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Triple Win Property Management Blog

Meet the Monster that's Killing your Indoor Air Quality

Are candles bad for you? Yup. How bad? Real bad. It breathes fire. It throws smoke up into the sky above. It is the monster that is ravaging your indoor air quality. It is . . . the candle. No, seriously. Why are candles bad for you? Candles are part of a roll call of unassuming objects that, if used improperly, can do serious damage to your home’s air quality. Common wax materials and wicks can emit relatively nasty air pollutants when burned. ‍ Are scented candles bad for you? Hate to break it to you, but scented candles can be even worse, and both varieties unload decent quantities of soot into your in-home atmosphere. Don’t worry though. You don’t have to give up the ambiance of candlelight—at least, not just yet. There is still hope for the future of your candlelit dinners. ‍ ‍Why is paraffin wax bad and what to do about it? Your everyday candle is typically made of something called paraffin wax. Why is paraffin wax bad? Because it’s made from petroleum, which will throw all sorts of nasty garbage into the air if you light it on fire. This is quite inconvenient, as lighting it on fire is kind of the whole point of a candle after all. Some examples of this “nasty garbage” include acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Even if you have no idea what those things are, you can probably assume from their lengthy chemistry sounding names that you don’t want them floating around in your house. And you would be correct in that assumption. These compounds can lead to respiratory issues, asthma, and other conditions that you definitely don’t want. ‍ "Additionally, burning a candle wick yields a smoke soot that floats into your air and may take days to settle out of the air. Smoke particles settle at a rate of 2” per day when in areas with no air flow. Homes have an abundance of airflow thanks to their HVAC and people and pets moving. MERV 13 ( our Health Shield filters ) are built to capture particles the size of smoke particles. All other filters will allow smoke particles to flow right on through and land on your HVAC equipment and enter back into your loving environment. Have you ever seen a vent on the wall that has black soot hanging outside of it? Chances are there has been smoke in the house."- Second Nature COO Kevin Barry ‍ Paraffin wax-free candles that aren’t as bad for you So, are paraffin candles bad? Yes. But luckily, there are some worry-free alternatives. Getting rid of the paraffin is step one. While paraffin is the wax of choice for most candle makers, there are also other types of candle wax. Beeswax candles hold a higher price tag, but this safer and more natural material is well worth the extra dollar or two. These things don’t pollute your air with unpronounceable molecules and come with the added bonus of a natural honey scent. ‍ Another option is soy. Soy candles don’t have the naturally occurring scent that Beeswax does, but it’s lower burning temperature allows the candle to last as much as 1.5x longer than your standard paraffin wax candle. Soy also burns just as clean as its beeswax competitor, making both types great alternatives to paraffin. ‍ Make candles safer with a little thing called an air filter So, are candles bad for you? Paraffin wax ones, for sure, are. But choosing alternative wax candles minimizes health risks. You can also make your candles a bit safer with the magic of air filters. ‍ Beeswax and soy varieties unload significantly less of the nasty black soot into your home that paraffin is known for (even though all candles will produce some). Regularly changing your air filters will allow them to do their job of keeping that candle refuse out of your home’s air. ‍ So don’t be afraid to light up some candles (as long as your filters have high MERV ratings–13 or above). That romantic candlelit ambiance is still possible, as is that creepy haunted house vibe if that’s what you’re into. You do you. All we want is for you to do it in the cleanest and safest air possible. ‍ Not sure what size air filter to get? Learn about air filter sizes and how they work to remove candle soot from your home.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How Do I Know What Size Air Filter I Need?

Where do I find my size? Air filter sizes can look a bit intimidating, especially when a great deal of homes have multiple filters of different sizes. Second Nature is here to make filter buying EASY. Once you enter your filter sizes with us just once, not only will you not have to remember when it's time to change them, but you will no longer need to remember those tricky sizes. ‍ In order to find the size of pleated filter(s) used in your home, you need to look no further than your existing filters. On the outer frame, you will see at least one set of numbers. If you see two sets of numbers, the filter size needed to order replacements is the nominal size, not the actual size. You can ignore the actual size printed on your filter for this task, as the nominal size is the number set needed to order new filters. ‍ Your filter size (again, referencing the nominal size for your filter here) will look something like this: 20" x 20" x 1" or 20" x 25" x 1" or 14" x 20" x 2" ‍ The size of your pleated air filter is always presented in a string of three numbers, with the first number representing the length, the second number representing the width, and the last number representing the thickness. ‍ If you’re still not sure what size filter(s) your home needs, feel free to reach out to us.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Clean Air And Apartment Living

Air circulation is not always great in an apartment. As you probably know all too well, one of the benefits of apartment living is NOT air circulation! Small or enclosed living spaces can cause pollutants to collect in your indoor air. These irritants remain stagnant in your space, just like that cousin who said he’d crash for “just a couple nights” (two months later, he’s still there!). In fact, the EPA states that indoor air can be even more polluted than outdoor air! ‍ Let that sink in; think about the smoggy haze that lingers in heavily polluted cities. Yes, the air in your home may contain even more pollutants than THAT. ‍ And, it’s no secret that property management companies don’t typically change the air filters on a strict schedule (and sometimes, not at all!). If they do, most of the time they use the cheap filters that don’t actually clean your air. ‍ All of those irritants floating around can wreak serious havoc on your health, such as: Allergic reactions Wheezing Sneezing Coughing Respiratory issues ‍ There is hope, though! Whether you are moving into a new apartment or staying put, there are simple steps you can take to better the indoor air quality in your place. ‍ If you’re on the hunt for a new place, there are a number of factors to consider. First, look for upgraded heating and air conditioning units. If you live in a city of older buildings, then consider ensuring that you safeguard yourself from those old units with air filters that will keep them from blowing dust or mold into your place. ‍ Proper ventilation and a layout that allows for the optimum level of airflow (basically, an open floor plan) is a plus too. Hopefully an easy criteria to fill, since open floorplans are all the rage right now. ‍ Just looking to improve the indoor air quality of your current residence? Here are some tips for that too: Keep your apartment clean and dry (we know, not as easy as it sounds!) Promote air circulation Keep the humidity levels in the sweet spot - between 30 and 50 percent. You can easily measure this with a hygrometer! (We promise, it’s less complicated than it sounds.)

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How Do I Reset The Water Filter Light On My Refrigerator?

Tired of that annoying light indicator on your refrigerator? Here's how to reset it! Like everything else in this world, every manufacturer has their own “unique” way of doing things. We’ve included the instructions for the most common fridge brands below. ‍ Amana - push the Auto Light and Dispenser Lock buttons on the dispenser (simultaneously) and hold for 4 seconds until you see the refrigerator filter status indicator light begin to flash. Once it flashes, release the buttons. Some Amana refrigerator models may require you to push and hold the Water and Dispenser Lock buttons for 4 seconds until you see the filter status indicator light begin to flash. Then, release the buttons. ‍ Electrolux and Frigidaire - push the reset button on the water dispenser and hold until you see the green light flash (this can take up to 15 seconds). GE and Hotpoint - press the Reset Water Filter button on the dispenser and hold for 3 seconds. ‍ Jenn-Air and Maytag - push the Lock and Light buttons on the dispenser (or Lock and Water on newer models) and hold for 4 seconds until you see the indicator light blink. ‍ KitchenAid and Whirlpool - push and release the light switch a total of 5 times within 10 seconds. If you see a Filter button on the refrigerator, push and hold this button for 5-10 seconds. ‍ LG - push the Reset button and hold it for 3 seconds. ‍ Samsung -push the Child Lock and Ice Type buttons at the same time and hold for 3 seconds. (Do not hold the buttons longer than 3 seconds. If the two buttons are held simultaneously for 5 seconds, the reset function will stop. In this case, let go of the buttons and repeat the procedure once more. The water filter indicator light will change to green.) ‍ Don’t see your brand here? Feel free to reach out to us at help.secondnature.com or call us at 1 (800) 308-1186. We’re always happy to help!

