Category Archives for "Home Remodeling"

The Importance of Low VOC Carpets

Majority of American households have their houses carpeted but not realizing that this can cause problems to indoor air quality. Carpet, with its associated padding and adhesive, is a major source of VOCs.  Installed carpet has an inherent properties of 100 over chemicals, and to make matters worse, it captures additional chemicals and pollutants from outside.


Unless it is of low voc carpet, it will likely cost you eyes, nose and throat (or ENT) and skin irritation; in addition to a host of symptoms such as fatigue, problems of breathing and headaches.


Low voc carpet replaces solvents with non-(or low-)VOC adhesives for the emulsions of resin.  These water-based adhesives would result in a lot less VOCs in comparison to those made of solvents. Ironically these low voc carpets can come with toxic ingredients like toluene and formaldehyde.  Those who are sensitive to chemicals are well advised to exercise caution when buying low VOC carpets. Information on chemical contents can be found on Technical/Material Safety Data Sheets displayed on respective manufacturer/retailer’s website.


It is thus comforting to know that the industry is addressing these emission issues.  The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) initiated a Green Label program in 1992, whereby comprehensive testing has been done on adhesives, cushions and carpets to determine low VOC products.


A separate movement, Green Label Plus, was also started by CRI.  It is a voluntary program and subjects adhesive and carpet products to vigorous testing by independent and certified laboratories according to indoor air quality standard (IAQ) as defined by the industry.  Green Label Plus singles out outstanding products that satisfy published set of criteria for low VOC carpets.
One new approach in the industry is the recycled carpet (using plastic soda bottles).  It carries about the same price tag but emits much less chemicals than regular carpet, thus improving indoor air quality.  Make sure you check the composition and the process used to make the recycled carpet before you commit to one.

Double Glazing Guide window design guide

Window Design 

Before you can appreciate just how much a window can save you on your utility bills, you must understand the actual working of an energy efficient window.  This window replacement guide will attempt to help you in this understanding.  The theory is fairly straightforward: windows that are designed to be energy efficient are capable of slowing the heat transfer process between the inside of your house and the outdoors.  We all know that heat travels from warm to cold spaces.  In this way, the window becomes an agent of energy loss.  During the winter, the warmth of the house tends to dissipate out through the window and during the warmer season, the hot air outside tries to rush into your house via the same window as well.


Windows are central to the heat transfer process because they don’t provide good insulation as other parts of your wall assembly.  For example roofs, floors and walls are better insulated against heat loss.  The old single pane windows or inadequately installed double pane windows, or cracks on the window or frames are all prime candidates to facilitate this process.  To exacerbate the matter, even the best-sealed windows also allow some form of heat loss through the glass, as the glass is a natural conductor of heat through conduction.  This windows replacement guide will explain the technologies used to lower air flow and subsequently heat transfer.  These are the glazing technique, low-U values, low-E coatings, as well as gases like argon or krypton between panes.  As a result, these efficient windows will block the cold of winter away, while keeping you cool during the hot season.  Additionally, this guide will also deal with how to avoid the condensations formed inside the windows.  The performance indicator of an energy-efficient window is down to the construction of the window frame and a spacer material, and the object used to separate the main window glass and the individual frames of glass within the pane.


If you are serious in obtaining a FENSA certification for your household, then it is imperative for you to know that correct windows choice can enhance your qualification. FENSA accreditation is awarded based on window’s size, solar heating gain, U-factor and a host of other considerations.


Double Glazing

Glazing is the word used to define the glass in a window.  A double-glazed window describes two panes window; triple-glazed contains three. An “energy-glazed” window has a layer of lamination a gas-filled within the panes of glass. The reduction in solar gain goes is proportional to the numberamount[/size] of glazing.

If the solar gain is overly high, carpet, furniture and floors tend to fade easily and you need more energy for cooling to offset the solar gain; still, a decent amount of solar gain is necessary to counter the cold of winter. A double-glazed can trigger a 10 percent reduction in solar gain; triple-glazing by 20 percent. This windows replacement guide urges that households with single-glazed or single-pane windows upgrade to double- or triple-glazed windows. It will make a world of difference for your utility bills.



