Mother Earth Living

Your Natural Home

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4/18/2016


Photo by Fotolia

Improving your home’s sustainability can go a long way toward saving energy, lowering monthly bills, and helping the environment at the same time. There are many ways you can help increase your home’s green profile, and most of them won’t break the bank.

Thermostat Installation

Installing a new thermostat is a great way to reduce your energy usage and save money. Programmable thermostats allow you to control the temperature of your home whether you’re there or not. Some models even let you access the thermostat from your Smartphone. Replacing your thermostat this spring will help keep your home more comfortable this summer, while you save on those air conditioning bills.

Cost

The average cost of thermostat installation is between $200 and $250 for a digital thermostat.

Total costs range from $50 for a manual thermostat you install yourself to $700 for an electronic thermostat.

Tips to Get It Done Right

• Digital and electronic thermostats cost the most upfront, but will save you the most over time.

• Programmable thermostats come in different systems; check each one out first to make sure you get the right one for your needs.

DIY Considerations

Manual thermostats can usually be installed DIY, but digital and electronic thermostats may need an additional hub, as well as experience dealing with electricity, to do correctly.

Attic Insulation

Most homes today are under-insulated, meaning that they don’t have enough insulation for their needs. Adding attic insulation can help prevent your attic from becoming superheated in the summer, which in turn helps prevent roof damage, and keep that heat from transferring to the rooms below, raising your energy costs. Adding extra insulation this spring will help keep your whole house more comfortable year-round.

Cost

The cost to insulate an attic starts around $400 and can go as high as $1800, depending on the type of insulation being used.

Tips to Get It Done Right

• Insulate the underside of your roof deck as well as the attic floor to help stop heat transfer to and from your roof.

• Adjust your R-value to the climate you live in; moderate climates can use R-14, while harsher climates may need R-19 or higher.

DIY Considerations

It is possible to install roll insulation yourself. Just take care to protect your skin from the fiberglass, and not to step in areas where there are no floor joists below.

Tree Planting

Planting trees in your yard is another way to increase your home’s green status. Trees help prevent soil erosion, and increase shade around your house, helping lower summer energy bills. Spring is the ideal time to plant new trees while you spruce up landscaping after a long winter.

Cost

The average cost of tree planting is $106 per tree for five small trees delivered and planted.

Total costs range from $75 per tree for five small trees delivered, and planted DIY, to $2,423 per tree for five large trees delivered and planted professionally.

Tips to Get It Done Right

• Check with your local government to find out if there are free trees available to plant.

• Check with the utility company before planting trees that could interfere with power lines (if planted in the wrong spot, they may need to be removed later).

DIY Considerations

Trees can be planted DIY as long as you can dig a large enough hole. For larger trees, you may want to rent a mini-excavator to help do the job.

Install LED Lights

Switching out standard lights for LED fixtures can help lower energy bills each month. LED lights come in many of the same shades of white light we’re used to, requiring only a fraction of the electricity. Some LED bulbs can be used in standard fixtures, but switching to an LED fixture can make the change easier. Making the switch in spring is the perfect time to see the biggest changes in your electric bill for the coming year.

Cost

The cost of installing new LED fixtures in your home is around $600 for 6 recessed lights.

Total costs range from $250 for a DIY installation to $1000 for premium materials. LED lights average $15 to $25 for a 100 watt bulb, but use less power per unit of light generated, lowering bills. Labor for installation is typically $65 to $85 per hour, and it takes about one hour per recessed light to be installed without issue.

Tips to Get It Done Right

• Invest in fixtures that allow flexibility in the type of bulb you use, so you can vary the strength and type of light until you’re satisfied with the results.

• Spread lights out evenly across the room to ensure you get the best light.

DIY Considerations

This job requires a licensed, experienced electrician.

Water Filter Installation

Installing a water filter can be a smart move depending on your current water quality. There are many types of water filters, which can remove lead, bacteria, or minerals. Installing a filter can help you avoid bottled water, and help with issues such as pipe damage and health issues from the presence of nitrates or bacteria in your water. If you have a well, spring is the ideal time to get your water tested and a filter installed, as ground water can be impacted by melting snow.

Cost

The cost to install a water filter in your home is around $250 to $400 for a reverse osmosis system. Total costs range from $20 for a filtering pitcher to $3000 for a whole-house water softening system.

Tips to Get It Done Right

Have your water tested by a reliable private lab before purchasing. Filters come in all shapes, sizes, and styles; first learn what’s in your wáter, so you can select the right model for your home.

