The Evolution of Air Cleaners and CADR

For decades, allergy sufferers, pet owners and others have relied on room air cleaners for better indoor air quality and to help reduce symptoms. Air cleaners have a well-earned reputation as a must-have appliance for households that want to cut down on particulate pollutants like tobacco smoke, dust and pollen.

Over the past two years, however, the expectations for an air cleaner’s performance have grown. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, air cleaners have gained prominence as an important tool for reducing airborne viruses and bacteria. An AHAM survey of consumers in late 2020 found that 42% reported using their air cleaners more than they did prior to the pandemic, and almost half said they were taking steps to improve the air quality in their homes.

Even beyond the pandemic, awareness has grown about how certain chemicals affect indoor air. AHAM’s survey found that, in addition to viruses, smoke, dust and pollen, consumers were concerned about the effects of mold, chemicals and PM 2.5 (particulate matter). People who live in areas affected by wildfires also rely on air cleaners to mitigate the effects of smoke on indoor air quality.

The Clean Air Delivery Rate, or CADR—the rating given to air cleaners that have been tested under AHAM’s Air Cleaner test methods.   The AHAM Verifide® Program is the only program testing air cleaners in an independent laboratory, and providing confidence to consumers that an air cleaner meets performance claims. However, until now, consumers who were interested in using an air cleaner to address pollutants beyond smoke, dust and pollen did not have a consistent way to compare models. That is about to change.

It’s a new era for clean indoor air, and AHAM, industry experts and manufacturers are responding with new air cleaner test methods that will give consumers additional ways to compare performance for more clean air concerns, including an air cleaner’s ability to remove viruses, bacteria, mold and chemicals.

Microbiological pollutants

On the advice of indoor air experts and the recommendation of the U.S. EPA and the CDC, millions have enlisted air cleaners to help reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission. While air cleaners don’t offer complete protection, the EPA did recommend them as part of a plan to protect against COVID-19. However, without a uniform industry standard for testing air cleaners’ ability to remove viruses, bacteria and mold, consumers had no objective way to determine which model would best serve their needs for removing microbiological pollutants.

In response to this new indoor air quality concern, a team of manufacturers, public health professionals and academic researchers, organized by AHAM, came together to develop AHAM AC-5-2022, the first air cleaner performance standard to measure removal of microbiological pollutants. Eventually, microbiological pollutants will be added to AHAM’s Air Cleaner Certification Program, and models tested under the standard will be assigned an m-CADR, which will inform consumers of that model’s capability to remove microbiological pollutants in a given room size.

Chemicals

Chemicals are present in every home. They’re often undetectable, but many can give off odors. Common sources include cooking, cleaning products, furniture, flooring and building materials. In addition, thousands of chemicals generated either indoors or outdoors can make their way into the home through the ventilation system or when people enter or exit. The vast majority are harmless, but some in high concentrations can cause health issues in people with sensitivities.

Air cleaners are made to remove many of these chemicals. But as with viruses, bacteria and mold, there was no uniform standard by which to test air cleaners’ removal of chemicals. Consumers who bought air cleaners to reduce chemical odors had to rely on manufacturers’ claims, and each manufacturer had different ways of testing. Consumers will soon have a way to easily compare models, as after three years of research and development, AHAM has published AHAM AC-4-2022, which will serve as an industry-wide standard to test air cleaners for chemical removal. Soon, air cleaners that complete chemical testing through AHAM’s Air Cleaner Certification Program will be assigned a numerical rating, c-CADR, for their ability to reduce chemicals in a given room size.

From pollutants you can see, like pollen and dust, to those invisible to the naked eye, air cleaners have evolved into the centerpiece appliance for anyone who wants cleaner indoor air where they live, work or learn.

Indoor Air Quality is an Essential Part of a Healthy Home

Pollen. Dust. Animal dander. Viruses and bacteria. The pollutants that affect indoor air quality are often too small to see, but the effects they can have on your health and wellness can quickly become too big to ignore. Spring and the pollen it brings is enough to make allergy sufferers think more about the air they’re breathing. But there are plenty of indoor air pollutants that should concern you even if you don’t have seasonal allergies. Those include wildfire smoke, PM 2.5 and microbiological pollutants like viruses, bacteria and mold.

