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Give the air in your home a spring cleaning

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With memories of massive snowfalls still fresh in the minds of many, it’s easy to forget that spring allergy season is just about here. When the first sniffles of spring strike, allergy sufferers may be tempted to hole up and avoid the outdoors. But the air inside may be just as bad or even worse, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA estimates that indoor air may contain double to five times as many pollutants as the air outside.

There are four main sources of indoor air pollution: pollen tracked in or blown in from outside; animal dander; mold and mildew; and tobacco smoke. All can make your allergies worse. But there are some steps you can take to fight back, and your appliances can help you get the upper hand on allergens:

Invest in a room air cleaner: If you decide to buy a room air cleaner, look on the packaging for the AHAM Verifide Label, which will list Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) numbers for tobacco smoke, dust and pollen. The higher the numbers, the faster the air cleaner will clean the air. Buy a room air cleaner appropriate for the size of the room in which it will be used.

Suck it up: Your vacuum is one of your best tools in the quest to rid your home of allergens. Vacuum your carpet and rugs at least once a week, and twice a week in high-traffic areas. Vacuum your upholstered furniture, mattresses and drapes regularly. Consider doing a deep clean with solutions made to loosen and extract allergens.

Wash it away: Wash your bedding in hot water—at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit—to remove allergens from sheets and blankets and the kids’ stuffed animals.

Learn more about how AHAM’s Clean Air Delivery Rate program for room air cleaners, and how you can find AHAM Verifide Products.

Here’s what’s hot in the world of major appliances

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Source: Houzz

While connectivity seems poised to become a widespread feature in home appliances, consumers are still looking for convenience and style first when it comes to their kitchens. And top-load washers are making a major comeback. Here’s a look at the trends we’re seeing in major appliance shipments:

  • Induction cooking goes mainstream: Since 2010, the percentage of surface units shipped that include at least one induction unit has doubled. Five years ago, only 8% of electric surface cooking units shipped included at least one induction element. By last year, the number had grown to 16% of units shipped. This is one example of a commercial kitchen trend that has made its way into homes as well.
  • More doors, please: Consumers are looking for more refrigerator and freezer space. AHAM has seen a steady increase in bottom-mount refrigerators with four or more doors since 2011, the year we began tracking those shipments. Last year, 17% of refrigerators shipped in the third quarter had four or more doors, up from 11% four years earlier. Bottom-mount refrigerators with two doors made up just 13% of shipments in 2015, down from 35% in 2008.
  • Back on top: After several years of lower shipment numbers, top-load washers are seeing a resurgence in popularity. They accounted for 76% of units shipped last year, up from 62% in 2009, according to AHAM data. But it’s different this time around, as a lot of the growth is due to a growing preference for top-load washers without agitators. They made up about 48% of top-loading units shipped in 2015, compared to 27% in 2011. This is a prime example of innovation, as this product has grown more efficient, and offers the consumer multiple configurations and options.
  • It’s a “steel”: We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of dishwashers and side-by-side refrigerators with a stainless steel finish. Side-by-side refrigerators with a stainless steel finish made up 60% of units shipped at the end of the third quarter in 2015, up from 29% in 2006. More than half of dishwashers—56%—shipped last year had a stainless steel finish, a trend that has been on a steady upward climb since 2007.

What styles and features are you looking for in your next major appliances? Leave a comment below.

Food Waste Disposers – The Unsung Hero of Appliances

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Many home appliances are under-appreciated by their owners. Food waste disposers are near the top of the “out of sight, out of mind?? list of appliances. But their usefulness goes beyond convenience, and they’re helping the environment every day.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the work these appliances do for the environment.

Food waste disposers may be the first line of defense we have against the more than 30 million tons of food waste that ends up in landfills each year. That food waste, which makes up about 18 percent of the waste in US landfills, produces greenhouse gasses that can harm the environment. The USDA estimates that about 133 billion pounds of food is wasted in the US each year, or just over 30 percent of the total food supply. 250 million tons of trash were generated. 31.79 million tons (12.7%) of this was food waste. Only 2.5% of THAT (0.3% of total waste) was then recovered and turned into helpful environmental components. The amount of waste in 2008 had more than doubled from the 1960 figure of 12.2 million tons per year, and it has increased more since 2008.

The good news is that a food waste disposer can make sure those scraps don’t go to waste in a landfill. Here’s how:

  1. When food is scrapped, it goes to a wastewater treatment facility. This means it is not going to a landfill, and it is not contributing to greenhouse gas emissions that landfills produce.
  2. The food waste is fed to microscopic organisms that are used to treat wastewater.
  3. While these microscopic organisms digest the food waste, they produce methane gas, which the treatment facility can capture and use as a renewable source of energy to power their facility.
  4. Any residuals after the treatment process is complete will be turned into fertilizer or conditioner for soil used in agriculture.

A process has been created that uses every bit of the waste and turns it into a benefit, making the savings exponential compared to sending the waste to a landfill.

Do your part and use your food waste disposer! But follow these quick dos and don’ts:

Do…

  • Use cold water when using a disposer. Using hot water wastes energy.
  • Run water down the drain for several seconds after grinding is complete to flush waste and keep debris from settling in the plumbing system.
  • Save and grind used lemons and other citrus fruit peels to freshen up and disinfect your disposer, naturally.

Don’t…

  • Pour oils or grease down the drain! They can clog and damage the sewer system. Instead, collect fats in a container. Then, throw the container in the trash.
  • Try to grind large amounts of food waste at one time.

