Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Bidets - Just an International Phenomenon?

If you’ve ever been to a European or Asian country, or maybe even an upscale hotel in the United States, you may have encountered a low-mounting, sink-like plumbing fixture called a bidet.

Invented in France in the late 17th century, it is speculated that the bidet was created by Christophe Des Rosiers, a furniture maker for the French Royal Family. Although appearing similar in design to the toilet, the bidet is actually more comparable to a washbasin or bathtub.

While most Americans may find the idea of using a bidet a bit grotesque, there are several health benefits to using a bidet. These appliances are actually ideal for those with limited mobility, such as the elderly, pregnant, and disabled to maintain cleanliness in instances when using a bathtub or shower may be uncomfortable, inconvenient, or even dangerous. In fact, according to healthcare professionals at Columbia University, bidets are much more hygienic than toilet paper use alone, and many bidet manufacturers believe that bidets can significantly conserve paper and reduce septic tank cleanout.

Unfortunately, the widespread use of bidets in this country hasn't caught on yet partly because many Americans are often squeamish about their certain personal hygiene habits and also because of price. Resistance to bidet usage in the United States may be due to the perception of the uncleanliness of the device (although residents of countries like Greece or France where bidet usage is universal will wholeheartedly disagree). In terms of bidet prices in the United States, some bidet-like toilet attachments can be relatively inexpensive, but it is also not uncommon to see top-of-the-line, digitally controlled bidets costing up to $1,000.

Thankfully, because bidet attachments are becoming increasingly popular with the aging community, many hospitals and nursing homes are seeing its merits in helping to maintain hygiene. This increased popularity is also helping to lower the prices of these units, and many high-tech models offer features such as built-in filters, heated seats, and even dryers. Perhaps this increased awareness of the hygienic benefits that a bidet provides over standard toilet paper use will result in even more Americans adapting the use of these appliances into their everyday hygiene routine.


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Monday, December 24, 2007

Winterizing Your Home Saves You Money and Reduces Greenhouse Gases

Winter has just begun and energy costs are on the rise. The average American household spends up to $2000 annually on energy bills, and some have speculated that this number may even go up by almost 50% this year. Therefore, taking a few small steps now in reducing energy use can make a big difference in lowering your energy bills and even reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the first and foremost steps in winterizing a home is to stop air leaks in a home. If air leaks aren't stopped, other weatherizing measures like installing insulation will be a complete waste of money and effort. By sealing holes, cracks, and openings in your home first, you can stop the flow of heat through your walls and ceilings, and also cost-effectively reduce energy bills, avoid potential moisture problems, and perhaps most importantly, stay warm this winter. With this in mind, here are few helpful tips published by the Environmental Protection Agency on how to seal your home:

1. Be sure to insulate and weather-strip your attic hatch or door to prevent warm air from escaping out of the top of your house.
2. Holes leading from a basement or crawlspace to an attic are a huge energy waster. Be sure to cover and seal them with spray foam and rigid foam board if necessary, and don’t forget to seal any holes in the attic that lead into a house.
3. Seal holes with caulk or spray foam where wires, pipes, and vents enter or exit your home, and be sure to check behind and under sinks.
4. Caulk window frames and door frames inside your home with clear or color-matched caulk to reduce drafts. If caulking an area outside of a home, use long-lasting exterior caulk.
5. Reduce any drafts in your home by putting foam gaskets around electrical outlets, and weather-strip doors and windows that do not seal tightly.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Secondhand Smoke Exposure is Twice as Likely to Cause Allergies in Infants

According to recent research conducted by the campaigning charity ASH, babies exposed to secondhand smoke are nearly twice as likely to develop allergies to inhaled allergens such as dust and animal dander when compared to infants who are not exposed to secondhand tobacco smoke. In addition, the study found that children of smoking parents were almost 50% more likely to develop food allergies.

These findings were based on survey responses from more than 4000 families about their children’s’ allergies and the environmental factors they were exposed to both before and after birth. These surveys revealed that 1 in 12 mothers smoked throughout pregnancy and 1 in 8 smoked during only a part of their pregnancy. Researchers of the study concluded that there was a dose-response effect for secondhand smoke exposure during the first few weeks of life, and these were considered markers for allergen sensitization. In addition, the effects of secondhand smoke were stronger among children of non-allergic parents than among those with parents who suffered from allergies.

