Author Archives: Donna Boyle Schwartz

About Donna Boyle Schwartz

Donna Boyle Schwartz is a well-known home furnishings writer and editor, working with leading magazines and newspapers for more than 30 years. Donna is vice president/creative director of DDS Enterprises, a consulting firm concentrating on editorial projects and original research; the company also operates a full-service recording studio specializing in archival audio restoration. An enthusiastic DIYer, she has a shed full of tools and a house full of projects. Check her out on Google+!

How To: Install Pegboard in Your Workshop

Clutter, be gone! Putting up a pegboard is a simple, satisfying project that will give you a place for pretty much anything, so you can (at last) put everything in its place.

Hang Pegboard - Painted


Does it look like a bomb went off in your workshop? Even the best tools are useless if they are nowhere to be found when you need them. Hang pegboard for a quick and easy tool storage solution that can be scaled to fit just about any space, whether it’s the nook above your workbench or an entire garage wall.

- Tape measure
- 1″ x 3″ furring strips
- Drill/driver
- Wood screws
- Pegboard
- Jigsaw, circular saw, or table saw
- Pegboard hangers


Measure the width and height of the area where you plan to hang the pegboard, then calculate the number of furring strips you’ll need (they should be spaced every 16 inches). For example, if your width measurement is 96 inches, divide 96 by 16 to find that you’ll need 6 furring strips.

Cut the required number of furring strips to the height measured in Step 1. Fasten the furring strips at 16-inch stud intervals along the wall. Make sure they are secure and flush to the surface.

Related: Pegboard Storage: A Classic for All Time

Pegboard typically comes in 4′ x 8′ sheets, so you might very well need to cut yours down to size. Using a jigsaw, circular saw, or table saw, trim the board to the dimensions desired, then screw it onto the furring strips. If you’re installing an expanse of pegboard, screw in one panel at a time.

Decide what type of hardware to attach. Sold in sets, pegboard hangers vary in size and design to accommodate virtually any tool in the handyman’s arsenal. It may be helpful (or even fun) to lay out the tools you want to store on the pegboard, trying them out in different arrangements.

Add your chosen hardware to the pegboard and, finally, set your tools into place. Once they’ve discovered the perfect configuration, some people like to draw an outline around each tool so that its correct placement won’t be forgotten. To each his own—customization is central to pegboard’s appeal, after all!

How Old Is My House?

A mystery awaits! Learn how to scour paper records and decode subtle clues to uncover your home's true age.

How Old Is My House? - Exterior


Nothing satisfies like solving a good mystery, especially when the mystery to be unraveled is the history of your house. The average owner of an old house knows only roughly when the house was built. While the real estate company might have said one thing, the neighbors probably have their own ideas. So how do you find out exactly how old your house is? A surprising number of resources are available for the determined sleuth!

Government Records
Visit your town, city, or county tax assessor. Assuming they have been conscientiously maintained, the tax records should list the name of every person who has owned the land on which your house sits, along with the assessed value of the property from year to year. Do you spot a sudden jump in valuation? That suggests the construction of a new home on what had previously been an unimproved lot, or it might signify the completion of a substantial addition or renovation.

The office of your county clerk is another important place to stop as you wend the paper trail toward knowing more about the provenance of your home. You’re interested in three files: the Registrar of Deeds, the tract index, and the grantor-grantee index. These give you a comprehensive listing of all transactions that have involved your lot. Names and dates are included, and in addition, you’ll find the salient details of any lawsuits or liens filed over the years.

If you live in a city or town, seek out the local building inspector. Ask to see any permit applications associated with your street address. Because building permits are typically required for new construction and substantive remodeling projects, this line of inquiry may reward you with some interesting facts. Even if the date of your home’s construction is not given, you can at least learn about any major changes that have been made to the structure—additions and so on.

How Old Is My House? - Levittown


Fire insurance maps are yet another source of trustworthy particulars. These maps, which in many cases date back to the 1870s, can help you determine the materials used in the initial construction of your home.

Community Libraries
Many libraries devote sections to local history, their valuable archives containing such things as historical maps, original building plans, and even old photographs. Scour the real estate listings in decades-old newspapers and consult the census records for your area. Also, consider delving into wills and probate records, insurance ledgers, phone books, zoning maps, and municipal planning studies.

