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Do Humidifiers Create IAQ Problems?

first_imgIt’s that time of year when heating systems start coming out of their summer hibernation. (Except maybe in Vermont. Michael Blasnik’s Nest data showed that Vermonters are about the last to start heating their homes in the fall.) Then everyone starts looking for their lotion and lip balm. Gaps appear in hardwood flooring as it dries out. Buildings begin to creak and pop. And then the humidifiers come out.Yes, humidifiers can help with low indoor humidity. But what effect might they have on indoor air quality?Why does indoor air get so dry in winter?We’ve been through this before. I wrote about it in A Humidifier Is a Bandaid back in 2013. Shortly afterward, a certain manufacturer of humidifiers called and left me a nasty voicemail. I didn’t save it, but the gist was, “You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Call me back so I can yell at you.” I didn’t call back.OK, let’s go through it quickly.Low temperatures mean less water vapor in air.When outdoor air comes into a building, it gets heated up.When air with little water vapor comes in and gets heated up, it can end up with a really low relative humidity (RH).I proved this with the psychrometric chart in the bandaid article. There’s no disputing it.How does that cold, dry air get into a home? For most homes, it comes in through infiltration. Most homes leak. A lot. When they leak, heated air with decent humidity leaves the building. Cold, dry air enters. The humidity goes down. The lotion comes out. The humidifier gets turned on. A better solution is to reduce the infiltration with air sealing. The ideal range for relative humidityThis is the part that confuses a lot of people. If you go online, you can find all kinds of recommendations for what the relative humidity should be inside a home. Some say 30-50% RH. Others, including the creators of the chart shown in Image #2 below, say that you should keep it between 40% and 60%.That chart is a really interesting one. It shows some of the problems that develop when the relative humidity goes toward the extremes on either end. Also, it’s important to note that its focus is purely on health effects. Even more important, this chart is focusing on the relative humidity in the middle of a room. What happens near surfaces can be very different.The ideal humidity for winterAgain, this isn’t new ground. Earlier this year I wrote an article on the best relative humidity for winter. The short answer is that when you look at recommended RH ranges, you want to shoot for the high end in summer (staying below 60%) and the low end in winter.In an article titled, What You Need to Know About Mold, Joe Lstiburek, Nathan Yost, and Terry Brennan wrote, “There is rarely a reason to use a humidifier if the RH is above 25%.” This is more true in cold climates than in warmer climates for reasons explained below.Why? Because you don’t want to get frost on your ceiling or condensation on your windows. More about that in the next section.Humidity and indoor air quality in winterIn winter, it’s cold outside. In Florida, the temperature can drop down into the 60s or even the 50s Fahrenheit. In Vermont, subtract a hundred degrees. In Canada, they get down to -40° FC sometimes. (You can write it FC because at -40°, the Fahrenheit and Celsius temperatures are equal. Or you can say the FC stands for something else. Either way, it’s just really cold.)When it’s cold outside, some parts of the building enclosure will be cold. Some of those parts will even be able to “see” that indoor air with all its water vapor. Let’s say you have a ceiling where some of the insulation above has gotten disturbed. That part of the ceiling will be cold. Water vapor likes cold surfaces. It starts sticking to the cold places. If enough sticks, you start growing stuff. In Image #3 below, you can see mold on the ceiling. This house is in Georgia, and the mold grew in winter. Why? The humidity was too high and it found the cold surfaces. This was only one of them. (In this case, the homeowner was running a different kind of humidifier: unvented gas space heaters.)In that house, the mold was visible because it was on the ceiling. But it can grow in places where you don’t see it so easily, too. If you’re keeping the humidity high to save on lotion and lip balm, you may be growing mold in a number of hidden places. Take a look behind the furniture on your exterior walls. It could also be in the closets. Or it could be in that most hidden of places, inside your walls.Of course, there’s another way that humidifier could be growing mold. If it’s attached to your central heating system, like the one in the photo above, it sprays water into the heated air. That warm, moist air then travels through the ducts. Where are your ducts? If they’re in unconditioned spaces like an attic or crawl space and if they aren’t insulated well — or at all — that moist air may find the cold surfaces it so desires. As a result, you may well be growing mold inside your ducts. This really happens. It’s not hypothetical.When you crank up the humidifier in winter, you may well be growing mold in your home. You don’t really want to do that, do you?Relative humidity recommendationsGeneral recommendations for the ideal range of relative humidity are all well and good, but you’ve got to understand