Most Common Biological Air Pollutants in Homes

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The air quality in our homes has a direct impact on our overall health. Think about it: We spend an average of 90 percent of our day inside. So if every breath we take is filled with toxic pollutants, you can imagine the effect on our long-term health and well-being.

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Air pollutants in homes enter through open windows and doors, on our clothes, and in the products we buy. Sometimes, they can even be produced in our homes.

Here are just a few ways pollutants can enter a home:

 

  • Off-gassing of paints and furniture
  • Exhaust from cars and other machines
  • Mold in wet or water-damaged areas
  • Smoking
  • Cleaners, disinfectants, and chemical products
  • Air fresheners, candles, and perfumes
  • Radon penetration through basement walls

 

 

Unfortunately, we can’t live in a bubble, so we have to take steps to try and limit the presence of pollutants inside our homes. In addition to that, knowing what kinds of pollutants are most common in indoor living environments can help us monitor and control them.

Most indoor air contaminants can be classified into two categories: biological and chemicalIn this blog, we’ll be going over the most common biological pollutants, as they include some of the most direct threats to human health. We’ll also suggest simple things that you can do to minimize the presence of these pollutants in your home, thereby lowering your risk of exposure and improving indoor air quality.

Biological Pollutants

Biological pollutants refer to living organisms (or ones that were alive at some point in time). This includes bacteria, viruses, fungi (e.g. mold and mildew), enzymes, pollen, animal dander, and dust mites.

Often, these pollutants are so light and tiny that even a light breeze can make them airborne, where they can be easily inhaled by passers-by.  While some biological pollutants (like dust and pollen) produce only mild allergies, others (like mold and bacteria)

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can cause toxic reactions and serious disease.

Animal Dander

Dander is composed of tiny flakes or bits of skin shed by cats, dogs, birds, rodents and other animals. Animal dander is very light compared to dust, it clings to fabrics and carpets very easily, and it can cause allergies in people who are sensitive.

Dander is not particularly hard to keep under control. The easiest way to reduce levels of dander in your home is to not keep any pets with fur in your home. Regular vacuuming of carpets and furniture as well as washing of fabrics, clothes and drapes with hot water (55°C or higher) at least once a week will help minimize dander levels in your home.

Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic organisms that are actually relatives of spiders. They feed off of dead skin, hairs, flakes, food crumbs and dander. It’s the build-up of their fecal matter that is the biggest contributor to poor air quality.

Dust mites can be found almost anywhere (e.g. furniture, mattresses, pillows, bedding, and other fabrics), but lucky for us, they don’t live directly on the body, and they don’t bite or carry disease.  So as unpleasant as they sound, dust mites are harmless, and they’re an important part of biological life and decomposition.

Keeping dust mites to a minimum is similar to controlling dander—regular cleaning and vacuuming is key. Remove dust by using a damp rag instead of dusting or dry sweeping. This keeps the dust from becoming airborne. Also, wash fabrics, (bedding, curtains, pillow covers, couch slips, clothing, shoes and jackets) in hot water at least once a week.

Pollen

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Pollen is yet another unavoidable element of nature. Not only does it contribute to dust mites and dander problems, but it’s also one of the most common causes of allergies. Pollen can be produced by a wide variety of plants and indoor levels get considerably worse in the spring and summer, when plants begin to blossom and bloom.

Because pollen is very light and can be easily dispersed, it’s extremely difficult to stop it from entering your home. However, there are ways to keep it to a minimum. Washing clothes you have worn outdoors as soon as possible and showering once you come inside will keep pollen from transferring from your body to your furniture.

In addition, home air filtration systems, such as the EZ Breathe, have proven extremely effective at reducing indoor pollen levels and improving allergies. Last but not least, if you are sensitive to pollen, house plants may not be for you!

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew are fungi that grow in damp, warm conditions. They feed off of dirt, dust, pollen, paper, wood, carpet, drywall, and any other organic materials. There are many different kinds of mold: some are toxic and should be avoided at all costs, while others are beneficial and can be used to create delicious cheeses, alcohol and even medicine.

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Mold can be found virtually everywhere in nature, and its spores are constantly moving through the air with the wind. As such, mold can easily make its way into your home via open windows and doors, your clothing, shoes, food and pets.

