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How To Reduce Asthma Triggers And Indoor Allergens

Indoor air quality is even more important for those with asthma. Use MERV 11 or Higher Grade Filters and Replace Them RegularlyStudies show that HVAC filtration is the most effective way to control airborne allergens. As opposed to all other methods, central air filtration improves the quality of air in the entire home, rather than in just a localized area. Experts, including the American Lung Association Health House, recommend using a filter with a MERV rating of 11 or higher. Filters should be changed at least every 3 months. Old filters can become a reservoir for contamination and can do more harm than good. Avoid washable filters. If these are put back damp, they can grow dangerous mold and fungal spores. Mattress Covers and Hypoallergenic Bedding Hypo-allergenic mattress and pillow covers provide protection from allergens like dust mites, pet dander, mold spores and pollen. Avoid feather and down pillows and comforters, as these are common allergens. Hypoallergenic synthetic materials, such as polyester, are good substitutes. Remove Carpeting from BedroomsCarpets and rugs trap allergens, especially dust mites and pollen. Experts warn against carpet, specifically in bedrooms, where prolonged exposure occurs for several hours every night. Steam clean carpets, especially in bedrooms, on a regular basis. If possible, replace carpet with hard flooring such as wood or vinyl. Pet CareUnfortunately, pets and their dander are a common allergen that can cause asthma attacks. Check out our guide to reducing pet dander to cut back the asthma triggers caused by your pet(s). Portable Air Cleaners A portable HEPA air cleaner will improve air quality in the room it is placed, but will not improve overall household air quality. Therefore, bedrooms are the best places to put these units, where they will provide relief throughout the evening. One study shows that placing several air cleaners around a home lead to an overall higher level of household air quality. Portable air cleaners act in addition to, but are not a substitute for HVAC filters. Ionic air cleaners remove particulate matter (PM) from the air, but also release ozone, which is a lung irritant that can cause adverse health symptoms. HEPA air filters have been shown to be more effective for dog and cat allergies, than for dust-mite and mold allergies.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Easy Ways to Defeat Your Dust Mite Allergy

Dust mites don't bite but they can cause other problems. What’s the grossest bug you can think of? Cockroach? Nope. Centipede? Nope. Spider? Well yes, but there’s a different one that we’re thinking of: the dust mite. ‍ What do dust mites look like? These things are ugly. They’re nasty and kind of look like something from out of a horror movie. They’re also everywhere, including your home, your carpet, your bed, and even your face. ‍ Okay, we didn’t mean to scare you there. The dust mite may be everywhere, but it’s almost completely harmless and pretty normal to have around. The concern with dust mites doesn’t come from the bugs themselves. Dust mites cannot and do not bite. They are not parasites. The bugs themselves can’t do direct harm. The concern with these tiny little nasty looking things is the allergens they produce, resulting in dust mite allergies. ‍ That’s why, in today’s blog post, we’re going to talk about how to help with a dust mite allergy, answer common questions like “Does baking soda kill dust mites?” and more. First off, what are dust mites? ‍ What are dust mites and what do dust mites look like? This close up of a dust mite shows just how gross they really are. A dust mite is a microscopic pest that kind of looks like an insect but is technically not one. They look a lot like a teeny tiny cockroach, and they don’t have a face, which makes them more or less ugly depending on what you think of bug faces. You can’t see a dust mite with the naked eye, as adult ones are only about five micrometers long. That’s about the size of your average bacterium. ‍ Dust mites feed primarily on gross stuff like dander and skin cells, thus are frequently found in places where that stuff builds up like mattresses, couches, and linens. As most homes have these things, the vast majority of houses would have a detectable dust mite presence if tested. ‍ Dust mites can be tested for by collecting some dust and looking at it under a microscope. ‍ Where do dust mites live? As stated, dust mites love fabrics and places where dead skin cells collect. They’re big fans of dander and flakes of skin and prefer to eat that. Mattresses are often their go-to hideout as humans probably shed more skin cells there than anywhere else. Carpets, couches soft chairs, rugs, and curtains are also prime dust mite habitat. ‍ Humidity is an essential factor in your home’s ability to house and breed dust mites. These creatures don’t drink water, but instead, absorb it from the air around them. Because of this, they can become dehydrated and die in environments where the humidity levels are too low. ‍ Optimum conditions for growth and development are around 75-80 degrees F and 70-80 percent relative humidity. House dust mites absorb and lose moisture through their skin, and are very vulnerable to dehydration. Consequently, humidity levels within the home have a significant effect on survival. Dust mites cannot survive well at relative humidities below 50 percent. (Source: University of Kentucky Entomology Dept ) ‍ What are dust mite allergies? Dust mite allergies are a little like pet allergies in the sense that it isn’t the creature itself that you are allergic to, but rather a protein that it releases. These proteins are released from the mites when they shed skin and expel waste. ‍ These allergens build up on soft surfaces and can be sent in the air easily by the shaking out of sheets, lifting of couch cushions, or walking on carpets. Next thing you know, lots of allergens are populating your air. ‍ Dust mite allergies also don’t have a particular season, so symptoms happen year round. This is unfortunate for the more than 25 million Americans who have asthma, as dust mite allergies are prevalent among asthmatics and are often identified as the root cause of its development. ‍ Symptoms of dust mite allergies Sneezing Runny nose Itchy eyes Congestion Cough Can trigger an asthma attack ‍ How do you treat dust mite allergies? Want to know how to reduce a dust mite allergy? The most successful approach to treating dust mite allergies is to remove the things from your home that dust mites require to survive. This can be done with a couple of easy steps, which we’ll break down right here. ‍ First, it’s essential to understand that you’re never getting rid of all dust mites. There is always going to be some dust mites lumbering about in your home. You can, however, significantly reduce the number of them and make your home much healthier with some simple and routine items. ‍ Decrease the humidity Humidity is a vital environmental element for dust mites. They need a high level of humidity to survive, so stripping them of that is an effective way to make your home environment non-conducive to dust mites. ‍ A dehumidifier is the best way to do this. This home appliance does exactly what it sounds like: decrease the humidity. These devices work by pulling air into them like an air conditioner and then using a refrigerant to condense water vapor in the air into water droplets. The droplets then fall into a pan or reservoir that you empty when it's full. Quite simply, it pulls the water out of your air. ‍ Dehumidifiers come in a variety of sizes and a range of prices. The smallest is the portable kind, which works well for individual rooms like a bathroom or closet, and they start at only around $20. Larger dehumidifiers that work for entire areas of your home will cost into the hundreds, and whole-house models even exist that cost four digits. ‍ High humidity in the home contributes to the presence of more allergens than just dust mites. Molds and other fungi love humid environments. So a dehumidifier is an excellent way to tackle multiple different allergens and is how to help with a dust mite allergy. ‍ If you live in a southeastern state, where the air is made of soup during the summer, congratulations. You’re more vulnerable to dust mites in your home than most other places. Remove carpeting if possible. Another effective way to make your home a less appealing environment for dust mites is to remove as many soft surfaces as possible. Soft surfaces, like carpets, are predisposed to dust mites because of how well they hold pollutants like dust and skin cells. Removing carpets altogether seems extreme, and it may be in many cases. However, if you have severe dust mite allergies, it may be necessary. ‍ Hardwood floors will still accumulate allergens and allergy attractors like dust and skin cells on them. They’re much easier to clean though, and particles don’t get stuck inside them. ‍ If you elect to stick with carpet, be sure to get low-pile carpet. It is easier to clean and has less capacity for holding dust and particles. High-pile carpeting is pretty much an allergy-sufferers worst nightmare, so stay away from that. ‍ Vacuum and dust often. Routine cleaning of the surfaces in your home is an absolute must for dust mite allergy sufferers. Allergens that dust mites produce can settle quickly into dust and get suspended in the air with the dust particles. Dusting with a damp cloth or paper towel will help collect these allergens with the dust particles. You should dust at least once a week. ‍ Regardless of whether you have carpet or hardwood, include weekly vacuuming with your weekly dusting to remove allergens from your home. A vacuum designed to take on pet hair works well, as dander is often released with pet hair and is a primary attractor of dust mites. These vacuums typically come with a HEPA filter to trap small allergens like pet dander. A HEPA filter vacuum is critical for dust mite allergy sufferers because dust mite allergens are also quite small and could blow back into your home without said filter. ‍ Wash mattresses and sheets even more often. In addition to vacuuming and dusting your home’s surfaces, washing your bed sheets and covers at least once a week is an easy and effective countermeasure in the fight against dust mites. As mentioned above, mattresses and things on mattresses are spot number one for dust mites. You spend more time in your bed than any other place in your home, so naturally, this is where most of the dead skin will accumulate. ‍ Humidity is naturally increased on your mattress because you perspire when you sleep, adding to the attractiveness of the mattress to the dust mite. ‍ Wash your sheets, covers, and pillowcases at least once a week and make sure to wash in hot water. If hot water isn’t an option, you can opt for allergen-targeting laundry detergent. These detergents use an additive called ACARIL to specifically target allergens like dust mites and the things they eat. ‍ It’s pretty important to clean your mattress regularly too, as washing your linens only tackles part of the problem. If you’re wondering “Does baking soda kill dust mites?” the answer is yes! Baking soda is a pretty potent weapon against dust mites in your bed. Using it is a simple process as well. Add a little bit of essential oil to the baking soda and then spread it across the top of your mattress, then vacuum. This is a proven way to help rid your mattress of a dust mite infestation. ‍ Use of essential oils can help to kill the dust mites before the vacuuming begins. ‍ Use at least a MERV 8 pleated air filter. While Allergens produced by dust mites may not stay suspended in the air as long as other allergens, they can still enter the air very easily. Sitting down on a couch, falling onto your bed, or lifting your sheets to make your bed can send dust mite droppings and other allergenic mite products into the air you breathe. This creates a situation ripe for an allergic reaction. ‍ If you’re using a low-quality air filter, it might not catch these allergens, which allows them to cycle back into your home and the air you breath. Using a pleated air filter of at least a MERV rating of 8 will help to eliminate dust mite allergens from your home that are floating in the air. ‍ Take medication. If you find that eliminating the environment for dust mites isn’t working as well as you’d like, over-the-counter allergy medications like antihistamines and decongestants can treat your symptoms. These are usually inexpensive and available at about any grocery store or general store. ‍ Dust mites are pretty nasty, and the allergens they produce can be a real problem in your home. But now you know our proven tips for how to reduce a dust mite allergy. Luckily, with the right routine cleaning practices, you can make your home a much less appealing environment for these microscopic pests and a much more appealing environment for you and your family.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How to Survive Spring Pollen Allergies

