Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The burning question: What next?

Now that the new furnace is up and running, the sod has been lain over the mud pit that was once the front yard and most of the rooms are decorated, I'm faced with the question most home improvers bump into eventually: What next?

I admit I don't have any big eco plans in the works. Frankly, we just don't have the budget for any big improvements right now and with winter just around the corner, it's hardly the time to be ripping out windows or digging up the back yard.

We also have a strict rule of paying cash for all of our big projects. We have to save up the money, then do it. No home equity loans or credit cards. It's very old-school style. Our savings account is still trying to recover from the cost of the geothermal system. Hopefully when summer comes, we will have enough saved to put in new windows. (After that, a roof and some solar panels.)

So what's a home improving girl to do? I better think of something fast or it's going to be a long winter!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Clean your house-- with plants

I ran across a very compelling study about the cleansing effects of some common houseplants. Apparently, some houseplants, such as spider plants and peace lilies, remove toxic chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde from the air inside your home. This wouldn't be a big deal except that those chemicals are major contributors to indoor air pollution and can leach into the air from common household items such as carpet, particleboard furniture and paints.

Unfortunately, the more air tight and energy efficient your home, the more likely you are to suffer from indoor air pollution. The same acts that save us money and energy-- insulating, weatherstripping, etc.-- mean less clean, fresh air can move into and out of our homes. If you live in an old, leaky house, you may not have any pollution at all.

Plants act as a living carbon filter, sucking chemicals out of the air and breaking them down into harmless compounds. Some estimate that you'd need about 15 plants to significantly reduce indoor air pollution.

Here is a list of some beneficial, air-scrubbing houseplants:

Hedera helix English ivy
Chlorophytum comosum spider plant
Epipiremnum aureum golden pothos
Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa' peace lily
Aglaonema modestum Chinese evergreen
Chamaedorea sefritzii bamboo or reed palm
Sansevieria trifasciata snake plant
Philodendron scandens `oxycardium' heartleaf philodendron
Philodendron selloum selloum philodendron
Philodendron domesticum elephant ear philodendron
Dracaena marginata red-edged dracaena
Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana' cornstalk dracaena
Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig' Janet Craig dracaena
Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii' Warneck dracaena
Ficus benjamina weeping fig

If you'd like more information, you can see NASA's original research here

Or read this simple, easy to understand tutorial from the Minnesota Extension office: here