5 Ways to Create Ambiance in Your Home

(StatePoint) If your home interiors lack charm, don’t worry. These five simple additions and updates can add ambiance and character to your home.

1. Use bold colors. Colors have the power to create specific moods. To ensure a welcoming atmosphere, make sure you select shades wisely. The science behind color psychology can help you choose paint, upholstery and more. Warm colors like red, orange and yellow make people feel more cozy and intimate. Cooler colors like grey and green are better for invoking calm, and are used to make a room feel more spacious.

2. Add a touch of softness. Use plush, cozy materials, such as decorative pillows and throws to create inviting places to sit. Soften hard surfaces like wooden or tile floors with area rugs. Add some warmth to hallways and narrow foyers with runners.

3. Breathe new life into spaces. Indoor plants can give life to an otherwise stagnant living area. For those not blessed with a green thumb, consider artificial plants. High-quality options can look very realistic and will save you time on care and maintenance. Or, for variety, add a simple vase to the kitchen table and brighten up the room with a new bouquet of fresh cut flowers each week.

4. Make music. A piano brings a level of elegance to any room, but you don’t have to overspend to get a beautiful sound or visual. New digital pianos reproduce the subtle nuances of the world’s finest grand pianos at various price points. For example, the Celviano Grand Hybrid Piano from Casio has the technology to produce an authentic grand piano experience, but doesn’t take up as much space or cost as much. Plus, since it’s digital, you won’t have to worry about maintenance and tuning.

5. Mood lighting. From candles to unique fixtures to bright open windows, the type of lighting used to illuminate a room sets its tone. Choose curtains and candles for cozy, romantic nights. Draw them open in the day for bright, sun-lit spaces. Install interesting fixtures as a focal point in empty hallways and in living spaces.

 

Hate Yard Work? 8 Ways to Achieve a Smarter Yard

Last April Fool’s Day, Google announced its latest product: the Google Gnome.

This “smart” lawn ornament was advertised as being capable of taking care of all of your yardly duties while you kicked back and relaxed with a cold drink.

Of course the gnome was just a prank — but the good news is there are many new products on the market that make taking care of your outdoor space easier by adding connectivity.

Here are eight ways to bring your yard into the 21st Century:

  • 1. Invest in a remote-controlled robot mower.

Husqvarna’s Automower 450X may put the neighborhood kids out of business. Like a Roomba for your lawn, this low-noise mower creates “carpet-like” lawns without anyone breaking a sweat or needing ear plugs. GPS-assisted navigation works with boundaries established by the user, and guide wires keep the mower from going rogue. It’s also capable of detecting objects, navigating over rough terrain, and climbing 45-degree slopes. All a user has to do is connect the mower to a smartphone via the Automower Connect app and give it commands. This particular model mows up to 1.25 acres, but smaller models of Husqvarna’s automowers with fewer features start at $1,999. And don’t worry about a passerby swiping this $3,499 machine — it has an anti-theft alarm and a tracking device.

 

2. Get a smart sous chef for grilling.

With Char-Broil’s SmartChef™ TRU-infrared™ 3-Burner Gas Grill, you can spend less time hovering over a hot grill, monitoring meat. Released in January 2017 and available for $799.99, it’s one of the most affordable forward-thinking grills on the market. When synced with your mobile device and connected to Wi-Fi, the SmartChef technology notifies you when your steaks are cooked to desired temperatures, or when it’s time to rotate your corn, and even when your gas levels are low. It won’t clean your grill for you — but it will send you a text when it’s cool enough to cover it.

3. Add an app to an older mower.

While most new higher-end mowers come with Bluetooth technology, older models don’t, and some manufacturers are recognizing consumers don’t necessarily need a new mower — just a smarter mower. For example, Craftsman sells a Smart Lawn Connected Kit which plugs into select older models and makes them compatible with the free Smart Lawn App. With the app, users can determine optimal times to mow, order mower parts, track maintenance and set service reminders. The “kit” — which is basically a plug that goes in the ignition switch on the mower’s dashboard — is available for around $80 at Sears, ACE Hardware and K-Mart.

