Using Air Purifiers to Tackle Mould: Choosing the Right Model for Your Unique Home


In our last post  we discussed how air purifiers can help keep pesky mould spores from becoming a problem – and big patches or mould – and the different types available to homeowners. Today we are going to look at the individual specifics you should keep in mind while shopping to help ensure you spend your hard earned cash on the air purifier that is right for your unique home:

Air Purifiers and Room Size

The air purifier you should buy depends on the size of the room where you plan to use it. Make sure to check air purifiers for their recommended room size. It should be the same or greater than the room where you are going to run the purifier, but not too much greater.

The size of the room recommended for an air purifier is based on how fast the purifier can clean the air. For example, experts recommend that an air purifier should be able to clean all the air in a room at least twice per hour, and some recommend six air changes per hour (ACH). Generally, the more ACH the better.

Often an air purifier will have listed the volume of air cleaned at different fan speeds in cubic feet per hour, or cubic feet per minute.

Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR)

Another measure of how quickly and how well an air purifier cleans the air is clean air delivery rate (CADR). CADR tells you the volume of air that an air purifier cleans of a certain particle per minute. It is found by multiplying the air flow in cubic feet per minute by the percentage of particles removed.

CADR rates for dust are between 10 and 400, for tobacco smoke are between 10 and 450, and for mould spores and pollen between 25 and 450. Consumer Reports rates CADR scores above 350 as excellent, and below 100 as poor.

Air Purifier Power Usage

Another consideration when buying an air purifier is how much electricity will it use. Usually the faster an air purifier can clean the air, the more power it will use. So purifiers for bigger rooms generally use more electricity. However, purifiers do vary in efficiency, with some being able to clean more air for the same amount of power.

Fortunately though, most air purifiers use very little power, often less than 10 watts on low, so you can run them continually without having to worry about the electricity bill skyrocketing.

Air Purifier Filter Replacement

The other operating cost, besides electricity, is filter replacement if you do opt for a model that makes use of them (as we explained in part one, not all of them do). This cost depends on how often you have to change the filter and how much a new one costs.

HEPA filter life can often range from about six months to five years. Sometimes they can be washed or cleaned and reused. When you are buying an air purifier, make sure to check how long the filter lasts and how much new filters cost.

Air Purifier Noise Levels

The final consideration is how noisy the air purifier is going to be once it is installed and running.  Again, the noise level can be a trade-off for how quickly the purifier can clean air. The amount of noise the air purifier makes in decibels (dB) should be listed. Most air purifiers are very quiet though, often virtually silent on low speed and so should not be too much of a distraction.

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Using Air Purifiers to Tackle Mould: Part 1 Why to Consider One and What Type Works Best


Most people know – and they certainly do if they are regular readers of this blog – that mould begins as spores in the air and that those spores are everywhere. There is little you can do to stop them in their tracks. However, once they are inside a home they can be removed before they cause too much trouble. Air purifiers filter mould spores and other allergens out of the air to help prevent mold growing in the future with the added advantage that they remove many other nasty things in the air too, making for a healthier, safer home overall.

But if you head to your local home store, or search online, you’ll quickly find a number of different options. Which is best for your home and your family? here are some tips to help you make the right choice:

Air Purifier Options Explained

The main types of air purifiers are:

  • HEPA
    Activated Carbon (activated carbon is often included as a pre-filter in HEPA air purifiers)

But what are the differences between them? The pros and the cons? Let’s take a look:
HEPA Air Purifiers

HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters are paper-like filters which remove at least 99.97% of particles 0.3 microns in size, and an even higher amount of larger particles. Since mold spores are usually about 1-20 microns in size, HEPA filters are ideal for filtering and trapping mold spores from the air. Once mould spores are trapped in the HEPA filter they won’t grow into mould colonies since there isn’t enough moisture. Often the filters also have an antimicrobial coating.

Not only will a HEPA filtered air purifier reduce your mould risk but they can also remove other allergens from your home’s air, like pollen, dust mite feces, and pet dander. This helps improve your home’s indoor air quality so that the air you breathe is as clean as possible and your home healthier.

