Q: I am trying to fix on old (1940s) electric wall heater in the bathroom of my house. All the wiring looked intact when I took the cover off, and the heating element is not broken. How can I tell if the switch is the broken part, or if the wires are not carrying any power? The wiring runs from the wall to the switch to one side of the heating element. The wire coming off the other side of the heating element is not attached to anything. Is this correct? Kira, Richmond, California

A: Steve Thomas replies: The only reason I would try to fix a 1940s wall heater is to make it work for a museum exhibit. Spring for an electrician to install a new one — modern models are not only more efficient but safer too, and less prone to iffy wiring troubles that can lead to fires. While you're at it, have the electrician make sure that the bathroom is protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter.

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