Health Advantages of Steam Mops

With the proliferation of cleaning products and appliances available, knowing which one is the best for you and your family is certainly a challenge.  A major consideration for many of us is what repercussions our choice in cleaning products may have on our health.  One product that offers excellent cleaning results and health advantages is the steam mop. Steam mops use the power of steam to both clean and sterilise floor surfaces.  Steam mops can be used on timber, vinyl, marble, tiles and carpets, however consumer models are generally only suitable for hard floor surfaces. Although each make and model of steam mop is unique to each manufacturer, they all operate on the same principle, using steam jets passing through a microfibre pad that is contact with the floor.  The steam blasts dirt from the floor surface while the pads trap and lift it away. There are three main health advantages of steam mops: A Sterile Clean When water reaches boiling point, steam is created.  With its intense heat, steam is capable of destroying around 99% of bacteria and mould spores. Steam can effectively destroy germs even in hard to reach places, reaching more deeply into surfaces including tiny cracks most cleaners would miss. In contrast, other cleaners such as disinfectant liquids only clean the areas they come directly into contact with.   This means that a steam mop not only cleans but also sterilises, making your home a healthier germ-free living environment. A Chemical-Free Clean Most household disinfectant cleaners use harsh chemicals to kill germs.  Many of these products also contain toxins and carcinogens that can cause cumulative damage over the long term, as well as burns or illness in the short term, particularly for children who may accidently come into contact or ingest these chemicals. To use a steam mop, all you need to do is fill the reservoir with tap water and wait for the unit to heat.  No other soaps, chemicals or sanitizers are needed because the steam does the job of disinfecting. A Green Clean Many chemicals used in cleaning are washed down drains and seep into our water supplies and soil– all of which has harmful consequences for vegetation, wildlife and human beings.  The microfibre pads used by steam mops are long lasting and re-usable, reducing the amount of waste from chemical packaging and other disposable cleaning products that end up in landfill.  Therefore, by eliminating the need to use harsh chemicals, steam mops make for a healthier planet Earth. So if you are looking for a simple, cost-effective method for cleaning your home, improving your health and helping the environment, a steam mop is definitely one appliance you should consider buying.

What to Look for When Buying a Digital Set Top Box

With analogue TV transmission being progressively phased out across Australia by 2013, if you don’t already own a set top box, you will need to get one to continue to enjoy the entertainment benefits of television.  There are several good reasons not to wait for analogue to be switched off in your area. Without a digital set top box, you are missing out on tuning into several new Freeview channels and other benefits including the ability to record and replay live television. A set top box is basically a digital tuner for your TV set.  Most televisions nowadays feature an integrated digital tuner, eliminating the need to buy an additional set-top box.  However, for those with older televisions, set top boxes offer the cheapest avenue for going digital. Before deciding on exactly what kind of set top box you should buy, think about what benefits you hope to enjoy from owning one.  If all you want to do is be able to watch digital TV, a set top box without the bells and whistles is all you will need.  Expect to pay around $50 for a standard definition (SD) model and at least double that for a high definition (HD) set top box. However, If you are interested in not only watching Digital TV, but also enjoying its other perks including the ability to pause and reply TV, skip advertisements, record shows and access Video on Demand services you better opt for a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) instead.  Be aware that PVRs are dearer than set top boxes. Another option is to subscribe to a pay television service. One and two year service contracts generally include a set top box that enables you to receive digital pay TV and Freeview channels as well as including the functionality of a PVR. When buying a digital set top box, look for one with:

  • On-screen menus that are logically-sequenced and easy to understand
  • Automatic tuning
  • Front panel controls as well as a remote control
  • A remote control that is easy to use.

Installing a set to box is child’s play.  Just attach the digital set to box between your current TV and the aerial and you are ready to go.  However, check to see whether you will need a new aerial to attach your set top box.  In most cases new aerials aren’t necessary but older aerials may require replacing. If you want to enjoy the additional benefits a PVR has to offer, look for a device with:

  • A double or triple digital tuner. Having more than one tuner allows you to record on one or two different channels simultaneously while watching another.
  • An Ethernet port to access movie downloads from one of the many Video on Demand platforms.

