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Worrying about Fall Allergies?

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Think it’s too early to begin worrying about fall allergy season? Think again! According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology  (ACAAI), fall allergies can be especially bothersome to those who are allergic to pollen and ragweed. In particular, ACAAI states that hay fever and autumn leaves can trigger allergic reactions. They note:

Hay Fever – Hay fever, a term from a bygone era, actually has nothing to do with hay. Instead,  it’s a general term used to describe the symptoms of late summer allergies. Ragweed is a common cause of hay fever, which is also known as allergic rhinitis. The plant usually begins to pollenate in mid-August and may continue to be a problem until a hard freeze, depending on where you live.

Pesky Leaves – Some folks might find it difficult to keep up with raking leaves throughout the autumn. But for allergy sufferers, raking presents its own problem. It can stir agitating pollen and mold into the air, causing allergy and asthma symptoms.

One of the best methods of combating allergies is to purchase an AHAM Verifide® portable room air cleaner. Room air cleaners that are certified through AHAM’s Certification Program have been certified and verified by an independent laboratory, assuring consumers that the product will perform according to the manufacturer’s product claims for suggested room size and the reduction of three common household particulates: tobacco smoke, dust and pollen, commonly referred to as the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR).

Tips to Consider when Buying your Next Vacuum

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Canister or upright? With a bag or without? These are just a few of the questions you might have when trying to decide which vacuum to buy. Finding the right one can be more difficult than you think, especially if have pets, have limited storage space or have to carry the vacuum up a flight of stairs. If you’ve shopped online or in the store then you probably know that vacuums come in a variety of styles to fit every budget – just like cars.

AHAM has assembled some buying tips courtesy of HuffPost Home:

  • Keep in mind what you’ll use your vacuum cleaner for the most: “The toughest job for a vacuum is deep-cleaning carpets, which is what our research says is the number-one job people want in their vacuum. Equally important is being lightweight enough that it’s not hard to push, pull, lift and generally maneuver. Third is durability,” says Consumer Reports Senior Home & Yard Editor, Ed Perratore.
  • DO: Buy a vacuum that works with your lifestyle. “We test for pet-hair pickup and find that some models do very well at getting up what their pet sheds without the hair wrapping around the brush. Neither uprights nor canisters have the edge there. For apartment dwellers, the size of the unit matters a lot. If you have lots of carpets, we recommend bagged uprights since they tend to have the best airflow and suction. If you don’t want to lug around an upright and also maybe vacuum stairs a lot, consider a canister. And for general pickup of spilled dry items and dust, many people also have hand, stick and even robotic vacs–though you can’t count on them for deep-cleaning.”
  • DON’T: Forget that it’s all about HOW you use the vacuum. “There are a few ways to vacuum “wrong.” Never vacuum water or even a wet floor; use a wet/dry vac instead. Change your bag or empty your bin promptly; it affects available airflow. Ditto for the filters; inspect them every couple of months. If you vacuum up something big like a sock, turn the vacuum off right away–besides blocking airflow, you could break the belt, which is there to protect the motor. And if you vacuum a bare floor like wood or laminate and don’t turn off the brush (or don’t have a brush on/off switch), you’ll wear away that floor’s finish over time.”

View the complete article here.

Also, GoodHousekeeping.com has advice on keeping your vacuum running smoothly for years to come. Here are a few of them:

  • What’s the difference between a canister and an upright vacuum?
    A canister vacuum is generally more versatile. Like uprights, canisters handle carpets, but they’re also great at cleaning bare floors, vacuuming stairs and sucking up dirt from corners.
  • Which is better — a vacuum with a bag or a bagless vacuum?
    Neither is better. The Good Housekeeping Institute tests show that both clean equally well. Which you buy depends on personal preference. Bagless cleaners save you the trouble of having to buy extra bags, but they can be messy to empty, and the filters and dust containers must be kept clean. While vacuums with bags keep dust and dirt contained, they are tricky to retrieve an earring or small object that gets sucked up accidentally.
  • Do more amps mean better cleaning?
    If you’re tempted to buy a model with the highest amps, horsepower or watts, you might want to think again. These numbers are simply measurements of the electrical current used by the motor. A vacuum cleaner’s performance depends on airflow, the amount of suction it produces, and other factors including the overall design and attachments.

