Having a humid house is good for the immune system

When I was growing up, I vividly remember that my older sister Shannon was always getting sick. It seemed that she would have to take time off of school at least once a month because she was too sick to go in. Her immune system was just not as good as it should have been, and the more often she got sick, the worse it got.

I hated seeing her like that. When I got home from school I wanted to be able to play with my older sister, but instead she would be covered in blankets, sneezing and blowing her nose. It would sometimes take a few days before she felt well enough to play with me, and I didn't know what I could do to make her better.

My mother was obviously concerned that Shannon was such a sickly child, so she did some research on immune system health. She had us take lots of vitamin C, and made sure that we ate healthily all the time. But the best tip she found was that keeping a room at between 30 and 60 percent humidity is ideal for the immune system.

She put a humidifier in my sister's room and turned it on while she was sleeping. We could tell it made a difference right away. My sister stopped getting sick as frequently, and her immune system continued to get stronger until she barely had to miss school at all.

Now even though she is an adult, Shannon has a humidifier in her house. She sleeps with it on and it helps to keep her healthy, especially when the air is naturally drier than it usually is. 

Use an electric fan to help you sleep at night

A few weeks ago, my friend Rose asked me to go with her to buy an air conditioner for her apartment. I wrote about how she had some trouble finding one in a store, but easily bought one online, and she's been happy since. Her apartment is on the fourth floor of her building, so it can get really hot during the summer, but since she's gotten an AC, it has been much more comfortable.

We met for drinks with a few of our friends last week, and Rose was talking about how she is sleeping much better in a cool room. Then, our friend Zach told us that his AC has been causing him to have trouble sleeping lately.

"My air conditioner is too loud," he said, "so I usually turn it off when I go to sleep, but then I wake up hot."

It turns out that Zach's AC is several years old and much louder than current models, and the rumbling has been keeping him awake.

When Rose suggested that he buy the same model that she has, Zach said that he can't afford to pay for a new air conditioner right now.

Then I suggested to Zach that he turn his air conditioner off at night, and use a much quieter electric fan instead. The AC can cool the air during the day, and at night the fan can circulate the cool air while he is sleeping without making as much noise.

Zach said that I had a great idea, and since he already has an electric fan, it wouldn't cost him any money. He told me this weekend that took my advice, and he's been sleeping much better. 

Saving energy doesn’t have to be hard

As the summer stretches on, many of us cringe when we get super high electric bills. A few weeks ago, I realized that turning my air conditioner up to full blast was going to cost me quite a bit of money, so I did some research and wrote up a few tips. Recently I found some more great pieces of advice that will help make me use even less power this summer. 

I was surprised when I found out that a lot of these suggestions don't just help to save energy, but they're actually easier than doing it the old fashioned way. For instance, making food in the microwave instead of the oven or stovetop uses two-thirds less electricity than cooking on a stove-top. Another added bonus to this method of cooking is that it won't heat up your kitchen the way the oven will.

I was thrilled when I found out that using the dishwasher requires less water and power than cleaning plates by hand. Washing dishes is an annoying task that nobody really wants to do, and now I gladly let the machine do the work, knowing that I'm saving myself both time and money in doing so.

Another easy way to save energy is to turn your air conditioner off during the day while you're at work. Since you can't enjoy its cool refreshment while you're away from the house, there is no reason to have it on all day. Making sure that your AC unit is properly installed will also help to conserve power. If it's mounted incorrectly, hot air can seep into the house while cold air escapes.

I'm so excited to try out these new energy saving tips, and hopefully my next electric bill will be my lowest yet.

Putting plants near a humidifier helps keep them happy

I really love my having plants in my house. They make my small space brighter and freshen the air I breathe. Though I have several plants that are a few years old, I sometimes get new ones that only live for a month or two. I never understood what might be causing this problem until I found out that certain vegetation tolerates dry air better than others, but all can benefit from being placed near a humidifier.

The air in my bedroom, where I keep my plants, is very dry, and it has been even worse this summer since I'm usually running my air conditioner or a fan to cool the room down. My indoor garden is near the window, so that the sunlight can keep everything green, but the light and heat coming in from the window dry the air out even more. It turns out that lack of moisture in the air wasn't just making me thirstier, it was also damaging the delicate leaves of some of my plants, which eventually killed them.

