Tips and Tricks for Better Indoor Air

Readers wrote me with questions about air purification in their home. Here’s the latest on actions you can take to improve indoor air quality.

“I’ve heard of a HEPA filter for air conditioning. What is this and should I buy one?”

HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. A HEPA filter works with a powerful fan to force air through a thick pleated mesh that traps pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and smoke. It can filter out nearly all toxic microorganisms including bacteria, mold spores and viruses. Hospitals are one of the largest users of HEPA air filters.

Sounds great, right? Let’s run down to the store and buy one. Wait, not so fast. There are a couple of problems you’ll encounter if you try to put a HEPA filter in your air handler or at the air return ducts. The first one is expense – ten dollars for a vacuum cleaner size filter, and over $200 for commercial air handlers. The second problem is that residential air handlers do not have fans with enough power to push air through HEPA type media.

But there is some good news – since the point of using a fancy filter is to clean the air, there are things you can do to improve the air quality inside. One is to use a HEPA filter in your vacuum cleaner if it is a model that is designed to use HEPA filtration. The other thing you can do is purchase a standalone air purifier, which I’ll cover in a future article.

Without moving to a dedicated air purifier, the following things will help you keep indoor air fresh and clean.

A well-maintained vacuum cleaner, with a HEPA filter, used several times a week on floors and carpets will go a very long way in keeping your home air clean. A non-HEPA vacuum with dirty filters, on the other hand, will actually add dirt and contaminants to the air by picking it up off the floor and re-distributing it into the air.

Changing your air conditioning and heating filters on a schedule, and using high-efficiency air filters. The mid to high-efficiency air conditioning filters sold at the grocery store are very good at trapping nasty particles.

Minimize the use of candles and wood fires if you can. These add to the indoor pollutant load.

Limit use of air fresheners and strong cleaning products.

Don’t smoke indoors.

Use exhaust fans if you have them when you’re cooking, but don’t use them if you have a wood fire going in the fireplace. The fan can draw smoke into the living area from the fireplace.

You can also call an air conditioning contractor to come to your home and quote upgrading your air handler fan to one that will handle a HEPA installation. This is not an inexpensive upgrade, so you may want to try the methods above first, and then consider a standalone air purifier.

Opening windows on nice days will go a long way in cleaning your indoor air. With the Environmental Protection Agency claiming that indoor air is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air, letting the breeze sweep out pollutants will reduce your task list.

5 Tips for Choosing the Right Ceiling Medallion for Your Home

A ceiling medallion makes an amazing accent for a diverse range of ceiling lighting types, from ceiling fans to chandeliers. At its basic, a ceiling medallion is an ornamental piece that glams-up and improves the surrounding areas around the roof canopy, where the wiring of a chandelier or other light fixture enters the junction box of the ceiling.

These medallions come in a range of finishes and sizes and can be also painted on to match the present room decor. Opt for a medallion size that perfectly fits the light fixtures along with the style and size of the room where it will be placed.

When choosing a ceiling medallion, keep in mind the 5 following pointers:

1. Size of the Ceiling and Room

Calculate the room’s dimensions to decide what size of a medallion would ideally fir space. With the help of a measuring tape, measure both the width and length of the room then multiply both the figures and divide by 7 to estimate the medallion’s size in inches. Also, take into consideration the ceiling’s height. Higher focal rooms and ceilings can be improved with bigger medallions that would otherwise overwhelm a tiny space.

2. Style and Size of the Ceiling Fan

Choose a medallion that ideally fits the size as well as complements the ceiling fan’s style. Medallions should be either larger or smaller than the light fixture – not the foundation but the fixture itself. Matching the medallion’s size to that of the light fixture’s will visually compress the room’s size. Since ceilings fans have a larger radius, you should choose a medallion with a smaller diameter than the fan.

3. To Paint or Not to Paint?

You can match your trim using a nice glossy paint or you can just go for an accent color. A majority of ceiling medallions are purchased primed and ready for paint. The final answer will, of course, depends on your preferences and the present decor of your room. It is always a good idea to get inspired first and then make a final decision, so make sure to look up ideas on the internet.

4. Unsure About the Position? Center It

If you love the idea of owning a medallion but are unsure of where to put it, go for the center position. Symmetry is aesthetically pleasing, and accenting the center point can help tie the room together, especially when it comes to larger spaces.

In order to determine the center of a rectangular room, calculate the length of one of the shorter walls. Determine the wall’s center point and mark it. Do the same for the adjacent wall. Now use a laser plumb or chalk to draw a line between the two points. Continue the process using the focal points of the longer walls. The point where the two lines meet is the center of the room.

5. Take into Consideration the Ceiling Fixtures

When thinking about where to locate a visual feature on the floor, it can be easy to overlook the ceiling’s features. These will impact how you actually perceive the floor. Swag lamps, ceiling fans, and chandeliers tend to draw the eye up and down from their spot. You may put the ceiling medallion in the heart of a room, but if your chandelier is not perfectly centered as well, that variance will give the impression of a misplaced medallion. To correct this issue, try aligning the medallion with the focal point of the fixture, using a plumb line for accuracy.