Architectural Investigation
If the case has gone cold despite all your efforts, turn your investigation toward the house itself: Its materials, method of construction, and architectural style all provide vital clues to its age.

For example, asphalt tile flooring exploded into popularity around 1920 but had been virtually forgotten by 1960. (Note that if at least one of your bathrooms still has the original fixtures, you can usually find a manufacturing date stamped on the underside of the toilet tank cover!) So long as your home has not been completely renovated, the builder’s choice of materials is likely to suggest a specific period of construction.

Related: 10 National Trust Properties to Visit

Another strong indicator of age is your house style. Like fashions in the clothing world, the popularity of different architectural styles waxes and wanes. Italianates were an 1850s favorite; Colonial Revival was all the rage in the 1890s; and by the 1900s, Craftsman-style houses had begun popping up everywhere.

Of course, you can always hire a professional architectural investigator to solve the mysteries surrounding the origin and history of your home. But why pay for someone else to have all the fun?

Why Every Gardener Needs a Worm Bin

Save money at the garden supply store by making your own high-quality organic fertilizer through vermicomposting—the easy and rewarding process of composting with worms.



Anyone with a garden knows that fertilizer and enriched soil can be expensive. But did you know there is a source of high-quality organic material that you can build and maintain yourself at low cost? Yes! Brace yourself: It’s a worm bin.

Each year, the average household generates pounds and pounds of organic waste. With a worm bin, you can put all those kitchen scraps to excellent use, producing your own fertilizer suitable for vegetable gardens, flower beds, and lawns.

Vermiculture - Red Wigglers


Worm composting, also known as vermicomposting, resembles regular composting in many ways but requires less work. A traditional compost pile or bin requires human intervention—turning, aerating, heat management. In a worm bin, however, the worms do all of the work.

Benefits of Vermicomposting
Besides saving the gardener time and money that would otherwise be spent on purchasing commercial fertilizers, there are numerous benefits to vermicompost. For one thing, it improves soil aeration and contributes beneficial enzymes.

In fact, worm casings add micro-organisms that generate ten to 20 times more microbial activity than you’d find in regular soil. That attracts deep-burrowing earthworms already present in the soil, and these worms make tunnels that let water and nutrients flow to your plant’s root systems.

Rich in nitrogen, phosphates, and potash, worm casings can be mixed into a powerful liquid organic fertilizer and insecticide known as “worm tea,” which if sprayed directly onto plants, nourishes the leaves and creates a natural pest repellent.

Red Wigglers
The “kings” of vermicomposting are worms known as red wigglers (Eisenia fetida or Lubricous rubellas), sold from garden suppliers both in stores and online. Of course, adventurous gardeners can harvest their own worms in the backyard, and there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest that “local” worms may be more productive than “imported” ones, at least in the early stages of a worm bin.

Building a Worm Bin
Even for beginning do-it-yourselfers, setting up a worm bin is not especially challenging. There are many kits available, or you can make your own bin using readily available materials. Scroll down for a step-by-step overview of the project….

Vermiculture - DIY Worm Bin


Tools and Materials
- Lidded rectangular plastic or wood storage bin
- Drill
- Newspaper and corrugated cardboard
- 2 cups ordinary soil
- Red worms (Lubricous rubellas) or compost worms (Eugenia fetid)

Step 1
Locate your bin on a part of your property that is removed from direct sunlight. Drill two rows of ventilation holes just beneath the lid, around the top edge of the bin itself. Space the holes three to four inches apart, keeping their diameter to less than 1/4 inch to prevent the worms from escaping.

Step 2
Shred newspaper into fine strips. (Avoid printer paper, which includes bleach, and glossy magazine pages, which contain dyes.) Meanwhile, tear corrugated cardboard into small, three- to four-inch pieces. Wet the newspaper strips until they are the consistency of a damp sponge, then squeeze out excess water.

Related: 10 Irresistible DIY Chicken Coops

Step 3
Add four to six inches of newspaper into the bin, followed by a layer of carboard pieces and anywhere from two to four cups of ordinary garden soil. Finally, add the worms, placing a small layer of damp paper over them. Close the lid, and you’re done for now.