4. Consider intelligent irrigation.

There are several smart sprinklers on the market. But Rachio’s best-in-class model is the only one that syncs with Amazon Alexa, Nest, SmartThings, IFTTT and Google Assistant, among others. Rachio claims it can save users up to 50 percent on monthly water bills by adjusting watering levels based on local, real time weather. When connected to Wi-Fi, Rachio also combines advanced watering algorithms and irrigation science with user input — such as yard size, sun exposure and soil and plant composition — to optimize watering schedules. It starts at $199.99 and is available at Lowe’s and other home and garden stores. Thanks to its EPA WaterSense certification, it also qualifies for local rebates.

5. Know what to grow.

While the smart products described above decide when and how much to water or trim your yard, Scotts Miracle-Gro app tells you what to grow in it. Launched in 2016, the free app uses location-specific data to inform users which plants and herbs can successfully grow in their soil and climate conditions. It even puts together complementary combinations that can be grown together, and be used to make everything from salsa to cocktails. In 2018, Scotts Miracle-Gro will also roll out a new version of PlantLink, a moisture sensor that basically communicates with the plant and then informs the user, via the Gro app, of the plant’s real time hydration needs.

6. Install a smart camera system.

Use it for home security and by the pool as a nanny cam. Or, use the John Deere Outdoor Wi-Fi camera to capture shots of the wildlife trespassing while you sleep. This weatherproof camera, which debuted last December, offers night-vision capabilities and clear HD streaming via the iSecurity+ app. A built-in microphone even lets you listen to what’s going on in your backyard when you’re not within earshot. Available for $149, it simply plugs into an exterior outlet and connects to any existing Wi-Fi network. Then, the user can control the IFTTT-compatible camera from afar and receive alerts when its motion sensor is triggered.

7. Lay down Alexa-compatible lighting.

Toss out the bulky, dated tiki torches and upgrade to these SYLVANIA LIGHTIFY® LED GardenSpot Mini RGB lights to illuminate your yard’s walkways. Voice commands, via Amazon Alexa, can change the color of the lighting — and there are more than 1,000 hues to choose from. The level of lighting can be adjusted by the corresponding Lightify app’s dimmer feature on your mobile device. When you’re not at home, set the lights to “vacation mode,” and rest assured, rain won’t damage the 14-foot-long waterproof strip. The lights start around $70 per strip and are available at Lowe’s, Amazon, Best Buy and other major retailers.

8. Amp up your yard’s acoustics.

Most outdoor speaker systems are mounted on existing structures, meaning you really have to crank up the volume to ensure the sound reaches every corner of your yard. But the Triad Garden Array speakers released this May are installed on the ground like landscape lighting — so sound levels are evenly dispersed throughout your entire yard. The satellite speakers start at $300 and the subwoofer starts at $1,000. A separate kit which stores the subwoofer underground is an additional $300. Both can be integrated with any Control4 home automation system.

 

 

 

8 Amazing Hidden Gardens To Visit In Florida!

Florida has many beautiful well-known gardens, from the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Coral Gables to Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg. These are definitely worth visiting, but there’s just something special about a secret garden. We wanted to highlight a few beautiful Florida gardens that not many people know exist. Here are a few of our favorites, and we hope you will share yours, too.

1. Kanapaha Botanical Gardens, Gainesville

Kanapaha Botanical Gardens is a hidden gem in Gainesville, Florida. The grounds are most colorful from June to September, and dogs on leashes are permitted (except during festivals)
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2. The Kampong, Miami

This garden in Coconut Grove was once the winter home of the famous horticulturist, Dr. David Fairchild. He traveled all over the world collecting exotic plants and brought many of them to his home garden. The land was later purchased and well preserved by botanist Catherine Hauberg Sweeney, who eventually donated it to the not-for-profit conservation organization that takes care of the garden now.
 
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3. Hollis Garden, Lakeland

Fountains, a grand staircase, a butterfly trail, and thousands of flowers fill this hidden gem in Central Florida.
 
