Indoor Air Pollution + Best Ways To Get Rid Of Dust & Soot

 

Hi Guys,

Oh, man! What a week!!! And, I don’t mean the election. My only comment about that is that I would rather not discuss that on the blog. No matter your views, you are entitled to them, but please let’s stick to less controversial topics like air conditioning. Okay?

Indoor air pollution is real, and we’ll get to that in a minute.

 

But first, the news. And lovely people out there. I’m so glad you’re here. Sometimes I feel terribly alone.

 

Many of you know that Friday, the 6th was the new apartment’s closing date in Boston. The time-frame was insanely tight due to forces beyond my control. If I knew what I know now, I never would’ve agreed to that. The mortgage company missed their first deadline to secure the mortgage. But, made it within one hour for their second deadline last Monday, the 2nd of November.

 

However, they could not manage to come up with the loan on the day of the closing until 5:00 PM, and the closing was at 10:00 AM.

 

Yes, you read that correctly. Therefore, I do not officially own the apartment until Monday. And since I don’t own it, I can’t go inside. I know. But, I was so exhausted by then, I just fell into bed.

 

Therefore, I am back in New York, with my car still full of stuff I had brought with me to drop off. The money did come through, and the sale will be certified on Monday. But, since it would mean two more nights at the Airbnb, I decided to come back and regroup. Besides, I need to have cable, internet, and electricity going, at the very least.

 

In the meantime, I did a lengthy walk-through of the apartment and did notice that while “broom clean,” the living room is quite dirty from what looks like soot.

 

Oh, I hope the seller isn’t reading this. She has been incredibly kind and left me all sorts of wonderful goodies, like all of the plants in the garden and the grill. Oh, and the TV and stereo equipment. And more! Plus, I hear she’s a super-nice lady.

 

However, all of that exquisite trim has many areas where it is black if you run a paper towel over it. And, some of it is where furniture was and when it is taken away, that’s what you get. That happens to us all. Plus, it is in the heart of Boston, with other houses densely packed all around. It is unavoidable. But, that’s the purpose of this post. I want to explore some solutions to combat things floating around in the air and landing on our surfaces.

 

Please understand that having lived in New York City for nearly 13 years, I am no stranger to soot and city grime.

 

In fact, when I first moved to my Bronxville apartment, because of the other apartment buildings, which were burning oil, my place got pretty sooty quite quickly. However, about 5 years ago, all of the buildings converted to gas, and the soot problem diminished considerably.

Still, I need to wipe the sills regularly.

The rest of the place stays remarkably clean, which I love since dusting is not exactly my idea of fun.

 

One thing I do multiple times a week is vacuum.

 

And some areas get vacuumed two or three times a week and some not as often. However, I have found that if I vacuum a lot, the place doesn’t collect much dust.

The reason?

My vacuum cleaner has a HEPA filter.  HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air. So, I guess that’s clear that it traps the tiniest dust particles. The filter gets cleaned, and then it is good to go for the next time it is used.

So, I need a heavy-duty cleaning service to come and really clean the walls, including the ceiling, as well as the floors. They should be cleaned before painting anyway.

Okay, but then what?

Right?

I don’t want that black stuff getting all over my furniture, walls, and floor. Also, I certainly don’t want to be breathing it in.

 

Therefore, what I’d love is to have a discussion regarding the best solutions for keeping indoor air pollution down. And, also eliminating soot, grime, and dust.

 

Of course, there is also the virus issue and what we can do to keep ourselves safer from it, should it get into our living space. Quite frankly, I think that would be awesome; however, I don’t want to go that far because there is still so much we don’t know about the virus. I recommend following the instructions of the authorities for this.

My goal with this post is dealing with indoor air pollution and grime from a VISIBLE standpoint. The concern is eliminating dirt and grime that we can see, not what we can’t see.

 

Okay, so let’s dive into this topic and see what we can do to eliminate the build-up of soot, dust, mold, and other allergens.

 

I mean, it only makes sense for health reasons. And besides, who out there really LOVES dusting?

 

I mean, wouldn’t it be wonderful not ever to have to dust? I’m not sure if that’s possible.

Since this is not my area of expertise, I welcome those who have bonafide experience with home air filtration systems to chime in with what they know to be true, from their own experience. And, I would like to discourage comments from those who are talking off the top of their heads without any firsthand knowledge.

 

One thing I know from my firsthand experience is regular vacuuming with a vacuum with a HEPA filter.

 

I adore my Hoover WindTunnel cordless vacuum. It’s very lightweight and comes with a detachable dust buster and HEPA filter. However, they’ve discontinued the model.

Below are two other highly rated cordless vacuums. These are so wonderful because they are very lightweight, yet still quite powerful. My theory is that even if slightly less powerful than the big guns, it’s okay. The reason is that one is more apt to vacuum if it is easy. And, these babies make it super easy.

 

ONEPWR Evolve PET Cordless Upright Vacuum

 

ONEPWR Evolve PET Cordless Upright Vacuum

 

MOOSOO Cordless Vacuum Cleaner, Stick Vacuum

 

MOOSOO Cordless Vacuum Cleaner, Stick Vacuum

 

Of course, the filter needs to be cleaned. After every vacuuming, I take out my filter and bang it against the sink to release some of the fine dust. And, then, once a month or so, the filter gets washed by running a lot of water through it. That seems to work well.

 

Still, if you want even easier, then I heartily recommend the I-Robot Roomba vacuum cleaners.

 

I don’t have one, but I’ve talked to people who do, and they love theirs.

I think I’d love to get a Roomba Robot vacuum cleaner.

 

Roomba empties itself

 

This Roomba is available at Amazon.

 

Not only does it put itself back on its charger when it’s done, but first, it empties the dirt for you. That is incredibly thoughtful. Oh, I know. I know. It’s programmed to do that. If only people could be programmed like that!

One thing about these cleaners is that they take a long time, and they don’t get into the corners. Therefore, of course, one needs to do that by hand. However, I understand that they are quiet and do a very good job. Plus, they are continuously sucking up the dust that’s in the air.

If you have a Roomba, please let us know how you like yours.

 

The next way to combat indoor air pollution and keep things cleaner is with an air purification system.

 

Now, if you have central air conditioning, your AC most likely already comes with this, or it can be retrofitted, I’m presuming.

Besides, I do find that window air-conditioners do filter out some of the dust. It does help to remember to clean the filter. Mine just gets rinsed.

In addition, when we are talking about central air conditioning, there are two types.

 

  • With ducts
  • ductless

The former is great if you already have it. If not, it’s quite expensive to put in and can create some aesthetic issues with the ductwork sometimes.

 

Mitsubishi Dual Zone Ductless Mini Split - stop indoor air pollution

 

Highly rated mini split air conditioner from Mitsubishi

 

 

Ductless airconditioning is called a mini-split and requires a condenser, outside the home. And, then one or more of those fugly plastic boxes that hang high on the wall. (see above) OR, there is also a console version that is also pretty ugly.

The other consideration with the ductless air conditioners is that the compressors are noisy. Ugly and noisy is not a good combo. We had a big heat pump HV/AC, for years, but we didn’t have a choice.

 

Can you hide the compressor if you have a small outdoor area like I have?

 

Yes, you can. But, there is still a noise factor. Who wants to be sitting outside with one of those loud things wrecking the serenity?

There might be ways to muffle the sound. We can definitely create a housing that will be attractive and functional for our outdoor living areas. If we can make the condensers beautiful and quiet, that solves our outdoor problem.

 

But, what about the big white plastic box hanging on the wall?

 

Pretty horrible, right? Why can’t they make these things beautiful? Air conditioners are starting to get somewhat better. I wish that they would get a lot better.

This reminds me that an apartment has been on the market for a long time not too far from my place. And not only do they have a couple of those plastic white boxes, they put them off-center.

 

It’s like maybe if we stick it as far in the corner as possible, no one will notice it?

 

 

And, in the bedroom, the location is even more strange, in my opinion.

 

 

They’ve reduced the price at least twice. I imagine that the ugly plastic boxes placed randomly or in horrible spots like over the fireplace are not helping.

So, is there a solution?

To tell you the truth. I’m not sure.

I believe you can recess these units in a cabinet. However, there needs to be good air circulation around them.

 

mini split air conditioner hidden in bookcase - stop indoor air pollutionSo, maybe you could do something like this.

 

stop indoor air pollution-interior-design-ideas-air-conditioning-vents-barker-freeman-2interior-design-ideas-air-conditioning-vents-barker-freeman

Or maybe you could embed it in the wall, something like the one above. I am surmising that is the vent for an AC with ductwork, however. This is something to discuss with an air conditioning professional. However, they may not have ever heard of such a thing. The point isn’t whether he thinks it’s a good idea or not. The goal is to find out if it’s possible. Maybe the shelf underneath the unit isn’t a real shelf. It does need to be able to cool the room, not the cabinet, of course.

 

I love the idea of using an architectural grill over the face, whether it’s in the wall or part of a cabinet.

 

Below are some ideas of how that might look.

 

grille cover
There are dozens of designs one could use.

POC+P architects - Australia - register cover.POC+P architects – Australia – register cover.

Architectural Grille is a terrific source I have used for a radiator cover you can see here.grille painted dark blueYou could paint it to match the wall or trim.