You can find more Good Housekeeping tips here.

What is induction?

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If you’ve shopped for a new range or cooktop recently, you may have seen some are induction. Although induction has been around for quite a while, it’s only recently started to catch on as home chefs look for an alternative to electric burners. In fact, 15 percent of electric cooktops shipped last year included an induction burner! This is a three percent increase from 2013.

So what is induction and how does it work? An induction burner looks very much like an electric smoothtop burner and is heated using an electromagnetic field whereas a conventional electric burner uses radiant heat. Unlike cooking with a conventional electric burner, induction burners only transfer heat to magnetized pans so you could place a chocolate bar directly on an induction burner without it melting! Therefore, you’ll need to make sure your cookware is induction-capable and you can do this by simply holding a magnet to the underside of the pan or pot. Additionally, induction is also highly energy efficient since heat is only transferred directly to the pan

If induction has piqued your interest, you can learn more  through any manufacturer’s website or, CNET’s website has additional information behind the science of induction. Lastly, several years ago The New York Times published a detailed article about the pros and cons of induction.

Don’t Own a Grill? No Problem! Follow these Indoor Grilling Tips!

For most, a sizzling summer usually conjures up images of backyard barbeque and flipping burgers on the grill. Unfortunately for apartment and condo dwellers, grilling outdoors is probably not an option. AHAM has assembled some quick tips courtesy of Men’s Fitness magazine for those who are limited to cooking indoors:

  • Pick a heavy pan – When grilling indoors, a single pan takes the place of the entire gas or charcoal grill, so the thing better be sturdy.
  • Burn-proof your meat and vegetables – To ensure a successful indoor grill session, pat food dry if it’s damp, lightly brush it with olive oil, and season both sides with salt and pepper before tossing it over heat.
  • Get grillin’- Place the grill pan on the stovetop and heat it until it is very hot, then reduce the heat to medium-low and maintain that temperature throughout the cooking process. If the pan starts to smoke, it’s getting too hot and the heat should be turned down.
  • Let the smoke escape – Open your kitchen windows and turn on fans before you turn on the flame.
  • Or contain it in the oven – How to do it: Place one rack on the floor of the oven and set your grill pan on the rack. Preheat the oven to 500˙F. Give the oven and the pan 10 minutes to fully heat. Then cook items on the grill pan as you would normally, turning halfway through cooking. Keep the oven door closed as much as possible to maintain heat and contain the smoke.

Check out the Men’s Fitness article for more tips.

And no matter if you’re cooking indoors or outdoors, food safety should be your first priority. The last thing you want is for you or your guests to become ill because the food wasn’t cooked thoroughly. That’s why you should always use a meat thermometer while cooking, never assume meat is “done?? just by its color. Here’s a guide to safe minimum cooking temperatures courtesy of FoodSafety.org. Of course, you also need to keep those perishable foods cool and make sure leftovers don’t stay out too long. Find additional advice here.

Happy grilling!

Chill Out with These Blender Tips and Recipes this Summer

With summer in full swing, there’s no doubt a lot of us will be using our blenders to whip up a frozen concoction. However, you can also use your blender to accomplish a lot more at your backyard barbeque or dinner party than you may realize, such as:
Homemade dressings for summer salads

  • Shakes, malts and fruit smoothies
  • Cold summer soups
  • Salsa and other fresh vegetable dips
  • Homemade barbeque sauce and other sauces for veggies and meats

From budget to high-end models, to handheld and countertop blends and multifunction models with reversible blades you have numerous options so finding a blender that best fits your needs should be pretty easy. Additionally, manufacturers are designing blenders with an array of bright colors in addition to the traditional classic models. They also offer easy cleanup and most units are small enough to fit under standard kitchen cabinets. Consumer Reports and Housewares.com have great advice on what to look for when purchasing your next blender.