what can happen if your humidity is too high. Here’s a better list of recommendations for dealing with low humidity in winter.Infiltration is the source of dry air in most homes. Air sealing is the solution.Water vapor likes cold surfaces. For surfaces in contact with your indoor air, use insulation and air sealing to keep them warmer. As long as the temperatures of those surfaces stay above the dew point of the indoor air, you shouldn’t have a mold problem.Shoot for different parts of that range in different seasons: the low end in winter, the high end in summer.If your indoor relative humidity is above 25%, you don’t need to use a humidifier. If it’s below 25% RH, don’t humidify to higher than about 35%.What spurred this article was something Joe Lstiburek said last week at the Experts’ Session. Discussing walls in cold climates, he said, “It’s totally unhealthy to put in a humidifier.” If you have a house with a good building enclosure (airtight and well insulated), your indoor humidity should be fine without having to resort to a humidifier. If your enclosure isn’t so good, do what you can to improve it before doing something that could have a negative impact on your indoor air quality.Extending that earlier metaphor a bit, if a humidifier is a bandaid, in some cases it might be a used bandaid. It may give the appearance of making things better — but who knows what kind of infection you’re introducing? Allison Bailes of Decatur, Georgia, is a speaker, writer, building science consultant, and the author of the Energy Vanguard Blog. Check out his in-depth course, Mastering Building Science at Heatspring Learning Institute, and follow him on Twitter at @EnergyVanguard. RELATED ARTICLESWhat Is the Ideal Relative Humidity in Winter?How to Use the Psychrometric ChartAll About Indoor Air Quality Understanding Indoor Air QualityPreventing Water Entry Into a HomeAll About DehumidifiersDehumidifiersDesigning a Good Ventilation SystemVentilation Rates and Human HealthHow Much Fresh Air Does Your Home Need?last_img read more

Today’s Top Video Essay Creators

first_imgJacob T SwinneyMore likely than not, at some point you’ve probably come across one of Swinney’s essays in the past. Exuding a love for all manner of film, Swinney tastefully pieces together clips that flawlessly work together to focus on topics like similar directing styles, forms of filmmaking, and cinematography. Channel CriswellTaking a long-form approach to video essays, Channel Criswell (from Lewis Bond) has given us profound looks into some of our favorite films, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Her, and The Social Network.Bond’s wide range of knowledge covers obscure and independent work as well, as demonstrated by his look into the subconscious operatic nature of David Lynch’s films. Every Frame A PaintingFounded by Tony Zhou, Every Frame a Painting offers scholarly, detailed analysis of directors and films. Zhou’s recent video essay on contemporary film scores went viral (and for good reason), prompting response videos that worked to further the conversation. Lessons from the ScreenplayRelatively new to the video essay scene, Lessons from the Screenplay (from Michael Tucker) has already given us some excellent think pieces. Lessons from the Screenplay focuses on what makes a film flow well and (as suggested by the channel’s name) why a good story and strong dialogue are the most important aspects of making a great film. Fandor KeyframeFandor Keyframe is one of the more prolific video essay operations on the web. They consistently release high-quality content that both informs and presents thought-provoking questions to viewers. Digging DeeperInstead of supercuts or catchy montages, the minds behind Digging Deeper focus on walking viewers through their thought process when analyzing some of today’s best movies. In addition to offering thoughtful theories on a film’s subject matter, Digging Deeper provides evidence and audio clips to prove valid points in these insightful think pieces. If you’re looking for daily film inspiration, then these top video essayists should not be overlooked. Their passion for film is obvious in every frame.Film essays have become all the rage over the last couple of years on Vimeo or YouTube. Video editors around the world slice together these thoughtful pieces to teach, inspire, and enlighten us as to what the world of film can offer. Here are some of the best video essay creators in the game right now.Burger FictionLets start this list off right with an appropriate send-off for one of the greats, Gene Wilder. Burger Fiction (helmed by Andy Schneider & Jonathan Britnell) made this video tribute to Wilder, demonstrating the legend’s comedic timing and genius mannerisms.The rest of Burger Fiction’s videos are equally enthralling and happen to be extremely easy to watch. Kick back and let this channel’s genuine love for movies take you through the history of awkwardness, fatal kicks, and one liners. The NerdwriterThe Nerdwriter is an informational joyride. Created by Evan Puschak, the channel is essential for anyone keeping up with current events and films. By dissecting ideas and pieces of work, The Nerdwriter presents facts and lets viewers decide how to feel. The channel is definitely worthy of your subscription. Who are some of your favorite video essay creators? Share in the comments below!last_img read more