 

perforated grille for vents or doors

 

I love this idea so much better than louvered doors. You can also use a smaller scale pattern, or caning is also beautiful. Remember Lotte Meister’s gorgeous cabinet with inset caned doors?

But what about those condensers?

 

Well, the good news is that they aren’t quite as large as the HV/AC heat pumps, but they aren’t small either. They are usually about 33″ x 33″ x 13″ or so.

Below, I found a couple of ideas for ways to hide the condenser outside.

 

bhg-palm-springs-makeover-stop indoor air pollutionAbove and below via Better Homes & Gardens

 

bhg-palm-springs-makeover

The side isn’t covered, or maybe they just pulled it out so you could see what is behind it.

 

condenser cover

BHG

Above is another idea that looks a lot better than the gray industrial box. Plus, it makes an attractive console table.

This has been a brief overview giving some ideas for ways to keep interior air pollution, dirt, dust, and other undesirable substances down to a minimum. And, I’m always looking for ways to make our lives easier. If we can also make our spaces more beautiful, that’s a bonus.

 

I also love those over the sill air conditioners.

 

stop indoor air pollution Hammacher Schlemmer over the sill low profile air conditioner

Hammacher Schlemmer over the sill low profile air conditioner

Soleus Air over the sill air conditioner - curbs indoor air pollution

Soleus Air over the sill air conditioner

 

However, the sill depth can only be a maximum of 12″ and 11″ respectively. And, I can see that mine are at least 16″-18″. The walls are thick, and then there are sills, both inside and out. And, I’m not allowed to change anything on the exterior. It’s a historic district.

God only knows that folks are stripping the insides of these antique beauties of their original mouldings and walls. They divide some of them up quite strangely, as well. I wish they wouldn’t do that, but they do.

 

And then they paint them gray and light them with super-white-bright LED lights.

 

Interesting tidbit.

 

I found out that the trim in the den/second bedroom is NOT original. However, I think they did a spectacular job, in that case. The tell was that it is in fabulous shape.

If you have a terrific air purification system or other ways of keeping your indoor air pollution way down, please share in the comments. I’d love to hear what you’re doing, what works, and what doesn’t.

Gosh, I hope this wasn’t too boring a post. Oh, wait a sec. This might spice things up somewhat. The other day, I found the coolest light switch cover. You guys might remember how much I love Michaelangelo’s David.

 

David switch on via FreckleFaceSP on Etsy

 

If this “turns you on” like it does me, haha you can find one here, plus a lot of other groovy light switch plates.

 

xo,

 

 

PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES and also the recently updated HOLIDAY SHOP!

PPS: Monday, November 9, 2020 – The sale went through! The apartment is mine now.

 

5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Melissa - November 13, 2020 - 4:38 PM

    Back to say that I’m watching the Roomba as I read comments here and thinking, “fine to set loose with no one around” should be amended. Fine if it’s ok that it blocks itself into rooms, and gets stuck underneath furniture and cabinets where it divots until you free it. Rolling fringe under, as recommended, has never worked for us. It has also been lost a (relatively long) couple of times. Truthfully, I would have sold it when it was new had it not been such a thoughtful, considerate purchase by my children. Hope you aren’t sick of feedback on this subject by now. Best to you in settling in.ReplyCancel

  • Colleen - November 13, 2020 - 11:46 AM

    Hi Laurel, I love your blog! But something really stood out today. If you are banging your filter in your sink to get the dust out, you are putting the dust back in the air!!ReplyCancel

  • Jane - November 11, 2020 - 3:50 PM

    I’m convinced the culprit is forced hot air furnaces. The cleanest home I ever had had hot water radiators. Rad heat is clean and quiet. I can’t figure out why American changed to forced air with dirty ducts. You can’t blame AC as the switch was long before everyone thought AC a necessity. Yes AC is more difficult , but boy was my house clean.ReplyCancel

  • Judy - November 11, 2020 - 11:08 AM

    Oops! So sorry to misspell your name, Laurel! Of course I know better than that!ReplyCancel

  • Judy - November 11, 2020 - 10:57 AM

    Very timely topic so thank you Lauren for bringing it up. Lots of good info here. Who doesn’t want more ideas for fighting dirty air these days?! My two ideas to add to the long list are:

    1). If you are buying new equipment, check ‘Consumer Reports‘ or other rating organizations for Air purifiers/cleaners sized to the spaces in your home that can catch dust and a good percentage of unseen micro particles (like pollen and virals). The best picks are effective enough to change over your interior air up to to five times an hour. And BTW, don’t tuck the appliances away if any company comes, turn them on High!

    When you clean them—as for your vacuum filters, do it outdoors and protect your face! You don’t want those micro particles back in your interior air!

    2). I agree with Katherine above, who upgraded her A/c-furnace filters to MERV 13. Not as effective as Air Purifiers but if your HVAC can handle them, they provide another level of air particle removal, especially in this time of health challenges. It is simple and cheap and something many folks can do. Change them often and protect your face, which is good practice anytime.

    I can’t believe how these simple changes have reduced the dust and dander accumulation in our home. My allergies symptoms have gone away too.

    And Lauren, I am so sorry you have had such headaches with your closings. What a mess. I do not know the details or the issues, but for everyone else who is going through the mortgage and closing process, I suggest you tell your mortgage and real estate people you want them to use the ‘EllieMae digital Mortgage origination platform’ and/or you want them to use ‘Docu Sign’ or some other remote digital cloud signing ‘software as a service process’. They will probably look at you quizzically but these are just two of several similar somewhat recent tools (within a decade or so) that can remove headaches and streamline the process immeasurably. Many real estate people and mortgage originators are obstinate to implement them but it’s helpful to try. (I have no vested interest in either of these services, but I study the industry so I wanted to share these thoughts for others—and the more people ask about it, the more ubiquitous they or other similar programs may become.)

    Lauren, Congratulations on your new home. I look forward to following your blog posts about it!ReplyCancel

  • Denise - November 11, 2020 - 8:20 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    First, thank you so much for sharing all of your hard work and experience. I appreciate and enjoy your blog. I have allergies and need to keep the indoor air clean. I run three IQ Air purifiers and one BlueAir purifier…all in different areas of my home. I purchased them through Allergy Buyers. BlueAir has an informative site. The BlueAir is nice, because it reacts to VOC’s. I could not live without any of them. They have made a huge difference in my old home.. They are expensive, but they have been worth it for me. I replace the filters about once per year.
    Congratulations on your new home! It is already beautiful and will be absolutely amazing when you make it your own…ReplyCancel

  • Laura H. - November 10, 2020 - 6:24 PM

    Aurora, your comment helped me tremendously! I had been thinking about all the dust in my house, and wondering if I should get the ducts cleaned. When I read your comments about the NACDA certified company, I called around and found a NACDA company that’s been in business 20 years. They happened to have a cancellation for THIS MORNING and came right out to take care of me! You would never believe the amount of dirt they got from my ducts. It was money well spent, and I’m very pleased. Thanks for the info!ReplyCancel

  • Susan Rodzik - November 10, 2020 - 6:02 PM

    Hey, Laurel. Nice post!

    They hung the plastic boxes where they did because they were trying to hang one side of each box on a wall stud. And that’s all. Yes, it looks horrible. But that’s what they were doing.

    Cheers, and congratulations!ReplyCancel

  • nikki - November 10, 2020 - 11:58 AM

    Preventing the dust is easier than cleaning it off I think. Two things that people might not think of:
    *Seal the bottomsof windows and doors where dust might get in. Not sure whatthe technical term is, but it’s where the window meets the windowsill.
    *If you have hardwood floors, put down rugs in your busiest areas (front door, kitchen, etc). I find that fibers trap dust until I can get around to vacuuming, whereas on bare floors the dust kind of swirls around.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy Cutforth - November 10, 2020 - 11:57 AM

    I’m glad your closing came through finally.

    Our home closing ten years ago was delayed FOUR times. Not only did we have to beg our landlord to let us stay longer in our temporary rental, and make a last-minute trip several hours away to the nearest branch of our bank for a certified check, we lost our security deposit for the temporary rental.

    My son got up early to paint his models to quell his nerves about all the changes. I surprised him by also getting up early and he spilled red enamel paint all over the wall and doorframe, down the radiator vent and across the carpeting. I wiped it up as quickly as I could, but of course the carpeting was history. It was old and nasty, but I was charged for it’s replacement. I spent two extra days cleaning and was able to match the existing paint. The place was filthy when we moved in and I hoped we could get some bonus points for leaving it three times cleaner than when we moved in and latches and things fixed to boot, but no luck. We had been there less than three months. Oh well.ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa - November 9, 2020 - 11:56 PM

    Hi Laurel! I pray you have some resolution of your home buying woes soon! I read this article and most of the comments on my cantankerous phone yesterday and have finally made it to the computer to reply. We are now two years in our newly built dream home and I was a fanatic about materials, finishes and furnishings and how they would affect indoor air quality. BM’s Regal Select was my go to paint, and you were my go to for direction and decorating inspiration! Beyond your HVAC and vacuum filters, I would echo Katherine’s remarks. As our top layer for protecting indoor air quality, we have two free-standing Air Doctors and LOVE them.They are whisper quiet, ramp up if they detect a decrease in air quality(think kid burning the bacon)(husband blowing out the garage and kid walking in and leaving door open for a minute)and then quiets itself when it is once again happy with the air quality. Do find a coupon, but it is worth every penny. I RARELY have to dust. Oh, and also make sure you use your exhaust fans, bathroom and kitchen, judiciously. Excited for you to get moved and settled. Best of luck and God bless!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - November 9, 2020 - 10:02 PM

    Congratulations on a successful (albeit delayed) closing!
    Enjoy this joyous change in your life.

