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Triple Win Property Management Blog

Managing Property Management KPIs

Defining the KPIs you want to track as a property manager is one thing, but ensuring that you’re consistently getting useful information and insights from those KPIs is another. KPI management is an important process that is often not given enough effort, and the result is incomplete data or metrics that don’t do a great job actually showing you what you want to know about your company. KPI Management comes with two key parts. Ensuring you’re using the right KPIs Ensuring the data is comprehensive and accurate There are no steadfast rules for what KPIs you should and shouldn’t track in property management. As long as you understand what you’re trying to measure, you’re committed to continuous improvement, and you don’t overload your KPI sheet, you’re on the right track. "So I have gone across the bridge that maybe many of you have of having a spreadsheet with 400 KPIs, and it was crushing us," says Tim Wehner, Marketing Coordinator at Dodson Companies and property management veteran. "I blew up that bridge, Don't cross that again, right. I like five, especially for the property managers. You just say, hey, there's just five numbers I'm going to track. It's like the power five KPIs." Obviously, there will be different KPIs at different levels of the organization, but Wehner’s power five KPIs for his property managers are: Tenant vacancy rate Owner delinquency rate Available unit rate Percentage of units in turn Percentage of PMR collected But while what he is measuring may be valuable to you, his bigger point here is that managing the quantity of your KPIs is important in order to maintain focus and clarity in the data. These aren’t set in stone. If you find that your set of KPIs isn’t giving you the information you want, you can always adjust. Many companies conduct quarterly reviews of what they’re actually measuring to ensure the effort they put into tracking is ultimately fruitful. "We review our KPIs, not the numbers, we do review the numbers, but the actual type of KPI, we review that every quarter to see is this number still relevant? Or do we want to replace it with something else?" says Julie Mullinax, Owner of CRM Properties. "So that would be one thing that I would say, don't feel like, if you have these five KPIs for your property managers, you have to keep those five KPIs for your property managers for the next 10 years. I think we've really changed ours as we see a number got better. " Ensuring that KPIs are useful to the people using them helps heighten awareness of the importance and current state of those metrics. That team buy-in is critical. “One of the things that's really important about KPIs is this idea of trash and trash out,” says BetterWho CEO Matthew Tringali, the idea being that if you put trash effort into your KPI structure, you’re not going to get helpful insights as the output. “We all have this idea of like, oh, yeah, I agree with these beautiful KPIs. And you know, I want my software to produce this beautiful report, this beautiful number," continues Tringali. "The reality is, most or all of your software can do that stuff, but it's only going to be as good as your team is at actually putting in the numbers. So if you don't have the right fields, or your team is just, you know, they don't see the value without putting the numbers in, then you can't actually make progress with that.” Tringali’s point about KPIs is similar to a prevalent point he and many others have made about tech as the PM industry has been inundated with automation systems: If your team, as the people using the process, is not invested and committed to it, it will not work. The idea of having a simple approach and a manageable number of KPIs for people to keep track of plays directly into this, especially with more action-oriented people like your sales team. Different property management firms have different approaches to ensure data is valid and entered regularly. Wehner employs a remote team member whose job is explicitly that. “all of our property management, property managers, all of our staff, our leasing agents, they're all very, very busy,” says Wehner “So you want to make it super easy. And then one of the things that we do is we have actually a remote team member, that we have that that's what their sole focus is, is making sure that our data in our systems is correct.” Darus Trutna, Founder of Rentor, is a big believer in a process that gets his team to internalize the numbers, the theory being that being in "physical contact" with your most critical metrics on a daily basis prevents overlooking them. "You just need to type on the keyboard that number, right?" says Trutna. "It has to go from the screen here, in here, I see my delinquency rate, I then have to express that number on people. So I feel that number. And I want the team members to know those numbers, because that's pain for the owner. Right, and for the resident, and for us. And so I've actually moved away from automation." Reluctance and hesitance comes from this friction to do something right. We've all had some habit we wanted to start, right? But until you make it incredibly easy and put it in front of yourself, so you can't not do it. That's how we operate now. So we have a team dashboard that we've set up, and the team members cannot leave for the day until those data points are entered. And once again, they can ask for help with it. But it's not something that you can not do. And the whole team sees they haven't put their KPIs in there. So the data is really easy to pull, and then you can't get away in a sense, right? It's just there in front of you. It's like putting something on top of your keys before you leave, right you're not going to forget the item because you can't get your keys without touching the KPI." Wehner ties incentives to team member-specific KPIs in order to promote the importance of tracking. "What we've done with the team is we have financial incentive payments in their portfolios, so they have a certain percentage they receive every quarter based off the actual revenue of their portfolio. So every Tuesday we have our weekly huddle and the five or six property managers, they have their KPI report, their delinquency rate, vacancy rate, and turnover numbers. The discussion is that the lower the delinquency rate, a higher the bonus, the lower the vacancy rate, the higher the bonus, etc." Savvy property managers understand the importance of a system of KPIs that produce consistent, actionable insights. If you're finding that you have KPIs, but you're struggling to pull useful information from them, consider some of the tactics above to create something that's of a more beneficial nature to you business.

Calendar icon May 29, 2024

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How to Optimize Property Management Processes and Software

Property management software is currently helping property managers establish efficient and reliable processes at a higher rate than ever before in the PM industry. With that development in the proptech industry has come the development of tech for self-managers that has changed the capacity of the accidental landlord. Thus, the demand for efficiency at scale has risen in order to separate the professional from the amateur, and the establishment of processes that allow such a thing has become a critical topic for professional property managers. Optimizing property management processes Carter Fleck of Triton Property Management, a growth-oriented firm out of northern Virginia that is approaching 300 units with larger goals for 2024, joins us to share his expertise on process definition. Fleck is the General Manager responsible for operations and strategic growth, and he has been developing effective processes to ensure efficiency at Scale at Triton, and in the process, he has garnered an understanding of how to do so. “A lot of failing,” says Fleck. “In the early days, we were getting a lot of good and bad feedback, but typically the bad feedback is what you adjust off of.” Fleck believes that assumptions are the enemy when it comes to defining procedures and sourcing software for your PMC. “The image that we use is if you're going to build a sidewalk before people even start walking on a field, it's kind of dumb. You have to see where people will walk first, and then you'll build a gravel path. So number one, you see where they walk, see where their intentions are in the grass, then you build a gravel path. And then eventually, once that walkway is established, that's where you build your processes and procedures.” The analogy is a visualization of the concept that you have to see how people operate before you can establish processes to make how they operate more efficient. Fleck encourages the negative experiences of process breakdown and cites them as the only way to really nail down what your processes should look like. “Over time, between the tenants giving feedback and owners giving feedback, we adjusted our processes. It's a mix between figuring out where the owners walk and where the tenants walk, and then building paths that align.” Fleck details an example of how Triton adjusted its process after an assumption it made got challenged: "We had an assumption that payment plans were helpful for residents," says Fleck. "And so the way we handled delinquency is we would reach out to them and would be like, ‘you need to pay this. Do you have a payment plan option?’ And they would always say yes. Our process was we'll put you on a payment plan, we'll invite you to a payment plan, you'll accept the payment plan, and then we'll monitor the payment plan. That in itself was a lot of work, but we thought it was doing well. But some of the owners that we had managed for mentioned that another property manager doesn't allow any payment plans. And if you're not fully paid up by the end of the month, then the eviction process starts if you’re over $500 due. So we're like 'alright, well, we'll serve you in that we'll change our processes.' And we did, and our delinquency percentage shrunk significantly. So, consistently, by the end of every month, we're around 5% APR. Whereas with payment plans we're like 5 to 10%.” Fleck obviously credits seeing the assumptions in motion as what prompted the need for process iteration, and he firmly believes that making too many of these assumptions is one of the biggest mistakes growing property management companies make. Like any business experiencing growth, process definition is critical to achieve efficiency at larger volumes. What Fleck is essentially advocating for is processes based on what you know, not what you think, and there is a big distinction. Managing property management software Fleck has installed both general and tech-based processes, and cites that understanding of how people interact with processes as the key in both areas. "They don't focus on user experience. That's really important. Number one, how the tenants like the tech, but specifically how the people who are using the tech are gonna adopt it. So when we were choosing a rent inspection software, we had so many people recommend one, software and I, we almost pulled the trigger on it. But then I was like, let's do a trial run on both these two. And we chose the other one because it was way better user experience for property managers. So user experience, both for us and for residents." Tech is a tool that is ultimately as good as its users, and if it's not used correctly or at all, its potential is wasted. An over-reliance on technology can actually go hand-in-hand with an under-reliance, as both often spring up from a lack of understanding of how to choose, implement, and manage it. In this vein, Fleck can't recall many property managers who operate with too much tech. As long as you're not purchasing redundant software and you've done and continue to do your due diligence, tech-based process can make your business more efficient. "I more often find myself having that conversation," says Fleck. "When I'm talking to property managers in my sub-market, who aren't connected with like a NARPM, who aren't connected with like a Crane group, or who aren't connected with a Second Nature, aren't connected to the tune of what the property management industry is doing and the cutting edge of it, I'm just like, 'you could save so much of your time and you could scale this so much more if you only even if you just had tenant Turner, or if you had LeadSimple.'" No matter what your story is a property manager, if growth is in the cards, so is process and technology refinement. Hopefully, Fleck's experience in these areas can help you stay efficient and organized as door counts grow.