When you are looking for a HEPA air purifier make sure you purchase one with a genuine HEPA filter. Purifiers with “HEPA-like” filters do not have true HEPA filters. HEPA filters also have ratings such as H10 or H14. The higher the rating the more particles the filter can remove from the air.

HEPA filters don’t generate ozone or other harmful by-products. You can run HEPA filtered purifiers 24 hours a day, all year round. But make sure you replace the HEPA filter in your air purifier when its life is up. Your air purifier’s manual will tell you how long the HEPA filter lasts. Some HEPA filters last 6 months, while others might last a few years.

Activated Carbon Air Purifiers

An activated carbon filter can remove odors, chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), since it absorbs molecules of gas. Often you’ll find that activated carbon filters are included as pre-filters in air purifiers. For example, HEPA air purifiers often have an activated carbon pre-filter included.

Ionizer Air Purifiers

Most ionizer air purifiers work by emitting negative ions into the air. These negative ions then attach to allergens in the air which makes them fall to the floor or stick to walls. Some ionizers have collector plates which the charged allergens are attracted to instead. Negative ions usually last for about 30 seconds.

This type of purification is called active purification, as it occurs outside of the air purifier. Purification where the air is filtered inside the air purifier, such as HEPA purifiers, is called passive purification.

An advantage of an ionizer air purifier is that you don’t have any filters that you have to replace. Another is that they often use less electricity than HEPA purifiers.

Nevertheless, ionizers aren’t as effective with mould spores as HEPA filtered purifiers are. Although an ionizer removes mould spores from the air, the mould spores are still in the room, on the floors or walls. They can be stirred up into the air again.

Ionizer air purifiers generally can’t clean areas as big as HEPA filtered purifiers. Some ionizers have fans in them which increases the room size they can clean. Ionizers with fans also clean the air faster. But on the other hand, ionizers without fans use less electricity and are much quieter, almost silent.

Ionizers create small levels of ozone, although less than safety standard levels. Ozone is toxic and reactive, and damages the lungs if the level is high enough. Ionizers can also cause “black wall”, where the wall near the ionizer gets a dark spot.

Ready to learn more? Watch out for part 2 to learn how to determine the right model of air purifier for your unique home.

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4 Subtle Signs Your Home Has a Drainage Problem to Watch For


You really don’t have to be an expert to know that the appearance of puddles of water in your basement or a developing lake on your lawn (that you did not put there) are definite signs that your property has a drainage issue. However, not all potentially very troublesome drainage issues are quite so obvious. If however you become a little more familiar with the subtler signs of poor drainage then you could end up saving yourself a lot of headaches, hassles and expense in the long run. Here is a little about just some of those signs:

Gutters That Gush

A veritable mini Niagara of water gushing over the side of your gutter after a rain storm should tell you right away that something is wrong, probably that the guttering is clooged with debris and needs to be cleaned asap. But you don’t need to wait for the rain to spot other gutter problems. If you see streaks of dirt running vertically on the outside of your gutters, mud splatters on your home’s siding or vertical strips of peeling paint on the house near the gutters these are all signs that you have a problem. Left unaddressed gutter problems can lead to ruined paint jobs, rotten siding and eventually to structural water damage.

In the best case scenario here all you will need to do is get those gutters cleaned up and then resolve to try and keep it that way. If that does not help you may have gutters that are either undersized for purpose or incorrectly pitched, leading to the possible need for reinstallment or even replacement. Which will be a pain, but far less of one than what you’ll face if you ignore the problem.

Downspouts That Dump

Did you know that for each inch of rain that falls on 1,000 square feet of a roof more than 600 gallons of runoff is produced—enough to fill 10 bathtubs to the very top? If your downspouts are dumping that much water too close to the foundations of your home it’s probably only going to head one way, down, into your basement or crawl space. The continual water dump also puts pressure on the foundations themselves and over time they will begin to crack, putting the whole safety of the property at risk.