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4. Florida Tech’s Botanical Garden, Melbourne

This 15-acre garden is hiding on the campus of Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. Tons of palm trees, native plants and lovely natural water features cover this charming public garden.
 
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5. Key West Garden Club, West Martello Tower, Key West

Not only is it full of exotic plants, including colorful orchids and massive banyans, the garden is growing over the ruins of a Civil War-era fortification, giving it an enchanted feel.
 
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6. Eden Garden State Park, Santa Rosa Beach

This park in Santa Rosa Beach features 163 acres shaded by oak, pine, and cypress trees, plus an 1897 mansion open for tours and a dock for fishing.
 
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7. Ravine Gardens State Park, Palatka

This park and historic place in Palatka is another garden best visited in spring for its plentiful azaleas. Visitors love the hills (rare in Florida) and the suspension bridge.
 
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8. Cedar Lakes Woods And Gardens, Williston

These gardens were first opened in 2015, but the creator has spent 20 years turning an abandoned lime rock quarry into the charming gardens you can see there today. The pathways wind over the man-made lakes and lead visitors past hundreds of species of plants in this scenic park.
 
Have you visited any of these hidden gems? What’s your favorite little-known spot in Florida?

Posted in FloridaJune 19, 2016by Victoria W

4 laundry personalities: Where do you fit?

(BPT) – Chic, trendy, sporty, bohemian, sophisticated, fun, classic — you probably have a clear vision of your fashion and style personality. But do you know your laundry personality? How you wash the clothes you wear is every bit as personal and unique to you as the clothes themselves. Knowing your laundry personality could help ease the load and make the chore easy and fail-proof.

A quarter of American households say they overload their washer most of the time, according to a survey commissioned by LG Electronics. Even people who say they are doing their laundry efficiently still have complaints with the process. In fact, more than three-fourths believe washers can be improved.

Recognizing your laundry personality and choosing products that cater to your unique style will make doing laundry an easy, and perhaps even enjoyable, affair! Here are four common laundry personalities, their identifying traits, and tips for achieving maximum efficiency:

The light loader

Does your desire to separate and preserve clothes, including those delicate special care items, ever leave you with the only option of running the washer with just one or two items? You’re not alone. According to a recent survey commissioned by LG Electronics, 60 percent of Americans admitted to running a full load of laundry for six items or less.

The LG TWINWash system will put an end to that, letting consumers tackle two loads of laundry at once, or independently. The industry-first two-in-one washing machine includes a front-load washer ergonomically placed on the top for larger loads, and a smaller washer, the LG Sidekick, which sits within the pedestal for those small specialty loads. The LG SideKick provides an additional 1-foot capacity and has six cycles to choose from: normal, intimates, hand wash, active wear, rinse + spin and tub clean, allowing consumers to wash those smaller loads, saving time and energy.

The super sorter

Does the thought of washing dark jeans and a pink blouse in the same load leave you light-headed? You and 20 percent of Americans prefer to avoid mixing items of different colors in the same load. Some of those surveyed also don’t trust washing items like delicates (52 percent), jackets (49 percent) and blouses (30 percent) in the main wash.

Facilitate your separation efforts by using multiple baskets or hampers in your laundry room. Label them — darks, whites, delicates, workout, etc. — and encourage family members to drop their dirty clothes in the appropriate basket. For items not trusted for the main wash, the LG SideKick, part of the TWINWash system, can help tackle smaller loads, ensuring they’re properly washed by one of the six cycles.

The dumper

Do you do minimal separation? You’re joined by a majority of Americans that load up their washer. A recent survey concluded that 80 percent of Americans have purposely overloaded their washer to avoid doing a second load of laundry. Plus, 22 percent of Americans have deemed clothes not properly cleaned because of an overloaded washer. High-efficiency front-load washing machines alleviate both of these problems. Unlike traditional top-load washing machines with agitators, front-load washers offer greater capacity while using much less water, which actually cleans clothes better! It’s a myth that more water equals cleaner clothes. Plus, they have faster spin speeds than their top-load counterparts, which means your clothes come out dryer, saving you time and energy when drying your clothes.