first_imgWILMINGTON, MA — Selectmen candidates Rob Fasulo and Jonathan Eaton recently took part in a debate as part of WCTV and Chamber of Commerce’s Candidate Night. Below are some highlights:Opening StatementsFasulo is hearing complaints from residents on the issues of traffic, consistent building, and nepotism. He promises, if elected, to “put the people first.”“Many Wilmington residents moved from a city environment because they wanted to live in a small town; they never expected the town to become so urbanized,” said Fasulo. “As I travel the town today, I see woodlands being decimated, houses popping up on lots the make me scratch my head, and wildlife fighting for its own existence.”Eaton highlighted some of his previous service to the community, including his work as a Finance Committee member, Rotarian, and member of the library’s Strategic Planning Committee.“I’m running for the Board of Selectmen because I believe my experience, my temperament, and my involvement in the community can help bridge the gap between our residents and our town government,” said Eaton. How Can Wilmington Foster Economic/Housing Development, While Maintaining Its Small Town Feel?“I’ve been very adamant about an inclusionary bylaw, which is one of the most important tools that we should have,” said Fasulo. “Our services in town need to keep up with the rate of growth in town. The rate of growth has been too fast, too much, too quickly. Our services should determine how fast we should be growing.”“An inclusionary zoning bylaw could be a good tool, but it’s certainly not a magic wand to solve the affordable housing issues here,” said Eaton, who wants the town to act proactively to avoid facing a 40B development. “I would like to see affordable housing and senior housing become a priority for the Board of Selectmen and the town.”Should Sciarappa Farm Be Taken By Eminent Domain? “The elephant in the room is not knowing how much the property would cost. Is it $15 million? That’s seems like a heck of lot more than we should be spending. Is it $6 or $7 million? That seems a lot more palatable to me,” said Eaton, who would prefer the town try to acquire the land first through negotiations.“The price is going to determine everything,” agreed Fasulo. “Thousands have propped up that land for many years, giving them tax breaks. I certainly want to see the town end up with that land, but done through negotiations. I don’t want it see it come to eminent domain, but the voters will be the ones to decide that on Town Meeting day. Let the voters say.”What Should The Town Use Sciarappa Farm For?“Preserving open space needs to be the short-term priority,” said Eaton, who noted voters would ultimately decide what to do with the land, pointing to the possible need for a fire substation and other “conversation points” generated by the Facility Master Plan.“I would like to see that agricultural land stay agricultural. It was a farm. Let’s keep it that way. I like the model of Brooksby Farm in Peabody,” responded Fasulo.Affordable Housing“In 2001, the Master Plan recommended an inclusionary zoning bylaw. It was rejected by the Board of Selectmen. And another study in 2004 recommended it,” said Fasulo. “It’s been talked about for a year and nothing has been done. It’s a very important tool for the town to get to [above the 10% affordable housing threshold]. It should have been done years ago.”“I believe the town owns plots of land that can be used for affordable housing and senior housing, and those are avenues we should be pursuing,” said Eaton, who expressed disappoint that a majority of the current Board of Selectmen would not allow residents a vote as to whether or not the land next to St. Dorothy’s should be used for such housing.”Economic Development Committee“I’m a very strong proponent of an economic development committee,” said Eaton. “It’s worked very well in different communities. Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen a bunch of proposals that have upset a lot of neighborhoods. One of the main benefits of an economic development committee is it actually empowers the residents to get a seat at the table, identify the types of businesses we want in our community, and then go out and get them. I don’t like that our residents feeling they’re always on defense.”“I’m also in favor of a committee, but with the proper makeup,” said Fasulo. “I want the committee to be made up of more residents. I don’t want to see any officials on that other than what we need. It’s the people who need to decide what types of businesses they want to see in their communities… The town can then offer incentives to that type of businesses.”What Will You Do To Keep Taxes Low?Eaton would like to consolidate the town and school’s IT departments, allowing the town to benefit from economies of scale and a greater purchasing power. Eaton would also like to see the town implement “See, Click, Fix,” a program used by another municipalities to alert DPW to issues such as pot holes and downed trees.“I would like us to attack this by bringing in more businesses to accommodate some of that burden,” said Fasulo. “The business tax rate is much higher than the residential. The more businesses that come here, the better off we’ll be as residents.”Agree With Facility Master Plan Committee Recommendations?