Five easy steps to help manage your allergies this spring. Spring will be here sooner than you think, and with it will come a host of things we love and a handful of things we don’t. One of those things we wish we could do without is pollen. We’re talking about that awful yellow dust that coats everything in sight this time of year and forces the allergy-afflicted among us to stay inside. ‍ Pollen is a necessary evil. It’s a critical ingredient in plant reproduction and as a result essential to life itself. For some though, it’s the worst—just the worst. More than 24 million people in the United States deal with pollen allergies every spring. ‍ So what is this yellow dust of death? Pollen is an incredibly fine grain produced by the male part of a flower. Like other particulate matter, it's easily carried through the air, spread across large areas, and unfortunately inhaled. Once they enter your nose, white blood cells that defend your body against foreign invaders mistake pollen for some sort of pathogen, and a reaction begins. Say hello to allergies. ‍ Allergic reactions come with all too familiar symptoms, such as itchy and watery eyes, excessive sneezing, congestion, and a runny nose. If you experience these symptoms every spring, congratulations. You have a pollen allergy. The good news is you have come to the right place if you’re interested in how to deal with that allergy. ‍ Step 1: Know your allergies When we talk about pollen, we’re primarily talking about tree pollen. This is the most recognizable type of pollen and also the prominent culprit of allergy attacks in the spring. Grass pollens are prevalent in the summer though, and ragweed is a serious allergy concern into the fall. The first step to dealing with allergies is knowing what you're allergic to and understanding how it affects you. ‍ Step 2: Learn how to check pollen counts Pollen count measures the amount of pollen present in the air per cubic meter, either in the unit of grams or individual grains. It’s a data point that can be found on your local weather station’s daily weather report or any website that does weather “stuff.” When it approaches 10 grams per cubic meter, pollen concentration is high. ‍ The 12-point scale rates the intensity of pollen, with 12 being the highest and 0 the lowest. Low: 0-2.4 Low-medium: 2.5-4.8 Medium: 4.9-7.2 Medium-high: 7.3-9.6 High: 9.7-12 ‍ Step 3: Know your climate Allergy forecasts for spring are heavily influenced by both the pre-spring weather patterns and the region in which you live.You can typically read allergy forecasts in the same place you would find pollen counts. You can also read one right here. ‍ Allergy forecasts are usually developed by an analysis of the past weather patterns. A lot of weather-related factors are considered, but some key ones to keep an eye are rainfall and temperature. Heavy rainfall that precedes the turn of the season can be a stimulant for pollen growth. If your home state features incredible amounts of rain throughout February and early March, pollen in your climate can appear of nowhere in full force. ‍ Because of this, you might think you’d be better off in a dryer climate as an allergy sufferer, but places that get little rain usually end up being worse. Why? Well, rainfall during the pollen season can provide a temporary reprieve for allergy sufferers, as the rain washes away pollen that’s both floating through the air and on the ground. Consistent spring rains do a lot to diminish the harshness of pollen allergies, so places that lack that tend to have higher pollen counts. ‍ The effect of spring rain is an excellent example of why it is essential to know your allergies. Tree pollen may get washed away by spring rains, but those rains will stimulate grass growth in the summer, leading to higher levels of grass pollen. ‍ Windier climates also tend to be worse, as the wind keeps more pollen in the air instead of allowing it to settle. ‍ Step 4: Acquire Medicine It’s a good idea to have some allergy medicine on hand during allergy season if you suffer from allergies. Duh. Most allergy medicines can be purchased over the counter and don’t cost more than about $15. You can take a lot of steps to avoid contact with pollen, but ultimately full avoidance of the itchy-eye instigator is not practical. Having something with you to help deal with the symptoms that will inevitably arise is always part of a good plan for dealing with pollen. ‍ The official recommendations for medication include antihistamines. Your body produces histamines in response to interaction with allergens. They are the ultimate cause of the symptoms that have become synonymous with allergic reactions. Antihistamines, as the name self-defines, block or reduce these substances, slow down, and alleviate (to some degree) symptoms that make allergies so intolerable. ‍ You could also consider decongestants, depending on which symptoms you experience the most often. These reduce the swelling in blood vessels, which causes congestion in the nose, sinuses, and chest, all of which can be symptoms of allergies. ‍ Step 5: If it comes to it, stay inside When pollen counts are exceedingly high, and your allergic reactions are severe, just stay inside. It really sucks to be on house arrest during the first beautiful days of the year, but being inside is still better than sneezing, coughing, and rubbing your eyes all day. ‍ If you're inside, be sure to replace your air filters regularly with ones that help reduce allergens. Even inside your home, it's next to impossible to escape the perils of outdoor allergies. And don't even get us started on indoor air quality. ‍ Spring is allergy season, and pollen is a large part of that. Suffering from a pollen allergy is a pretty significant deterrent from enjoying the first warm weather of the year. With the right approach though, you can manage it enough to still enjoy the outdoors and the first wave of nice weather.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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What MERV Rating Should I Use?

Is a MERV 8 filter, MERV 10 filter, or MERV 13 filter right for your home? As you may know, we at Second Nature offer a selection of three differently rated air filters: Our Essential (MERV 8), Essential+ (MERV 10), and Health Shield (MERV 13). So, which one is right for you? ‍ As you try to make this decision, you'll need to answer several important questions: What if I have allergies? How different is each MERV rating? What's the best filter if I have a pet? Will any of these filters make my HVAC system work less efficiently? Who got sent home on The Bachelorette last week? ‍ In this week's blog, we have the answers to all of these questions and so much more. Don't be MERVous. After you finish reading, we guarantee you'll know what you need to know about MERV ratings so you can make an informed decision. ‍ Already know what you need? Go ahead of check filters off your to-do list right now! To kick things off, we'll give you a basic rundown of everything MERV. What exactly is MERV? How does the MERV rating system work? What's pressure drop? Essential MERV 8 Filter Essential+ MERV 10 Filter Health Shield MERV 13 Filter What is MERV Rating? MERV, otherwise known as Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, is a system used to evaluate the efficiency of an air filter based on how effective it is at catching particles of varying sizes. Basically, the higher the MERV rating, the higher the air filtration capabilities of a particular filter. ‍ How does the MERV rating system work? Well, MERV ratings range from 1 to 20, with 1 being the lowest level of filtration, and 20 being the highest. Filters that are MERV 16 through 20 are usually only found in hospitals, cleanrooms, and nuclear power plants. The home air filters you're looking for have a MERV rating anywhere between MERV 5 and 13. We, however, do not endorse any filter that has a MERV rating lower than a MERV 8, and filters below MERV 5? We don't even talk about those. ‍ Filters rated below a MERV 5 are basically the wet socks of air filters. Please don't use them and embarrass your air return like that. Your indoor air quality deserves better. ‍ MERV ratings are determined by a filter's effectiveness at filtering particles of different sizes. Specifically, we're talking about 12 differently sized particles from 0.3 to 10 micrometers (µm) in diameter that were created in a laboratory environment. For reference, a human hair is about 50 µm, and the smallest particles that can be identified by the human eye are about 40 µm. These 12 particles are then divided up into three different size ranges (E1, E2, and E3), and four subranges that exist within each range. The first range, E1, includes particles sized 0.3 to 1.0 µm. E2 includes particles sized 1.0 to 3.0 µm, and E3 encompasses particles sized 3.0 to 10.0 µm. ‍ The next step in the MERV ratings test? Each filter will go through six tests per particle size (72 tests total) to determine its MERV rating. In each test, the total number of particles in the test will be counted before being sprayed through the filter, and then counted again after. The end count compared to the total amount of particles is then converted into a percentage representing how many particles were successfully filtered out of the air. The worst percentage out of the six tests is selected as the official measurement used to determine a filter's MERV rating. That's where the minimum in MERV comes from. If we didn't use the worst score, it would just be called ERV, which is nowhere near as cool of a name. ‍ Check out this chart below for more on E1, E2, and E3 particles: Now, on to pressure drop! What's pressure drop? In simple terms, pressure drop is basically air resistance. Your air filter is a literal barrier between your HVAC system and your vents, and that slows the ability of air to get pulled through your vents to your actual system. How much your HVAC’s air flow is slowed by a filter is equivalent to its pressure drop. ‍ Pressure drop varies based on the MERV filter. Filters that are more tightly woven make it harder for air to pass through. This creates a decrease in air flow and a higher pressure drop. As long as you have an air filter installed in your air return, there's no way to avoid pressure drop. ‍ Even MERV 1 - 4 fiberglass filters have a pressure drop, though it is minimal. These cheap filters will have little impact on air flow at the expense of having little impact on air quality. The reason that pressure drop is so low for a fiberglass filter is because it is extremely porous and as a result, ineffective at filtering. Finer particles will have no problem at all getting through a fiberglass filter, and those that are larger will be filtered out less effectively than by a pleated filter. ‍ Really fiberglass? C' mon, you literally have one job. ‍ Pleated filters that are MERV 8 to 13, unlike fiberglass, can both filter out small particles effectively and diminish pressure drop (this here is as close to MERVana that you can get). Even though pleated filters do have a slightly higher initial pressure drop, it is not so significant as to cause any harm to your HVAC system, as long as you’re changing your filters regularly. ‍ Be aware that as time goes on, more dirt, dander, mold, and dust will be trapped by your filter, reducing air flow and therefore increasing pressure drop. So, make sure you’re replacing your air filter regularly to prevent this from happening. A filter replacement every two to three months will do the trick to make sure your HVAC system sees no decrease in functionality. ‍ Ok, now that we've got all of that covered, it's time to meet the MERV filters. ‍ Essential MERV 8 Filter First up, it's Essential, our MERV 8 filter. What does an Essential filter out of the air? It takes care of all the basics: pollen, dust, dust mites, mold, and bacteria. Who should own a Essential? Homeowners who don't live near smoke pollution and who don't share a household with any allergy-suffers or pets. What's the filtration efficiency? To be classified as a MERV 8 filter according to NAFA (National Air Filtration Association), a filter must filter out at least 70% of E3 (3.0-10.0 µm) particles and 20% of E2 (1.0-3.0 µm) particles. Essential actually exceeds that requirement. In addition to 70% of E3 particles, it also filters out 30% of E2 particles and 1.9% of E1 (0.3-1.0 µm) particles. Since it is a MERV 8 filter, it isn't designed to catch the smallest of small particles that fall into the E1 category, like pet dander. In addition, after conducting standard dust tests, it was found that Essential had an arrestance rate of 81.5%. This means that 81.5% of dust particles fed into the MERV filter were successfully filtered out of the air. Okay, so how about pressure drop? Our pressure drops tests were conducted at pretty standard air flow rates for the average HVAC system. At these rates, we found that Essential's initial pressure drop is around 0.024". This is very low, and barely different from the pressure drop of a MERV 1-4 fiberglass filter. ‍ Try Essential ‍ Essential+ MERV 10 Filter Next, we'd like to introduce our Essential+ filter. This is our MERV 10 and mid-level MERV filter. What does a Essential+ filter out of the air? Everything that the Essential does, so pollen, dust, dust mites, mold, and bacteria. In addition, you can say goodbye to that pet dander that's been floating around. Who is a Essential+ perfect for? Pet owners, of course! Also, anyone who has mild allergies or is just looking for additional filtration. How efficient is it? MERV 10 filters should remove at least 85% of E3 particles, 65% of E2 particles, and 20% of E1 particles from the air. Our Essential+ filter removes a minimum of 87.9% of E3 particles, 65.6% of E2 particles, and 24.4% of E1 particles. You know nothing much, just going above and beyond as usual. In the standard dust tests we conducted, Essential+ had a total particle arrestance of 92.5% (Sorry Lite, Micro's got you beat). What about pressure drop? Our Essential+ filter has an initial pressure drop that's slightly higher than the Essential+, but not by anything significant as it comes in at about 0.03 WG. This is no surprise as this filter does provide an extra level of filtration. ‍ Try Essential+ ‍ Health Shield MERV 13 Filter Last, but most definitely not least, we have our Health Shield MERV 13 filter. This filter has our highest MERV rating. What does a Health Shield filter out of the air? The answer to this, my friend, is a whole lot. For starters, it filters everything that a Health Shield does, which includes pollen, dust, dust mites, mold, bacteria, and pet dander. Then, it also filters out cooking oil smoke, smoke, smog, AND virus carriers. What else is left? We sure can't think of anything. Who should own a Health Shield filter? Homeowners with more than one pet in the home and those who have severe allergies. People that live in heavily polluted areas or experience smoke pollution in the summertime will benefit from a Health Shield, as smoke particles are very small and hazardous to your health. How about efficiency? As specified by NAFA, to be labeled as MERV 13, a filter must successfully remove at least 90% of E3 particles, 85% of E2 particles, and 50% of E1 particles. Our Health Shield filter removes a minimum average of 97.2% of E3 particles, 85.5% of E2 particles, and 50.2% of E1 particles. As you can see, this filter is extremely effective. In standard dust tests that were conducted, our Health Shield filter had a total particle arrestance of 98.1% (Looks like we have a winner). How's the pressure drop looking? Since it does provide the highest level of filtration, the Health Shield filter has the highest initial pressure drop at about 0.053 WG, which still should not pose any threat to your HVAC system. ‍ Try Health Shield ‍ Well, there you have it. Now you're a MERV ratings expert and the time has come to choose your fighter. Will it be Essential, Essential+, or Health Shield? Make your choice here. Just an FYI, but filters ranging from MERV 1 through MERV 4 typically only remove less than 20% of E3 particles. One more time for the people in the back, anything under MERV 5 = very bad.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How to Get Mold out of Carpet

