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Space Heater Round-Up: AHAM’s Expert Advice, All in One Place

Winter is coming, and it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to fend off those seasonal chills. To help you prepare, here’s the best of our expert advice on portable electric heaters.

These key questions will help you choose the portable heater that works best for you:

  • Will you be using the heater for temporary personal heat or to keep a room steadily warm?
  • Do you need instant heat, or can the heat be generated gradually?
  • What’s your noise tolerance?

Learn about the types of heaters available –

  • Panel heaters can be wall-mounted or freestanding, and may include fans.
  • Radiant heaters generate warmth by heating oil within the unit, though the oil doesn’t need to be refilled.
  • Fan heaters distribute heat from an element using a fan.
  • Ceramic heaters use a ceramic heating element and may also use a fan to spread heat.
  • Infrared heaters generate heat from a surface within the heater. The heat is emitted in the form of infrared energy.

What features do you need? Today you can easily find heaters with the following:

  • A thermostat to keep the heat at a steady temperature. Some models offer a digital setting.
  • Oscillation to distribute heat
  • Adjustable fan speeds

And finally, no matter what type of heater you end up with, AHAM recommends these safety tips:

  • Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels before using your portable electric heater.
  • DO NOT leave operating heater unattended and always unplug heater when not in use.
  • DO NOT use your heater with a power strip or extension cord. Overheating of a power strip or extension cord could result in a fire.
  • String out cords on top of area rugs or carpeting. Placing anything, including furniture, on top of the cord may damage it.
  • Keep combustible materials, such as furniture, pillows, bedding, papers, clothes and curtains at least three feet from the front of the heater and away from the sides and rear. DO NOT block heater’s air intake or exhaust source.

Looking for further reading? We have more info on heaters here and here. You can learn more about heater safety – and order free safety brochures! – here.

Best of AHAM Allergy Advice

Whatever is causing your fall allergies, AHAM has some advice to ease your suffering. Appliances can help remove some of the allergens from your home and reduce your symptoms. We’ve gathered our top allergy prevention advice to help you through the seasonal allergy storm:

Looking for fall allergy relief? Your humidifier or dehumidifier could help!

Learn how these appliances can help you fight allergies.

Physicians share their allergy prevention advice

Two experts share their advice on allergy relief.

Room air cleaners: Your ally against allergens

Air cleaners can help to remove allergy-causing pollutants from your home.

Tips for Managing your Child’s Allergies

AHAM’s tips for helping your little ones breathe easier.

Worrying about Fall Allergies?

We spoke with the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology on the biggest fall allergy triggers and how your appliances can help you fight back.

Robotic Evolution: New features enhance autonomous floor care

Are you looking to outsource some of your floor care duties to a robot? You aren’t alone. These autonomous appliances are rolling into the floor care plan of more and more homes. Sales of robotic vacuums are expected to go from $1.49 billion in 2016 to more than $2.4 billion by the end of 2021.

If you are looking to turn a robotic vacuum loose in your home, you’ll have many choices, and manufacturers are constantly adding new features to their models. Some of the features aim to help the robot find its way around your home. Others improve interactivity, safety or your ability to control the robot. All of the features, however, work together toward the goal of more thorough cleaning.

Features will vary depending on the price and manufacturer. Here’s a sampling of some of the newer tools being incorporated into robotic vacuums:

Advanced navigation: Many of today’s models have the ability to map a home and remember how to get around objects and stay out of tough spots. You can also program the robots to vacuum specific areas of the home. If you happen to get in the way, some models can tell you are human and will ask you—politely, no doubt—to move out of the way so they can continue to work.

Mopping ability: Robots are evolving into floor care multitaskers. In addition to vacuuming, some models now have the ability to mop, both wet and dry.

Voice control: They’ll never say ‘no.’ Robotic vacuums can now respond to voice commands, either directly or through an outside system like Amazon Alexa.

Remote operation: Start, stop or control your robotic vacuum with your mobile device.