    Regarding the Roomba – I am selling mine. Hate to do it considering my teens surprised me with it for Christmas; I need to give better suggestions this year, lol. Anyway, we refinished our hardwoods just under two years ago, a beautiful dark walnut. I use Mr (as we call him) once a week, occasionally twice a week. Despite all chairs being moved and no obstacles, I have found two ring marks where is spun for no apparent reason. Refinishing the floors is a pain in my back end and not something I care to do again any time soon, so the Mr is going! It is not quiet, but it does a good job. I would try one again once the technology is less detrimental to my hardwoods.ReplyCancel

  • Barb Everett - November 9, 2020 - 8:22 PM

    Laurel, One thing you might consider is an energy audit that uses a blower door test. Sometimes they are offered by the local energy/electric company. The purpose of the test is to identify any small openings in the house that allows air to penetrate the structure. When the testing is done, the tester can let you know how much outside air is seeping in and what to do to stop it. They can tell you how to get the biggest bang for the buck for energy savings. Sometimes with an older home, air can get in from leaky windows, uncaulked places where gas lines, power lines, etc. Sometimes better sealing the house can cut down on the amount of dust getting in the house and also result in energy savings.ReplyCancel

  • Maggie - November 9, 2020 - 3:50 PM

    How stressful for you Laurel or, for anyone! I hope things are going more smoothly now. I love my MIELE canister vacuum with a HEPA filter. It works like a charm and it is SO QUIET.it is also really nice and lightweight. It may be the quietest and the lightest, vacuum out there. Most other vacuums are just too loud and heavy for my liking.ReplyCancel

  • Tara - November 9, 2020 - 3:35 PM

    Hi Laurel,

    The Massachusetts law sounds really unfair, especially if it’s something out of your control. I’m glad to hear it’s resolved now.

    I do daily nasal saline washes because it’s impossible to remove all dust and allergens. We clean daily, have top of the line air filters in every return air grille.

    We’ve lived here since 2008 and have not had the ductwork cleaned- it’s on my to do list. It’s expensive.

    I have read where Roombas send their collected data back to the company so they know your floor plan layouts. #BigData #iot

    I wish I’d known about these split units you all are talking about. We owned a 2500sf vacation home in Lake Tahoe for 8 years and it got really hot in the summer. I would escape to the lowest level and iron to keep cool, ironically. The new owners installed an A/C system.

    We had to deal with black mold from a water leak (the lawn sprinkler head was dousing the Dining Room window wall and we didn’t know it until the painter sanded the sill and I saw it was black. I had him stop immediately and cover it with plastic. The house had to be remediated – it took 40 days. We moved to a temporary apartment with our then 2-1/2 year old. I left as soon as I saw the mold.

    Anyhow, thank you for this very important and informative post. Everyone has shared great info.ReplyCancel

  • Carol Skolas - November 9, 2020 - 3:22 PM

    Dear Laurel,
    I have a Mitsubishi mini-split. It made an amazing difference in our comfort level. We do have the big ugly box on the upper wall above a window. I have a love-hate relationship with the system because if that box! I wanted to let you know that soon after our mini-split was installed, the company came out with a unit that goes in the ceiling with a flat grill. A much nicer look if your structure can accommodate it. The unit outside is whisper quiet. You can’t even tell that it is on. Just thought you might like to know
    Sincerely,
    Carol S.ReplyCancel

  • C - November 9, 2020 - 1:09 PM

    Mini split heads must be attached on or adjacent to an outside wall and they must be mounted to studs because they’re heavy. Unfortunately stud placement isn’t something that can be changed. That’s why you’re seeing them off center. It’s not because the installers/homeowners didn’t care! They just have to work with the walls they have.

    The biggest advantage of mini splits is that they are so much more efficent than central air and heating. And they actually take up much less space than ductwork. I don’t love the way my mini split looks, but I LOVE that I don’t have to look at big bulky soffits all over the house.

    I’m glad you take the time to blog about this kind of stuff. I also enjoyed your post about baseboard heaters. These elements are not as fun to think about as furniture or fabrics, but many of us have to deal with them. So, thanks again!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa Folsom - November 9, 2020 - 12:14 PM

    Hi Laurel! I’m feeling your pain! We just sold and moved into a 1979 Mid-Century ranch in our same town. We had lived in the prior house for 24 years and raised 3 kids there. It’s a lot of stuff and furniture, to figure out how to reconfigure, and where to spend your money for remodeling. It seems like at every turn, something I wasn’t expecting crops up and demands to be dealt with immediately. The first thing we did before moving was removal of popcorn ceiling texture. Two months later, there is still debris from drifting around! I have 3 vacuums (hahaha) and like each one for a different reason, but have not found the “perfect” one. I’m sure we need to have our duct work (central air) cleaned out, but we are starting a master bath/bedroom remodel in the next month, so I’m waiting for that to be done first. One suggestion I have for keeping things clean is using microfiber wet or dry for dusing/wiping. I sell a microfiber product (Norwex) so I’m very partial to that, but all microfiber works far better than cotton cloths, or disposable dusters. Not only does it do a better job trapping the dust, it does so without using chemical sprays which leaves VOCs in your air, its washable and reusable. Dust traps pollen and chemical residue in your indoor air, so it’s really important to get it completely removed often. It’s a small thing, but you’ll notice an improvement.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - November 9, 2020 - 9:32 AM

    Dear Laurel,

    I absolutely love my dependable, 11 year old Roomba, “Ernie!” He’s better than a maid. He gets the corners clean, all the dust from under my bed! and other furniture, he won’t tangle up in rug fringe bc he spits it right out instead of getting all tangled up in it like some others might. He goes easily from my seagrass rug to hard wood floors, to my persian rug and he will not fall down my basement stairs. We have an indoor/outdoor Springer Spaniel who tracks in more dirt than my 10 year old boy and sheds like crazy, we have one indoor/outdoor cat and our little Roomba saves the day!!! All he’s ever needed was a one-time upgrade for his battery pack and fresh filter and brushes. Roomba is one of the best appliances we ever purchased!

    AmandaReplyCancel

  • Amy Pease - November 9, 2020 - 9:27 AM

    I know you said you don’t want this post to include COVID-related information but I just wanted to share this very helpful article on the airborne effects. It opened my eyes, especially going into the holidays, when I’d like to have a few family members over. The takeaway: run a portable air purifier/filter when you invite your mom for Thanksgiving! https://english.elpais.com/society/2020-10-28/a-room-a-bar-and-a-class-how-the-coronavirus-is-spread-through-the-air.htmlReplyCancel

  • Louise Richardson - November 9, 2020 - 12:24 AM

    Hi Laurel, Congratulations on the closing of your new home! Two comments: first, it’s always a good idea to include “professional cleaning” in the terms of a sales contract when purchasing a home. The selling agent can provide the contractual verbiage. Second, after researching mini splits for our 1898 home, I learned that the units must be placed on the inside of an exterior wall where the tubing will have access to the condenser outside. So the placement inside the home is limited to exterior walls, or at the least, immediate access to an exterior wall. Tubing can change directions, but not on hard angles, and the farther away from the condenser, the less efficient. This could account for those off-center boxes you showed in the pictures.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 9, 2020 - 2:41 AM

      Thank you, but not officially closed. Hopefully, tomorrow. I did my part already, however.ReplyCancel

  • elle - November 8, 2020 - 10:26 PM

    I recently purchased a Eufy RoboVac 30C based on reviews I had read on another blog. So far it is doing great. I folded under the fringe on oriental carpets and it has no problem going from wood to the carpets.ReplyCancel

  • Susan DURTSCHE - November 8, 2020 - 9:33 PM

    A friend found out the hard way about HOA type fees and also found out that the difference in insurance cost for a lot more protection is very minimal. She had bought a condo for skiing but the HOA wasn’t just for the units in her building —it is for everything under that property developers name (or something like that). So when wind damaged properties they had developed several miles away, they were assessed additional fees. Here’s what explanation she sends to friends when they are buying properties with HOA type fees. Thought it might be of importance to you. https://www.allstate.com/tr/condo-insurance/condo-loss-assessment-coverage.aspxReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 9, 2020 - 2:37 AM

      No worries. I took out additional home owner’s insurance.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - November 8, 2020 - 8:14 PM

    One of my sisters works out of her home and is in love with robot vacuums. She has two, and gave me a Deebot by Ecovac last Christmas. I have to say it is absolutely great! It does get into the corners and is easy (and almost enjoyable) to clean. It’s so satisfying to see all the dust and dirt you get while you’re doing something else more meaningful. She researched the heck out of robots and tried a couple that weren’t as good. She has the higher end version of mine. The risk you take is that you may find it hard to keep your eyes off of the robot. It feels a bit human and I find I sometimes give it verbal commands which is of course ridiculous, it can’t hear me! I highly recommend them.ReplyCancel

  • Rhonda - November 8, 2020 - 6:50 PM

    We have splits in our new house and they are quiet, efficient, economical and an EYESORE! I was so mad when I saw where they put them. Especially the bedroom, first thing you see when you walk in. But I was told they are placed where they can be the most efficient.

