Q: I have a heat pump, and when I set the thermostat, warm air flows out, then the air turns cold and has a moldy odor. When I turn the thermostat off, this cold air flow continues for one to five minutes. A repairman replaced the relay switch on the fan, and it worked perfectly for two days before doing the same thing. Could this be a short-circuit problem?
K.S. Irvine A: Because of that musty smell, you have to be suspicious of water getting into the system, says Ted Blanke of Central Plumbing & Heating in La Habra. Water or moisture could be getting into the ducting, and the smell may be developing from that. As for the air running after it's been turned off, typically that's controlled by the fan control switch or the relay switch you had replaced. You may want to have the technician who replaced it return, because there should be some warranty on the part and the labor involved.
Q: My son is living in an old cottage near the beach, and mildew is taking over the place. It's all over the carpet and walls. Will a mildewcide wash and a new coat of paint take care of the problem?
R.P. Irvine A: People who live near the ocean know that mildew can be a problem, says Joe Ragsdale of Color Center in La Mirada. The excess moisture in the air combined with inadequate ventilation can lead to mildew in areas such as closets and bathrooms. When you begin to get mildew in areas such as your carpeting, you need to be suspicious of a leaking water pipe. Naturally occurring mildew you might find around doors or windows because of poor weatherstripping or insulation is easy to remedy. But if the floor is getting moisture, you need to track down where it's coming from.
Q: My one-piece vinyl floor is coming loose at one of the seams and rising up. What's involved in resealing it?
J.P. Fountain Valley A: There are seam adhesives for vinyl floors, says floor installer Mark Sharp of Huntington Beach. But each manufacturer makes its own adhesive, and you're best off using the kind made for your floor. Over time, seams tend to separate, especially if they're in a high traffic area. Pull up the loose vinyl at the seam and scrape away any old mastic that's sticking up. Apply the adhesive according to the instructions and push the vinyl into place. Put some heavy books or furniture directly over the spot until it dries.
Q: A wall heater was removed from our bathroom by the previous owners, and they plastered over the space. It looks very unbecoming. What can be done to disguise it? The tiles around it are very old and exact replacements can no longer be found.
M.L.H. Los Angeles A: If you're not up to replacing all of the tiles, find some tiles in a coordinating color, suggests tile installer Keith Martinez of Dana Point. Use the space to make some kind of design or have someone paint a design on blank tiles that cover the space. You could also try to find a new wall heater that fits the space. With luck you'll probably find that the wiring is still in place behind the patch.
Q: We recently bought a home with small hearth around the fireplace. I'm concerned about cleaning out the fireplace, because we have new white carpeting that butts up against the hearth. What's the most efficient way of cleaning a fireplace?
C.S. Garden Grove A: Get a bucket with a lid, a dustpan and a brush, says George Moelter of Anaheim Patio & Fireside in Brea. Spread a bunch of newspaper around the hearth and on the carpeting. Clean up slowly--if you try to rush, you may end up getting ashes all over. For the area around the hearth, you can also get a rug that helps protect against ashes as well as sparks. If you want to eliminate the problem, get gas logs.