“Placing a new Town Hall/School Administration Building at the current Senior Center site does appeal to me, but it’s up to the residents,” said Eaton. “The current Senior Center is not equipped to its current programming. Having a Senior Center at the current  Town Hall site is a great idea. There’s a lot of walking trails back there, and we’re building pickle ball courts… I think an expanded library should eventually happen, but it will come down to the cost. We can want all these things. We have to make sure the impact on residents’ tax bills aren’t overbearing.”“The cost — is it really feasible for us to do all of this building?” responded Fasulo. “This is something that needs to be done, piece by piece. Otherwise, we’ll be seeking overrides and debt exclusions, and I don’t think there’s any flavor in the town for that. They’re good ideas, sure, but is it feasible for us to do at this time as we dip into free cash by $5 million?”Fire Substation In North Wilmington?“Yes, I believe a fire substation in North Wilmington should happen,” said Fasulo. “I come from a public safety background. The most important thing is EMS, who will be responding to our families. Minutes, seconds count. If [public safety] needs it, they should absolutely get it. That should be priority #1. We need to give the police and fire and EMS the tools they need.”“Yes, I do believe that’s necessary,” concurred Eaton. “In the last 5 years alone, Fire Department calls have increased 10% and ambulance calls have increased over 33%… Our Fire Department has been overworked over the past few years. With the amount of development, both commercial and residential, going on in North Wilmington, we should make sure a substation is a priority.”Free Cash — Is The Town Saving Too Much?“Standard and Poors has rated us as an AA+, which is the second highest rating they give out,” said Eaton. “They recommend that the free cash balance be 10%-15% of our operating balance. The current free cash balance will soon be just under that 15% mark. The amount we’re at right now has benefits as it serves as a “rainy day fund” and helps with [unanticipated expenses]… The bond rating allows us to pay less in finance charges when we have to go to a borrowing.”“I agree with Jonathan regarding the bond rating,” agreed Fasulo. “There are unforeseen circumstances… Is the current balance too much? No, we need to keep the bond rating up, but we shouldn’t need to worry about using it for one time projects.”Should Town Voluntarily Pay More To Trash Collector Or Cut Ties?“We shouldn’t be paying them extra money. They need to abide by their contract with the town,” said Fasulo. “They’ve put up bonds just for this situation. I don’t agree with paying them the extra money.”“I’m in favor the resolution that the board came to [in voluntarily paying more for FY18],” said Eaton. “The economics of the situation is that if Russell Disposal decides not to honor their contract, we’d then have to scramble to find a replacement, and the market rate – given the tipping fees – would be a significant increase over our current contract.  We had to make the best of a bad situation.”Thoughts On Proposed Detox Facility Location & What Should The Town Be Doing To Address The Opioid Epidemic? “Great idea. Wrong location. It’s backing up to an established neighborhood. I have safety concerns for the neighborhood,” said Fasulo, who wants to know would will actually be running the facility in question. “One incident is too many. There are places in town that can safely house this type of facility. Middlesex Avenue at that spot is not one of them.”“That’s not the ideal location. I did support Article 2 [restricting future detox facilities, hospitals and nursing homes to industrial zones with special permits] at the Special Town Meeting,” said Eaton. “I’m not insensitive to the epidemic and how it has affected my families in town. I was in favor of hiring Samantha Reif as the Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator. This town used to have an agreement with Wilmington Family Counseling. That’s something we should revisit as well.”Is There Anything Selectmen Can Do About Traffic In Town? “A lot of it has to do working with our state delegation,” said Eaton. “There’s almost nothing the Selectmen can do, unfortunately, relative to traffic. That would have to come from the state level,” said Fasulo. “A lot of the traffic is coming from Tewksbury. We know what’s gone up in Tewksbury. There’s nothing we can do to stop [over-development in other communities].”Do You See Marijuana Dispensaries Opening In Wilmington?Both Fasulo and Eaton do not envision marijuana dispensaries opening in town. Both gave one-word “no” responses to the question.One Place In The Budget You’d Cut Money And One Place In The Budget You’d Add It?“I’d like to see a reduction in the amount of studies done,” said Eaton. I think sometimes too much analysis leads to paralysis. Sometimes we’re farming out what we could be doing in-house… A perfect example of that is the North Wilmington Fire Substation study.”“I’d like to see a reduction in the amount of studies too. I don’t think we need them. We have professionals in every department of the town,” said Fasulo. “I’d like to see money added to the police department… I’d like to see a police officer in every school, during school hours, protecting our kids.”Most Important Quality In A Selectman?