Removing mold from your carpet can be a tough task. Let us simplify it for you. Your home is your haven, and you are proud of your constant dedication to keeping it clean. You have a checklist and a go-to cleaning solution for everything. But what do you do after you have been hit with a leaky ceiling or a plumbing issue, and all of a sudden you discover a stain on your carpet that you hadn't noticed before? ‍ Mold growing in your home can easily go undetected. Knowing what triggers mold growth and what steps you can take to prevent it is something every homeowner should know. Removing mold from easily accessible areas like counters or bathrooms may only take a simple cleaning spray, but eliminating mold from a multilayered surface such as carpet requires a more thorough, deep clean. To understand how to remove mold, you first need to understand what mold is and how it develops. How Problematic Can Mold Be On Your Health How Does Mold Grow On Carpet Steps To Remove Mold From Carpet Steps To Prevent Mold Forming In Carpet How Problematic Can Mold Be On Your Health? Mold spores are tiny structures naturally found in the air. They are attracted to and rely on moist conditions to thrive. They also have no problem finding their way into your home. They can travel through doors, windows, heating and cooling systems, or even hitch a ride on your clothes or pets. Once they have found a conducive environment, such as your carpet, and have combined with the dust in your home, the perfect condition has been created for mold to grow. ‍ Mold spores will exist in your home air in some capacity. They’re everywhere and not really harmful at low levels. The key to successfully "managing" mold spores is keeping it from collecting in large numbers. (That's when you actually get a mold problem.) To do this, one must deprive the spores of moisture, cellulose, and time. ‍ When left untreated, mold can impact your health in several ways. According to the EPA, it releases allergens and can even release toxic substances, called Mycotoxins. If touched or inhaled, it can result in throat, skin, and eye irritation, as well as coughing and a stuffy nose. In more severe cases, when coupled with a weakened immune system, mold inhalation can even cause respiratory infections or bronchitis, as well as exacerbate symptoms in asthma sufferers. ‍ How Does Mold Grow On Carpet? Carpet is the perfect environment to trap and hide mold. This is especially true in especially wet areas such as your bathroom or basement. The thick, woven material, along with the carpet's backing, can easily absorb and retain moisture for an excessive amount of time. Carpet offers a complex structure comprised of many cellulose-based products. Wet carpet is mold’s dreamworld, so if it becomes moist, it creates that perfect environment needed for mold growth. Mold spores landing on the carpet use the moisture and cellulose to begin their germination process and are well on their path to becoming mold. Leaks, flooding, or even carpet that was cleaned but not thoroughly dried can result in mold growth. ‍ Although mold only takes a couple of days to grow, it may take up to three weeks to become visible and may not even reach the carpet's surface. Mold is likely to develop and fester under the carpet's surface, making it undetectable. Oftentimes, once it has become visible, it has reached a point of severity where the carpet is no longer salvageable. Eventually, mold left untreated can even end up damaging the baseboards beneath your carpet. Although catching mold before it has become visible is difficult, it is not impossible. If you notice your carpet is damp, or that a musty smell has developed, it may be time to unveil a portion of your carpet and do some further investigation. Any case of discoloration or odor on your carpet's surface that seems to be mildew-like might be a sign that mold is present. It is crucial that any moisture detected on your carpet is addressed within 24 to 48 hours before it has a chance to fully develop into mold. ‍ Steps To Remove Mold From Carpet. Once you have diagnosed your carpet with mold, it is essential you act immediately. Be sure to keep the area cut off from the rest of your home. Mold can quickly and easily spread, turning a small issue into a significant project—and not the fun kind of project. There are two approaches to cleaning mold from your carpet. You can use natural products, or you can attack the area with stronger chemicals. Before handling any potentially moldy areas in your home, it is vitally important that you protect your face and hands. Face masks and gloves will go a long way in ensuring that the mold and cleaning chemicals do not affect your health. It is equally important to note that you should not mix cleaning solutions unless otherwise specified, as this can create toxic fumes that would be hazardous to your health. An age-old remedy to removing mold from carpet is to apply baking soda, leaving it overnight to treat the affected area, absorbing moisture and bad odors. Something as simple as baking soda is actually the best mold remover in many circumstances. Vacuum the next day and proceed to scrub with vinegar using a stiff bristle brush. A vacuum with a HEPA filter will help collect remaining mold spores, but the vacuum's filter will need to be changed before next use, or you will be at risk of spreading these spores to other areas of your house, contaminating it once again. If your vacuum does not have a HEPA filter, it is recommended to substitute this step with a broom and dustpan. The carpet then needs to be dried as quickly as possible. You can do so by ventilating the room with open windows and running your A/C. Extra fans or dehumidifiers are also helpful to expedite this drying process. Vacuums without high-grade filtration will send mold spores back into your air, leaving them free to float around and land somewhere else they find suitable to colonize. A more aggressive approach to removing mold is to use a solution made for just that. Mold-removing products, like Allersearch ADMS Anti-Allergen Spray, can be found at your local hardware store. It is essential that the excess spray is removed using a brush, discarding the mold that you scrape out into a trash bag. Using water will only increase the risk of mold returning. After scrubbing, continue to dry the carpet using the same process recommended for the natural mold removal approach. If you are cleaning mold from a rug, opt to dry the rug outside in direct sunlight for 48 hours, as this will reduce the risk of mold returning. These tips apply to all the rugs in your home that may have fallen victim to mold growth. UV rays from the sun can actually help to kill mold spores. Of course, if mold has spread to a larger than manageable area, it may be best to seek help from a professional. Although mold remediation is expensive, costing upwards of $2,000, you can be sure the affected areas will be properly treated. As important as it is to treat mold, it is equally important to determine the underlying cause of the mold's growth and to resolve that issue simultaneously. Mold due to flooding, a leak in the roof, or an unsealed crawlspace will come back if those problems are not treated immediately. ‍ Steps To Prevent Mold Forming In Carpet. Routine is key to preventing mold from forming in your carpet. Having a weekly regimen in place will help you stay proactive in the constant fight to keep your home a healthy one. Below are some tips that will keep you one step ahead of mold: Regularly use a dehumidifier in areas prone to higher humidity to help keep moisture levels from reaching a point where mold spores need to grow. Anywhere from 30% to 50% humidity is normal for the inside of your home. It is important to check humidity levels frequently as they can change throughout the day. A/C units can also help manage humidity in your home. Keep your home well ventilated by opening windows. This is an easy way to reduce moisture in your home. Vacuuming often will help keep the dust that accompanies mold at bay. Steam clean any wet areas as this will help remove any toxins found in your carpet. Do not install carpet in areas where moisture is often present. Clean rugs in bathrooms or basements often. Do your homework when installing carpet. Be sure to choose moisture resistant padding and check that it is installed correctly. Regularly replace your home air filters with ones that guarantee they filter out allergens such as dust and mold. Mold can be scary, but removing it from your home is pretty easy. Remember, as your mother always said, "A healthy home is a happy home," and "Prevention is the best medicine." And if she didn't say that, I'm sure she was still a great mom.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Nominal Size vs Actual Size: Nominal Size Defined

It's not as confusing as it sounds. Often times, you will find two sizes on your air filters, a "nominal" size, and an "actual" size. What are nominal sizes? Nominal size is the size you see printed on the side of your air filter. It stems from the actual size, which is rounded up to the nearest whole inch. There are hundreds of filter sizes and although manufacturers may make slight changes and offer very slight differences in their many filter sizes, the nominal size system ensures that you, the consumer, can fall back on industry standards and not have to have custom air filters made every time you need some clean air. ‍ Think of it this way: what if every brand of smartphone had a different charger? Fortunately, manufacturers have agreed to standardize their cables (for the most part) so that all modern iPhone chargers are the same and most Android chargers are the same. Thankfully, the people who built your home agreed to follow a similar practice. ‍ What are actual sizes? The actual size is just what it says: the actual size of your air filter to a very precise degree. The actual size is accurate to one eighth of one inch. So for example: ‍ A standard filter with a nominal size of 14"x14"x1" might have an actual size of 13¾" x 13¾" x ¾". ‍ This actual size would be a pain to search for, which is why the nominal measurement was created. ‍ So which one do I use? The nominal size is the only one you really need to know when you look for air filters and it is typically printed on the cardboard edge of your air filter.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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What Is Home Wellness?

Home wellness is the active pursuit of creating and maintaining a healthy, balanced home. Keep reading for more on what that means. A lot of you likely think your home is a pretty healthy place. I wouldn’t blame you—I do too. It’s clean, right? Well, maybe not. ‍ First, we have to define what a healthy home is. Your body, just like you home, needs to be taken care of. Just like a healthy body takes some personal wellness, a healthy home requires its own wellness too—home wellness. At Second Nature, we define home wellness as the active pursuit of creating and maintaining a healthy, balanced home. ‍ We did a research study here and found that, not too much to our surprise, 99% of Americans think that a healthy home is important. Not too much to our surprise, about every 3 in 5 of Americans also think that their home isn’t as healthy as they’d like. I can understand that. We always hear or read about something more we can be doing. ‍ We also learned that there’s a strong consensus that good indoor air quality and clean water are some of the most important factors that contribute to home wellness. Given that, let’s start with air quality. Even though 61% of Americans think that outdoor pollution is worse than the air inside your home, the air inside your home could be up to 5x more polluted than the air outside. Yes, really, indoor air can be as much as five times more polluted than what’s outside. If that surprised you, I think we can all agree that maybe the “healthy home” we pride ourselves on isn’t quite as healthy as we think. ‍ Ready some more shocking data? Good. ‍ Wearing shoes inside at home. A lot of us do it (50% of Americans in fact). We think “it isn’t a big deal.” Maybe you take your shoes off inside and so does everyone else who comes to your house. Or maybe you take them off but feel rude asking guests to do the same. Wherever you fall on the barefoot-indoors spectrum, we usually think taking shoes off inside is just so your floors remain cleaner a little longer. Yes, that’s true. That was what 77% of you think. 47% think it’s more comfortable. ‍ Since your feet collectively house about 25% of the bones in your body, along with 33 joints and hundreds of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, it’s important to take care of them! Walking barefoot can actually be healthy, but for most of us, we grew up wearing shoes and now rely on them. So give it a shot, just don’t overdo it. ‍ At the same time, 36% of Americans remove their shoes indoors because they know about the air toxins they bring inside with their shoes. Things like pesticides, e. Coli, C. diff, and even feces latch onto your shoes and gladly come inside your home. That’s just gross. Do your home a favor and take off your shoes. And those guests you don’t want to be rude to? Just politely ask them to take their shoes off. It’s your house! ‍ Before we move on to water quality, we do have to talk about air filters a little bit. Not because we sell them, although we do and you should definitely have Second Nature air filters in your home. We’re going to talk about them because regularly replacing your air filters is part of home wellness. Since 33% of Americans forget this out-of-out-of-mind home maintenance task, it’s not surprising that 63% want an easier way to remember changing out their air filters them on time. (But not you. You use Second Nature for that) ‍ When it comes to keeping yourself healthy, changing your air filters on time can help reduce negative health impacts from air toxins and can even help with allergies (and can make a big difference for those who suffer from asthma, COPD, or other respiratory conditions). Want to take care of your lungs? Take care of your home! ‍ When it comes to keeping your home healthy, regularly replacing your air filters helps prevent damage to your HVAC that could otherwise happen. It also reduces your energy bill and, consequently, your carbon footprint. In fact, you can reduce the energy consumption of your HVAC system by as much as 15% by replacing your air filters. ‍ One last thing, Americans spend an average of $159 per month on self-care activities. For those between 24 and 39 years old, that monthly average goes up to $265. That’s taking care of yourself, and that’s very important. Do you know where I’m going with this? Guess how much it costs on average to have clean air filters in your home. $10 per month. Hmmm, that seems pretty reasonable for healthy air, doesn’t it? ‍ Now, on to clean water. 64% of Americans are concerned about the quality of their drinking water. So much so that 51% regularly drink bottled water at home. Bottled water isn’t too expensive, but do you know how much plastic that is? Too much! In 2017, Americans drank 13.7 billion gallons of bottled water. ‍ Don’t get me wrong, I get it. Bottled water is easy and convenient, it’s cheap, and it’s not straight tap water. However, the cost also adds up and so does the environmental impact, and filtered tap water can be of the same or better quality without all the empty bottles. ‍ 72% of Americans say filtered tap water tastes as good as bottled water, but 51% still say they drink bottled water at home. Here’s a tip: Whether you get water from the fridge or the tap, filter it yourself. ‍ There are a lot of different options to filter your water, from pitchers with filters to refrigerator water filters to filters that go right on the tap, and none are bad choices. Just make sure the filter will get the job done. The National Sanitation Foundation classifies water filters under certain standards. ‍ NSF 42 - "Filters are certified to reduce aesthetic impurities such as chlorine and taste/odor. These can be point-of-use (under the sink, water pitcher, etc.) or point-of-entry (whole house) treatment systems.” NSF 53 - "Filters are certified to reduce a contaminant with a health effect. Health effects are set in this standard as regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Health Canada. Both standards 42 and 53 cover adsorption/filtration which is a process that occurs when liquid, gas or dissolved/suspended matter adheres to the surface of, or in the pores of, an adsorbent media. Carbon filters are an example of this type of product.” ‍ A filter that meets both those standards is going to be the ideal filter for your water. Clean drinking water is one of the most important elements of a healthy home, so a good water filter is not something to skip on. ‍ Home wellness is all about creating a healthy, balanced home. This includes keeping the air you breathe and the water you drink clean and free of threats to your health. At Second Nature, we strive to help you achieve home wellness with our air filter subscription service. We make keeping your air clean easy by shipping you high-quality and reliable air filters on your schedule so that you do not forget to change them and they keep filtering pollutants out of your air.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Does Higher MERV Rating Restrict Airflow?