Cameras: Cameras have been incorporated into some models to help the robot map the room and allow you to get a robot’s eye view of cleaning and keep an eye on your house while you’re away. Some allow you to take photos and/or videos.

Fall prevention: Even with all of the new features and technological advances, robotic vacuums still have not gained the ability to climb stairs. Many models, however, now utilize sensors to prevent themselves from taking a tumble down the stairs or off a higher level.

Robotic vacuums have earned their place as a floor-care fixture, and the innovations will continue. What other appliance do you think could benefit from robotic features? (Are refrigerators next?)

Vacuum features, settings and technique: Expert advice

Vacuums are one of your go-to appliances as you strive to keep your home clear of dirt, dust, pet hair and allergens. There’s a good chance vacuuming is part of your daily or weekly routine. A 2013 global survey by AHAM member Electrolux found that 33% of respondents vacuumed 2-5 times per week, 13% vacuumed daily and 3% more than once a day.

How you vacuum, not just how much you vacuum, is an important factor as you strive to conquer household dust. The various settings and features incorporated into many vacuum models, combined with the proper technique, will help you maximize your vacuum’s ability to keep your home free from dust and dirt.

Features

The features vacuums offer vary, but adjustable height, “full-bag” sensors and variable motor speed are common. All of them affect your vacuum’s performance.

Adjustable height: Many models allow you to adjust the height of the vacuum as you clean different surfaces. But vacuum owners often don’t realize that a lower height setting doesn’t necessarily mean a deeper clean. “If it’s too low, it won’t clean properly,” says vacuum guru Tom Gasko, curator of the Vacuum Cleaner Museum in St. James, Missouri. So how do you know which height is right? “Recline the handle and start the vacuum in its highest position,” Gasko says. “Turn it one notch down until you hear the change in sound—it will become a deeper, throatier sound.” That sound means the brush is sweeping correctly. The team at BISSELL, an AHAM member, recommends a higher setting for thicker, plush carpets, and a lower height for low-pile carpet or bare floor.

Speed settings: Another common assumption is that high speed equals better cleaning. The appropriate speed depends on the surface you’re vacuuming. “If you’re cleaning an area rug, the high speed tends to bunch it under a nozzle,” Gasko says. “The lower speeds work better. Let’s say you have a woolen area rug. Don’t use high speed. You’ll drag the carpet and it will destroy the nap of the rug. Your draperies don’t need near the suction of the shag rug. On your sofa, it can tear the fabric.”

 

“Empty bag” indicator: A “full bag” indicator is great for telling you when it’s time to change the bag. “If that [indicator] window is three-quarters of the way full, that bag is three-quarters of the way through. If you’re vacuuming three rooms and you have a shedding dog, you might want to change the bag.” Bissell recommends emptying bagless vacuums frequently so they don’t overfill. This leads to fewer clogs and better performance. And check your brush, too: hair on the brush roll can decrease its effectiveness and cause stress on the vacuum’s belt. Clean the brush regularly for the best performance.

Attachments: Many vacuums come with a variety of attachments. Some of the more common are crevice tools, turbo brushes, extension wands and dusting brushes. “Use crevice tools and turbo brushes to vacuum upholstery and get in between cushions on the couch,” the BISSELL team says. “Use extension wands to reach dust on ceiling fans, cobwebs in high corners, etc. Dusting brushes can be used to reach around books and items on shelves. Gentle bristles won’t scratch delicate wood surfaces.”

Technique

When you vacuum, do pull back harder than you push? Many people naturally do. They’re unknowingly leaving dirt on the floor. Why?

“Vacuums are designed to be pushed at a specific speed,” Gasko says. “They’re to be propelled forward at 12 inches per second, backwards at six inches per second. Your backward pull has to be slower than your forward push.” Brushes on vacuums rotate forward, from the back to the front. “If you pull it back at half the speed, the brush has time to groom the carpet and sweep all the dirt out of the carpet because you’re going against the direction the brush turns.”

