Question: Is it worthwhile to add a dehumidifier to an existing heating system? If so, approximately how much would it cost? I have a gas-fired furnace and central air.

Answer: Our house in the winter is not damp but dry, and I shut down the basement dehumidifier from November to April because it is unnecessary and expensive to run, although I've never broken down the electric bill to determine costs.

Because the house is so dry, the gas furnace has a humidifier that adds moisture once the relative humidity falls below 30 percent (comfortable is considered in the 30 percent to 50 percent range).

By keeping the humidity above 30 percent, you can normally turn down your thermostat a few degrees. With higher humidity, your heated air will feel warmer.

Yet, I'll admit that adding a dehumidifier to the HVAC system as well is not a bad idea, because the more moisture you can remove from the air, the less clammy you feel.

There are other reasons - mold, mildew - for keeping the relative humidity in the target area. But comfort is probably the best one for your purposes.

The square footage of your house would determine the size, and thus the cost, of the dehumidifier. I've seen prices starting at $1,000 for the product, but installation would be extra, of course.

A professional would first determine whether your present HVAC system would accommodate a dehumidifier and size it properly. On-site inspection works every time.

Q: I recently moved into a condo that has large tiles on the backsplash wall in the kitchen. These tiles appear to be made of copper and are in need of a thorough cleaning to remove grease.

I do not want to take the chance of just using any cleaning product and ruining them.

Also the same kitchen has bird's-eye maple cabinets and I would appreciate a recommendation on the appropriate cleaning product for them.

A: I would think standard copper cleaner would work on the tiles. I'm told lacquered copper tiles don't need cleaning.

Regularly wipe down the cabinets with lemon oil.

Q: Almost 30 years ago, we installed Armstrong ceiling tiles in our bedroom. They're the kind that are glued directly to the ceiling, not hanging on grids.

Although they've held up remarkably well, over the years we've noticed that they drop a lot of tiny particles, causing quite a vicious dust problem.

Armstrong's advice was to vacuum the ceiling. It covers an area of 14 feet by 20 feet, and is 81/2 feet up, so trying to vacuum that would be difficult, to say the least.

We had asked if there was some substance with which we could seal the tiles, but Armstrong said just vacuum them.

We're willing to give that a try, but would like to avoid ever having to do it again. Any advice, or suggestions, would be much appreciated.

A: Ceilings get dirty and dusty, whether they are plaster, drywall, metal or Armstrong tiles.

As much of a stretch as it is for you and your vacuum cleaner, whatever the manufacturer suggests for cleaning the tiles, one follows it.

Painting or coating the tile might create residue that is even more unpleasant than dust.

Q: My sister has a full bathroom that is quite small. The baseboard radiator is situated behind and alongside the toilet. The radiator keeps developing rust on it. Her husband sanded and painted it with Rust-Oleum paint but it kept returning. They eventually had it replaced with a new one. It is starting to rust again. A friend recommended painting it with automobile paint.

A: The experts, and my experience, say that condensation forms on the metal surface and rust appears.

It is a constant job, not a one-time thing. You simply need to keep after it, as you must do with most things.

Questions? E-mail Alan J. Heavens at or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.