Worm Feeding
You can ultimately expect to feed the worms table scraps every day, but at the outset, try about a cup every other day. Place the scraps in a corner and cover them with newspaper; add scraps to a different corner with each feeding. Certain food scraps are more suitable for use in worm bins than others.

Vermiculture - Compost


Here are the best food sources for worms:

  • Oatmeal and other cooked grains
  • Soft breads and cooked pasta
  • Coffee grounds and tea leaves
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Fruit, except citrus
  • Lettuce
  • Squash
  • Chopped vegetable matter (roots, tops, etc.)
  • Dry cornmeal, just a sprinkle, as a treat

Avoid putting the follow items in the worm bin:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Dairy
  • Meat
  • Oil
  • Extremely salty or processed foods
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar
  • Seeds

Worm Bin Maintenance
One of the advantages of worm bins is that they require so little maintenance. Make sure the interior of the bin stays damp but doesn’t become wet. Mist with a spray bottle when necessary. If the contents of the bin are getting soggy or too densely packed, add in a few handfuls of dry shredded newspaper. Avoid letting the bin material get too deep; that can lead to an excessive degree of dampness. (Shoot for the contents of the bin reaching a height of only six to eight inches.) For bins that always seem to harbor excess moisture, a window screen may be substituted for the solid lid.

After about two months, once the contents of the bin begin to look black, it’s time to harvest the casings. Stop adding fresh food for a few days in order to stimulate appetite. After that time, put something worms love (oatmeal or squash) on one side of the bin. Let the worms migrate to the food over the course of a couple of days, then scoop out the material from the other side. Pick through what you’ve gathered, replacing any worms accidentally taken out, and use the rest of the material to make your garden the envy of the neighborhood!

Bath Fans Do More Than Clear Odors

Since the bathroom is the most humid room in any house, a ventilation fan is the best defense against moisture-related problems—namely, mold and mildew.

Bathroom Fan Installation


Humidity is not only uncomfortable, it is damaging to your home, particularly indoors where it can lead to peeling paint, warped wooden doors and floors, and the potential for mold and mildew. Nowhere is the humidity problem more evident than in bathrooms, where bathtubs, showers, sinks and toilets all contribute to the release of moisture into the air.

Fortunately there is an easy solution within reach of most do-it-yourselfers: installing a bathroom ventilation fan. Bathroom fans are designed to promote positive air movement, bringing fresh air into the bathroom and at the same time, removing steam, humidity and even foul odors from the area.  In short, improving the overall air quality in your home.

“Since the bathroom is the most humid room in a house, having a ventilation fan is a no-brainer,” says Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer Ventilation fans are designed to solve air movement problems and improve indoor air quality in homes and buildings. In many cases they are required by local building codes. “In the bathroom, a ventilation fan can quickly and efficiently whisk away odors, along with steam and moisture to reduce the potential for mold and mildew,” he adds.

Bathroom Fan Installation - Components

PB110 Premium Bath Fan (One Grille/Vent Only) from

Bathroom fans come in three basic types: ceiling-mounted, which are installed directly into the ceiling and ventilate into the attic or through the roof; inline/remote fans, where the actual fan unit is located in the attic and connected to a ceiling grille in the bathroom with ductwork, venting to the outside through the attic roof or wall; and wall-mounted/external fans, which are mounted on the exterior wall of the house.

Inline/remote fans offer several advantages over ceiling- and wall-mounted fans: because the fan unit is located in a different location, inline fans tend to be substantially quieter. Also, one inline fan can be connected to several ducts and therefore can be used to ventilate multiple locations—a shower and a tub for instance—or even multiple bathrooms.

The main goal of bathroom ventilation is to change the air, and most experts say an efficient fan should produce eight complete air changes every hour. Therefore, the capacity of bathroom fans is rated in cubic feet per minute (CFM), indicating how much air a particular fan can move. According to the non-profit Home Ventilating Institute a good rule of thumb is to use 1 CFM per square foot of bathroom area: for example, typical 8-by-10 foot bathroom comprises 80 square feet and therefore needs a ventilation fan rated at 80 CFM.

For bathrooms larger than 100 square feet, the HVI recommends installing ventilation based on the number and type of bathroom fixtures: for example, showers, tubs and toilets all require a fan rated at 50 CFM, while a whirlpool tub requires a fan rated at 100 CFM. Therefore, if you have a large bathroom with a whirlpool tub, shower and toilet, your total ventilation needs adds up to 200 CFM.