However, most of the greenery that I have had for a while is thick-leaved and robust, including a cactus. Recently I found out that plants with thicker leaves require less humidity than those with thinner leaves and flowers. This explains why I can't seem to hold on to a delicate orchid for more than a few weeks, while my spider plant has been around for many years. My thin-leaved violet wilts after just a couple of days, even though I water it weekly.

When I found out about the importance of moisture in the air for plants, I got a humidifier for my room right away. I have already noticed that the leaves of all of my plants don't have brown tips the way that they used to, and they stay perky and green between regular waterings. 

Athletes get comfortable in Olympic Village rooms

I'm so excited for the Olympic games to start just a few days from now. I love watching athletes from all over the world compete to win medals for their country. Athletes themselves are excited not just for the ability to compete on an international stage, but to stay in the company of competitors from all over the world at the Olympic athletes' village.

Cities typically build these villages with a plan in mind for their use after the Olympics. This year's athletes' village is going to be turned into much-needed housing in East London. The apartments will each contain four bedrooms with two beds each, and sharing a living area and a bathroom. Olympic participants will eat in a large-scale dining room, where healthy food has been prepared for them by a hand-selected chef.

The 1992 Barcelona olympics were a great source of pride for the city of Barcelona and are fondly remembered by spectators and athletes alike. One thing that the athletes don't remember so fondly though is the temperature within the Olympic athletes village.

Temperatures in Barcelona were high at the time of the summer Olympics. For some reason, the designers of the Olympic village forgot to think about the temperature and didn't install air conditioning in the athletes' quarters. The oversight caused quite a stir. Many athletes were very uncomfortable, and planners from Barcelona were criticized for not considering air conditioning.

Luckily, the architects of the London Olympic athletes' village considered climate control when they were building the structure, and with some unusually warm weather in London recently, it's a good thing. Most athletes have already arrived at the village in London, finishing out their training in workout centers within the athletes' village. 

How I made my house allergy free

I love going home at the end of a long day, but my apartment building was built a many years ago, and until recently, coming home to the dust in my house would make me sneeze. A few months ago, I became tired of sneezing every time I went home and decided that I was going to make my house an allergy-free zone.

Though my apartment is several years old, the fact that it has hardwood floors makes it easier to clean, as this type of flooring does not trap dust as much as carpet. To begin my allergy crusade, I washed all of my linens and dusted even the hard-to-reach places. I also got an allergy-proof bag for my mattress to trap dust.

I also have plants in my window. I had no idea until I read the Mayo Clinic's tips on allergy proofing a home that the dirt from potted plants can contribute to allergies by spurring mold. I followed the article's advice and spread aquarium rocks over their soil.

HGTV.com has a list of tips for keeping your house healthy, and I was happy to realize that I had already done a few of them. The article recommends changing your air conditioner filter to improve the air quality in your house. Not only have I already changed mine, but I also wrote a post about it!

A well-ventilated bathroom is also extremely important to keep mold from developing in this naturally humid room. I found out about this a few weeks ago and have really noticed the benefits of having an exhaust fan in my bathroom. Most bathrooms come equipped with exhaust fans, but if your bathroom doesn't have one, you can use a portable electric fan.

Since I allergy-proofed my house, I have stopped sneezing so much, and now I love going home even more.

Keeping the beach house dry

This weekend I was lucky enough to have a friend's family invite me to their beach house in Montauk, NY. The scenery was just beautiful. My friend's house is right up against the water, making for a spectacularly tranquil beach house. But there was one problem. Everything in this beautiful house right by the water feels damp and sticky. Though we had a very pleasant weekend, I don't like to feel like I'm under water unless I’m swimming, so the humidity was uncomfortable.

This is a common problem among houses so close to the water. There just happens to be a lot more moisture in the air by the water than in a mainland house, making things feel damp. Location isn't the only reason why vacation homes have a tendency to develop mold problems, though. If a house is vacant for a long time, problems that would usually be fixed right away, such as a leaky roof or gutter, can go unnoticed for a while. If these problems go unsolved, they can make your house have an old, musty smell or even lead to a mold problem.

Luckily though, there is an easy fix.