Air cleaners have long been a trusted way for households to reduce pollutants like smoke, pollen and dust. Their potential role in filtering viruses from the air has been a hot topic of discussion since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said air cleaners could be part of a plan to reduce the risk of viral transmission indoors. And AHAM, after a year and a half of work by leading air cleaner manufacturers, public health professionals and academic researchers, has published the first official industry standard that allows manufacturers to test air cleaners’ ability to remove microbiological pollutants, including viruses, bacteria and mold.

Improving indoor air quality is part of keeping a healthier home environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates indoor air may contain two to five times the amount of pollutants as outdoor air. No room air cleaner will remove all pollutants, but they can help you reduce indoor contaminants and allergens and make your home environment more comfortable in a time when many are placing new emphasis on staying healthy.

The right choice for cleaner indoor air

Many air cleaners can be purchased online. A little research in advance can help you learn what you need so you can avoid inconvenient online returns and unnecessary trips to the store. Take a measurement of the room where the air cleaner will primarily be used, and look for models rated for that room size. Enter the square footage into the AHAM Verifide® Air Cleaner Directory for a list of models appropriate for that room size. Each listing will also carry the manufacturer’s name, along with the air cleaner’s CADR – Clean Air Delivery Rate – showing its ability to filter tobacco smoke, dust and pollen.

Why you should trust CADR: Air cleaner models are assigned their CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rate) based on the results of rigorous testing conducted by independent laboratories. During testing, the air cleaners are exposed to specific quantities of tobacco smoke, dust and pollen. After the air cleaner is run for a certain duration, the amount of each pollutant in the air is measured. The higher the CADR, the greater its ability to remove that specific pollutant.

Stay within models tested for the size of the room or rooms in which the air cleaner will be used. Choosing one rated for a larger room may use unnecessary energy and generate excess noise.

Staying healthy

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many health-related conversations focus on avoiding the virus. It is important to understand that air cleaners are not tested in the AHAM program for the ability to filter and remove viruses. However, in regards to indoor air quality, approximately 20 percent of people suffer from allergy symptoms, and air cleaners can contribute to your overall health by helping you manage those symptoms.

Some allergists regularly recommend that their patients use air cleaners to reduce their allergy symptoms, based on their ability to remove common household pollutants like dust, smoke and pollen and outside pollution particles, known as PM 2.5. Dust, smoke, and pollen can trigger symptoms like cough, wheezing and asthma. PM 2.5 is a significant enough issue for those with breathing difficulties that it is tracked in air quality reports and monitored by the EPA. PM 2.5 is a serious concern in areas affected by wildfire smoke. People living in those areas often rely on air cleaners to mitigate the effects of smoke on indoor air during wildfire season.

Other tips for healthy indoor air

Once you have an air cleaner, run it continuously to maximize its effectiveness. If it is in the bedroom, place it at the height of the bed. Position the air cleaner near the center of the room so air circulation isn’t blocked by a wall.

Other appliances can also help improve indoor air quality. Vacuum carpets and rugs regularly to remove pollutants that may have settled there. Keep your windows closed, wash your hands and turn your ventilation hood on when you cook.

Using an Air Cleaner to Manage Wildfire Smoke

During wildfire season, many people in areas affected by smoke use air cleaners (sometimes called air purifiers) to improve the air quality in their homes.

How an air cleaner is maintained and operated can affect its performance. If you are using an air cleaner to manage wildfire smoke, take these steps to ensure that your air cleaner continues to operate at a high level:

Change the filter regularly: Your air cleaner’s use and care manual will recommend how often to change your air cleaner’s filter. These recommendations are based on the manufacturer’s testing, but can vary depending on how often you use the filter and the level of pollutants in the air. An air cleaner that is used frequently in an area affected by wildfire smoke may require more frequent filter changes. If the filter is changing color or if the level of air coming out of the air cleaner drops, it could mean the filter should be changed. Keep extra filters on hand, especially during wildfire season.

Some air cleaners do not require filters, relying instead on an electrostatic precipitator (ESP), which charges particles and attracts them to a plate. Clean the plates regularly. Check your use and care manual for specific cleaning instructions.