Low-emissivity (low-E) coating also restricts the amount of energy transfer through the window. This coating is a transparent lamination that applies itself to the window pane directly. It can be coated on either the inside surfaces (surfaces on opposing ends) or the exterior. Low-E coatings facilitate passing through of sunlight but can cut down the heat transfer process via the window glass. In addition, businesses have also made available low-E squared and low-E cubed, which are effectively the extensions of low-E coatings and denotes two or three layers of coatings of low-E respectively.

There are two variations of low-E coatings, i.e. soft and hard types. Soft-coat low-E is comparatively not as robust and it can disintegrate under prolonged exposure to moisture and air. Conversely, while hard low-E coatings are able to withstand harsher conditions, their energy efficiencies are not comparable to those of soft coatings.

As per guideline provided by U.S. Department of Energy, low-E coated (both soft and hard variations) windows are typically priced around 10% – 15% more than conventional windows, which more than compensate the 30 to 50 percent enhancement in energy loss reduction. Low-E coated windows have come a long way from its early days of make-to-order status to become standard on windows.


As pointed out earlier in this windows guide, R-value defines the efficiency of insulation of ceilings, walls, etc.; its reading is in direct relationship with the extent or effectiveness of the insulation. However, it is not practical to use R-value alone to measure windows insulation. They are different in the sense that they are subject to several external factors, such as wind, rain, sunlight, inside and outside air temperatures, just to name some of them. It is only natural that a different measurement system is applied on to windows.

This measurement system is called U-value, also known as U-factor. The U-value here is a more useful calculation of heat loss via the window, or heat transfer. (R-values may still be listed on windows on sales, but the values have no real significance as they are just readings on the center portion of the window, thus not an accurate measurement for the entire window.) When one is referring to U-value, the lower the reading, the higher the energy efficiency is. In cold weathers, U-value of .35 or lower is preferred.

Windows with multi-glazing and have krypton or argon filled are also effective in reducing heat loss and generally have low U-values.


Solar Heat Gain Coefficient(SHGC)

The SHGC is an indicator used to measure how well solar radiation is blocked from the sun. Lower reading of SHGC means less solar heat is transmitted across. The ENERGY STAR program includes guidelines and criteria for doors and windows for three climate zones in the UK Manufacturers would be in a better position to tell if the product is ENERGY STAR–certified or not. For ENERGY STAR certification criteria, all products are required to be rated, certified, and labelled for both SHGC as well as U-value according to the procedures of the NFRC (or short for National Fenestration Rating Council) or able to satisfy the ENERGY STAR qualification criteria in at least one of the climate zones.

Using Natural Cleaning Products

Using Natural Cleaning Products

We had A Hazardous Materials Stockpile in Our Home
I’ve been cleaning house since I was 18 years old and on my own. I spent all of my twenties as a bachelor, and kept a nice house so I wouldn’t scare off my guests. All those years I bought household cleaners from the supermarket; the regular commercial stuff like ammonia-based window cleaner, drain cleaner, aerosol polish, detergents—you name it. It all worked pretty well. Then I got married, had kids, and started moving around the country. During our last move, I gathered all our household cleaners together; we had over twenty containers of chemical substances. That’s when the thought occurred to me that we had amassed a small hazardous material stockpile in our own home! And where did most of it all go when I used it? You guessed it; down the drain.

Out with the Old, In with the New
When we moved into our new home, I cleaned the place with our old poisons to get rid of them (I didn’t want to dump them in the trash) and replaced them with toxin-free cleaners like natural soaps, citrus-based surface cleaners, and soda-based laundry and dishwasher agents. So far, I’ve found all the earth-friendly products to work as well as, or better than the hazardous stuff. For me they’re more efficient, fun to use, and I’m not worried about it going down the drain or poisoning my family.

Keep Your Home, and the World Healthier
I believe if more people start using non-toxic cleaners in their homes, it will benefit the environment and keep us healthier. That’s why when approached me to write reviews about the natural cleaners they carry, I jumped at the opportunity to share my experiences with these products. I’m here to answer your questions about cleaning naturally, and how products from can help.

Smoke Detectors and Radiation

Today, more than 93% of American homes have smoke detectors installed. Since the mid 1960’s these safety devices have proven to be reliable and effective. Recently, however, the concern has risen about the safety of smoke detectors due to the potential of radiation exposure.

Not all smoke detectors contain radiation. There are essentially two types of smoke detectors – ionic chamber and photoelectric. While both contain circuit boards, wiring and batteries, only ionic chamber smoke detectors contain radiation (we’ll talk more about photoelectric later on).