Calendar icon April 19, 2024

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5 Best Online Property Management Courses and Workshops

One of the best available resources to property managers seeking personal and business development is the wealth of online property management courses. These provide opportunities, sometimes for free, to network, to earn designations, to develop specific skillsets, and learn about vendor products that can help your business grow. Certified Property Manager A CPM is a designation accredited by the Institute of Real Estate Management that stands for Certified Property Manager. You may have noticed the CPM designation on many consultants or broker/owners of large companies. The CPM course is a large undertaking, but it’s a very well-renowned designation in the industry. There are eight courses to claim your certification, and the whole thing takes between 12-18 months according to IREM. The course list features eight courses that cover everything from real estate law to maintenance and risk management to team management. The courses focus on real-world application and skillset development, not theory and many property managers have cited the skill development and networking as tools that have advanced their career. Learn more about the CPM Residential Management Professional Just like CPM, you may have seen RMP and MPM listed next to some seasoned property managers on LinkedIn or elsewhere. Both are NARPM designations. RMP is the first accessible one for newer NARPM members, with the requirements being management of over 100 doors for at least a two year period. An RMP designation has a list of requirements that begins with a set of courses you must complete. From there, there are events to attend before you elect your path to course completion. The whole process can be completed in a year, although there is a three-year limit on trying. The RMP process is not just about taking courses. It’s very engaging. The latter stages ask for you to take on a subject matter expertise role as a writer or presenter. The process of claiming a designation is valuable itself, not simply a means to an end. Learn more about the RPM Master Property Manager Property managers with NARPM’s RMP designation can become master property managers if they’ve managed over 500 doors for at least a five-year period. MPM is a high-level designation that is not for the faint-of-heart property manager. Master Property Manager is a simple concept...this is a professional with years of experience and commitment to the industry. This person is one who can be trusted to provide quality service and care to you and your valuable asset. - Andrea Caldwell MPM, RMP, former NARPM President Learn more about the MPM RBP Workshop For property managers looking to grow their profit per door, a resident benefits package can be an incredible tool. Second Nature hosts a monthly workshop for property managers in all stages of managing an RBP. At an RBP workshop, you’ll learn how an RBP creates value and grows profit per door while positively affecting turnover rates, what’s included and how to manage a rollout, and you’ll hear from property managers that have successfully rolled out an RBP. The best part is that it’s completely free. Certified Apartment Manager For multifamily property managers, the CAM, or Certified Apartment Manager, is an industry credential used to demonstrate high levels of competency and expertise in multifamily property management. You can earn this credential through a set of courses and exams offered by the National Apartment Association. With both online and in-person, it's a very accessible credential that covers a long list of topics including occupancy rates, comprehensive marketing plays, sales team management, product readiness, and much much more. Learn more about the CAM

Calendar icon January 16, 2024

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Second Nature at NARPM

7 Best Property Management Conferences, Tradeshows, and Events

One of the best ways to grow and optimize your property management business is by attending any number of the property management conferences available to you. There are tons, reaching from small local vendor fairs to national events with thousands of attendees. Here is our list of the best conferences and events you can attend. NARPM National NARPM’s largest conference, the NARPM National Convention and Trade Show, is hosted every October around the week of Halloween. It is among the SFR industry’s headline events with nearly 1000 attendees yearly, and it's an excellent conference for any size SFR operators. This is not specific to large PM companies by any means. It features a vendor fair, numerous workshops and panels, and a range of other events for NARPM members. It’s one of the best networking opportunities for property managers that exists, and and also an opportunity to become a #SecondNatureVIP. NARPM Broker/Owner NARPM’s second largest conference, typically held in April, is specific to CEOs and broker/owners. Structurally, it’s similar to the national conference with a collection of speakers and sessions, circled around a large trade show featuring some industry-evolving vendors. The difference, as mentioned, is the exclusivity of the audience. You're networking directly and only with other major decision makers, which has its advantages and has made Broker/Owner a very popular conference for property management leaders. IMN Single-Family Rental Property Management, Operations, and Tech Forum Information Management Network offers three single-family events, which typically have huge attendance exceeding 2000 people. It's a destination for a lot of large companies and Real Estate Investment Trusts, so you'll get more of a scaled perspective of the industry than you might at a NARPM event. IMN is built around a large set of industry panels. There is no keynote speaker. In addition to a tradeshow, it's heavy on industry expertise from large-scale operators in the tens of thousands of doors. If that perspective is interesting to you, the IMN single-family will be worth your time. NRHC Industry Leaders National Rental Home Council is a relatively new organization, and its Industry Leaders conference is going on its third year in 2024. It's an advocacy organization founded by five 30,000+ door owner/operators, so the conference tends to focus more on large-scale advocacy. It's a different type of educational opportunity than what you may find at a NARPM or IMN event. Because these companies are owner/operators, there is more on the resident experience topic that's discussed and less on investor relationship. PM Systems Conference Headed up by Paul Kankowski and Wolfgang Croskey, the PM Systems Conference is a relatively new yearly conference held in Las Vegas. It's built more around working sessions than panels, making it generally more application-based than learning-based. You'll spend time at the PM Systems Conference digging into the actual processes and systems you use and working to optimize them, quite literally working on your business while you're there. One of the things attendees enjoy about this conference is leaving having already started process optimization instead of having to start on all your learnings after you leave. Apartmentalize Apartmentalize is an industry-renowned trade show and conference for the multifamily industry. Typically in June and in a rotating location, Apartmentalize has seen over 11,000 attendees in past years. With tons of exhibitors, over 100 learning sessions, and over 200 industry experts speaking, Apartmentalize is an excellent for multifamily property managers to drive business growth and learn new strategies. Triple Win Leadership Xchange Triple Win Leadership Xchange is a great way to engage and connect with property managers without having to get on a plane. It’s a completely online, half-day event that offers a keynote session, multiple panels, and interactive opportunities for professional property managers to take the insights gained from the panels and talk about applying them with their peers. Past keynote speakers have included FBI hostage negotiator Christopher Voss, Author of Who Not How, Benjamin Hardy, and former 1-800-GOT-JUNK? COO and author of Vivid Vision, Cameron Herold. It’s an extremely easy conference to attend, it’s focused on helping you develop your business, and all proceeds go to NARPM’s Past Presidents’ Charity.

Calendar icon December 21, 2023

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Best property management associations to join

4 Best Property Management Associations to Join

A property management association is a membership organization that provides opportunities for networking, education, and advocacy for property management professionals. There are many advantages to being a member of one. The business and personal development opportunities available through the many conferences and educational opportunities present great avenues to grow and optimize your property management business. Here are four property management associations we recommend looking into. NARPM: National Association of Residential Property Managers NARPM is the single-family rental industry’s leading association. It’s a national organization dedicated to the SFR industry with countless regional chapters and over 6,000 individual members. NARPM’s National Conference and Expo every October is the largest event and trade show in the SFR industry, and the association hosts countless other events and trade shows that serve as networking opportunities in regional events, chapter engagement, and other national events. Joining your local NARPM chapter is one of the easiest ways to further yourself and your property management business. Learn more about NARPM National Rental Home Council The National Rental Home Council (NRHC) is a national trade association specifically for single-family rental property managers. It's a newer association, but it's one of the few aimed at the single-family industry. Its goal is to strengthen the rental market by helping property managers provide high-quality homes to residents while educating the public on the societal of a strong SFR market. The association’s main event, the Industry Leaders Conference, will be held for the fourth time in April of 2024. Learn more about NRHC Information Management Network Information Management Network is not technically an association, as it does not offer membership. What IMN does do is host a wide variety of networking events all across the country for both single-family and multifamily property managers. IMN hosts real estate events both in and out of the property management industry. It's single-family forum will be in its 12th year in 2024, and it also hosts the Single Family Rental Property Management, Operations, and Tech Forum, which is will be in its sixth year. Learn more about IMN National Apartment Association If you’re in multifamily property management, the National Apartment Association is an advocacy and trade association with excellent member benefits including advocacy, exclusive content such as the units magazine, and more. NAA also hosts a number of events and trade shows for multifamily managers and other professionals in the apartment space including an advocacy event, a national trade show, and a senior leadership networking conference. Learn more about NAA

Calendar icon December 11, 2023

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10 Best Property Management Forums to Discuss PM Business

A property management forum is an excellent place to connect with other property managers in order to gain insight and expertise. These forums can be anywhere on the internet, although the most active ones tend to be on Facebook, and they can focus on anything from broad discussion on property management to specific accounting software. Here are our top 10 property management forums. Triple Win Property Managers Triple Win Property Managers is a private group with over 1000 members, and it’s exclusive to single-family rental professional property managers. There are a lot of property management forums out there today, some better than others. Not many are specifically designed for professional SFR operators. What you get in Triple Win Property Managers is the opportunity to engage with professionals across the country who own and work on companies of varying sizes. The SFR industry as a whole needs to demonstrate a commitment to elevating what it means to be a property manager. If you believe that, Triple Win Property Managers is a way to connect with others who share that view. Reddit r/propertymanagement is the leading Reddit forum for property managers. It’s a great place to get questions answered about a wide variety of property management topics. Really any question about property management can be asked, including questions residents or investors have about their property managers. Go to r/propertymanagement Bigger Pockets Bigger Pockets is generally aimed more at the real estate investor, but there is publicly available property management discussion there as well. The property management forums there are pretty active, with multiple daily posts. Go to Bigger Pockets Property Management Mastermind Property Management Mastermind is the largest property management Facebook group at over 12,000 members, and it’s among the most active. The group tends to lean single-family, but it’s not exclusive to professional property managers. Most of the discussion centers around property managers helping other property managers with issues, but the group has no express purpose other than connecting PMs. You can raise conversation regarding whatever you want. Go to Property Management Mastermind Buildium Users Unite/Appfolio User Group/Rent Manager User Forum Many of the property management accounting softwares have Facebook groups specifically for users to communicate with each other regarding the platform. They’re generally pretty active. Both Appfolio User Group and Rent Manager User Forum have over 2,000 members and multiple posts per day. Buildium Users Unite has almost as many members and gets about three posts per day. Go to Buildium Users Unite Go to Appfolio User Group Go to Rent Manager User Forum PM Health PM Health is a Facebook group that’s very different from the rest of the Facebook groups on this list. It is specific to property managers, but focused on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and finding time to exercise and be active. Owning a business, especially a property management business, can be high-stress and time consuming. PM Health was created for property managers to support each other in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Go to PM Health NARPM Discussion Group NARPM is the industry’s leading association for single-family property managers, and their Facebook group has over 2,500 members and is pretty active at about a post per day. It’s a great place to reach and engage with property managers specifically in the SFR industry, as NARPM is SFR specific. Go to NARPM Discussion Group Local groups There are lots of property management Facebook groups that are regionally specific, and these are great places to check out as well, especially if you have questions about local law and matters pertaining to regional or state ordinances. Your local NARPM chapter probably has a group, and there are lots of unaffiliated groups as well.

