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

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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.

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

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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)
    Ionizers

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.

Here is a collection of places you can buy bitcoin online right now.

The Mould Trap You Don’t Think About; Your Car and Mould Prevention

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Have you ever heard yourself tell someone that you ‘practically live in your car’? Many of us have because that’s actually not too far from the truth. Often our personal vehicles serve not only as an A to B device but also as a dining room, an office, a centre for entertainment and even, occasionally, as an on the go changing room.

The Car Trash Problem

Because of all of this that little box you call a car (or truck, or SUV or whatever) can become rather unpleasant rather quickly. We stash papers, sweaty gym clothes, stinky work uniforms, muddy shoes, fast food packaging, soda fountain cups, sweet wrappers,
and more.

The floors have probably taken a beating too with mocha coffee spills, Red Bull splashes, French fry droppings, ketchup splats, gritty snow stampings, and rain water from that time the window wouldn’t go up. And it does not help too much that much of the time the vehicle is sealed tight, trapping all of the moisture and nasty smells. And you know what else it can also harbour? Lurking mould.

Cars and Mould

For the most part mould growing in a car will attack its upholstery, but if its allowed to really spread it will latch onto the actual individual parts as well. It’s especially fond of your car’s blower system, especially in the colder months when all of that lovely heat – stuff mould loves – is being pumped out. Does your vehicle seem to stink up as soon as you turn on the A/C/heat? That very well may be a mould issue right there.

Preventing Car Mould

Car mould can, and should, be prevented. Riding around in a mouldy vehicle is not only nasty in general it can be bad for your health, just as mould in your real home can be. But what should you do to prevent it from taking hold? Here are just a few simple suggestions:

Remove all trash. EVERY DAY
Clean up all spills promptly and properly
Stop leaving dirty clothes in the car.
Stop eating in your car. Seriously. Just stop it.
Use the cup-holder for your lidded drinks and then throw the containers away or recycle them as soon as you exit your vehicle.
Transport little kids a lot? Ditch the Graham Crackers, Gummi Bears, and Juicy Juice. Consider giving your toddlers nuts or dehydrated fruit as a snack and stick to just water during a drive. Or, invest in better snack containers or non-drip sippy cups. For longer drives, stop and feed them at a restaurant or public seating area instead. Your children and your mould-free car will thank you.

Detail-clean and vacuum your car at the end of every work week.

Ultimately, the best advice is to just to think more about how you behave in your vehicle aka stop being such a slob. And if the damage is already done? Deal with it asap and then resolve never to let it happen again, much the same as you would if mould were infesting your bricks and mortar home.

Home Maintenance 101: Preventing Water Damage in the Kitchen – Part 2

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After following the basic steps in part 1 of this article and learning how to prevent water damage in the kitchen’s sink, counter tops, and dishwasher, we’re now moving on to the other high risk areas in your kitchen

The Refrigerator

As it is usually hard and cumbersome to see, let alone reach, the area behind the average fridge is rarely something that any homeowner inspects. However, a periodic inspection will significantly reduce the risk of water-related problems, of which a fridge ‘gone bad’ can cause a number.

Any sign of moisture behind the refrigerator is a major warning. Never ignore any sign of moisture or leaks, and fix them immediately or call in your assigned appliance maintenance team if the appliance is still under warranty. Don’t wait, as, in addition to the moisture there is a good chance that mould is lurking underneath as well, as the moisture, combined with the heat the fridge gives off, offers mould the ideal living – and growing – conditions.

Icemakers are great, but if your refrigerator has one you need to check the hose connection regularly to ensure that it is sealed and properly and securely attached to its water supply. Even the smallest leak can cause big problems, so never ignore one. And again, just like the dishwasher, if replacing a plastic hose with a steel braided one is at all possible you really should consider doing so.

And finally, if your fridge has a drain pan check it often and make sure to keep it clean
to prevent waterborne bacteria and mould.

The Cooking Range

Since it is not directly related to water, the cooking range area is another overlooked part of the kitchen.

If your stove portable, move it occasionally to check for water or moisture signs. If your stove is fixed to the wall, remove the bottom drawer and search that way. The moisture could come from a damaged dishwasher of fridge nearby or simply from excess condensation in a steamy kitchen that is not ventilated out properly. Locate the source of the problem and make repairs as needed and as quickly as possible, especially in the case of mould.