    I also love my robotic vacuum, it’s the best! But it does make you lazy, I rarely get my good vacuum now and my baseboards get neglected.
    And don’t even get me going on dirty apts\houses. We have six apts and the worse one I have cleaned lately was rented by this wealthy couple. Also the soot from candles is real, I agree with the person above who commented on candles. I actually never burn candles anymore after seeing how much soot they coated my ceilings, walls and white trim with.ReplyCancel

  • Gabrielle - November 8, 2020 - 6:36 PM

    New home owner TOMORROW! So very happy for you, Laurel! If it had gone too, smoothly, no story to blog about, right?!! 😉 I hope you have some moving help, and the comments about candles may be right on. I think soy candles burn clean (at least that’s the claim). We have a closing coming up this Friday on a rental we are selling ..we shall see how it goes! Wish I could buy your apartment in NY, but no experience with out of state rentals yet! Bless you lots!ReplyCancel

  • Jen L - November 8, 2020 - 6:24 PM

    So sorry your closing wasn’t smooth, Laurel! Such stress, and “computer glitch” my butt, right? Ugh. I’m loving all these firsthand accounts of minisplits and old homes etc. I second the suggestion of room air purifiers and Roomba. And I’ll share my tips on the moving-in grime+dust on historic woodwork. I thought I’d need to repaint ALL my detailed, Victorian mouldings–there’s egg and dart, rope, Greek key (lots of nooks and crannies) and they looked so terrible—stained, dirty, mystery sticky etc. Gross! Knowing it would take a while, I at least wanted to clean them. I ordered a case each of Swiffer sheets and Magic Erasers just to start, and hired two lovely ladies to help me. Guess what! First pass with Swiffer sheets, 2nd pass with Magic Eraser. I was shocked by how well these two products did. It’s all that was needed; I didn’t even need to paint! I know you might also have the gloppy paint issue and that’s different, but a Swiffer sheet and Magic Eraser, followed by another Swiffering a few times a year works wonders to totally prevent grime and dust build-up! As for the mouldings 10+’ up, where a ladder was impractical, the Magic Eraser Mop is the magic bullet. Yes, Magic Erasers are a very fine abrasive and will mess up painted plaster. But on painted woodwork, they are incredible! One more random thing apropos of Boston: if you get housecleaner referrals from your new neighbors, consider calling any Brazilian ladies on the referral list first. They dominate the local housecleaning scene for good reason. Kick-ass, detail-oriented, incredibly efficient ladies. Good luck on Monday! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Maralee - November 8, 2020 - 4:38 PM

    Meet Glenda, an IQ Air purifier I bought 6 months ago and have never looked back. She works for dust, smoke, and even the chemical sprays from nearby orchards. They have a model without the chemical filter however. I have placed her in a corner where she is fairly unobtrusive. She’s no beauty queen but she works amazingly😉ReplyCancel

  • SM - November 8, 2020 - 4:18 PM

    Hi Laurel! Sorry about the bumpy road to home ownership in Boston, unfortunately, it is very common that the banks miss the deadlines. People even lost deposits because the money hasn’t come through on time. Don’t even get me started on how dirty people leave their homes when moving out. Unfortunately, in practice, ‘broom clean’ really only means that people remove their belongings from the property and leave. I have seen it too many times! When we got the keys to our apartment in BB, we were shocked how dirty it was, without going into any graphic details, I’ll just say I’ve never ever seen a place that dirty. We had to hire a professional cleaning company, three girls were cleaning for a full day. It was very rude and lack of all decency in my view. And the sellers were well off individuals who could have hired someone for at least minimal cleaning. As for vacuum cleaners, I have a Miele with HEPA filter and love it, I’m on to my third Miele, I’ve had their basic model and a mid-range model where they give you the turbo head and the bigger brush head for wood floors, awesome! My favorite tool is the brush head, I even use it on rugs for lighter cleaning because I’m sometimes lazy to switch to the turbo head. The apartment has central AC with ducts built into the walls (don’t know the proper name of the system). In the house we have the split system cooling/warming, Mitsubishi (or Fujitsu, they looks the same) installed 10 years ago. Very quiet, it only needed 2-3 repairs/fixes in 10 years. We have 2 units in the upstairs bedrooms, and really, after a while, you don’t see them that much. We put one right behind a door, the air still goes in all directions. We did not want any installed downstairs and it was a good thing because the air comes down from the upstairs units and cools the whole downstairs, they are that powerful. I really recommend it. I think you are very close now to start enjoying your new apartment and you can relax a bit as the hardest part is now done and behind you!ReplyCancel

  • Liz C. - November 8, 2020 - 4:18 PM

    Hello Laurel, I am looking at a mini split and by coincidence just watched this on YouTube “Are Mini Split Air Conditioners Worth It? – Top 5 Pros & Cons”. The guy was good and to the point. Convinced me that is the way for me to go in my new house. Kind of kicking myself for not having central air/heat put in but didn’t feel I could afford it at the time. Besides that, now I know (thanks to YouTube) that the mini split will be much more efficient). Amazing info here today! I think I need air cleaners/filters and didn’t even know it LOL. Regarding things not going so hot – I know exactly what that feels like when you are alone. Not fun but keep your chin up and don’t forget that you have a lot of friends listening,sympathizing and cheering you on.ReplyCancel

  • Susan Molloy - November 8, 2020 - 2:02 PM

    Hi, Laurel. We had two splits installed a year ago. One in the living room and one in the bedroom. Eventually you’ll get used to the look and will forget it’s even there. More so in the bedroom. They work beautifully. I am surprised about the noise element. Our outside condensers are so quiet! The only thing i hear is the fan spinning, and that’s even surprisingly pleasant. I highly recommend the split. Just make sure your model is the right size for the room, and you hire a quality installer. Good luck with your move.ReplyCancel

  • MM - November 8, 2020 - 1:35 PM

    I love my roomba, however it is not quiet at all. I do not have any sisal or jute rugs, so no comments on that. I think it cleans the corners fine.

    As for air quality, I’m in a major city in Northern California, so I’ve recently had forest fires on top of the usual city grime. If you can get to the furnace of the building, replacing the standard grade filter with a top of the line one made a huge difference. We also got a free-standing air purifier for each room (tiny place, may not work for everyone). They were amazing during the fires, and when set on low, do a decent job of keeping the dust down under “normal” conditions. Running one in the bedroom at night helps with my allergies.

    A cheap air quality monitor from amazon can be helpful in identifying problem areas and help you prioritize what to address.ReplyCancel

  • Sheree L - November 8, 2020 - 1:21 PM

    Lots of great comments here. I will be referring to this post again I’m sure! When we were ready to try a robotic vacuum, my husband (aka “research man”) chose the Roborock S6. It maps each room and does a systematic pattern (not random) when cleaning. The cleaning is amazing and it’s relatively quiet. It has lots of great features. Highly recommend. You know, when we lived in semi-rural Washington state, I could go a month without dusting, but now living in the Arizona desert, in just a few hours, everything is dusty again! I think we could do a better job at replacing filters. And I’m thinking about an air purifier now, too.ReplyCancel

  • Linda - November 8, 2020 - 12:58 PM

    Hi Laurel. We completed a cross country move from MA to the midwest last winter, squeaking into our duplex townhouse just a couple of weeks before the shutdown. I saw all the changes I wanted to make before we purchased. But, I too, was shocked by a layer of grime over everything that we discovered upon moving in. Even the white kitchen cabinets an appliances didn’t display it in an evident way, but once I began to wipe them down, I was stunned to find grime that took three rounds of washing to remove–inside and out! Ditto, woodwork and bathtub, etc. I was horrified. We have changed furnace filters to much higher end ones, changed more frequently, and I haven’t discerned accumulating grime. In addition, we are going to hire professional duct cleaning after this ’20-’21 heating
    season is over. All moves, as you already know, reveal disappointments and frustrations, but time and savvy makes a house a home. We have already accomplished lots of painting, removal of carpet and laying of floors, installation of draperies in l.r. and d.r., and replacement of furniture we left behind. Not bad for the few months since we were freer to move about! It will all be solved and you will soon delight in your home as it takes on your Laurelness!!! Enjoy!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 8, 2020 - 2:14 PM

      I never realized until the last few years how beautiful the word “we” is. I’m not giving up hope.ReplyCancel

  • Janet R - November 8, 2020 - 12:47 PM

    Oh Laurel! I am so sorry that you had to drive back with your carload. Hoping for better news very soon. I bought the Mitsubishi system last year, although we use it more for heating in the spring and fall when it’s not cold enough to run our woodstoves. It’s very quiet. I don’t especially like the look of the units inside but have grown accustomed over time. Our installer took some care with the placement, you don’t notice the upstairs one at all because of the stairway. The outside unit was another matter, I think I wrote about it in a comment when you were showing ways to cover radiators – all I could see when I looked at it was an alien climbing up the side of the house. We made a nice woven screen for it out of rebar and vines and what a difference!
    I just bought an older style Roomba during Prime day, and could not be more delighted! (It doesn’t empty itself and is fairly noisy but was an excellent price). Nothing I own is compatible with the app, so I just turn it on and let it do it’s thing. It’s impossible not to attribute emotions to it as it determinedly backs up to run at the angle iron that surrounds the tiles by the kitchen woodstove stove or bumbles around looking for more dust and dirt. At first, I felt I had to babysit it, but not now. My cats don’t care for it because of the noise and random movements, one leaves via the pet door in a marked manner and the other hides in the bedroom. I have been telling friends that it inspires me to be a better housekeeper, because that is absolutely true!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 8, 2020 - 2:12 PM

      Oh, that’s hilarious! An OCD Roomba.