This information is curated by InSinkErator, and supported by AHAM and its members. Have your own recommendations for additional savings? Please comment below!

Stay Safe and Warm This Winter with These Portable Heater Safety Tips

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Temperatures are dropping around the U.S., which means many Americans will rely on warmth from portable electric heaters. These portable heat sources are a great way to keep warm through colder months, as long as they are properly used.

According to data released in November 2013 by the National Fire Protection Association, from 2007-2011 there were more than 3,300 fires as a result of portable space heaters. “Most fires are preventable by following the simple and important safety tips offered by AHAM, such giving portable heaters at least three feet of space on all sides,?? offered Lt. Anthony Mancuso, Director of the FDNY’s Fire Safety Education Unit.  Portable electric heaters should be used according to the manufacturers’ instructions so that injuries can be avoided.

AHAM urges consumers to follow these simple and important safety tips when using portable electric heaters:

  1. Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels before using your portable electric heater.
  2. Do not leave an operating heater unattended and always unplug heater when not in use.
  3. 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.
  4. String out cords on top of area rugs or carpeting. Placing any¬thing, including furniture, on top of the cord may damage it.

More tips, and a safety podcast with Lt. Mancuso, are available on heatersafety.org.  Also, you may order AHAM’s free “Stay Safe! Top Tips for using your Electric Heater Safely!?? brochure in English and Spanish by sending a request to info@aham.org.  Find more safety tips from the New York City Fire Department at www.fdnysmart.org.

Stay warm, be smart and stay safe while enjoying your portable electric heater!

Keep Your Clothes Dryer Operating Safety and Efficiently with These Tips

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Proper installation and maintenance of clothes dryers are an important part of ensuring that the appliance performs as designed.

The dryer venting materials are an important factor in dryer performance and safety. AHAM recommends the use of rigid sheet metal or corrugated semi-rigid sheet metal venting material. Never use coiled-wire foil or plastic venting material.

Are your clothes taking longer to dry than they used to? Dryers need maintenance like any other appliance. In order to keep sufficient airflow around the heating source, lint must be removed from the dryer and vent. Lint and dust can build-up over time and reduce airflow, resulting in decreased performance, by not allowing air to circulate freely through the dryer. Don’t forget to clean the back of the dryer, where lint can be trapped. Clean the lint filter before and after each load. The interior of the appliance and venting system should be cleaned periodically by qualified service personnel. Keep the area around the dryer clean and free of clutter.

Dryer Do’s

  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions on installing the dryer and vent system.
  • Replace coiled-wire foil or plastic venting with rigid sheet metal or corrugated semi-rigid sheet metal venting.
  • Clean the lint filter before and after each cycle.
  • Inspect venting system behind dryer to ensure it is not damaged or crushed.

Dryer Don’ts – Do NOT dry the following items in the dryer:

  • Anything containing foam, rubber or plastic (i.e. bathroom rugs, non-slip mats).
  • Any item which the dryer manufacturer’s instructions specifically state “dry away from heat.”
  • Glass fiber materials (unless manufacturer’s instructions permit).
  • Materials on which there was anything flammable (e.g., alcohol, cooking oils, gasoline, spot removers, dry-cleaning solvents, etc.). These should be dried outdoors or in a well- ventilated room, away from heat even if they have gone through the wash cycle. Flammable substances give off vapors that could ignite or explode.
  • Fabric soiled with cooking oils.

A complimentary copy of AHAM’s Clothes Dryer Safety brochure can be obtained by sending a request to info@aham.org. Large quantities of the brochure, as well as those on preventing range tipping, portable heater safety and cooking safety, can be ordered through AHAM’s online store for a nominal shipping fee.

New Survey Data Shows Growing Interest in Air Cleaners

A recent article in HomeWorld Business states that nearly 33% of consumers in their Forecast 2015 survey state that they were most likely to purchase an air cleaner in the coming months. They note that many of today’s air cleaners come equipped with a variety of high-tech features, such as multi-stage filtration technologies, and wifi and “smart?? enabled features that allow users to control their air cleaner from their smart phone. This valuable feature allows consumers to receive feedback on the air cleaner’s efficiency and receive data on the air quality in their home.

To find an AHAM Verifide® air cleaner, search the online directory. Prior to beginning your search, we recommend reading about the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) as these ratings, for smoke, tobacco and pollen, will appear on all room air cleaners that are AHAM Verifide.

Kitchen Redesign Regrets

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Many of us would love to have the kitchen of our dreams, equipped with beautiful appliances, cabinets and countertops, and one that will surely impress family and friends at a get-together. For some, those dreams became nightmares when their kitchen redesigns didn’t go as planned. Readers of This Old House magazine share some of their experiences of when kitchen remodeling went awry.  Some kitchen can remodels can be stressful – and expensive – experiences. This Old House suggests you follow these tips when planning to remodel to help make the process go smoother:

4 Steps to Fewer Regrets

1. Invest in the best quality materials and workmanship you can afford. A shoddy job will have to be redone sooner, creating more waste and costing you more in the end.

2. Know your needs and plan ahead. Choose materials that will stand up to kids, clean freaks, dogs—whatever’s “real” in your world.

3. Listen to the experts. Kitchen designers, architects, and fellow remodelers all know things you need to learn—the sooner, the better.

4. Go with your gut. If you’re second-guessing yourself now, chances are you’ll be smacking yourself six months down the road.

Do you have any advice from your kitchen remodeling experience?

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.