10 Ways to Green Your Home, Plus Save on Energy Costs, Without a Huge Investment!

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There are lots of big ideas out there about how humanity can reduce its energy demands in order to conserve our precious resources. Things like switching to solar energy, driving hybrid cars, installing mag-rail public transportation systems in cities, and building high rise agriculture operations. But one of the most impactful things we can each do individually to lower our energy usage is to make simple, inexpensive changes to the way we do things around the house.

These ten tips will not only help reduce your carbon footprint, they’ll also save you lots of money over time on your energy bills, AND extend the life of some of your most used appliances.

  1. Air dry your clothes. Air drying your clothes can help you save on energy costs year-round by reducing your dryer use, but in the hot summer months it saves you even more. Large appliances like dryers are a major source of heat in your home, and running them while the air conditioning is on makes the AC work harder to cool your home, thereby increasing your electric bill. You can dry clothes outside in your yard or on a balcony with a clothesline, of course, but if the weather is wet, or if you just don’t have the outdoor space, you can always hang clothes from hangers on your shower curtain rod, or invest in a small wooden clothes drying rack for indoor use.
  2. Seal drafts. Your heating and cooling systems work hard to keep your house at a comfortable temperature year round. Help them out by keeping that heated or cooled air inside! Use caulk or insulating tape to seal drafts around doors, windows, and vents. If your windows are extra drafty, cover them with clear plastic in the winter. You’ll save a lot of money, and the planet will thank you for your effort!
  3. Switch to LED light bulbs. Replacing just one incandescent bulb with an LED can save you around $4-5 per year. Replace every bulb in your house, and—well, you can do the math. LEDs are inexpensive to buy, so you can make your money back in a year or less with those electric bill savings.
  4. Insulate your water heater. Especially if your water heater is older, insulating it can really help cut down on energy costs. Blankets made especially for water heater insulation can be purchased inexpensively at any hardware or home improvement store.
  5. Keep your vents clean. It’s not something you often think about, since many heating and cooling vents are situated out of sight in your home. But all those dust bunnies collecting on those hidden vent covers are blocking the warm or cool air, making your heating and cooling systems struggle harder to deliver comfortable temperatures. So add it to your monthly cleaning list: vacuum or dust the vent covers and the inside of the vents.
  6. Be efficient with your clothes and dish washing. Laundry and dishes have to be cleaned several times a week in most homes, if not daily. But the way you load your machines can have a big impact on how much energy you’re using in the process. If you want to save on energy costs, try to always run full loads in both the clothes washer and the dishwasher. Wear items like jeans and jackets multiple times before washing. And figure out how to load your dishwasher so that the hot water can reach every item, thereby avoiding having to wash things twice.
  7. Reduce phantom loads. Many household electronic devices pull power from the grid even when they’re not in use. Things like computers, video game consoles, stereos, coffee makers, etc. will suck up energy unless they are turned off. It can be a pain to remember to turn every single device off whenever you’re not using it, though. A good idea is to plug as many devices as possible into one power strip, and turn the power strip off when you leave the room.
  8. Use the microwave or toaster oven. Full size ovens use a lot of power. Unless you’re making a huge casserole, a pizza, a cake, or a Thanksgiving turkey, chances are you can fit whatever you’re cooking into a toaster oven or microwave. These small appliances use much less energy than your oven. Crock pots are also great for saving on cooking-related energy costs.
  9. Plant trees. If you own your home, it can be a great idea to plant deciduous trees around your yard in strategic places. As they grow bigger, they will shield your windows from the hot summer sun, but in the winter, their bare branches will allow the warming rays through.
  10. Clean your refrigerator coils. Just like heating and cooling vents, refrigerator coils can gather a lot of dust without anyone ever noticing. And that’s not good for your electric bill, or your carbon footprint. Clean your refrigerator coils (located on the bottom or back of the appliance) once a month to every two months. You’ll reduce your bill and extend the life of your refrigerator while you’re at it!

Voting Has Begun for the Mountain Xpress 2018 Best of WNC Awards!

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Greetings to all of our amazing customers!

In 2017, you voted us the Best Home Cleaning Service in ountain Xpress's annual Best of WNC poll for the third year in a row. e'd love to keep up our winning streak, but we can't do it without you! Voting just opened up for 2018, so if you have a free moment, please head over to the poll to vote for us and all of your other favorite WNC businesses.