How will a higher-quality filter impact the airflow to my HVAC unit. ‍ The short answer is that it can, but it's not really an issue except under extreme circumstances. Most modern HVAC systems have no problem working with higher MERV filters, which is why millions of homeowners depend on them. The primary risk with high-efficiency air filters comes from them being left unchanged for long periods of time. If you stay on top of changing your filters, It's unlikely you'll experience any filter-driven issues with your HVAC system. ‍ Try Second Nature You want to achieve a nice balance Like everything in life and nature, we want to strive for an ideal balance. In this case, you want to have your air as clean as possible without restricting the airflow to your HVAC unit and wasting energy. Some could compare the situation to the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. This home has less than clean air but is energy efficient, this home has fresh air, but an inefficient HVAC, and this home is just right! Although it is not that straightforward and there are other factors to consider, do not worry! We are here to help you make the best decision for your home! ‍ Get to know a filter's quality Before making any choices, one must first understand the quality of a filter. Any air filter you purchase will have a grade on it as a tool to show its quality. The most common measurement scales that you will find are MERV, MPR, and FPR. For this blog, we will be referring to the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating scale but it can easily translate to other measurement scales that you may see used. The higher the rating of the filter is, the smaller the particles that it will capture as well as the higher the percentage of particles captured. Low-efficiency filters typically lie within MERV 1-4 and high-efficiency filters are MERV 13 and beyond. The scaling of MERV is not linear; the difference between a MERV 6 and a MERV 8 is nearly double in the percentage of particles captured. Be aware that as the MERV rating increases, the filter gets more restrictive and it will take more pressure and energy to push air through. ‍ Low-efficiency filters These filters will maximize your airflow but will do very little when it comes to cleaning your air. Filters in this category can sometimes be referred to as "rock-catchers" because their job is to make sure that nothing too significant and devastating gets sucked up into the HVAC unit as the bare minimum. They will stop the large debris, but the majority of other particles will be free to enter your HVAC unit. The dust and dirt will either land somewhere in the system or circulate back into the house. Dust and dirt on critical parts of your HVAC system will increase demand on your system, which can lead to repair and maintenance bills that you’re not looking to pay. Also, particles being circulated back into your home is just plain unhealthy. These filters are certainly better than no filter at all, but that is not saying much. ‍ Ironically, the effectiveness of low-efficiency air filters increases as the filter loads up with dirt and dust. There are two problems, though. First, it takes time for the filter to be loaded enough to get a beneficial effect so that everything that gets by the filter ends up either in your system or back in your home. Second, eventually, the filter can become so dirty that the system experiences a pressure drop which can burn out the fan motor. To prevent this, you have to change the filter, which takes you right back to the first problem. For the brief time that you get a small benefit from your low-efficiency filter is far outweighed by the problems it creates. ‍ So why use them? The main reason is that some older units can only handle these filters. A couple of decades ago, filters of lower quality were nearly the only kind used for homes. Technology for HVAC units has progressed since and most modern units of the last few years should be capable of a MERV 8 filter at the least. But older units may not be capable of enough air pressure to force air through a higher efficiency filter. Trying so could cause significant issues as well as a need for repairs. ‍ Some HVAC technicians have a preference for these low-efficiency filters due to their low resistance to airflow. When these filters get dirty and need to be changed, air will still be able to flow through them and not clog as easily. Some technicians are anticipating that people will forget to change out their filters and using low-efficiency filters regularly could help minimize damage to a neglected HVAC. Filters of this category are recommended to be changed every two to four weeks, which can be challenging to maintain for some. It may be comforting to know that your overdue filter is not as bad as it could be, but it is not doing anything else for you until it is replaced. ‍ High-efficiency filters A more efficient filter will be more effective at removing particles from the air as they enter your HVAC system. They will improve the air quality in your home as well and keep your lungs happy. Since the filtration is more thorough, it will take more energy and effort from your HVAC unit to use them. How much more can vary by home and HVAC system, but with modern technology, the increase in airflow resistance that you get with a high-efficiency filter is typically marginal. This is important to note, because many homeowners believe the relationship is simply linear, meaning as filtration efficiency increases, so does resistance to airflow at the same rate. This is not accurate, though, and it's the reason why millions of homeowners use high-efficiency filters with no concern. For example, Second Nature's Essential filter is roughly 450% more effective at capturing particles than a cheapo low-efficiency fiberglass filter, but its resistance to airflow is only about 20% higher, a marginal difference. ‍ An important note with a higher MERV filter is that you need to remember to change it. A consequence of a very effective air filter is the speed with which it can load with pollutants and begin to increase pressure drop. This is just fancy talk for "the filter catches more stuff so it clogs faster." If you leave a clogged filter unchanged for a long time, that's when you can start to see issues with resistance to airflow. This is, of course, a very easy issue to prevent. Just remember to change the filter and you're good to go. In summary So which filter should you consider? If your unit is older and/or very sensitive with airflow, use a filter that ranks from MERV 1 up to possibly MERV 6. If you want your air to at least be cleaned and handle dust, mold, pollen, and bacteria, then a MERV 8 will do the job. Having pets would require a MERV 10 to manage their dander, which tends to have smaller particles than the pollutants previously discussed. Air filters that are MERV 13 and higher are recommended for those that prioritize air quality and may have to handle asthma, severe allergies, and other similar circumstances. Try to not go beyond what you need for your situation. Otherwise, it would be a waste of energy, money, and give unneeded stress to your HVAC system. The factors of every home can vary, so you can always contact a local HVAC technician if you are ever unsure and want a second opinion. ‍ The cost-benefit equation is simple: For a few extra dollars, you can ensure that your HVAC system is as clean as possible and the air in your home is effectively filtered just by using an efficient air filter that is changed regularly. It's an easy task that Second Nature makes even easier.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Filtration Information for It Matters™ Refrigerator Water Filter

A detailed view of the contaminants our It Matters™ refrigerator water filter reduces. Second Nature It Matters™ Refrigerator Water Filter Performance Data Sheet This system is Certified by IAPMO R&T to meet NSF/ANSI Standard 42 for Structural Integrity / Material Safety / System Performance and the reduction of Chlorine, Tastes and Odors. This filter is also certified to NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for the reduction of contaminants listed on the performance data sheet when used in this system. This system has been tested according to NSF/ANSI standards 42 and 53 for the reduction of the substances listed below. The concentration of the indicated substances in water entering the system was reduced to a concentration less than or equal to the permissible limit for water leaving the system, as specified on NSF/ANSI standards 42 and 53. ‍ ‍ Operating Parameters: Temperature: 38*F to 100* F Working Pressure: 30psi-100psi Flow Rate: .5 GPM Capacity: 200-300 Gallons depending on model (see box for details) The contaminants or other substances removed or reduced by this water filter are not necessarily in all users’ water. The system and installation shall comply with applicable state and local regulations. Do not use with water that is micro- biologically unsafe or of unknown quality. Read and follow instructions before installation and the use of this product. Refrigerator filters must be replaced every six months, at rated capacity, or sooner if a noticeable reduction of flow rate occurs. Manufacturers Limited Warranty. 30 Day Warranty. Manufactured By: Second Nature Brands, Inc. 333 Fayetteville St. Suite 600, Raleigh, NC 27601 Still need help? Please visit help.secondnature.com for answers to common questions or contact us here.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Air Filter Sizes & How They Work