DIY Considerations

This job may or may not be suitable for DIY depending on the type of filter being used.

Improve Your Green Status this Spring

Spring is a great time to work on your home. While you’re making repairs, increase your green status at the same time to help save on your energy costs. To find out more about what these projects cost, be sure to visit Cost Guides.

Yuka Kato writes about home improvement tips & tricks to help homeowners learn more about improving their properties. She also delivers useful cost information you can use to help improve your own home at HowMuch.net.



4/7/2016


Photo by Fotolia.

Black mold puts fear into the heart of every homeowner, and rightfully so.

Black mold can be a “catch all” phrase for molds that grow in the homes of millions of people all over the world, but it almost always refers to the dangerous and potentially toxic molds that can cause a world of headache and hassle (not to mention disastrous health conditions) to those who are exposed to it on a regular basis.

As a homeowner, you’ll not only want to know exactly what black mold is and how to identify it, but also exactly what it takes to get rid of black mold.

Believe it or not, the process for getting rid of black mold isn’t all that challenging – though if it has reached an epidemic stage, you may have to call in the professionals to do the “heavy lifting” for you!

Let’s dive right in!

What Exactly Is Black Mold?

As we touched upon above, many mold variants that might pop up in your home could be described as black in color – but that doesn’t mean that all of them are toxic more dangerous.

The dangerous black mold, scientifically referred to as stachybotrys chartarum, is the one that you’ll want to watch out for. This is the dangerous mold that can cause serious health concerns, and which you need to eradicate the moment you come across it.

Identifying this mold becomes rather simple and straightforward, especially if you “follow your nose.” You are going to smell a very distinct earthy scent (not unlike rotting leaves and dirt), and you’ll be able to pick up on this smell almost immediately. Toxic black mold has a very strong and potent smell.

You will also need to look specifically in areas that are conducive to mold growth. This means dark areas that are wet, damp, and where the temperatures are never too hot or too cold. The area underneath a kitchen sink is one classic example of a place where mold might like to hide.

Breaking down the danger of toxic mold

According to the CDC, black mold isn’t poisonous by itself, but is instead very attractive to dangerous and toxic chemical compounds which connect to the mold and the spores.

These mycotoxins are chemical compounds that can absolutely wreak havoc on the human body – and they are very easily blown around with even the slightest bit of wind. A door or cabinet opening, or even just a fan blowing in your house, is enough to spread these toxins around.

Once they enter into the body, you are in big trouble. These toxins are known for specifically targeting the respiratory system, and are capable of shutting down critical bodily functions. The toxins in the mold mold will work to cripple your body from the inside out, and considering the fact that the inside of the human body is a dark, moist, and warm space, mold that enters the body will reproduce like crazy.

Use mold tests to understand what you’re up against

It is absolutely critical that you know exactly what the problem is when it comes time to get rid of black mold.

This is why you should hire contractors to come in and test for mold, as well as test the specific mold spores that you come across. Learn more about how to start the process at blackmoldremoval.com/removal.

How to clean black mold once and for all

There are two ways to get rid of black mold permanently:

• Purchase a number of mold destroying compounds and chemicals and spray your entire home (focusing specifically on the areas that have mold growing on them already)
• Hire contractors to come in and professionally remove black mold for you.

The easiest way to get rid of black mold is to hire the right contractors to come in and handle all of the cleaning for you. They’ll be able to destroy all of the black mold, provide you with a clean room assessment, and guarantee that your home is completely mold free today – and for the foreseeable future – thanks to the professional-grade equipment that they’ll be able to use.

If you choose to remove black mold on your own, make sure to take every single precaution possible to protect yourself while cleaning the black mold. Make sure you have gear that protects your respiratory system, as well as non-porous gloves and protective eyewear to keep it from getting on your hands or in your eyes. While removing the mold, make sure that you don’t release any extra spores into the air, and make certain that you have eradicated every single mold spore in your home to prevent it from coming back even stronger later down the line.


2/5/2016

You love your precious pieces of jewelry so much that you’re probably worried about having to clean them. The last thing you want is to damage them or make them lose their dazzle. The safest bet is to ditch chemically-based cleaning agents in favor of eco-friendly methods that are gentle on your bling while making it sparkle again.

Of course, you need to take into account the type of jewelry you have and choose a cleaning method that’s suitable for it. Here’s a guide.

Silver and Gold-Plated Jewelry


Photo by Fotolia

An item of jewelry that’s plated basically has a surface covering of gold or silver. It’s fragile, especially if the layer is thin, so you don’t want to damage or remove it with abrasive cleaning.