The Exhaust Fans

Exhaust fans are hugely important in maintaining lower levels of humidity in what is often a very steamy space. To maintain proper ventilation and smooth air circulation, exhaust fan filters must be cleaned regularly to prevent dust and mold accumulation. Make sure that the exhaust fan is operating well and that it is actively switched on every time you cook anything, even in the winter.

Diagnosing – and Then Eliminating – the Cause of Stinky Air Conditioner Smells

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When you turn your air conditioner on you expect to feel it right away. What you do not expect is to smell it as well, and not in a good way. And yet it is indeed not unusual for air conditioners to give off strange smells. But what is causing them and how can you deal with them? Here is some basic information that should help you get started back on the road to a cool – but stink free – home.

What Causes Air Conditioner Smells?

There are several common causes of air conditioner smells. One of the most common is mould or mildew. Often, especially at the beginning of the summer, when an air conditioner has been idle all winter long, dirt and dust in the unit includes microscopic spores that have just been waiting for the right conditions to grow. Once the unit is turned on the cool, but damp, conditions that will then exist provide just that and, unseen because it is hidden inside the air conditioner, the mould and mildew grows releasing that common musty smell.

This is more than an issue of odour though. If mould is in your AC that means the spores are being circulated into the air. Once there they will seek out any damp spot in your home to call their own, which is how a larger mould issue can get started.

A dirty filter can also be a cause of air conditioner odours. Your system’s filter’s job is to pull odor-causing contaminants out of the air supply as it circulates. If you have not been changing your air filter on a regular basis, these captured contaminants are often circulated back into the air, not only causing odors but also decreasing the quality of the air itself.

Finally, occasionally the bad smells may not even be caused by a problem with the AC unit itself it is simply that as it works it is picking them up out of the air and recirculating them back into it, giving the illusion that the odors are coming from the air conditioner when in reality the problem lies elsewhere.

Fighting Air Conditioner Odours

Fortunately there are ways to fight stinky air conditioner smells that are relatively easy to implement:

Don’t Skip the Annual Check Up – There are lots of reasons that your air conditioner should be professionally serviced on an annual basis – preferably before it’s called ‘into action’ in the summer – and helping to eliminate odor causing problems is one of them. When the AC unit is cleaned as a part of such a service all of those dormant contaminants are removed before they can begin to cause a problem.

Change the Filter Regularly – Your air conditioner’s filter really does need to be changed on regular basis in order for the unit to function at its highest capacity anyway and certainly if you want to avoid an odor problem.

Make Some Changes Around the House – You can work to rid your home of those outside odors that your AC may be worsening by doing the following:

Always run extractor fans when cooking in the kitchen or when the bathroom is in use.

Vacuum, sweep and dust a little more often in order to reduce the amount of dust, dirt and other contaminants that can easily be ‘sucked up’ by your A/C unit

Consider purchasing an air purifier. These are relatively inexpensive gadgets that can remove 95-99% of all of the contaminants in the air in the room in which they are located, improving the overall air quality while also reducing the load on your air conditioner.

Terrible 90s Decor Trends We Are Very Glad Went Away

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Home design trends come and go. And then sometimes they come back again. However, the ’90s were a lot of things but an era for amazing home decor was not exactly one of them. In fact, ’90s decor was pretty frightful in many cases and there are some trends that we are very happy to have seen the back of (we hope) How many of these less than stellar home decor tweaks do you remember?

Orange Pine Kitchens

Orange Kitchen

Pine is a lovely material for kitchen cupboards. Relatively inexpensive compared to other options, very versatile and fairly durable. It also tends to blend in well with other decor elements and can be as at home in a stripped back contemporary kitchen as it is in a country style affair.

Except something went terribly wrong in the 1990s because most of the kitchen pine turned orange. Why? That has never been adequately explained by anyone. But all too often the new kitchens of the 90s looked a lot like the minor monstrosity above.

Carpet in the Bathroom 

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Carpet is a great flooring choice in many areas of the home. It makes living rooms extra cosy and can help give bedrooms a comfier air. But carpets and bathrooms are, in all honesty, two things that should never be mixed. Bathrooms are, by their very nature, damp places, even if you have a great extractor fan system. And a carpet that remains constantly damp, even just a little damp, quickly becomes a carpet that is infested with mould and mildew. But it’s usually underneath where it lies unnoticed for months, maybe even years,

However, in the 90s, apparently many interior designers forgot all about these very basic facts and began suggesting that people carpet their bathrooms, usually for ‘warmth and luxury’. Carpeting the side of the bath tub, as in the picture above, was also very popular. Why? We can’t remember. But we do know lots about the horrors that people who have removed that 90s bathroom carpet have experienced when they did.