What is an undercut? What does nominal mean? All the answers are right here. One of the more needlessly confusing elements of home wellness is air filter sizing. We didn't make it this way, but we are making it is as simple as possible for you right here. Let's get started. ‍ The two types To understand air filter sizing, you first have to understand that there are two primary types of air filters. ‍ 1-inch and 2-inch air filters Whole house air filters ‍ Home air filters are the ones that go into your wall in the air return; although, in some homes, they can go in the ceiling or into the ductwork itself. Your "air return" is aptly named—it's where "air returns" to your HVAC system from inside your home. Most filters for your return are 1" thick. While 2" filters are found in some homes, it's a lot less often. ‍ Whole house filters usually go into an air handler, which is typically situated next to your HVAC system itself. In some homes, these go directly into the ductwork too. It's worth noting that, while you usually only have one, it's possible to need more than one whole house filter for your home. Whole house filters always have a thickness of 4, 5, or 6 inches. ‍ You may have noticed that we did not mention 3-inch filters. While 3" filters technically do exist, they're particularly rare. If you need a 3" filter, you are special. ‍ There's also such a thing as accordion air filters, and, just like it sounds, they are shaped like an accordion. If you have one of these in your home, we sell those too, but...well, that's just weird. ‍ Air Filter Sizes: Length and width 1" and 2" refers to the thickness or depth of the filter, which we'll get to in a minute. First, let's talk about length and width. Length and width are technically interchangeable, but for discussion purposes, a 12x20 is 12 inches long and 20 inches wide. It's a very common size that is easy to find, and it's on a short list of sizes that are common enough for air filter companies like us to keep in stock. Some other common sizes are: ‍ 12x12x1 12x20x1 12x24x1 14x14x1 14x20x1 14x24x1 14x25x1 14x30x1 16x20x1 16x24x1 16x25x1 18x18x1 18x24x1 18x30x1 20x20x1 20x24x1 20x25x1 20x30x1 24x24x1 24x30x1 ‍ If you have a 1" or 2" air filter that is not on this list, you'll likely need a custom cut, and the hardware store definitely can't help you here. We've got you covered, though. With our custom air filters, there are 66,000 possible different sizes. We know! That's a lot. ‍ To put 66,000 in perspective, that's roughly the population density of Manhattan per sq mi. That's also approximately how many Orangutans are alive today. Take those facts to trivia. ‍ Undercuts and roundings A 20x20x1 air filter is actually 19-¾" x 19-¾" x ¾". This is what is known as the undercut. All 1" and 2" filters are undercut by a quarter of an inch to provide a little bit of leeway to ensure it fits into the air return without being too big. This includes custom sizes, so a 27-⅜" x 23-⅝" x 2" (which is the weirdest size we could think of) is actually 27-⅛" x 23-⅜" x 1-¾". ‍ At SecondNature.com, you'll see an actual size that shows the undercut when you enter a custom size. You'll want the custom size you pick to be the size of your return measurements, which allows the actual size to be a quarter-inch less. ‍ Undercuts exist on whole house filters as well, but not in the same way they do for 1" and 2" filters. In fact, undercut is a bit of a misnomer when it comes to whole house air filters. These are actually just rounded to whole numbers in a somewhat arbitrary fashion. Allow us to explain. ‍ Different manufacturers cut their whole house filters to different sizes and then round them to standardized measurements, which means that two 20x25x5 whole house filters made by two different manufacturers are probably not the same size. Below are some examples: ‍ Honeywell has a 20x25x5 is actually 19-3/4" x 19-7/8" x 4 3/8" Filtrete has a 20x25x5 is actually 19.75" x 24.4375" x 4.69" (seems like they have some pretty fancy rulers over there) Lennox has a 20x25x5 is actually 19-3/4" x 24-3/4" x 4-3/8" ‍ And that all makes total sense...? ‍ Because of this, it's necessary for those of you that need a whole house filter to know the exact filter size you need. If you can't find that on the filter, you can provide Second Nature with the nominal size and the brand that you had previously been using, and we'll be able to find the filter you're looking for. ‍ Nominal vs. Actual size All filters are sized two different ways. Yep, you read that correctly. All filters have an actual size and then a nominal size. The actual size is the exact dimensions with no rounding; whereas, the nominal size is the rounded dimensions of the filter. This means that on 1" and 2" air filters, the nominal size does not include the undercut, and the actual size does include the undercut. On whole house filters, the nominal size is the rounded size, and the actual size is just the unrounded. Pretty easy stuff here. ‍ Sizes can be reversible If you measure your vent and find that you need a filter with a nominal size of 30x20, you'll find shortly thereafter that there is no such thing as a 30x20. There is only a 20x30, and that is what you actually need. Whether the pleats on the filter run horizontally or vertically won't impact the effectiveness of your filter, so the number of unique air filter sizes on the market can simply be cut in half by always listing the smaller measurement first instead of having a 20x30 and a 30x20 as two completely different products. If you find that you need a 15x34, grab yourself a 34x15 and just rotate it 90 degrees. It's the same thing. ‍ And that's how air filter sizes work. It's probably a little more complicated than it needed to be, but we try to make it easy. Now you'll never be confused by things like undercuts again. ‍ tl;dr: air filters have weird sizes. Leave the rest to us—we'll make sure the right ones get to you right when you need them. ‍refrigerator water filter reduces.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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What Are The Best Indoor Air Cleaning Plants?

Yep, it's true. Certain plants can actually help clean your air. Second Nature is in the business of delivering clean air. Most commonly, this is done by automatically sending you the exact filters you need, exactly when you need them. However, there are some additional ways you can keep the air you and your family breathe clean... there are many plants that actually improve indoor air quality by removing some pollutants from the air, operating as a natural air filter! While these plants cannot replace a regularly changed pleated air filter, they act as a supplemental cleaner to be used in addition to regularly-changed air filters. ‍ NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (LACA) did extensive studies on how to create healthier environments in outer space. Due to this research, we now have much more information about how to use plants to help with the air quality indoors on our own planet! They found out that some of the common issues holding our air quality back were chemicals like: ‍ Formaldehyde: Found in particle board, foam insulation, cleaning products and treated papers/fabrics. If you own particle-board furniture, grocery bags, tissues, paper towels, or anything that's been treated basically to make it stiffer/wrinkle-resistant/fire retardant/water repellent - you have formaldehyde in your air. Xylene: Xylene is used as a solvent in the printing, rubber, paint and leather industries. Over time, exposure to xylene can greatly affect the central nervous system. Benzene: Being one of the top 20 chemicals for production volume, benzene is found in pretty much anything created using manufacturing processes like paints, glues, furniture wax and detergents. A major source of benzene exposure is tobacco smoke and benzene has been linked with causing cancer. Trichloroethane: As known as “methyl chloroform,” this solvent can be found in adhesives, varnishes, paints and some consumer products. ‍ Not to fear! The moral of this story in particular is that air purifying plants can help rid your house of these toxins. ‍ All plants provide some benefit to air quality, but research shows that tropical plants (grown as houseplants in cooler climates) are particularly effective at processing gases and chemicals. Because they grow in dense rainforests with very little light, they have evolved to be very efficient at photosynthesis, which includes the absorption of gases from the air. In addition, as plants transpire (emit water from the leaves), air is drawn down around the roots, where root microbes quickly adapt and begin “eating” the harmful chemicals that are absorbed. ‍ Here are some of the best plants you can have around to help increase your air quality! Orchids Orchids typically get a bad rap for being very difficult to grow (personally, I have never managed to keep one alive) But according to some articles, orchids are typically killed with too much water and sunlight. If you leave your orchid alone, it will help rid your air of some of the xylene we previously mentioned and they also give off oxygen at night! Mother-In-Law's Tongue Also called snake plant, this is an evergreen perennial plant that is extremely easy to grow in a house or office. Note that during winter it needs only one watering every couple of months (many people kill theirs by overwatering them). According to the studies by NASA, this is single-handedly one of the best plants for improving indoor air quality as it passively soaks up nitrogen oxides formaldehyde. Palms Palms are extremely hardy, extremely good plants for people who tend to kill off their attempts at a garden every year. Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii) is especially effective (and low maintenance). They particularly target the toxins produced by cigarette smoke so keep these plants in mind if you ever need to give a gift to a friend who can't kick the habit! Philodendrons Philodendrons, particularly Heartleaf (Philodendron scandens ‘oxycardium') are easy houseplants that make them pretty but also pretty good at sucking toxins out of the air. English Ivy English Ivy naturally originated in Europe but it makes for a great houseplant in North America, too. Be mindful to keep this plant a houseplant, however, as it is very effective at taking over gardens and has been labeled an invasive species in a lot of areas where it has been introduced. Ferns The large fronds of fern plants have helped get rid of pollutants in the air for over 360 million years, believe it or not. They also help remediate contaminated soils due to their hardiness and unique properties. Gerber Daisy Known for looking too pretty to be true, Gerber Daisy plants are excellent at dealing with trichloroethylene (from dry cleaning) and benzene (from inks). Just make sure you give them a lot of light! Schefflera Schefflera are waxy-looking plants but are extremely hardy, long-lasting and can even be easily rooted to create more plants (I've done it and now both of mine are over three feet tall!) Dracaena Dracaena, particularly Dracaena reflexa, is a very good plant to grow in many different types of light as it absorbs unhappy toxins from the air. Be careful as these, like peace lilies, can be poisonous for pets. And you may have already gotten one accidentally before - rooted stem cuttings sold as “lucky bamboo” are actually just dracaena plants in disguise. Ficus The common ficus (also known as fig trees) are keystone species in many rainforest ecosystems, which can make them extremely helpful in processing gases in your house. Caring for a ficus tree can be difficult at first to figure out a good placement for it and ideal watering conditions, but once you're set these trees can last for a very long time.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Everything You Need to Know about Ragweed Allergies This Fall

Thanks to ragweed pollen, fall allergies can be a pain when you're trying to enjoy the changing weather. Prepare for ragweed below. Pollen sucks. Its existence is essential to life itself, but it’s an absolute menace to allergy-afflicted individuals throughout the spring . . . and the fall. “Wait, and the fall?” Yes, and the fall. “That’s like half the seasons. I didn’t sign up for that.” Well, the summer as well. That’s when grass pollen comes out. “. . .“ “So if spring is tree pollen and summer is grass pollen, what is fall pollen? Bush pollen?” Ragweed, mostly. Ragweed pollen is public enemy number one in the fall for allergy sufferers. ‍ The good news is that you aren’t allergic to all pollen because you are allergic to one type of pollen. Just because tree pollen, the yellow dust that coats entire cities in the spring, causes you to sneeze and itch, doesn’t necessarily mean ragweed pollen is going to do the same. ‍ Tree pollen in the early months of the year is generally a more prominent allergen. That’s why springtime gets the most hubbub when talking about allergies. Despite this, a larger number of Americans actually suffer from a fall pollen allergy than a spring one. ‍ So, what is ragweed and what does it look like? Keep reading to learn all about this sneaky irritant that may result in an unsuspecting ragweed pollen allergy. What is ragweed & what does it look like? What does ragweed look like? It’s a flowering plant that looks about like this: Ragweed can be found growing in fields, on roadsides, or anywhere there is open space in every state excluding Alaska (do you think Alaska feels sad for always being excluded?). There are lots of different species of ragweed, such as sage, eupatorium, and just in case ragweed wasn’t a gross enough name for you, there is also mugwort. ‍ The two primary offenders in the case of allergen production are the cleverly named common ragweed and giant ragweed. These species of ragweed can be identified by their lobed leaves, which other species don’t have. Lobed leaves look like this: The difference between giant ragweed and common ragweed is that giant ragweed is bigger. You’re welcome. ‍ Ragweed vs. Goldenrod Goldenrod is a very similar looking plant that, like ragweed, can be found just about anywhere in the United States. Genetically, it’s extremely different from ragweed, and its pollen is not an allergen. Nobody in the country is allergic to Goldenrod pollen. People often confuse it with the allergy factory of ragweed because of their similar appearances, and also probably because it's bright yellow and that is the color people associate with pollen. It is harmless though. Below is a side-by-side comparison so you can tell the difference. ‍ When is ragweed season? Like tree pollen season, ragweed pollen season can vary slightly by geographic location. It usually starts a little earlier and ends a little earlier the farther north you travel. While the plant can begin flowering as early as July, August is typically the month when ragweed pollen begins to infect the air around us. So, if you have a ragweed pollen allergy, you’ll likely notice symptoms at the end of summer through the start of winter. Late October is when it starts to diminish in the northern states, and it survives until late fall, usually mid-November, in the southern states. The first significant frost often coincides with the end of ragweed’s pollination time. So root for an early frost if you’re a ragweed pollen allergy sufferer. ‍ How is ragweed pollen different from tree pollen? It’s not, really. There are a few minor characteristics that are different, such as oak tree pollen being able to remain suspended in the air longer than ragweed. Ragweed produces a lot fewer individual pollen grains per plant. Overall, it’s a slightly less potent allergen than oak pollen and other tree pollens in the spring, but still pretty obnoxious if you’re afflicted with an intolerance. It also doesn’t cover the ground in a thick yellow dust, making it a less common talking point in the world of pollen allergies because of the lack of visual presence. Just like tree pollen though, it still sucks. How do you manage a ragweed pollen allergy? So, you know what ragweed looks like. But what do you do if you find you have a ragweed pollen allergy? Here are three tips to keep your symptoms at bay. ‍ Pay attention to weather forecasts There are a couple of reasons to keep an eye on the weather for today and the coming days. The first is pollen counts. You can also check these online at a place like pollen.com. We talked at length about these in our spring pollen blog, so we won’t dive too deep here. ‍ Pollen counts, or pollen index, can vary based on many weather factors though, so some days outside will be way worse than others. The forecasts take these into account to give you an accurate idea of how prevalent the allergy threat will be each day. ‍ Generally speaking, the mid-day hours are the worst for ragweed pollen. Going for that run or bike ride at dawn or dusk is a good idea if you have a fall pollen allergy (this is a good idea anyways in August, as it’s the hottest month of the year in many places). The wind is also responsible for driving up pollen counts. A consistent breeze will push pollen grains into the air and stop them from settling. So avoid windy days for your outdoor activities. ‍ Also, keep an eye on rain in the forecast. Rain is the best thing for a ragweed pollen allergy. It washes pollen out of the sky and washes away pollen on the ground that can be resuspended in the air. If you’ve got an outdoor activity planned this fall, see if you can schedule it for the day after a rain. You’ll be a lot happier and healthier spending time outside because of the sudden decrease in pollen counts. Take medicine When you’re buying medication for your allergies, there is not a lot that is different in the fall versus the spring. Antihistamines such as Zyrtec or Chlor-Trimeton block allergens by binding to receptors within the body, depriving the allergen of its chance to make you sneeze right before it succeeds. ‍ Antihistamines are effective because they target the actual cause of the allergic reaction instead of treating the symptoms. Other medications specifically for symptoms, such as decongestants, are available if you happen to have an antihistamine intolerance. Keep ragweed pollen outside If you’re a serious pollen allergy sufferer, it’s important to cover your bases when it comes to the air inside your home. You can’t rid the outside air of ragweed pollen, but you can keep it from getting inside. ‍ Keep your windows and doors closed, especially on windy days. It may be tempting to leave your front door open or crack a window when that cool fall weather begins to roll in, but that’s the only barrier between your house and ragweed pollen. ‍ Remember that pollen can also be carried into your home on your clothes, body, or pets. Change clothes after spending a significant amount of time outside and drop those clothes in the washing machine. Shower after significant outdoor activities. Wash your hands after petting any dogs or cats that have been outside. If it gets inside, don’t fret. Simply follow our best practices for how to remove allergies from your home. Close the top on your convertible this time of year too. ‍ ‍Filter ragweed pollen out by keeping clean air filters in You can make a material difference in the amount of ragweed pollen that enters your home by taking those simple precautions. You can’t eliminate it entirely, though. One of the best ways to keep your home as pollen-free as possible is to use air filters with high MERV ratings (8 or above). Using a high-quality air filter, like Second Nature’s Health Shield or Essential+ filter, will pull those sneaky particles out of your home and into the garbage. Get one today. Not sure what size to get? Learn about air filter sizes and how they work to remove allergens from your home.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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What Is An Electrostatic Air Filter?