“They need to be able to listen to the people and do the people’s work,” said Fasulo. “I don’t want a Selectman that I wonder why a decision is being made — is it being done honestly or for a special interest?”“The ability to communicate and listen,” responded Eaton. “There’s 23,000 people who live in this town. A lot of the issues that go in front of the Selectmen are very black and white. But, some are in between… [Selectmen] need the ability to pick up the phone and take the medicine when someone disagrees with you.  You need to responsive to those you represent… You need to be able to explain yourself.”Is Eaton The Establishment Candidate? Is Fasulo The Change Candidate? Is Wilmington Heading In The Right Direction?“I don’t like to define myself based on who endorses me,” said Eaton. “I’m humbled that many volunteers who have contributed so much to this community have found something in me that inspires confidence. That said, I’ve disagreed with every one of them that endorsed me and they know the issues I’ve disagreed with them on because, sometimes, I can’t keep my mouth shut. But I have the ability to be very professional in the way I disagree with people.”“Is Wilmington moving in the right direction? In certain ways, yes. In certain ways, no,” continued Eaton. “I’d like to see your neighborhoods preserved. I think too much growth too quickly is sometimes [bad].  Overall, from a financial standpoint, we’re in a pretty good position. Residential tax rate is lower than [most neighbors]. Wilmington is a great community, but there’s always room for improvement.”“I’ve had the ability to talk to Jonathan several times — he’s a very nice guy. There’s no ill will between either one of us. We bring two different methods that people can choose from,” said Fasulo. “When I look at a candidate, I do look for who is backing them. There’s something in the back of my mind — is there something driving their decisions?… I like Jonathan. I don’t like seeing a divisive discussion.”“Wilmington is a great place,” continued Fasulo. “I just think we need to take a step back from the amount of development, let’s stop the over-development, and let’s get back to our community roots.”Speed Round QuestionsTown Manager gets a “B” grade from Eaton and “C-” from Fasulo.Both are against the Town Meeting article that bans plastic bags at commercial establishments in town.The next Boston sports team to win a championship? Fasulo picked the Red Sox. Eaton chose the Patriots.Closing Statements“I bring to town a fresh perspective with no biases. My goal is that every resident has a seat at the table of our government and that perceptions of favoritism are ended,” said Fasulo. “I’m self-funded. I have no relations with law firms, real estate firms, or any special interests that go in front of the town boards.  My decisions will be based on the citizens’ desires and my compassion for the town.  I’m not in this race for financial gain. I will never make a penny of a decision from this board…. [I ask you to support] a new course that will be a better direction for this community.”“I’ve consistently fought to preserve our suburban environment by voting against spot zoning articles [as a Finance Committee member],” said Eaton. “I haven’t taken a dime from developers or contributions from any attorneys who practice in town.  100% of my income comes from my employment at a medical school in Boston.  I have no professional or financial gain to be elected to the Board of Selectmen. I’m doing this not just because I believe in how great Wilmington once was, but because how great Wilmington still is…  I hope to continue to fight for residents, to increase the financial efficiency of your tax dollars on the Board of Selectmen.”Watch the 45-minute debate, courtesy of Wilmington Community Television, below:—Video Playerhttps://objects-us-west-1.dream.io/wilmington/9/5/d/d/3/1/95dd3188-3468-47a7-822d-71a2ee3542ff1523467348.475%2B28250047.519%40castus4-wilmington%2B15234704441523468581019477.vod.720p.Candidates%20Night_%20Board%20of%20Selectmen%20-%20April%2010th%2C%202018.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.—Like Wilmington Apple on Facebook. Follow Wilmington Apple on Twitter. Follow Wilmington Apple on Instagram. Subscribe to Wilmington Apple’s daily email newsletter HERE. Got a comment, question, photo, press release, or news tip? Email wilmingtonapple@gmail.com.Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading… RelatedSELECTMEN RACE PREVIEW: Everything You Need To Know Before You VoteIn “Government”LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Selectman Mike McCoy Endorses Rob FasuloIn “Letter To The Editor”SELECTMEN DEBATE RECAP: Bendel, Caira, Fasulo, Maselli & Sullivan Debate The Issues (with VIDEO)In “Government”last_img read more

Best apps for gardening and yard work for spring 2019