      I can see it now with my strong tendency to anthropomorphize things like my plant (Joe) and my car (Quattro nicknamed Quatti). I think if I get one, it won’t be long before I’m scheduling blood tests. lolReplyCancel

  • Lisa D. - November 8, 2020 - 12:30 PM

    A really informative post, with lots of good info. I am allergic to so many things, I couldn’t even list them. It seems as though eliminating carpeting might be a good first step in alleviating allergy problems, but if one lives in a cold climate, bare floors might not be the most inviting thing either.

    (Love the light switch!)

    Thanks Laurel. Try to keep your eyes on the prize, and know that all this aggravation will soon be in the past.ReplyCancel

  • Gail Caryn - November 8, 2020 - 12:25 PM

    Soooooo sorry to hear about the mortgage debacle. It amazes me, that in this age of instant money movement. Once you’re approved, how much time can it take to get the money? I guess too much. Hopefully you don’t run into any more snags. Fingers crossed.

    Reading all the comments this morning, I feel incredibly blessed to be in a part of the world where I do not require air conditioning. I’m also in a small city so the air is very clean. You’d be amazed though at how much dust coats every square inch of my home and my car in the spring when the large oak trees in the front yard and the pine in the back are dropping their pollen. I spend a month sneezing. I recently adopted a dog so I bought a dyson cordless. Love that thing!!!ReplyCancel

  • Simply Cheryl - November 8, 2020 - 12:11 PM

    And the other thing I found out the hard way because we are planning a renovation. The cost of lumbar has gone crazy since the fires.ReplyCancel

  • Simply Cheryl - November 8, 2020 - 12:07 PM

    I have bad allergies so I have hepa filter units in the main 2 rooms (family room & bedroom). I will probably get a whole house one when the unit is replaced but until then the 2 Honeywell units work well. When I’m gone during the day, I turn them on high or allergy/turbo setting and when I’m home & especially sleeping I set it to Low and it helps with some white noise. I have ductwork throughout the house but unfortunately the ducts are placed exactly where drapes would be so I’m still trying to figure out the drapery issue. My husband says it is code but I think it’s stupid. It’s not like I want drapes moving like a ghost or something everytime the air goes on. Who came up with this idea?????ReplyCancel

  • Sandra - November 8, 2020 - 11:37 AM

    Laurel, So sorry for the closing snafu, as they say”this too shall pass” Could your prior owner have been a candle fan? Years ago, I had bright white walls and started seeing black soot everywhere. We figured out it was my nightly habit of lighting candles. Yes it was a nightmare to clean, and I ended up switching to some discreet battery operated ones. I second the suggestion to have your vents cleaned. It makes a huge difference in air quality.ReplyCancel

  • Nancy - November 8, 2020 - 11:34 AM

    Ohmygosh I love the light switch cover!!! I needed that after the story of the closing. That stuff is such a nightmare. Computers are wonderful but we are certainly not more civilized.

    I’m no HVAC anything but I like vacuums with bags. I’m a RN, one day I was emptying my bagless vac wearing a properly fitted N95 I filched from work (many years ago) and the rubber band broke and pulled my hair and I got a mouthful of old dirt. I took the vacuum to Goodwill, drove to a vacuum sewing machine store and plopped down an exorbitant amount of money on a Miele, I love that thing.

    Millions of good wishes and prayers to you for the rest of your move and remodels!!! You are very brave, you know it?!ReplyCancel

  • Monica - November 8, 2020 - 11:34 AM

    I would suggest checking out the Branch Basics website. She is a professional de-toxifier (made that up LOL). They sell/market an all natural/all purpose soap product (that works really terrific) and have a blog where they offer solutions for detoxing your life such as the best HEPA products, etc.ReplyCancel

  • Ruth - November 8, 2020 - 11:14 AM

    I am echoing John Lee’s comment that the Mitsubishi systems are incredibly quiet. The exterior unit is quiet and narrow enough to go on the side of my house just 8-9 feet from my next door neighbor’s house – the bedroom side. Neither of us can tell when it’s running unless we walk past it and feel the air moving. My system happens to be ducted, but I’ve heard the same about the Mitsubishi ductless. Other brands don’t seem to be as quiet – and I was told I couldn’t put them on the side of my house because of that. Here’s to smooth sailing from here out!ReplyCancel

  • John Lee - November 8, 2020 - 11:11 AM

    The other advantage of mini-splits is that the lines (electric, coolant and condensate) can easily be snaked through walls and concealed behind crown moldings.ReplyCancel

  • Kristin - November 8, 2020 - 10:53 AM

    Can you have a professional blower test done to find where air leaks are through which dust is coming and see if there are ways to mitigate them? If you can keep the outdoor soot from coming in at all that’s the best bet, and you might be able to plug some leaks when you do your renovations.

    If not, I highly recommend a good, *quiet* HEPA filter. We live in a new home with good HVAC filters, but when the PNW wildfires hit this summer after a couple of days out indoor air quality was pretty bad and we were scrambling to get filters (because of course everything immediately sold out locally). As a result we have a mishmash of brands, and I can say while all may do the job, the more expensive ones do it so much more quietly. We love our ones from Dyson (which actually monitors the air quality and turns itself on/off) and from BlueAir (more discrete tucked into a corner). Also, make sure you change your HVAC filters in both your home and you car (that’s the one people forget) regularly, especially if you’re seeing fine particulates getting in. Friends posted some pretty wild pictures during the fires of filters they put in brand new that were solid black after a week. Scary!ReplyCancel

  • Linda - November 8, 2020 - 10:48 AM

    In November, 2020, we closed on a condo in another city. Like you, we had some difficulties when it came to the closing. Our money ALMOST didn’t arrive in time, but in our case, it ultimately did.

    We began renovation in mid-January. As of today, the renovation of the less-than-700-square-foot condo is not complete. Be aware before you start, Covid-19 has resulted in all kinds of delays. The subs may have backups in their schedules and certain materials are in short supply. Materials that are available are slow to ship.

    I am not telling you this to discourage you, but to help you form realistic expectations.

    I observed that dirt was coming out of our HVAC ducts and leaving dirt on our ceiling. There wasn’t any ductwork in the bathroom, which is too old to have a vent fan, and there is no way to install one. Then I discovered that the thermostat – that was located where I wanted to hang some art – wasn’t working properly. Fortunately for me, I was able to attend the annual HOA meeting, where I learned which HVAC company maintained the condo building’s main unit, so I called them. Among other things, it was determined that the old duct work was made out of a metal that rusted. Dirt that went through the system was sticking to the rust on the ductwork and blowing out of the vents. It was decided that it made more sense to replace the whole system than to try to repair what was already in place.

    Our unit dates back to the early 1960’s. No one had a replacement in stock. We had to wait a month for it to be “built and shipped” (what country did it come from, exactly?) and installed. During that time, because the unit is so small, no other work was performed.

    Since we haven’t been able to move in yet, I can’t say for sure how well this new unit does the job. However, installing the unit plus the new ductwork required opening up walls. I am glad that we did this work DURING the demolition stage instead of after a lot of other construction work had been completed.

    My best advise is to find out what HVAC company/companies has/have been used in the past in your building. Have them come in and examine what you have now. Find out from them what your options are. Some of the things you are looking at may turn out not to be viable options for your condo.ReplyCancel

  • Téa - November 8, 2020 - 10:41 AM

    Years ago we had a free standing air purifier (brand escapes me) that came with a second, auxiliary one for a smaller room. I put it in the powder room – thinking “good use”…we had a candle on during a party, as you do, the door was shut tight after use…the air purifier caused candle to go out and it “smoked” the powder room – we didn’t realize it was happening until the smoke detector went off. The room was FILLED with smoke – had to re-paper the walls, put Kilz on the ceiling…moral of the story…these things WORK!!ReplyCancel

  • Téa - November 8, 2020 - 10:33 AM

    YES to having the duct work cleaned out before you move in…the previous owners could have smoked, had pets, etc…our 1978 built home had ducts cleaned when we bought in 2000. Unbelievable what was removed after 20 years!!ReplyCancel

  • Christine - November 8, 2020 - 10:29 AM

    As far as the Roomba goes, I have the 985 that I could not live without. It cleans all my floor surfaces: stone, tile, carpets, seagrass, wood, fringe carpets, and bathroom rugs. I have a golden retriever that sheds so much it’s impossible to go one day without vacuuming. Enter the Roomba. It’s scheduled to run every day, and I’m constantly amazed (horrified) at the amount of fur and dust it picks up. Caveats – it’s noisy, debris needs to be emptied out and brushes cleaned each day, and it works best without clutter on the floors. I Love My Roomba! And this comes from a clean freak with a large house and no housekeeper. Unfortunately, it doesn’t dust.ReplyCancel

  • Aurora V - November 8, 2020 - 10:24 AM

    Ok…so this is a subject near and dear to my heart, after having developed allergen related asthma last year, at the age of 53–after a lifetime of the only allergy I had being a slight allergy to nickel on my wrists and ear lobes. (Seriously—hives in under a minute if a bracelet with nickel touches my wrist, irritation if I wear an earring with nickel—but no other place on my body cares! :P)

    Since you’re not dealing with asthma, only concerned about cleaning, I’ll strip my list down to only things directly relating to that. 🙂

    1 – if your place has ductwork (sounds like it doesn’t—but if it does!)—the odds are it hasn’t been cleaned in FOREVER. If you want to be royally skeeved, Google duct cleaning pix—the stuff inside some of them is EWWWWWW!!!! Locate an NADCA certified duct cleaning company, and have them come out and clean your ductwork. It’s super easy, not too loud, not too invasive, and in my 1280sq ft loft with both in the walls and exposed duct work—and 14’ ceilings—it took a little over an hour. (NB: the certification is crucial! It’s also the difference between a $100 job and a $500+ job.)