 

Corner Baths

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Corner baths were THE bathroom must have in 1990s and many a homeowner ripped out their perfectly serviceable existing bath tub and installed one of these oddly angled things instead which, if you were over about 5’5″ tall were horribly uncomfortable and certainly not conducive to a nice soak. They did usually have the ‘nifty’ water jet function that turned them into a sort of low budget Jacuzzi but even that wasn’t really much of a selling point.

Florals, Florals Everywhere

In the latter part of the decade people went floral crazy. None of the patterns matched and the floral sofas and chairs, wallpaper and carpet were usually accented with silk flowers which did little more than gather dust and fooled absolutely no one. And yet so many living rooms in the 90s looked a lot like this:

Florals

Inflatable Furniture

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Who ever thought that inflatable furniture for adults was a good idea? Well, 90s people actually. It was ‘cool and hip and trendy’ and things like the prime example pictured  not only existed but people bought it and thought it actually looked good in their home.

So there you have it, the decor trends we hated most from the ’90s. What other horrors do you remember?

What You Should Know About Your Pets and Mould Exposure

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We have often discussed the dangers that mould can pose to the health of humans here but did you realize that your pets can be affected too? And that often, in a home in which mould is growing unchecked and/or undetected it is the furrier members of the family who may suffer the health effects of mould exposure first.

How Pets are Exposed to Mould

Just as is the case for their human counterparts troublesome mould spores enter an animal’s body via simple inhalation. One of the problems is that the average dog/cat/rabbit or other furry friend lives its life much closer to the ground than a human does and if mould is hiding beneath the floor or behind the wall, as it often does, this may mean that they suffer the effects of mould exposure more acutely, especially as they rarely get to leave the house as often either and so are almost constantly exposed to pollutants in the air around them.

What are the Signs That Mould Exposure is Affecting a Pet?

When experiencing the effects of mould exposure, pets can exhibit symptoms such as:

Respiratory difficulties and illnesses: wheezing, coughing and struggling to breathe
Pulmonary hemorrhage
Bleeding from the nose
Scratching themselves in the absence of fleas; pets may develop sores or even bleed from excessive scratching
Chewing on their extremities or at their skin, which can also develop sores or bleeding
Excessive licking that can cause hair loss
Extreme and/or unusual lethargy
Runny nose
Loss of appetite
Allergic reactions such as sneezing, runny eyes and other symptoms that may also be caused by common allergens, not just mold

Protecting Your Pet (and Yourself) From Mould

Keep your pet away from moldy food and environments.

Store your pet’s food in a sealed container to keep out moisture and mold growth.

Buy only pet beds and toys that can be washed in hot water to help ensure they don’t get infected with mold and dust mites.

Use shampoos that fight allergies for your pets.

If your pet begins showing symptoms of toxic black mold poisoning, such as changes in the typical behavior, eating patterns and energy level, this can be deadly. In this case take him to the vet as soon as possible and inform the doctor that your pet might have been affected by mould exposure.

We really do want to stress (again) how important it is that any mould growth – or suspicion of such – not be left unchecked. The safety of your home, yourself and all the members of your family – the furry ones included – may be at risk if you ignore the problem or tackle it in the wrong way.

4 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Water Damage

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When a pipe bursts, a drain backs up, or a flood occurs in your home, it can be hard to see past the mess and a million questions will run through your mind.

What should I do now?

Is all of our stuff ruined for good?

And then maybe the most important question of all: Will my homeowner’s insurance cover the damage?

There’s no two ways about it. Water damage is extremely stressful, but the more you know about it, the better you’ll be able to decide how to address it if it happens to you. Here are four very important things that every homeowner needs to know about water damage.