Use color-safe detergent and cold water for every load of colors. With today’s super-efficient detergents and better washing machines, you don’t need hot or even warm water to get clothes clean; cold will work just fine and will reduce the chance of colors fading or bleeding into each other.

The habitual dry cleaner

Summer is a busy — and sticky — time, running from work to outdoor barbecues during the hottest months of the year. And refreshing that summer wardrobe between pool parties is key to the habitual dry cleaner looking and feeling their best. That’s where the LG Styler comes in. The LG Styler is a fashion-forward, one-of-a-kind clothing management system that can refresh and sanitize clothing in as little as 20 minutes. Just get back from an outdoor cocktail party? Simply place your favorite dresses, shirts or suits inside and let LG’s TrueSteam technology work its magic to reduce wrinkles and odors from things like sweat or smoke, without any harsh chemicals. While it doesn’t replace dry cleaning, it can certainly help reduce trips to the cleaners while keeping your clothes crisp and ready to go before your next brunch date or happy hour.

Whatever your laundry personality, you can find a washer, dryer and detergent that will make your chore easier and less time consuming. Then, you can spend that time on other things. In fact, Americans surveyed say if they could cut their laundry time in half, they’d spend that extra time hanging out with their kids, watching TV or doing other things they enjoy.

5 Ways to Create Big Luxury in a Small Master Bathroom

(BPT) – If you’re thinking about remodeling your small bathroom, you may know that studies show updating a bathroom of any size can increase the value of a home. However, there’s a statistic from a Houzz survey you might not know: 75 percent of people who renovate a master bathroom don’t make it bigger.

Enlarging a small master bathroom is often impractical; you may need to take space from another room, or extend an exterior wall to accomplish an expansion. Both options have disadvantages and costs. The truth is, you don’t need to move walls or spend like a home improvement show host in order to create big luxury in a small master bathroom.

Here are five ways to make a small bathroom space feel lavish and spa-like:

1. Rethink the shower stall versus tub debate.

Many large luxury bathrooms have a separate shower and soaking tub. In a small bathroom, which may be used by multiple members and generations of a household, creating an upscale feeling by separating the tub from the shower might not be a realistic option. Instead, look for ways to boost the appeal of your tub/shower space, perhaps by choosing a visually appealing, bright-white model for an updated, yet classic, style.

For example, Americast bathtubs from American Standard combine unmatched strength and durability with elegant, traditional design lines that blend perfectly with stylish bathroom decor. Patented three-layer Americast construction gives the tubs a porcelain enamel finish, sound-dampening qualities and superior resistance to damage, all in a lightweight material that makes for easy installation.

2. Step up your shower game.

The shower isn’t just where you get clean; it’s also a morning wake-up tool or end-of-day relaxation therapy treatment. Deluxe showers often feature multiple jets, rainfall showerheads and hand showers. Replacing an ordinary showerhead with a shower system is a cost-effective and easy way to add a luxurious experience to the shower.

Options like the GROHE Retro-Fit Shower System offer a drenching rain showerhead, along with an integrated hand shower for ultimate convenience. Since the main showerhead is mounted on a movable arm, you can position the spray overhead (to function as a rainfall shower) or at an angle for additional comfort, all with the choice of spray patterns. Even better, the system works with existing plumbing, eliminating any need to open the wall to change piping. For added indulgence, consider a shower system with an elegant brushed nickel finish to elevate the look of your overall shower and bathroom decor.

3. Splurge on luxury materials.

Yes, materials like travertine tile or granite countertops can be costly, but when you’re renovating a small bathroom, you need less of those materials. Adding marble tile above a small tub/shower area will cost far less than outfitting a large walk-in shower. Replacing a modestly sized vanity with a new cabinet and granite countertop won’t be nearly as expensive as redoing a large, double-sink vanity.

When you have less real estate to refurbish, high-end materials can be a cost-effective choice. For a reasonable price, you can use quality materials to significantly boost the upscale feeling of your small bathroom.