If your vacuum includes swivel, use it to reach those tight areas and corners, BISSELL recommends.

If you’re using a stick vacuum on a bare floor, it’s also a good idea to slow down and give your vacuum enough time to remove the dirt. “People think they can get through their kitchen in less than a minute,” Gasko says. “A bare floor doesn’t mean you can push the vacuum faster.” BISSELL recommends turning off the brush roll when vacuuming hard floors so that debris don’t scatter and brushes don’t damage delicate floors.

How you push the vacuum also matters. You may be using too much arm.

“People will stand and make star-shaped patterns with their arm,” Gasko says. “You’re supposed to hold the vacuum in your hand with your arm not bent.” He recommends walking forward at about 12 inches per second and backing up at half that speed for maximum dirt removal. “Make two passes, one forward and back, at the proper speed. Using your shoulder and elbow is inefficient, and your carpet will be cleaner.” Don’t go too fast, and be methodical in your pace when cleaning high-traffic areas of the home, BISSELL recommends.

Do you use a canister vacuum? If you tend to pull on the hose to get the canister to follow you around the room, there may be a better way. Proper technique involves wrapping the hose around the small of your back and holding it in your left hand. This will allow you to move the canister without pulling on the full length of the hose, Gasko says.

Are you cleaning drapes, furniture, shelves and other higher-up areas? BISSELL suggests cleaning those first, before you vacuum the floor. That way, if dust drifts from the higher spots, you’ll only have to vacuum the floor once.

Keep laundry detergent packets out of sight and out of reach

What’s your preferred laundry detergent? Are you one of the many who choose the convenience of laundry detergent packets over the more traditional powder or liquid? If so, it’s important to store them out of the reach of children.

The danger is that children may come across the brightly colored pods or packets and mistake them for a food or toy. Detergent inside the packets is highly concentrated, and serious injury or death can result if children swallow or come into contact with the detergent inside.

The best way to prevent incidents is to store packets out of sight and out of reach. But many who use packets don’t: According to the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), which is running the Packets Up! campaign to encourage proper storage of laundry detergent packets, 43% of families with children under four report that their children can see laundry packets when laundry isn’t being done. In addition, 19% of families with children under four reported that they store liquid laundry packets on an open shelf.

Preventing accidents is a simple as keeping the laundry detergent packets out of sight and high enough so they’re out of reach of young children, ACI says. Avoid storing packets on top of the washing machine or counter, and never let children play with packets.

ACI’s research also found that 15% of the families surveyed let their children take part in putting the liquid laundry packets into the washing machine. Children should never handle or hold laundry packets. But that doesn’t mean children can’t help out with laundry. Keep their involvement to more kid-friendly chores, like sorting colors or folding and pairing clothes.

Learn more about ACI’s Packets Up! campaign, including how you can get a laundry cling to remind you to safely store detergent.

Safety, security, warranty: Why it’s important to have your appliances repaired by authorized providers

Every day, you rely on your appliances to keep yourself and your family safe, clean, fed and comfortable. It’s a disruption when one of them suddenly stops working. When a refrigerator breaks down, it can mean spoiled or unsafe food. A heater or air conditioner that malfunctions means you can be left to suffer through extreme heat or cold. Laundry appliances breaking down mean the clothes start to pile up. The scenarios are at best inconvenient, and at worst put your health or safety at risk.
Regardless of what went wrong, you probably want to have your appliance repaired as quickly as possible. You may call around to a few repair shops to compare prices, availability and expertise. Most will have staff that can repair a refrigerator, clothes washer, range or other appliances. But you also need to make sure they’ve gone through the necessary training to get the job done.

Does it really matter who fixes my appliance?

It does. Authorized service providers have been trained by the appliance manufacturer to service your appliance. This means they have access to both the knowledge and the necessary parts, technical information and, in some cases, software that’s specific to your appliance. Your choice of service providers can have major implications for your appliance’s safety, security and warranty.