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Where Are My Air Filters Located

Where in my house are the filters? While it’s crucial to change out your air filters regularly, you won’t get far if you do not know where they are supposed to go! Whether you recently moved into a new home or your better half (you know, the responsible one) isn't around, here are some tips and clues you can use to make your search easier. ‍ Changing the filters in the HVAC unit In this case, your air filter is most likely located right next to your furnace or air conditioning system air handler. The air handler is the large metal box containing the fan and fan motor. Typically, the unit would be found in a basement, an attic, or sometimes in the back of a closet. Once it is located, look for a slot where an air filter should fit. What you are seeking is a 1" wide hinged or removable cover. If you have a thicker filter that is 4" or more, the slot should match accordingly. There should already be a filter placed in there, which will confirm that you found the right spot! It will depend on your unit, but it can be orientated vertically or horizontally. Just make sure that your airflow arrow points towards the unit! If you looked everywhere and you still cannot find any possible place to put in a filter, there is no need to panic! It just means that you need to use a return vent. That, or you might have to update your eye prescription. Changing the filters in a return vent The air handler pulls air in from the house through the return duct system, and then blows the air through the heating or cooling system and back into the house through the duct system. The air filter is typically located at the point where the return duct enters the air handler. ‍ Larger houses often have more than one HVAC system. Each system will typically have at least one air filter. Therefore, your home may have filters located at the air handler AND in the returns. You should check each possible location to make sure you have found all of your filters. ‍ Since HVAC units are usually hidden away in smaller and less convenient spaces, some homes are set up for air filters in return vents. Return vents are often in the wall but can be in your ceiling or even the floor. The vent will be rectangular or square and should be larger than a standard air duct vent. If you already know the filter sizes that your home needs, that is a good hint for the shape of the return vent that you need to find. ‍ Once found, the cover of the return vent can be removed by pulling a tab or unscrewing a bolt. For the latter, an ordinary coin should do the trick to loosen it, similar to a standard screwdriver. Place the cover to the side and remove the old filter. Place the new filter in the same way as the old one. Pleated filters have one side that has thin metal wiring and another side without. When installed in the return vent, the side with metal should be facing away from you and should not be seen. The purpose of the wiring is to keep the filter's shape. Since the vent is pulling air inwards, it is more efficient for particles to collide with the plain side of the fibers. Finally, put the cover back, throw away the old filter, and then find the next return vent. ‍ Case closed You should now be able to find all the spots where your filters need to be installed! If you are still uncertain and would like more assistance, a local HVAC technician would be able to find all the locations that need to be maintained easily. Just be sure to regularly check on your filters and change them out frequently to have clean air and a happy HVAC system! Or you could save some time by signing up for some pretty handy air filter subscription service. Just a thought.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Are Washable Air Filters Good For My HVAC System?

Are reusable air filters a good choice for me? Most of us aren’t really experts on the best type of filters for our homes, families, and lifestyles. When it comes to deciding on the type of air filter to use in your home, one factor tends to play the largest role in decision making: cost. Rightfully so, everyone wants to save money wherever possible. When individuals are looking for ways to save on home maintenance, they are usually excited to hear about washable air filters, and we totally get that. Although the concept is great and cost is relatively low, that doesn't mean washable filters are the best option for your home. ‍ One positive washable filters have over pleated filters is they don't have to be replaced as often. You simply vacuum and rinse. They cost between 50 and 60 dollars--what you could easily spend on traditional filters in just a few months. This consideration alone is enough to convince many homeowners that washable filters are the way to go. Although the low price is very appealing, they still need to be replaced around every 10 years. There are other incredibly important factors that surely outweigh the cost benefits. ‍ How do washable filters work? Washable filters are composed of multiple layers of vented metal. As air molecules pass through the first layer, they become positively charged by the friction of the air on the metal. Dust and other pollutants then attach to the other layers as they pass through the filter toward your system. ‍ 2 good reasons why washable filters are a bad choice: Washable filters rely on static electricity to operate and they can only filter out so much debris. Static electricity works well to filter out the smaller, lighter particles but when it comes to larger particles or mold spores, an electrostatic filter will not be as efficient as a MERV 11 filter. If someone in the house suffers from asthma or allergies it is better to opt for a high-filtration, replaceable filter rated at MERV 13. After dust and other particles initially pass through the first layer of the filter, not all of them are caught by the other layers. But the escaping particles still remain positively charged and can stick to components in your a/c system or the walls of your duct work promoting mold growth. Think that cleaning a washable filter is as simple as a quick vacuum and rinse in the backyard? This isn’t exactly the case. To properly clean the filter, it must be disassembled and each layer must be cleaned separately. More work than one might presume when purchasing the filter. Also, despite following the correct disassembly procedure, it may not always be cleaned properly, leaving your filter dirty even when you think it's clean. ‍ Improper filtration can lead to high repair costs or system failure! Pleated air filters can achieve more efficient filtration, while putting less strain on your system. You'll rest, and breathe, easy knowing that your air is actually clean and that you aren't slowly killing your HVAC system.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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10 Organizing Hacks that Will Change Your Life (a little)

Be more organized in just five minutes Some studies have shown that the benefits of maintaining organization may stretch far beyond the obvious. Organization in your life can reduce stress and decrease the time required to complete tasks, which can lead to better eating habits, better sleeping habits, and better overall wellness. ‍ Unfortunately, being organized isn’t as common as you’d hope. The average American spends one year of their life looking for lost or misplaced items, and more than 25% of people say they aren’t more organized because they don’t have time to put organization systems into place. ‍ So while creating a comprehensive organization system would obviously be a good idea, who among us actually has time right now to put towards something like that? Apparently, about 80 million Americans don’t. There’s hope for us time-starved, hard-working adults. A little creativity goes a long way to make your home more organized and things more accessible. We’ve gone ahead and taken the liberty of being creative for you and came up with ten quick and straightforward ways to be more organized today—yes, right now. ‍ Double hang clothes with soda can tabs. Time: 5 minutes Cost: $0.00 Unless you’re someone that regularly gets rid of clothes you don’t wear, you probably don’t have a lot of closet space. You can clear some up without having to go spend money on closet organizers. Simply take the tabs off cans of soda (or whatever cans you’re drinking) and run the hook of a hanger through the top circle on the tab. Take a second hanger and run it through the bottom hole, and now you can double hang clothes and save some closet space. You could even triple hang clothes if you wanted, as well as put similar garments together to save time when looking through your closet. Use toilet paper rolls and shoeboxes to store cords. Time: 20 minutes Cost: $2.00 The ultimate challenge when it comes to staying organized is managing charging cables and cords for your electronics. Somewhere in everybody’s house is a drawer or bag packed full of chargers and headphones that without fail are tangled to the point of insanity. You can end that today. Take old paper towel or toilet paper rolls and line them up in an old shoebox. Simply glue or tape them to the bottom of the box and then store your cords inside the rolls. You could even label each one on top of the box and leave a corner for charging blocks. It may sound cheap (and we admit it is), but your cables will magically stay tangle free. Put sheet sets inside pillowcases. Time: 10 minutes Cost: $0.00 Keep your bed sheet sets together with what is probably the easiest hack on this list. After you’re done washing and folding sheets, stick the whole set inside of the pillowcase before putting them away. Now each sheet set will be kept together, and there’s no more searching for them in your linen closet. Wash socks in a mesh bag. Time: However long it takes you to put socks in a bag Cost: $5.00 Tired of losing socks in the mass of clothes in your washing machine and dryer? Of course you are. Take a small mesh bag and place all your socks in it, then only wash and dry the bag. All your socks will still get cleaned, they’ll stay together, and they’ll thank you. Jumbo clothespin mail sorters. Time: 10 minutes Cost: $15.00 Not many things can build up faster if they’re ignored than mail. Bills, junk mail, magazines, and other tree-killing wastes pile up if they aren't taken care of. It’s more stressful to take care of if you're trying to wrap your arms around disorganized chaos. Solution: purchase some jumbo clothespins, label them, and hang them on the wall, and you can have all your mail sorted and not taking up space on your counter or desk (and definitely not forgotten in your junk drawer.) The only caveat here is that you do need to take care of this mail because jumbo clothespins won’t hold 604 bills. They will eventually run out of space, but maybe that’s the extra motivation you need to take on the bills. Oh, and when it comes to bills, most companies allow for e-bills and automatic payments. Just a thought. Use bread bag tabs to label cords. Time: 10 minutes Cost: $0.00 Hack number two showed you how to take care of chargers and other electronic cords when they aren’t in use. What about the cables that are plugged in behind your computer? Have you ever had the problem of needing to unplug something and not knowing what is what in that powerstrip? Try labeling them with old bread tabs. Any time you buy a loaf of bread, save the little square tabs and label them with a corresponding cord, then hook them onto the wire and never again will you have to track cables to their devices to figure out what they go to. If you don’t eat bread, we’re deeply sorry. We’re sure your happy friends who still eat bread will let you have their leftover bread bag tabs. Store plastic bags in old disinfecting wipe containers. Time: 5 minutes Cost: $0.00 Every single home has a place somewhere where they have a bunch of grocery bags. You go grocery shopping, you bring home a bunch of bags, and you need somewhere to stuff them. Well, how about an old container of disinfecting wipes? It's big enough to hold quite a few bags, and you can pull them out one at a time like tissues, instead of picking through a huge tangled bunch of bags and having to fight for one. Use a magazine holder to keep tin foil and plastic wrap organized. Time: 5 minutes Cost: $15.00 There’s not really a great place for a bunch of rectangular containers like those that hold tin foil unless you’re willing to make your own. The good news is that making your own is quite easy and you won’t need to find a place to cram those things anymore. You can purchase a magazine holder for around $10-15. Just hang it on the back of the pantry door using a command strip or any other adhesive used on wood. Then take all your tin foil or saran wrap containers and store them there. They’ll be easy to get to and won’t take up the all too precious space in your kitchen. Hang trash bags on a paper towel roll. Time: 30 minutes Cost: $30.00 Ever tried to pull a new trash bag out from under the sink, only to pull like four out and take the box with you? One great way to save time and avoid potentially misplacing things is to hang your kitchen bags and trash bags on a paper towel holder. They already come in rolls, so all you have to do is hang up the holder. It’s as simple as finding an open area of a concealed wall (we imagine you don’t want your trash bags easily visible in your kitchen) and hanging a paper towel holder. Use a shoe organizer to store cleaning products. Time: 5 minutes Cost: $5.00 A shoe organizer is an excellent tool for organizing all sorts of things beyond just shoes. The slots are sized for shoes but can fit things like cleaning bottles, dress socks, or even cords if you need that much space for them. Cleaning products in particular, such as disinfecting wipes or sprays, are things you want to keep out of reach of the kids. Hanging them on the back of the closet door can be a great way to keep them organized and out of sight. You could even arrange them so that the bottles that are running low are on the bottom, making shopping lists easier. Hopefully, you can find some use in these quick, simple, and cheap organization hacks that can remove some small stressors from your life. We’d love to hear from you and any awesome organization ideas you have. Share your ideas with Second Nature on Facebook.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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A Beginner's Guide to Weatherstripping