Calendar icon December 4, 2023

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two property managers meet their VIP pick up

2023 NARPM National #SecondNatureVIP Recap

#SecondNatureVIP returned this October for the 35th NARPM National in Atlanta, Georgia. This is one of our favorite weeks of the year, when we get to give back and show our appreciation for property managers who are chronically underappreciated. Check out some highlights below! 👑 355 Second Nature VIPs Second Nature welcomed over 350 property managers, nearly half the conference, as Second Nature VIPs. The VIP Shuttle got these PMs to the hotel in luxury, with no need to call a rideshare app or wait around. VIP Shuttle saved property managers approximately $9,500 in Ubers and 14 miles of walking with luggage. 💟 59 Second Nature attendees Second Nature sent 59 purple suit-wearing experience creators to Atlanta to man the VIP shuttle, the VIP check-in, meet with property managers, set up and help run the Second Nature party, and ensure that VIPs had an unforgettable experience. 🛍️Swag bags! VIPs each received a swag bag featuring Cards Against Property Managers, our take on Cards Against Humanity specifically for PMs, Department of Chaos Control hats, a personalized bracelet, and much more! 🚁 32 helicopter rides, 1 incredible party, and $3,496 raised for charity VIPs showed off their creativity at the Second Nature party, where costumes were encouraged. We met the Tinman, Barbie and Ken, the PowerPuff Girls, several other Barbies, and more! The party also featured a raffle that raised almost $3,500 for charity, and winners received a helicopter ride over downtown Atlanta. 32 rides in all were taken. 🏆 Sixth consecutive NARPM Affiliate of The Year! Second Nature was named NARPM Affiliate of The Year for the sixth consecutive year. We're incredibly honored and humbled to receive this award, and while we're grateful, what we really hope to accomplish is to be your personal vendor of the year through outstanding service and value creation! Check out the full highlight video! Energized from NARPM National and looking for more educational opportunities? Check out Triple Win Leadership Xchange!

Calendar icon October 25, 2023

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Do I Need to Clean My Home's Air Ducts?

Is duct cleaning worth it & something you should do for your home? Do you need to have the air ducts in your home cleaned? It’s an age-old question, okay well not really, but it is a question that many homeowners probably don’t even remember to ask. Even still, we’re going to give you the answer. So, is air duct cleaning worth it? Keep reading to find out. What is duct cleaning? Duct cleaning is exactly what it sounds like, which is the cleaning of the inside of the air ducts that carry air to and from the heating and cooling components of your HVAC system. It involves physically removing dust, debris, and other contaminants from heat-ventilated systems, including any associated ducts. Sounds nice, but is air duct cleaning necessary? Is air duct cleaning necessary? It’s true that clean ducts can provide some health benefits and increase the quality of the air you breathe, but it’s not always a smart or necessary practice. There are certain situations where it’s necessary, but the EPA has clarified that there is no evidence that a light buildup of dust or particulate matter in the ducts has any impact on indoor air quality. This is because buildup usually remains in the duct and doesn’t get carried out of the ducts once it’s become stationary inside. Thus, duct cleaning is only really necessary if there is an excessive amount of buildup, or some other concern such as substantial mold growth or an insect infestation. Is air duct cleaning worth it on a regular basis? According to the EPA, there is no reason for regular duct cleanings. Duct cleanings should be scheduled only as necessary. For reasons described above, there are simply no proven negative effects of slightly dirty ducts. Is there a risk to not cleaning your ducts? There is very little risk to not cleaning your ducts on a regular basis. As stated, minor particulate buildup is not proven to have health effects or result in any increase in particulate matter in the air. Significant duct issues such as mold growth or infestation are typically the result of uncommon problems somewhere else in the home that need addressing, and certainly do not occur at a regular cadence that would require regular duct cleanings. Can I clean ducts myself? It is possible to clean your ducts yourself, but it is not recommended. It is an extensive job best done by a professional with professional level equipment. You simply cannot achieve the same level of cleanliness without professional level tools. You may also encounter mold, vermin, or other issues that are best dealt with by a professional. If I wish to have my ducts clean, what can I expect? You can expect a professional duct cleaning service to provide a thorough and complete clean in a manner safe for you, your HVAC system, and the rest of the home. This involves inspecting the system prior to beginning for any dangers. Next comes a vacuuming and brushing of the inside of the duct system, as well as HVAC system components, followed by a resealing of any access points used in the duct system. The price for a professional duct cleaning service will depend on the size of your home, but it’s typically between $300 and $500 Am I posing a risk to my indoor air quality if I don’t have my ducts cleaned? If you’re experiencing issues with indoor air quality, it’s unlikely that duct cleaning will present a long-term fix. Dirty ducts are the result of some other contributing issue that must be addressed, and even if dirty ducts are contributing to allergies or some other consequence of poor IAQ, clean ducts will only serve as a temporary fix until the root cause is addressed. So, Is Air Duct Cleaning Needed on a Regular Basis? No–you don’t need to have your air ducts cleaned regularly to maintain healthy air quality inside your home. Instead, reach out to a duct cleaning service if you suspect there is excessive buildup or mold impacting your ducts. If Clean Ducts Aren’t the Answer to Clean Air, What Is? Air filters. Replacing your air filters every three months helps improve the air quality in your home. If you have allergies or asthma or live near smoke or smog pollution, you may benefit from air filters with high MERV ratings and more frequent replacements. Not sure which size air filter you need? Learn about the different air filter sizes to make sure you choose the best option for your home.

Calendar icon June 21, 2023

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Tips for an Efficient Home: Change Your Air Filter

Change your filters already! Learn how to change air filters and do it already! You had to know this one was coming. For our fifth and final installment of Second Nature’s Tips for an Efficient Home, we want to remind you to change your air filters. There aren’t many routine home maintenance practices that are forgotten with more regularity than the air filter change. You should replace air filters in your home at regular intervals multiple times a year, but we all know someone who hasn’t even looked at their air filters in years (that's been us too, once upon a time). How to Change an Air Filter in Your House Changing air filters is one of the easiest ways to keep your home efficient. It’s probably the easiest of any practices highlighted in this series. That’s because home air filter installation is as simple as opening your vent, taking out the old one, and putting in the new one, or at least it’s that simple (shameless plug inbound) when you use Second Nature. Why Changing Air Filters is Important Air filters do two things. They clean the air that circulates through your HVAC system, allowing you to breathe fresh air inside your home, and they preserve the health of said system by keeping particles and gunk from building up on it. Your system runs more efficiently with a quality air filter installed and will last longer as the result of reduced stress. ‍How to Choose the Best Air Filter for Your Home First, you need the right air filter. Skip the fiberglass and go straight to pleated. Fiberglass air filters is a bit of a misnomer since they are horrible at filtration. They do virtually nothing to keep pollutants out of your air. It’s better for air flow immediately, because it offers so little resistance, but detrimental to the long-term health of your system (and you!), as all the particles that pass through can build up on your HVAC coils and shorten the lifespan. This can result in costly repairs and even replacement. Pleated air filters are the best option for your health and your HVAC’s health. Their construction allows for much more effective and efficient filtration, which keeps that nasty stuff out of your lungs and off your system. Unless your HVAC is quite old (like really old), the more tightly wound construction of a pleated air filter won’t starve your unit of air flow. You've heard that last bit before. We're here to dispel that myth. You ready? Pleated air filters do not restrict airflow to your HVAC system! How does changing an air filter save you money? Great question. It does so in two ways. Efficient air flow through your vents minimizes the work your HVAC has to do to keep your home the desired temperature. An air starved system must run harder and longer to do so, which drives up your energy usage and ultimately your electrical bill. As your air filter catches pollutants, it begins to lose air flow efficiency as it becomes filled with dust, pollen, and any other clean air assailants it has vanquished from your home. It’s good that it’s catching these, but if you leave the filter in too long, the buildup of particle matter starts forcing the HVAC unit to work harder to get air. Now you have a system that’s struggling, thus producing higher energy costs. Learning how to change an air filter that’s dirty for a new one provides an immediate remedy to that and, as a continued practice, can boost the efficiency of your HVAC system by 15%. This boosted efficiency can extend the lifespan of your system as well, which will save you money years down the line in addition to the immediate benefits. How often is regularly? Glad you asked. The answer depends on many factors. Typically, we would recommend you do a new home air filter installation every three months, but certain elements can push this number down. If you live in a heavily polluted area, that filter will get dirty faster. Simply put, a dirty filter does a terrible job of filtering and needs to be changed. Add pets to the equation, and you might need to replace the air filter in your home every one or two months. It will depend entirely on your specific situation. Choosing air filters with higher MERV ratings is also beneficial for keeping your indoor air quality at a healthy level. Not sure which size air filter you need? Learn about the different air filter sizes to make sure you choose the best option for your home. If you want our opinion on your particular case, you can always ask! Tweet us Facebook Message us Email us ‍ And that’s how you can save 15% on your heating and cooling costs. Just swap out your air filters four times a year! If you’re interested in not having to remember this (another shameless plug coming in hot), we’ll ship high-quality, USA-made air filters right to your door when it’s time to change them.

Calendar icon June 21, 2023

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Four Keys to Successfully Scaling A Property Management Company