4. Add pizzazz to functional elements.

You can increase a small bathroom’s feeling of extravagance by adding some flare to functional items like faucets, mirrors and cabinet hardware. For a modest investment, you can turn everyday, often-overlooked elements into items that underscore the overall beauty of the room.

For example, replacing an ordinary or outdated faucet with a modern-style option from the Colony PRO bath collection is an affordable way to improve aesthetics and functionality. Sleek styling translates well into modern bathroom design. Plus, single- or double-handle design means that faucets are user-friendly for children and adults of all ages and mobility levels.

Replacing a typical bathroom medicine cabinet or mirror with a luxury model is another way to elevate a small bathroom to premium status. Today’s medicine cabinets come with an array of leading-edge features, such as defogging functions, built-in electrical outlets, night lights, USB outlets, interior lights and set-in magnifying mirrors.

5. Lighten up the space.

Finally, adding more natural light into a small master bathroom can make the space seem larger and more appealing. If your small bathroom already has a window, forgo blinds or shades in favor of easy-to-apply privacy film. Readily available in home improvement stores or online, in a breadth of simple or fancy patterns, this opaque film allows light to enter the room while providing the necessary privacy.

If your budget allows, consider adding a skylight for natural lighting and passive ventilation. Even if your small master bathroom is on the ground floor, it may be possible to use a tube skylight to bring more natural light into the space.

Achieving ultimate comfort and luxury in your small-space bathroom is at your fingertips, easily and affordably.

IMAGE CAPTIONS: ——————————————- Caption 1: Small bathrooms can be big on luxury and comfort, with the American Standard bright white Americast tub accented with a high-style Colony PRO shower/tub faucet set and matching bathroom sink faucet, all for an affordable price. Caption 2: The GROHE Retro-Fit Shower System – which works with existing plumbing – allows homeowners to add the luxury of a drenching rainfall showerhead and convenient hand shower, without opening walls to change piping.

5 Tips to Keep your Home Secure from Hackers.

(BPT) – Times have changed. It’s no longer enough to protect your physical home, it’s also vital you stay safe from cybercrimes. It has become increasingly easier for criminals to gain access to financial accounts, email and even hack internet-connected devices in the home.

The good news is that there are a handful of steps you can take to help defend your home from cyberattacks and lock down access to your personal information.

1. Know your status. Before you can take steps to keep yourself safe from external threats, it’s important to understand your level of vulnerability. The website haveibeenpwned.com is a useful tool that searches more than 190 data breaches to see if your personal information has ever been leaked.

If you’ve been the victim of a data breach, immediately change the password of the vulnerable account along with the passwords of any websites or accounts that use the same credentials. For instance, if the email and password you use for Facebook was breached, and that’s the same login combination you use for your bank, your bank account could be vulnerable to hackers.

2. Invest in a protective router. Much like the front door is the entryway into a home, the Wi-Fi router is the entry point into a home’s digital information. It’s also the first line of defense against external threats. Do your research and invest in a router that prioritizes network security. You should always password protect your Wi-Fi and be sure to change the default username and password that comes pre-configured on the router (often this is listed on the bottom of the box or router).

If you can’t remember the last time you manually updated your router, it may be running outdated software, leaving your home vulnerable. Because the update process can be laborious, consider swapping out your old router for a newer technology like eero. eero’s mesh Wi-Fi system takes home security to the next level by automatically installing regular software updates and security patches, so customers can avoid the hassle of manually updating their router. eero is equipped with the latest in Wi-Fi security, allowing you to kick unknown devices off the network via a smartphone app or share the Wi-Fi password with others via text message or email, so you don’t have to leave it posted on the fridge.

3. Secure your devices. You don’t need to live in a “smart home” to be vulnerable to external security threats. These days, more and more products connect to the internet, and while that can be useful, it also leaves your home vulnerable to hackers. The first thing you should do when you get an internet-connected device up and running is check for new firmware updates. Most products sitting on shelves of retailers don’t have the latest software loaded, so applying updates is a critical step to ensuring those devices remain safe. Also be sure you’re not ignoring prompts for software updates and patches in the future. It’s crucial to keep your connected devices up-to-date.