first_img 10 essential gardening tools and what they do 11 Photos 2 Tags Share your voice Commentscenter_img My Lawn: A Guide to Lawn CareMy Lawn (download for iOS or Android) makes lawn maintenance understandable and creates an easy-to-follow care plan so you know which products to use and when. Recommendations are based on your lawn size, location and climate. You’ll get an alert when it’s time to feed, seed and water your lawn, so you will never have to guess. You can also create a custom lawn care plan.Monitor the amount of water your yard gets each week from rain, hoses or sprinklers. Keep track of the specific needs of different parts of your yard, like the parts that are mostly shaded versus the parts that are always in the sun.my-lawnMy Lawn App Screenshot by Katie Conner/CBS Interactive GrowIt!Share your garden and connect with others through the GrowIt! app (download for iOS or Android). Share photos of your plants and ask the community for help identifying them. The GrowIt! community is a valuable resource if you’ve just moved to a new area. If you’ve got a pest that’s eating your tomatoes, for example, others on the app might be able to help.See what the people around you are planting to get some inspiration. If you find a plant you like, tap on the information tab to find out how to grow it. The information tab tells you how big the plant can get, how often to water and feed it, and when it will bloom. GrowIt! teaches you how to properly prepare your soil for anything you plant, grow larger vegetables, and what you should and shouldn’t plant based on your location.Read: 6 gardening tips you’ll wish you’d known all alonggrowitGrowIt! App Screenshot by Katie Conner/CBS Interactive iScapeDesign your outdoor living area with iScape (download for iOS). Use the design tools to make your project come to life. Snap a photo of an area that needs landscaping and virtually add flowerbeds, trees and shrubs to get an idea of what your yard will look like before you begin.iScape offers 2D and 3D designs so you can see what your physical outdoor area looks like with virtual plants. Once you have a landscape layout, you can share with your spouse or a landscape pro and get your project started.The app offers a free lite version, but to gain full access, you will need to subscribe to a monthly pro subscription for $20, or a yearly pro subscription for $200.iscapeiScape App Screenshot by Katie Conner/CBS Interactive FlowerCheckerIf you’ve ever wondered about an unknown plant in your garden, then you need FlowerChecker (download for iOS or Android). This app has a team of experts who can help you identify plants, moss, lichen and fungi.To find out about your unknown plant, snap a few pictures of it and upload them to the app. Try to capture the different parts of the plant like the flower, leaves and stem. The typical response time for an expert to identify the plant can take a few minutes or a few hours. So far, the team of experts has been able to correctly identify an average of 90 percent of plants.Identification costs $1 per plant uploaded. If the team can’t confirm what your plant is, you won’t have to pay anything. You’ll also have to purchase the app for a one-time cost of $1.flowercheckerFlowerChecker App Screenshot by Katie Conner/CBS Interactive Garden AnswersIdentify plants easily with Garden Answers (download for iOS or Android). Unlike Flower Checker, this app uses advanced image recognition technology to identify plants instead of an expert. Simply snap a picture and submit it to instantly get detailed information about a plant.To learn if your plants have pests or diseases, use the keyword search feature to ask Garden Answers a question. If you need more advice on gardening, ask the experts for more specific questions and recommendations. Access any of your previous plant questions and answers within the app.garden-answersGarden Answers App Screenshot by Katie Conner/CBS Interactive SmartPlantLearn about healthy planting year-round with SmartPlant (download for iOS or Android). Watch videos, view images and learn more about how to care for your plants in the app library. Identify your plants and any pests that are preventing their growth. Scan plant barcodes in stores to receive monthly care tip notifications.The app has a free version that offers occasional access to premium features. If you subscribe to premium, you will have access to expert assistance. Premium costs $4 monthly, $10 quarterly or $35 annually.smartplantSmartPlant App Screenshot by Katie Conner/CBS Interactive Gardening CompanionMake your garden immaculate with the help of Gardening Companion (download for iOS or Android). This app acts as your garden assistant to help you care for your plants. Browse through thousands of articles on horticulture to take the best care of your garden.Track your garden’s growth by storing photos and notes in the app’s journal. The app records the weather in your location and you can compare how your garden did this year compared with last year.Set up notifications to remind you to water and fertilize your garden. Gardening Companion can also alert you when the time is right to plant your vegetables.gardening-companionGardening Companion App Screenshot by Katie Conner/CBS Interactive GardenateLearn what you can grow in your area with Gardenate (download for iOS or Android). The app uses your location to show what is best for you to plant each month. Access plant descriptions and growing tips to become a pro. In the app, record planting dates, harvest dates and notes about your plants. Save the details in the My Garden section. The app will send calendar reminders when it’s time to harvest your produce. Access detailed information about your plants like when they germinate and at what temperatures, how far apart to space your plants and the amount of time it takes for them to harvest. gardenateGardenate App Screenshot by Katie Conner/CBS Interactive Mobile apps can make gardening easier. Dragon Images/iStockphoto Not everyone has a green thumb or an eye for landscaping. Some people don’t even get to try because they’re so busy. Others watch HGTV over and over again and still never achieve the yard of their dreams because it’s easy to forget most of what you learned by the time you get outside.But since you can take your phone with you when you walk out into the yard, there are now some digital tools that can make you a more effective gardener. We’ve gathered together some gardening and landscaping apps that can walk you through how to take care of your plants and keep your yard looking fabulous. Mobile Mobile Apps iOS 12last_img read more