    2 – have your furnace/AC cleaned – and obviously replace all the filters—and do this in conjunction with, or just after you get your ductwork cleaned.

    3 – You CAN upgrade the filters on your HVAC, but be sure to speak with an HVAC expert before going too fancy: some filters may degrade the efficiency of your furnace/AC considerably, with very little difference in air quality. (I compromised with a higher grade filter—but not HEPA—which would have compromised efficiency too much, and potentially lead to an earlier demise of the equipment.)

    4 – True HEPA air purifiers—ideally, one for each large room, but depending on your room size, you may need more. The key is “True HEPA”—because there are air purifiers out there that throw “HEPA” around in their marketing material, making it SEEM like they’re HEPA—when, in fact, they’re not. Hence the newer label “True HEPA”. These are great for air purification, and in my opinion, can provide a comforting white noise in a bedroom—very useful for Boston apartments! (Having lived in Back Bay, the South End, Brookline and South Boston for 20 years! They don’t do much to shut out things like emergency vehicle sirens, but they soften the loud roar of city buses.)

    The cost of True HEPA units are all over the map—and here’s the thing: the cheap ones are as good as the expensive ones! (No, seriously! In fact there’s a guy in China who has a DIY True HEPA air purifier kit for $100–if you live in China that is almost *identically* effective as $1000+ units!).

    The biggest differences between expensive and cheap are features and build quality. That’s it. They’re ALL pretty ugly—so it’s mostly just a “pick your ugly”.

    The expensive ones are sturdy and well built and may offer additional features like smartphone controls, integration with air quality monitors… They may also offer an array of filters for different purposes: ones that are for odor reduction vs dust reduction, for instance. This may or may not be of interest to you—it wasn’t to me, as all I cared about was reducing dust and particular matter in my air….and any True HEPA air purifier will do just that.

    So things to focus on when picking one include: how sturdy do you need it to be (I’m guessing that like me, this isn’t something that’s a priority, lacking, say, two rambunctious kids and three rowdy border collies ;)). If you don’t need sturdy—if cheap plastic is ok—then you can look at say, Honeywell True HEPA air purifiers—at more than half the cost of the fancier ones. Soot, for instance, has a size of 2 – 3 microns—and all True HEPA air purifiers are required to remove 99.7% of particles as small as .3….so…you’re good. (The difference between medical grade and non-medical grade is that True HEPA H10-H12 will also do 85-95.5% of particles as small as .1 microns—while medical grade H13-H14 can do 99.5-99.995% of the same size particles. Important for hospitals and breathing—probably not for dust. :))

    The next thing you need to care about is number of exchanges of air per hour—and room size. My 14’ high ceilings almost double my room size—so that needs to be taken into account when I look at air purifier capacity. If, for instance, you’re looking for additional uses—like, say, making it safer to have someone visit you during this time of Covid, then room size is critical, because the exchanges per hour would affect how much time potential airborne virus would be in the air before being trapped by your air purifier. If you’re just trying to keep things clean, you may not care that your 4 exchanges of room air per hour drops to 2 exchanges per hour, due to your room being bigger than your air purifier is rated for. :).

    Finally—decibels!!!! If you’re sensitive to noise—you’ll want to know the decibels of every air purifier you’re interested in—and make sure you can live with it running all the time! Be aware that many misleadingly focus on the “quiet time” noise—the lowest, most misleading number, since you may need to keep it running on night all the time, depending on your needs. 🙂

    Surprisingly, the decibels were all over the map when I was shopping. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cheap Honeywell I tested recently was rated quieter than some of the more expensive ones I was looking at. (Beckett S, btw, in their excellent comment on air purifiers was spot on with the top brands, as well as their diss of Molekule. I simply found that when I trialed the cheaper Honeywell—that not only did it have lower decibels than a couple on my Expensive List—but it did what I needed for $200–just in a cheap plastic case.)

    Oh yeah—one other thing to look at, when purchasing—is cost of filters and how frequently they need to be replaced. Some are VERY expensive—so look carefully at that, when buying, if cost matters to you! 🙂

    Back to other things you can do…

    5 – Robotic vacuums are DA BOMB DIGGITY!!! :). I have two small dogs who have hair, not fur, and whom I keep in long, frou frou hair cuts. I have hair that’s almost long enough to sit on. I also have hardwood floors through the entire loft. Dust bunnies are just a fact of life with that much hair in the house! And this…is where purchasing a robotic vacuum made a huge difference: dust bunny eradication!!!

    I did not go the Roomba route for two reasons: I’ve had one about ten years ago—and it wasn’t great; and I borrowed my neighbors, to test—and it had many of the issues my old one had: tiny dust cup, and it missed areas. :/. So I looked at knockoffs—and wound up with one that doesn’t miss areas—because it doesn’t do that random bounce around thing: it goes in lines. And the dust bin capacity is easily double the capacity of the Roomba…AND it’s far less sensitive to not working, if you don’t take it apart and clean it every five minutes. (Well, ok, maybe not five MINUTES—but practically every use!)

    It also supposedly mops, but I’ve never gotten around to trying that. And it’s got a smart app that lets you program it…but I work in IT, and am paranoid about smart devices in general and their NOTORIOUSLY bad security—and this one is from China and wants a TON of personal information to set it up—so…I just do without the programming. :P. (If you care, I got the RoboRock E35–but I’m sure there’s a better model by now. Eufy was another knock-off brand that had excellent reviews on Amazon.)

    I’ll admit…if that thousand dollar Roomba with the ginormous bin hadn’t been VERY new tech when I was buying…and I hadn’t just spent a small fortunate de-asthma-fying my loft, I probably would have tried it…as I LOVE the huge dustbin!!! (In fact, I DO have a Grommet featured auto vac that just sits in a corner…and when I sweep debris in front of it, it SUCKS it right up—and practically never needs the ginormous bin cleared—so I am definitely a fan of the big dust bins!)

    With all that said, however…I will add a cautionary note.

    When I lived in the South End, in a street level 420 sq ft apartment, for 13 years, I ran a very fancy, 500 sq ft air purifier 24x7x365–always on high, to remove the odor from my flight cage of 20 some odd finches. (Yeah, you put enough birds together, and they smell!). It was so effective at removing odors that I had to give up using Yankee Candles, because not even 30 Yankee Candle Buttercream votives could produce a significant aroma with that air purifier going! So—it was powerful, more than big enough for my space, and very obviously worked. (I did NOT do any of the other things I’ve mentioned, because I didn’t have breathing problems then.)

    And yet…when I moved out, there were SERIOUS soot marks on all the walls, where I had numerous pictures up. So…I can’t guarantee that all this will completely eliminate your problem…but it should, at least, improve the overall air quality. 🙂

    Good luck! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Pamela Turner - November 8, 2020 - 10:18 AM

    We had a Unico system installed 15 years ago in our 1937 colonial revival home. The installer had a bear of time cutting the vents and return out of our thick lath and plaster walls, but he did a beautiful job. We chose to do only the second floor at the time since there was one of those “fugly” (to borrow Lauryl’s fitting word) wall units cut into the wall near the kitchen eat in area and the air from upstairs flows nicely down stairs to the living room and foyer. The kitchen unit cools the kitchen and dining room. We were not willing to invest in the second condenser and labor for installation downstairs at the time, but as is usually the case, I wish we had sprung for it. The nice round ducts are pretty unobtrusive and were a reasonable retrofit for our house.ReplyCancel

  • Paula - November 8, 2020 - 10:12 AM

    Lots of allergies and asthma here – dust, mold, pet dander, pollen, etc. Have lived in sooty apartments in NYC and Chicago (with oil heat) and now in old house in burbs. I’ve owned and loved HEPA bagged Miele canister vacuums for over 20 years. But I’m petite (ie short) and they can be cumbersome on stairs. During the pollen and ragweed seasons (that seem to be most of the year now) I rely on the Conway air purifiers. Have had IQ Airs too. Considering the Rabbit now. Glad to hear about other people’s advice and experiences! I’ve not found the air purifiers installed into AC/heat system helpful. But I’m also not sure they were installed properly. I’m still looking for a very good environmental-minded GC who specializes in older homes. Laurel, I’m so excited for you and your new adventures in Boston. You might have hit a speed bump this weekend but you’ll be cruising soon.ReplyCancel

  • John Lee - November 8, 2020 - 10:12 AM

    We’ve had a Mitsubishi split system for more than six years – ten blower units inside and two large condensers in the back yard. Both the indoor units and the outdoor condensers are so quiet that it’s hard to know when they’re on. The blower units don’t cycle on and off noisily like window or through-the-wall units, so our sleep is undisturbed. And you only need to cool the room(s) you’re actually using.ReplyCancel

  • Kent - November 8, 2020 - 9:23 AM

    I remember seeing advertisements years ago for (Unico)retrofit miniature ducts in beautiful old houses in some magazines. So I looked on the internet and found the following: According to This Old House, “Mini duct HVAC systems are a gift to remodelers. Snaking small flex ducts through existing walls, floors and ceiling is 100 percent less invasive than using standard ductwork”.