Today we're looking at the best ways to successfully scale a property management company. And we're going to an industry expert with our questions: Patrick Freeze. Patrick Freeze was once a professional poker player. Now he is the CEO of Bay Property Management, a Baltimore-based firm that has scaled to nearly 6,000 doors and is one of the largest PMCs on the east coast. While his personal origin story is one of the most interesting in the PM industry, his company’s growth story and the tactics used to go from nothing to a heavily-scaled PMC are equally interesting. Through a marketing-focused approach that was complimented by intentional and detailed process optimization, Freeze achieved an impressive amount of growth at Bay, and he joined us to explain exactly how he got there. Four Keys to Successfully Scale Your PMC Here are Freeze's top strategies. Optimize Your Marketing for Efficient Growth From day one, Bay Property Management has invested in its organic marketing efforts to help attract new business. Freeze himself became an expert in SEO early on and it’s the primary focus of his robust marketing team today. “I started reading everything I could on online marketing, so SEO, pay per click, etc. Over that coming year, I became really skilled at doing all the marketing on my own,” says Freeze. “So if you were to type in property management companies, Baltimore property management companies, or any variation of those keywords, we could come up number one. And then we started getting phone calls 24/7.” Bay grew rapidly as a result of its ability to generate web traffic and organic leads through SEO, and Freeze doubled the size of the business on a yearly basis for several years after the initial launch, eventually expanding into four different markets. Freeze credits his and his team’s investment in low-funnel digital marketing tactics as the catalyst for his rapid business growth. The CEO estimates he gets between 120 and 140 new single-family leads a week, with almost all of them coming from online sources. “We have 10 people in our marketing department that solely focus on that. Google is actually going through a big algorithm update right now, and you have to be on that. If you’re not on top of that, you’re not going to rank well in search. We spend a lot of time on that. Someone could probably argue the other side and say you should be more diversified, but at least that’s worked for us.” Process Improvement Never Takes A Back Seat One of the biggest pitfalls as a business grows is its process development and refinement. Scale requires processes, and enacting and optimizing these can often be a much bigger challenge than actually growing the client list. A rapidly growing PMC has already optimized its process for finding new business. Defining the systems your company will depend on to be efficient is a new undertaking, something Freeze learned quickly as Bay grew to nearly 200 employees. “When you’re managing 500 units, you know everyone at the company very well, and you can get away with not having systems, policies, procedures. When you have 190 people, you really have to have your systems down,” says the CEO. Freeze notes that the challenges that come with a large company are not universal, and what you have to be prepared for at 50 employees is different from 150. It pays to have continuous improvement and always be optimizing. Process management is never something that’s done. “So I think probably scaling from let's call it, you know, five employees to 15 to 50 To 100. You have to keep iterating. You have to continuously make improvements on what you're doing. So what worked for, let's call it 200 doors is not going to work for 1,000. So a good example, I guess when we started out. We had one person handling maintenance, we had one person handling accounting, we had one person as the property manager, right? And I would go out and get new business. Well, as the company continued to grow then we had two people on maintenance. And then we had two property managers. And as we were growing, we realize, wait a second, when a work order comes in, whose work order is that?” Early on in the company’s growth, Freeze sought to define the exact responsibilities of all positions within the company in order to minimize overlap. Overlap in roles leads to inefficiencies that can be avoided with clear guidelines as to exactly what role is responsible for what upcoming tasks. “We have a handbook for our property managers that’s probably 80 pages. We have a procedural guide for every single position,” says Freeze. “I don’t think anyone whom I’ve talked to that has scale has not had very, very defined policies, procedures, handbooks, because if you don’t, it’s going to be a total mess.” Structure has helped create more traceable outcomes, which results in processes that are “more easily optimized and improved as the company continues to grow. “We made a change when we had about 1000 or 1200 units from having maintenance coordinators and property managers to just having the property managers handle everything. It was a big switch for the company, but I think it was for the better because we know exactly when there’s a mistake that’s made. We can trace that and see exactly who was responsible for the problem instead of having four hands in the pie.” Quality Employees Are The Backbone of Growth “I don’t think there is anything more important than having good quality employees,” says Freeze. “You can get all the new business you want but if you don’t have good employees managing the new property, you’re going to lose it as quickly as you gained it.” Bay did not grow to almost 200 employees without a developed process for finding good quality workers. While the hiring process has become much more role-specific now, Freeze credits a unique interview design that’s much more action-focused than response-focused as what has helped him pick the most suited people for property management. “I had a list of 30 to 40 questions that had nothing to do with property management. I would ask questions like ‘who is the vice president?’ ‘What is 46 times 24?’ I used to have this brick wall in my office and I would ask how many bricks are on the wall. I would ask them to name something that’s complicated but you know really, really well, and take five minutes and explain it to me. And I would just keep going on and on for probably 30 minutes with these questions.” Freeze never particularly cared if the candidates got the answers correct. He was much more interested in their process for getting to the answers and how they handled the abnormal interview. “In property management, you’re constantly dealing with problems. You’re basically problem-solving when you’re a property manager, and if you can’t deal with complicated questions, you’re probably not going to be able to deal with complicated situations. So I would just start blasting off for 30 minutes all these random questions, and some people did great with it and we would hire them. We probably had 25% of all people who wouldn’t even finish the interview.” Resiliency is a key trait for a property manager, and Bay’s interview process succeeded in testing for one of the harder traits to ID in an interview setting. Freeze’s process also includes a timed writing test designed to see if candidates can write clearly and quickly when applying for a company that’s very email heavy. The process is designed to test ability more so than experience, and it’s helped get the right people in place from the beginning, allowing Bay to offer a better property management service that is more marketable. Compliance Is Key Compliance is hard enough in the heavily regulated world of property management, but one of the biggest challenges as you expand into other markets is managing the different laws and ordinances in each individual market. Freeze believes that compliance is “far and away” the biggest challenge of scale. “All of our leasing agents have to know different things in different jurisdictions that we’re in, because the requirements are different,” says Freeze. “We have attorneys review our stuff every single year, all of our lease documents, addendums, etc. Even with all that said, there is so much legislation that is passed every quarter that it can be tough to stay up on it.” Managers at Bay’s regional offices are required to be diligent in remaining current with the nuances in local leasing laws and ordinances, which can change monthly. “They really are changing that much, as crazy as that sounds. And then when COVID happened, it was a complete and utter nightmare. They were changing weekly, and the odds of getting hit with a big class-action lawsuit go up, and you can be sued for something that you don’t even know you’re doing wrong. So always make sure you are totally buttoned up and spending extra money on compliance. I can’t say that enough. You can’t spend too much on that.” Advantages of Scaling a Property Management Business With these tools for scaling a PMC, you can increase the size and scope of your business in order to achieve higher levels of efficiency, profitability, and growth. Let’s look at what benefits you stand to gain from scaling your business. Business growth Scaling a business can help to grow your business by expanding the customer base, increasing sales volume, and improving operational efficiency. Improved profitability As a business grows, it can benefit from economies of scale, which can help to reduce costs and improve profitability. Competitive advantage Scaling a business can help to create a competitive advantage by allowing it to offer a wider range of products or services, enter new markets, and achieve greater brand recognition. Improved access to capital A larger and more successful business is often able to attract more investment and secure better financing terms, which can help to fuel further growth. In the case of property management, it can also drawn clients. Attracting and retaining top talent Scaling a business can help to create new opportunities for employees, increase job security, and improve overall job satisfaction, which can help to attract and retain top talent. Increased innovation As a business grows, it can invest more resources into research and development, which can help to drive innovation and create new products or services. Tools You Need to Scale Your Property Management Business The property management industry is an enormously tech-savvy group of people. In our network of property management companies, we’ve seen quick adoption of new tools and tech like AI, cloud-based systems, etc. Of course, the property management tools you choose will depend on the specific needs and goals of your PMC. Second Nature’s RBP aims to provide tools that are customizable across multiple property management levels, needs, and niches. With fully managed and integrated services that add value for residents and investors you can much more easily see the benefits of scale. Here are some other tools and property management software we’ve seen most highly rated in our industry. Slack: A cloud-based platform that makes communicating with your team easy. You can get immediate responses from team members, and even vendors or clients you add to your channels. LeadSimple: Sales CRM and process automation RentCheck: Automating property inspections Process Street: No-code, simple process and workflow management Airtable: a low-code platform to build collaborative apps to visualize data, processes, etc. Zapier: A tool that allow syou to integrate all your applications and set up automated workflows between them. These are just a few of the many property management tools available. It's important to evaluate the specific needs and goals of your business, and choose a tool that best fits those requirements. How Second Nature Helps With Scaling Second Nature was built on the idea that we could help make property management easier for everyone involved – residents, investors, and especially property managers. To that end, we’ve built fully managed services that generate greater value for your PMC by delivering better resident experiences. Our team takes care of the details for you so that your team can focus on growth, reputation, and quality. Learn more about Second Nature’s industry-leading resident benefits package and how it can help you scale with greater ease.

Calendar icon March 21, 2023

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How to Get Rid of Indoor Odors & Bad Smells

