Q. One area of our house that doesn't get used much during these cold months is the screened-in patio. I've seen those large propane heaters in restaurant patios and thought something like that might work well for our house. Is that a good idea, or are there other types of heaters for patios that will work better?
G. H., Placentia
A. Those types of radiant propane heaters are excellent for patio use, says Mary Ann Rienzo of Fireplace and Patio Trends in Orange. Radiant heat warms up objects and your skin, but not the air around the patio.
An electric heater will warm the air, but because the screened-in patio is basically outdoors, the air is constantly moving, which makes the heater ineffective. Large radiant heaters start around $750. If you plan to use your patio quite a bit, it might be worth the investment.
Because these units get very hot, there are regulations that require you to have a certain amount of clearance between the unit and the patio roof. Check with the dealer to see if the heater you're buying is right for your patio.
Q. I use bags of cedar chips in my clothing closets to keep out moths and improve the scent in the closet. However, these chips don't seem to last long. I've heard about people lining their closet walls with cedar, but is this really the best way to "cedarize" your clothes?
L. L., Huntington Beach
A. Lining a closet with cedar is effective, although keep in mind that cedar does seem to lose its scent over time, says Frank Eckert of Arrow True Value Hardware in Orange. Sometimes you can bring back the scent by lightly sandpapering the wood.
Using cedar panels throughout a closet can be expensive. You could try lining just one or two walls, or get a cedar veneer, which is 3 to 4 inches wide and about one-eighth-inch thick. You apply it with a mastic or a double-sided tape, and it's thin enough to cut with a utility knife.
Q. We have an electrical outlet in our living room in which we've had to plug in an extension to allow us to use a stereo, TV, VCR and computer. Although the extension is UL approved, we're worried about the potential for fire. How many appliances can be plugged safely into an outlet?
B. K., Irvine
A. It's always best to err on the side of caution, says contractor Will Stevens of Lake Forest. That means not putting more than two appliances on an outlet. Of course, if your circuit breakers are in good shape, they'll tell you if you're drawing too much power from an outlet by shutting it off.
But overall, it's best not to make your outlet look like an octopus with lots of wires coming out of it. Have an electrician add another circuit if you need it.
Q. I have an old-fashioned rolling canvas shade in one of my bedrooms, and there's a 2-inch tear in the middle of it. I've tried taping the back of it, but that kind of patch doesn't look nice. Are there any other solutions?
N. E., Anaheim
A. You can try sewing it, but unfortunately, you're probably always going to see where the tear is, says shade installer Dave Whigby of Costa Mesa.
It's most visible when sun is coming through the window and you can see all the flaws in the fabric. Probably the best solution would be to try another taping job. Use 2-inch-wide clear tape and try to cut a piece that will just cover the damaged area. The result won't look perfect, but it will look better than a torn shade.
Q. In our living room we have a cathedral ceiling with a large glass window, about 5 feet by 4 feet, that starts from the ceiling and drops down. In one corner is a 1-foot crack that isn't very visible. Do I have to replace the glass?
S. E., Westminster
A. It sounds as though the window is away from a door, which would mean it's probably not tempered glass and it probably should be replaced, says Katy Jackson of Maley's Glass in Anaheim.
Cracks tend to expand with the heating and cooling of the house, which makes the glass less stable. You're better off protecting yourself and your family by replacing it.