    Here are companies that make mini-duct systems include:

    Mitsubishi Electric & Electronics

    Unico System

    Spacepak

    https://www.thisoldhouse.com/heating-cooling/21015938/retrofit-air-conditioning-using-mini-ducts

    Perhaps one of these might work with regard to the A/C needs. I’m not sure about how the filtering may work, but I imagine that could be addressed as well.ReplyCancel

  • Jonelle Boteler - November 8, 2020 - 9:21 AM

    Ditto all Alice said about the Roomba. I wanted to love mine but same issues with noise and sisal rugs. I’ve given away two as I can’t get past the noise and they will damage your rugs if left unattended and get hung up on a transition between solid surface and a rug.ReplyCancel

  • Cindy W - November 8, 2020 - 9:18 AM

    I am not sure what kind of heating system you have in your new home- do you have your own furnace, or is there a central unit for the whole building? It sounds like you do not have central AC?
    If you have your own furnace, and before purchasing any air purifying system ( you are going to have enough “start up” costs), begin with frequent vacuuming of the heat vent and cold air return vents. Also, change the furnace filters – frequently. I moved into a 118 year old home with 3 well used wood burning fireplaces and prior owner with 2 dogs. We were changing the filters every 2 weeks (our duct work was too complicated for the duct scope cleaning) and within about 2 months, we had it under control and now change filters every 2-3 months. I still vacuum my vents every month or so. Changing filters is easy.
    But, if your unit does not have its own furnace, then you are at the mercy of the building maintenance and I would consider an “air purifying” unit as the other readers have recommended. Good Luck !ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 8, 2020 - 9:57 AM

      Thanks so much, Cindy. This is to everyone. You guys are the best! I knew that so many of you would be a fountain of great information. These comments are all amazing!

      In re: to Cindy’s question, no, I do not have my own furnace, nor do I pay extra for heat which is a plus. I did visit the boiler room and it appears to be well-maintained. The building is only five units and self-managed which keeps our maintenance costs way down. I’m only paying $410 a month which is very reasonable for a Back Bay Boston condo.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole - November 8, 2020 - 9:15 AM

    For dust and allergy control, I prefer a bagged canister vacuum with a HEPA filter. Mine is a Panasonic, but they’ve exited the vacuum business since I purchased mine several years ago. When it dies, I intend to buy a refurbished something or other from my local vacuum shop. I use Kenmore bags that have a sticker to seal the opening once the bag is full. No dust cloud. I like to put a few drops of essential oil on the bag and on the exhaust filter. Good luck on your closing. We just completed two after a hurricane and under a strict covid quarantine. Fun times. But it all worked out. God is good.ReplyCancel

  • Sharri Harmel - November 8, 2020 - 9:02 AM

    Laurel, I live in Boston- have lived in brownstone on Marlborough and 37th floor of millennium tower. In both I had two RABBIT AIR filtration machines- one in my bedroom and one in my living room. They are attractive, narrow, quiet, and most important, they work! The machine tells you when to vacuum and when to replace the filers. I’m not very handy so this is what I needed. Rabbit came highly recommended by a friend of mine who lives in NYC and has loads of allergies. I love these machines.ReplyCancel

  • Alice Christian - November 8, 2020 - 8:53 AM

    I don’t like my Roomba. It doesn’t clean that well, is loud, and I can’t use in any room with a sisal or jute area rug.

    Congratulations on your new home, it is beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - November 8, 2020 - 8:52 AM

    Good Morning. My sympathies on the closing issues. We have a Roomba. It’s fine to set loose with no one around to hear it, but it’s just an aid and not a substitute. It is good for getting dust underneath furniture with a higher floor clearance, but rather hard on antiques undercarriage. I second the post about rug fringe issues; the damage is a real issue without an obvious solution. Our HVAC man was recommending ductless systems 15-20 years ago for a space where ducts would reduce headroom. We have also used an additional free-standing filter due to an asthmatic child. I feel your pain, as this is by far the dustiest house I have ever had. Best Wishes to you in your beautiful new home.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - November 8, 2020 - 8:45 AM

    I second the usefulness of an Eye Vac! I keep mine right inside the pantry and I can sweep after the kids eat and it’s so easy. I hate using a dustpan now.ReplyCancel

  • Sara - November 8, 2020 - 8:40 AM

    I had a ductless Mitsubishi mini-split installed in my downtown Charleston home. The issue is flooding — ducts under the house were getting flooded on a regular basis, so many homeowners are changing to ductless. I was VERY worried about the ugly boxes on the wall or the newer option of floor boxes that look a bit like radiators. But, Mitsubishi also makes a third option — you can opt for ceiling units and install what looks like a vent in the ceiling. They are almost flush with the ceiling and I did center them! I needed 3 downstairs, but once installed they were not that noticeable. And, the noise wasn’t an issue unless you were close to the outdoor condenser (which we put on the roof). They are great options and barely noticeable — I can send a picture if that would help.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 8, 2020 - 9:59 AM

      Yes, please send a photo or two if you like. You can answer any email you receive from me, from mailchimp.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - November 8, 2020 - 8:38 AM

    Oh Laurel, what a stressful process you have been through. I’m glad you decided to spend the weekend back in New York. This post has me thinking about using an air purifier, we live in new construction down in the south and I keep like the air gets trapped in the house and needs more circulation. Thank you for always sharing great ideas.

    I am going to break your rule, I admit I don’t have any experience with the problem but I want to mention one product I saw on “This old house” in the last season and it looked like something you may want research. I read through the previous comments and no one mentioned it so I figured it would be ok. 😉 Look up the “ LG Art cool” air conditioner units. The show episode only did a quick overview of the product but it did look very innovative and might be an option for you. I think it cooled one room. They showed different options for the art that could be displayed that helps the unit blend into the wall. It reminded me of the new TVs that have art displayed when they are off.

    Best of luck with the sale of your place and the moving process. We are all thinking of you!ReplyCancel

  • Natalie - November 8, 2020 - 8:27 AM

    Are you able to have the ductwork cleaned out? That could help.ReplyCancel

  • Molly - November 8, 2020 - 8:18 AM

    Hi, we installed a Mitsubishi split system in several rooms five years ago. Rest assured that the noise – indoors or outside – is a total non-issue. So if you can solve or come to terms with the aesthetics, go for it. Plus the units do more than AC – they can be used to heat or dehumidify a room as needed.ReplyCancel

  • Andrea Martone - November 8, 2020 - 8:16 AM

    *Dyson v11 is great for every day and my dyson canister for once a week.
    *I stopped using my Roomba bc we are working from home and it’s way too noisy to have it cycle for hours doing it’s thing.
    *I am a realtor in Westchester NY and I recommend staying away from split unit a/c they are ugly, almost as expensive as central air and unless you have big open floor plan you’d need multiple to work comfortably …plus what would you do in bedrooms ? One in each bedroom ugh??? …a good HVAC company that specializes in older homes can really think thru and plan carefully Re ductwork without much loss of closet space (it’s can be relatively simple if someone owns a house ….one unit in basement and vents go to 1st floor, another in attic w vents to 2nd floor)
    *With traditional ductwork you can save a Ton of wall space and tremendously improved aesthetics by removing radiators and having forced hot air heat & central a/c system.
    *Central a/c adds more to Home value over split units, and of course you can use HEPA filters and clean and change filters regularly. Some people forget regular seasonal maintenance which makes a huge difference and lowers annual costs in the long run. You can also have company clean ductwork.
    *additionally our allergy symptoms where Greatly reduced after we installed central a/c in our circa 1927 home.
    Hope this is helpfulReplyCancel

  • Genie Davidson - November 8, 2020 - 8:03 AM

    I wanted to second what Katherine said about Austin air purifiers. I have environmental allergies and went to the Environmental health Center in Dallas, one of the first things I noticed is that I could breath easier and was told that was the one they used. It’s portable and relatively quiet. I have mine in my bedroom, tucked away in the corner. You don’t even notice it. I live now in a place with very little dust because it’s a newer house, and I use it all through the day. All you have to do is wipe it clean once a month. I’m taking notes of all the other suggestions. Always on the look-out for products that help to keep the air clean. What a nightmare for those in Oregon and other western areas where they dealt with constant smoke. I would go mad!!ReplyCancel

  • Leanne Regalla - November 8, 2020 - 7:54 AM

    I have that switch plate, Laurel, in a back storage room. It’s hilarious that male visitors are afraid to touch it!