Mold can also start to grow inside your home given the right conditions, namely moisture, a food source (any cellulose-rich material like wood, drywall, wallpaper and carpet) and the right temperature—hence why mold growth is so common in basements, bathrooms, and attics.  And once it starts to grow, mold can spread quickly, releasing toxic spores into the air, which can irritate allergies, weaken your immune system, and cause an overall decline in health.

Because mold spreads so quickly and easily, it’s difficult to remove and clean effectively. First, the source of the moisture that started the mold growth must be repaired before any remediation work begins.

Second, when performing a proper mold removal, it is crucial to contain the area, protect yourself, and use powerful HEPA filters to clean the air as you work (so that the spores released during the cleaning process won’t contaminate other parts of the property). Any damp, water-damaged or contaminated materials must be disposed of appropriately. This includes drywall, ceiling tiles, non-structural wood and framing, flooring, and furniture that is beyond repair.

Finally, strong but safe cleaners must be used in the disinfection stage of the remediation. Many people falsely believe that bleach is the best option to kill mold, but this is a myth. Bleach is actually water-based and while it might whiten the area, it will not kill the roots of the mold. It could even worsen the problem by introducing more moisture into the area. A natural and effective way to kill mold is using pure vinegar; the high acidity of the vinegar will eat away at the mold, making it easier to remove.

For all of these reasons, big mold problems are best left in the hands of experienced professionals, who have access to industry-standard equipment like negative pressure machines (for proper containment), powerful HEPA vacuums (for the removal of even the smallest of particles) and ozone generators (for complete sanitation).

Conclusion

For more information about any of the contaminants listed above, or to find out how you can test your home for mold and mildew, contact certified experts and ask about professional air quality testing services.

Remember, minimizing pollutants in your home starts with keeping your home clean, ensuring proper ventilation, repairing structural problems promptly, and reducing moisture and humidity. If you take all of these steps, you are well on your way to maintaining proper indoor air quality, good health, and well-being.

 

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Tips for Moving with Pets [Infographic]

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It’s often said that moving is one of the most stressful things that will happen to a person in their lifetime. The same can be said for your pet. Animals often have a hard time with the travels to a new location, and then with adjusting upon arrival. This infographic gives you tips for moving with pets for before, during, and after the move itself. This will help you and your pet stay stress free during your big move!

Moving with Pets Tips for Moving with Pets [Infographic]

Pre-Move

Get a tight new collar and an updated tag with easy-to-read name and number.

Get vet records so that you can transfer them to your pet’s new doc.

Take your time packing. Cramming everything into boxes the night before a move will stress your pet AND you!

During Move

Medication and a first aid kit need to be just as easily accessible on the road as food, toys, etc.

Keep the pet in a crate. S/he may not be stoked about the close quarters, but it’s safer and simpler for everyone.

Take regular rest stops because… you know…

Post-Move

Find a new clinic right away so you know where to go for any emergencies.

Start your new routine (such as morning walks, meal time, etc.) right away so pet can feel comfortable in new place quickly.

Before unpacking your own stuff, lay out pet essentials so that s/he has some familiar items in the strange new house.

Pet Relocation Stats

Less than a fraction of a percent of pets who relocate by air have accidents. You can feel safe loading Starsky on that plane.

62% of pets travel 50+ miles every year anyway, so moving for them is no big deal.

80% of pet owners said that animal safety is their top priority in the move.

61% of pet owners spent less than $500 to move their pet, including costs of pet-friendly airlines, hotels, etc. 11% spent between $501 and $1,000. 28% spent over a thousand on their animal moving expenses.

Travel difficulties with pets fit into a few main categories. 32% of movers had a hard time finding pet-friendly airlines. 28% struggled to find pet-friendly hotels. 26% were just caught off guard by how expensive it is to move a pet. 14% simply lacked information on safe pet traveling.

47% of American households have one or more dogs. 46 % of American households have one or more cats.

This topic was researched using many great resources. Special thanks to Bill Gassett, Realtor Magazine, the Humane Society, and GoPetFriendly Blog

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TINY A Story About Living Small – Review

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In HouseHunt’s Realty TV segments, we take a look at some of real estate’s major players on the tube. We aim to discern if reality shows (or films, in this case) are at all realistic. We point out what you can learn from the experts on camera. And then, of course, we just let you know whether the program is even entertaining.

TINY: A Story About Living Small is a documentary that follows a couple who build their own 124 square foot house in 2011. After being an official selection at the SXSW Film Festival, the film has created quite the buzz recently.

