, it is certainly much more efficient than holding a door open for your pets. In addition to saving energy, think of the time you waste standing at the door while your pets decide what to do.

Most pet doors have some type of lock for security. Also, they are too small, particularly cat doors, for a person to squeeze through. A small person might be able to get through a large dog door, but few people would try it. Would you want to crawl through a large dog door not knowing if there is a protective German shepherd or Doberman waiting to greet you?

You will also need to have security from wild animals coming indoors with your pets. I take care of some raccoons in my backyard and they would love to come into the sunroom at night with my cat. My cat has a tiny magnetic tag attached to his collar. The locked pet door senses the magnetic field when my cat approaches and the latch opens until he passes through it.

If there is an electric outlet near the location where you want to install a pet door, consider installing an electric one. This uses sophisticated electronic controls and a motor to open the door for your pet to pass through. The pet's collar has a built-in transmitter to trigger the latch.

There are pet door kits designed to fit virtually every type of wall, door, window, or screen. Most of them are simple to install and just require cutting a hole. Templates are included to make the proper size hole.

If you are not a do-it-yourselfer yet want an energy efficient pet door, thermal panels are available. These fit into an existing window or sliding glass door. They are made of double-pane insulated glass with a built-in pet door. You just close the window or door against them. They have latches so the window or door is securely locked when the panel is installed.

Screen-mounted pet doors are particularly easy to install and very effective. Place one of the two halves over the screen and use it as a template to cut the opening. Squeeze the two halves together over the opening so they snap together. Make sure the lock is on the indoor side.

Select the proper size door for the size and weight of your pet. A door that is too big costs more and wastes energy. For cats up to 15 pounds and dogs up to 7 pounds, a 35-sq. in. door is adequate. A 90-sq. in. door will handle dogs up to 40 pounds. If you have a cat and a large dog, install two doors.

Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 780 - buyer's guide of 10 automatic pet doors, features, pet opening areas (width x height), pet door materials, prices, door sizing/pet chart, illustrations of several different models, suggestions on what to look for in a sliding glass pet panel door, recommendations on installing a pet door in a screen and instructions for making a do-it-yourself insulated pet door.

Dear Jim: You have written about solar-powered electric products, but I have never seen one about water pumps. I am building a small pond in the backyard and want some circulation. Are there any solar pumps available? - Jan C.

A: There are larger solar-powered pumps for agriculture and commercial use, but they would be larger than what you need. You need just a slight amount of water circulation to inhibit mosquito breeding and other problems with still water.

You should be able to find a small low-voltage pump at electrical supply outlets. Many of the companies that sell solar attic fans will sell a solar panel which you can attach to the pump.

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