    I’ve gotten a Roomba for my mother but not for myself yet, although I need one. People might also consider an Eye Vac in kitchens and for hardwood floors that you sweep a lot. So convenient. My Sebo vacuum is amazing for keeping down the allergens.ReplyCancel

  • Elle - November 8, 2020 - 7:53 AM

    Good morning, Laurel! A very interesting post, and I plan to explore your brilliant idea of recessing those ductless units. I think I can shed a bit of light on one of your questions:. I was considering getting central air in my Back Bay condo a few months ago, and my building manager, who believes that the cheapest way is ALWAYS the best way, suggested that we put those ductless units above our fireplaces because the tubing could go up the chimney! I said No Way. I couldn’t bear the thought. He thought I was crazy; I thought he was cheap, and we shelved the idea. I cheerfully bought a quieter, smaller new window unit that I can store under the bed most of the year.ReplyCancel

  • Patsy - November 8, 2020 - 7:52 AM

    I have a Roomba that does a great job expect on the fringe of my large oriental rugs. I have tried rolling the fringe under but then then Roomba has difficulty going over that. Suggestions?ReplyCancel

  • Laura - November 8, 2020 - 7:22 AM

    Hey Laurel,
    I got a dyson cordless which I love. It’s so light and easy to use but runs out of juice in 1/2 hour, but then so do I!
    We have put a mini split in husbands man cave. It is working well, pretty quiet and the condenser is behind the garage.
    An idea is the soot might be coming from y our fireplace…when was it cleaned last?
    Bw lauraReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth - November 8, 2020 - 7:06 AM

    Good morning!

    No advice on Filtration systems, but our last house was incredibly dusty, so I feel your pain.

    I do vote for a Roomba, though…have had mine 4+ years and love it. It’s programmed to run daily and is relatively unobtrusive; does a fabulous job on pet hair and kid grit. Not a replacement for periodic vacuuming, but great for maintenance cleaning.ReplyCancel

  • Valerie - November 8, 2020 - 6:56 AM

    What nice comments from Julie in Nashville. I also want to offer you care and encouragement. When I bought my current house, the closing was put off three times! We finally closed in the middle of a snowstorm but the seller’s attorney was a no show. So I had to go back again and have a second closing the next week!
    But onto vacuums…I love my Roomba! It’s my second. The newer models are much better at corners, but still not perfect. I still have to pull out my Hoover, perhaps once or twice a month, instead of a few times a week. I bought the 692 model, which does not empty itself because it does not have that honking big black docking station. Its station is so small that it & the Roomba live under my tall legged couch! In my small home that makes such a difference that it’s well worth having to empty it once a week. There are usually big Roomba black Friday sales, BTW.
    Best on this and all your other decisions!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - November 8, 2020 - 10:17 AM

      Re: closing. What I didn’t say was that my lawyer put the fear of God in me because in Massachusetts your closing date is written in stone. And if you don’t close on THAT day, you are in danger of defaulting and losing your initial down payment. In my case, that was $65,500.00! So, we had a power of attorney in place, just in case, I couldn’t make it for some reason.

      It appears that the mortgage company only requested the money, while I was with my lawyer signing my name a million times. I dunno. I wasn’t taking a chance and got my certified bank check for my portion, on Tuesday. It seems to me they should’ve been getting their funds together by Thursday at the latest. They said that their bank had a computer glitch. Sure, it happens. That’s all the more reason it shouldn’t have been put off. It sounds more like someone forgot since the mortgage broker wrote my lawyer that they put a “rush on the wire.”

      They did eventually get the money wired from a different bank, but it was too late in the day to get the sale certified. It’s a good thing I didn’t have a moving van show up at 3:00PM to move all of my stuff in.

      An apology would go a long way.ReplyCancel

  • Maggie - November 8, 2020 - 6:47 AM

    Love all of your posts…LOL’d at the lightswitch 😉ReplyCancel

  • Michele - November 8, 2020 - 6:07 AM

    Good morning Laurel:

    My husband and I recently purchased a 1500 square foot ranch in Western Massachusetts. Life long residents, down sizing from a 3000 square foot home.

    It is a complete renovation, which is exciting. However, I have never done this before and I am unsure where to start. My husband would like to over see the entire project. That being said, we need to come up with a design plan. Do I go to an architect, interior designer or a structural engineer?

    Any and all advice would be appreciated.ReplyCancel

  • Christine Goepp - November 8, 2020 - 5:59 AM

    Take a look at Rabbit Air filters. We have had one for years and it works great. And they have various decorative covers so you can place it somewhat like a picture.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - November 8, 2020 - 5:56 AM

    Hello Laurel! Hope all goes smoothly on Monday so that you can move in.
    We installed a new HVAC system recently and in addition to changing the disposable air filters monthly we also installed an ‘air scrubber.’ It was placed inside the ductwork for the HVAC and removes pollutants, odors, dust, dander (and we have a hairy Black Labrador). It’s unobtrusive, quiet and even removes 99% of airborne viruses.
    Forgive me for sounding like a sales rep – but it has helped DH’s allergies significantly.ReplyCancel

  • M - November 8, 2020 - 4:14 AM

    Excellent, informative post. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Beckett S. - November 8, 2020 - 4:07 AM

    This is one of my favorite topics, so I’m probably going to write a lot. I love LOVE this blog & the hot sales. Both have helped me so much. Thank you!

    I recently developed strong chemical sensitivities so I had to deep dive into this subject. I’m a human canary. I can get an asthma attack, Bell’s palsy or a migraine from a fairly small piece of plastic that is off-gassing or any MDF furniture, smoke, exhaust, paint, perfume etc.

    We live in Seattle and this summer the smoke from forest fires was horrendous. I couldn’t because outside for even a minute on the worst days. Luckily we already own several air purifiers which I’ll talk about later.

    We built a new house two years ago and we have one ducted minisplit (in the ceiling of our laundry closet). It heats and cools two bedrooms and bathrooms. We also have three without ducts (those ugly wall units) – they heat/cool everything else and they do a great job. I can say for sure it was a battle to get the installers to put them where they are less noticeable. I gave up trying to get them built into hidden cubbies – the installers were nervous that air flow wouldn’t be enough. They had no experience with it.

    The heat pump outside is very quiet. I promise that the new ones are quiet. It’s about the same as an older refrigerator. It’s under a deck and we can’t hear it at all when we are out there unless we go under the deck and get in close. Our cabin has an old heat pump and it’s much much MUCH louder – very noticeable.

    As for clean air, I use air purifiers by IQAir. They are hospital grade and capable of clearing particles as small as a virus. They’re amazing, but big, boxy & ugly. IQAir has a whole house filter system but I’ve not tried it because we mostly don’t have ducts.

    Another really good air purifier brand is BlueAir. They have come out with some smaller units with covers that come in colors. They even have a quite cute fan with a basic filter on it. The small units can purify less space, but are great in a bedroom. You can have two or three and they could be almost invisible. Or just buy one and bring it from room to room with you.

    On the more affordable but still good end, Winix is another brand of hepa air purifiers. I’ve been trying one out and it does an excellent job on odors. My son has a ferret and the Winix is working olfactory magic near its cage. The Winix cannot capture virus-sized particles, but can help with soot, dust, pollen and pet fur and dander. They aren’t too ugly – I have a white one designed specifically for pets.

    One note: Do not be fooled by the Molecule Air filter, it’s sexy (for a filter) but it apparently cannot clear smoke from a room so it seems useless to me. Consumer Reports was unimpressed.

    Now onto the subject of vacuum cleaners. The bagless vacuums expose you to dust when you empty the canister. If your furniture has flame retardants or the dust in your house is otherwise hazardous, you’re inhaling it. Better to go with a hepa bagged vacuum if you can or gonoutside & hold your breath to empty.

    In our new house we splurged on a built in vacuum system where the hose sucks back into the wall for storage. I hate to vacuum so very much but I love this system. The vacuum itself is in the garage and exhausts directly outside. It’s AMAZING, we have dogs, cats, and a bird so vacuuming is almost a full time job around here.

    Best of luck on your lovely new flat! It is absolutely charming. Congrats!ReplyCancel

  • Katherine - November 8, 2020 - 3:27 AM

    Hi Laurel! I love your blog! I live in Oregon and we had an absolutely heinous forest fire season this year, which prompted me to upgrade all of my filters. Hopefully I won’t ever need them to such an extreme degree again, but it was definitely an air quality and preparedness wake up call. I have a freestanding Air Doctor purifier, which I love, and it clears about 1,000 square feet. Other good brands are the Austin Air and IQ Air. I also upgraded all of my central air filters to a MERV 13, which is the highest residential rating. If you have central air make sure your system is strong enough to push air through, as the filters get more powerful the airflow is reduced. Lastly, I have a little Coway Mighty purifier for my bedroom, which is incredibly quiet. The good news with purifiers is that you can tuck them away when company comes. Air pollution particles are so insidious, I had no idea, so it’s so good you’re getting on top of it! I almost never have to dust either, which is such a change from my first apartment with boiler heat and in the middle of the city— always dusting. There are coupon codes out there for $300 off Air Doctors, so if you start researching make sure to track one down!ReplyCancel

  • julie - November 8, 2020 - 3:07 AM

    Good morning (ahem…middle of the night) Laurel: I see you are up too and I am sorry your home buying has been so stressful. Hopefully, you will have some very knowledgeable readers help you out with a good filtration system. I live down by Nashville and have central AC, so I won’t be putting forth inane comments. I do want to offer care and encouragement because this has been stressful for you. I know you will soon find your system and have your place cleaned and painted. Pretty soon, you will be hanging out in the heart of Boston!! I know it can be hard to maintain excitement when the path is laborious. We are all rooting for you on this journey!!ReplyCancel

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