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5 ways to fight cabin fever this winter

Published on February 6, 2013 in Health

Feeling a little cooped up inside your home? You might have cabin fever!

Lucky for you, we’ve got a few methods to fight off the winter doldrums in the event you find yourself hopelessly home bound:

Get outside.
It’s that simple: Take a walk, build a snowman, go for a run or sit on the porch. Exposure to sunlight (as little as 15 minutes a day) will boost your levels of Vitamin D and protect against seasonal mood changes.

Boost your mood with food.
Cabin fever can lead to winter doldrums. Keep your spirits high by eating foods that contain high levels of the amino acid Tryptophan, which our bodies convert to serotonin—a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. Examples include:

  • spinach
  • bananas
  • tofu
  • cottage cheese
  • turkey
  • sunflower seeds

Cheer up your environment.
Add bright colors throughout your home in the form of curtains, pillows, throws and soft furnishings—or even a brightly colored, soft sheet for your bed. Use a scent diffuser to make your home smell of lavender, peppermint or jasmine—essential oils considered to be uplifting. Try growing an indoor plant; it can also help to relieve tension, anxiety and depression while getting rid of stale indoor air in the process.

Battle the boredom.
Stave off the boredom often associated with cabin fever by engaging in a time-consuming activity. Pick up an old hobby or choose a new craft to learn, play a board game with the kids, read a book, organize the basement or cook a three-course meal. The hours will pass quickly, and you may find yourself relaxing in the process.

The feeling of isolation can be a major contributor to cabin fever. Host a tea party, lunch or dinner with family or friends. Catching up, talking and laughing with company may be the best remedy for what ails you.

Sometimes, the steps you take to fight off cabin fever may not be enough to shake those winter doldrums. In this event, contact a health professional to discuss additional courses of treatment.



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7 Tips to Prevent the Flu

Published on January 2, 2013 in Uncategorized

Aaaaaaaaaa-Choooooooo! The dreaded flu season is upon us. Fortunately, the old adage is true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

We’re gathered a few tips to help you protect your family from the flu this winter:

Wash your hands, surfaces and even cleaning supplies.
Often. Just 15-20 seconds of hand washing with soap and warm water—or alcohol-based rub—can help protect you from germs. Since human influenza viruses can survive on surfaces for up to 48 hours, kitchen and bath fixtures should also be scrubbed down regularly. Sterilize cellulose sponges in the dishwasher.

Down your vitamin C.
Good sources include citrus fruit, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, nuts and kiwi. Supplements can also help shorten the duration of the virus following its onset.

Drink plenty of fluids.
Proper hydration is essential to a strong immune system and overall health. Water and herbal or flavored teas are the best choice. Avoid alcohol, which may decrease your resistance to viruses.

Practice good health daily.
Exercise, manage stress, eat healthy food and get plenty of rest.

Cover your mouth and nose when you cough.
But be sure to use a tissue; touching your eyes, nose and mouth can help germs spread.

Don’t smoke.
Smoking cigarettes is a major risk factor for influenza, due to structural changes that can occur in the respiratory tract and a decreased immune response.

Clear the air.
Use an air cleaner or filtration system to capture bacteria and other small particles. A humidifier can also help your family breathe a little easier while reducing the incidence of sore throats and respiratory problems.

Play “keep away.”
Avoid crowds wherever possible. Put about six feet of distance between yourself and others as much as possible to avoid contracting the virus. Similarly, if you happen to come down with the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks to avoid spreading the illness.

Last, but not least—schedule a flu shot! The vaccine, available by shot or nasal spray, is recommended for everyone six months of age or older. It protects against infection and illness caused by the three influenza viruses that research indicates will be the most common during the coming season. While the vaccine can prevent the flu altogether, it also helps lesson the severity of the illness in the event onset occurs.

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Prepare your HVAC for winter with preventive maintenance

While the changing season provides a great opportunity for homeowners to save on HVAC costs by opening windows and temporarily powering down units, it will soon be time to turn on the heat.

Will your system be ready to handle this year’s chill?

Regular preventive maintenance, performed twice a year, can help your system keep up with seasonal temperature swings. Plus, it can increase HVAC performance and help you avoid costly emergency repairs—because no one wants to be left without heat in the middle of a snowstorm. While most newer heating systems require little maintenance, a quick tune-up can greatly extend the life of your HVAC equipment, ensuring it always runs at peak efficiency.