Got a foul odor in your home? You've come to the right place. Do you ever walk into your home and get hit by an extremely unpleasant scent? If you do, and you don't have a pet skunk, you can look to indoor odors as the source. We promise you there are SAFE ways to reduce or eliminate odors in your home. It's essential to attack the odors head on, rather than mask them with candles or spray. If you need a quick fix to make your home smell fresher, here are some tips: Change your air filter(s) on a regular schedule. The air in your home cycles through your air filter(s) multiple times per day. If your filter is not clogged or saturated, it will do a great job of capturing contaminants and pollutants that can make your home stink. Simmer a bowl of vinegar on the stove. This neutralizes odors rather than masking them, like burning vanilla or cinnamon do. Steam clean soft surfaces like drapes, curtains, and sofas. These items often get neglected in the cleaning process. Steam cleaning them is effective at eliminating dirt, dust, and, most importantly, odors. Deodorize your stinkiest rooms by placing a mixture of 3-parts water, 10 drops of citrus oil, and 1-part vodka in a decorative bowl. This is especially effective in rooms with strong foot or body odors like mudrooms and laundry rooms. If you, anyone that lives in your home, or any of your guests/visitors smoke, do so outdoors. We cannot stress this enough. Do. Not. Smoke. In. Your. Home. Cigarette smoke clings to all porous surfaces, including walls. Pets can add all sorts of smells to a home. Keeping up with their hygiene will go a long way in keeping your house smelling fresh. If you have a garbage disposal, avoid discarding carrot, onion, or potato peelings down it. Not only can they block up your disposal, but they cause a horrible stink when they begin to decay. Often times, your garbage can will begin to stink. A simple fix for this is washing it out with white vinegar and water to eliminate any leftover odors. If your laundry basket is filled with stinky clothes, consider sprinkling some washing soda onto the pile until you get around to doing the laundry, as this will neutralize the smells. Those are some of the basic things you can do to freshen up the scent in your home. Now, if you feel like you may need even more information on how to eliminate home odors, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a complete guide to all things indoor odors and how to deodorize your home: What is an indoor odor? Dangerous odors Why does my room smell? How to get rid of home odors Clean your cleaning supplies Using an odor eliminator Maintain your pet’s hygiene Wash laundry Ventilate Keep flooring and surfaces clean Clean your kitchen Keep your bathroom clean Change your air filter ‍ What is an indoor odor? An odor that's inside, duh. Ok, this is a true statement, but there's actually more to it because science, ya know. Some odors are caused by low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air that humans can detect. A VOC is a chemical that can turn into vapor in room temperature conditions, and can potentially be harmful at certain levels. ‍ Dangerous odors First things first, if you notice any of these smells, it may be a sign of something more serious: ‍ Fishy smell or burning rubber smell This could be a sign of an electrical wiring malfunction somewhere in your home. The first place to look would either be appliances, a wall switch, or an outlet. If you do find that the smell is coming from your home's electrical wiring, it would be best to call an electrician. If the burning smell is strong and you can't find the source, we would recommend leaving the house and calling 911 in case there is an electrical fire in your home. ‍ Sulfur or rotten egg smell Typically, if you're smelling either of these odors, it's a sign of a gas leak in your home. The best thing to do in this situation is to leave your home, call 911, and then call your gas provider so that they can send someone over to fix the leak ASAP. ‍ Musty smell Mold is usually the culprit behind musty smells in your home. Most of the time, you should be able to handle mold on your own, but if it does turn out to be more of a problem, professional help may be necessary. How do you get rid of the musty smell in the house? Tackle the mold, of course. If you're looking for ideas on how to remove mold from carpet, look no further than this link right here. ‍ Why does my room smell? There are a lot of different reasons to ask "why does my room smell?" Here are a few different sources or indoor odors that you should investigate first: Pets Mold Dirty clothes Carpets Kitchen Bathroom ‍ How to get rid of home odors How are we going to get rid of these odors? Well, the answer isn't buying several different air fresheners and setting out a huge bowl of potpourri, although a little potpourri never hurts. Instead of deodorizing a room using air fresheners that release chemicals into the air and only mask odors, we want to remove odors at the source. You might ask, how do we do that? Look no further, we've got nine tips coming right at you to help remove indoor odors in your home. ‍ Clean your cleaning supplies Before you tackle those odors, make sure the supplies you use are free from odors themselves. ‍ If the same sponge you used in February is still sitting beside your sink, it's probably a good idea to find a replacement. Depending on usage, sponges should be replaced at a minimum of once a month to ensure that you're not cleaning your dishes with unwanted bacteria. To make sponges last longer, run them through the sanitize cycle in your dishwasher to temporary stop bacterial growth. ‍ Biodegradable sponges are also a more environmentally-friendly option! ‍ Towels can also smell pretty bad if they're left damp for too long. Make sure towels are laid out to dry after use, so mildew doesn't have a chance to grow. If your towels do smell like mildew, throw them in the washing machine with either one cup of white vinegar or one cup of baking soda, no detergent necessary. We recommend washing towels once a week to make sure they always smell fresh and never need to go through the vinegar or baking soda treatment. ‍ Lastly, keep regularly replacing the bag or emptying out the canister in your vacuum cleaner to keep it on the nice smell list. Rinsing it out with soap and water should also help remove some of the dirt that it has been collecting over time. Blockages from hair or fur should also be cleared out. If your vacuum has an air filter, make sure to follow the manufacturer's cleaning guidelines! ‍ Use an odor eliminator There are plenty of things you probably already have in your home that can naturally clear odors from the air. Some of the best odor eliminators are coffee grounds, tea, vinegar, oats, and baking soda. Leaving a bowl of any of these odor absorbers out in a room that's due for a little freshening up will help clear out the less-than-pleasant smells from the air. ‍ Baking soda is probably one of the most useful tools in eliminating odors from your home. Instead of masking odors like air fresheners and candles, baking soda absorbs and neutralizes them. It has a reputation for being one of the best carpet deodorizers. Sprinkling it across any carpeted areas and allowing it to sit there for a few hours will have your carpet smelling fresher in no time. ‍ Another place you should put baking soda? On your mattress! Your mattress is a trap for sweat, dirt, and dead skin. Definitely not the ideal things to sniff while trying to fall asleep. Just let it sit for several hours, then vacuum it up, and voila, you have many future better smelling nights of sleep ahead of you. Mattress covers are also great at keeping your mattress from collecting all of that nasty stuff. Especially if you have allergies, mattress covers can be a savior. ‍ Pet accidents? Baking soda's got your back there too. Here's how to eliminate urine odor from your carpet: First, place a layer of paper towels down on top of the wet spot. Then add a layer of newspaper to absorb as much of the urine as possible. Next, sprinkle about ¼ cup of baking soda evenly over the affected area, and let it sit out for awhile. Overnight or around 8 hours would work, but the longer it's left out, the more effective it will be. After the baking soda has had time to neutralize the odor, vacuum it all up. ‍ Baking soda and vacuuming is also effective in neutralizing odors from your pet’s bed. ‍ An alternative to this method would be to mix together one cup of vinegar, one cup of water, and two tablespoons of baking soda. If you have a spray bottle, use that to spritz the urine stain with this mixture. Bam! Odor removed. ‍ Maintain your pet’s hygiene We know you love your fur babies, but their odors? Not so much. It's important to maintain your pet's hygiene to keep them and your home smelling fresh. Bathing your pets once a month should be the minimum, but a more ideal timeline would involve scheduling a bath for every one or two weeks. Yes, if they cooperate, cats too (*shudder*). If you need help with this, consult our blog about reducing cat dander for some kitty bathing tips. Other grooming techniques include regular brushing and nail clipping. Especially if your pet spends time outdoors, their fur and nails can harbor dirt and other unpleasant things from the outside world that can contribute to home odors. ‍ Your cat's litter box can also be the source of a less than pleasant stench. Make sure that you're scooping it out at least once a day. About once a month, you should more thoroughly clean the litter box. Soap and water should do the trick as the scent of harsher chemicals can cause your kitty to avoid using the litter box altogether. Since litter boxes are often scratched, creating an ideal home for bacterial colonies, aim to replace them annually. ‍ Keep your cat’s litter box in a place in your home that is well-ventilated so that odors don’t intensify and can naturally dissipate. ‍ Last but not least, don't forget about your small animals! Your guinea pigs, hamsters, and gerbils need their cage cleaned out at least once a week to keep their living environment clean and odor-free. ‍ Wash laundry Do you have a hamper overflowing with sweaty clothes somewhere in your home? If you do, it's probably time to get a load of laundry going. That hamper is a breeding ground for bacteria and all the unpleasant smells that come along with it. ‍ Since there is a lot of moisture concentrated in laundry rooms, it is very easy for odors to become trapped in the room. To keep your washing machine smelling fresh and free from mildew and mold, keep the door open between uses. This is especially true for front-loading washing machines. When the door is closed, the humid and airtight environment is the ideal environment for mold growth. So, to clean out your washing machine, pour either one cup of white vinegar or one cup of bleach into it, and then run it for one full cycle. ‍ A lot of newer washing machines will do the work for you with a self-cleaning function, but the vinegar or bleach still help. Be sure to pick one or the other and never mix vinegar and bleach, this creates a toxic chlorine gas. Never mix vinegar with any chlorine product to avoid creating this toxic gas, or actually just never mix chlorine with anything. That's probably your best bet. ‍ We're also just going to go ahead and mention those shoes. You know the ones we're talking about, the shoes that you've worn every single day for the last 6 years and are practically glued to your feet at this point. We've all got 'em, and odors? They've all got 'em. ‍ Even though shoes bring in dirt, allergens, and yes, even C. Diff and E. Coli, only half of Americans will take their shoes off inside their homes, and less than 25% will ask their guests to take them off. Leaving your shoes at the door will for sure help leave odors at the door as well. ‍ A trip through the washing machine should be enough to have your shoes smelling fresh again, but first, a little baking soda might come in handy. Three tablespoons of baking soda in each shoe overnight should help to neutralize odors before washing them the next day. If your shoes are made from materials like leather or suede, or have embellishments, machine-washing them most likely isn't the best idea. We'd recommend spot cleaning these shoes with a damp cloth instead. Always use your best judgment, but we'd say most sneakers are typically safe to be thrown into the wash! ‍ Wash shoes inside of a pillowcase so that laces don't get tangled, and throw in a load of towels as well to muffle any loud noises. Only air-dry sneakers, however, as the heat from a dryer could cause damage. ‍ Try to limit wearing your shoes to every other day, and stuff newspaper inside to absorb any lingering moisture or odors. ‍ Ventilate Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. Proper ventilation is vital in ensuring that odors don't intensify. Make sure that you're opening windows and using fans generously so that any odors don't remain stagnant in one place and can naturally dissipate. If it's pollen season or if you live in an area that has a lot of smog, windows should remain closed. Other than that, outdoor air quality is typically better than indoor air quality. That's why letting in outdoor air will improve both the air in your home and circulation. Special attention should be paid to the ventilation of the kitchen and the bathroom where odors have a tendency to accumulate. ‍ Keep flooring and surfaces clean Start off by dusting the surfaces in your home from the top down. For harder surfaces like shelves and cabinets, a damp cloth or duster works better to actually remove the dust instead of just moving it around to a different place. For walls and painted surfaces, a dry sponge will be more effective. ‍ Next, make sure that you vacuum your home thoroughly. Vacuum it again. And again and again. Keep vacuuming. Vacuum until you can vacuum no more. How do you deodorize carpet? You vacuum. This is because carpets are a magnet for pet hair, dander, mold, dirt, and dust, none of which smell particularly rosy. ‍ For hardwood floors, regular sweeping and mopping should be enough to keep them odor-free. If you do notice any particularly strong odors, mopping with one part vinegar and one part water should do the job. ‍ Clean your kitchen Kitchens are a major source of all the smells. Smells like bacon, freshly-baked cookies, oooh and homemade pizza...sorry got a little carried away there. Unfortunately, your kitchen doesn't always smell this good. Cooking smoke, spoiled food, an iffy-smelling dishwasher, and the garbage disposal could all be contributing to kitchen odors. So, how do you keep kitchen odors at bay? ‍ The first place you'll want to keep an eye on is the fridge. Often times, food can spoil without you even knowing it! Make sure that you're keeping tabs on expiration dates and throwing out food accordingly to avoid discovering last Thanksgiving's mashed potatoes in January. Your nose will thank you. If your fridge smells, but there's no rotten food in sight, keeping an open container of baking soda in your fridge will do wonders to absorb the odor. ‍ Leaving the exhaust fan on while cooking is a good way to keep the space well-ventilated and as odor-free as possible. Grease from cooking will typically spread to the stovetop, counters, floors, cupboards, lights, and other surfaces nearby. A good wipe-down with a natural cleaning solution should be enough to reduce grease buildup and resulting odors. Vinegar, like baking soda, is one of those products that just about cleans anything. ‍ If you notice a funky scent coming from your dishwasher, the culprit is probably the food that can get trapped in your dishwasher's filter, causing odors to occur over time. Cleaning out the filter regularly with hot water and soap is one way to prevent this from happening. Now for the odor? Place one cup of white vinegar on the top shelf of the dishwasher and run it once on the hottest setting. Then leave the dishwasher open to air dry and minimize the scent of vinegar afterward. Adding a drop of your favorite essential oil into the vinegar before sending it through the dishwasher can also keep your dishwasher smelling fresher. ‍ Now, on to the garbage disposal. Garbage disposal odors can be the result of food scraps that didn't grind properly and are starting to rot or even a buildup of bacteria. Don't worry, this is typical and pretty simple to get rid of. Just cut up a few lemon or orange slices and put them through the disposal. This also works with a cup full of baking soda and a cup full of vinegar as well. ‍ If you find that your trash can also doesn’t emit the most pleasant odor out there, baking soda will be your savior once again. Among other things, baking soda holds the title for best trash can deodorizer. Just sprinkle some in either the can itself, or the liner, and a fragrance improvement will be well on its way. Washing your trash can with water and vinegar is also an alternative method. ‍ Keep your bathroom clean Some hot spots to hit here are toilets, sinks, and showers. Where there's water residue, there's always a chance of mold. Keep your toilet clean by cleaning it at least once a week with toilet bowl cleaner. Pouring half a cup of bleach or vinegar into the toilet, then letting it sit for around 30 minutes before flushing is another way to keep your toilet odor-free. You can clean sinks and showers with bleach, or to keep things more natural, you can use a paste made from baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar. ‍ Around once a month, pour a mixture of half a cup of vinegar and half a cup of baking soda down all drains. This will help to both neutralize odors and reduce clogging. ‍ So how do you keep your home odor-free? Basically clean. Shouldn't be too hard. That's what kids are for, right? ‍ Oh, wait. One more thing. ‍ Change your air filter Have you ever smelled an air filter before? AMAZING, better than lavender. Just kidding, we've actually never smelled an air filter before. Hold on one second. ‍ ok, after further research, air filters smell like... air? Do with that tidbit what you will. ‍ Anywho, regular air filter replacements are a necessity in keeping your home smelling nice and pretty. Your air filter traps all kinds of particles like dust, mold spores, and dander that would otherwise contribute to an unpleasant odor in your home. To keep your filter working as efficiently as possible, you should replace it at least every three months. If you think it's time for a replacement, we happen to deliver some super cool filters straight to your door. Well, there you have it, our guide to indoor odor busting. Now go grab that baking soda and a bottle of vinegar, no odor will stand a chance against you. Oh, and don't forget to sign up and get your first shipment free!