Safety: Authorized service providers are required to make repairs with parts and equipment that have been tested and meet specific safety and reliability requirements. Service providers that are not authorized may use substitutes that don’t meet the same rigorous requirements. That, combined with the fact that the service provider may not have proper training on installation, can create safety risks.

Security: Manufacturers, through the development of smart and connected appliances, are bringing consumers to new levels of comfort and convenience. However, as with any connected device, they’re also requiring consumers to pay careful attention to their electronic security. Servicing smart and connected appliances requires special training and access to information that manufacturers make available to authorized providers only. Anyone servicing a smart or connected appliance could potentially have a gateway to the appliance owner’s electronic network. It’s critical that this work be left to authorized providers, who will take the measures necessary to limit exposure.

Warranty: If you still aren’t convinced of the importance of using authorized repair providers, here’s another reason: If you allow an unauthorized repair provider to work on your appliance, or if you attempt to make the repair yourself, you could void your appliance’s warranty. That means that the cost of any future repairs that might have been covered under your warranty will now be your responsibility.

Your appliance’s use and care manual or manufacturer’s website will likely provide information on how you can locate an authorized service provider. In the long run, authorized repairs will likely save you time, increase your peace of mind, and help keep your appliances in top shape.

On the Juice: What to consider before you buy a juicer

A juicer is sometimes the go-to appliance for people who are looking to add more fruits and vegetables to their diet. A quick search will turn up the websites of countless devotees who swear by juicing and credit it for dramatic health turnarounds.

If you are ready to jump into the world of juicing, there are countless models available across a broad price range. They might have different capacity, attachments or speeds. In general, juicers fall into one of three categories depending on the manner in which they extract juice from the fruits and vegetables. centrifugal, masticating and triturating.

While all three types are more than capable of filling your glass, they have different ways of getting there. Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons of each.

Centrifugal 

Pros: They’re easy to use and extract juice quickly. “Less than a minute in most cases,” says Garrick Dee, who runs the juicer review and recipe website Juicing With G. They also don’t require as much prep work, but Garrick recommends looking for one with a wide mouth to accommodate more produce.

Cons: Centrifugal juicers tend to be louder and, in Garrick’s opinion, don’t do as good of a job extracting juice from leafy greens.

Masticating

Pros: Masticating juicers do a good job on leafy greens, are quieter and produce a better yield than centrifugal juicers, Garrick says.

Cons: Juicing with a masticating juicer requires more prep time and takes longer, Garrick says. They also tend to cost more than centrifugal juicers.

Triturating

Pros: Triturating juicers, Garrick says, yield more juice from both fruits and vegetables because of an adjustable cap that controls back pressure. “They’re another great tool for leafy greens.”

Cons: They often are the most expensive option, and they take up a lot of space. They may require some hands-on assembly. “The twin gears have to be assembled in a specific order, so there is a learning curve involved,” Garrick says. And, more parts means more cleaning is involved.

What to consider when shopping

There are three broad questions you should consider when you’re looking for a juicer:

  1. How often will you use the machine?
  2. What type of produce are you juicing?
  3. How much are you willing to spend?

“If you’re juicing lots of leafy greens, you can go with a horizontal auger juicer,” Garrick says. “It won’t clog up like a vertical auger juicer. The pulp ejection port of a horizontal juicer is straight, so there’s very little risk of clogging, while a vertical juicer has an L-shaped port that can clog if you don’t chop fibrous greens like celery.” However, a vertical juicer might work well for you if you’re juicing more fruits, or an equal amount of fruits and vegetables, Garrick says.

Care 

Like any appliance, juicers need regular cleaning and care. “Make sure to wash it immediately after using it,” Garrick says. You might be able to put some parts in the dishwasher, but others may have to be washed by hand. Consult your juicer’s use and care manual for specific cleaning instructions.