On the other hand, if you decide to not place the medallion in the center, make sure that it at least looks deliberate. A ceiling medallion that is just partially off from the visual center of a room will look weird and like a mistake. However, if it is pretty clear that it was never intended to be placed in the heart of the room, the asymmetry won’t be as distracting. The secret is to create visual harmony, meaning that the parts should fit with the entire room in a way that each element appears to be in its right place.

A Clean House is a Lucky House – 8 Tips For Creating a Clean – And Fortunate – Home

A clean house is more than just a luxury – it is a necessity. That’s right, a necessity. We need a clean house (office or desk) because of all it offers us: efficiency and relaxation. Efficiency, because a clean house means you can find what you need when you need it. It also means that you will spend less time worrying and frustrated over the mess in your house.

A clean house offers relaxation, because clean houses look better, smell better, and feel better – and that’s what makes you relax. A mess everywhere makes us tense. Even hidden messes worry us. What does it take to have a truly clean house? In a word, discipline. No one likes to hear that word anymore, but it’s true.

A clean house takes work, plain and simple. Ironically, the less a house is cleaned, the more work it takes. Yep, it’s true. If you don’t stay on top of your house, the house will be on top of you — with papers piling up and junk everywhere — not to mention dirt and grime.

Look around. Is your outer experience mirroring the inner experience? What is your house saying about you and your life? Now, how does your luck improve with a clean house? Think about all the “old” and “unsuccessful” energy that you have in your home.

If you’ve got dust bunnies the size of Great Danes, it’s time to get to work. Dirt and dust equal stagnant and stuck. Remember, a rut is just a grave that’s open at both ends. How to get out of your dirty rut? Good old fashioned elbow grease. Here’s a quick guide to cleaning your space to get you out of your dirty rut.

1. Go to the bathroom.

Why? Bathrooms that are dirty are germfests waiting to make you sick. Clean it up and you might just feel better or get through cold and flu season unscathed!

2. Take on the kitchen.

This is where you eat so it should be clean. Nothing attracts bugs faster than a filthy kitchen. Make it a goal to give your kitchen a two-hour once over. Spend two hours in there and really clean — the coils on the fridge, the oven, the floors, ceilings, windows – everything.

3. Head into the bedroom.

When you sleep, you are breathing in everything that’s in the room, i.e., pet dander, dust, mites from the bed, you name it. Make it a point to clean under the bed, vacuum the blinds and wash the curtains and bedspreads and blankets. Then vacuum, yes, vacuum, the mattress and flip. Ahhh….clean. It feels so nice.

4. Create a paper trail.

To the recycling center that is. Haven’t read that magazine? Then you’re not going to, so get rid of it. Conduct your own “paperectomy” and get rid of all that paper that’s just taking up space.

5. Concentrate in the corners.

This is where everything drifts to… the corner of the bedroom, the corners of the ceilings. Corners are a magnet for stacks of papers. On the ceiling, corners attract spider webs. Clear out every corner you have, including closet corners.

6. Go outside.

Rent a pressure washer and wash the house, sidewalks, patios, and driveways. Pressure washers are a house’s best friend. Think of it as an exfoliating scrub for your home. You will love your sparkling house.

7. Head to the top.

Clean off the tops of everything. This includes dressers, tables, counters, refrigerators — anything with a top. It also means dusting the tops of windows,door trim, and tops of baseboards. Dust just loves to hide on the tops of things.

8. Get steamed.

Once a year get your carpets and upholstery STEAM cleaned. Why steam? It’s hot and it’s water so it will clean REALLY well without hurting anything or leaving behind any kind of soapy residue. That’s right, soapy residue.

Many people get their carpets cleaned or use grocery-store carpet cleaner products only to find they need to do it again and again and again because the carpets get dirtier faster and faster and faster.

Hmmmm…. a conspiracy? No. Just soap that stays behind. And soap is sticky, right? Well, then, that’s where all the dirt is coming from: it’s getting stuck in all that soap that is left behind from those cleaners. And while you’re at it, throw away all your soap-based carpet cleaners.

Spring Home Exterior Clean-Up Tips

Over the winter, our homes face some extreme conditions. Making small repairs now can prevent larger, more expensive, repairs in the future. Here are some spring time exterior maintenance suggestions:

1] Roofing: With all the snowfall over this past season, there is a possibility that your roof may have been victim to ice damming. Ice damming occurs when a large accumulation of snow melts and turns to ice, usually around your eavestroughs or roof valleys. This ice forms a barrier that prevents melting snow from draining. Water can then back up and re-freeze damaging your shingles. Look for water stains around interior windows and walls where seepage may have occurred.

It is also good practice when the snow melts to check around your yard for any shingle debris. Shingles can be replaced separately if need be. You may want to call on a roofing expert to inspect if you have concerns.

2] Eavestrough & Downspouts: Most leaks occur from build-up of leaves, twigs, pinecones, etc., that cause drain water to overflow. Another cause can be cracking in the eavestrough sealant. This can be fixed by using exterior silicone at corners and joints wherever there are leaks. It is good practice to ensure that your downspouts are positioned properly. Be sure to position your downspouts so that the ground allows the drain water to flow away from your house.