OPEC News IranSaudi Arabia differences fuel price drop

first_imgIt used to be said of OPEC that it was like a teabag – it only worked in hot water. If that is so, conditions on world oil markets could hardly be more difficult as prices languish at almost seven-year lows near $40 a barrel.Yet, rather than closing ranks, OPEC is finding that an intensifying battle for market share, worsened by deep regional differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran, is driving it further apart.Halfway through last Friday’s six-hour meeting, an unexpected dispute erupted over the defining feature of the cartel. In a move sources say was masterminded by Saudi Arabia, ministers finally agreed for the first time in decades to drop any reference to the 13-member group’s output ceiling.The pivot, which surprised not only markets but also some OPEC officials, appeared to be a direct response to Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran, which has made clear it intends to make a rapid return to global oil markets next year as nuclear-related sanctions are lifted.With Tehran looking to pump as much as 1 million barrels per day (bpd) more crude into a market already saturated with excess supply, an increase of about 1% in world supply, maintaining or legitimizing any pretence of OPEC limits – no matter how notional – was not an option for Riyadh.”The ceiling issue was very controversial and they could not decide on it,” said an OPEC source briefed on the discussion inside the room. “Nobody was happy.”Earlier, another source said there was a “huge disagreement among members, even bigger now, as oversupply is no longer mainly coming from Gulf delegates, but from Iran.”In the near-term, the outcome of Friday’s meeting probably makes little difference in global markets. Ever since last year, most members have been pumping flat-out to defend their market from fast-growing upstart rivals like US shale drillers.And anyway the group’s 30 million bpd ceiling has largely been symbolic and, in practical terms, ignored.Yet abandoning the pretence of production restraint threatens to intensify price wars between OPEC members, leaving them even less likely to agree on any market measures down the road, analysts said, and piling more pressure on prices.In a note following the meeting, Goldman Sachs said it saw a rising probability that the markets may need to adjust through “operational stress” when the world runs out of storage capacity, reiterating its “lower for even longer” thesis.OPEC’S PURPOSESince OPEC, which produces a third of global oil, was set up 55 years ago, the purpose of its existence was to set production targets to try to influence global prices.It has weathered internal strife and conflict before, including wars between its own members — Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in the 1990s.But the present Sunni-Shia conflicts setting Saudi Arabia and Iran at each other’s throats, particularly in Syria and Yemen, make the relationship between the two OPEC powers even more fraught.”The fact that Iranian-backed Houthi militants are squaring off against Saudi-led troops in Yemen is not helpful, as increased Iranian oil revenues are likely to find their way to Iranian military interests in Yemen, Iraq and Syria,” said Aberdeen Asset Management’s investment strategist Robert Minter.Hence OPEC is setting up for a showdown at the corral, he added, as Iran wants its pre-sanction market share back, and the Gulf states are not inclined to cede volume when they are already feeling the budgetary pain of reduced prices.CONFUSION EMERGESUnlike OPEC’s previous meeting six months ago, when oil prices showed signs of stabilizing near a tolerable $65 a barrel, last week’s meeting was bound to be more tense as an unexpectedly deep and prolonged slump has sapped their economies.All the same, on Friday morning, most delegates and experts anticipated a relatively straightforward meeting that would bless the free-market policy and rubber-stamp a production ceiling. The only likely change, so it seemed, might be raising the figure to 31.5 million bpd to reflect current output rates, rather than the long-exceeded 30 million bpd last reset four years ago.After all, despite the price pain, there were signs that the dramatic strategy masterminded a year ago by Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi was working, albeit more slowly than hoped. Booming US oil production has shifted into reverse, while the world’s demand for oil has revved into a higher gear.The first sign of confusion emerged more than 3 hours into the meeting as ministers broke for lunch.Word leaked that the group had indeed agreed to raise its