Green Home Cleaning is eligible in the Home Cleaning Services category. Keep in mind that you do not have to complete the entire ballot in order to vote. You only have to vote in a minimum of 30 categories. The poll ends April 28.

A big Thank You for your support from Leslie, Pam, and the rest of the crew!

 

7 Conventional Household Cleaning Products to Avoid

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We all want a clean home, but if you’re using conventional products to clean, that clean can come at a huge cost to your family’s health! Many commercial products contain ingredients that are classified as irritants or even carcinogens.

Here is a list of the seven top offenders, along with natural alternatives.

  1. Fabric Softeners- The fragrances contained in fabric softeners usually contain phthalates, known endocrine disrupters that can result in damage to your reproductive health. Be warned, most products containing phthalates will not list it as an ingredient on the label due to proprietary laws. Other ingredients found in fabric softeners can increase your risk for asthma and other respiratory disorders. For soft clothes, towels, and linens, try adding a half cup of white vinegar to your wash.
  2. Window Cleaners- Most commercial window cleaning agents contain 2-butoxyethanol as a key ingredient. This harsh chemical can cause sore throats, narcosis, pulmonary edema, and even severe kidney and liver damage. Clean windows with diluted vinegar or vodka instead.
  3. Oven Cleaners- Sodium hydroxide, a cleaning compound found in commercial oven cleaners, can cause severe chemical burns to your skin, as well as to the throat and esophagus when inhaled. This can lead to a sore throat that can last up to several days. Instead, use baking soda paste and a little elbow grease to get your oven clean.
  4. Air Fresheners- Phthalates strike again! The fragrances used in most air fresheners, like those in fabric softeners, can trigger allergies and even cause adult onset asthma in otherwise healthy individuals. For a clean, green, healthy scent, use essential oils instead. Lavender, peppermint, and lemon oils are great and not too expensive!
  5. Spot Cleaners/Carpet Cleaners- These cleaning products are basically made out of neurotoxin. Perchloroethylene—or “PERC” for short, is classified as a possible carcinogen by the EPA. Instead of toxic carpet cleaning solutions, hire a green carpet cleaning company (LINK) to treat your carpets to a water-based cleaning. For laundry stains, try rubbing undiluted castile soap on the affected area prior to washing.
  6. Bleach- We all know that chlorine can irritate your eyes and throat, but did you know it may also harm your thyroid function? Clean with vinegar, instead!
  7. Ammonia- Ammonia acts as an irritant to eyes, nose, throat, and skin. And let’s face it: that stuff STINKS! Instead, use homemade vinegar based solutions or clean with diluted antibacterial essential oils.

 

 

A Brief History of Spring Cleaning

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The seasonal ritual of spring cleaning has been around as long as humans have lived in permanent dwellings.

In ancient times, spring cleaning was often done as part of a spring religious holiday or festival. Ancient Persians commemorated Nowruz, their New Year celebration coinciding with the vernal equinox, with a ritual house cleaning called kooneh tekouni, an apt phrase meaning “shaking up the house.”

Early Hebrews conducted a thorough cleaning of their homes in preparation for Passover, the traditional spring holiday. And in the Chinese tradition, a house cleaning holiday serves as a precursor to the New Year (which is generally thought to be the first day of spring.)

It was fitting for ancient peoples to ritualize detailed cleaning in the spring, a time when the earth renews itself and seasonal cycles start afresh.

Imagine living in Wisconsin before the modern inventions of electric heat, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners. These hardy folks brought their whole lives inside for four to six months while the cold weather raged outside. During that time, they would have had to adjust and modify their normal, warm-weather cleaning habits.

Instead of carrying all of the dirty clothes and linens outside on “wash day” to launder in a big cast iron pot over a fire, they would wash their clothes in small batches in the kitchen and hang them to dry beside the wood stove or fireplace. Sheets and blankets would go unwashed through the winter months. The lack of light would have made it hard to see well enough to clean in a detailed way. Heating with wood meant that the floors and rugs would constantly be covered with stray wood chips and pieces of bark. By spring, everything in the house would be coated with a fine layer of ash and soot.

So as soon as the days lengthened and the weather grew warmer, families did their spring cleaning, spending a few days to a week cleaning everything that had grown dirty and neglected over the long, harsh winter.