Fortunately, the answer to this problem is usually to install gutter extensions to ensure that all the water is carried away a safe distance from the home. And at $10-15 a piece and maybe a couple of hours learning how to install them (YouTube it) they are an absolute bargain compared to what could happen and how much that would all take to fix.

Water Stains Below

Basement water stains should always be at least a small cause for concern. But depending on just where they have shown up you can begin to tell why. If they are high on the foundation wall then the problem is often that water is coming from an overflowing gutter, or that surface runoff backed up against your house because the soil around your foundation doesn’t slope adequately (6 inches for every 10 horizontal feet is best). To solve the latter problem you may need the help of a landscape contractor but it will be money well spent.

If the water marks extend themselves in a line around the lower part of the basement then you may have a bigger problem on your hands. This often indicates that a basement floor has been set below the level of municipal storm drains and the water seeps in when they back up during heavier rains. Or the stains may be an indication of a high water mark caused by a fluctuating water table. Either way a proper interior drain and sump pump system should solve the problem, keeping both your home and your old hockey trophies dry.

Basement Walls That Flake

If you begin to notice spots of whitish/greyish crusty ‘stuff’ on your basement walls that is something called efflorescence, the mineral deposits left behind after water evaporates. It’s not actually harmful to your home but just where the water came from is something you’ll need to investigate further. And yes, you can just scrape it off, and you’ll want to because it’s pretty ugly.

If on the other hand the walls are flaking in big patches spalling is likely to blame. Spalling occurs when water has seeped inside the masonry. It too can just be an eyesore issue but if the new cracks run deeper than a half inch, or seem to keep growing it may be a sign that poor drainage is threatening the foundation’s integrity.

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Protecting Your Pipes From Nasty Grease Clogs


There are all kinds of things that really should not go down a kitchen drain but one of the biggest no-nos, even if you have a garbage disposal is fatty grease. You know, the kind you might have left in the pan after frying up some yummy bacon.

Why is grease such a problem? Because often rather than going straight down the drain it hardens and clings to the sides of the drain pipe. Do it often enough and you’ll end up with a clogged pipe. If everyone in your neighbourhood does it it can even eventually lead to clogged sewer pipes.

Preventing Greasy Drain Pipes

What’s the best way to keep grease out of your drain and yet still actually cook and eat all the foods you love? Many people think that garbage disposals remove grease, but it’s not true. To avoid grease getting in your drain:

• Make sure you scrape greasy foods off your plates into the garbage can instead of your garbage disposal. You should also use a strainer in all of your sink drains so that greasy leftovers don’t accidentally slide in.

• For cooking grease, let it solidify in the pan, then throw the solid waste into the garbage can.

If you create a lot of grease at one time, like when you use a deep fryer, this oil should be collected and then taken to a collection facility where it is usually accepted for free. A tallow company typically picks up this cooking oil and then recycles it.

Accidental Grease Spills

What if, despite your best efforts, you accidentally get grease in your drain?

Well, one spill isn’t going to cause your pipes to clog but it is better to be safe than sorry (and standing in a kitchen full of water at some point because a clogged sink overflowed.) In this case it’s always a good idea to boil some water and then pour it down the drain regularly. This will help to turn the grease from a solid back into a liquid so that it will move along smoothly as it should. By adding vinegar and baking soda to the boiling water you’ll break the fats down and make your drains smell fresher too.

Dealing with a Grease Clog

It’s pretty easy to tell if grease is starting to clog your pipes. You’ll see that the water is draining slowly. There may also be a gurgling sound as it flows through the pipes. And there may be bad smells coming from the drain. This can indicate a grease clog just waiting to cause a problem.

If there is a small clog often the baking soda and boiling water trick will solve the issue. If that does not work you can try (gently) plunging the clog away. Should that fail don’t be tempted to waste your cash on drain unclogging potions. They often do not work, are not designed for grease removal anyway and may contain chemicals that harm your pipes (or you!) Instead call the plumber to have them degunk your pipe properly. Yes it’s an extra expense you could probably live without, but better to live with that than the headaches and hassles a water damage incident as a result of an ignored clogged drain pipe can bring.