Almost any beach house you visit will have a dehumidifier in the basement and sometimes in the rooms above-ground as well. These handy systems work by taking moisture out of the air and condensing it into water. A big house like my friend's could have used a basement dehumidifier as well as a couple of portable versions for the bedrooms upstairs.

If you have a beach house, you will definitely want to have a dehumidifier as well. These can keep your vacation house in great condition for years, and they will keep you and your friends comfortable for the duration of your stay.

Programmable thermostats gain popularity

While everyone enjoys the longer days, warmer weather and more vacation opportunities that the summer brings, a lot of people also worry about the price of warm weather comfort. Electric bills are typically much higher in the summer than they are in the winter, and while it can put a dent in your wallet, it's not great for the environment either. Particularly in the summer, saving energy is important for a number of reasons. The extra electricity used by air conditioners and electric fans can drive up electric bills.

Trying to keep my own costs down this summer, I looked online to see what I could do save money and energy without sacrificing the comfort of my home. The answer is simple: get a programmable thermostat. These thermostats can save money, time and energy, particularly in the summer.

There are some new smart models that you don’t even have to worry about setting. Models like this will learn from your behavior- when you turn off the AC or heat, how warm you like your room and when you leave the house.

Many companies are also looking to move into the emerging thermostat management market. Tech reporter GigaOm wrote that there are a number of Silicon Valley startups developing thermostat software. Probably the most surprising entity to get into the thermostat business is media and cable provider Comcast. The offering also comes with home security.

Having a preprogramed thermostat helps to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, and keeps quite a bit of energy from getting wasted. Programmable thermostats are a great way to save money automatically. And who knows, with the money you save by getting a programmable thermostat, you might be able to spend it on a great summer getaway.

The air conditioner celebrates its 110th birthday

It's hard to imagine a world without the comfort of air conditioning. This week the air conditioner celebrated its 110th birthday. The first air conditioner was made in order to keep a Brooklyn printing center located on the top floor of a building from getting too hot in the summer. And that technology is essentially still what is used today.

With this summer being one of the hottest on record, most people are thankful for their air conditioners, as it has been one of the only things keeping them comfortable in the unbearable heat. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that 87 percent of American homes now have some sort of air conditioning device.

The AC also celebrates another milestone this week. Today happens to be the 45th anniversary of the first air-conditioned subway car. On July 19, 1967, the F line of the New York City Subway was the first to get air-conditioned cars, and as a commuter myself, I sure am thankful.

The first air conditioner was made for the Brooklyn printing factory by Willis Haviland Carrier. He had just graduated from Cornell with an engineering degree, and his starting salary with the printing company was only $10 a week. The design worked out well, however, and Carrier continued to perfect it. In 1930, he started the company that today is known as Carrier, which still exists and remains a leading producer of air conditioners.

Just think of how different the world would be if we didn't have air conditioners to keep us from getting too hot in the summer. So the next time you duck inside of an air conditioned room to escape some serious heat, say thank you to William Haviland Carrier for the difference he's made in your life. Happy birthday, AC!

Use a portable electric heater on your screened-in porch throughout the fall

One day, when I move out of the city and have a house of my own, I hope it has a screened-in porch. I think a they are the best part of any house, especially because they are so comfortable during warm-weather months. The roof protects you from strong sun or heavy rain, but the screens on either side allow the beautiful summer breeze to come through. I can just imagine sitting out in my screen room, reading a book and loving my life.

But what about the fall? I love going for walks through the trees while they're changing color, and feeling the sun's last warm rays in the afternoon. Many people who have screened-in porches attached to their house love spending time out there while the seasons are changing, but they continually find that the crisp autumnal air is just a little too cold to stay on the porch for a long time.

Zolton Cohen from Michigan recommends warming up with an infrared heater. While this type of electric heater won't get you through the winter months, it will keep your porch comfortable after the sun goes down or as it gets colder throughout the fall. Infrared heaters work by heating people and objects, not the air, which is what makes them perfect for such semi-outdoor spaces.

When I finally get my dream porch, I'll be sure to equip it with an infrared electric heater. That way I can stay out in my screened-in porch well past labor day. These low-cost items make it easy to get a couple more months of enjoyment out of these great rooms. An electric heater will warm your screened-in porch just enough to take the chill out of the air so you can extend the summer as long as you would like.