As always, major furnace maintenance should be handled by a licensed HVAC technician. But there are some steps you can take on your own that can result in a more comfortable winter:

Power Down
Turn off all power to the unit before performing any maintenance; wait for the blower to stop.

Replace Filters
Replace air filters at least once every three months. Dirty filters can cause your system to work harder, resulting in lower efficiency.

Run a Sound Check
Turn your unit on, and check for unusual sounds, like banging or rattling.

Look for Signs of Moisture
Check for moisture on windows, or rust or dirt accumulations on the vent pipe. This can indicate improper operation.

Assess the Room Temperature
Check your thermostat’s temperature while the unit is on to ensure rooms are reaching their full comfort potential.

If, during your basic checklist rundown you discover any unusual noises, excess moisture or other signs your unit is not functioning properly, contact a certified HVAC technician. Your technician will perform a variety of diagnostic procedures in addition to regular pre-season maintenance. This will ensure that all parts are cleaned, drained and lubricated, and all assembly and burner controls are working correctly. A thorough inspection will also verify that the heat exchanger is doing its job and the flue system is free of cracks and corrosion.

Once maintenance is complete and your system is running at peak capacity, you can relax in the comfort of knowing your system will provide ample and consistent heat throughout the season.

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Give your space the home field advantage

The big game’s coming up fast, and you’ve invited a house full. Now it’s time to make sure guests are comfortable, your space is inviting and there’s plenty of food on deck so everyone—including you—can relax and have a good time. We’ve gathered a few pointers to help you jazz up your entertaining space while ensuring every guest is comfortable.

Square away the details
Make sure your television can be seen from all angles, without any glare from windows. Before sending out invites, check to ensure the game you’re watching is on a channel your television provider airs. If you’re planning on serving pizza during a big game, call ahead and ask how far in advance you will need to order so guests don’t wind up waiting on food when they’re hungry. Finally, stock your freezer with plenty of bags of ice, keep enough cups and plates on hand for food and beverages and buy all food ingredients a few days ahead to avoid last-minute trips to the store.

Simplify your party plan
Your guests are coming for the party, not because they want to see how clean you keep your home. Choose a signature drink to avoid overbuying beverages, and offer one or two alternatives. Set everything out on a table, including ice, cups, silverware and napkins. Create a snack assortment in the main area and invite guests to serve themselves “buffet style.”

Let the guests do some of the heavy lifting
It’s awkward for everyone when guests arrive early, or even first. But most are happy to pitch in—helping out with party preparation is much more relaxing than small talk. Give them trays to carry to the table, have them fill cups with ice, or ask them to “taste test” a few of the recipes.

Create a relaxing atmosphere
Your guests will be sitting around the big screen for a long time. Make sure to offer plenty of comfortable seating, with extra pillows, blankets, beanbags and cushions on hand to make more room in a pinch—and accommodate any special comfort requests.

Find the right temperature
Research shows most people are comfortable in a room where the temperature is set between 68-72 degrees Fahrenheit. But basements, garages and patio rooms—areas perfect for setting up events for large, potentially rowdy crowds—can be prone to temperature fluctuations. A Lennox® mini-split ductless heat pump or mini split ductless air conditioner offers a versatile, energy-efficient solution. Lennox’ garage heaters provide reliable warmth for any size garage or utility area, regardless of outside weather conditions.

Final step: Enjoy!
With all the details set and the pre-game work complete, it’s time to kick back with your friends to enjoy the game.

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Back to School: Ten ways to give your kids a healthy start

It’s that time of the year when long, leisurely summer days give way to the often too busy and chaotic routine of returning to the regular school schedule. Instead of fun in the sun and staying up late, it’s time to shop for school supplies, go to bed early and get ready to buckle down for long nights of homework. Talk about stressful!

Here’s how to make sure your kids will get the most out of the new school year, with tips to give them a healthy start and improve opportunities for success both in and out of the classroom.

1) Encourage them to exercise

Whether it’s in the morning, after school or even a late night routine, have your kids aim for 20 minutes a day of aerobic exercise at 60% of their estimated maximum heart rate. Studies show exercise can improve mental function by up to 10%. They also indicate improved performance on tests following aerobic exercise, due to its ability to increase attentiveness.

2) Take them for an annual checkup

Routine exams and screenings help track your child’s development and identify any potential problems. Vision and hearing tests are essential: Check with your school to find out about immunization requirements and recommendations, as well as any free exams they may have available throughout the year. Schedule a dentist appointment every six months, too.