How to Safely Clean Your Home’s Gutters Yourself


Clogged gutters lead to overflowing gutters which can then lead to all kinds of problems. Leaks in your walls, ceilings and basement, damage to your foundation and even a dead garden can all be caused by the overflow from a clogged up gutter. Cleaning them on a regular basis can prevent much of this trouble though. This is especially true when those autumn leaves start tumbling down and as we’re sure you know, many of them end up clogging up your gutters rather quickly.

Gutter Cleaning Basics

Cleaning a gutter is rather more complicated process than cleaning the rest of the house, indoors or out. However if you have a basic idea of what you should do and a head for heights then you can do the job yourself. Here are the basic steps:


  • Find the sturdiest ladder you can. It may be a good idea to have a friend with you to help steady the ladder.
  • Once you are at roof height and can see the gutters, begin clearing out any debris that is loose with a plastic garden trowel or even, in a pinch, a plastic spoon. We emphasize plastic as most modern gutters are made of it and metal tools can easily damage them, leading to new holes and leaks that were not there before.
  • Some people try to use a leaf blower to clean their gutters. This, on the face of it would be efficient and if you have a low roof it may work well. Standing on a ladder and trying to use a leaf blower can be very awkward and dangerous and will usually be something that a homeowner should not attempt.
  • Flush the gutters with a garden hose to remove as much of the remaining debris as possible. This can also be a good way to discover leaks before the snow arrives and they are allowed to cause all kinds of problems unchecked.
  • Check the downspouts around your home as well. If you do find a blockage you may be able to clear it with a hose but be very careful, gutters are fairly easy to damage with a high pressure water stream.

The Downsides of DIY Gutter Cleaning

As you can see, cleaning the gutters around your home is not an easy process and even if you don’t mind the idea of working on a ladder it is often not very safe either. A better and safer idea would be to call in the professionals. A professional gutter cleaning will be far more efficient and if there are other problems with them apart from a buildup of debris they can be discovered and in many cases the company can repair them on the spot, or at least make plans to come back and do so before the winter arrives.

Most people who try to clean their own gutters do so to save money. There are some areas of home maintenance where doing it yourself makes great sense but this kind of project is often not one of them. Calling in a professional gutter maintenance service is more affordable than you might imagine and certainly a better alternative to gutters damaged by the over enthusiastic use of a hose or worse still injuries that result from a fall off a ladder!


Choosing the Right Vacuum – Top Tips You Might Have Overlooked


Regular vacuuming is the best way to help keep your carpets in good shape between visits from a carpet cleaning company. But it can do more than that. By helping to eliminate the amount of dirt and dust that’s around in general you can extend the life of your HVAC filters, improve the general air quality in your home and reduce the fire risk that clogged filters can present.

For it to be most efficient though you need a really good vacuum cleaner. Head to any store that sells them though and you are likely to be faced with dozens of different choices. The important thing to remember when shopping is that there is more to a great vacuum cleaner than just flashy good looks or the promise of great suction.

Here are a few things some people overlook when choosing the right vacuum for their home:

Size: Vacuums come in lots of different sizes and size is actually important when it comes to using it. If you choose a certain model because it seems to offer a lot of power, or because its a great price but it is then rather heavy it may become even more of a chore to use. If possible test drive a vacuum before you buy it. If it is too heavy for you to lift, or hard to push you are less likely to actually use it as often as you should.

Attachments – Many people want to be able to use their vacuum for more than just cleaning their carpets. A vacuum with the right attachments can be used to clean upholstery, draperies and blinds so if all of these are present in your home choosing a vacuum that is up to these tasks is important as well.

Versatility – There are very few homeowners whose home is completely carpeted and the non carpeted floors have to be kept clean as well. If you have a vacuum cleaner that can be adjusted for use on other types of floor then it will help reduce the amount of effort to have to put in to do this.

There are also some models available that double as wet vacuums as well. These can be handy if you have a leak prone basement but on a day to day basis most homeowners probably won’t get enough use out of the functionality to justify what is often a hefty price increase over standard models.