How to clean silver-plated jewelry: Place aluminum foil along the bottom of a bowl and pour warm water over it. Add four tablespoons of salt and a few drops of dishwashing liquid (choose an eco-friendly brand to keep it gentle). Leave it to soak for a few minutes.

How to clean gold-plated jewelry: Mix some mild soap with warm water. You can let the pieces soak for a few minutes in this solution or use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub away marks if the jewelry is very dirty.

Diamonds

Baking soda is a great cleaning agent because it strips dirt but is gentle enough to use when cleaning up your diamond rings and other items. Simply place a cup of hot water into a bowl, along with two teaspoons of baking soda. Drop in your diamond bracelet or ring and let it soak for a few minutes.

Gemstone Jewelry


Photo by Fotolia

For gemstones, you want to be even gentler. Soak them in soapy water for a few minutes. Then wash them off with cold water, before drying them off with a soft cloth.

Gold

Gentle dish soap comes to the rescue again when you want to clean up your gold items. You want to drizzle a few drops of it into a bowl but add in some seltzer water or club soda, too. The bubbles are what will help to brush off the dirt! Allow the gold pieces to soak for a few minutes and if you still have some marks, use a toothbrush to gently scrub them away by hand. Now your gold jewelry will look brilliant again.

Copper


Photo by Fotolia

If your gorgeous copper items of jewelry aren’t gleaming the way you’d like, use some salt and lemon juice to bring back their beauty. Cut a lemon in half. Squeeze its juice all over the item of copper you want to clean. Take some salt and sprinkle it on, then use the same half-slice of lemon to scrub away dirt. Rinse it off.

Pearls (and Other Porous Stones)

Pearls are delicate and need extra care when cleaning because they’re porous and easily ruined. You want to place the pearl item on a soft cloth. Then, take a clean makeup brush (such as an eye shadow applicator) and dab it onto some shampoo and warm water. Carefully use this brush to gently clean every pearl. Be sure to rinse off the pearls with a wet cloth and allow them to air-dry. You should also use this method for other porous stones, such as turquoise, coral, amber, lapis lazuli, and malachite.

Care for Your Jewelry

Looking after your gorgeous jewelry is an important way to prevent you from having to clean them intensively.

• Keep your jewelry away from light and heat. Both can cause them to fade and become dull.
• Store every item of jewelry in a different compartment in your jewelry box to prevent them from getting scratched.
• Always apply body lotion and perfume, and allow them to dry, before putting on jewelry. The chemicals in these products can cause your jewelry to fade.

Jewelry can easily get scratched or damaged so you want to be careful when cleaning it. Only use eco-friendly methods to deeply clean and polish your precious stones and metals. They’ll look brand new in no time!



1/26/2016

Indoor air can get really stale in the winter when everything is freezing and closed up against the cold. Fortunately, there’s a really simple way to freshen up your home without resorting to chemical “room freshener” sprays and artificially scented candles—the simmer pot.

Putting together a simmer pot couldn’t be simpler—it’s basically just infusing spice and aromatics in water, gently heating it so that a lovely heated steam produces a fragrance. Traditionally, these have been done in a sauce pan on the stove top, but that’s got a couple of draw backs: Running the stove uses a decent amount of energy, you really shouldn’t walk away, and you’ve got a fire risk if the all of the water evaporates down while the burner is. Not good things.

A simple fix is to use a mini slow cooker—the Crock-Pot Little Dipper model is just the right size. Designed for heated dips, it keeps the water at just the right temperature, and it’s safe to leave on. With no open flame, you can leave the room while it’s on and it won’t boil down or create a fire hazard. They retail for around $10 new, but honestly, check your thrift and second hand stores—I see them all the time for around $5.

Once you’ve got one, here are a couple easy recipes to try out, but you really can throw any aromatics you enjoy into a simmer pot and have your house smell fantastic. There’s really no wrong way to do it!

cinnamon, pine and star anise
Photo by Fotolia.

Cinnamon Spice Simmer Pot

• 1 cup of hot water
• 2 cinnamon sticks (broken in half if they’re more than a few inches long)
• 1 teaspoon whole cloves
• 1 apple peel/core (optional, but if you’ve got one toss it in; it’s a great way to use inedible scraps, and lends a subtle apple aroma)

Lemon Pine Simmer Pot

• 1 cup of hot water
• 1 lemon (feel free to use what remains after you juice and zest for cooking)
• 1/2 cup fresh pine needles (light green new tips are the best and most fragrant)


Amanda is focused on homesteading in a small town, and blogs about it a Little House in an Old Town, the exurban evolution of her writing at Apartment Farm.



