Welcome to another edition of Ask AAA where we aim to answer your most pressing home-improvement questions! Our mailbag is overflowing with interesting queries from around the greater Denver area. Here are several of the most thought-provoking:
Are Residential Urinals a Thing?
“I’m a mom of four boys so, naturally, the toilet seat is always left UP! And their aim is WAY off! I’m thinking a urinal could be a solution but I’ve never seen one in a home. Are residential urinals a thing?”
- Disgusted in Denver
Every men’s room has one, so why not your bathroom? There’s no reason you can’t have a ballpark-style commode. In fact, some do! Keep in mind, your bathroom would need adequate wall space and a retrofit would require an additional vent, but it’s totally do-able. Plus, a urinal could go a long way toward resolving some of those bad bathroom habits. A fixture reserved for pee would end the “seat up” war and provide more surface area for those whose streams tend to go rogue. If those are reasons enough, then the urinal may be right for you. However, there aren’t many benefits beyond having an alternative to the conventional toilet. A urinal isn’t going to save you any water. It uses about 1.8 gallons per flush (gpf) compared to a dual-flush toilet, which uses as little as 1.28 gpf.
Still, a urinal would be a unique mancave accessory.
Is There a Better Way to Rinse Produce?
“I’ll admit it, I’m one of those earthy Denverites! I frequent farmers’ markets, usually returning home with a truckload of fresh produce. I’m pretty diligent about giving veggies a thorough rinsing, but I’m wondering if I should be doing more given the pandemic.”
- Healthy in Highlands Ranch
You’ll be relieved to learn that there currently is no evidence that COVID can be transmitted via food, according to the CDC. Still, rinsing is a wise precaution, global pandemic or not. Raw vegetables and fruit may contain Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, among other germs and pesticides that can make you sick.
Follow these tips to step up your rinsing game:
- Start by washing your hands with soap and water so that you don’t transfer germs to the produce
- Rub fruits and vegetables briskly with your hands under cold, running water
- For produce with a hard rind or skin, use a vegetable brush
That’s it! Pretty simple. If you want a more abrasive method to blast germs off of your veggies, consider installing a pre-rinse faucet. This type of faucet features a high arc, flexible hose, and higher water pressure to make washing dishes a snap. They’re commonly found in commercial kitchens, but they’re becoming increasingly popular with homeowners.
I Have Six Cats. How Often Should I Replace My Air Filter?
“I’m not a crazy cat lady. Honest! I only have six cats because they keep adopting me! As much as I love my kitties, I’m finding that my air quality is suffering from all of the dander and fur. The instructions on my air filter say to replace it every 30 to 90 days. But my situation is unique. Should I replace it more often?”
-Not a Crazy Cat Lady in Castle Rock
That’s a lot of cats (No judgment!) but you can still maintain good indoor air quality.
Replace your HVAC’s filter every other week if you want, but using a filter with a higher MERV rating might be a better approach. MERV is the minimum efficiency reporting value and it tells you how effective a filter is at trapping small particles. The MERV scale ranges from 1 to 16 -- the higher the MERV the smaller the particle the filter can intercept.
Most residential heating and cooling systems require a filter rated MERV 7-12. Because you have so many cats, we recommend a MERV at the higher end of the range. Filters with a MERV 11-12 are designed to remove pet dander and hair, as well as pollen and dust. A MERV higher than 12 isn’t necessarily better. In fact, the tighter pore will restrict airflow, forcing your HVAC to work harder.
For extra protection, consider installing a whole-home purification system. This system works in conjunction with your central heating and cooling equipment to neutralize pollutants. Your air will improve dramatically and your cats might even appreciate it, too.
On a separate but related note: You know you’re not supposed to flush kitty litter, right?
Does Hard Water Ruin Coffee?
“I’m a total coffee snob. Nothing but the finest French pressed brew gets past these lips. So, when I learned my home has hard water, my immediate concern was how a high concentration of calcium and magnesium was impacting my morning cup of joe. Does it compromise taste and quality?”
-Brewing in Boulder
Fear not, Brewing: hard water can actually produce more flavorful coffee. Magnesium helps extract those tasty compounds from your arabica beans. Conversely, brewing with soft water produces a pretty weak cup. It’s science!
That is, unfortunately, hard water’s only benefit. Hard water is wreaking havoc on your expensive brewing equipment, plus it’s rough on your plumbing and water-using appliances. Hard water also makes it difficult to shower; you can’t work up a good lather with all those pesky minerals. And it’s making your clothes fade faster in the washing machine.
A water treatment system will bring your water’s chemistry into balance and remove any impurities that may be tainting your java.
Bottom line: Well, we learned a lot: Residential urinals are an option, don’t overthink washing your produce, opt for a higher MERV rating if you have lots of pets, and hard water has one minor upside for coffee connoisseurs. As much as we enjoy answering your questions here, you can always call the plumbing, HVAC, and electrical experts at AAA Service Plumbing, Heating & Electric for help with all of your home systems. To schedule an appointment, call (303) 622-3449. We look forward to talking with you!