Noise – How noisy a vacuum is may not be the most important consideration when choosing the right model for you but after a few months (or even weeks) of using a noisy vacuum then you may wish you had given it a bit more thought. No vacuum is silent but you do not have to be stuck with one that almost deafens everyone in the house every time it is used!

Essential End of Summer Home Maintenance Tips


Wow, where did the summer go? It only seems like five minutes ago that we were all opening up pools, setting up the patio furniture and dusting off the grill. Now summer is almost over, the kids are heading back to school and it’ll only be a few weeks before pumpkin spice returns to your favourite coffee shop and the NHL is back on TV.

The end of summer calls for a celebration – one more chance to fire that grill up in earnest perhaps – but it also calls for a little extra home maintenance, in order to help ensure that your home is ready for the rigors of the colder months that lie ahead. With all of this in mind, here are some of the most important items to add to – and then check off – an end of summer home maintenance checklist.

Dust, Dust Dust and Dust Some More

It’s time to get out the vacuum (and maybe the feather duster) out and make sure that the basic airflow system in your home is nice and clean before you turn the heat back on and close all of the windows. Make sure that your vents, extractor fans, baseboard heaters, floor registers and/or furnace ducts are all clean and dust free. Not only will this help maintain better air quality all winter long but it will help reduce the risk of fire as well.

Get Ready to Crank Up the Heat

Now is the time to call to get your heating system serviced but in the meantime you can stock up on new furnace filters and then plan to change them at least once every six weeks throughout the winter months. If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace it’s time to get that checked and cleaned as well. A build up of creosote is not only a fire hazard but it can lead to toxic fumes as well, once the fire is lit, and so this is a task that should never be skipped.

De-gunk Those Gutters

Another crucial autumn maintenance task is ensuring that your gutters are in the best possible shape as damaged, clogged and inefficiently placed guttering is one of the biggest causes of the water damage we see every year once the colder weather takes hold.

In addition to cleaning your gutters – or having someone clean them for you – make sure that you replace any damaged sections and ensure that nothing is sagging and that gutter hangers and downspout brackets are screwed in nice and tight.

Finally ensure that all of the downspouts extend at least 5 feet away from your house to prevent water and/or ice related foundation problems. If they don’t, add downspout extensions; they are only $10 to $20 each and it’s a very small price to pay to prevent what can be very serious water damage.

Check Out the Roof

Your roof really should be checked, but to stay safe grab a pair of good binoculars and inspect it from the ground first.

What are you on the lookout for? Shingles that are buckled, cracked, or missing; rust spots on flashing, loose, damaged, or missing shingles any and all of which should be addressed as soon as possible, preferably by the professionals.

Seeing stains as well? Often black stains are harmless – but admittedly very ugly – but masses of moss can be more of a problem as they often also harbour mould which will happily eat away at your roof all winter long, especially if heat is escaping from a poorly insulated attic. Again, if you are concerned, call in the pros to investigate before the snow starts to fall.

3 Reasons Cooking with Softened Water Is the Best Choice


We’ve written before about hard water and what it can do your appliances and your home. We’ve also written about the possible advantages of installing a water softener in your home to address the problem. If you need a quick reminder of just what hard water vs. soft water does though, this chart lays it out rather nicely:

Hard Water Soft Water
Often leaves dishes coated in a slimy film because the dish washing liquid’s capabilities are lessened by the minerals in the water Is a better choice for dish washing and laundry as it works well with the detergents used in it.
Is responsible for that scummy “ring around the bath tub” that is so annoying. Does not leave that telltale ring around the bath tub behind.
Can make it hard to get a good lather with your favorite soaps and shampoos Does not affect the efficiency of your soaps and shampoos and makes it easier to get a good lather.
Can shorten the useful life of appliances that use it as a layer of minerals can build up on their workings, causing them to be far less efficient. Will not leave a residue in the workings of appliances, allowing them to operate more efficiently.
Is sometimes considered a better drinking water because of the minerals it contains. Some of the minerals are indeed good for the human body, especially calcium. Is fine for drinking but may occasionally have a slightly salty taste thanks to the sodium ions.
May have elements in it that are not so nice to drink including dissolved sewage Has all minerals removed so is reasonably “pure” compared to hard water