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How Will Dirty Air Filters Impact My HVAC System?

These are things every homeowner should know. Dirty and clogged air filters reign havoc on your HVAC system. They will not only waste money on energy costs, but they will cause damage (sometimes irreparable damage!) to your HVAC system. Here are some ways a dirty or clogged air filter impacts your heating and cooling system: ‍ A dirty air filter is one of the most common reasons for HVAC system failure. A dirty filter restricts the air flow into your HVAC systems air handler. This restricted air flow places additional strain on the air handler fan motor and could, over time, burn out the motor and cause your system to overheat and ultimately fail. Filter replacement is a small price to pay to extend to life of one of the biggest financial investments in your home. A dirty air filter makes your fan motor work harder and consume more energy. One of the easiest and quickest ways to reduce your energy bill is to replace your air filter. A dirty air filter makes your heating and air-conditioning systems and your ducts get dirty faster. This can lead to costly HVAC cleaning expenses or a need to replace your HVAC unit or HVAC components sooner than you expected. If the heating and cooling coils are caked with dirt and particles that would normally be trapped by the air filter, the system will work harder and be more prone to freezing over or burning out. ‍ Your air filters are a vital part of your heating and cooling system. An HVAC repair STARTS at around $600 and an exhaustive repair (short of a replacement) can easily reach $7,000. A new system, if the damage is irreparable, starts at around $10,000. Air filters are a nominal cost when compared to the cost of repairing or replacing your home's heating and cooling system.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How Do I Know What Air Filter To Buy?

Pleated filter? Fiberglass filter? Electrostatic filter? Which one is for me? Pop quiz. What is the best way to rid your indoor air of pollutants like mold, pollen, and bacteria? Napalm your entire home Walk around the house waving a disinfecting wipe through the air Vacuum the air with a shop vac Purchase the right air filter ‍ If you chose D, you are correct. If you chose any other option, then we need to have a separate conversation. ‍ An air filter plays a critical role in keeping the air in your home clean. In fact, it’s the most important item to your home’s air that you can purchase, and since your indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside (and no one likes breathing pollutants), you need a high-quality air filter. ‍ There are a lot of different varieties of air filters that you can purchase. Given that the average person ranks air filters right around different types of cement and how cardboard is made on the list of things that interest them, it’s not surprising that many don’t know what makes a quality air filter “quality.” ‍ Luckily, all you have to do is read this one article, and you’ll have the answer to that question. Then all you have to do is sign up for Second Nature once, and you’ll never have to think about some air filters ever again. ‍ What type of air filter should I get? Filters can only be made so many ways. For home filters, you have three options. You can buy a pleated filter, you can buy a fiberglass filter, or you can buy a washable reusable filter. Each type has its disadvantages, and two of them have their advantages, so let’s take a closer look at what those are. ‍ Pleated Pleated filters get their name from their filter media, which is the material inside the frame that is responsible for the actual filtering. A pleated filter’s media is folded like an accordion to maximize surface area. Previously made of cotton, the pleated filters of today are built with synthetic polymers that allow for effective filtering while minimizing the impact on airflow. ‍ The advantages of pleated filters include their high filtering efficiency. High MERV filters are almost always of the pleated variety. The pleated filters work to capture an extremely high percentage of large particles and a much higher number of small particles than competing filter types. ‍ Pleated filters are low effort and high functionality. The only thing you ever have to do is remember to change them out, and they’ll keep pulling gunk out of your air. ‍ Fiberglass Fiberglass air filters are the cheapest on the market, sometimes costing less than a single dollar. There is a reason they are so cheap, and it is because they are garbage. Yes, fiberglass filters are garbage. Fiberglass filters are the weakest option and are recommended by the National Air Filtration Association only as “prefiltering” devices because of how ineffective they are. Simply put, they are bad at their job. ‍ There’s a myth that fiberglass filters are better for your HVAC system because they allow for more airflow. While they do allow for that, advancements in HVAC and filter technology have made the difference immaterial. The extensive amount of pollutants they allow to flow through can actually make them more dangerous to your system than the pleated variety. ‍ The reason why fiberglass is often recommended is that people don’t remember to change their filter. As a pleated filter loads with pollutants, it can eventually decrease airflow to a critically low amount. Fiberglass doesn’t do this because of how woefully ineffective it is at actually catching particles. So as long as you’re regularly changing your filters, there is not a single advantage to the fiberglass option. ‍ Washable Electrostatic Washable electrostatic filters are metal-frame filters that are designed to be washed and reused instead of replaced. The price range for these is wide, with the most expensive ones entering the $90 range. ‍ The advantage with these filters is their longevity. While they do eventually wear out, they can be reused for multiple years before that happens. The disadvantage is that you do need to wash them routinely and let them dry completely before reinserting. This can eat into your busy schedule as they don’t dry instantly, and if your washable filter doesn’t fully dry, mold growth can be a real issue. ‍ Washable filters also do a poor job collecting large particles. Because static electricity is really the only filtering mechanism they use, they struggle to attract the larger particles that are more difficult to pull with a charge. Thus, washable filters tend to work in reverse of fiberglass as they let larger particles through and filter out smaller ones. ‍ What quality of filter should I get? After you know what type of filter is right for you, you need to know what rating is right for you. Filters can be rated on three separate scales. The scale used by us at Second Nature and the official folks at the National Air Filtration Association is the MERV scale, which stands for minimum efficiency reporting value. ‍ The MERV scale runs from 1-16. Second Nature offers filters rated at MERV 8, MERV 11, and MERV 13, which are our Essential, Essential+, and Health Shield, respectively. Anything below an 8 is something that probably shouldn’t be in your home. Anything above a 13 is not necessary except for maybe in an extreme case, which is why we offer the range we do. ‍ Other filter scales include FPR and MPR, which stand for Filter Performance Rating and Microparticle Performance Rating. FPR was a scale developed by The Home Depot for the brands that it sells. The scale ranges from 4-10 and includes a color code for each range. MPR was developed by 3M and, it ranges from 300 to 2800. The scale is based on the filter’s ability to capture particles under 1 micron in diameter and is only found on 3M Filtrete filters. Here we have provided a conversion chart with MERV vs. FPR vs. MPR so you can understand what you’re getting if you decide to purchase from somewhere that rates their filters with one of those less popular scales. Deciding on what MERV rating is right for your home is a decision that must be made based on a handful of personal factors. ‍ Are you an allergy sufferer? More than 50 million Americans have some type of allergy. Allergies are everywhere, and if you’re among the millions of Americans who suffer from them, your filter can help you keep those nasty allergens out of your home. ‍ The severity of your allergies will help determine just how critical filtration is for your home. If you have a significant allergy to something that is prominent in your area, you’re going to want to increase your indoor air quality with a Second Nature Health Shield filter (MERV 13) or equivalent level. More minor allergies or allergies to something that doesn’t exist in massive quantities around your home may allow for a drop down to a Essential+ filter (MERV 11). ‍ Do you own pets? Owning a dog or a cat introduces a whole new threat to your indoor air quality: dander. Dander is small flakes or bits of skin that fall off your furry friend when they shed, and some people are violently allergic to it. ‍ If you are among that group, a Health Shield air filter is a must. Pet dander is small, and a MERV 8 filter is likely not sufficient for you allergy sufferers out there, and that fiberglass nonsense certainly is not. Essential+ and Health Shield will both be effective versus pet dander. If you’re allergic, get the MERV 13 Health Shield. If you’re not allergic, but you own pets, the Essential+ will work well for you. ‍ Do you live in a polluted area? Air outside your home will become air inside your home. It is inevitable. No matter how much weatherstripping you install or how well-sealed your home is, there will be particles floating around outside that will get inside. This is particularly important to remember if you live in areas that see a lot of air pollution from things like smog. Those of you in California, as you certainly know already, can get hit pretty heavily with photochemical smog in the summer. The state is often also hit with smoke pollution during wildfire season, which also runs through the summer and fall. ‍ The particles that make up smoke are itty-bitty, smaller than a tenth of a micron. For perspective, you would need at least 3,000,000 of those particles lined end to end to equal one foot. If you frequently encounter smoke or smog around your home, a Health Shield (MERV 13) is recommended. ‍ Still not sure what filter to get? Take our short quiz! Do you have allergies to pollen, dust, mold, or dust mites? A. Yes, severe allergies (add 2) Yes, mild allergies (add 1) No (add 0) Do you own a dog or cat? Yes (add 1) No (add 0) Are you allergic to pet dander? Yes (add 1 if answer to #2 is A, 0 if B) No (Add 0) Do you live in a polluted area? Yes, very polluted (Add 2) Yes, slightly polluted and no smoke or smog pollution (Add 1) No (Add 0) Answers 0 = Essential pleated air filter (MERV 8) 1 = Essential+ pleated air filter (MERV 11) More than 1 = Health Shield pleated air filter (MERV 13) ‍ What size air filter should I get? As the saying goes, there are three things you can’t pick: your parents, your name, and your filter size. That’s a real saying that we did not just make up eight seconds ago. ‍ Simply, you need the filter size that fits in your air return. You can typically find that size on the side of the air filter that you already have in use. This size will be the nominal size, which means it is rounded from its actual size. This is the size you click on at secondnature.com. ‍ If you don’t have a reference point from an old filter, you’ll need to use a tape measure and measure your vent. These measurements will be the exact size, and you’ll need to add ¼” to both length and width to get the nominal size. ‍ If you have a filter that is four inches thick or thicker, you have a whole house filter. There is no rhyme or reason to how these filter sizes are rounded. Luckily, all you’ll need at secondnature.com is the actual size of the filter. ‍ Buying an air filter isn’t always easy, and knowing what air filter to buy is the hardest part. However, if you have read this far, you’re good. So congratulations! Here’s an air filter gold star. You can print it out and tape it to your shirt if you want. You’ll probably get a lot of strange looks, but that’s not your problem.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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The Best Pets for Allergy Sufferers