Do you know your weatherstripping? Drafts and air leaks exist in about every home in America. The edges of windows and doors are the primary enablers for this air outside your home to get inside your home and vice versa. Drafts may not seem like a major issue, but over time they can really drive up your power bill as conditioned air escapes, and they can introduce lots of foreign pollutants from outside into your home. In short, it's something worth fixing, especially since it usually takes about five minutes and 20 dollars to do so. ‍ So how do you actually accomplish this task? With the magic of weatherstripping. Weatherstripping is basically strips of materials that you adhere to doors and windows. These materials, if installed correctly, seal the edges of doors and windows when they're closed, preventing the movement of air any nasty stuff in the air. Pro Tip: Weatherstripping is commonly associated with wintertime, but it's just as valuable in the summer as it is in the cold months. How do I know if I need weatherstripping The first step in identifying where your home needs weatherstripping is to test for air leaks in places that are most vulnerable. There are a handful of do-it-yourself options for this, or you can hire a professional to conduct an energy audit. A professional energy auditor will give you precise answers to where you need weatherstripping, in addition to other useful information. ‍ If you wish to opt for the DIY versions, there are a couple ways to test for insufficient seals. ‍ The flashlight test This requires two people and it needs to be at night. So grab a friend, child, or spouse, promise to buy them a bottle of wine for their help (unless your children are helping—please do not buy wine for your children), and get to work. ‍ The test, which works best for doors, is pretty simple. One person takes a flashlight outside once it's completely dark out. Close the door behind them and have them shine the light all around the door and surrounding areas. If you can see light coming through at any point, that's a point where you have an insufficient seal and should consider adding weatherstripping. ‍ The moisture test The moisture test only requires one person and can be done at any time of day, but it's helpful if it's done on a cold day. If you're looking to save money this summer, you may want to pick a different test. ‍ The moisture test is also pretty simple. Wet your hand with some room temperature water and then feel your way around the edges of the door or window. The moisture will cause your hand to feel cold if it comes in contact with air from the outside (again, this only works on a cold day). If it feels cool, go ahead and add some weatherstripping. ‍ The dollar bill test This test is specific to doors and requires the use of a single dollar bill. Open your door and place a dollar bill in between the door jamb and the door itself, then close the door. Grab the bill and try to pull it out. If it slides out easily, time for some weatherstripping. ‍ The smoke test The final test you can try for a draft in your home is what we'll call the smoke test. This involves lighting a candle or match and holding it behind your door or window. Watch the smoke carefully for changes in how it moves. If incoming air effects the smoke stream, it's a good bet you're losing money and warm/cool air through a draft. Time to do some weatherstripping. ‍ The different varieties of weatherstripping Who knew weatherstripping could be this complicated? It turns out there are a ton of different kinds of weatherstripping, some of which perform better in certain situations than others. We're going to simplify this down as much as possible. ‍ There are several different varieties to pick from. We did some research for you, and hopefully, this can help you become a weatherstripping expert—or just learn what you need to make an informed decision. ‍ V-Seal V-Seal is probably the most common type of weatherstripping that is used within the home. Its name comes from the V shape that it takes when you fold it down the middle, which allows it to line the inside edges of window and door frames. It can come with adhesive backing for easy installation, or it can come without one and requires nailing in. If installed correctly, V-Seal can be among the most durable weatherstripping options. ‍ Felt Inexpensive and less durable, felt is sort of the "old news" of the weather stripping community. It's sold in rolls and can be installed stand-alone or with a metal strip for reinforcement. It's useful in doorways where it is affixed or nailed to the door jamb. That way, when the door closes, it compresses the material and blocks out air. It's important to note that felt does not work well in high moisture conditions. Felt is known as the cheapest and one of the easiest options. ‍ Door Sweep The type of weatherstripping best designed to seal out air coming in from underneath the door is what is known as the door sweep. Drafts usually exist at the bottom of doors facing outdoors, which is why this type of weatherstripping exists. You'll often find two options: a metal or plastic strip that you screw into the bottom of the door and a brush, or piece of nylon that extends to the floor (the sweep). If installed correctly, this will cover the entire space beneath the door. Some versions actually slide onto the bottom of the door instead of being nailed into the bottom of the door. ‍ Foam Tape Foam Tape is sort of like of felt except slightly more advanced. While the application is very similar, foam is of higher quality than felt. It usually comes with an adhesive backing for easy installation. Also like felt, it's one of the less durable options and should not be installed in high moisture areas. ‍ Rubber tubing This type of weatherstripping may have a variety of different names, but its construction is rubber with adhesive backing. Installation is similar to that of foam tape. Still, the rubber will last longer and is not as vulnerable in moist conditions. It can also provide waterproofing in addition to fighting off air leaks. ‍ Outlet Gaskets One place you might not expect to find an air leak is at your outlets and light switches, but surprisingly, these areas can be just as vulnerable to drafts as your doors and windows. Luckily, covers that seal up these places are cheap and take only a minute to install. It's as simple as removing the plastic covering from the outlet or switch, inserting the foam gasket behind it (make sure you punch out the holes first), and then reinstall the cover. That's it. That's literally it. You should be able to do your entire house for under $20. ‍ Weatherstripping is one of the easiest and most useful do-it-yourself tasks for your home. It's relatively inexpensive, can take only a handful of minutes to install, and will leave you knowing you made your home healthier and more efficient with this quick and easy DIY project.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Safety Tips for Dealing with Smoke Pollution