3] Windows & Caulking: Check for missing or cracked caulking joining the siding to your window. If it appears to be falling off or missing, you can fill in the blanks with exterior grade silicone or polyurethane. Also, check for moisture in windows, as seals may become separated and will be in need of repair. There are contractors who can make this repair versus a window replacement.

Wood framed windows should be re-painted every couple of years. A good sign that your windows need repainting are visible cracks. Use an exterior grade paint.

Vinyl windows require less maintenance than wood. They don’t need to be painted but ensure that there is a good caulking seal to the house siding. Be sure to check for cracks in the frame.

4] Siding & Stucco: Siding and stucco finishes are your house’s primary defense against the elements. If you have vinyl siding be sure that all the pieces are snapped into place. Sometimes the lap of the siding can come unhooked in the event of high winds.

Wood siding should be maintained the way you would a wood framed window. Check the quality of the paint or stain of the wood. If it looks cracked and brittle, then be sure to scrape, sand, and paint.

5] Foundations: Foundations are the most important part of your home. They support the entire wellbeing of your home, from your floor all the way to your roof. Small cracks in a foundation are typically nothing to be concerned about, though big cracks can be a costly endeavor and can cause more problems if improperly fixed. Foundation issues can be serious and you should contact a foundation repair specialist if in any doubt.

6] Decks & Patios: Winters don’t hold back when it comes to decks and patios. Snow can wear down and peel away deck finishes. The best maintenance you can do is to protect your deck boards by staining or painting every couple of years. Also, check deck posts where they contact the ground for signs of rotting.

7] Air Conditioners: Chances are that if you missed a spring check-up on your air conditioner, it may not work as well as it could. Over the winter months, dirt and debris may clog the cooling fins. A low coolant level, a dirty blower fan filter and a number of other simple problems can significantly reduce the efficiency of your AC condenser and wear it out faster. You can’t do everything – only a pro can check the coolant level.

8] Concrete surfaces: Again, over the winter months with the ground movements, cracks and unevenness in concrete surfaces can occur. Smaller cracks can be repaired using the right silicone with proper preparation. The bigger they get, it becomes a harder chore to repair and professionals might have to be called in.

In the case of selling the property, the cracks on the concrete can be an eyesore to prospective buyers. This can be the first thing potential buyers see and that can set a negative tone to them viewing your home.

9] Painting: Quality painting not only contributes to home curb appeal but also forms a protective barrier against the year-round elements. Check all exposed areas around the home and yard including window sills, decks, fences and other exterior surfaces.

10] Survey the Landscaping: Check in the yard for low-lying areas and add additional soil to prevent water from pooling. Look at all the bushes and trees and trim as necessary. Sometimes there is winter kill in lawns so hitting those areas early makes for great looking lawn as well. If you have a sprinkler system – you will want to check it for leaks, damaged sprinkler heads and leaky valves.

Now is the time for spring clean-up and then enjoy the work you have completed! We hope you found this article helpful.

Tips For Great Home Decor

Decorating your home is one of the most daunting tasks. Most of the home decor items are very popular among the people. By changing couple of things of your abode one can bring a great transformation in one’s personal space. Even a minute change in your home decoration will make you feel new and refreshing. Decorating your home is one of the best ways of transforming the bored and tired looking space into rejuvenating, fresh and happy atmosphere.

Home Decoration involves several things such as colors, furniture, fabric and several other accessories. For some people home decor may involve several thousand dollars while it just takes some imagination by some people to make magnificent changes.

Hiring a professional home decor person is always a great idea but it involves a lot of money. A professional decorator will surely bring a trendy and sporty environment to your home and they are well aware of the latest trends. They have a very professional point of view as compare to an amateur decorator as they have both experience and talent. They are able to transform your boring, non-happening place into exciting place to hang in.

One can also go for home improvement software which will surely make your place a better place to live. The software so used can improve the color, designs and many more things. Most of the professional decorators make use of home decor software as they give exact idea about the view of your home after improvement. This software also extends the vision of decorator as one can see the ideas on the screen of the computer.

Home decor is selected according to the size of your home and you may require buying or keeping the things away according to the size of your home. If the size of your home is very small then you should go for a very simple and elegant home decor. You should not go for adding extra decorative pieces and furniture.

If you own a very large or big-sized home then one can arrange the things quite efficiently and still save some space. Big size homes are like blessings for home decorators. Home decorator also includes proper and correct placement of practical and useful items such as furniture, several artifacts and electronic items of your home.

Decorative ladders have become a hot favorite for home decorators these days. This may be due to the reason that they give a great and rustic look to your home and these can also be used for several other ways. Decorative molding is another way of enhancing the decor and it can also be used to highlight certain features of your home. These are meant to add style and a great look to the walls, floors and ceiling.

This is the best way of enhancing and enriching the home. One thing to remember about molding is that if you are using this on one item in your room then it will be a great idea to use the same type of molding on the other items of the room.