The ionic chamber smoke detector is the most popular choice with American homeowners. They’re inexpensive and considered more effective at detecting smaller amounts of smoke produced by flaming fires.

This type of smoke detector works by using a radioactive material called americium (Am-241) to sense smoke particles. The amount of Am-241 is very small (<35kBq). To put it in perspective, 1 gram of Am-241 provides enough material for 5000 residential smoke detectors. Before we look at Am-241’s purpose, let’s take a look at what exactly Am-241 is and its’ potential health hazards.

Am-241 is a silvery metal that tarnishes slowly in air and is soluble in acid. It has a half life of 432 years and emits alpha rays. In an ionic smoke detector, Am-241 is used in the form of a foil.

Am-241 was discovered in 1945 during the Manhattan Project. According to the Uranium Information Center, the first sample of americium was produced by bombarding plutonium with neutrons in a nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago.

As previously mentioned, Am-241 emits alpha rays. Alpha particles are large – so large that they have trouble penetrating matter such as a sheet of paper or the human body. If alpha particles are ingested or inhaled, however, they can do significant internal damage including cancer. Fortunately, the Am-241 in an ionic smoke detector is protected in a ceramic chamber located within a larger, tamper-proof aluminum chamber. If left undisturbed, the danger of inhalation exposure is negligible.

So, now the question is: How does Am-241 detect smoke particles? Inside the chamber, alpha radiation ionizes the air. A low electric voltage (supplied by a 9Vbattery or 120V household current) is applied across the chamber creating a current that flows through the ionized air. When smoke particles enter the chamber they neutralize the ions. This in turn alters the current resulting in an alarm.

It appears that as long as the ceramic chamber containing the Am-241 is left undisturbed, an ionic smoke detector poses minimal risk to your health. This of course includes keeping old detectors away from children who express the natural curiosity to see how things work.

Another issue arises when it comes time to dispose and replace (suggested replacement is every 10 years) your smoke detectors. What do you do with your discarded unit? The status quo has been to discard them with household trash. Most cities and county officials are becoming alarmed at the sheer number of smoke detectors gathering in local landfills. They are calling upon individuals to take it upon themselves to act responsibly and discard of them properly which includes sending them back to the manufacturer for proper disposal.

At the end of this piece, you will find a list of manufacturers with addresses and/or phone numbers. It is the law that any manufacturer of smoke detectors is required to take back discarded units. You can usually find return instructions in your user’s manual or warranty. If you don’t have this information, contact the manufacturer and ask what their policy is. Typically, you can return used smoke detectors by sending them back via ground or parcel post and labeling box “for disposal”.

Another alternative is to contact your local Waste Management office and find out when the next hazardous waste round-up will occur. (Your city hall should also have the information) At one of these events, you can dispose of not only your old smoke detectors but your old paint, chemicals and other hazardous waste.

Now that you’ve discarded your old detectors, it’s time to replace them with new ones. Here you may decide to stick with the ionic chamber detectors, or consider trying a photoelectric model.

A photoelectric smoke detector uses a light and a sensor (positioned at a 90 degree angle to one another) to detect smoke (picture the letter T with light shooting across the top and the sensor down at the bottom). Under normal circumstances, the light passes straight through. Once smoke enters the chamber, the smoke fills both parts of the T and the light is scattered forcing some of it down the chamber and tripping the sensor which then triggers the alarm. No radiation is used. This type of detector is best at sensing smokey fires such as a smoldering mattress.

Whatever model you choose – just be sure have it installed correctly, keep it clean (vacuum occasionally to remove dust and NEVER paint over a detector) and do monthly tests to make sure it’s functioning and the battery still has juice. Smoke detectors, when installed, removed and disposed of properly are safe, life-saving devices.

The Affordable Composting Toilet

This is the best, most affordable (under $900) commercial composting toilet we have seen. It is completely organic, no chemicals are used. There is no water used or plumbing besides a vent, and the vent can be solar or battery powered, or powered with a small transformer. The liquids are separated from the solids so there is no smell. This gives the solids chamber a long interval between emptying, and gives it plenty of time to breakdown into dirt. With quick, simple installation, this unit is ideal for the boat, rv (cuts down on weight, no blackwater tank necessary), camp, or off grid home. Cuts the home water consumption by close to 50%. We recommend this!