This recent study corroborates the findings of past studies which have shown the harmful impact of secondhand on children in the early years of development, and medical experts are encouraging smoking parents to make an effort to keep their homes as smoke-free as possible, as simply restricting smoking to certain rooms of homes offers little protection to infants and young children from the effects of secondhand smoke.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

DIY Solar Roof Heater - Save Money on Your Heating Bills!

Heating and cooling systems account for over half of a household’s energy bill, and simple, do-it-yourself solar projects can help drastically reduce your heating bills. Relatively inexpensive solar hot-air collectors and thermosiphoning panels capture the sun’s energy and direct air warmed by the sun through a window or wall opening into an adjoining room.

Using your roof as a space heater can also help supply solar heated air to your home. When the roof is heated by the sun, the air underneath is naturally heated, rises, and can be collected to heat your home. Because most metal roofs and some other types of clad roofs have an insulating membrane underneath, harvesting this warm air to heat your living space can be an inexpensive project.

If you’d like to cut your home heating bill this winter, try using your roof as a space heater and follow these directions:

-Foil insulation
-Foil ducting
-6” ducted fan
-Hand tacker
-Thermostatic switch
-Profile seal that is the length of the roof
-Optional clear plastic cover

Find the roof space of your home and make sure that there is an insulation membrane under the roofing sheets. From that point, locate the top two purlins on either side of the roof ridge and clean up any excess insulation. Use a hand tacker to secure the insulation to the purlins along the whole length of the ridge. Your roof should now have insulation running from the gutter to the top of the purlin.
2. Cut strips of insulation wide enough to fix across the underside of the top two purlins and long enough to run the length of the ridge. Using the hand tacker, attach the insulation to the underside of the top two purlins to form a header between them. These will cause the air between the roof sheeting and the insulation to be heated by the sun’s radiation.
3. Fit a suitably sized duct outlet near the center of the ridge and attach it to the underside of the purlins. Seal this to the foil using silicone, and fit a ceiling duct outlet to the ceiling of the area that is to be heated.
4. Fit a ducted fan somewhere between the duct from the ridge and the duct to the ceiling, and measure, cut, and fit two lengths of foil ducting (one to connect your ridge duct to the fan and one to connect the fan to the ceiling duct).
5. Fit a thermostatic switch near the duct at the header and position the sensor bulb inside the header near the duct opening, and secure this bulb to purlin. Wire the fan to the thermostatic switch so that it will only run when the temperature of the air in the header exceeds the control temperature of the area to be heated.
6. Lastly, move this to the outside of the roof and be sure to seal any air gaps between the ridge of the roof and the roof sheeting profile. For best results, cover the top meter of the ridge with a clear plastic cover. Your heater is now complete, ready to use, and will provide many hours of free heat during days where the sun is shining (even if the temperature is cold).

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How Can a Dehumidifier Benefit You?

During the wintertime in Southern California, winter humidity levels rarely rise about 30%, but unfortunately, the rest of the country isn’t so lucky. Temperatures can stay below freezing, and humidity levels can very easily rise above 50% in many areas. As a result, these increased humidity levels can cause mold and mildew to grow inside homes, which can subsequently cause a variety of health risks and even damage walls and furnishings. To address high humidity levels, a dehumidifier can help reduce the level of humidity in the air, protect your health, and prevent damage to buildings and property.

Dehumidifiers are vital for environmental control in areas where humidity can rise above 50% naturally, and this appliances work by drawing water from the air and collecting it into a holding tank or pushing it out through a hose connection. There are primarily 2 types of dehumidifiers – active and passive.

The internal machinery in an active dehumidifier is almost identical to that of an air conditioner. However, whereas an air conditioner cools on one side and releases heat on the other, a dehumidifier cools and then reheats the air. When the air is cooled inside the vent of a dehumidifier, the water in the air condenses in the same way it condenses on the surface of a cold beverage can on a hot day. This condensed water then drips into a collection area and away from the airflow.

On the other hand, passive dehumidifiers employ a desiccant material to produce a dehumidification effect. Because they are generally only effective for low-temperature and low humidity levels, they are only used for certain climates or in conjunction with an active dehumidifier.

Here are some additional features to look for when choosing a dehumidifier:

- Auto shut off when the water storage container is full, or even a unit with a continuous drainage system. These usually require a floor-level drain in the room they are being used, but this will save you time and effort in the long run.
- Built-in humidistat that can automatically control the humidity in the room. This helps prevent the air from getting too dry.
- Variable fan speeds.
- Extra features such as an air filter that can help trap airborne particulates


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