Choosing Your Vacuum: Upright or Barrel?

Is it time you bought a new vacuum cleaner but can’t decide between an upright or barrel model?  Different types of vacuum cleaners are better suited to different cleaning needs, lifestyles and individual preferences.  Here are some pros and cons about barrel and upright vacuums to help you make your purchasing decision.

Upright Vacuum Cleaners

These type of cleaners consist of a long handle and bag that are attached to a cleaning head in an upright configuration. They remove dirt using a rotating brush-roll or beaters that sweep and vibrate dust from the floor surface before sucking it up into the unit.

Upright Vac Pros

  • Some people find uprights are easier to use because you push them in front of your body rather than towing them around behind you.
  • The brushes of an upright cover a larger cleaning area than a barrel vac head, enabling you to cover more ground with each motion.
  • Since uprights are adjustable to different heights, they are suitable for cleaning all different types of carpets, including delicate pile.
  • Most upright models include accessories that are stored on board the unit.

Upright Vac Cons

  • They tend to have weaker suction power than barrel vacuums.
  • Since upright cleaners are generally bulkier than barrel vacuums they tend to take up more storage space.
  • If you live in a two-storey home, you may find it difficult to carry the heavy unit up and down stairs or to clean the stairs using an upright’s large cleaning head.
  • Uprights tend to be best suited to carpets, with only some models featuring settings to suit hard floors.

Barrel Vacuum Cleaners

Also referred to as canister or cylinder vacuum cleaners, barrel vacs have light, compact wheel-mounted bodies consisting of a motor and dust collection unit that is connected to a long, flexible hose with a cleaner head.

Barrel Vac Pros

  • This type of vacuum cleaner is versatile – different heads can be attached to suit particular tasks, including mechanical beaters similar to those used in upright models.
  • Barrel vacs are lightweight and compact, making them more portable than an upright cleaner.
  • Barrel vacuum cleaners glide smoothly over hard floors, cleaning without scratching.
  • With their flexible cleaning heads, barrel vacs are ideal for handling confined and hard to reach spaces such as under the bed, on top of shelves, stairs or your car’s interior.
  • Barrel vacuums have more powerful suction power and therefore offer a better clean.

Barrel Vac Cons

  • Cylinder vacuums are generally not as effective at removing stubborn pet hair from carpet as the rotating motorised head of an upright.
  • Accessories such as brushes, hoses and rods may be awkward to store since they cannot be housed on the unit itself.
  • The various cleaning tools need to be manually changed over as needed.

If you are still unsure about which type of vacuum cleaner is best for you, don’t be afraid to ask a Bing Lee expert for advice.  While you are there, “test-drive” a few different cleaners to see how easy and effective they are for yourself!

Handy Features of Modern Clothes Dryers

While clothes dryers have long helped us to save time on laundry, modern clothes dryers now come with several handy features to make our lives even easier.  Here are some of the great new features to look for when shopping for your new clothes dryer.

Electronic controls

Some makes and models feature electronic dials or buttons that enable you to select temperature, dryness levels, fabric type, cycle duration and more, simply at the push of a button. When shopping for a new dryer, check the electronic controls for user-friendliness.  Controls should be easy-to-read, arranged in a logical order and simple to operate.

Sensor drying

Many modern dryers have drums containing sensors that detect the amount of moisture in a load, stopping the tumbler when it is dry.  Most large machines will offer pre-programmed auto-dry cycles that will stop dryer when the set level of dryness is achieved.  The types of cycles generally offered are an extra-dry setting for complete dryness, a normal or medium-dry setting and an iron-dry setting allowing for damp ironing.

Anti-wrinkle features

An increasing number of dryers feature a steam setting to reduce wrinkles and eliminate odours from garments.  Some machines have an anti-crease cycle, which aims to make ironing easier or even unnecessary. These models reduce wrinkles by continuing to tumble the load once the drying cycle has been completed until such time that you remove your clothing from the machine.