Clean the outside: Some manufacturers recommend using a vacuum to remove dust from the outside of the air cleaner. Vacuum or gently clean the dust from the outside of the air cleaner when you notice a buildup. An air cleaner that is dirty on the outside is likely dirty on the inside, so make this part of the process when you are replacing or cleaning the filter.

Vacuum regularly: Air cleaners are only part of the equation if you are seeking cleaner indoor air. Do a thorough cleaning of the area and use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to remove particles that have settled so they are not kicked back into the air you breathe.

Change your furnace filter: If you change your furnace filter regularly, you might not have to change the filter in your air cleaner as often. However, a furnace filter is not a substitute for an air cleaner because it is designed to trap large particles. In addition, it is common for particles to miss the furnace filter and end up inside the home.

Give your air cleaner room to breathe: It might be more convenient to place an air cleaner against a wall and in a corner, but that will restrict airflow and reduce performance. Move the air cleaner toward the center of the room and operate it on high in an area free of obstructions. The more air that goes through the air cleaner, the more pollutants it will remove.

An air cleaner with a HEPA filter and activated carbon filter can also  help reduce the smell of smoke in your home. Run your air cleaner until the smell subsides and change the filter as recommended. This post from University of Colorado Boulder researchers offers more tips on how to reduce smoke odors.

Are you shopping for an air cleaner? Here is how to make the right choice

If you are shopping for an air cleaner, you will likely come across models that use different types of technologies to clear the air. More important than the method the air cleaner uses is whether the air cleaner is appropriate for the size of the room in which it will be used. Look for the AHAM Verifide® Mark and the air cleaner’s Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) on the air cleaner packaging. The mark means the air cleaner has been independently tested for its ability to remove tobacco smoke, pollen and dust and meets CARB ozone limits.  The suggested room size for the air cleaner will be noted prominently on the label.  Under normal circumstances, you could choose an air cleaner with a smoke CADR two-thirds the size of the room in which you will use the air cleaner. However, those in areas heavily affected by wildfire smoke should select an air cleaner with a smoke CADR that matches the room size. For example, an air cleaner with a smoke CADR of 200 would be appropriate for a 200 square-foot room in an area affected by smoke.

Tell us your top concerns with your indoor air quality.  We’d like to hear from you.

Heart-Shaped Breakfast on Valentine’s Day

If you’re a romantic type who lives for chocolates, roses, candy hearts and everything that goes along with Valentine’s Day, we’ve got you covered! If the way to your Valentine’s heart is through their stomach, your appliances can help you create the perfect romantic breakfast.

Whether you opt for a sit-down meal or breakfast and bed, hearts are a must. It’s easy to make hearts the center of the meal, no matter what is on the menu. We’ve collected recipes for heart-shaped breakfast favorites from around the web (including some low carb and keto options if your Valentine is on a health kick) so you can make a breakfast that sets hearts aflutter.

French toast: With a lengthy history dating to Rome in the fifth century B.C., this comforting breakfast staple has stood the test of time. Since Valentine’s Day is a special occasion, we’re going to spice it up with this recipe from Veggie Desserts for cinnamon french toast hearts. You’ll need your range, your choice of bread, milk, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon and some butter for cooking. Consider drizzling the finished with chocolate sauce.

A plate with two heart-shaped cinnamon french toast with chocolate sauce and berries
From veggiedesserts.com

Bacon and eggs: Is bacon your sweetheart’s second love? Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to indulge. All you need to make this heart-shaped bacon-and-egg combo from Clean Food Crush is four slices of thin-sliced bacon, two large eggs, olive or avocado oil, and salt and pepper. You’ll cook the bacon in your oven instead of the pan.

From cleanfoodcrush.com

Omelets: Put two large eggs, shredded cheddar, sliced mushrooms, diced onion and one cup of love into this heart-shaped omelet from Feels Like Home. Pour the mix into a large metal heart-shaped cookie cutter or pancake mold to give it its Valentine’s Day flair.

Egg being poured into a heart cookie cutter

Waffles: Are waffles the ultimate breakfast comfort food? You can put your waffle iron to work on any number of variations when the craving strikes. We suggest Norwegian waffles for Valentine’s Day if you have a waffle maker designed for the task. Try this recipe from The Stay-at-Home Chef, which is also a winner for Galentine’s Day.