3) Prepare healthy lunches

What your kids eat for lunch will give them the fuel and energy they need to finish a long day in the classroom. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low- or non-fat dairy products, in addition to protein, are essential. Limit sugars and juices. Search online for fresh ways of preparing old favorites, as well as new ideas for items to pack.

4) Establish a routine

Getting back into the swing of things after a long summer can be difficult, but a steady schedule will help kids thrive. Tips: Don’t stray from the sleep schedule unless absolutely necessary; Set up a school area for sports equipment, library books and anything else the kids may need on the way out the door; Plan clothing and prepare lunches the night before for an overall smoother routine.

5) Serve a healthy breakfast

You’ve heard it before — breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But preparing a healthy meal can be a challenge in the midst of a busy morning routine. Don’t skimp here: Not only does eating breakfast help improve math, reading and standardized test scores; it also makes children more likely to behave better in school, get along with peers and perform problem-solving tasks, in addition to improving memory and increasing attentiveness. Plus, children who eat breakfast on a regular basis are less likely to be overweight. To help your kids gain the maximum benefits, avoid high-sugar, processed foods and aim for 1/4 of the recommended amounts of protein, calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C for the day.

6) Send them to bed on time

Quality sleep goes a long way in helping kids stay alert, energetic and ready to learn. Aim for 10 hours for children ages 6-9, and just over 9 hours for pre-teens. If they tend to do well on less rest, however, use your best judgment — every kid is different.

7) Let them have a little downtime

Stress and anxiety are a normal part of the back-to-school routine — for kids, as well as the rest of the family working to balance a full schedule. Allow them to take a little downtime when they return from school — whether it’s outside play, a 30-minute television show, free time online, exercise or even a nap — engaging in a relaxing activity will help them do better when it’s time to tackle the homework load.

8 ) Create a comfortable environment

Who can concentrate when it’s too hot or too cold? Keep home temps set between 68˚F-72˚F, the optimum comfort level for most people. Limit noise levels, too-loud music or rambunctious toddlers roaming about may interfere with your child’s ability to concentrate. Finally, help everyone breathe a little easier with a high-performing indoor air purification system. Minimizing indoor pollutants can improve your child’s concentration, as well as help to alleviate allergies and respiratory symptoms, headaches and nasal congestion, which equates to better overall classroom performance and less days missed due to illness.

10) Balance their backpacks

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids should carry no more than 10-20% of their body weight. Help them distribute the weight of the items in their backpack evenly, too, to help maintain posture and balance. Encourage them to carry the backpack with both straps, and purchase bags with padded straps when possible.

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Combating Dry Indoor Air

Published on August 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

When winter’s chill strikes, cold air starts to seep into your home through cracks and crevices—while warm air flows out. Your first instinct may be to crank up the heat, but warmer temperatures rob indoor air of moisture, blanketing the inside of your home with a desert-like oasis of dry, stuffy air.

With humidity levels at an all-time low, the overly dry air pulls moisture from everything it surrounds, causing a variety of issues affecting health, comfort and home. They include:

Aggravated allergies or respiratory illnesses
Scratchy, sore throat or excessive cough
Dry, irritated nasal passages
Dry, itchy skin
Chapped lips
Static shocks
Cracked, peeling wallpaper
Warped or cracked wood
Damage to household furnishings

The good news is, these problems can be resolved by keeping humidity levels in balance.

Adding humidity to heated, dry air with an efficient, whole-home humidifier—like the Lennox Healthy Climate® Steam Humidifier—helps to restore the proper balance of moisture inside your home and eliminate problems associated with dry air.

The Steam Humidifier heats water to produce steam, which is dispersed evenly throughout your home to make the air more comfortable. Plus, because humidified air feels warmer than dry air at the same temperature, you can lower the thermostat and still feel comfortable, resulting in extra savings on your monthly utility bills.

For more information on how you can restore balance to dry indoor air, find a Lennox® Dealer in your area or call 1-800-9-LENNOX.

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Is it time for a new home comfort system?

Published on July 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

Replacing your home’s HVAC system may seem like a daunting task, but it’s easy if you know what features to look for. We’ve compiled the ultimate “things to consider” checklist to help you take the plunge:
Some of your rooms are too hot or cold
Duct problems, inadequate air sealing or insulation could be the cause. No matter how efficient your heating and cooling system is, if your home is not properly sealed and insulated against air leakage, you will not be as comfortable and your system will have to work harder.