To help you plan that next barbeque or family dinner, The Blender Girl has a list of healthy recipes to get you started. Food.com has a long list of recipes that show a wide variety of food you can prepare using a blender, from pizza dough to buffalo chicken soup. And last but not least, Delish.com has a recipe list of the best blended drinks.   What are your favorites blender mixes?

Need a New Room Air Conditioner? Check Out These Tips Before You Buy!

As the summer heat bakes much of the U.S., you might find yourself in need of replacing that old (and probably less efficient) room air conditioner. Before going out to the local home improvement store, you should check out the directory of AHAM Verifide® room air conditioners.  Room air conditioners carrying the AHAM Verifide mark have been independently-tested to perform to manufacturer’s claims for cooling capacity (measured in BTUs per hour), Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) and electrical energy in Amps. Additionally, for units carrying the ENERGY STAR designation, AHAM’s energy verification of the unit ensures that the product meets ENERGY STAR criteria.

ENERGY STAR’s website has some great tips for purchasing room air conditioners:
•    Consider a unit with controls. Controls such as a digital readout for the thermostat setting, and a built-in timer help you adjust your unit to use less energy.
•    Check the yellow EnergyGuide label. This label helps you determine how much energy it takes to operate the model, compare the energy use of similar models, and estimate annual operating costs
•    Look for a unit whose filter slides out easily for regular cleaning. Clean filters help keep your unit in good working condition.
•    Select the unit with the highest Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) for greater savings. The EER is the cooling capacity in BTUs divided by the watts.

And when you do buy that new room air conditioner, here are some tips courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy to keep it running smoothly for years to come:
•    The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean its filters.
•    Clogged, dirty filters block normal airflow and reduce a system’s efficiency significantly. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.
•    Outdoor condenser coils can also become very dirty if the outdoor environment is dusty or if there is foliage nearby. You can easily see the condenser coil and notice if dirt is collecting on its fins.
•    At the start of each cooling season, inspect the seal between the air conditioner and the window frame to ensure it makes contact with the unit’s metal case. Moisture can damage this seal, allowing cool air to escape from your house.
•    In the winter, either cover your room air conditioner or remove and store it. Covering the outdoor unit of a central air conditioner will protect the unit from winter weather and debris.

Rewarding Refrigerator Recycling in Utah

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Do you know that on average, approximately 90 percent of major household appliances (by weight) are recycled each year?

Additionally, according to the Steel Recycling Institute (SRI), the typical appliance contains 60 percent steel which can be recycled rather than being sent to a landfill.  Recycling has even more environmental benefits, too.   According to SRI, in a year, the steel industry saves the equivalent energy to electrically power about 18 million households for that same amount of time.  Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) and Utah Food Bank have joined forces to combine recycling, energy efficiency and meals for the hungry, according to a recent article in the Deseret News.  For over a decade RMP has been offering its customers $30 if they recycle their old, inefficient refrigerators.  Now RMP customers will have the option to automatically donate that $30 to Utah Food Bank, which distributes meals to food pantries, churches and soup kitchens throughout Utah.   Since the program was implemented in 2003, over 10,000 refrigerators have been recycled in Utah – saving the utility’s customers $150 annually on average, according to RMP.  Thanks to the program, Utah Food Bank estimates it helps provide 2,000 meals a week to families in need!

While your local utility may not offer a program exactly like RMP’s, you can still help the environment by purchasing a new refrigerator and reducing your electricity usage.  According to AHAM’s 2013 Trends in Energy Efficiency, on average, a refrigerator manufactured in 2013 consumes 52% less electricity than one manufactured in 1991 – and it’s 6% larger, too!

If you’re interested in cutting your energy bill by purchasing a new refrigerator, visit www.coolsavings.com to learn more about the latest energy efficiency guidelines for refrigerators, and how to use the updated yellow ENERGY GUIDE labels.  Meanwhile, SRI’s website can help you find the recycling location nearest you.