Heart shaped Norwegian waffles on a plate with blueberries, strawberries, crème fraîche, raspberry jam
From The-Stay-at-Home-Chef

Pancakes: You could use a mold or cookie-cutter to make heart-shaped pancakes, but you can also draw the design yourself. This technique from One Creative Mommy uses an empty squeeze bottle to draw the heart outline, and another to fill in the center. Once it solidifies, fill in the center with batter from the other bottle. Add fruit, chocolate or your favorite toppings.

And that’s just breakfast! There are many options for heart-shaped lunch, dinner or dessert if you’d rather sleep in.

Your Guide to Appliance Repair During COVID-19

Over the course of the nearly two-year COVID-19 pandemic, people have relied on their appliances more than ever. And that is true for all appliances, from the refrigerator to the clothes washer to the stand mixer.

It is rarely convenient when an appliance requires service. But COVID-19 has added another layer to the usual routine of appliance repair. In addition to finding a servicer and arranging a convenient time for repair, you also have to consider what steps the appliance repair provider is taking to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure. That’s especially true as positivity rates around the U.S. reach all-time highs.

“People who normally cook once or twice a year are now using their ovens every day,” says A.J. James, owner of Pegasus Appliance Repair in Dallas, winner of the 2019 Most Professional Servicer Award from the Appliance Service Training Institute. “People are using every appliance more. They’re running dishwashers at the highest sanitization setting. Their fridges are stocked to the gills with all the stuff they’ve been buying. We have been getting more calls for chest freezers.”

Some questions you should ask the appliance repair provider in in advance to find out about their COVID safety measures are:

  • Will the technician be wearing gloves, disposable booties and a mask?
  • How will payment be handled?
  • What are the company’s rules on handwashing and sanitization of equipment?
  • Is the technician willing to maintain a certain distance from the customer during the visit?
  • Is the technician an authorized service provider for your appliance brand? Authorized technicians are trained by the appliance manufacturer and have access to the parts, technical information, and, in some cases, software specific to your appliance type.

James has implemented strict protocols, ranging from mandatory handwashing to keeping 10 feet — further than the recommended six — between customers and technicians for the duration of the visit. Handshakes are out.

“It all goes back to the guidelines set forth by the CDC,” James says. “Social distancing is a key factor. We’re asking customers to stay in another room. Any coughing, an accidental sneeze, is kept in that other room.” So far, customers have been understanding. “It’s the new norm, and people get it. We aren’t going to put anyone in a situation where they put themselves or others at risk. I need to make sure we’re not taking something from house to house. We have been able to keep a happy medium while getting appliances fixed and keeping any sickness at bay with our team.”

Customers can prepare for the visit by providing a readily accessible place for handwashing. “It should be done immediately when the technician gets in the house,” James says. “We ask that they provide the technician a place to wash their hands with hot soapy water and disposable towels. At minimum, it is done before and after the repair. Some will wash their hands several times. Customers have been very good at making sure they have that available for us.” Technicians wear masks, gloves and booties and carry disinfectant, but rely on handwashing as their primary defense.

A bad flu season helped prepare technicians to take precautions against spreading coronavirus, says Alex Hallmark, an instructor at the Ohio-based Fred’s Appliance Academy. Fred’s Appliance provides repair and maintenance in the area and training for appliance technicians in the U.S. and globally. Their in-person training sessions have been put on hold.

“We were already doing handwashing, because that’s the only way to stop flu,” Hallmark says. “Our techs were trained on that from the get-go.” They are relying on customers to establish their comfort level. “If the customer insists, do it three times. There’s nothing wrong with peace of mind. If a customer is uncomfortable in any way, the best advice we have is not to get service until the stay-at-home orders are lifted.”

Customers should set the ground rules before the technician arrives.

“Some will say ‘Stay six feet away from me, let me know when you’re ready for payment,” Hallmark says. “We’ll make a note. Make sure you’re comfortable. We’re not all addressing this the same way.” If anyone in the home is experiencing symptoms, reschedule the appointment.

Customers and technicians should feel comfortable breaking off a visit if they become uneasy with the precautions being taken. “Now is not the time to be nice,” James says. “If the customer won’t stay 10 feet away, grab your tools and parts, exit the house. We’ll call the customer.”