Bathroom fans come in varied models and sizes, and typically are rated for continuous duty. Since many homeowners today are concerned with energy efficiency, there are numerous fans that are rated as part of the U.S. Energy Star program; Energy Star-compliant fans use approximately 20% less energy than standard models. Some bathroom fans also come with timers, humidity/moisture sensors, motion sensors that turn on when someone enters the room, heaters and decorative lighting kits.

Online retailer has produced some helpful videos that can provide more information about how to choose the right product for your needs:

This post has been brought to you by Its facts and opinions are those of

Create a Restful Refuge with a Traditional Sleeping Porch

Though popular in the Victorian age, the sleeping porch had been virtually forgotten by the postwar period. Today, homeowners are rediscovering this practical and utterly charming architectural tradition.

Sleeping Porch

Photo: Seth Benn

As a youngster, one of summer’s great thrills was “sleeping out,” usually on someone’s deck or porch, but sometimes even on the garage roof—any place where a gaggle of girls might giggle into the hours past their regular bedtimes. All these years later, adults across the country are rediscovering the simple joy of being lulled to sleep by cool night breezes and chirping crickets.

Sleeping porches were extremely popular at the turn of the 20th century, when health professionals advocated sleeping outdoors as a way to bolster the immune system. And prior to the advent of air conditioning, sleeping porches were especially popular in the South and the West; it was cooler to sleep outside at night.

Sleeping Porch - Kids

Photo: Lands End Development

Queen Anne Victorians and Arts & Crafts-style homes both typically featured sleeping porches (in effect, screened decks or balconies). You’d often find sleeping porches adjacent to second- or third-story bedrooms, located on a corner to receive breezes from all directions. But many rural farmhouses had sleeping porches on the ground floor, and even some city apartments contained such spaces.

Today, sleeping porches are making a comeback. According to a 2008 survey from the National Association of Home Builders, 63% of new home buyers consider a screened porch either desirable or essential. Whether they wish for it to be a nighttime escape or a daytime refuge, homeowners are indeed returning to the comfort afforded by the once-abandoned sleeping porch.

Transforming a deck, balcony, or porch into a sleeping porch is a fairly simple project. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

• The space should be covered against the elements and for safety, it should have at least a low railing around the perimeter.

• If you live in an area where bugs abound in summer, it probably goes without saying that screens are essential. Many choose also to integrate fabric shades or awnings, which can be lowered for privacy.

• Furnishings should be casual, comfortable, and resistant to the effects of water and sunlight.

• Since sleeping porches often serve as living areas during the day, fill these spaces with versatile pieces that perform more than one function. One idea: A suspended bed doubles as a porch swing.

• Since the key to a comfortable sleeping porch is air circulation, consider adding a ceiling fan. For indirect lighting, you may want to include some table lamps or flameless candles.

The most important thing to remember about sleeping porches is that they are for rest and relaxation. So grab a good book, a cup of tea, and a soft pillow, and curl up for a calm, peaceful, and soothing respite from the stresses of the day.

Versatile Carpet Tiles Combine Convenience and Fashion

Long popular in office and industrial applications, recent years have seen carpet tiles appearing more and more fequently on the floors of homes around the country.

Carpet Tiles


Looking for an environmentally friendly floor covering that is fashionable, easy to install, and suitable for any room? Two words: carpet tiles.

You can lay these versatile modular carpet squares over almost any smooth, dry surface—sealed concrete, plywood, you name it. Unlike traditional carpeting, tiles do not require the use of nails, glue, or padding. Offered in a rainbow of chic colorations, trendy textures, and dazzling designs, they are washable and affordable to maintain.

Since their introduction in 1973, carpet tiles have come a long way. At first, they were only popular in office and industrial applications for many of the same reasons that homeowners and renters have grown to love them: less carpet cutting is required for installation (resulting in less waste); worn areas can be selectively replaced, and an integrated backing makes separate padding obsolete.


Carpet Tiles - Installation


In early 2000, Greg Colando, then president of a company specializing in carpeting for businesses, identified a need for a similar product to serve the consumer market. The company that emerged to meet the demand, FLOR, launched in 2003. Today, it provides smart choices to design-savvy, environmentally conscious consumers.