Safety 

Dee suggests you look for a juicer with these safety features:

  • Locking arms: “Look for something with a locking arm that locks the blade, bowl and cover in place and will prevent the motor from starting when it isn’t locked,” Garrick says.
  • Overload protection: Some juicers include features that shut off the motor if there’s an overload.
  • Food pusher: “Make sure the juicer has a food pusher that pushes ingredients through the feed chute down to the blade or auger,” Garrick says. “The last thing you want is dangling your fingers in those areas.” 

Other routes to juice

Juicing has countless advocates who swear by its health benefits, and it is one way to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Other appliances can help put you on the road to healthier eating, too.

How do you like your toast? Take our one-question personality quiz.

 

You probably have a go-to setting for your toaster, and anything lighter or darker can have a deep and lasting impact on the quality of your breakfast.

You probably haven’t given much thought to how appliance manufacturers make sure that toasters toast at the proper level. This guide—developed by AHAM and still used by appliance manufacturers as part of AHAM’s T-1 performance standard for toasters—shows just how toasted your toast should be, depending on where you set your toaster. It’s how manufacturers make sure your toast will turn out looking like “5” if you set the toaster to that level.

We bet you also didn’t realize that how you take your toast is a window into your personality. Take our one-question personality quiz to find out what your preferred level of toast says about you.

Of course, there’s no science behind these traits. But there’s plenty that goes into the development of T-1 and the numerous standards that appliance manufacturers use to develop and design all home appliances so they’re safe, efficient and functional.

Now, back to the most important question you will answer today: How do you like your toast?

Vacuum away indoor and outdoor allergens

Autumn leaves

Allergies tend to grab our attention when the seasons change and symptoms rear their ugly heads. In the fall, tree pollen tends to get the blame for our respiratory misery. Other common allergens like dust mites can cause trouble all year long. Regardless of whether your allergy symptoms are seasonal, regular and proper vacuuming should be part of your allergy prevention strategy.

We have one piece of advice allergy sufferers might love: If possible, somebody who doesn’t have allergies should do the vacuuming. But these tips will help cut down on the amount of allergens in your home no matter who is behind the vacuum.

Use an effective filter: HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters remove more than 99 percent of allergens with particles larger than .3 microns. They can be helpful in removing common allergens like dust mites and pollen. Micro-lined, two-ply vacuum cleaner bags will help prevent those dust particles from blowing back into the air.

Vacuum more than just the floor: Vacuum upholstered furniture, mattresses and drapes regularly. All can harbor allergens.

Don’t forget about the hard surfaces: Use a stick vacuum to remove pollen and dust mites that might have settled onto hard, non-carpeted surfaces.

Other appliances can help, too: Pollen comes out in the wash, and washing your clothes in hot water can remove dust mites. Your dehumidifier, air conditioner and room air cleaner can also help you get the upper hand on both outdoor and indoor allergens.

Essential appliances to dry out your home after a flood

Cleaning up your home after a flood can quickly become overwhelming. In addition to property damage, flooding increases the possibility of mold and mildew and can bring other contaminants into the home. You can speed up the drying process by lowering the humidity with dehumidifiers, fans and room air conditioners.

Hurricane Harvey Impacts

Note: Only use appliances that have not been damaged by flood waters. Appliances may look normal after a flood, but using any that have been immersed in water creates the risk for electric shock and fire.

The American Red Cross offers these tips to reduce humidity in your home during flood recovery:

  • Use a dehumidifier: Dehumidifiers remove excess moisture from the air. Position it in a dry area of the house at least six inches from any wall. Make sure the dehumidifier is protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter and avoid using extension cords, as spilled water creates a shock hazard. Set the humidistat to extra dry to remove moisture from room furnishings.
  • Open the house: Open windows when weather permits, if there’s lower humidity outside than inside.
  • Turn on the AC: A room air conditioner can help reduce humidity in the home. Avoid using central air conditioning. If systems are contaminated by dirt, silt or other materials, they’ll spread it around your home.
  • Use fans: Fans will help move humid air outside your home.