Smoke pollution from wildfires can be a dangerous air pollutant. The recent wildfires, as is true with any wildfire, have been frightening and dangerous. Its destructive nature is disrupting entire cities, and in addition to the primary concern of the actual blaze, these fires are also causing the air quality to reach hazardous levels. This isn’t just near the wildfires either. Smoke and carbon monoxide from the fires have made impacts as far away as Pennsylvania in some cases. Poor air quality isn’t the most obvious danger that comes with wildfire, but it can certainly be detrimental to your health if you are not prepared to deal with it. Smoke pollution from wildfires has traversed a shockingly large portion of the country, making preparedness a relevant topic for most Americans. We’d like to provide some critical tips for dealing with such densely polluted air, and we hope you will continue to take the air quality situation seriously and stay safe. Pay Attention to Air Quality Ratings The Air Quality Index, or AQI, is a rating scale introduced by the EPA (and likely used by your local news channel). The AQI ranks air quality on a six part scale. The ratings are as follows: 1. Good - Virtually no risk from pollutants. 2. Moderate - Pollutants exist within the air but are not a major concern for anyone who isn’t unusually sensitive. 3. Unhealthy for sensitive groups - People with respiratory conditions and other causes of sensitivity to pollutants should be aware of the potential for irritation, but the general public should be fine 4. Unhealthy - Health concerns begin to exist for all members of the population 5. Very unhealthy - Dangerous conditions for all members of the population. 6. Hazardous - Serious danger exists for everyone. Warnings will be in effect. Air quality ratings in the heart of the wildfire-affected areas have improved somewhat, but are still in the unhealthy range for a large portion of the extreme northwest. AQI is rated moderate in many regions downwind of these fires, including places as far as 1,500 miles away. Almost anywhere in North America can be affected by a serious wildfire season, so it’s important to be prepared no matter where you are. Use Higher Quality Air Filters One of the major pollutants produced by wildfires that is so threatening to air quality is smoke. Smoke particles are incredibly small, measuring at a mere 0.3 microns, which is 1/10 the size of a red blood cell. These particles are small enough to slip past lower MERV rated filters and negatively affect your home’s indoor air quality. Having an air filter that’s designed to deal with particles as small as smoke will help to keep that danger at bay. We recommend a MERV 13 rated filter or higher to deal with smoke. Check out our blog post to learn more about what MERV means. Make a DIY Air Purifier In addition to using MERV 13 air filters in your home's vents or HVAC system, you can protect yourself even more with a DIY air purifier. Simply attach a MERV 13 air filter to a standard box fan and you've got your own air purifier! Place this in the rooms you use the most during the day and bring it into your bedroom at night while you sleep. The use of a smoke-filtering air filter is proven to decrease smoke pollution in your home by as much as 80–90%. This fancy graph details the exact decrease in indoor pollution with use. There’s no denying the effectiveness. ‍ ‍ Stay Inside if You're Advised If there is enough smoke pollution in the air to result in a dangerous air quality rating, it might be best to stay inside. Don’t risk exposing yourself to smoky air if you can. This is the most effective way to counter the risks associated with poor outdoor air quality. If you absolutely need to go outside though, acquire the proper face protection. Flimsy dust masks are insufficient as they won’t trap particles as small as smoke. A respirator is your best option. An affordable example is the N-95 Particular Respirator. Although not perfect, it will provide considerable help. If you want total protection from smoke pollution, you may want to consider an upgrade, like an escape respirator. Seal Drafts This is a good tip anyway, as it can save you money on your heating and cooling bill. When the AQI indicates dangerous outdoor air, it becomes essential to your health. As discussed, smoke particles are tiny and will get inside your home through the smallest of entrances. Improperly sealed doors and windows that allow small amounts of air to pass through will allow smoke to seep into your home. Putting in a little bit of work to ensure your entrances are correctly sealed will help you minimize smoke and pollutants that can enter your home. If wildfires or the dangerous pollutants they emit aren’t currently affecting your area, it’s still important to be prepared for the possibility that they could. We should also keep those that are affected in our thoughts as they deal with this dangerous situation. Not everybody in the affected areas has access to high-quality air filters or sufficient respirators to wear, and we should all extend some help if we have the opportunity to do so.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How to Clean and Stain Your Deck this Spring

Which deck cleaners and stains are best for you, and how do you ensure a professional level clean without hiring a professional? We have a Spring! Winter appears to finally be releasing its grip on most of the country, giving way to warmer temperatures, blooming plants, and the incessant need to clean. It’s what we call Spring cleaning, and undoubtedly you’ve heard the term. ‍ If you’re ready to kick off spring cleaning but have no idea where to start, you’ve arrived at the right web address. With the weather warming and all of us itching to take advantage of the suddenly pleasant outdoors, preparing your back deck for usage is an excellent place to kick things off. So let’s do it. ‍ Prep your deck Chances are you haven’t spent a lot of time on your deck or porch over the last couple months, on account of the whole winter situation. Now that spring has sprung, it’s about time to take advantage of the milder weather that’s coming. ‍ Now at this time of year, your deck is almost certainly not in the best shape of its life. If you have a wooden deck, the lack of use throughout the winter has allowed the wood to lose its color a little, become stained as a result of leaves and tree bark being left on it, and be victimized by the growth of certain mildews. ‍ That’s normal though, and some spring cleaning will revitalize its look. Step one is to make sure that you clear everything off your deck. This includes any furniture, lights, or accessories that you may have out there. It also includes all the debris that has fallen during the winter and found a new home on your deck. Be sure to clear off leaves, tree bark, pine straw, or any other trash that nature left out there. ‍ It’s a good idea to sweep your deck of this stuff throughout winter, as dead leaves and other junk are responsible for pesky tannin stains that leave you with more work come spring. ‍ SN Tip: During this step, it may also be a good idea to move any potted plants near the deck away, as you will be working with chemicals. ‍ Clean your deck Step two is where you’re going to apply your deck cleaner. There are lots of different kinds of deck cleaners, but most professionals agree that a one-two punch of an oxygen bleach cleaner and an oxalic acid cleaner is the best and safest route. ‍ Oxygen bleach will target mold that has grown on and in your deck over the cold months. It’s non-toxic and breaks down into sodium bicarbonate and oxygen, which is the long way to say that it won’t be harmful to you or your deck, unlike the more common chlorine bleach. ‍ SN Tip: Apply cleaners to an inconspicuous area of your deck before covering the whole surface with them, so you can see what effect they will have without any risk. ‍ Oxalic acid is the follow-up treatment for the visual appearance of your deck. While ineffective against mold, which is why you need a one-two punch, oxalic acid will work wonders removing stains caused by leaves and debris as well as brightening the wood and refreshing the appearance of the wood. ‍ SN Tip: Oxalic acid is toxic, so be sure you know how to handle toxic materials and if you’re uncomfortable with it, consider alternatives, such as citric acid. ‍ Apply the oxygen bleach first with a stiff bristle synthetic brush. A synthetic brush is always better because it will last longer amid repeated uses involving chemicals. Spread the bleach across the deck with the brush while avoiding pooling of the cleaner in any spots. After rinsing, repeat this step with oxalic acid. ‍ We recommend this process, ending with a thorough rinse with a garden hose. You could also go the power washing route, but it’s critical to remember that most decks are made of cedar, redwood, or pine, all of which are softwoods. Softwood is, as the name implies, soft, making it vulnerable to scarring, stripping, and scratching. ‍ The intense pressure of a power washer can strip off the top of the wood, leaving indentations across your entire deck. If you’re determined to go the power washing route, you need to make sure the pressure isn’t too much for the wood to handle. Adjust the angle of the nozzle to decrease pressure and wash in a sweeping motion to avoid a consistent stream of pressurized water on the same part of your deck. A 40 to 60-degree angle is recommended by professionals such as the folks at decks.com. It’s also wise to pressure wash earlier in the year, as cooler temperatures will increase the wood’s density and make it slightly more resistant to the power of the pressure washer. ‍ If you don’t wish to go the pressure washing route, soaps and a regular garden hose will work great, and you’ll still have a product to be proud of without the risk of ruining your entire deck. Stain your deck The final step is to reseal if necessary. You probably stained and/or sealed your deck shortly after it was constructed, but it’s a smart idea to recoat it every two to three years. ‍ SN Tip: While a deck seal and deck stain are not technically the same thing, a quality deck stain will seal your deck effectively and give it a nice coloration of your choice. If you wish to maintain the natural look of your wood, use only a sealer. ‍ First, you need to test the current state of your stain. Drop a little bit of water on the surface of your dry deck, then closely examine the water droplets. If the droplets soak into the wood, it’s time to touch up your deck. If they just sit on top, there’s no need to break out the stain. ‍ If you find that you need to reapply stain, the process isn’t overly complicated. The most important part is to make sure the weather doesn’t ruin all your hard work. You don’t want the temperature outside to be too hot or too cold, but since you’re probably doing this in spring, that shouldn’t be an issue. ‍ Also, make sure you have a couple of days of dry weather and never apply the stain in direct sunlight. Rain will wash out the stain before it can set and a high sun beating on your deck will cause the stain to dry too quickly, stopping it from thoroughly permeating the wood and making the entire job a waste of time. ‍ Now the fun begins. First, identify any trouble areas where your stain is peeling off the wood. If you have none of these, congrats, you’ve avoided one step of this process. If you do, you’ll need to strip off any loose stain and sand it down to remove any abrupt or sharp edges. This will allow for a more uniform replacement coat. We talked earlier about power washers and how they can strip your stain and damage your wood if you use them on your deck without caution. Coincidentally, a power washer is a great tool when you actually do want to strip your deck. At the right pressure rating, your power washer will be able to rip off the loose parts of your stain without damaging the still functional parts of the coat. Use a power sander to sand down the area afterward. ‍ After the area has completely dried, use a paintbrush to touch up the stripped area. Apply stain to the entire area and allow it to dry completely. If you only have one trouble area and the rest of your deck’s stain is still kicking, you can probably be done here, although recoating the entire deck won’t hurt. ‍ If you have several trouble areas, it’s best to just recoat the entire deck. Use a paint roller to apply a thin coat of sealer to the top of your deck boards. Cover the entire deck while maintaining a thin uniform coat. Avoid pooling of the sealer and break out that paintbrush to ensure evenness in hard to reach areas. ‍ After your stain coat has dried, you’re ready to enjoy the outdoors and the (hopefully) nice spring weather from the comfort of your deck.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Five Easy Steps to Allergy-Proof Your Home