Not all water damage is always covered by your insurance

Want to do something proactive right now? Look over your home owners insurance policy and familiarize yourself with any exclusions to your water damage coverage. Almost all policies cover sudden damage – damage from a really bad storm or from an overflowing washing machine – but sometimes water damage that happens because you didn’t maintain the property may be excluded. Which means if you have been putting off fixing that little leak it’s time to get it taken care of right now…

Once water damage has happened, the clock is ticking

When it comes to water damage you simply don’t have the luxury of scheduling a convenient time to start the cleanup. Secondary damage from mould growth can begin as little as 24-48 hours. You see, in every day life mould spores are everywhere, but they need moisture and a nutrient source to grow. And that is exactly what your wet carpet or drywall offers them in abundance and they take advantage very, very quickly.

To prevent mould growth, you will need to get your property completely dry again very quickly. To do this, you’ll need to contact a company that specializes in water damage restoration to come in asap.

Your insurance company needs to know right away

Try to call your insurance company right away when you discover water damage so that you can ‘get the ball rolling’ as soon as possible. When you do, your insurance company may direct you to a water damage restoration company that they have worked with in the past. Keep in mind though that you do not have to call the company that they recommend. You have the freedom to choose any reputable restoration specialist to work with you to restore your home.

The pollution level of the water is important

In our industry, water damage is categorized as one of three levels by how polluted the water source was that caused the damage.

Category 1: Water from a clean water source, like a fresh water line for a dishwasher. This water will not cause illness or any ill effects.

Category 2: Water that may cause illness through contact. It may have bacteria in it,

Category 3: Water that is highly contaminated. Contact can cause severe illness or death. Think sewage backup, an overflowing toilet, or storm waters.

In the case of any water damage incident, even though water may start out as Category 1, that doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Any contamination that the water touches, such as dirty carpeting or soil from the ground, can change the water damage Category to 2 or even Category 3. And since standing breeds bacteria, the longer the water is around, the worse the contamination of your property. Just another very important reason that you will need to take action right away.

The Real Cost of ‘Minor’ Water Damage

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A flood, even a smaller one – perhaps a washing machine accident or a basement flood after a storm – can, as many homeowners know really – be much more than a disrupting nuisance it can cause all kinds of water damage, ruining belongings, furnishings and even the overall structure of a home.

Most people, when faced with a great deal of water after a serious flood will quite naturally reach for the phone to call a water damage restoration expert to come and help them begin to reclaim their home, and their lives, right away. When the flood is smaller, those few inches from the washing machine disaster for example, or basement flood they think has been ‘pretty much’ dealt with by a sump pump, those same people may opt for a ‘DIY’ water remediation job usually involving a wet/dry vac and a LOT of manual labour.

The problem with that is the job is rarely ever really ‘done’ and while a homeowner may think that they have done a pretty good job of getting most of the moisture up and then sets up fans to ‘dry out’ the rest, all kinds of things may be going on ‘behind the scenes’ they realise nothing about that are causing all kinds of expensive, yet to be seen water damage anyway. To demonstrate what we mean check out this ‘Minor’ Water Damage Time Line’:

Within First Hour:

 

  • Quickly moving water may creep throughout the home, finding the path of least resistance, saturating everything in its path.
  • Stains/finish released from furniture could cause permanent staining on flooring and carpets.
  • Finishes on moisture sensitive furniture may begin to turn white.
  • Paper goods (books, magazines, art work) may become unsalvageable due to saturation.

 

One to 24 Hours:

 

  • Normal household odors may begin to intensify.
  • Musty/sour odors may become apparent.
  • Drywall may swell and begins to break down.
  • Metal surfaces that are unprotected will begin to tarnish.
  • Laminated furniture begins to swell and/or split and finish can begin to crack.

 

48 Hours to 1 Week:

 

  • Mould, mildew and other contaminants are likely to begin to grow and spread.
  • Furniture often warps and begins to show signs of mold.
  • Any affected paint may begin to blister.
  • Windows, doors , casings, and studs begin to swell and warp.
  • Wood flooring begins to swell, warp, or buckle.
  • Persons with respiratory concerns or compromised immune systems could experience distress due to pollutants in the air.

 

More Than 1 Week:

 

  • Claim cost and renovation time increases due to extensive restoration.
  • Structural safety and health concerns may pose serious hazards to occupants requiring other living arrangements may be necessary until reconstruction is complete.

 

 

In addition to all of this, the longer you leave it to call in a professional to help you remediate water damage effectively the higher the cost of the job at hand is likely to rise. Most good water remediation specialists will ensure that as much of their work as possible is covered by your insurance, but slower claims and even slower remediation may result in lowered payouts and/or premium increases, so why take that kind of financial risk?