“Today’s carpeting and rug options are largely lifeless and unadaptable,” explains Colando, who now serves as FLOR’s president.

“FLOR carpet squares present a dynamic and vibrant alternative to conventional floor covering that offers endless possibilities for an earth-aware, transformational, and striking design.”

The company’s manufacturing processes use renewable energy sources and technologies; use a large percentage of renewable and recycled raw materials; and construct the product in a way that allows FLOR tiles to be taken apart so that face fibers and backing materials can be recycled.

Related: 10 Reasons to Love Bamboo Floors

FLOR also has an innovative Return & Recycle Program in which consumers return products for recycling. Translation: No FLOR product needs to end up in a landfill.

In addition, most styles meet or exceed Green Label Plus emission standards for indoor air quality from the Carpet and Rug Institute.

“Environmental consciousness is built into every sourcing, design, and production decision FLOR makes,” Colando says. “The company has developed ingenious ways to keep many discarded materials from ending up as trash and are finding new ones all the time, such as working with local partners from around the globe to turn discarded fishing nets into 100% recycled yarns for use in all new FLOR styles.”

19.7 inches on each side, these carpet squares may be installed in a wall-to-wall configuration or cut to virtually any shape or size. Both online and in stores, FLOR offers its own design services to help customers develop custom creations.

Ditch the Hose with a Drip Irrigation System

Conserve water in the garden with the installation of a time-saving drip irrigation system.

Installing a Drip Irrigation System


Tired of standing next to your planting beds, garden hose in hand? Concerned about getting too much water where you don’t need it and not enough where you do? The solution is simple: install drip irrigation.

Drip irrigation delivers water slowly and steadily to plant roots. It’s a system that, while discouraging the spread of weeds, prevents many of the problems that commonly result from overwatering, including soil erosion and puddling, plant disease and fungus growth.

You also save water; compared to conventional watering, drip irrigation uses 30% to 50% less. Best of all, drip irrigation means you can stop worrying about remembering to water. Set up your system with an automatic timer, then go out and enjoy your summer!

The basic components of a drip irrigation system are:

  • Faucet or valve tap that connects to a water source (e.g., an outdoor faucet or even a rain barrel)
  • Pressure regulator to reduce pressure so that water drips rather than sprays
  • Backflow preventer to keep water from returning to its source when the irrigation system is turned off
  • Filter to prevent dirt or particulates from entering the drip system
  • Hose/faucet connector to join the header hose to the water tap
  • Header hose or PVC pipe that brings water to the valves and drip hoses in the garden
  • Drip tubing or hose to run from the main line to the plants
  • Emitters/soaker hoses to deliver water to plants (alternatively, run soaker hoses from the main header hose or PVC pipe)
  • End caps to maintain water pressure and keep excess water from leaving the system
  • Controller/timer if desired to automate your irrigation system, if desired
Install Drip Irrigation - Diagram


If you wish to install drip irrigation, the first step is to plan out the placement of drip lines. Measure how much tubing you will need, for the main header hose as well as for the tubes that will run to the plants.

In addition to tubing, you must also account for the number of emitters and end caps required to achieve your site plan. Depending on what types of plants you have and their respective watering preferences, it may be wise to use different shut-off valves for different sections of your garden.

Most of the components needed to install a drip irrigation system are readily available. There are also many different kits you can purchase. A basic one typically starts at about $35 and will cover from 25 to 100 linear feet. More elaborate and larger kits can cost up to $300, but given the many benefits of drip irrigation, that seems like a small price to pay.

Use Awnings to Reduce Energy Costs in Summer

Reduce air conditioning costs, and beautify your home exterior in the bargain, by adding fixed, retractable, or portable awnings to your windows.


Homeowners looking to reduce air conditioning costs and shield interior furnishings from the sun’s harsh glare may want to consider adding awnings.

Fixed or retractable awnings can significantly reduce a home’s air conditioning usage in the summer, saving an estimated $200 or more annually, according to a study from the Professional Awning Manufacturers Association (PAMA).

“The sun’s rays through glass are responsible for almost 20% of the load on your air conditioner,” says Michelle Sahlin, managing director of PAMA. “Awnings reduce direct solar gain through windows.” The study found that awnings not only save money for homeowners but also contribute to a reduction in demand for energy, making them an environmentally responsible choice for homeowners concerned about greenhouse gas emissions.