When demand for service is high, essential repair jobs like a refrigerator not cooling may be prioritized over something that doesn’t directly affect the appliance’s function (like a dent or broken refrigerator handle). Customers should be clear about why the repair needs to be made. For example, a wine refrigerator might not normally be considered a priority, but that could change if it is being used to store medications.

Refrigerator Organization: Storing and Reheating Leftovers Safely

Once the holiday table is cleared, many home cooks across the U.S. might be left wondering what they’re supposed to do with all of the leftovers. From a simple turkey sandwich  to the more exotic leftover turkey curry or chipotle turkey tostadas, your options for creative post-holiday cooking are limitless. But regardless of how you prepare them, storing and reheating leftovers safely is a must.

Refrigerator organization is a sometimes overlooked aspect of efficient living and food safety. Many people are used to putting items where they best fit. But depending on what you have in your refrigerator, that approach could be putting you and your family at risk for foodborne illness.

Cross-contamination is the primary safety risk from improperly placing foods in the refrigerator, says Lisa Yakas, senior product manager in NSF International’s home products certification program. Harmful bacteria like e-coli and salmonella can come from meats, and raw vegetables can pass on dirt and soil that may harbor harmful organisms from raw vegetables. Bacteria can pass from meat to other foods even if the two aren’t touching if meat juice leaks or drips.

Sudden health issues and unnecessary trips to the doctor—or anywhere—are the last thing any of us need right now. So let’s open the door, peer inside the fridge and see how you can improve your food storage and reduce your risk.

Before (and after) you reorganize any of your foods, however, wash your hands.

If you’re putting any of the foods on the countertop while reorganizing, clean the area before and after.

The basic rules of refrigerator organization are simple.

  • Store meats on the bottom shelves, so any drips won’t fall onto other foods.
  • Store prepared and packaged foods in areas where they won’t touch raw meats, fruits or vegetables.
  • Raw vegetables belong in the crisper, where they won’t come into contact with other foods.

Yakas recommends cleaning out the areas in the refrigerator where meats and raw vegetables are stored at least once a month. Soap and warm water will usually do the job, but check the refrigerators’ use and care manual for specific instructions.

Keep your refrigerator between 37 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Leftover Safety

With food storage a priority in many households under stay-at-home orders, it’s a good time to review the safe storing and reheating of leftovers as well. “As people are kept in their homes, they’re eating at home more,” Yakas says. “As a general rule, leftovers should be eaten or discarded within three to four days. “Freeze it right away if you aren’t going to eat it,” Yakas says.

Foods that have been cooked need to be refrigerated within two hours. Yakas points out that the time frame to refrigerate leftovers could be narrower if the temperature outside is hotter. If you have a large container of leftovers to store, like a big pot of soup or sauce, divide it in to smaller portions for easier storage and faster cooling.

When reheating meats, use a meat thermometer just like you would when cooking it for the first time. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees to kill any bacteria that may have formed prior to or during storage. Meat should be measured at a thick spot to ensure it has been heated all the way through. If the meat has a bone, take the temperature close to the bone, but not touching the bone. The temperature of bone and fat can be different than that of the meat.

Other food storage tips: Label and date your leftovers and store the oldest near the front of the refrigerator so you’ll know what should be eaten first. Get the most out of what you have on hand so you don’t have to make unnecessary trips to the grocery store.

Tell us how you are managing during this time, and what tips you’ve found most helpful.

Your Recipe for Safer Holiday Cooking

With the holidays in full swing, kitchen appliances, from major appliances like the oven and range to portables like the stand mixer and immersion blender, are being put to good use across the U.S. to turn out holiday favorites from turkey to cookies to pies. Appliances are extremely safe when used properly and are tested for safety long before they make it to your kitchen. However, the holidays are busy times in the kitchen, and it is easy to get distracted and lose sight of kitchen safety, especially if you are hosting a large group.

Unattended cooking is still the leading cause of home fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In fact, NFPA reports that Thanksgiving is the peak day for cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

While you’re putting together your menu and planning for the big meal, it’s a good idea to take a step back and review basic cooking and kitchen safety practices. Follow these steps to keep your kitchen safe and your holiday guests happy and well fed:

Always monitor what is cooking: If you have to walk away for a minute, ask a family member or guest to keep an eye on the range.

Wear close-fitting clothing or short sleeves to reduce the risk that clothing will catch fire.