1/14/2016

There are few things, like a messy environment, that really aggravate my anxiety. When I walk into my home to see dirty counters, a fridge stuffed with expired food and unmade beds, I feel panicked and down in the dumps, at the same time. On the flip side, when my home is vacuumed, dusted, clutter-free and there is a naturally scented candle burning on the coffee table, tension drains from my body.

A messy, out of control home can make a person feel out of control themselves; it messes with your mind and physical health. Devote time to creating an environment where your mind and body can thrive, without toxins and visual anxiety triggers. There are many ways in which this can be accomplished. A step-by-step approach is often best for people, like me, who tend to become overwhelmed.

tidy and organized living room
Photo by Fotolia/windy Li.

1. Take One Step at a Time

Make a to-do list or commit to accomplishing a certain amount of things every day. Clean the showers and toilets one day, vacuum the next. If dishes are in the sink, quickly put them away to keep them from accumulating. Take a few minutes to wipe down as many things as you can with a little vinegar.

Doing a little here and there will help you feel like your home is always, generally, in order and control. Every bathroom in my home has a bottle of vinegar and a cleaning cloth under the sink. I use it every day to spruce things up, which requires a minimal time investment.

2. Ask for Help

Another great way to make sure things stay tidy is to enlist some help. If other people are making messes, you’ll obviously be much more stressed and your workload will be greater. I always say, “If you help make the messes, you help clean them.” Chores are good for kids and adults, and once they get in the habit it will become another regular part of the day.

3. Let It Go

Clutter is all too often a major culprit in many households. Sometimes it’s hard to let go of things. Choose someone you trust to help you sort through your clutter and rationalize what you can, and should, get rid of. Let them guide you through the anxiety of saying goodbye to things you no longer need. Donating items to charity can give you feelings of happiness, along with a sense of calm because you’ll know that someone will treasure the items you have selflessly given up. That’s something to be proud of!

4. Add Final Touches

Once your home is clean, add some special, soothing touches. I love candles; they bring me feelings of peace and comfort. Some brands are actually considered to be quite toxic, so be sure you select ones that are made with natural fragrances, wax and wicks. Lay out some snuggly blankets that complement your décor. Place your favorite book on the coffee table to enjoy when you’re ready to sit on the couch with a fresh cup of tea. Put some dark chocolate in a candy dish for the occasional treat. These are the small, super-simple things that affect brain chemistry in a positive way.

Your environment should be a place of refuge, a much needed retreat. It does take effort to get it that way, but it provides a great sense of accomplishment and pride. These are also important feelings that have a positive brain impact. It's simple: No matter how tiny, good things create good feelings; bad things, such as messes and clutter, create bad feelings. These feelings affect us in a big way. So pull out the vacuum and take a step toward a less anxious, healthier, happier you.


Karyn Wofford is a type 1 diabetic, EMT and Certified Wellness Specialist. For years she has educated herself on wellness and natural, wholesome living. Karyn’s goal is to help people be the healthiest they can be while living fun, happy lives.




1/6/2016

Regardless of where you start — the bathrooms or the kitchen — the result is probably the same, a clean and tidy house. But admit it, house cleaning is something the majority of us dread. Dulled by the humdrum of daily tidying, you may begin to wonder, “How do the professional house cleaning services clean and what is their secret?”

Talking to several house cleaning professionals around the country, we have managed to find out some of their house cleaning secrets. So, if you want to make your home sparkle, take two minutes from your busy schedule and read these helpful cleaning secrets straight from the book of the professional house cleaners.

woman admiring clean house
Photo by Fotolia.

Strategy: The Base Tool

The first and foremost secret of house cleaning: have a strategy. Professional cleaners follow a set plan, cleaning in a particular way as they are under time constraints and have to clean a number of houses in a day. If there is no plan, chaos will reign and you will certainly not be able to complete your cleaning tasks on time.

Know Your Surfaces and Cleaning Solutions

Different types of solutions are needed for different types of stains, from moderate to extreme. Knowing which cleaning solution will work best on which surface stain can really speed up your work and efficiency.

Bear in mind that many popular house cleaning solutions may damage the surface if applied incorrectly. Don’t mix solutions that contain bleach and ammonia together as the combination produces a very deadly gas which is extremely dangerous. Alkaline or acidic cleaners, such as vinegar, used on marble, travertine and several other natural stones can etch or destroy the finish.