Related: Beat the Heat with These 10 Cool Outdoor Umbrellas

“People don’t realize that there are more eco-friendly ways to stay cool,” points out Byron Yonce, chairman of PAMA. “While turning up the air conditioner results in higher energy bills, awnings and shades work with the air conditioner to keep your home cooler and reduce the need for additional energy.”

The American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers recommends that homeowners use “optimized and/or moveable external shading devices, such as overhangs, awnings, and side fins” to minimize a building’s heat load. A fabric awning reduces heat gain by 55% to 65% during those hours when the sun shines directly on southern-facing windows or glass doors. That figure jumps to between 72% and 77% for western exposures.

Photo: awninginfo.cocm

Several different types of awnings are commonly available, including portable, fixed, and retractable designs. One important benefit of the latter is that they can fold up in winter, allowing the sun’s rays to penetrate through windows and glass doors, reducing energy usage by contributing to the temperature indoors.

Some retractable awnings are motorized and can be retracted or extended with the push of a button. Manual styles use a simple pulley-and-cord system. Most awnings have variable settings, so they can be opened partially, fully, or halfway.

Awnings can be aesthetically pleasing, especially as homeowners may choose among an array of fashionable fabrics (woven, coated, laminated and mesh) and trendy colorations (solids, stripes, and patterns).

Most awning fabrics are treated with water-repellent, plus soil- and stain-resistant finishes. Some are treated with a flame retardant. Awning frames are typically constructed of either galvanized steel or aluminum.

If you are looking to cut down on air conditioning costs and beautify your home’s exterior, add an awning… and beat the heat!

Keep Your Home Cool, Dry, and Energy-Efficient With a Dehumidifier

Sure it's uncomfortable outside, but if you are sensing damp, sticky conditions indoors, it's definitely time to consider the benefits of a dehumidification system.

How Dehumidifiers Work


Hot and muggy summer weather outside can mean excess moisture inside. Mold and mildew, musty odors, condensation, warped wooden surfaces, and cracked, peeling, or blistering paint can all result from elevated humidity levels inside your home. And, when the air is damp and sticky indoors, you’re not the only one who senses it—so does your air conditioner.

“Excess moisture in your home can cause major issues over time,” points out Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert at online retailer “It can promote mold growth and the potential for respiratory ailments, and make your air conditioner work harder by having to cool damp, heavier air.” By removing excess moisture from the air, a dehumidifier can level the playing field and improve the overall comfort and health of your home. Because a dehumidifier uses significantly less energy than an air conditioner, installing either a whole-house system or a smaller unit can cut cooling costs; not only does the air conditioner not have to work as hard, but it also may run less often or at a higher temperature. According to the U.S. Energy Star program, a homeowner can save up to 6 percent on cooling costs for every degree the thermostat is turned up.

How Dehumidifiers Work - Diagram


Indeed, rising energy costs are one of the primary reasons for dehumidifiers’ growth in popularity: To conserve energy, today’s homes are built more tightly, but with less air exchange comes the potential for moisture buildup. By reducing that moisture, dehumidifiers can ensure a continuous flow of cool, dry air.

How does a dehumidifier work? A fan draws warm, humid air over a cold coil, which condenses the moisture into liquid; the water is removed via a drain pipe. The dry air then passes over a warm coil and is added back into the room. Dehumidifiers are controlled by an instrument called a dehumidistat, which turns the unit on and off depending on the amount of moisture detected in the air.

Dehumidifier capacity is measured in pints of water removed per 24 hours. The appropriate capacity for a dehumidification unit or system is determined by the size of the space and its conditions. For example, a closed, damp room, such as a basement, will require a bigger capacity unit than a large, open room with good air flow.

How Dehumidifiers Work - Honeywell

Honeywell's TrueDRY DR120 Whole-House Dehumidifier

Dehumidifiers come in a variety of models and sizes, ranging from large, whole-house models to smaller, portable units designed for individual rooms and problem areas, such as attics, basements, and crawl spaces. As with any appliance, the key is to look for an Energy Star-rated, high-efficiency unit that is sized properly for the space and conditions.

