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Question - We have an efficient, air-tight house. We use room air cleaners, but they push up our electric bills. Are there really houseplants that can remove cancer-causing and other pollutants from the air? - Y. D.

Answer - Running several room air cleaners helps remove particles from the air, but the fans use a lot of electricity (up to $50 per year per air cleaner) and the noise can be annoying.Typical air cleaners are relatively ineffective at removing most of the carcinogenic chemical pollutants common in an efficient house. These chemicals also often cause sneezing, itchy eyes and headaches.

The most common unhealthy chemicals include benzene, formaldehyde and trichlorocethylene (TCE) given off from furniture, carpeting, cleaners, plastics, paints, dry cleaned clothes, plywood, adhesives and so forth.

Significant research has been done, much of it by the NASA space program, which shows houseplants are effective air purifiers. In addition, they increase the oxygen content indoors.

More than 20 common houseplants have been found to be useful. Each is particularly effective for specific chemicals. Select plants that fit your decor and tolerate your indoor lighting and moisture levels.

For example, Boston ferns and Dracaena are good for formaldehyde removal. English ivy is good for benzene removal and parlor palm and peace lily are good for TCE removal.

A combination of selected plants is best. Including a few orchids and bromeliads (some are very easy to grow) is effective for nighttime purifying. Their leaf pores open at night.

Hydroponics is an excellent way to grow healthy plants indoors for effective air purification. With hydroponics, no soil is needed. The plants grow in an inert medium with water, air and special fertilizers. Many companies sell complete single plant and larger hydroponic planter kits.

This is ideal indoors for several reasons. The plants grow much faster and larger because not as much growth goes into root production. With no soil, there are less mold spores given off to cause allergies. Hydroponics is also effective for growing vegetables (tomatoes, lettuce) year-round.

To purify air with plants in rooms with little natural lighting, artificial light is needed. High intensity discharge (HID) lights use the least amount of electricity. High pressure sodium and metal halide are the best for plants.

Write for Update Bulletin No. 470 listing the 20 most effective purifying houseplants for specific chemical pollutants, light, water and temperature requirements for each plant, general hydroponics information and a list of hydroponic planter kit suppliers. Please include $2 and a business-size SASE. Write to James Dulley, Deseret News, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.

Question - I bought a house with a roof ridge vent. When I removed part of the vent to fix some leaky shingles, I noticed that some of the rafters have separated from the ridge beam. How can I fix this? - J. R.

Answer - The problem you describe is typically caused by a combination of sloppy construction and shrinkage of the lumber over the years. Specifically, improper toenailing technique can result in a gap.

On a typical gable roof, this should not be a problem because the members are in compression and stable. With a cathedral ceiling, the roof is less stable, so you should call in an engineer to evaluate your specific problem.



Selected house plants purify room air naturally

Single plant wicking type of hydroponic planter - no pump

Pedestal design with pump and controls in base

Clean growing medium - no soil needed

Small aerator and water pump