These cats and dogs can sometimes help allergy sufferers. There’s nothing better than cuddling up to your furry friend after a long day. Unfortunately, for some, those cuddles could lead to hours of unbearable sniffles. There is good news, though! Just because you suffer from allergies, it doesn’t mean you have to avoid owning a pet all together. You have many “hypoallergenic” options! Firstly, what causes my allergic reactions? A protein found abundantly in the animal's skin and saliva trigger a person's allergies. When this protein flakes off with skin cells and sticks to the animal’s hair, it's called dander. When a dog shakes, or when you pet them, the dander flies into the air; this is the case with most animals. Shedding of the hair, along with the loose skin cells is what triggers the itchy watery eyes, sneezing, and the all around misery that accompanies an allergic reaction. What are hypoallergenic animals? People often assume hypoallergenic pets never cause allergic reactions, but research has shown that there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic pet. All pets will produce and shed dander, but some of them produce less than others. Breeds called hypoallergenic often shed far less than other breeds making them excellent choices for allergy sufferers. The list is lengthy, but here are some examples of hypoallergenic breeds. Cats: Siberian Balinese Balinese Bengal Burmese Colorpoint Shorthair Siamese Russian Blue Dogs: Poodles Schnauzers Portuguese Water Dogs Afghan Hounds Kerry Blue Bedlington Terrier A dog that is a mixture of one or more of these breeds also can be an excellent choice for reducing allergic reactions. Hairless Pets? Just as reduced shedding aids in keeping pet allergies away, so does no hair. Hairless animals indeed do not shed hair, and they are virtually dander free. While some skin cells still flake off and it isn't 100% guaranteed that you won't be allergic to them, they are the best bet. Dog breeds like the American Hairless Terrier, Xoloitzcuintli, and the Chinese Crested are affectionate, intelligent, and very naked. Even cat lovers will find the Sphynx or the Peterbald cuddle-friendly. It's an easy way to spot a hypoallergenic pet at the pound, the one with no hair! Recognizing Non-Allergenic Breeds Adopting from a shelter is always the best way to find a pet. These animals need homes, but how can you tell if they are going to trigger your allergies? The first thing you can do is familiarize yourself with hypoallergenic breeds. This way when you're walking through a shelter, you'll be able to pinpoint which animals look more like non-allergenic breeds. If your allergies aren't life-threatening, you can test the waters with a couple snuggles to see if you get a reaction. Sometimes it's going to take a few days, so don't rest your case upon your first encounter. There's even a hypoallergenic horse called the American Curly Horse, so horse lovers can saddle up and ride into the sunset without sneezing the entire way there. Animal companionship is one of the joys of life, and with these breeds, allergy sufferers can enjoy it the same as anyone else.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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The Indoor Air Quality Benefits of Plants

Did you know that certain plants actually help filter out toxins from your home? Your next breath of fresh air is no farther than your nearest house plant—depending on the kind of plant and how many you have. The science behind it is solid: we know plants clean the air. We also know Americans spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside is often worse than the air outdoors. One reason? Modern, airtight construction that saves energy also allows indoor air pollution to build up. That means Americans spend a lot of time breathing potentially unhealthy air, even though there are ways to filter it. House plants are an underutilized way to make your indoor air healthy again. Here are some of the indoor air quality benefits of plants and how it works. Photosynthesis Let's go back to fourth-grade science class for a refresher on photosynthesis. It's the process by which plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen. Using sunshine, water, and the green pigment chlorophyll, the plants strip the carbon from the air to produce glucose, leaving oxygen as a waste product expelled back into the air. What plants consider waste is vital to us. Our atmosphere is about 21 percent oxygen. If it drops below 19.5 percent oxygen, we can't breathe. This is why America’s obsession with green lawns is actually environmentally friendly! Think of it as suburbia's version of the Amazon rainforest. We need plants all over the world to continually release oxygen for us to live. But oxygen production is not the only way plants clean up the air we breathe. They also remove poisons from the air, and scientists have spent decades studying this process. The Landmark Study When you think about scientific breakthroughs, you might think about the discovery of penicillin or the polio vaccine. Thirty years ago, scientists at NASA made another discovery. They found common plants cleaned up poisons such as benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene. These volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are common to indoor spaces and can cause anything from skin irritation to cancer. Common daily items that contain formaldehyde include: Insulation Particle board Paper bags Carpet backing Natural gas Benzene is found in: Gasoline Ink Paint Plastic Rubber You’ll find trichloroethylene in: Dry cleaning chemicals Printing ink Varnishes Lacquers Adhesives So basically, one or more of these chemicals are present in just about every indoor environment you encounter. That's a lot of VOCs that you're breathing in, unaware of dangers they may pose. At the time of the 1989 study, NASA was trying to mitigate these chemicals so they could one day seal astronauts in a space station without killing them. The study called plants a "promising, economical solution to indoor air pollution." (And for the record, there have been no deaths onboard the International Space Station, so they clearly figured it out.) ‍ Getting Into The Weeds The gerbera daisy is the pleated air filter of the plant world when it comes to cleaning trichloroethylene and benzene from the air. The plant removed most of both chemicals out of all the plant species tested in the original study. The NASA study lists how each of the plant species performed during research. The pot mum and peace lily ranked second and third on the list of plants that remove the most benzene. Marginata (aka dragon tree) and peace lily ranked similarly on the list of plants that best remove trichloroethylene. The top three formaldehyde removers, in order of how many micrograms each plant removed from the air, are: Bamboo palm, which cleaned about 76,700 mg of the chemical per plant Janet Craig Mother-in-law’s tongue, also known as the snake plant Newer Studies Twenty years after the first indoor plant study, the American Society For Horticultural Science (ASHA) published a follow-up study. Researchers tested 28 plant species for their ability to cleanse the air of dangerous chemicals such as benzene, toluene, octane, trichloroethylene, and terpene. The CDC says toluene, an ingredient in paints, nail polish, and gasoline, has adverse impacts on the brain and nervous system. Octane is an eye and respiratory irritant. This newer study also found that indoor ornamental plants remove these harmful chemicals. But there are a lot of variables. For example, are the plant and chemical in a sealed container or in an open room? Researchers behind the ASHS study concluded: "Plants also have the potential to significantly improve the quality of indoor air." ‍ Here are the top five chemical removing house plants, according to the ASHS study: Waffle plant English, or common, ivy Purple heart Asparagus, or foxtail, fern Wax plant More studies need to be done to figure out what combination and how many house plants you need to remove any given amount of indoor pollutants. If the past studies hold true, plants, in general, are an excellent idea. The year after the ASHS study was published, scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NACR), found plants and trees absorb more air pollution than initially thought. About one third more, in fact. NCAR's outdoor study found that the denser the vegetation, the more volatile organic compounds are absorbed. There is some controversy around applying this study to the indoors. Still, it at least emphasizes the point that plants do indeed clean the air. The more plants there are to absorb the poisons, the more significant the effect. A Breath of Fresh Air The consensus right now is that you'll need a LOT of indoor plants to make a big difference in the quality of the indoor air you breathe. You could live or work in a greenhouse, and the plants still wouldn't replace modern ventilation or HVAC systems. But if you use indoor plants in conjunction with air cleaning technology, you'll get the most out of nature and innovation. A review published in Trends In Plant Science suggests house plants, combined with air filters and smart technology, clean the air. Consider creative ways to incorporate plants into your indoor space—such as a boxwood hedge wall, or a container garden of gerbera daisies. If you have the room, think about bringing in a banana plant to frame the room with its graceful, chemical-eating leaves. Or consider a vertical garden, where you can arrange English ivy and purple heart along with gerbera daisies from top to bottom. How Clean Is Your Air? There are still questions about how much indoor ornamental plants clean up the air. Some of the variables include the dimensions of your environment and how many chemicals are in the air. That can fluctuate, depending on how the space is used. You also need to take into account how close it is to industrial sites or heavy traffic, or even how many people in the room are wearing dry cleaned clothes. These are all things to consider if you're using plants to purify the air in your office or your home. Modern technology leads to more air pollution and less time to spend outdoors. With the right plants and the right air filters, you can take control over what you breathe. Think of it as breathing right. Most people try to eat right, minimizing the bad stuff and trying to eat more natural foods. So why wouldn't you watch what you breathe too? Those house plants in your window or your office space remove harmful toxins from the air. If you increase the number of plants you have, add plants that remove bad chemicals, and change your air filters regularly, then you and your family will breathe easier.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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What Type Of Air Filter Should I Order?