Honeywell’s TrueDRY line of dehumidifiers are all Energy Star rated and come backed by a five-year warranty. They can be centrally ducted for whole-house dehumidification or unducted for moisture control in attics or smaller crawl spaces. They also carry a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of 11. (MERV ratings, which measure filter performance, range from 1 to 16; the higher the number, the better the air filtration.)

For more on the Honeywell TrueDRY Dehumidification system, including a video demo, visit


This post has been brought to you by  Its facts and opinions are those of

The Meaning Behind GREEN

What do all of the green certification labels mean? Here's a helpful guide.


Our childhood pal, Kermit the Frog, had the right idea when he sang, “It’s not that easy bein’ green.” While Kermit may have meant being green literally, today his mantra takes on a whole new meaning, as environmentally-conscious consumers seek products and services that are better for the planet.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit to being a “tree-hugger” from way back: so far back, in fact, that my first grade-school environmental cause—saving the wild mustangs—pre-dates the establishment of Earth Day in 1970.

But even a veteran environmentalist can run into a classification conundrum when confronted with today’s myriad claims. What, exactly, does it mean to be green? Fortunately, there are some umbrella certification agencies that offer home building and renovation guidelines for projects large and small. Consumers looking to “go green” can identify environmentally-friendly products by seeking out items with these logos or certification labels.

green labelThe first place for an ecologically-conscious do-it-yourselfer to begin is with the product category, as environmental certifications vary depending on the industry. Lumber and wood products, for instance, are certified by two primary agencies, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI.) Both of these agencies provide third-party certification that wood products come from forests that are managed and harvested in a sustainable way.

The FSC is an international organization founded in 1993 by a group of more than 100 environmentalists, land owners and manufacturers. FSC certifies and establishes guidelines for forests and how they are managed. Similarly, the SFI provides lumber producers with a set of forest management standards, and tracks lumber from the forest to the end use; there are currently more than 400 SFI-certified locations across North America.

Green Seal Certified LogoAnother widespread program, the Green Seal, is a certification program that covers a variety of home improvement products, including paints, coatings, stains and finishes; windows, doors, awnings and related adhesives; and household cleaning products. Green Seal certifies that products meet the highest standards of environmental quality and performance; the non-profit agency operates under the international guidelines for environmental labeling programs, ISO 14020 and 14024, set by the International Organization for Standardization.

Green LabelOn the softer side, the Carpet and Rug Institute features the Green Label and Green Label Plus certifications covering carpeting, rugs, cushioning materials and related adhesives. Products bearing these labels have been tested to ensure that they have very low emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which can adversely affect indoor air quality.

Other home textiles products, including curtains, draperies, furniture coverings and mattresses, are tested and certified by the European testing organization Oeko-Tex. The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 is an international testing and certification system limiting the use of harmful chemicals in textiles products. Two organizations are helpful when dealing with large projects, such as whole-home renovations or new construction: The U.S. Green Building Council and the National Association of Home Builders. Many of the current environmental certification programs are an outgrowth of the efforts of these two groups.

Green LabelThe U.S. Green Building Council developed the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, a rating system for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings, homes and neighborhoods. LEED-certified buildings are designed to use resources more efficiently and provide healthier living and work environments when compared to conventional buildings simply built to code.

Founded in 1998, the USGBC has nearly 20,000 member organizations and has certified more than 7,000 projects in the U.S. and 30 countries, covering more than 1.501 billion square feet of development. According to the group, LEED arose from building owners and developers’ desire to have a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions. To this end, the USGBC established the Green Building Certification Institute, which offers a series of exams allowing builders, contractors and other individuals to become accredited for their knowledge of the LEED rating system.

Somewhat more recently, in 2007, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the International Code Council (ICC) partnered to establish a nationally recognizable standard definition of green building, the ICC 700 National Green Building Standard. This standard defines green building for single- and multi-family homes, residential remodeling projects and site development projects.

Green LabelThe group also offers NAHBGreen, a comprehensive set of educational resources, advocacy tools and standards. Certification is provided by the NAHB Research Center, a qualified and independent third party. The group offers Certified Green Professional (CGP) and Master Certified Green Professional (MCGP) designations for home building professionals who have demonstrated expertise in green building.

These certifications and the accompanying labeling can help consumers sort through sometime-confusing environmental claims and hopefully, make it just a little bit easier to be green… just like Kermit.