Question: To decrease our water use, we have thought of putting in a recirculating pump on our water heater, since the heater is in the garage and some taps are more than 100 feet away. Is it worth the investment?
J.W., Lake Forest
Answer: "Recirculating pumps are excellent in those situations, and we've sold a number of them," says Rod Albright of Albright Plumbing & Heating Supply in Los Alamitos. "They're electrically operated, and they recirculate hot water through the lines, which means that when you want hot water from a tap, you don't have to waste water by letting it run until it's hot.
"You normally tap into the line at the fixture that's farthest from the water heater, then run a return line back to the water heater. This is where most of the expense and work comes in. Depending on how far the water heater is and what has to be done to complete that connection, the job could be simple or very difficult. If there's access to the attic, it might be easy to run the line through there.
"You also need an electrical outlet near the water heater that you can run the pump on. If there are periods when the house is empty, you might consider adding a timer or an aquastat to save electricity. The timer operates the pump only during the hours when you're home, and the aquastat turns the pump on only when the water temperature falls to a certain level.
"Figure on spending about $150 for a pump and another $75 for an aquastat, plus the labor for installation if you don't want to do it.
"A reasonable alternative to a pump is an instant heater that attaches to the line at the tap. They cost about the same as a pump, but they're easy to install and may be a better choice if you're looking at a big job to install the pump."
Q: What causes and cures the white "frosting" stains on the concrete floor in our garage?
M.D., Los Alamitos
A: "When water gets on the concrete, it sometimes leaves an alkali residue after it dries," says Dan Buen of Harden's Building Supply in Fullerton. "We see that on concrete as well as bricks, where the stains are more noticeable. People think that they can just hose it off, but after the water dries, the stains are still there.
"Try taking a stiff brush and, without using water, brush it off. That combined with normal weathering should remove them."
Q: I have a neutral-colored flagstone fireplace that has been stained with paint or whitewash. I've tried getting it off with turpentine, stripper and scrubbing, but nothing seems to work. Any advice?
M.J., Trabuco Canyon
A: "With a gritty, rocky surface, you may need to wire-brush it off along with a paint remover," says Dean Arbaugh of Standard Brands in Cypress. "That will get into the pits where the paint is coming in contact with the rock. Paint remover will generally take off both oil and water-based paints, but if it's just a minor spill and the paint is water-based, you might try one of the removers made specifically for water-based paint."
Q: We recently bought a house with a Bermuda lawn. I've had a terrible time trying to edge it with a push edger. Am I doing something wrong or should I invest in a power edger?
K.L., Costa Mesa
A: "Unless you've got a tiny yard, you shouldn't be using a push edger," says gardener Mark Tonian of Placentia. "You'll just be wasting a lot of energy since they're hard to push through a tough grass like Bermuda. You don't have to get a gas-powered edger; look into the electric type trimmers that work well and are inexpensive."