Clean your oven and range before cooking to prevent food and grease buildup.

Turn pan handles inward to keep them out of the reach of children and prevent dangerous spills.

Watch out for dangling cords: Keep portable appliances unplugged when they aren’t being used, but make sure the cord is in a safe place and can’t be pulled or snagged.

Don’t use appliances near the sink to reduce the risk of electric shock.

Use the right microwave cooking times to avoid overcooking food and potentially starting a fire.

What to do if a cooking fire happens

Fires can happen even in the safest kitchens, and it’s important to know how to respond in the event a fire does break out.

Call the fire department, directly if possible. Often, a direct call (rather than calling 911) will allow the fire department to respond more quickly. Keep the number of the local department on hand.

Smother any grease fires by sliding a pan over the flames. Turn off the heat and leave the pan in place until it cools. Don’t try to carry it outside.

Keep a box of baking soda nearby to put out any other fires. Never use water or flour to put out cooking fires.

Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen, within easy reach. Make sure it is a type that will work on cooking fires.

Keep oven and microwave doors closed if a fire breaks out to smother the flame.

Stay organized, stay safe and enjoy the process of putting together the biggest meal of the year. And take advantage of appliances like your freezer to get a head start.

Holiday Cooking: What to Freeze and What to Prepare Fresh

Are you getting ready to host a big holiday dinner? Many people who kept things small in 2020 are gearing up to invite family and friends into their homes to celebrate the holidays. Your home might look a little bit different from a year ago, especially if you are among the many who added a new major appliance in 2020.

Freezers were a popular item in 2020 as people sought to expand their food storage capacity. Factory shipments of chest freezers leapt 171% leap 2019, and factory shipments of all types of freezers saw a 95% increase over 2019. Total freezer factory shipments are still up 2% this year.

Beyond their obvious advantage for food storage, freezers are a valuable tool to help you stay ahead of the clock as you prepare for the big feast. Preparing certain dishes and freezing them in advance can be great for keeping your kitchen less busy and your stress level low as Thanksgiving draws closer. And your guests will never know the difference.

What to freeze is up to you, but you can freeze just about any foods you tend to find at a traditional holiday meal. We spoke with an expert, Lan Lam, senior editor of Cook’s Illustrated and a regular on America’s Test Kitchen to get her advice on what holiday favorites are best to freeze, and which are better to prepare fresh.

Turkey: We’ll start with the main course. Most people won’t be reheating frozen cooked turkey, but thawing a turkey is practically a holiday tradition in itself. Defrost it in the refrigerator, especially for larger roasts, Lam says. Give it enough time to thaw. “If they’re partially frozen, you’re going to run into food safety issues,” she says.

Mashed potatoes: Save time by preparing this beloved comfort food in advance. “Mashed potatoes are great for freezing,” Lam says. They might look a bit soupy during the reheating process, but don’t worry. “When you first defrost them, they’ll look like a soupy mess,” Lam says. Frequent stirring as you warm them up should take care of the problem.

If you opt for scalloped potatoes, consider making them the day of instead of freezing, as freezing can dry out the dish.

Sweet potatoes: The same rules apply. “If they are mashed or pureed, go for it,” Lam says. “If you’re scalloping them or putting them in a casserole, it’s not a great candidate for freezing.”

Stuffing: Whether stuffing should be frozen depends on the recipe and consistency. “If you have a stuffing that doesn’t contain a ton of cubed vegetables, you could fix that in advance” and freeze it,” Lam says. “If there are huge chunks of vegetables, you might end up with something that’s a little soggy.”

Dinner rolls: These comforting carbs store well in the freezer. Lam recommends warming them in a 300-degree oven and wrapping them in foil to maintain moisture and avoid charring. (Accept right now that you probably are going to eat one too many.)

Gravy: This one gets an enthusiastic “yes” on freezing. “Make it two or three weeks in advance if you can. It holds really well and saves you so much time,” Lam says. Need a recipe? Try Lam’s “Game-Changing Gravy.”