One of the most important, time consuming, and labor-intensive tasks in the spring cleaning regimen was beating the rugs. People didn’t have wall-to-wall carpets back then, but they did have large, room-sized rugs woven of wool or reeds, and smaller rugs woven of old rags. These heavy, dirt-covered rugs would be hauled outside, hung up on a line in the sunshine, and beaten with sticks until no more dust remained. Then they would be left to hang in the sunshine and air out for a day or so, before being brought back in.

Thankfully, today, we have access to miraculous appliances like vacuum cleaners and washers and dryers. Though it still gets cold and dark in the winter, we no longer have to suffer through months of dirty living conditions and poor air quality just because it’s cold outside.

But, even though we now live in a time of comparative luxury, spring cleaning is still a tradition that many people uphold. It’s as good a time as any to see to those household chores that only need doing once a year, like cleaning behind the refrigerator, changing the air filters, and dusting the baseboards. It is nice, and even energizing, to spend the first few days tidying up, getting rid of the old, and making room for the new.

A Valentine's Day Cleaning Guide for Dudes

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So you’re a dude, and you’ve got a special someone coming over for Valentine’s Day dinner.

But, let’s face it—you’re a bachelor and your home is a bachelor pad. Your idea of cleaning is moving the empty pizza box from the floor to the lid of the trashcan. So how do you make sure your date won’t flee your apartment before cocktails? Here’s a handy home cleaning guide, paying special attention to areas that dudes often forget about.

  1. Odors. The thing about residential odors is that they are usually only perceptible to guests. This isn’t only true for dudes; it’s just a fact of life. We get accustomed to the smell of our homes to the point where we block it out, and it takes leaving for a week’s vacation and coming back to really notice there’s something off. So here’s what you do: the day before you have your lady friend over for dinner, ask a friend or neighbor to come over and do a sniff test for you. If you don’t have time for that, it’s okay. You can mask any stealthy odors, but whatever you do, DON’T use Lysol or any other chemical-heavy room spray. They actually don’t smell that great, and many people experience allergic reactions to them. Instead, throw some orange peels and cinnamon sticks in a pot with a little water, and set it to simmer for an hour or two before your date arrives. That will make your whole house smell amazing.
  2. Living Room. The main thing you’re going to want to do in the living room is pick up any clutter off the floor and furniture. Your sneakers, your gym bag, your stack of poker chips—put them in a closet. Empty beer cans and used paper plates, obviously, go in the trash, and don’t forget to take the trash out before your date comes over! Once the room is tidied up, sweep the floor or run the vacuum cleaner and clean any glass tabletops of all stains and smudges. It wouldn’t hurt to run a dust cloth over the TV screen, either.
  3. Kitchen. I’ve met a lot of bachelors who don’t have plates, silverware, or basic cooking stuff. If this is you—and I’m not saying it is—the first thing I want to know is what possessed you to invite your date over to your place for dinner? But, never mind, there’s no time for answering questions. Thrift shops often have good deals on gently used kitchen and dining accouterments. Once you’ve got all the necessary items, give your kitchen a once-over to ensure it won’t offend your date. The most important things are to make sure that the countertops, floor, and appliance surfaces are clean. If you have a bit of time after that’s done, give your sink and faucet a polish with a wet cloth. And finally, make sure there’s no rotting food in the fridge, just in case she opens it.
  4. Bathroom. Dirty towels into the hamper. Clean the toilet bowl (here’s an article on getting out hard water stains, if you need it). Arrange your toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, etc. neatly on the counter, or better yet, put them in a drawer. And most importantly, clean all of the beard trimmings out of your sink and off of your mirror.
  5. Bedroom. There’s certainly no guarantee that your date will set foot in your bedroom, but giving it a quick cleaning might help the chances that if she does enter, she’ll stick around for awhile. First, you’ll need to wash your comforter and linens. It doesn’t matter if they look clean—if you haven’t washed them in a while, they’re not clean and she’ll be able to tell. Then make the bed neatly. Clear any clutter off the dresser and bedside table, and remove any piles of dirty clothes from the floor. Vacuum the carpet, dust the blinds, and replace any dead light bulbs.

That’s it! By following the tips in this guide, you can be confident that your bachelor pad will not only not turn off your date, but that it might actually leave a good impression! Happy Valentine’s Day, dudes!