There's a lot of options out there, not all of them good. There's a bewildering range of different air filter types out there and it's easy to get confused. We have done the homework for you and simplified the process so you can make the right choice. ‍ First things first: Economy fiberglass filters compared to pleated filters. ‍ There really is no comparison to be made. Cheap fiberglass filters are usually sold in multi-packs for a few bucks and, in this case you definitely get what you pay for... very little quality. They are not efficient for two reasons. ‍ The relatively open weave of the fiberglass mesh does not filter out much dirt at all and the micro-particles and contaminates present in your home just get sucked through the filter and into your HVAC system. Over time, the inside components of your HVAC equipment and the air ducts get coated with crud and your system can't work at peak efficiency. This means higher energy bills and expensive sanitizing and repair bills. ‍ In short, this cheap type of filter doesn't filter very well at all and you won't find them here at Second Nature. If you are in the habit of buying them it's a habit you should break! ‍ Pleated filters are the only way to go. We only offer reliable, good quality pleated filters, which are made right here in the USA. They are up to 60% more efficient than fiberglass and have a denser, larger surface area (imagine the pleats ironed out flat) that ensures better filtration. But remember, these higher grade filters are more efficient at capturing the bad stuff and by doing a better job they get dirty quicker. That's good news … not bad news. They are both more efficient and faster at doing what they are supposed to do. ‍ Picking the grade of filter. Much of the information in the 'How often should I change my filter?' section also applies to the grade of filter you should choose. The number of people, pets, and any allergies will need to be considered. Also, the possible presence of smoke, smog, and microscopic contaminants that may carry odor usually call for a higher grade of filter to trap the smaller stuff. ‍ We have simplified your filter choice. Good, Better. Best. Our three grades of filter, Essential, Essential+ and Health Shield are simply categorized as 'Good', 'Better' and 'Best'. They each do a great job in different home environments. One of them is just right for you. ‍ Essential. Good. This filter easily takes care of the basics such as dust, pollen, pet dander and virus carriers whilst allowing a good airflow through the HVAC system. ‍ Essential+. Better. Our most popular filter also offers good airflow but better filtration than the Essential. In addition to the basics, it captures smaller particles, smoke and smog. If anyone smokes tobacco in the home or the kitchen is a busy cooking area (are your smoke detectors always sounding off?), Essential+ is the right filter for you. ‍ Health Shield. Best. This is the most powerful and efficient filter in our line-up. The Health Shield traps all the contaminates the other two filters do, but also snags lead dust, oil smoke, and most importantly, microscopic allergens … some of which are 20 times smaller than a grain of salt! If anyone in the home suffers from allergies or serious respiratory problems such as asthma, this filter is a 'must.' ‍ The denser filter media and more efficient filtration mean slightly less airflow than the other two grades and it will need to be changed more frequently. In return, you will be rewarded with the reassurance of sustained, super-fresh indoor air quality similar to hospital standards. If you want the best, definitely go Health Shield.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How To Recognize Indoor Air Pollutants

Indoor air pollution can actually be much worse than outdoor air pollution. While the majority of Americans recognize the dangers of outdoor pollution sources such as vehicle emissions, most people are unaware of the risks posed by indoor pollution. According to the American Lung Association, half of Americans live in counties with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution... because Americans spend 90% of their time indoors --and up to 65% of that time at home-- it’s important to safeguard indoor air. ‍ The Environmental Protection Agency stated, “Indoor air pollutants have been ranked among the top five environmental risks to public health. The problems they cause can be subtle and do not always produce easily recognized or immediate impacts on health.” Poor indoor air quality can cause both short-term and long-term health problems. Short-term problems include headaches, tiredness, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat. These symptoms can usually be treated when the source of the pollution is removed from the home. Long-term symptoms are more severe and can include respiratory diseases, heart problems, and even cancer. ‍ Indoor air quality problems stem from three main categories: ‍ Sources of Pollution The most common pollution sources are particles or gases that are released into the air. Other pollution sources include dust particles from old furniture, mold, and toxic products used for household cleaning. Because most of these particles and gases are invisible, homeowners are usually unaware of an indoor air quality problem within their home. Individuals can hire professionals or buy a home air quality test kit in order to find out if they have any problems with their indoor air quality. Homeowners should also have a professional test their home for radon gas, since the colorless, odorless gas is the #2 cause of lung cancer in the United States. If there is an indoor air quality problem, remove the pollution sources. The Environmental Protection Agency states, “The most effective way to improve indoor air is to eliminate individual sources or reduce their emissions.” Removing pollution sources may range from banning indoor smoking to cleaning up mold to getting rid of toxic cleaning products. ‍ Inadequate Ventilation According to the U.S. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, improper ventilation is another leading cause of indoor air quality problems. If outdoor air is not coming in to freshen old air and lower indoor pollutant levels, indoor air will quickly become filled with unhealthy pollutants. The American Lung Association suggests, “Make sure the ventilation system is working correctly and that air flow is not blocked.” The EPA adds the following steps: “When weather permits, open windows and doors, or run an air conditioner with the vent control open. Bathroom and kitchen fans that exhaust to the outdoors also increase ventilation and help remove pollutants.” They also recommend changing air filters regularly to remove dust and other pollutants from the air. ‍ High Humidity Levels High humidity is also a common cause of indoor air quality problems. High humidity makes the air moist, which increases the risk of mold. As a result, indoor humidity should be kept between 30-50%. Use a humidity gauge to make sure indoor air is at a healthy level. Decrease humidity by opening windows or turning on the air conditioner. ‍ The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission wrote, “Indoor air pollution is one risk you can do something about.” Take proactive steps to remove pollution sources and maintain ventilation and humidity levels in order to protect the quality of indoor air.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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The Truth About Pleated Air Filter Pressure Drop

What is pressure drop? How does it work? What is static pressure? In the world of HVAC, static pressure is defined as the resistance to airflow in your HVAC system created by the components of said systems. Generally, lower static pressure is better. High static pressure results in lower airflow, which allows your HVAC system to condition less air at a time. This forces it to work longer (not harder), which if left unchecked can result in higher power bills and potentially shortened lifespan. When selecting a filter, static pressure is an important factor, but it is far from the only factor to consider. ‍ What is a pressure drop? Pressure drop is defined as the change in pressure from one defined area to another. In HVAC, this is referring to the change in static pressure as air moves through your air filters. Put simpler, it's how much your air filter restricts airflow. The most common cause of a pressure drop that exceeds acceptable levels is your air filters being left unchanged for far too long. Many still believe that an air filter with a high MERV rating can instantly create a pressure drop that is above acceptable levels, but this is actually false. ‍ Pressure drop myths The most common myth around pressure drop is that pleated air filters have too high of a pressure drop. We’ve already discussed the airflow myths around pleated air filters, but we’ll expound a little more with regards to pressure drop specifically. ‍ The pressure drop of a fiberglass filter is about 0.1 inches of water. (inches of water is a measure of pressure differential. The name sounds counterintuitive when talking about air, but you can read more about it here if you want). These super cheap filters are the thin, flat, and usually green or blue ones that are typically less than a dollar. They are often erroneously recommended by technicians because of their extremely low pressure drop. Here’s what you’re not being told. ‍ The pressure drop of a MERV 8 pleated air filter is around 0.12 inches of water, which is almost exactly the same as the 0.10 of the fiberglass. A MERV 13 pleated air filter, the highest quality offering from Second Nature and most other filter companies, has a pressure drop of around 0.25. That’s definitely more, but if you recall from our study referenced in this article, even with that pressure drop, the likelihood of it reducing the lifespan of your HVAC unit is slim to none. ‍ You might be wondering how that is possible. It has to do with the construction of the filter. There is a relationship between the surface area of the filter and the pressure drop, which is the reason for the pleats. By folding the filter media accordion-style, the surface area increases dramatically while the filter frame remains the same size, allowing for greater airflow without having to increase the size of the actual filter. The filtering efficiency itself is also increased by changes in thread materials to materials with better electrostatic properties, which physically attract particles with static electricity. The result is a lower pressure drop with higher filtration efficiency. This is what makes pleated filters the best on the market. They're able to achieve high levels of filtration without high pressure drops, also known as too much airflow restriction. Remembering to change your filter is key to minimizing risk from pressure drop There is not really much risk with a brand new filter anymore because of the technological advancement of the pleated air filter. Problems that your system will experience from high pressure drop are usually a result of a filter left unchanged for far too long. It’s commonly understood that an air filter will actually become more effective as it fills with particles. This is true. So why not just leave it in the return forever? Because the buildup results in an increased pressure drop. If left unchanged for too long, your filter could fill to the point where airflow is zero, meaning your system is running, but accomplishing absolutely nothing. This is not good. ‍ Making sure you're using a good filter is important. Making sure you're changing it on time is equally important in order to avoid increased power bills and excessive wear on the components of your air conditioning system. According to the Department of Energy, changing your filter on time can save you 5-15% on your heating and cooling bills. Our goal as a company is to make sure people remember to change their filter, which is why we offer an air filter subscription with a completely customizable schedule.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Is a Home Energy Audit Right for You?

What is an energy audit and what makes a good energy auditor? It’s eight days after tax day, and we’re here to talk about audits. But don’t worry, these audits are actually good, and not a result of not paying your taxes. We’re talking about home energy audits. ‍ A home energy audit (or assessment) is a review of your home’s energy usage to determine efficiency. A professional auditor will bring lots of fancy equipment to your home and conduct a thorough examination of every room. ‍ Who does an energy audit? Energy audits are conducted by professionals who are each certified as a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Rater by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) or certified as a Building Analyst by the Building Performance Institute. These certifications are important. You’re paying this person to do work on your home, and an audit can eventually pay for itself (when performed by a certified expert). ‍ How is an energy audit done? An energy audit is designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of how your home uses energy and how the construction impacts energy usage. Step 1. Initial Overview It typically starts with an auditor reviewing the layout of your home so they know where trouble areas may exist. Anything you can supply beforehand that might be enlightening, such as floor plans, will be helpful for the auditor. ‍ Step 2. Assessment An auditor will typically then have a discussion with the homeowner about any issues the homeowner has noticed. Things like unusually cold floors, areas of condensation, drafts, as well as appliance use will be relevant to the auditor. ‍ Often times, the next step will involve an inspection of certain appliances known as combustion appliances. They’re called combustion appliances because they require the burning of fuel to generate heat. Furnaces and water heaters are often the combustion appliances that are tested. Step 3. Air Leak Test Next, your auditor will locate drafts and air leaks with what is called a blower test. This involves an apparatus that fits on a door frame and, as the name implies, blows air. While the blower is running, the auditor will use a device, often an infrared camera, to locate areas of leakage. ‍ The audit may then conclude in the attic, where the infrared camera is again used to identify areas of leakage and insufficient insulation. Step 4. Report Delivered Finally, a report is put together by the auditor that details findings and provides specific and sequential instructions to fix the prevalent issues. That concludes what an energy audit might look like in your home. Remember that all homes are different and all auditors probably have different ways of going about the same tasks so your audit may differ from this process to a certain degree. ‍ What is the value of a home energy audit? The value of an energy audit can be tremendous or minor, depending on how energy-efficient your home already is. You’ll receive step-by-step instructions from a professional on how to improve your home’s energy usage. As we’ve detailed in previous #FilterEasyFix episodes and blogs, there is an incredible amount of money to be saved on your energy bills with some relatively easy home fixes. An energy audit will tell what fixes or repairs are most relevant for you. ‍ Should I have an energy audit done? Yes, probably. Many homes have energy issues, and most older homes have more significant energy efficiency issues. You can save more than just a few dollars by identifying trouble areas in your home and cleaning them up. Some problems you can address on your own, but others may require a professional. If you suspect your house could be more energy efficient than it is, then an audit is probably a good idea and will eventually pay for itself with the money saved on each bill. ‍ It's also worth noting that regularly replacing your home air filters will pay for itself by reducing your energy bills, preventing expensive repairs to your HVAC system, and potentially extending that costly system's lifespan. Sign up for Second Nature's subscription service today and that always forgotten to-do of replacing your air filters on time (or ever) will be permanently checked off your list.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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