4. Choose strong passwords. You’ve heard it before — make sure you’re using strong passwords. They need to be at least 12 characters in length, and include numbers, symbols, and lowercase and uppercase letters. They shouldn’t include personal information or common words (e.g., “password”). You’ll want to create a unique password for every account, so if a hacker gets one of your passwords in a data breach, they can’t immediately log into your other accounts.

Strong passwords can be hard to remember, but you shouldn’t keep a written record of them. Instead, consider registering for a password manager like LastPass. Password managers are applications or browser extensions that store login credentials for the websites, then log in to those sites automatically for you, so you don’t have to remember every password for each account.

5. Lock down your social media channels. Be careful about what you’re sharing on social media. Besides not posting sensitive information like your address, phone number, and when you’re headed out of town, be aware of other personally identifiable information that’s out there. When trying to reset passwords and usernames, hackers often go through the process of guessing your security questions. If you’re not careful, the information to help them answer those questions might be living on your social media page.

To keep yourself safe, ensure you’re properly securing your social media sites from the public and limit the amount of information you’re posting on those channels. Also, when you’re selecting your security questions, certain answers might be easy for intruders to locate online. Common security questions ask for your mother’s maiden name, your high school mascot, and the name of your family pet. Consider choosing more obscure questions to answer.

While following these steps won’t ensure you’re completely safe, they will help put you and your family ahead of the game when it comes to online and digital security.

4 easy ways to make your yard an Outdoor Oasis this Summer!

(BPT) – Summer is the season when your backyard takes center stage. As warm weather arrives, it’s time to head outdoors and create a beautiful and lush outdoor space that you can enjoy all season long.

“It’s no secret that backyards are the best place to spend time with family and friends in the summer months,” says Chris Lambton, yard and garden expert for Fiskars. “Using the right tools to take care of your grass, trees, plants and shrubs will freshen the look of your outdoor space and create a yard that feels like an oasis for you and your guests.”

Lambton offers his tips and tools to help your yard flourish this season:

Maintain proper lawn height

The optimal grass height for a healthy lawn changes with the time of year. Cut grass shorter in the spring and fall and keep it longer in summer so it won’t dry out. Use a reel mower that allows you to easily adjust the cut height for the season. In addition to making your lawn look its best, pushing a reel mower provides an opportunity for exercise and fresh air.

Encourage new plant growth

Pruning and deadheading are necessary for plant health as they encourage new growth. Pruning is great for keeping tall plants within bounds, stimulating branch growth and blooms and tightening up plants that get lanky throughout the season, including perennials and shrubs. Hand shears, like the Fiskars PowerGear2 Pruner, cut through stems and light branches and are perfect for quick and easy maintenance projects around the yard. Deadheading can be done year-round when a flowering plant fades using a tool like a pruning snip.

Know when to water

If you walk across the grass and the blades don’t spring back, then you know it’s time to water. Choose an adjustable sprinkler, like the Gilmour Pattern Master Circular Sprinkler, that allows you to customize the spray pattern and tailor to irregularly shaped lawns to prevent over-watering.

When watering potted plants, the goal is to create soil that’s damp but not soggy. Depending on the size of the pot, water your plants one to two times a day using a thumb control watering nozzle, which easily adjusts water flow with one touch. Be sure to pair your nozzle with a hose that stands up to the season’s heat and sun, like the durable Flexogen Super Duty Hose.

Incorporate decorative DIY

Creating a comfortable and inviting outdoor space makes seasonal entertaining easy and fun. One way to update your furnishings without buying a new patio set is to upcycle materials from your home.

Containers are an easy, low-commitment way to add design elements and even a splash of color to your backyard. They’re also highly versatile, allowing you to rearrange your yard on a whim or change out plants to match the season or mood. Repurpose glass jars, aluminum cans and ceramic pots to make beautiful container gardens on your patio.

