Grow Your Air Fresheners, Naturally


* How to grow fresh air

Houseplants add something to a home that no other furnishing can--a breath of fresh air. Perhaps even more important, they remove such harsh pollutants as benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, toluene and trichloroethylene from the air.

Just two potted plants per 100 square feet of floor space will help to clean and refresh the air in a home, according to the Davidsonville, Md.-based Plants for Clean Air Council and NASA researcher Dr. B.C. Wolverton, author of "How to Grow Fresh Air: 50 Houseplants That Purify Your Home or Office" (Penguin, New York, N.Y., 1998; 144 pages, $15.95).

Here's a list of plants that have proved effective as air cleaners:

* Pollutant Formaldehyde

Source: carpeting, clothes, furniture, foam insulation, household cleaners, paper goods, particleboard, plywood, water repellents.

Solutions: azalea, bamboo palm, chrysanthemum, corn plant, dieffenbachia, golden pothos, mother-in-law's tongue, philodendron, poinsettia and spider plant.

* Pollutant Benzene

Source: detergents, gasoline, inks, oils, plastics, synthetic fibers, tobacco smoke.

Solutions: chrysanthemum, English ivy, gerbera daisy, Janet Craig dracaena, marginata dracaena, peace lily, warneckei dracaena.

* Pollutant Trichloroethylene

Source: adhesives, dry cleaning, inks, lacquers, paints, varnishes.

Solutions: chrysanthemum, gerbera daisy, marginata dracaena, peace lily, warneckei dracaena.

* Avoiding screw screw-ups

Lots of homeowners have discovered "drywall screws," and they use them as a kind of utility fastener whenever they need a screw and, in many instances, where they might have once used a nail.

Screws are superior fasteners for most tasks, but drywall screws are not always the proper screw to use.

Here's why. True drywall screws have a straight shank and a Phillips-head recess for driving. Their threads are double-lead (two threads extending from the point instead of one), which makes them drive aggressively. They also have a distinctive bugle-shaped head that enables you to set the screw head so it creates a dimple in the drywall surface, not a tear.

However, drywall screws don't have the holding power of a wood screw, and because the shank of the screw thins out at the head, they lack tensile strength and can snap in two under a load.

That makes wood screws superior for tasks like hanging shelves and joining pieces of wood. Wood screws range in size from half an inch to 3 1/2 inches and have beefy single threads that offer better holding power and thicker, stronger shanks.

They also offer different head shapes and drive recesses, including slotted, Phillips, square recess and combo (square and Phillips). To confuse matters, wood screws also come in the same black-oxide finish as drywall screws.

* Catching daylight

Although the subject has generated reams of research, it's never been in doubt that regular exposure to daylight lifts our spirits and lets us lead healthier, more productive lives.

But bringing daylight deep inside a home typically means extensive remodeling or adding a series of skylights or sun tubes.

And some rooms just aren't situated for access to daylight, no matter how many clever products or dollars are thrown at the problem.

A new fiber-optic lighting system pioneered by Norwalk, Conn.-based Steven Winter Associates, a building-systems consulting firm, can bring daylight into the darkest recesses of your home by just running a cable.

With a U.S. Department of Energy grant, Steven Winter Associates has developed a "daylighting system" that gathers sunlight through roof-mounted solar collectors disguised as roofing material. The system sends the light via fiber-optic cables run through the walls to diffusers mounted on ceilings anywhere in a home.

A 10-square-inch collector gathers enough sunlight to equal the output of a 100-watt bulb. The company says the daylight system could hit the retail market by 2001. At a projected cost of $500, the collector isn't cheap, but prices are bound to fall.

Plus, the system runs for free as long as the sun is shining.

* Moving in before you do

If you're moving far away and don't have time to attend to tiresome tasks, such as turning on the utilities, exterminating pests, overseeing repairs and mowing the lawn at your new home, Already Home is ideal for you.

This unique moving service, based in Mound, Texas, will arrange for qualified local help to do everything from sprucing up your yard to fixing a leaky roof. And if you're really pressed for time, the company will even stock your kitchen.

"When you're moving to a new location," says company founder Lynn McWilliams, "it's great to have someone there ahead of time whom you trust. And that's what our business provides."

A 10-point basic service package, which also includes home inspection, one-day service by a maintenance professional, house cleaning, a home orientation and access to a home-help phone line, costs $1,600.

Already Home serves around 50 clients a month and expects to offer the service nationally by the end of this year.

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