Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems in homes. These three strategies from the Environmental Protection Agency will help improve air quality in your home.

Source control. The most effective way to improve indoor air quality is to eliminate individual sources of pollution or to reduce their emissions. For example, areas that contain asbestos can be sealed off or enclosed, and gas stoves can be adjusted to decrease their emissions.

Improved ventilation. Heating and cooling systems don’t usually bring fresh air into your home. To increase the amount of outdoor air that comes inside, open windows and doors, operate window or attic fans when the weather permits, or run a window air conditioner with the vent control open. And save pollutant-emitting activities like painting, sanding, soldering or welding for outside.

Air cleaners. There are many types and sizes of air cleaners on the market, from relatively inexpensive tabletop models to sophisticated and expensive whole-house systems. Some air cleaners are highly effective at particle removal, while others are much less so. In general, air cleaners are not designed to remove gaseous pollutants.

For a simpler solution, try a plant. Although it has not been scientifically proven, there is some evidence that household plants can help remove significant quantities of pollutants from the air in your home. But be careful: overwatering plants can be detrimental to your home’s air quality — damp soil can promote the growth of microorganisms.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Electricity. It’son your mind every month when it’s time to pay the bill and when you come home to find that porch light still on after a weekend away. But keeping electrical maintenance top of mind can help you save on your electric bill, keep the kids safe and conserve energy. Here are a few things to consider.

In addition to stowing cords away from pets and children, keep a close eye on appliances that generate heat, such as computers, televisions and dryers. Don’t drape anything flammable over these items. Check cords regularly for frays, cracks or kinks and use tape or twist ties to keep cords in place rather than securing them with nails or staples. Covered cords generate heat, so try to avoid covering cords beneath flammable materials such as rugs.

Consider hiring a licensed electrical contractor to evaluate your electrical systems, including fuse boxes and home electric meters to be sure they’re up to date. And be sure to ask for tips about possible energy-saving investments.

Try to maintain control over how much electricity your household is using. It’s cliché, but turning off lights and appliances after use will greatly decrease your electric bill. And try running your dryer at night, if at all. Curbing your hot water use is another way to cut electricity costs; wash clothes in cold water when you can.

Finally, consider plugging all computer, TV and DVD components into one power strip and get into the habit of turning it off when not in use. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s an easy way to save energy and money.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


No matter how big or small, all homes have one thing in common: wall space. But many homeowners get stumped by what to do with it. Walls are a blank canvas for creating an inviting space and showing off personality, and although homeowners’ tastes vary widely, there are a few general ideas and guidelines to consider when deciding how to make the best use of your walls.

Sconces are a great way to add light and style to a room. They should be placed about six feet above the floor, and if there are two or more, be sure to place them evenly to provide balanced sources of lighting. If the sconce is merely an accent to an already decorated wall, choose a simple design and a smaller sconce, rather than upstaging what’s already there.

If art is your wall decoration of choice, it’s important to decide on a style before choosing the paintings or photos. More traditional decorators might go for landscapes or gardens, while those with contemporary taste might lean toward bold, bright colors. A little quirky? Think about framing old records or vintage movie posters instead of ready-made pieces. Be sure the size of the framed pieces complements the furniture in the room — wall art shouldn’t compete. A room with minimal furniture can have large art, but if the room already has big, ornate pieces of furniture, keep the art minimal.

Play with groupings of framed pieces. Experts suggest combining odd numbers such as three or five in a row or a square block of nine small prints. Be sure the pieces are similar in color and theme, and take time to choose a neutral colored frame.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


More than 8 million people were victims of identity theft in 2007, according to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Most people know the basic prevention measures, such as committing passwords and PIN numbers to memory and shredding credit card receipts. But there are other habits that can help you prevent fraudulent activity.

Check your mail often. Identity thieves often take pre-approved credit card offers and sign up for a new card to use without your knowledge. Be sure to shred these.

Reduce the number of credit and debit cards in your wallet; if possible, carry only one debit card for bank withdrawals and one credit card for other purchases. Use a credit card rather than a debit card while shopping online. You’re better protected because credit accounts are more often monitored for unusual charges and offer quicker ways to freeze and replace cards than banks. Keep a list of all credit and bank card numbers and expiration dates, as well as banking account information in a secure place, such as a locked safe in your home.

When ordering new checks, make the trip to the bank to pick them up rather than having them delivered. When you are waiting for a new credit card to be delivered, be sure to call the issuer if it hasn’t arrived within the promised amount of time to ensure it hasn’t been stolen.

Paying bills the old-fashioned way? Park the car and deliver mail inside the post office rather than the outside box. Neighborhood mailboxes aren’t monitored as closely and could be broken into, leaving your checks open to alterations by a thief.