The film’s subject of “micro-living,” however, has been a growing trend in real estate for many years. Since the crash in 2007. a growing number of homeowners are buying a different kind of property. They seek real estate that spares them debt and strips away the superfluous aspects of what the film calls “McMansions.”

It cuts between information on the micro-living movement and the story of Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller as they build their own tiny home.

The story of Christopher’s determination to build his own abode earns the empathy of viewers. Even though he is not building a mansion with a white picket fence, you can see the American Dream in his eyes, and it is as noble as ever. Even if the final product looks different, Christopher still aims to own his own plot of land and build his future with his two hands.

As you can see from the just the trailer above, the film boasts stunning cinematography in the Colorado Mountains. But despite the stunning visuals, the story is real and raw. Given the limited square footage, the builder sets out to develop his home within the summer. But with no construction background and the unexpected costs of any building project, he arrives at a humbling epiphany.

What viewers have the opportunity to learn here is not as simple as “construction is difficult.” This film engages the audience to consider major lifestyle changes. Can this generation redefine conventional thinking on concepts like success and wealth? The experts on the screen never view their small home as a sacrifice, but an opportunity to take pride in something they can actually afford.

What have you seen of the micro-living movement? Are “tiny homes” a trend or a permanent solution to common real estate qualms? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! And perhaps no matter how you feel on the subject now, Tiny: A Story of Living Small may change your perspective.

The TINY A Story About Living Small film is currently streaming on Netflix, and is also available for rent on iTunes and Vimeo. For other documentaries about the micro-living movement, you can (legally) watch another filmmaker’s take on the subject with We the Tiny House People on YouTube right now. 

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High Risk Mortgage Options [Infographic]

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Second Mortgages and Reverse Mortgages both serve their own unique purposes, but have a lot of drawbacks that are usually not worth the risk. Both options usually come years after regular payments have been made on the primary mortgage. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of both mortgage options to help you make an informed decision about the plan that’s right for you!

High Risk Mortgage Options High Risk Mortgage Options [Infographic]

Second Mortgage
a mortgage taken out on a home already on loan

PRO:

You get LOTS of money. This is the best option for large sums of cash, especially if you don’t have a limitless credit card.

CONS:

Your home is collateral; you could lose the residence if the loan is not paid off.

These have slightly higher interest rates than primary mortgages, although they are still likely cheaper than interest rates on alternatives like credit cards.

Due to the risk for the lender involved with a second mortgage, these have significantly larger fees than your first mortgage.

Reverse Mortgage
a way to take equity out on your home

PROS:

The bank makes payments to you! The house becomes a source of income in retirement.

Since this option was created for the retired community, there are no income or credit requirements.

CONS:

Due to the risk associated, there are higher fees and interest rates on the existing mortgage.

The house is sold after you pass on. It cannot be inherited.

If you move – even for assisted living – you have to pay back the remainder of that primary loan.

You still have your miscellaneous costs associated with home-ownership, such as insurance, property taxes, and maintenance.

 

Research for this topic came from many great resources. Thanks to US News and BankRate

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13 Home Projects for Your Pet

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Want to show a little extra love to your furriest family member? More and more home designs are adding on pet projects. In fact, the LA Times reports that “Designers say more dog owners are considering their pets’ needs when building or remodeling their homes: asking for pooch-friendly spaces, ordering specialized cabinets for pet bowls and food, and adding canine-only showers and tubs.” Here are 13 home projects for your pet. After all, these projects will not only show Fido you love him, but will give parts of your home a functional face lift.

1. Feeding Station

Throw out the dingy dog bowls that slop food and water onto the floor, and create a pet feeding station. One option is to build a standing station with holes for food and water bowls. This will not only keep spills off the floor, but the elevated platform will give your dog some neck and back relief.

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[via This Old House]                             [via the LA Times]

Another great idea is to use the space provided by a low cupboard or cabinet to create a feeding nook. Simply take the door off the cabinet, cover the bottom with artificial turf, and place two freestanding bowls inside. If you want to take this idea to the next level, you can install a counter-top spigot that feeds water down to the water bowl.

