Helpful hints from professionals among our readers are a blessing.

For a reader with a wood stove whose heat vents smell of smoke when the stove isn't in operation, Glen J. Fisher of National Property Inspections of Southern New Jersey has this observation:

Even if the wood stove and chimney are spotless, the odor of burnt wood and smoke will be present inside the chimney flue, the smoke pipe and the wood stove, Fisher said.

When the heating mode of the heat pump and/or air conditioning is in operation, either one will often create a negative pressure condition inside the home. When the bedroom door is closed, there is less available air to feed the returns, which will increase the negative pressure.

As a result, the returns can simulate a vacuum and draw air down the chimney flue, smoke pipe, and through the wood stove and then be redistributed from the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning supply ducts to the living areas.

Fisher says that when the wood stove is not in use, the doors and air vents on the wood stove must be kept tightly closed. Second, the wood stove doors should be checked to determine if the gaskets or seals are in good condition or warrant replacement. Third, the wood stove smoke pipe should be checked for any joints that should be sealed or repaired.

Make sure that the bedroom door has at least a one-inch gap at the bottom when closed to allow sufficient air movement.

As a last resort, if the above are all addressed and there is not adequate improvement, a return duct can be installed in the bedroom that connects to the return duct in the hallway.

Excellent advice.

Our second professional is Philadelphia master plumber Joseph P. Farley, who weighs in on a problem from a reader who, owing to the fluctuation in water temperature, cannot shower when the dishwasher is on, for example, or even when someone else is showering.

Farley says that all that is needed is a pressure- balanced faucet.

Moen makes one called "Posi temp," which has a balancing spool in it. If you are showering and someone opens another tap the spool will shift and balance the pressure so you will not get scalded or chilled.

It comes only with single lever faucets so if the reader has an old two- or three-handle tub and shower valve and wants to keep it, the problem can still be solved by installing a pressure-balanced device on the hot and cold water lines that feed that old faucet.

Nowadays, the plumbing code actually requires all new installations to have a pressure-balanced valve. Temperature-control valves also are made, and will maintain a balanced temperature, but they cost a lot more.

The pressure-balanced Moen Posi Temp and the Moen Flow control (the volume can be adjusted) will work just fine to correct the problem these people are having.

More splendid advice.

Color trends. 2011 color trends, courtesy of Debbie Zimmer at the Paint Quality Institute:

Homeowners seeking comfortable and serene spaces will gravitate toward a range of casual neutral and pastel hues to create warm and inviting spaces.

Neutrals provide versatility and allow homeowners to quickly change the look of a room just by adding a few new accessories, without spending time and money to remodel or repaint again.

Warm whites, tawny tans, "barely there" coral, and green are some of the colors that will find their way into countless kitchens, bedrooms, and baths.

Like a pair of favorite jeans, blue will grow in popularity as not just a wall color, but also as a ceiling choice.

Since most blues tend to be calming, this hue helps to create a perfect retreat from many of life's stresses.

As a secondary or complementary hue, yellow or yellow-green adds a bit of "spunk" when used in family spaces.

For thrifty consumers looking for a bit of sparkle, higher paint sheens and metallic finishes are on the radar for 2011.