Follow These Portable Heater Safety Tips to Stay Warm and Safe

Spring may just be around the corner, but much of the U.S. and Canada is so cold that you may think you’re in Antarctica.  During colder months, many of us turn to portable heaters to keep living rooms, bedrooms and even offices warm.  When used properly, these heaters are perfect at warming up a cold room without the need to turn up the furnace, which may be inefficient.  However, each year a number of unnecessary fires occur because the heater’s instructions were not properly followed.

Today’s New York Times has an informative article describing how manufacturers made portable heaters safer and more energy efficient wrapped in more contemporary and sleek designs.  For years portable heaters have had safety mechanisms that shut them off automatically if the internal temperature gets too high or if they tip over.  And, other safeguards exist too, such as motion sensors and models that are cool to the touch.

Click here to read the entire article.

No matter what type of portable heater you use, AHAM recommends the following 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.

To view more safety tips, visit AHAM’s Heater Safety website. Additionally, you may order copies of AHAM’s Portable Electric Heater Safety brochure by clicking here.

Peek Inside the Refrigerator of a Top Chef!

124081Ever wonder what was in the refrigerator of some of the country’s top chefs? The New York Times asked 11 top chefs in New York City, and their answers might surprise you.  Peek inside their fridges and you’ll see that many of them probably don’t look all that different than your own – yogurt, half-empty bottles of pickles, inexpensive beer and the occasional leftover.

They also provide tips on everything from utilizing space in a small refrigerator to their policy on leftovers and what foods they always keep around.  Some of them explain their idiosyncrasies when it comes to food and refrigerators.

Einat Admony, a chef at Balaboosta, explains why she has no leftovers: “We don’t want anything in there getting moldy and forgotten. My husband comes from a French family, but they also lived in Africa for seven years, so he’s very aware of waste. And I grew up with an Iranian mom in Israel who wouldn’t throw anything in the garbage — anything. When she would break an egg, she used to take her thumb and scrape out all of the egg white. I remember when I came to New York and I started to do that at a restaurant, the chef looked at me like, Wow, that’s interesting.??

Bryan Schuman, a chef at Betony in Midtown, explains why his refrigerator is taped shut. “That’s because I have a cat named Bud. There’s roast beef in the fridge, so I have to tape the door shut. We went out of town once, and I was dry-aging a duck in there. When we came back, the place was permeated with the smell of death. The fridge is open, the duck is on the ground, half ripped apart, and the cat is looking really nonchalant. ‘What? I got the duck, so what?’??

Read the full article here.  This might sound comical, but some of today’s refrigerator features, like built-in air purification systems to keep food fresher longer, and door alarms might help these two chefs.

Beat the Heat with a New AHAM Verifide Room Air Conditioner

It’s that time of the year when many consumers find themselves in the market for a new room air conditioner.  Upon walking into a store to purchase one, one of the first things a consumer may notice is the AHAM Verifide label on the product’s box.  Room air conditioners carrying the AHAM Verifide mark have been tested by an independent laboratory to verify that the unit will perform according to manufacturers’ claims for cooling capacity in British Thermal Units (BTUs), Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) and electrical energy in Amps.  Additionally, those models carrying the ENERGY STAR logo have been rated as being 10 percent more efficient than non-ENERGY STAR-qualified room air conditioners.

Ralph Hudnall, AHAM’s Director of Product Certification and Verification, explains that the independent laboratory’s testing conducted on room air conditions are designed to be as close to the consumer’s use as possible, and each model tested undergoes the exact same test to ensure uniformity.

Ralph explains, “At the lab, there are two adjoining rooms with one room configured as though it’s outdoors (hotter) and the inside room is the room that is to be cooled. Various sensors are set up to make sure the environmental conditions are correct and each unit is operated for 24 hours.?? Upon completion of the tests, the results are verified against the manufacturer’s claim and, if approved, the unit is given the AHAM Verifide seal.

More information about selecting an AHAM Verifide room air conditioner can be found here, and additional information about ENERGY STAR can be found here. This Old House’s website has some tips for choosing the right room air conditioner.