Clean Back to Front

A good method to implement — start from the back and work your way to the front of the room. This way, you bring all the tools and supplies with you and can avoid walking over what you’ve already cleaned. For instance, if you’re vacuuming the carpets, start from the farthest corner and come forward, or if you are mopping the floor, begin at the back, moving toward the entrance.

Go Top to Bottom

Cleaning the top surfaces, such as cabinet tops, almirah tops, tables, etc. and then work your way down to the floor, will stop cross contamination. By doing this you can keep dust from falling on clean floors or water spilling on already dry areas.

Wipe Surfaces Dry

Always keep the surfaces dry. This applies to all rooms in the house. When you wipe surfaces dry, you’re not only eliminating the chances of bacteria breeding in stagnant water, but also making the surfaces shine bright as new. Air drying may be a good option for bedrooms and living area, but use good mopping devices for wiping bathrooms, balconies and kitchens.

Don't Multitask

While multitasking is much appreciated, in many ways, when it comes to cleaning a house the professionals strictly prohibit it. Multitasking is distracting and can really sneak up on you. You can easily be driven away to something new while the task at hand remains half done. Before you know it, you are out of time. Just stay focused; complete the task that’s been started and then move on to the next one.

Now that you know the hidden secrets of the how professional cleaners work, implement them in your cleaning tasks to work more effectively and efficiently.


Meggie Haneckow is a niche writer and blogger who loves to write on trending topics and share her personal experiences and knowledge through her writing. She is also a health enthusiast, so she loves to share health-care related tips through her blogs.




12/29/2015

The green movement toward environmental-friendly choices and options isn’t just a phase, it's here to stay. Luckily for you, eco-friendly upgrades in your home are not only a great choice for the environment, but for your wallet as well. By making small changes around your space, like fixing leaky faucets and maintaining your heater's filter, you can conserve energy, water and money.

eco-conscious home
Illustration by Depositphotos.

Use Nature to Your Advantage

Take advantage of natural light as much as possible. Not only is it free, but the longer you avoid turning on your lamps and light fixtures, the more money you save on your energy bill. Avoid crowding the area in front of your windows to allow the sun to bathe your space. Trees can also be used to your advantage by reducing your heating and cooling costs. A strategically placed tree shades your driveway or patio in the summer; after the leaves fall off, the sun can enter your home and provide natural warmth in the winter. Trees that don't lose their leaves, such as evergreen trees, protect your home from the cold winds throughout the year, if you live in a cooler climate.

Upgrade or Maintain Your Filters

A dirty or old furnace filter prohibits your unit from running at maximum efficiency. Most filters need to be replaced every few months and by footing the upfront cost of the filter, you'll save money in the long run because your unit will be running at peak efficiency. Another filter to clean routinely is the one located in your dryer. Lint build-up in the filter prohibits your dryer from working as efficiently as it could. Keeping the lint clear helps dry your clothes faster and at a lower heat, saving you money.

Water Conservation

Start by upgrading your water fixtures to a low-flow system that conserves water in the shower, when you flush the toilet, and while you're washing dishes in the sink. Fix all of your leaky faucets or toilets — this conserves an astounding amount of water and it's an easy fix. Turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or scrubbing dishes. And better yet, use a dishwasher to conserve even more water.

Household Appliances

Speaking of dishwashers, for a great eco-friendly upgrade to your home that saves money, focus on your appliances. Look for appliances that are certified Energy Star. These appliances will eventually pay for themselves from all the money you'll be saving on your energy or water bill. For example, Whirlpool dishwashers that are Energy Star-certified conserve water by using a sensor that determines how dirty your dishes are, and then adjusting water usage accordingly. Their thoughtfully crafted design takes advantage of every nook and cranny, giving you space for more dishes and a bigger bang for your buck when you run your dishwasher.

Unplug Electronics

The small amount of energy that is drawn when electronics, such as TVs, DVD players, game consoles and kitchen appliances, are plugged in but aren't in use adds up. Often referred to as energy vampires, appliances that are not used every day such as the blender or toaster oven should be unplugged. For appliances and electronics used more frequently, an easy upgrade is to use a surge suppressor that turns them off completely when not in use. Try this and you'll be surprised how much your wallet will thank you.


Destined to be an Armenian housewife perfecting her hummus recipe, Natalie Posdaljian instead chose a life of marine field biology and sriracha. Born and raised in southern California, her veins rush with salty seawater and sunshine no matter where she goes. When she's not saving jellyfish from extinction, Natalie is dancing in the shower, knitting on a plane or swinging in her hammock.





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