Another easy DIY is to turn old wooden crates into extra seating by painting them in bright colors, securing them atop one another and adding a decorative cushion — the possibilities are endless!

Keep Those Skeeters At Bay With The Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller

No pest is better at ruining your time outside than the mosquito. Whether in your yard grilling up burgers or deep into a big backpacking trip – they’re always there, buzzing around your ears and biting at your legs. Thankfully, there is a solution for the summer’s most annoying problem. Introducing the Thermacell Backpacker Mosquito Repeller.

The way this works is surprisingly simple. Users just need to take the Thermacell unit, screw it down onto a gas canister, and slide in a proprietary repellent mat. Just like that, it is good to go for up to 90 hours on a 4-ounce canister. Using less gas than it takes to boil a pot of water, this setup will essentially create a 15 by 15 foot wide forcefield that keeps mosquitos out. Aside from the fuel efficiency, the best part about this gadget is its portability. The Backpacker Mosquito Repeller can easily be thrown in your backpack and taken far and wide. Summer just got a whole lot less buggy.

Why Air Conditioning Is A Basic Necessity

Air conditioning has never been considered as necessary as heating; building codes generally insist on the latter but not the former. In fact, there are lots of environmentalists and others who distain AC; as Daniel Engber wrote in Slate:

A certain class of Americans — let’s call them the brrr-geoisie — has come to see the air conditioner as a stand-in for everything that’s wrong with the country and the world.

And inevitably, as the climate warms and the population ages, there will be more heat waves and more people dying. Salvatore Cardoni writes in TakePart:

“The heat is not just an inconvenience, it kills — some of the most heat-vulnerable people are 65 and older,” says Kim Knowlton, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “The numbers of these seniors in the U.S. are increasing at the fastest pace in a century. There are now 40 million seniors in the U.S. — that’s going to be 72 million by 2030.”

Some elderly people have had to make the choice between food or energy. That dire fact led to a program designed to help them: the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP, which was created in 1980. The program has been heavily biased toward heating rather than cooling, probably because as Daniel Engber of Slate put it, “If you’re poor and shivering, help is on the way. If you’re poor and sweaty, you’ll have to suck it up.” But as it gets hotter and more people live in hotter parts of the country, this will have to change.

Or more likely, neither will get help, because under the budget proposal put forward by President Donald Trump, LIHEAP will be eliminated. The budget document explains that, “compared to other income support programs that serve similar populations, LIHEAP is a lower-impact program and is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes.” Arthur Delaney of Huffington Post calls it “Trump’s coldest cut”:

About 6 million households are expected to get heating or cooling assistance from LIHEAP this year at a cost of $3.3 billion, or 0.2 percent of discretionary spending. The program also helps people weatherize their homes, and it provides a pot of money specifically for crises, such as a broken heater in winter or an imminent utility shutoff.

Those in Congress who would kill LIHEAP think the federal government spends too much on anti-poverty problems that should be dealt with at the state level. One Republican think-tanker noted that “each of these programs is treated by the left as a beachhead, so if we’re subsidizing energy costs, then it must go on forever.”

But many living in poverty are old. Many Americans do not like so-called entitlements and would happily kill off food stamps and cut welfare and health insurance for the poor. But politicians still pay lip service to helping seniors, the elderly and keeping Medicare, social security and drug plans; these are the people who voted them in. Heating and yes, in many parts of the country, cooling, are necessary to live. Killing LIHEAP may well kill some of their constituents and will certainly anger many more.

73 Percent Of Sunscreens Don’t Work

I recently took a trip to Turks & Caicos with some friends and their daughters for a week-long vacation. One of the first things I did was make sure the teenage girls took notice of the very dark, very ugly scar on my chest, a result from surgery to remove skin cancer. They were grossed out, but they got the message: Worshipping the sun without protecting your skin can lead to skin cancer. That can lead to ugly, visible scars — and that’s if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky it can lead to considerably more serious health problems.