Recently however we discovered another reason why you may want to take some action to ‘soften up’ the hard water in your home; soft water improves the culinary experience. How? Here are just three ways cited by culinary professionals:

1. Better baked goods


Minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, are what make tap water hard. Some chefs prefer to use soft water when baking so that the taste of the dough stays true to its flavor. In addition, according to none other than BBC/PBS reality show legend and master baker Paul Hollywood – he of The  Great British Bake Off – harder water can lead to stiffer dough, leading to very bad bakes. Soft water can yield slower-rising dough, which is ideal, whatever you are baking.

2. Tasty beverages


When your main ingredient is water, it really helps if it’s the good stuff. In the case of coffee or tea, when the hot water hits the beans or leaves, hundreds of compounds are released. Since coffee and tea are the kind of beverages people taste with their tongue and their nose, this chemical reaction is critical. The calcium and magnesium in hard water can actually block this process by binding to the compounds, inhibiting the full sensory experience,  ruining the taste of that $10 a kilo coffee you intended to treat yourself to.

3. Cleaner kitchen and cooking supplies


Another sense that we tend to overlook during the dining experience is sight. You may make the best pizza dough and coffee in the neighborhood, but spotty glassware and dishes can overshadow it and won’t impress your guests, or your family, very much. In addition, soft water keeps appliances like coffee makers in proper working condition, free of mineral clogs, extending their useful life significantly.

Tile Flooring Installation Mistakes that Homeowners Make You Need to Avoid


As a flooring material, ceramic tile is many things; great looking, extremely durable, versatile and suitable for use in almost any room in your home. The one thing that ceramic tile – when used on the floor anyway – is easy to install. However, encouraged by big box home store salespeople many homeowners do decide to give floor tiling a go themselves.

With the right instruction this actually does not need to be such a rough job after all. However, there are some common mistakes that many people make when laying a tile floor, and then caring for it later, that if you can avoid will back the end result so much better. Here are a few of the most common of those avoidable tile related faux pas.

Getting the Tile Math Wrong

Usually, when a homeowner is purchasing floor tile if their salesperson is a knowledgeable one then they will advise them that buying 5-10% more tile than they have actually measured out that they need is a good idea. Unfortunately, many people mistake this advice for a sales pitch and stick to purchasing the exact number of tiles they need and no more.

Then the job begins. A tile cracks. The homeowner has to cut a few tiles to fit them in an awkward nook or cranny. And then all of a sudden there is a big patch of bare, untiled floor remaining and no more tiles left. At best this will now involve halting the job and heading back to the store to buy more and at worst getting to the store and discovering there is no more of this particular tile left in stock! The extra really is necessary, not only to make sure your tile installation goes smoothly but also as a precaution so that you  have a few extra tiles on hand in the future should one become damaged or cracked.

Poor Prep

In a hurry to get the job done as soon as possible many people skip one very important step when laying floor tile; they fail to prepare and clean the sub floor below properly. Thinking that a clean, smooth sub floor does not matter as it will be covered up soon any way, it can be tempting to skip sweeping and sanding. However, surface preparation does matter a lot. Laying tile over a dirty, uneven sub floor – and we’ve even heard of people tiling  over a mouldy floor – often results in an uneven floor that is prone to lifting tiles as they never really adhered properly in the first place. It c an also lead to a sunken floor and even gradual water damage as the water used to mop the floor gradually seeps through little cracks.

Grouting Errors

Grout is perhaps one of the most potentially troublesome things about having a tile floor in the first place. It does not have to be though. Further down the line, when your tile floor has been in place for a while and it is time for its first professional tile cleaning, a good tile cleaning company will be able to effectively remove the grime that will inevitably build up as well as seal it so that it remains cleaner longer.

However, a homeowner can also help minimize the grimy grout problem when they are laying tile by ensuring that they remove excess grout as they work. Doing so is a little more time consuming and painstaking but the extra effort will pay off in the future.