Your home has humidity problems and/or excessive dust
Poorly operating or improperly sized equipment could be to blame. Leaky ductwork can also cause these problems, so having it sealed may be a solution. Monthly maintenance of your heating and cooling equipment’s filters may also help.

Your cooling system is noisy
Your duct system could be improperly sized or there may be a problem with the indoor coil of your cooling equipment.

Your equipment needs frequent repairs and your energy bills are going up
In addition to the rise in energy costs, the age and condition of your heating and cooling equipment may have caused it to become less efficient.

Your air conditioner or heat pump is more than 12 years old
Consider replacing it with newer, more efficient equipment. And, remember, high efficiency levels begin with ENERGY STAR.

Your furnace or boiler is more than 15 years old
Consider replacing it with ENERGY STAR® qualified equipment. ENERGY STAR has set high efficiency guidelines for both types of heating systems.

You leave your thermostat set at one constant temperature
You could be missing a great energy-saving opportunity. A programmable thermostat adjusts your home’s temperature at times when you’re regularly away or sleeping.

Source: “A Guide to Energy-Efficient Heating and Cooling,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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When to invest in a new HVAC system

Published on July 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

Is it time to replace your home heating and cooling system? Read our comfort Q&A below to see if it’s time to take the leap:

How old is your system?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests replacing your air conditioner or heat pump if it’s more than 12 years old, and your furnace or boiler if it’s more than 15 years old. New units—especially ENERGY STAR® qualified models—have much higher efficiency levels to help lower your utility bills, and are more reliable than older systems.

Systems more than 10 years old use a lot more fuel than newer models. Review the SEER (efficiency) rating of your existing system and compare to newer models. The higher the SEER, the higher the savings you can expect. Lennox offers models rated up to 21 SEER.

 How high are your repair bills?

Frequent repairs costing hundreds of dollars mean your service costs can soon exceed the cost of a new system.

 Is your home uncomfortable?

If the rooms in your home are too hot or too cold, your current system may be too large or too small, or the system may have been poorly installed. Talk to a contractor about performing a load calculation to be sure.

Is humidity, mold or dust a problem?

A dehumidification system can help remove moisture than can damage both your home and your health. Adding a germicidal light can help to eliminate contaminants at the source, keeping them from recirculating throughout your home. Replacing HVAC filters once a month also helps to keep dust under control.

Does your home score below five on the Home Energy yardstick?

See where you score on ENERGY STAR’s Home Energy yardstick versus other homeowners. If you’re using more energy at home than most Americans, then you’re probably paying more on energy bills than you need to.

Time for a change?

If your answers to the questions above show you may benefit from a new system, contact your local Lennox dealer. Find more information on Lennox’ ENERGY STAR® qualified products at www.lennox.com.

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Spring Clean Your Air

Published on July 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

According to the EPA, the air inside your home may be up to five times more polluted than the air outside. So when you’re doing the annual clean-sweep, don’t forget to add it to your list.

Spring clean your air
Spring sprucing can have your home looking great in no time. But what about the mess you can’t see? Invisible particles, like bacteria, chemicals, pet dander, and viruses—along with dust, mold and mildew—can pollute your indoor air, affecting your home, health and comfort. And since most people spend 90% of their time indoors, keeping the air clean is just as important as cleaning the surfaces you can see. Here’s a spring sprucing checklist that will help keep things tidy while helping to improve indoor air quality (IAQ): (cut down pollutants and combat poor indoor air quality).

Ban the use of chemicals in your home
Scented fragrances—like laundry detergents, floor cleaners and air fresheners —may smell fresh, but chances are, they’re polluting your indoor air. These products can emit dozens of different chemicals into the air, causing respiratory irritation. To combat synthetic fragrances, purchase naturally scented or fragrant-free products, use mild cleaners without artificial ingredients and discontinue use of aerosol sprays. Use sliced lemons and baking soda to get a clean scent in the kitchen.

Place a floor mat at every door
Chemicals from dirt, pesticides and other pollutants enter the home on the soles of shoes. A doormat will reduce the amount of pollutants tracked inside and help to keep IAQ levels in check. If possible, have family members leave their shoes at the door, too.