Fruit pies: “If you are going to make pies, you can prepare the dough, even up to six weeks in advance,” Lam says. “Make sure it is tightly wrapped so it doesn’t dry out in the freezer. Pull it out two days before you make your pie and put it at fridge temp.” Fruit pies also freeze well. “You can make your entire pie, start to finish, and pop it into the freezer raw,” Lam says, though she advises against egg washing a pie that will be frozen. “You can bake them frozen. Just follow the recipe.” Lam suggests adding 10-15 minutes cooking time and keeping a close eye on the pie as it bakes. “Cover the rim or entire crust with aluminum foil if it happens to be browning quickly.”

Pumpkin pie: Keep these out of the freezer. “I wouldn’t try to make that frozen,” Lam says. “When you freeze a custard pie, pureed in that way, the ice crystals kind of pull water out. When you defrost, the water isn’t perfectly incorporated. You end up with a curdled pie instead of something creamy and luscious.”

Lam stresses that there are recipes for these favorites that are designed to make the food easy to freeze. So, there are ways to freeze pumpkin pie and other dishes that she might choose not to freeze.

Ready for leftovers? They should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours, and generally, eaten or discarded within four days – about the amount of time it will take for many of us to eat what’s left over and swear off eating for the next few weeks.

Keep Your Freezer Organize

Preparing a holiday meal can be hectic, especially if you are serving a large crowd. Staying as organized as possible, so you can find what you need at the right time, will make your life easier. Label the dishes as you freeze them, and create “zones” in your freezer for certain kinds of foods (vegetables, desserts, etc.) Maximize space by freezing foods as flat as possible.

Freeze and Refrigerate the Thanksgiving Leftovers Safely

Leftovers are a treasured holiday tradition in many households. Whether you will be freezing or refrigerating leftovers, allow them to cool first. Freezers should be kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and refrigerators at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Frequently Asked Questions About Central Vacuums

If you’re reading this, you are probably considering adding a central vacuum to your home. While central vacuums aren’t as well known as the more common upright, canister, stick or robotic vacuums, they offer serious convenience, cleaning power and a host of features. We have compiled some of the most common questions about central vacuums to help you learn and decide whether a central vacuum is your best option for your floor care.

Can a central vacuum be installed in any home?

Central vacuums can be installed in most homes, so long as there is access to the walls and crawlspaces. Your installer will work with you to find the best solution for your home.

How does a central vacuum differ from a portable vacuum?

Central vacuums are built into the home, with the canister typically placed in a garage or basement. PVC pipe is run through the walls and inlets are strategically placed to allow access to most or all of the home. All that is carried in the home is a 30’-35’ hose and attachments.

How long do central vacuum systems last?

While different factors affect how long a system lasts, many central vacuums can last 20-30 years, or even longer, depending on how often they are used.

Will I need to have an inlet in every room?

Inlets will be placed to allow access to most or all of the home. One inlet can cover as much as 700-1000 square feet, and they do not need to be placed in every room. Different lengths of hoses are available to adjust the reach of your central vacuum as necessary. Some systems include retractable hoses that can be pulled directly from the wall to the length needed. Consider placing them in or near high-traffic areas in the home or places that are vacuumed more than others, like dining rooms, kitchens or living rooms.

How much dirt does a central vacuum canister hold?

Different sizes of canisters are available. Most models will hold between seven and 10 gallons of debris.

How strong are central vacuums?

Central vacuums have larger motors than portable vacuums. This allows them to provide about three to five times the suction of a portable vacuum.  

Will a central vacuum work on different surfaces?

Yes. Central vacuums come with a number of attachments like dusting brushes, crevice tools and hardwood floor brushes so you can adapt your central vac to any cleaning job, floor to ceiling. Some central vacuums can even be converted to wet-dry systems.

How long does it take to install a central vacuum?

This depends on the complexity of the job, but most systems can be installed in one day.

Do central vacuums use bags, like my portable vacuum?

It depends on the model. Some use bags, which will need to be changed according to the manufacturer’s directions. Other models are bagless but may require exterior venting.

Will I need to bring out the hose every time there is a small mess?

Not necessarily. One popular feature of central vacuums is a kick plate, a sort of automatic dustpan. Sweep dirt directly in, and it will be sucked into the remote central vacuum canister. Another option is a retractable hose which can be pulled out and used at any hose length. Additionally, many homeowners still keep a portable vacuum on hand for quick cleanup jobs.

What features are available for central vacuums?