Here are five easy ways to make your home less conducive to allergens. For many of us, spring is the season of allergies. While it may be the worst season for a lot of people, allergies can be an all-year-long issue. It's true, the outdoors can be a treacherous place for a lot of people in the summer, fall, and even the dead months of winter. While you can't get rid of the allergens floating around outside, you can take steps to minimize the amount of allergens that can get inside your home. Here are five tips to allergy-proof your home. ‍ Wash clothes frequently Allergens can enter your home in many ways, with one of the most common involving hitching a ride on your clothes. The best way to counter this, obviously, is to wash your clothes frequently and at the right temperature. ‍ It's no secret that hot water is best. Hot water kills pesky allergens like dust mites and is more effective than cold water at removing particles like pollen from clothes. ‍ A study from the American Thoracic Society1 recently showed that washing clothes at 140ºF will kill 100% of dust mites. Washing at a still quite hot 104ºF will kill less than 7% of dust mites. That’s quite a big difference and essential for those with allergies. ‍ That's the upside to washing your clothes in hot water: it's excellent at cleaning allergens and particles out of them. The downside is that it costs more to heat the water to 140ºF, and not all articles of clothing can be washed in that level of heat. If you're not able to kill allergens with hot water, there are alternatives. ‍ Most newer washing machines out there have sanitize wash settings. This setting washes your clothes with super hot water of at least 165ºF, which well exceeds the temperature necessary to kill pests and germs. ‍ You can purchase allergen-targeting laundry detergent. This detergent formula contains an additive known as ACARIL, which effectively removes allergens from bedding and clothes during the wash cycle. It works absent of temperature, so you don't need to wash your clothes on high heat for it to work, and it is safe to use with all colors and fabrics. If you already have a detergent that you like, you can purchase ACARIL by itself. ‍ Consider hardwood An allergen's dream home would be made entirely of carpet. The floor would be carpet. The walls would be the carpet. The ceiling would be carpet. You get the point. ‍ A carpet allergy is a two-fold attacker. Sometimes you're allergic to the actual carpet itself and the materials used to make it. More often, you're simply allergic to the common allergens that get caught in your carpet and then released into the air when you walk on it. ‍ Carpet is a repository for allergens. Dust can build up inside of it with ease and be extremely difficult to remove. Particles like pet dander that feature jagged edges stick to carpet without any effort. In fact, all of these allergens are commonly found in household carpets. Pollen Dander Dust Mold Smoke Bacteria ‍ Indeed, some people are actually allergic to certain materials in carpets. But most people that have a "carpet allergy" actually just have an intolerance to an allergen that has entrenched itself in their carpets. One potential solution is just to get rid of the carpet altogether. This is actually recommended by multiple allergy-focused organizations including the American Lung Association2. ‍ Opting for hardwood floors instead can save the allergy sufferer a lot of sneezing. Particles in your air will still settle on hardwood just like they do on carpet, but they are considerably easier to remove with a vacuum because they cannot get stuck inside the material. ‍ You can still add throw rugs to get that homey feel while minimizing allergens. Make sure to buy washing machine safe ones and simply run a load of rugs about once a week. ‍ The downside with hardwood is obviously the price, and if that's enough of a deterrent, or you just really really want carpet, you have a few options. First, always use low pile carpeting. "Low pile" simply means that the strands of material that make up the carpet are shorter. With this type of carpet, the crevices for allergens to hide in are smaller, making it harder for them to get stuck, making them easy to remove with a vacuum. Never ever ever use high pile carpeting if you have a common allergy. You will not enjoy your time with it. ‍ Weatherstripping One way that sneaky particles like pollen and bacteria can get into your home is through drafts and incomplete seals along windows and doors. Sealing off those unintentional airways with some weatherstripping is a quick and generally pretty easy way to keep those allergens out of your home. ‍ Weatherstripping's primary goal is to lower your energy bill, but cutting off sources of air pollution is a secondary benefit of this home maintenance task. Weatherstripping is especially valuable in this role to homes in places that see higher than average levels of outdoor air pollution such as Los Angeles. ‍ There are tons of different types of weatherstripping, most of which can be used in several situations and are extremely easy to install. First, you have to figure out if you have drafts and where they are. An energy audit from a professional will give you detailed descriptions of where you need to add weatherstripping. If you prefer to conduct the search yourself, there are a few ways to identify drafts. Flashlight test Moisture test Dollar bill test Smoke test ‍ There are tons of different types of weatherstripping, many of which are adhesive-backed, making their installation process as easy as sticking it to something. Others require nailing in, such as a door sweep, which protects your home from drafts coming from underneath doors. Read more about all the types of weatherstripping right here. ‍ Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter Make sure to invest in a quality vacuum that will suck up allergens from all types of flooring and keep them locked away until you clean it out. The way to do this is to purchase a vacuum that contains a HEPA filter. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particle Arrestance—it's basically a supercharged filter. ‍ A true HEPA filter is required to catch at least 99.7% of particles larger than 0.3 microns in diameter. That's extremely tiny. ‍ You cannot use a HEPA filter in your home because it will cut off too much airflow to the HVAC unit, but that is not an issue inside a vacuum. Get a vacuum with the best filter you possibly can to ensure that it traps as many tiny allergens as possible. This will stop pollutants from recirculating into the air. ‍ Change your air filter Bar-none, the most effective way to improve your IAQ of allergens is to use a high quality air filter and change it with regularity. Like weatherstripping, this will also help lower your energy bill, but its primary function is cleaning the air. ‍ Many pollutants that infiltrate the air you breathe are so small they aren't cute anymore. No matter how many precautions you take to protect your home's air from the threats outside, some pollutants will still get inside. To get these out of your house, you need a filter you can trust to catch these pollutants. ‍ A fiberglass air filter can never be counted on to catch even medium-sized pollutants, much less small ones. These pollutants will simply recirculate through your ductwork and back into your home, where they're free to be inhaled into your lungs. The ones that don't will get caught in your HVAC system and create buildup that can lead to costly repairs or breakdown. ‍ Washable filters may get these small particles, but they'll struggle with larger ones, which there are usually more of and just as harmful to your indoor air quality. ‍ Instead, get a pleated air filter with a MERV 8 rating or higher. If you suffer from allergies, own pets, or deal with various pollution issues, upgrade to a MERV 11 or MERV 13 filter. Pollutants that get past all your initial defenses and enter the air in your home won't last long against a pleated air filter. ‍ Turns out that de-allergyifiyng (definitely a real word) your home just requires a few routine practices that you probably already do anyway. You just need to adjust how you do them slightly. Some things you can even take off your to-do list instead of adding them, such as changing your air filter. Check out Second Nature's air filters subscription service to never have to think about using the right air filter again.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How Your Air Conditioning Actually Works

We're simplifying this for you. It’s time for some science. And we suppose some mechanics as well. We’re talking about your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Everybody knows what their HVAC system is and everybody knows what it does. Do you know how it works though? While it might not be the most exciting topic you can spend the next couple of minutes reading about, there’s quite a bit of value in the knowledge, especially when it comes to diagnosing issues and maintenance. ‍ Today, we’ll be focusing on the cooling process. It may still be early in the year, but you’ll be turning that thermostat down in no time. So let’s dive in before that time comes. ‍ SN Tip: “Air Conditioning,” commonly referred to A/C, is any system that controls the humidity, temperature, and airflow—it’s essentially “conditioning” you air. So when you say turn on the “A/C,” you’re not referring to making it colder. ‍ The first step in the cooling process of air conditioning involves a section of the system known as the blower. The blower blows air, hence “blower.” This fan pushes air from the rooms of your home into the second step of an air conditioning system, which is known as the evaporator. ‍ The evaporator is a collection of coils containing refrigerant liquid often known by a common brand name “Puron.” As air is pushed through the evaporator by the blower, the liquid coolant absorbs heat into the coils from the air. The heat transfer out of the air cools it down while causing the refrigerating liquid to evaporate into a gas, hence evaporator. (Not a lot of creativity was used in the naming of these things). ‍ SN Tip: The EPA’s Clean Air Act mandates that Freon production ends by January 2020. New HVAC units use the Puron refrigerant instead of Freon. As the eco-friendly option, Puron has become the standard in air conditioning. Plus, it may boost your unit’s energy efficiency. ‍ The air blows out of the evaporator and back into your living space at the desired temperature. The refrigerant liquid, now gas, moves into the part of the system that is commonly outside your home where it meets the compressor. This device compresses the coolant vapor, pressurizing it and heating it further. ‍ The hot gas then travels to the condenser, which is the fourth part of the sequence and works in the same fashion as a car radiator. The release of heat causes the gaseous refrigerant to condense back to its liquid state. ‍ The final step before the cycle begins again occurs in the expansion valve. This allows the pressurized coolant to expand, which further cools it down because of chemistry. The cool liquid then travels back into the evaporator where more air from your home is blowing through, and the whole thing starts again. ‍ And that’s how your air conditioner cools your air. It’s not an overly complicated process, but it’s important to know what you’re doing if you’re going to attempt a DIY-fix. And you can always call a professional if you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing. ‍