Timer functions

Most dryers give you the option to manually set the dryer to operate for the length of time you desire.  Another function is the delay timer feature that allows you to set your dryer to start operating at a time that is convenient to you.  Some dryers, particularly those with electronic displays will show you the length of time remaining before completion of the drying cycle.

Warning indicators

Most dryers have indicators that will buzz or light up to tell you when your lint filter needs cleaning, the water container needs refilling or that your vent is blocked.

Lint filter

This feature captures the loose fibres from your clothes as they exit through your dryer’s vent. On some dryers, the lint filter is inside the drum, while it is on top of the machine in others.  They can be easily removed which enables you to easily remove the trapped lint, then re-insert the filter before drying the next load.  The lint filter can effect the machine’s efficiency and when blocked is a potential fire hazard.

Condenser dryers

People who have used a tumble dryer in a confined area know that they tend to steam up, soaking the walls and floors in the absence of sufficient ventilation to expel the humidified air.  Rather than exhausting heated air like conventional dryers, condenser dryers cool it, condensing and trapping the water vapour within it for draining through a pipe or to a collection tank.  This type of dryer is an excellent option for those who do not have the necessary ventilation to run a tumble dryer.

Eco-friendly dryers Heat pump dryers use heat from surrounding air to dry your clothes while gas dryers use air heated by the power of gas rather than electricity. Using around half the energy of conventional electric models, gas and heat pump dryers are also quieter, gentler on fabrics and dry your clothes faster.  So if you want to continue enjoying the conveniences clothes dryers offer while minimising your carbon footprint and energy costs, consider investing in a heat pump or gas-powered dryer.

Heat pump dryers use heat from surrounding air to dry your clothes while gas dryers use air heated by the power of gas rather than electricity. Using around half the energy of conventional electric models, gas and heat pump dryers are also quieter, gentler on fabrics and dry your clothes faster.  So if you want to continue enjoying the conveniences clothes dryers offer while minimising your carbon footprint and energy costs, consider investing in a heat pump or gas-powered dryer.

Tips for Choosing the Right Air Conditioner

To relax in comfort during the intense Australian summer, an air conditioner is a must have appliance for every home. With so many brands and styles of air conditioners available, how can you be sure that the unit you are considering is the right one to suit your needs?  Whether you are thinking about upgrading your current appliance or choosing your first air conditioner, here are a few important points to factor into your decision. Area size Consider the size of the area you want to cool and match it to the most appropriate type of air conditioner.  The bigger the room, the more powerful an air conditioner will need to be in order to cool it. Failing to properly match the air conditioner’s capacity with the size of the area to be cooled will cost you money: if the unit is too small it will have to work harder and use more energy but if it is too big you will be wasting money on capacity you do not need. However, it’s often the case that you want to cool your entire home at some times and only sections of it at other times. This makes portable or split system air conditioners excellent options. Both offer the ability and versatility to control which areas of your home you want to cool, saving you on running costs. Energy Efficiency Inverter air conditioners use 30% less electricity than older conventional models, making the cost of upgrading your system well worth it.  Inverters operate by gently increasing or decreasing power as required to maintain a steady temperature without fluctuations, which means that they cool quickly and evenly, while being quiet and energy efficient. As wall-mounted units tend to be more powerful than portable units, they can cool larger areas more efficiently. Noise Wall mounted units are one part of a split-system air conditioner. As the name implies, this type of air conditioner is split into two separate parts.  The cooling part of the system is installed in the home’s interior, while the compressor unit and motor fan are kept on the building’s exterior.  The objective behind split systems is to remove the noise and heat generated by the unit from the users inside the house. Since a portable unit’s compressor and fan is located inside the room, these kinds of air conditioners are louder than split systems, which is definitely something to keep in mind if white noise gets on your nerves. By doing a bit of research beforehand, you’ll be much more likely to find the air conditioner to suit your particular needs.