Central vacuums offer many features and attachments. Some more popular options include retractable hoses, automatic dustpans, power brushes, pet hair tools, extra wands, and hardwood floor brushes.

How to Choose the Best Air Cleaner for Your Home

How clean is the indoor air you breathe, and how can you make it cleaner?  Between the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, seasonal wildfires and spring allergy season, those are questions many are asking. Several home appliances can help reduce indoor pollutants, but an air cleaner is your go-to product if you are focused on improving the quality of your home’s indoor air.

Air cleaners have many benefits. Seasonal allergy sufferers have long turned to air cleaners to reduce allergens. Air cleaners can make your living space cleaner and more comfortable, and some models (those with carbon filters) can reduce odors. People who live in areas affected by wildfire smoke rely on air cleaners to remove the resulting particulate matter and pollutants from their indoor air.

A lot of the attention given to indoor air quality recently stems from the the effort to reduce exposure to COVID-19. Air cleaners are not currently tested for their ability to remove viruses and bacteria, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Institutes of Health have recommended air cleaners as a way to reduce exposure. In addition, AHAM recently finalized a performance test standard for air cleaners that tests the effectiveness of portable room air cleaners’ ability to remove  viruses, bacteria and mold.

How air cleaners work

How do air cleaners remove pollutants from your home’s air? It depends on the model. Some air cleaners use a combination of filters (HEPA and ULPA) and fans, electrostatic filters that clear the air by using static to attract particles, electrostatic precipitators that attract particles to a plate or grid, or ionization combined with other technologies. Many units also have pre-filters that trap larger particles.

On a given model, you might also find multiple features, including:

  • Multiple power settings
  • Oscillation, including some with multiple levels of oscillation
  • Sensors: Some air cleaners have the ability to sense the air quality and adjust the fan speed accordingly
  • WiFi capability

Some manufacturers are also incorporating robotics into air cleaners. Early models use sensors to monitor the air quality in different rooms so the robot can go where the air needs it most.

Finding the right air cleaner

With all of the models and features available, how do you choose the right air cleaner for your home? The most important detail is the size of the room in which the air cleaner will primarily be used. Look for the AHAM Verifide® label, which will show the air cleaner’s Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) and suggested room size.

CADR is a measurement of how fast an air cleaner filters three commonly sized particulates: dust, pollen and tobacco. The higher the number on the label, the faster the air cleaner filters the air. However, don’t just choose the air cleaner with the highest numbers. You might end up with one that is too large for the room, leading to unnecessary energy use and noise. A too-small model may not get the job done. Follow the 2/3 rule, and choose an air cleaner with a tobacco smoke rating that is two-thirds the size of the room’s area. That means a room that is 200 square feet, would require an air cleaner with a CADR for tobacco smoke of at least 132.

CADR also gives you a way to choose an air cleaner based on your air cleaning needs. If you live in an area with a high pollen count, consider air cleaners with higher ratings for filtering pollen. If dust is an issue, pay closer attention to the unit’s rating for dust.

You will find the AHAM Verifide® label with the CADR ratings on the product packaging. However, you do not have to spend hours browsing units on shelves. You can compare AHAM-certified air cleaners through AHAM’s searchable directory. Search models by certified CADR ratings, suggested room size, manufacturer and brand name.

CADR is a recognized performance testing program in which air cleaners are randomly selected and tested at an independent laboratory using the American National Standard, known as ANSI/AHAM-AC-1.

After purchasing

Now that you have an air cleaner that is right for your home, it is time to maximize its air cleaning potential. 

Position it properly:  Air cleaners work best when they’re positioned to allow them to filter as much air as possible. Certain air cleaners, depending on the design, aren’t as effective if placed in the corner of a room. Place the air cleaner closer to the center of the room, away from anything that may block or obstruct the air flow.

Clean it regularly: This applies to both units with filters and those that use electrostatic precipitators. Change the filter according the recommendations in the appliance’s use and care manual. If you use the air cleaner frequently or in areas with higher levels of pollutants (like where the pets hang out), you may need to change it more often. Precipitators also need to be cleaned regularly. A drop in performance may signal it’s time to change the filter or clean the precipitator.

Use your other appliances: Vacuums with HEPA filters, central vacuums, clothes washers and dryers, air conditioners and dehumidifiers all can help keep the allergens in check in your home.