2. Pet Gate

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[via This Old House]                        [via Greymark Construction]

Worried about your little pooch getting trampled at a party? Building your own free-standing or slide-out pet gate is a simple and affordable project. Pick up some paint-grade lumber like pine or furniture-grade oak depending on if your pup’s a chewer, and follow these building instructions. A nice wooden gate will look a lot better than a store bought plastic one. Plus, using cut-outs in the design will allow your pet to peek in on what’s going on and not feel too left out of the fun.

3. Pet Doors

Whether you want to hide your pet door or give it some flair, there are doors that run the gamut. One designer installed a dog door in an exterior wall in a laundry room and hid the pass-through beneath an ironing cabinet. There are also electronic or “smart” pet doors that unlock automatically when triggered by a pet collar tag or microchip.

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     [via Pin Log]

If you’re more interested in making a DIY dual flap pet door that’s also weather resistant, check out this guide on Instructables.

4. Pet Carrier

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  [via DIY Network]                         [via Randall Kenneth Jones]

If you need to transport a small pet, a pet carrier may come in handy. In Toto-esque fashion, use a basket to transport your pup. Simply pad the inside of the basket with a small pillow and cover with an elastic-lined mesh top if you’re worried about your pooch jumping out (bad Toto).

5. Dog Crate

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[via This Old House]                         [via Dog Lover's Digest]

If you need or want a dog crate but don’t dig the prison-like appearance of a traditional one, you can build or buy a sleek-looking crate that doubles as an end table. This will ensure that your dog feels secure and an eye sore will be removed from your home.

6. Puppy Pads

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   [via Household How To]                              [via Drymate]

Sick of those environmentally un-friendly puppy pads and how horrible they look around your home? Invest or make your own reusable puppy pads for potty training your pooch. You can make them out of a few layers of light yellow-colored fabric, old wine corks, or you can buy an artificial turf pad.

7. Pet Organizer

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[via This Old House]

If you regularly find yourself scrambling to find the leash and plastic bags before taking your dog for a walk, then a pet organizer may be just what you need. Try this easy DIY wall mounted pet organizer with hooks for leashes and a plastic bag dispenser. Put it next to your door to make going out with your pooch a breeze!

8. Dog House

This Old House 2 300x300 13 Home Projects for Your Pet             Better Homes and Gardens 13 Home Projects for Your Pet

[via This Old House]                         [via Better Homes and Gardens]

Want to build your canine an old-fashioned dog house? Whether you want to make a simple wooden house or a mini replica of your home, check out these 15 free dog house plans. These can typically be completed by someone with basic building skills, will take a half day to a few days to complete, and will cost around or under $100.

9. Pet Ramp

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[via This Old House]

If your pet is aging or two small to get up onto the bed, try building him or her a pet ramp. A ramp will not only prevent pet injuries, but it looks nice and can be easily collapsed and stored under the bed. Follow this tutorial from This Old House to make your own.

10. Pet Bed

While researching this article I came across a lot of awesome ideas for pet beds. Here are a few of my favorites:

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   [via The Cottage Market]                          [via The Cottage Market]

Transform the bottom of your nightstand or the bottom drawer of your bedside drawers into a bed for your pet. This idea can also work for the end tables or a hollow footstool in your living room. You can also transform an office chair by cutting off the legs, or repurpose an old car seat by making it into a pet bed or seat. For more crafty ideas, use a wood palette or an old piece of luggage as a pet bed.

11. Litter Box

Bailey Tann 223x300 13 Home Projects for Your Pet                Flickr frainteso 212x300 13 Home Projects for Your Pet

[via Bailey Tann]                   [via frainteso on Flickr]

To make the litter box less of an eye sore, you can either invest in or build a stylish one for your cat. Pick a nice one up at Petco for $80, hide it in a potted plant, under an end table, or inside an old damask bench, chest, or cabinet.

12. Pet Agility Course

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[via This Old House]

Let your pooch run wild in your backyard on his or her own agility course. Create a mini course with poles, hurdles, and a teeter-totter using PVC pipes and teach your old dog some new tricks! For an agility course plan and building instructions, click here.

13. Dog Run

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[ via Keith MacLeod on Flickr]

Don’t have a big or fenced-in backyard but still want to make sure your pooch gets some time in the sun? You can build your own dog run so that your canine can play outside safely with or without your supervision.

 

Whichever project you decide to try, your pet will be grateful! Not only will you be showing your pet some love, you’ll be increasing the visual appeal and functionality of your home.

 

Know of any more great home projects for your pet you’d like to share? Please let us know in the comments.

 

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