ceiling to 31.5 million bpd – but it was unclear whether the figure included Indonesia, which was rejoining the group after a hiatus, leaving a 0.9 million bpd margin of error.Although the ceiling increase would have no material effect on actual production, the news sent oil prices tumbling by as much as $1 a barrel, pushing US crude back below $40 a barrel, a response that was unlikely to have heartened ministers.ABOUT FACEWhat fully transpired during that afternoon remains unclear. But several OPEC sources said ultimately a decision was reached that having no ceiling at all would be less negative for oil prices than having a higher ceiling.There appears to have been little if any debate about Iran’s production, although it has been clear for months that it will likely be the biggest challenge they face in 2016.”We spent two minutes on that issue. You can’t stop a sovereign country from coming back to the market. So, debating it is irrelevant,” said Nigerian oil minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu. “As a matter of fact, our position is that Iran would displace somebody who is not an OPEC member.””From Saudi prospective, they have no allies. So staying the course makes sense for the Saudis,” said veteran OPEC watcher Gary Ross, Founder of Pira Energy thinktank.Ministers later sought to play down any conflict. Most said they saw no problem in having no targets for a few months and agree on new ones when Iran returns to the market, hoping by then for a deeper decline in US oil production.Some said they spent far more time discussing the succession of Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri, whose term is expiring.One thing is clear though – Friday’s decision will in no way help persuade non-OPEC rivals to curtail their output.”I find it very strange when proposals are being made to cut output when OPEC itself is increasing production,” the head of the Kremlin oil major Rosneft Igor Sechin told Reuters last week ahead of the OPEC meeting.last_img read more

New AM Campus To Welcome Students Not Admitted Into AM

New AM Campus To Welcome Students Not Admitted Into AM

first_img Share Todd WisemanTexas A&M UniversityThe Texas A&M University System on Monday announced plans to spend $150 million renovating an old satellite campus a few miles from its flagship in College Station to include new buildings, research facilities and, eventually, space to teach as many as 10,000 new students. But there’s a twist: Those new students would be people who were “not admitted” into A&M. It’s not immediately clear how that would work. A press release announcing the project explained it like this: “Students could start their college careers at the center or transfer from community colleges to complete their college degrees. They could be accepted later at Texas A&M University or choose a degree program from another Texas A&M System university. Faculty members from other System schools would either travel to the new campus or teach courses online.”A system spokesman said details are still being conceived, but the students would likely enroll in another university — like one of the 10 others in the A&M System — and take their courses near the flagship. These days, many students from the Bryan-College Station area don’t get into A&M and are forced to leave. This could keep them local, the system said.But, officials said, those details are still a work in progress. The first phase of construction and renovation will focus on research facilities and possible partnerships with private companies. The overhaul of the Riverside Campus, which is just outside the city of Bryan, will cost about $150 million, the system said.  It will be renamed the RELLIS Campus, which stands for the “Aggie core values” of respect, excellence, leadership, loyalty, integrity and selfless service. There are currently 32 old buildings on the satellite campus — it’s mostly used now for research handled by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Those buildings will be torn down, the university system said. “This will keep thousands of fine students in the Brazos Valley that might have left for other universities,” A&M System Chancellor John Sharp said. The new buildings will include facilities for research on infrastructure, transportation and robotics. Officials said the site will try to attract private-sector research on subjects like smart power grids, driverless cars and advanced manufacturing, although no private partnerships were included in the announcement Monday.Construction on the first building is scheduled for September. No timeframe was given for the full build-up or when students might begin studying there.In announcing the project, Sharp referenced the state’s new higher education plan, 60×30, which aims to increase the number of young Texans who hold a postsecondary degree or certificate to 60 percent of the population by 2030. “This will be a magnet for technology companies locating their research facilities to the Brazos Valley and for thousands of additional students to study here, contributing to the local economy,” Sharp said. “It’s a great one-two punch for economic development.”Disclosure: Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M University System have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/05/02/m-system-announces-new-campus-research-students-no/.last_img read more