Q. We received an antique sundial as a gift. We put it in our back yard, but we'd like to know how to make it "work."
A. "The tall end of the needle must be pointed exactly to the magnetic North Pole," says Ken Butterfield of Fountainland in Santa Ana. "Borrow a good compass, check the reading and turn it to the correct direction."
Q. When the weather is a little cool at night, the inside of our spare bedroom's window tends to cloud up with condensation. What's causing this and how can it be prevented?
A. "There could be too much moisture inside your house," says Scott Driggers of ABC Lumber in Costa Mesa. "If the bedroom is next to a bathroom, you might see if the condensation occurs when the shower or the hot water's running, and if so, you may need to open the bathroom window a little or run the ventilation fan to get rid of the steam. Otherwise, if that's not the cause, the window may not have a tight seal around it and you'll have to check that."
Q. Our house was painted two years ago, but there's a film of dirt and dust in the sills and on the stucco and the eaves. I'd like to give it a good cleaning. Will getting the dirt off extend the life of the paint job?
A. "Not really, but it will make the house look nicer," says Duane Howard of Vista Paint in Costa Mesa. "Rarely do people wash the exterior of their houses unless they're preparing it for painting, and you see a lot of homes that need it. To do it right, get some 5-gallon buckets and sponges, and use a solution of TSP and water. After washing with the sponges, hose it down."
Q. I have an old home with an attic that contains a forced air gas furnace. There's an old window near the furnace, and I'm tempted to buy a high-powered window air conditioner for that space, connect the unit to the furnace ducts and create central air-conditioning. Is there a chance it can work?
A. "Not a chance," says Stan Bailor of Dicksons Air Conditioning in Santa Ana. "For one thing, a window unit is just designed to cool a room, so it's not going to have a lot of power, and for another, it's constantly circulating air for the room so it's not built for ducting. You need a central air-conditioning system if you want to cover the whole house."
Q. We've developed a rather sudden problem with our 10-year-old condominium's electrical system. For some reason, in nearly every circuit, our light bulbs last no longer than three weeks. Is there a way to check this problem?
A. "You should start out with the most obvious possibility first," says Ed Steenberger of Martenet Hardware in Santa Ana. "And that would be cheap bulbs. Oftentimes people will get cheap light bulbs and they'll wonder why they're having to buy bulbs all of the time. Change to a better, brand-name bulb. If it's still happening, the problem could be in the wattage for the house. In that case, if you don't have the expertise, you're better off calling in an electrician."