Fortunately, these girls have grown up with the knowledge that sunscreen is important and have been slathered and sprayed most of their lives — unlike my generation, which thought using baby oil to get darker faster was a brilliant idea. But not all products designed to protect skin from the sun are created equally. According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2017 Guide to Sunscreens, almost three-fourths of the products the group examined “offer inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor, or retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may harm skin.”

“The vast majority of sunscreens available to Americans aren’t as good as they should be,” said Sonya Lunder, senior research analyst at EWG and lead author of the guide. “Sunscreens will not improve until the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sets stronger rules, reviews harmful chemicals and allows the use of new ingredients that offer stronger UVA protection.”

Looking beyond SPF

The guide helps consumers choose the best sunscreen for their needs, and it’s not as easy as choosing the can or tube with the highest SPF (sun protection factor). According to EWG, higher SPF ratings don’t protect much more than lower ratings. In fact, they may give people a false sense of safety, spending more time in the sun or not reapplying sunscreen because they assume the higher SPF will last longer than it does.

In fact, in 2011, the FDA proposed capping SPF values at 50+, as most other industrialized countries do since the higher numbers don’t make a significant difference. The rule has yet to be finalized, and while the FDA has held off a final decision, the number of sunscreens that claim an SPF of 70 and higher are increasing. In 2007, when the EWG published its first annual sunscreen guide, only 10 sunscreens they looked at had an SPF of 70 or higher. This year there are 69 products with an SPF over 70.

What to look for in a sunscreen

If the SPF isn’t going to help you make the best choice, what will? There are variety of things to look for when choosing sunscreen.

When choosing a sunscreen, EWG says to look at the ingredients list. They recommend sunscreens contain zinc oxide, avobenzone, and mexoryl sx. Look for sunscreens that are creams, have broad spectrum protection (both UVB and UVA rays), are water-resistant (which does not mean waterproof), and with an SPF of 15-50, whichever you determine fits your needs.

What to avoid in a sunscreen

There are certain things you want to avoid, according to EWG. If the ingredients list contains oxybenzone, vitamin A (retinyl palmitate), or added insect repellent, pass it on by. Also, they say to avoid sprays, powders and any sunscreen with an SPF above 50.

It’s important to note the recommendations to avoid sprays. Yes, they seem much more convenient to apply than cream-based sunscreens, but research shows they’re far less effective. According to EWG, concerns include an inhalation risk and the inability to provide a thick and even coating on skin. In 2011, the FDA also voiced concerns, saying the agency may ban spray sunscreen unless the companies that make the products can supply data proving spray sunscreens protect skin and are not hazardous. The FDA has yet to move on that, though.

EWG recommended sunscreens

EWG rates products on five factors:

  • Health hazards associated with listed ingredients (based on a review of nearly 60 standard industry, academic, government regulatory and toxicity databases).
  • UVB protection (using SPF rating as the indicator of effectiveness).
  • UVA protection (using a standard industry absorbance model).
  • Balance of UVA/UVB protection (using the ratio of UVA absorbance to SPF).
  • Sunscreen stability (how quickly an ingredient breaks down in the sun, using an in-house stability database compiled from published findings of industry and peer-reviewed stability studies).

EWG sunscreen recommendations are divided into three different categories: Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens (239 products meet their standards), Best Scoring Sunscreen Lotions for Kids (they recommend 19 different products), and Best Moisturizers with SPF. The approved brands appear alphabetically so it’s easy to find the brand you’re considering to see if it meets the criteria.

To make it even easier, the EWG’s Healthy Living app is updated with the 2017 information so you can easily check recommendations when you’re standing in the store aisle looking at the dozens of options.

Sunscreen is not the only precaution

There is no definitive proof that sunscreen prevents most cancers, and the fact that many people don’t use them correctly may contribute to their lack of effectiveness. But, they can, when used properly help block harmful rays, which is one of the factors that leads to skin cancer.

EWG recommends wearing clothes that cover your skin, finding or making shade when you’re outside, wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays, planning activities in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky, and checking the UV index in addition to using sunscreen to help avoid the harm that can come from sun exposure.