Is an electrostatic air filter the same thing as a washable air filter or reusable air filter? Not necessarily. Raise your hand if you learned about static electricity as a kid by rubbing a balloon on your head and watching your hair cling to it. Now, if you actually raised your hand while reading this, put it down. People are staring. ‍ You probably thought that static electricity was pretty cool but didn't really serve any practical purpose for you in your life. Beyond not lighting yourself on fire at the gas station, you were right, until now. It turns out that the very air you breathe is affected by static electricity. How? With air filters, of course! What the heck else would we be talking about? ‍ Certain air filters actually use static electricity to catch particles as they pass through the filter media. These are known as electrostatic air filters. Now when you google electrostatic air filter, you'll usually find a wealth of information about washable/reusable air filters. Within the general public's knowledge of air filters, electrostatic air filter has become synonymous with washable air filter, but that's actually not fully correct. Electrostatic is merely a feature of washable filters, and it's not exclusive to them. Let’s dive in. ‍ What is electrostatic? We've reached the science part of the blog. Here we're going to talk about static electricity and how filters use it. Feel free to skip this part if you took Static Electricity 201 in college. If you only took 101, you might want to read this. It will be on the test. ‍ Anybody who has ever played with a magnet knows that the opposite poles on the magnet attract. If you try to stick like poles together, they repel. The same principle is what creates the static electricity that electrostatic air filters use. ‍ Static electricity is caused by a difference in the charges of particles. Particles are made of atoms, and atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Atoms that have the same number of protons and electrons are neutral and have no charge. When a neutral atom gains or loses an electron, it becomes charged. ‍ Electrostatic air filters are made of filter media that undergoes a process to "charge" it, thereby creating that attractive quality. Sometimes, multi-layer washable filters contain layers of materials meant to charge particles as they pass through, making the job of the attractive layer of the filter easier. ‍ Instead of getting pulled through the filter and physically caught and blocked by filter material, the particles are actually attracted to the filter media because of physics. It's pretty neat in theory. In practice, well, we'll get into that in a second. ‍ What filters are electrostatic? As stated, electrostatic simply means "uses static electricity." Nothing about the term automatically identifies a filter as washable or reusable. Washable filters are electrostatically charged. Since that's how they are typically marketed, it's become a general understanding that that is what an electrostatic filter is. However, most pleated filters are electrostatic as well. ‍ Unlike filters of the washable variety, pleated filters don't have to be charged to have an electrostatic element. Some are, and as a result, produce a powerful electrostatic field that helps catch the smallest of particles. Uncharged filters still create a field based on what they're made of. Because of that, they produce a weaker field and rely more on mechanical filtering. ‍ Mechanical filtering just means that the filter physically blocks pollutants. It's the most common filtering technique and the one that pleated and fiberglass primarily rely on. ‍ Fiberglass filters can hold something of a static charge, but it's not enough to actually make it an effective filtering device. They're still garbage. ‍ So what are washable air filters? Washable air filters are almost all electrostatic air filters. The selling point is they can be cleaned and used for several years before it is time to buy a new one. On paper, that seems like a groundbreaking innovation in the filter industry. But that's just paper. In reality, it's pretty easy to see the holes. Did you see what we did there? We made a joke about crappy air filters because they have big holes in them. Get it? Do you get it? Ok. Sorry. It won't happen again. ‍ There are some advantages to the washable air filter, and most are pretty straightforward. Washable filters can save you money on filters in the long run. Instead of replacing it every three months, you just wash it out, let it dry, and replace it. These guys run anywhere between $30 and $80 and typically last around three years, although some can last as long as five. So obviously, there is some money to be saved by spending less than $100 on air filters over several years. ‍ That's about where the advantages end. Remembering to change your pleated filter can be hard (unless you use a particular home wellness company *wink* *wink*). Remembering and actually finding the time to wash, vacuum, and dry your washable filter? Not so easy. ‍ When you do remember to wash them, you better make sure you do a thorough job. If you don't, you're inserting a dirty filter back into your home. That completely defeats the purpose of a washable air filter. Even cleaned, if you don't dry it completely, it can grow mold. You don't want either of those things. ‍ From an actual filtering perspective, washables are better than cheap fiberglass, because what isn't? Still, they don't really measure up to pleated filters, especially when it comes to larger and more common pollutants like pollen. ‍ Now you may have noticed that we said washable filters are "almost exclusively electrostatic." Many washable filters also do have a mechanical element that is made of similar material to a pleated filter. The problem is that this filter media cannot be woven tightly, as it would affect the filter's ability to build a charge and make it exceptionally hard to clean. The result is that the mechanical element does virtually nothing and is less efficient than even fiberglass (Gasp!). ‍ Why don’t washable air filters measure up to pleated? Pleated filters are naturally electrostatic. Washable filters kind of live off in their own world when it comes to air filters. They work so differently than a pleated or even fiberglass filter that the MERV rating isn't particularly applicable to them, thereby making their efficiency harder to understand. ‍ Basically, this is how it works. Filters that have a mechanical element always become less effective. The smaller particles are, the better they are at finding holes in the filter—they're small. With washables, the exact opposite is true. ‍ Because there is no reliable mechanical element with a washable filter, static electricity is the only thing that stops pollutants from passing right through. Washable electrostatic filters are more effective against smaller particles, as they have an easier time pulling them in with their electrostatic forces. Bigger particles require a stronger electrostatic force to attract and as a result have a much easier time slipping past the static electricity. ‍ The lack of mechanical filtering can lead to other issues as well, such as particles just kind of falling off the filter and back into the air every time you take it out. Seriously, that may sound really stupid, but it's actually a real problem. ‍ Statically charged pleated filters combine the electrostatic element to target small particles with the mechanical element to target large particles, making them the most effective across the entire spectrum of particle size. ‍ Pleated filters also become more effective as they age because of the buildup of particles, which actually helps block more particles. The opposite is again true with purely electrostatic washable filters. Once dust and pollutants have coated the entire filter, the static electricity is weakened significantly. Since this force is the only thing that stops particles, all that nastiness can flow right through the filter. ‍ Washable filters, because of their multiple layer construction, also have an extremely high initial pressure drop. If you're unfamiliar with that term, it basically means that airflow through the filter is initially lower than other types of filters. If airflow dips too low, your HVAC unit can struggle to pull in enough air and have to work harder. This costs you more on your heating and cooling bill and may potentially blow out the motor. Pleated filters don't really have this problem unless you leave them in the vent for way too long. ‍ Electrostatics is some pretty cool science, but ultimately it's not particularly useful on its own. It can give a nice boost to a well-constructed pleated air filter, but it's not really enough to get the job done on its own. ‍ How are pleated filters charged? As mentioned above, pleated filters fall into two categories when discussing electrostatic air filters. Some are charged with a charging procedure while they're being built. This is done with a process involving a bunch of tiny needles, but we won't get into that because it will probably bore you out of your skull. ‍ Some, typically the lower MERV-rated varieties, are not charged. These still carry a natural charge because of their construction material, and their charge actually increases over time as the air passing through the filter helps to build up a little bit of a charge. ‍ Pleated filters give you the best of both worlds. Even varieties that aren't intentionally charged still outpace reusable filters. The good news is that if you want to buy a pleated filter, you're already on a website that sells them!

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Quick Tips To Lower Your Energy Bills

Check out these ways to save money on your energy costs. Let’s face it, we could all use a little extra pocket change. While changing your home air filters on a regular schedule won’t drop a couple grand into your checking account, there are several benefits to the practice. extend the life of your HVAC system while drastically improving the quality of the air in your home, it also saves money on your energy bill! U.S. Department of Energy estimates estimates that changing your air filter on a regular schedule can save up to 15% on heating and cooling costs. Set your thermostat on a schedule. This ensures your system is only running when it needs to be... No need to keep the house at 68 degrees during the day, when the whole family is at work and school. Wrap your water heater with an insulating blanket and set the thermostat lower than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The insulation will help keep its temperature constant and also ensure energy isn't wasted heating your water to a higher-than-necessary temperature. Seal off drafts coming from exterior doors, windows and electrical outlets--even small amounts of cold air droughts coming in from outside can make your system work harder in order to keep you house warm. Add timers or motion sensors to your lights, along with dimmers. This ensures you don't use wasted energy when you are not at home. Shield your interior living spaces from the sun. By using thick curtains, blinds, or even tinted window film, you can reduce your cooling costs since the sun won't be warming up your living space. On the other hand, these efforts can help with insulating your home during the winter months! If you haven't already switched, make the switch to LED bulbs. LED light bulbs consume 90% less energy than incandescent bulbs and last much longer. Utilize off-peak rates to run major appliances. If your energy provider offers off-peak usage rates, take advantage of them. These "time-of-use" plans allow you to save by using major appliances (like your dishwasher, washing machine, etc.) outside of peak hours (typically after 7 or 8PM). Contact your energy provider to see if they offer a time-of-use plan and learn how it works. The U.S. Department of Energy produced an easy-to-read infographic that offers a primer on cutting down energy costs associated with your HVAC system. ‍

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Childhood Asthma: 10 Easy Remedies to Conquer It On Your Own