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How to Find & Fix a Draft & Air Leaks

Drafts can force your HVAC system to work harder and cost you money You can’t see it. You don’t know it’s there until you’re standing right in front of it. It sneaks into your home right under your nose and drives up your electric bill. It’s air. Well, not just any air. Specifically, we’re talking air from outside your home that sneaks in via drafts. Poor insulation is one of the most effective ways to throw away money on your monthly bills. When outdoor air enters your home in the summertime, it forces your air conditioning to work that much harder to keep your home at the desired temperature. The same is true when you’re trying to heat your home in the winter. Fortunately, there are options to fix this issue that you can do yourself. ‍ The first step in this process is to identify where your air leaks are coming from. Different places will require different tools and steps to seal correctly, so identifying your significant problem areas is a critical first step. Doors and windows are obvious places to start, but less frequented areas of your home, like your attic, may be considerable areas of concern. ‍ Knee walls, which are walls in your attic that hold up rafters, are a common location for sneaky air leaks. Most people don’t spend too much time in their attic because it’s dark and creepy and it has spiders. Thus, most people don’t know that their knee walls and other spots in their attic are a burden on their bank account every single month. Sealing them up is an excellent place to start. ‍ A lot of homes still have fiberglass batts or mats for insulation up there and swapping that old stuff out for a more effective insulating material is a must for energy-conscious folks. There are lots of different options for insulating your attic that are more effective than rolls of fiberglass. Cellulose, loose-fill fiberglass, and spray foam are all better choices to fix your attic and begin to save money. ‍ Loose-fill fiberglass and cellulose both require blowing machines to cover your attic. As loose-fill insulation, they're sold in bags of small particles that are sprayed around your attic via the blowing machine. Installing them is something of a project, but the savings are well worth the effort, and it isn’t challenging as much as it is time-consuming and uncomfortable (it can get hot up there). Spray foam, a third-quality alternative, comes in different varieties and is even more effective than the aforementioned options. It’s particularly expensive though and usually requires a professional to install properly. You can learn more about advanced attic insulation options from professionals by clicking here. ‍ Outside of the attic, electrical outlets can often be an accessory to the assault on your electric bill. This fix tends to be one of the easiest around, and you’ll be surprised at how much of a difference it can make. Gaskets specifically designed to seal electrical outlets can be purchased at your local hardware store for less than three dollars. There are different varieties, but many have an installation process as simple as taking off the plastic cover, applying the sealer or gasket to the wall, and then reinstalling the plastic cover. ‍ Once you’ve successfully installed the gaskets around your outlets, continue to monitor them for drafts. In certain circumstances, these may not be enough to secure the outlets adequately. If you’re finding that to be the case, you might need to bring out the big guns—caulking guns that is. Sealing the edges of the outlet hole with caulking or putty may be necessary to deny air any entrance entirely. Consider installing a larger plastic cover as well. Depending on how much putty is used, it may try to seep out the sides if you merely reinstall that same outlet cover you were using. ‍ Finally, It’s time to discuss the obvious perpetrator: doors and windows. You may think closing and locking your doors and windows is enough to keep outdoor air outdoors. It helps, but it’s rarely sufficient. You need something better. Weatherstripping is a good starting point. There are many different types of weatherstripping, including felt, foam, and silicone, and most can be picked up locally for relatively cheap. The use of v strip weatherstripping around the frames of doors and windows is a common practice to prevent air leaks. Like gaskets for outlets, it’s easy, cheap, and effective. ‍ Thoroughly sealing your home may seem like a lot of work for a little reward. If you do it right though, there are plenty of savings to be had.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How to Tell if a Window Seal is Broken & How to Fix it

Learn how to identify a broken window seal and what your best options are for dealing with it. There are a lot of home improvement projects that can be a lot of fun to do. Resealing a window is decidedly not one of them. If your home features double pane windows, it will, unfortunately, be something you will have to do at some point. Window seals will wear down over time and eventually need repair or replacement. So how do you know if your window needs repair, and how do you know what to do about it if it does? ‍ What is a double pane window? A double pane window, also known as a dual pane window or thermopane window, is simply a window with two panes of glass instead of one. If you don’t know what a pane is, it’s just the sheet of glass that fits within the window frame. Double panes have two of these. Singles only have one. ‍ Your home most likely has double pane windows. Single pane windows are out of date, and triple pane, while they do exist, are not often opted for by homeowners. Double pane is pretty much the standard at this point. ‍ Double pane windows insulate your home better than single pane, offsetting the higher initial cost with lower monthly power bills. They can do this for two reasons, the first of which is obvious. There is more material between you and the outside world than there would be with only one pane. The second reason is argon gas, which is inserted between the window panes to assist in insulation. ‍ How can I tell if my double pane window is broken? The primary indicator of a broken window seal is moisture between the window panes. If your windows are foggy, but nothing happens when you try and wipe away the condensation, the fog is inside the window. That is the immediate and obvious sign that your window seal is broken. ‍ This moisture won’t always cover the whole window in fogginess. Often, you’ll be able to spot the moisture only in the corners in the form of fog or water droplets. Still, though, this means your seal is busted and needs a fix. ‍ Unfortunately, a broken seal does mean the insulating ability of the window is diminished. Outside air is getting inside, and the argon gas that helps insulate is escaping, extending the issues of a broken window seal well beyond its appearance. ‍ What are my options? Call in the warranty Most windows come with warranties when they are purchased. Try to buy windows with the longest warranties possible, as it can save you a lot of hassle should you ever need it. If your window is still under warranty, your problem is much smaller. Call in the warranty and have the window replaced. Done and done. ‍ Replace the window entirely If your window seal goes bad, and the warranty is expired, your first option is to replace the window entirely. This will be the most expensive option, but your brand new fully insulated window will save you money long-term on your power bills. You’ll likely want to be calling in a professional for this particular repair job. A good estimate for a professional window replacement is around $500 if you have a more common vinyl window. Replacing a wood frame window is always more expensive, sometimes costing more than $1000. ‍ Fix the seal If you don’t want to replace the entire window, there are other options, one of which is having just the seal itself fixed. Keep in mind this won’t bring your window back to full insulating power, as the insulating argon gas between the panes won’t be replaced. However, it will be considerably less expensive than replacing the whole window. Still, the decreased insulation will start to even the cost over time. ‍ Repairing a window seal could mean a few different things depending on where the seal is broken and how much of it is broken, but a fair estimate for the cost of a professional window seal repair is around $100. ‍ Leave the window the way it is If you find the seal break isn’t significant and is not resulting in material increases of your power bill or the fogging up of the window, you could leave it as-is. ‍ This is not recommended because the seal is only going to deteriorate more if left on its own. If you identify the busted seal but choose to do nothing because it isn’t currently an issue, it will likely become an issue down the road, so you might as well take care of it. ‍ Those of you that live in a more mild climate may find this to be a more appealing option. ‍ Defogging Defogging is a relatively new technique that is designed to fix the physical appearance of a window with a broken seal. This will do virtually nothing to correct the insulation problems but could be useful as a short-term solution if you need to fix the appearance of your window. ‍ A professional defogging service can conduct this for you. This involves drilling a tiny hole in the window pane and removing all the condensation between both. Next, an anti-fog solution is pumped into the window and the hole is sealed. This will, at least temporarily, restore the appearance of your window. The seal breakage still exists, though, so eventually, the window will fog back up. ‍ Is there a DIY option? Technically, you can replace a window on your own, but it’s by no means quick and easy. You’ll need a lot of tools and several hours to complete a window reinstallation, and it is generally recommended against doing so yourself unless you have the appropriate skillset. If you’re determined to do it yourself, the first step is examing the frame and deciding what shape it is in. You can use insert windows if your frame is in good shape, which just means a sticking a new window into an old frame. This is considerably easier than what is necessary if you need to replace the frame. Stripping out the entire frame and replacing the whole unit is a serious task that you can also do yourself. Just make sure you know what you are doing.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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What is HVAC & What Does it Mean?

