Q. It's been recommended that we get something called a "magnetic ionizer" for our swimming pool, since that's supposed to reduce the calcium deposits on the pool tile. Will this help?
A. It can help, but it may depend on how much of a problem these deposits are for you, says Ken Clack of Orange Park Pool Supply in Orange. These units fit over the pipes where the pump and heater are, and, using magnetism, they reverse the polarity of the water, thereby keeping minerals like calcium from sticking to pool surfaces.
However, the problem is that the water in Southern California is so loaded with minerals that you may not notice much of a difference in the deposits.
Q. I have a Valencia orange tree that has produced beautiful fruit for 25 years, but this year the fruit is splitting and rotting on the stem. I've heard of others having the same problem, but no one knows the cause. Any ideas?
A. Don't feel like you've been singled out; virtually anyone with a citrus tree has seen this happen recently, says Dennis Huddleston of Loma Vista Nursery in Fullerton. It's believed to be caused by the odd weather pattern this fall and winter, with lots of warm weather combined with cold nights. Your best defense may be to just keep on eye on the tree and pick the fruit as soon as it's ready.
Q. We have two bedrooms that are basically unused. I'd like to put cardboard in front of the furnace grates in those rooms to prevent wasting heat, but can doing that hurt the furnace?
A. You won't hurt the furnace, and you may notice that it isn't running as frequently, says Ron Albright of Albright Plumbing & Heating Supply in Los Alamitos. Most grates also have louvers that can be opened and closed, so you could try closing the vent.
Using cardboard will probably do a better job of sealing. You'll notice that the force of air is greater in other rooms after closing the vents in the other rooms, which will heat the house faster.
Q. I've tried to close the fireplace flue to keep cold night air from getting into the house, but when I pull the lever back, it pops back into the open position when I let go. How do I keep it in the closed position?
San Juan Capistrano
A. If it's a prefabricated fireplace, the flue valve may have a spring that makes it easier to operate, says George Moelter of Anaheim Patio & Fireside in Brea. Over time, the metal can become warped due to the heat and you may have a problem trying to keep it closed.
As an alternative, you can get a glass door kit to close off the opening of the fireplace, or there is a damper that can be put on top of the chimney with a wire that goes down to the fireplace.
Q. We need a new kitchen sink, and I'm confused about the choices. I don't know whether to go with stainless steel, cast iron or pressed steel. We're not sure how long we're going to be living here, so I don't know that durability is an issue. I just want it to look nice. Which of these sinks would suit my needs?
A. There are varying qualities of all three of these types of sinks, so before you make a decision you need to find out about their warranties, says plumber Jack Ingram of Santa Ana.
Cast iron and stainless steel are the best sinks in terms of durability, and because they last so long, they usually keep their appearance longer. People who do lots of cooking often choose stainless because it's easier to care for, but others like the look of a cast iron sink.
Pressed steel looks like cast iron, but its enamel coating is very thin, and it will tend to chip and scratch easily. The best advice is probably to get the best sink you can afford, since even if you plan to move soon, a nice sink can help make the kitchen look attractive to a potential buyer.
If you have a question about your home or garden, A Helping Hand will help you find the answer. Send questions to: John Morell, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626.