Keep everything clean underfoot
Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to suck up pollutants that can accumulate in your carpets, like pollen, pet dander, dust mites and PBDEs (brominated fire-retardant chemicals). Vacuum high traffic areas several times. Next, mop every surface that can’t be vacuumed to pick up any lingering dust or allergens. Be sure to use an eco-friendly cleaning solution.

Add plants to the mix
Houseplants help to beautify a room while naturally filtering pollutants from the air. NASA research shows that foliage and roots work in tandem to absorb chemical pollutants released by synthetic materials. Recommended: aloe vera, ferns or spider plants.

Change your filter often
If you haven’t already, upgrade your furnace filter to a HEPA (High Energy Particulate Air) air filter, and change it regularly. HEPA filters capture a minimum of 99.97% of pollutants at 0.3 microns, helping you to breathe a little easier at home.

Keep humidity levels in balance
Excess levels of moisture in the home help dust mites and mold thrive. Keeping humidity around 30%-50% can help keep them—and other allergens—under control. A dehumidifier helps to reduce moisture in indoor air while reducing the indoor pollen count, helping to keep symptoms at bay. Using exhaust fans and cracking windows, venting the clothes dryer to the outside, fixing leaky plumbing and emptying HVAC drip pans can also help to balance moisture levels inside your home.

Don’t forget the ducts
If you have a forced air heating system, have the air ducts cleaned and sealed internally. This process can result in more even temperatures and lower utility bills. Make sure the contractor is a member of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.

Purify your air
Installing a whole-home air filtration system, like the Lennox PureAir® Purification System, is your best defense against poor indoor air quality. The PureAir system uses exclusive UVA-light technology to attack all three classes of indoor air contaminants–particles, mold/mildew/bacteria and odors/chemical vapors. It also destroys ozone, an irritant known to be harmful to lungs.
Tags: air filter, air purification, bacteria, chemicals, HEPA, humidity, indoor air quality, pollutants

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Get comfortable with a home energy audit

Published on July 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

How can you identify and prioritize home upgrades that will also reduce your energy bill and make your home more comfortable? With a do-it-yourself home energy audit! Like the home energy audits offered by many utility companies, the DIY audit starts with a simple walk-through of your home to assess energy wasters and improvements to eliminate them.

Here are three important places to start:
1. Inspect your cooling/heating system

Heating and cooling accounts for nearly half your home’s energy usage. Improving efficiency here can make a noticeable difference on your monthly energy bill.

Your HVAC system should be inspected at least once a year. Your Lennox dealer can check and clean your equipment to help control energy usage.
If you have a central heating and cooling system, the filters should be checked monthly – especially during high-usage seasons – and replaced as needed (at least once every three months) to keep the system working efficiently.
Check ductwork for streaks of dirt that indicate air leaks. These should be sealed with duct mastic. Insulate ducts or pipes that extend through unheated spaces.
If any HVAC unit is more than 15 years old, a newer system can greatly reduce your energy usage and lower your energy bill.

2. Assess your lighting

Lighting makes up about 10 percent of your electricity costs.

Examine the wattage of your light bulbs. If your lamps are using 100-watt or larger bulbs, consider a 60- or 75-watt replacement.
Install compact fluorescent bulbs in areas where lights are left on for hours at a time.
Move lamps away from your thermostat. The heat produced by traditional light bulbs can be sensed and may force your air conditioner to work harder.

3. Eliminate drafts

Reducing air leaks or drafts can reduce your energy usage by 5 to 30 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy and make your home much more comfortable.

Look inside for gaps along the baseboard or edge of flooring and where the walls and ceiling meet.
Look outdoors at exterior corners, where siding and chimneys meet and areas where the foundation and exterior brick or siding meet.
Rattle windows and doors: Any movement means possible air leaks. If you can see daylight around a window frame or door, there is a leak that can often be fixed by caulking or weather stripping. Check storm windows for a tight fit. If new, high-performance doors and windows are too expensive, low-cost plastic sheets can be installed over windows to block air.
Plug or caulk air leaks from or around electrical outlets, switch plates, attic hatches and window-mounted air conditioners.
If you’re having trouble locating air leaks, you can try this simple building pressurization test:
Close all exterior doors, windows and fireplace flues
Turn off all combustion appliances, including gas-burning furnaces and water heaters.
Turn on exhaust fans in the kitchen and bath.
Dampen your hand to feel any cool drafts, or burn an incense stick to look

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