How to manage asthma in a child. At Second Nature, we know it’s hard to deal with childhood asthma with your own kid. Maybe you never had to deal with this before. Or perhaps you did, but it wasn’t as severe. The good news is we’re kinda pros when it comes to air quality thing. What you breathe may not be the leading cause, but we do know it plays a part. We’re here to help, and with all the research we did, this is what we found. Following these ten home remedies for asthma may help your little one reclaim being a kid again. 1. Pets and their fluffy effect You’ve heard it before. People are allergic to pets—cats and dogs especially. This is one of the common culprits that can cause asthma to flare up in kids. We’ll skip straight to the good news and say that Mr. Fluffers doesn’t have to find a new home. Let’s say your dog is rolling around on the floor, having a good time. It’s innocent enough—your dog being a dog. While your dog is doing that, he’s spreading dander and slobbering all over the place. Your floor becomes asthma’s paradise. Maybe you’re a cat person. You love your cat (and your cat doesn’t care, but that’s not the point). The point is your cat’s adorable, especially when she does what she does best, sleep. You find her sleeping on the couch or curling up in your lap to soak up some sun. Cats and dogs are pretty different, but this is one way they’re the same. You now see what covers you and your couch: all the allergens it takes to cause an asthma attack. So what’s the solution here? Clean! It’s that easy. If you vacuum your floors and clean your furniture, you’re golden. In the event you don’t have a pet, and your eight-year-old can’t stop bugging you for one, you have options. There are a lot of hypoallergenic cats and dogs that may keep your kid and your couch happy. 2. Plants cleaning the air for you This one’s pretty trendy right now, but believe us when we say the hipsters are onto something here. There are actually some plants that produce cleaner air for you! Even if you have a black thumb, these plants are resilient and very forgiving. Since clean air is key to managing childhood asthma, we recommend shopping around at a local nursery or garden center. 3. Clean the air a little bit more with an air purifier This recommendation is on every blog you follow, books you read, and doctors you see. They’re all right. Air purifiers do help a lot, and there are so many out there that can fit any budget. If you’re into the simple (and more affordable option), there are air purifiers for you. If you want the air filter that’s beautiful and over the top, there’s even one of those. Whatever your preference, you’ll be parent of the year, keeping your child a little more safe from asthma attacks. 4. Carpets and rugs ruining your day We’ve already talked about pets. What we didn’t mention is how those fibers in your carpets and rugs love to hang on to those pesky allergens. It’s not just your pet’s fault here. For some people, getting rid of carpets and rugs altogether is what helps. For others, regular vacuuming, shampooing, and steam cleaning a few times a year are all that it takes. The key here is to prevent places for allergens to hang out and hide. 5. Bedtime should be safe Every allergen, especially dust mites, can wreak havoc on anyone with asthma. Sadly, you’ve learned this first hand! How can we make the bed a safe place when dust mites love to hang out in mattresses and pillows? Did you know dust mites actually breed faster in mattresses and under sheets? It’s warm enough for them to speed things up. Here’s the easy fix: get hypoallergenic mattresses and pillow covers. They keep what’s already in there in and everything that isn’t out. Get those, clean the linens frequently, and you’ll be a hero. Your superpower? Making your kid's bedroom a whole lot safer. 6. Air filters help too! Getting the right air filters in your house and regularly replacing them pays off in several ways. That’s our thing, so instead of boring you with all the details, we’ll leave it at this: air filters are essential. They keep the air in your home clear of airborne allergens you can’t see. As we said, air quality can directly impact asthma in children. 7. Other allergens that trigger asthma in children We’ve talked about dogs, cats, and dust mites. What about the hundreds of other allergens that your child could be allergic to? There are so many more that can exacerbate childhood asthma, making it harder to manage. The only thing to do here is to get your children tested. Knowledge is power. If they’re allergic to fescue grass, for example, you could look into getting bermudagrass. There’s only so much you can control in their environment, but every little bit helps. 8. VOCs...and those are what, exactly? If you haven’t heard of them, VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compound. These are commonly found in paint and are released in the fumes. Remember how that fresh coat of paint made the house smell for a few days? If this triggered your little one’s childhood asthma, it’s not your fault. It’s the paint—and VOCs are in a lot more than paint, unfortunately. Next time you’re ready to do a house project, look into VOCs and find a non-VOC alternative. They’re out there. While there’s no conclusive evidence that those nasty chemicals are harmful, we’d rather steer clear. Chemicals that we struggle to pronounce are rarely safe. 9. Pollen: how to manage asthma in a child when this stuff is everywhere Springtime is here. So why does it feel like outside has even fewer allergies than your house? It’s simple, but we don’t ever think of this. During spring, when pollen is everywhere, it attaches to your clothes. Most of the time, pollen hangs out for a little while, but once you wash everything, it’s gone, and you’re off the hook. Except this isn’t always true with clothes. Pollen can stick around for a while or even build up in your washing machine. A lot of washers now have “allergen” cycles. That setting helps eliminate anything on your clothes and sheets that could make things like childhood asthma worse. Don’t forget that pollen gets on everything else too. Once spring is gone, consider power washing your house and any outdoor toys or playsets. Get the interior of your car cleaned. Have your rugs, carpets, and even upholstery shampooed and steam cleaned at your house. Just remember to use the non-VOC cleaners! 10. The best home remedy for asthma could be as simple as leaving your home Last, but not least, get outside! You might be shocked to learn that the air inside can be five times as polluted as what you breath outside. You spend 90% of your life inside. Let that sink in. It’s assumed that going outside is healthy, but now you have one more reason to get outdoors and play with your kids. You won’t regret it and neither will they. We imagine these feel like a lot of work. We get that. No one’s measuring if you accomplish just a few or all ten. If you do implement any of them, we’d love to hear your results. Just don’t forget to do something for yourself too. If you ask us, cleaning the furniture in your house sounds like a perfect excuse for the pint of ice cream you’ve been eyeing.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How to Host the Best Wine Night for You and Your Girlfriends

Make your moment to refresh a night in, at home, with your friends. Some of the best times are casual nights in with close friends. While there are several excuses to persuade people to come over, a classic approach is to host a “Wine Night.” With this in mind, we contacted a panel of experts in the field to learn about some of their trade secrets. Okay, not really but we do like wine. That counts for something, right? ‍ Before Wine Night Acquire Friends: yeah, you could just drink wine by yourself, but that’s a Tuesday. This is Wine Night! Be sure to give all invitees an appropriate amount of heads up. As you know, your friends are super busy too, and their schedules fill up fast. Acquire Childcare: tonight is for you and your ladies, so make sure the men have the kids. Depending on bedtimes, you could have all the guys take the kids to Jimmy’s house for the evening, leaving you a little peace and quiet to get ready. Yes, peace and quiet. And if that's not rewarding enough, remember it gives the dads time to bond too. Acquire Wine: a good rule of thumb is to have one bottle for every two guests to ensure there is enough for everyone without going overboard. Consider a variety of different wines so everyone has something they’ll enjoy. Alternatively, you host the party and have everyone bring their favorite bottle or two to share. That ensures everyone will have something they’ll enjoy. Acquire Snacks: an empty stomach with wine is just not right. You don’t have to supply dinner, but your guests will always appreciate something to munch on. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could set up some killer charcuterie and use that nice bamboo cutting board you keep forgetting about. Otherwise, spend some time on Pinterest, because we can assure you that the groupthink over there has more ideas than we do. ‍ SN Tip: have a glass of wine before your friends get there. You managed to get your husband and kids out the door, get yourself ready, set up for the night, and have a killer wine and snack selection. You deserve that, so cheers to you. ‍ During The Party Play Music: some background music sets the atmosphere and also fills the gaps in between conversations. Having trouble with this one? Check out our Second Nature Wine Night playlist. Just make sure it is not too loud to talk over. And if Bridgette starts talking about her ex a little bit too much again, feel free to switch up the tunes and crank the volume a bit. Play Games: have this one ready. You will know that point in the night where the conversation is about to die down, and you’re here to save the night. Games are a great way to salvage a Wine Night from ending prematurely. If you need some help, go everyone’s favorite, Target, and spend some time finding a game you know your group will enjoy. Or, your friends could bring a game to show everyone if they want. Keep it casual. Play It Cool: in the spirit of keeping it casual, don’t get in your head about Wine Night. It’s time for you and your friends to just relax, sans kids, husbands, and responsibilities. Have fun and treasure the time you have to invest in your friends. There’s nothing to be anxious about. And if that doesn’t remotely resonate with you, then you’re cooler than us, and we’d love to be friends. ‍ SN Tip: you care about these people, so don’t be afraid to dig deep with them if the conversation takes you there. Keeping things surface level will just make you feel like the night was just OK. ‍ After The Party Keep Them Safe: as the host, you don’t worry about driving, but maybe some of your friends didn’t plan ahead all that well. We’ve all been there, and you don’t mind because Bridgette becomes a lot more fun four glasses in. Just make sure you grab her an Uber, Lyft, or cab. Or, one of your more boring friends could give her a ride home. Keep That Wine: save what you can, because life starts again tomorrow and you’ll enjoy having some wines handy. If your friends leave you with some unopened wine, keep those set aside for a date night in. If you don’t make it around to some wine before it goes bad (because you aren’t a lush), that’s still perfect to cook with. Keep Things Tidy: it may be late, but check to make sure that any spills are accounted for and that the wine glasses are rinsed. You don’t have to do everything before bed, but waking up to a colossal mess isn’t the best feeling in the world. Nor do you want the kids to run downstairs tomorrow morning, knock over some glasses, and leave you a bigger mess. And since they’re your kids, you know just how likely this is. ‍ Pro Tip: your friends will likely offer to pick up. Since they’re your good friends, take them up on their offer. Even if they said that just to say the right thing, you did just give them a night of fun in your home. ‍ Next time you want to have some ladies over, try a Wine Night and use some of these tips! Just remember, it’s best to not overthink it. Focus on having a good time.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Five Key Factors Affecting Your Indoor Air Quality

Your indoor air quality is important and knowing what affects it is critical to the health of your home. It’s common knowledge that air pollution is a health hazard to humans and animals. And while we usually think of air pollution as outdoor smoke and fumes, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that we spend approximately 90% of our time indoors, which means that the air quality in our homes is just as (if not more) important. Exposure to poor air quality indoors can produce minor symptoms like headaches, fatigue, and skin irritation. But it can also result in major health consequences, like respiratory illness, heart disease, and cancer. ‍ That said, the first step to improving the air you breathe is knowing what affects it. Here are five key factors that contribute to the state of your home’s air quality: ‍ Dust and other airborne particles Dust is a combination of indoor and outdoor matter, such as soil, pet dander, and dead skin. Along with other airborne particles, it floats in the air and settles on surfaces. When you breathe in small doses of dust, you may experience sneezing, nasal congestion, and itchy eyes, ears, or throat. But in large concentrations, people with high sensitivities to dust can suffer from shortness of breath, tightening of the chest, or even sleep deprivation due to difficulties in breathing. ‍ Easy steps like vacuuming regularly, using microfiber cloths for wiping surfaces, and changing your sheets weekly can help reduce the amount of dust indoors. In addition, tools like the MERV 13 air filter can also keep your home free of dust and other microscopic particles, like pollen and smoke. ‍ Microbes Microbial growth is another sign that you need to amp up your indoor air quality solutions. Plumbing issues are usually to blame for the growth of mildew and mold, as they cause excess moisture in floors, walls, and ceilings. In particular, HomeServe explains that mold thrives in these damp conditions, which can be due to hidden leaks and poor drainage systems. Exposure to mold does not only cause allergic reactions, it is also known to increase the risk of respiratory problems and trigger asthma attacks in individuals. ‍ To solve this problem, homeowners need to go to the source and address their plumbing issues right away. This might mean contacting professionals and installing detection tools that can prevent future leaks. ‍ Chemicals The chemicals we use to keep a home clean and orderly may be doing more harm than good. Some might even contain Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, which become trapped in a home’s foundations for many months. Some VOCs can be very harmful, particularly formaldehyde and benzene. These can be found in paints, aerosol sprays, and wood preservatives. ‍ The simple solution is to switch from chemical-based treatments to organic products. Ditch the bleach for cleaning and go for homemade solutions like your very own mix of baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice. ‍ Humidity Ideally, a home should have 30-50% relative humidity. That's because residents can experience eye irritation and several skin symptoms when it is too dry. This is most common during the winter months. Conversely, an indoor environment that’s too humid can breed microbes, which we’ve already covered as bad for one’s health. ‍ Installing a humidifier is an easy hack as most gadgets allow you to set the ideal range for your home. Alternatively, you can use a dehumidifier if there is too much moisture in the air. Or, try cracking open a window or turning on the exhaust for even simpler solutions. ‍ Ventilation If you’re experiencing headaches, hypersensitivity, and fatigue, it may be a sign of high carbon dioxide levels in your home due to poor ventilation. Live Science highlights a study on the effects of too much carbon dioxide in the air, which includes impaired cognitive abilities and decision-making skills. Other than the physical symptoms, it may contribute to psychological distress and strain individual relationships. ‍ Other than dedicated heating and cooling systems, one simple way to improve ventilation is to let the outdoor air in — provided that its quality isn’t compromised. Otherwise, you can opt for a reliable home ventilation system that isn’t affected by what the air is like outside your home. ‍ For figuring out the next steps, check out our article How to Test The Air Quality in Your Home for deeper insight into improving your home life.