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. Whether it’s the dead of winter and the elements are as harsh as your mother-in-law’s criticism or you’re a walking puddle in the middle of August, a home’s HVAC system is what ensures your family is provided with a temperate, pleasant refuge from the great outdoors. Your HVAC system is critical to the comfort your home provides. HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and it simply refers to the system that heats, cools, and ventilates your home. HVAC systems vary and there are various manufacturers, styles, and types. The HVAC (generally) includes the heating and cooling unit itself, lots of ductwork through the home, air returns, and air filters. ‍ Types of HVAC systems There are three main types of HVAC systems: split and window AC, packaged heating and air conditioning systems, and central AC systems. ‍ Split and window air conditioning systems Split ACs are used in larger areas than window ACs. The split AC focuses on splitting the cold from the hot side of the system. The cold side has the cold coil and the expansion valve. This is usually placed inside a furnace or any other form of air handler. The handler blows air over the coil and the cooled air is distributed to various rooms in the building through the air ducts. ‍ Window air conditioners work by fans blowing air through the coils, improving how they separate the heat and cold. Heat gets lost the outside air and is replaced with cool air for the room. ‍ Packaged heating and air conditioning systems Hence the name, this type of system is the total package, they possess both heating and cooling equipment in a single unit. Users can place them in mechanical rooms, on the rooftop or at a grade close to the conditioning space. The package AC has all the components in one unit, unlike split systems in which the cold and hot units are separate. These elements have a centrifugal fan or blower that helps distribute the air throughout the elements of the structure. ‍ Central air conditioning Most of the air conditioners in residential buildings are in the form of split systems. The compressor and condenser are combined as a single condensing unit mounted outdoors. The evaporator, a finned coil, is mounted in a section of ductwork within the furnace blower. Two flexible refrigerant lines, one for gas and one for liquid, connect the components. When the furnace is electric, a blower is included in the system. The compressor uses electricity as its source of power to pump the refrigerant across the system collecting indoor heat and removing it from the home. The heat dissipates outdoors by the coil in the condensing unit. ‍ Warm air indoors gets blown through the indoor coil (cold) to remove moisture and heat. The heat in the air transfers to the coil and thus the air cools. The water vapor condenses on the coil and collects inside a drain pan. It goes outside through the condensate drain. The heat, after flowing to the evaporator coil, pumps outdoors while the now cooled air inside the room circulates through the fan on the air handler. Thus, the indoor temperature is maintained. ‍ Give your HVAC system a big thank you When all is working as it should with an HVAC system, it is a silent soldier for the home's comfort. However, if your HVAC system has ever malfunctioned or broken in the middle of the winter or summer, it’s likely you have developed a deep love and appreciation for the essential service your HVAC system provides. So, take care of your system; baby it, even. Be sure to change your filters frequently and on a regular schedule, as well as get your system cleaned, inspected, and serviced annually!

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Pleated Filters Won't Damage Your Airflow

Let's bust some myths about airflow and pleated air filters. A myth. An old wives' tale. A misconception. Whatever you want to call it, that’s what this is. If you have ever had an HVAC technician come to examine the heating and air conditioning systems in your home, there’s a chance you may have had the common refrain tossed your way. ‍ “Use the cheapest filters you can find. The thicker pleated ones restrict too much airflow and will starve your system.” ‍ Is this true? No, it isn’t. It is true that airflow is lessened, albeit marginally, with a pleated air filter versus a cheap fiberglass air filter, but the risks of lessened airflow, a direct result of what is known as pressure drop, are assumed, and they are assumed incorrectly. ‍ What’s really happening? ‍ Myth one: Pleated filters will blow out your fan motor It’s worth noting that nobody specifies what they mean by “blow out” or “break down.” You may have heard the phrase “starve your unit of air.” The implication is that by reducing the amount of airflow into your HVAC system, the motor that powers the fan will overwork trying to move air and it will burn out, almost like a car red-lining for too long before the engine explodes. The result is a catastrophic failure that occurs in one instant. This is absolutely not true. ‍ There is no mechanical connection between a fan motor and an air filter. The fan is going to do the same thing, regardless of how much airflow is being allowed by your filter. Unless you have what is known as an ECM motor, your fan is going to move at the same speed and consume the same amount of power regardless of how significant the pressure drop is. The motor does not know what the airflow levels are, nor does it have any way to adjust its workload for such a thing. Thus, it's not going to "work harder." ‍ ECM motors are more advanced motors that electronically adjust their speed to account for airflow levels. They will increase power as necessary to move air. ECM motors are more efficient and longer-lasting as they do not use power that they do not need. ‍ You may have heard a technician tell you that the fan motor draws more power with less airflow. This is also false. Ironically, it's the exact opposite. Recall that, unless you're using an ECM, your fan motor has no capacity to say "we need more power." It's off or it's on. So with less airflow, the fan is actually moving less air, which requires less energy, so the machine draws less power to keep it running at the same level. It seems counterintuitive at first, but makes quite a bit of sense when you think about it. Note that this does not mean bad airflow is actually good. You still want a low pressure drop, but this increased power usage is a myth. ‍ What will happen in situations where your pressure drop is too high is the fan will need to run longer in order to achieve the desired temperature in the home because it is cooling or heating less air at a time. As with anything, parts will wear with run time, so the risk with significantly decreased airflow is more about decreasing lifespan by increasing use, not some explosive disaster. This leads us perfectly into myth two. ‍ Myth two: Pleated air filters reduce the lifespan of your HVAC system So we’ve established that installing a pleated filter is not going to cause these catastrophic failures that many spout off about in totally healthy HVAC systems. But it’s true that they do have a higher pressure drop, thus allow less airflow, than cheaper fiberglass filters. So won’t they shorten the lifespan of your unit? ‍ Well, no, not really. Again, the common refrain is that pleated air filters will restrict airflow, but specifics regarding what impact that will have, and how significant it is, are usually left out. We’re not going to leave those out. ‍ We conducted a study in our lab to specifically test airflow differences between a pleated and fiberglass filters, and how those differences would affect lifespan. The results were interesting. ‍ We found that with a MERV 13 pleated filter, which has a pressure drop about 2.5x that of a fiberglass filter, the system would need to run about 3.5% longer to achieve the desired temperature. Assuming an eight-year lifespan for your HVAC system, with identical usage and no external factors (that part is important), you would need to replace the fan motor in your HVAC system about 3 months earlier with a pleated filter than with a fiberglass filter. Another way to look at that is that a system that lasts 96 months with a fiberglass filter would last about 93 months with a pleated filter, a difference that is virtually negligible, and again, does not account for other factors that contribute to wear. ‍ Now, time for another important part. We mentioned the test occurred with no external factors in totally identical scenarios. You’re not going to have this in the real world. Mechanical systems like your HVAC unit will have some natural variance in lifespan, and there are other factors impacting the longevity of your equipment that will outweigh the difference the filter type alone makes, leaving the aforementioned difference in lifespan immaterial. ‍ The test only accounts for airflow. It doesn’t account for risks to your system that result from small particle buildup on your AC coils, which are higher with cheaper filters that catch less. This situation can also shorten the lifespan of your unit by requiring more use of the system, as heat is absorbed less efficiently because of the film of particles forming around the coils. ‍ “Freezing up” refers to condensation around your coils freezing as a result of the refrigerant becoming too cold. It does not mean the refrigerant itself is freezing. Modern refrigerant will freeze at -251 degrees Fahrenheit or below. If it reaches that temperature, you likely have other concerns, such as the impending Ice Age. ‍ We also conducted a study with current customers of Second Nature, determining how often participants needed to call HVAC technicians for issues both before and after starting Second Nature.` Because Second Nature helps homeowners ensure they are changing their filters on time, and the boogey man stuff around pleated air filters has proven to be largely nonsense, customers see their HVAC issues decline when participating in the service. ‍ So why do these myths persist? Simple question, simple answer. It used to be that way. The components of an HVAC system have improved in construction and durability over time, while the construction of pleated air filters has improved to maintain high levels of filtration while minimizing pressure drop. ‍ In short, pleated filters have innovated the way the fibers are woven, as well as what they are made of, to increase filtering ability while decreasing the density of the weave. Modern-day pleated air filters have relatively low pressure drops as a result, and are not going to cause significantly shortened lifespans unless you never remember to change it. ‍ Many HVAC technicians who are veterans of the trade learned their craft before these innovations, back when a pleated filter could more significantly reduce the lifespan of your unit. Thus the myths persist because they used to be more true than they are today and ever will be again. ‍ Another reason is that HVAC issues caused by a clogged air filter are incorrectly attributed to the filter, not the failure to change it. One-inch pleated filters should be changed at least every three months, and four or more inch pleated filters should be changed about every six months. If you leave a pleated air filter in your air return for two years, it will clog with pollutants and eventually reduce airflow to zero. Shortened lifespans that result from this are avoided by changing your filter on time, not by using a cheaper filter. A pleated air filter that is changed on the appropriate interval is not going to create these airflow issues. ‍ Do you want to use quality air filters, but you find yourself forgetting to change them? No worries. Our subscription service makes it impossible to forget.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How To Manage Your Dust Mite Allergy