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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How to Easily Improve A Home's Indoor Air Quality

And how to stay safe indoors while keeping away from pollen. Yes, yes, we know we keep harping on pollen. That's partly because so many people are affected by allergies and partly because, in the south, the pollen is terrible! Like really bad. ‍ Allergy sufferers have two choices: Deal with the pollen and feel horrible for what seems like an eternity. Go inside already! ‍ (Because we all know that antihistamines only do so much.) ‍ Since we all want to avoid the Death Star...er, we mean pollen, let's stick to staying inside when we can until the pollen has subsided. Photo credit: Jeremy Gilchrist. ‍ Not really a tip, but a fun fact. Lucasfilm (the people who make Star Wars films) doesn't own a trademark to Death Star—oh, the Death Star is...nevermind. Just watch the saga. However, Lucasfilm does have a registered trademark for "Tiny Death Star," aka pollen. You can blame your allergies on George Lucas. ‍ Indoor Air Quality Poor air quality has a significant impact on the comfort of your home and overall health. While some symptoms may seem mild, they can escalate into more complex health complications. ‍ What's crazier than that? You probably had no idea, and it's pretty hard to notice. ‍ We usually think of air pollution as being outdoors, but the air in your house or office could easily be just as polluted. It wasn’t always this way. Over the years, as homes became more air tights and more energy efficient, we let a lot less air inside. To make matters a little worse, over 2,000 chemicals are released into the market each year. Those chemicals are used to make things smaller, better, cleaner; you know the drill. If we're honest, not all chemicals in your home are dangerous, per se. But you should know that the air inside your home can be up to five times more polluted than the air outside. Maybe open up your windows once in a while. While indoor air pollution may only mildly irritate some, it can cause Sick Building Syndrome. ‍ Exactly as it sounds, you get sick from the building you’re inside. World Health Organization has documented “mucous membrane irritation (eye, nose, and throat irritation), neurotoxic effects (headaches, fatigue, and irritability), asthma and asthma-like symptoms (chest tightness and wheezing), skin dryness and irritation, gastrointestinal complaints” as some of the symptoms. ‍ Indoor Air Quality has become a buzzword of sorts, and you often hear about it referred to as IAQ. It’s not quite a public health issue, but it can be a concern when you throw poor outdoor air quality into the mix. The EPA uses its Air Quality Index (AQI) to measure outdoor pollution. At the same time, even when AQI levels are within a healthy range, there are plenty of nasty Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) ready to make your life a lot less pleasant inside. VOCs come in all sorts of forms: paints contain things like aliphatic hydrocarbons, ethyl acetate, glycol ethers, and acetone; formaldehyde (yes, what they use to embalm bodies) can be found not only in paint but also in ceiling tiles and adhesives; benzene, a known carcinogen, can be found in cigarette smoke and smoke from a wood burning fire. ‍ What's one to do? As a home wellness company, we could just tell you to regularly replace your air filters with a subscription service (because they really do help). But we won't just leave it at that. There are three easy items to run through that you can do to improve your home's IAQ so you really can escape the pollen this Spring. Deal with smoke Get a handle on VOCs Keep the pollen outside Deal with smoke Smoke that can contribute to a lower IAQ is all around us. Even if you aren't a smoker, cooking produces smoke. So do candles and incense. If you have a fireplace, that produces smoke too. ‍ To deal with smoke, here are some simple (and not-so-simple) tips: Don't smoke: but if you must, smoke outside. Need we go on? Cooking smoke: try using oils that have a lower smoke point. For example, Olive Oil has a relatively low smoke point: 320ºF. That's pretty easy to get to. Go for healthy and higher smoke point oils like Grapeseed oil (420ºF), Almond oil (420ºF), Hazelnut oil (430º), Ghee (485ºF and not actually oil), and the mother of all high smoke points, Avocado oil (520ºF). You can definitely sear a steak on some cast iron with some of that handy. Candles: not all candles are "wicked"—get it? Vegetable oil-based candles (like soy) are quite alright. And so are beeswax. It's synthetic wax and animal-based wax that can produce indoor pollutants. More likely than not, you don't have candles at home made from animal lard, and yes that's what candles used to be made of. But most of us don't have soy-based candles either. ‍ Let's talk about candles a bit Most modern-day candles are made with paraffin. Remember those VOCs mentioned earlier on? When burned, paraffin releases VOCs like benzene and toluene. Since no one wants to get cancer from those carcinogens, just toss those. Be better than Yankee Candle. ‍ Up to 8% of candle manufacturers still use lead in there wicks. Yes, lead. The same lead that gave Romans brain plaque because they used it to make their pipes. Know what happened to the Roman's? Exactly. ‍ Also, keep in mind that most fragrances in candles are not great for you. Here's the general rule: burning produces some level of smoke that is bad to breathe in. Even incense (sorry yogis). ‍ Here's a better idea: add some essential oils to your air filters to give your whole home a fresh, natural scent. You could use a diffuser, but then you wouldn't be able to take advantage of (shameless plug) a subscription home air filter delivery service. ‍ If you do use essential oils in a diffuser, always be sure to use purified water. Using tap water can actually make the air you're breathing in pretty toxic as well. ‍ Get a handle on VOCs You've heard of people going "all natural" with their house, switching to safe cleaners and cosmetics. There's also been a significant rise in all natural, safe carpet cleaning and dry cleaning. Seems these people are onto something. According to the American Lung Association, VOCs can be found in products like: Aerosol spray products, including health, beauty and cleaning products Air fresheners Chlorine bleach Detergent and dishwashing liquid Dry cleaning chemicals Rug and upholstery cleaners Furniture and floor polish Oven cleaners ‍ Of course, VOCs can be found in a lot of places, but finding VOC-free alternatives to these products will help to make your home a whole lot safer for you and your family. You may end up spending more, but health is worth it. For help finding healthy products, EWG is the closest thing you may find to an exhaustive guide. ‍ Planning to embark on a home improvement project? Make sure the materials you or a contractor are using are non-VOC (free of VOCs). For example, paint can be a common VOC culprit. ‍ Keep the pollen outside The easiest thing to do (other than regularly replacing your air filters) is keeping the pollen outside. ‍ Simple things like: Keep your car in the garage, so it collects less pollen. Wipe your feet off on a mat when you get inside. At the very least, take your shoes off when you get inside before tracking pollen inside. Your body (and floors) will thank you. If you have a mudroom, take advantage of that by taking your shoes off and leave them in there. Clean up after being outside. Put your clothes in the washer and shower the pollen off you—your hair is an especially problematic pollen magnet! Men, it may be time to shave that beard. Clean your pets as often as they'll let you. When they come inside, they are going to bring in A LOT of pollen (not to mention all their common allergens). Use a bagless vacuum and use it often. Bagless or canister vacuums often have HEPA filters and are easy to empty outside, ensuring all the dust, dander, and pollen you collect is safely disposed of outside. Keep your windows and doors closed. It's as simple as that. ‍ Newer washers have allergen and sanitize functions. If you have allergies, you might want to use these if regular wash cycles don't do the trick. ‍ We're not trying to give you a massive list of to-dos; instead, this should just give you options to choose from. In this busy, always-on world, adding one more to-do isn't worth it. So pick what works for you, and legitimately, use Second Nature to mark replacing your air filters off your to-do list forever. It's worth it for everyone, but especially allergy sufferers. ‍ All that to say, remember that spring is still a beautiful time of year so enjoy it when you can. Stay sniffle-free, friends!

Calendar icon February 6, 2023

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Foldable Filter FAQ

Congrats! You’ve been selected to receive our brand new, foldable air filter. This innovative new filter is super easy to use. Its unique design allows for a more compact shipping size. This means we’re able to greatly reduce the amount of cardboard and materials used, helping us be more ecologically efficient and less wasteful. 1. Why did you change to this new filter? Air filters were past overdue for an upgrade. This is the first time the residential air filter has been redesigned in 30 years! Why settle? Here at Second Nature we’re always looking to improve and innovate to provide the best product for our customers. 2. This filter looks really different. How will it perform? There should be no noticeable change in performance between this filter and the classic framed filter you have been receiving from us. It will continue to filter pollen, dust, mold, bacteria, mites, & pet dander. Rest assured, our re-designed filters have undergone rigorous testing. 3. This looks thinner than my standard 1” filter. Will this make noise when my HVAC system turns on and off? Will it rattle? Our new filter, with its cloth-covered frame, will generally be quieter than a regular filter with a hard cardboard frame. 4. How often do I need to change this new filter? Just like our regular filters, this one should last for 90 days, though environmental factors and personal preferences play a part. If you live in a climate that has you running your HVAC most or all of the time, it’s a good idea to change more often. 5. Are the new filters recyclable? The filter itself is not recyclable, but please recycle the cardboard box. 6. Which way do I put it in the vent? Where’s the arrow? Our redesigned filter can be installed facing either way! New technology allows airflow in either direction. 7. What is this filter made out of? Our new filter is a polyester fabric blend, much like conventional filters. The fabric is supported by strips of spring-tempered steel in thin sleeves of polyvinyl. 8. If I’m not ready to replace my filter yet, but already opened it, can I fold it back up? Sure. It’s a bit like pushing the joke snake back into the tennis ball can, but if you’re careful and use the original box, it should be fine. 9. What are the benefits of this filter over standard ones? The frame is more durable thanks to our unique Flex-Lock frame. A cloth-like frame can produce a tighter seal in your intake vent, helping to prevent air from sneaking around the sides of the filter. Less packaging = less excessive waste 10. How should I dispose of this filter? Simply discard it, the same way you’ve disposed of your previous filters. You can even fold it back up, and place it in an indoor trash can! Please ensure it's folded up securely to prevent the filter from unfolding. The cardboard box can be recycled. 11. My friend/sibling/neighbor wants one of these! How do I get them signed up for this filter? For now, you have exclusive access to this new product. We’ll be rolling it out to other customers gradually. 12. Is this product more environmentally friendly? By folding the filter into a more compact size, we are able to greatly reduce our packaging materials, primarily cardboard. This also means we fit a lot more filters into each truck that leaves our fulfillment center!

Calendar icon December 2, 2021

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