Learn how to fight off these pests in your home. Dust mites are one of the leading triggers for both asthma and allergies. According to Mayo Clinic, “Dust mite allergy is an allergic reaction to tiny bugs that commonly live in house dust. Signs of dust mite allergy include sneezing and runny nose. Many people with dust mite allergy also experience signs of asthma, such as wheezing and difficulty breathing.” ‍ While it’s easy to pinpoint a seasonal allergen such as pollen, it is more difficult to identify a dust mite allergy, since everyone is routinely exposed to a certain degree of dust mites. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America explains how to identify a dust mite allergy: “Any time you have an asthma (or allergy) episode, think about where you were and what you were doing. Answer questions like: Was I making a bed or vacuuming?” If so, dust mites may well be causing it, because they are regularly found in pillows, mattresses, carpets, and upholstered furniture. ‍ Talk to your doctor Talking to a doctor is an essential step in identifying a dust mite allergy. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation states, “If you are allergic to dust mites, you should put an airtight cover around your pillow and mattress.” ‍ Mayo Clinic adds, “If you suspect that you may have a dust mite allergy, take steps to reduce house dust, particularly in your bedroom. Keep your bedroom clean, remove dust-collecting clutter and wash bedding in hot water that is at least 130 F (54.4 C).” Mayo Clinic also recommends choosing a high-efficiency air filter to remove dust from the air: “Look for a filter with a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of 11 or 12 and leave the fan on to create a whole house air filter. Be sure to change the filter every three months.” Changing air filters regularly removes up to 95% of dust mites from indoor air. ‍ Here are some other ways to reduce dust mites: Keep indoor humidity below 50%. A hygrometer (available at hardware stores) can measure humidity level. Use a dehumidifier if needed. Vacuum regularly. Although vacuuming carpet and upholstered furniture can remove surface dust, it’s necessary to use a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to remove dust mites. Dust thoroughly. Use a damp or oiled mop or rag to clean up dust from surface areas. This keeps dust from becoming airborne. Install a high-efficiency air filter in your heating/air conditioning system to filter particulates out of the air. Remove dust mite-prone household items. Carpet is notorious for harboring dust mites. If possible, replace carpet with tile, wood, or vinyl flooring, and get rid of upholstered furniture and non-washable curtains. be surprised to learn what the actual number one concern is with chlorine.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Smoke Pollution Relief Effort by FilterEasy

Read about our smoke pollution relief effort. This year’s wildfire season, which has been one of the worst on record, has forced residents of many western states to cope with serious air quality issues. Smoke pollution, which can be carried thousands of miles by the wind, has spread across the West Coast from its origin to neighboring states, profoundly affecting residents in Washington, Oregon, and California. The result has been an air quality crisis that has reached hazardous levels and left many without clean air to breathe, whether inside or outside their home. Today, we're announcing Smoke Pollution Relief by FilterEasy. Starting in Washington and expanding to California and Oregon, FilterEasy is reaching out to those affected and doing what we can to help with the air quality crisis. We’re donating thousands of 20"x20" smoke-filtering air filters to communities in need—those that have taken on the brunt of the smoke pollution crisis. These smoke-filtering air filters can be turned into do-it-yourself Air Purifiers with any standard box fan. The use of a smoke-filtering air filter is proven to decrease smoke pollution in your home by as much as 80–90%. This fancy graph details the exact decrease in indoor pollution with use. There’s no denying the effectiveness. To start, we’re partnering with Seattle-based organization Front and Centered to ensure these filters can get to those who need them. As our on-the-ground agent of change, they'll be able to manage allocation and distribution of air filters across Washington. “Smoke pollution from forest fires is a real public health issue in Washington right now. Even though the air has cleared for many, the communities we work with have severe air quality issues year round. With smoke-filtering air filters, we can help those in need get cleaner indoor air.” - David Mendoza, Front and Centered Want to help? You can help those on the west coast breathe cleaner air by donating now. Beyond that, we ask that you share it. Let's make this viral! We're proud that FilterEasy can help play a part in helping provide aid to those afflicted by poor air quality. Together, we can make a difference. Because everyone deserves clean air.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Everything You Need to Know About Whole House Air Filters

Why do I need such a big air filter? There may not be a single product on earth less standardized than the home air filter. It’s the reason why nobody can ever find their size at the hardware store and the reason why we carry more than 66,000 sizes. ‍ One type that can be particularly difficult to locate in the local store is the whole house filter. These are very different than the more common one-inch filters. You may have heard them called whole house air purifiers, which is a misnomer. An air purifier is an addition to your HVAC system, not part of it. Although air filters do indeed clean the air, they are part of your system and not optional. Now that we've clarified that, let’s get back to it. ‍ As the name implies, the concept is defined by the need for only one filter per home. This is the most common setup, but it’s not always true in practice. You’ll need as many whole house filters as you have air handlers, which may vary depending on how your HVAC system is configured. ‍ An air handler (or AHU for Air Handler Unit) is a device used to regulate and circulate air. It literally “handles” your air. Some homes may have more than one air handler to regulate temperatures in different areas separately. ‍ What does it look like? Any filter three inches or thicker is designed to be a whole house filter. The most common thicknesses are four and five inches, while three- and six-inch varieties do exist. They feature the same construction as the common one-inch pleated filters with one distinction. Whole house filters offer significantly more surface area than one-inch filters because of the deep-v pleats that fill its nearly half-foot thick frame. ‍ With all filters, the “nominal size” of an air filter means the rounded size, where each dimension is rounded up or down to a whole number. There’s a standard undercut on one-inch filters, meaning that all one-inch filters measure ¼” to ½” smaller than their nominal size, but there is not a standard undercut on whole house filters. This means that two 25x20x5 filters may actually be different sizes entirely if they are made by different brands. Know the exact size you need, or you might end up with a whole house filter that doesn’t fit. ‍ With Second Nature, you can select your whole house filter by brand, so you know you’re getting exactly the right size every time. How does it differ? Besides its physical appearance, the primary difference between a whole house filter and a regular one-inch filter is the longevity. Because of its massive surface area, a whole house filter doesn’t need to be changed nearly as often. A replacement is typically required every six months instead of three, and in some cases, a change isn’t needed more often than once a year. Like any filter, the frequency of replacement is determined by what factors contribute to your air quality. Normal living situation with no pets? Six months will do. Lots of pets and live in a polluted area? Probably need to be changed more frequently, like every three to four months. Live in Fiji? Could probably stretch the lifespan of that filter. ‍ The difference in construction and longevity does not fundamentally alter the effectiveness of the filter at catching pollutants. Whole house filters still come in standard filtrating ratings (like MERV 8, 11, and 13) and filter similar types and percentages of particles. ‍ Does it cost more? Yes. A whole house filter is on average priced somewhere between about $25 and $35, with some pushing into the $40 range. While they’re more expensive than one-inch air filters, you also change them less frequently and usually only have one at a time. Even though a whole house air filter may cost up to four times as much as its smaller cousins, you could end up spending less on air filters per year (depending on your house and living situation). ‍ Where does it go? A whole house filter does not go in your wall like other air filters. These filters go into the ductwork directly in front of your HVAC unit. Some varieties have a housing or cartridge that they fit in before being installed while others are inserted directly into a slot in the duct. ‍ Should I get a whole house filter? Well, it’s not really up to you. Your house has what your house has. If you bought a home that uses a whole house air filter, then yes. If you bought one that doesn’t...well, you get the point. ‍ Hopefully, this clears up any questions regarding the mysterious whole house filter you may have. Feel free to reach out to us on Facebook if you have any more.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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