What to Look for When Buying a Webcam

Webcams make communicating over the web feel more personal and offer an inexpensive way to chat face-to-face when you can’t be there in person.  Besides video calling and video-conferencing, web cams can be used to remotely monitor the security of your home or office, or to add videos and still pictures to your social networking sites, blog or other website. If you are thinking about getting a webcam but are unsure about making a selection, here are a few pointers on what to look for when buying a webcam. Resolution Picture resolution is measured in pixels.  The higher the pixel rate, the better the resolution and image quality, with standard webcams having a rate of 640×480 pixels. High-end webcams can record at rates between 1600×1200 pixels up to high definition quality, and are best suited to professional video conferencing. Most webcams a capable of capturing still images however since the resolution is actually achieved through software manipulation, the actual images aren’t as sharp or clear as they appear to be. Frame rate Video is comprised of a consecutive series of still pictures changing at a frequency that gives the viewer the impression they are watching a motion picture. The higher the number of frames per second (FPS) shown, the smoother the video will appear. For home users who will be using their webcam for video calls and instant messaging, a frame rate of 30 FPS will suffice.  For businesses frequently conducting video conferencing, higher refresh rates of 50-60 FPS offered by more expensive hardware would be more suitable. Audio Capability If you intend on using your webcam for video calling, video-conferencing or instant messaging, ensure you select one with a built-in microphone with noise-cancelling technology. For those just looking for a webcam to hook up to a security monitoring system, a webcam without audio capability that includes a motion sensor will best suit your needs. Lens type Webcams have either a plastic or glass lenses.  Glass lenses provide far superior image quality to plastic lenses, but are more expensive.  Since the lens type is not usually specified on the packaging, ensure you have a closer look at the camera before purchasing it. Look for a webcam with auto-focus capabilities that can adjust to lighting conditions.  You will need to keep your lighting in mind when using your webcam as some do not perform well in low light. Other Important Considerations To make the most of your webcam, high-speed broadband Internet access is a must because the speed of your connection will ultimately effect your frame rate. If you have an older computer, you may find it beneficial to buy a more expensive webcam.  This way the camera rather than the computer does the image processing, giving you better picture quality. Also consider you computer’s display type. Will your webcam be sitting on a flat surface or will you be using propping it on top of your LCD or laptop screen? Ensure you choose a webcam that can properly sit where you intend to put it. In conclusion, how you will be using your webcam will determine the features you require.  Choose the best webcam for your budget with the features most suitable for your needs.

SLR vs DSLR Cameras

If you are a serious shutterbug or looking to get serious about photography, selecting the right camera to execute your craft is one of the most important purchasing decisions you will make. Buying a quality single-lens reflex (SLR) camera is essential for anyone looking to delve into the more technical aspects of photography. So, what separates SLRs from their compact counterparts? In regular cameras, there are two optical light paths from the subject to the camera: one path leading to the lens and the other to the viewfinder. Since the lens and viewfinder aren’t on the same optical path, the photo you capture won’t be exactly what you are seeing through the viewfinder. SLR cameras contain a moving mirror system that allows you to capture exactly what you are seeing through the viewfinder. It is for this reason that professional photographers, who require greater precision and quality in their images, use SLR rather than regular cameras. SLRs are also the tool of choice by professionals because, unlike regular point and shoot models, they allow you to customise your camera to suit your individual requirements with a variety of accessories such as interchangeable filters and lenses. The next decision you will need to make is whether you stick with film or go digital. While the advent of digital technology has made taking great shots much easier for even the photography novice, most old-school photographers maintain their orthodox devotion to film. The major difference between a digital SLR and the traditional SLR is that the latter saves the images captured on film rather than a digital storage method such as an SD card. Because the storage medium if different, so too are the cameras’ image sensors. In SLR cameras, the light shining through the lens is projected directly onto 35mm film whereas DLSRs contain a CCD or CMOS imaging sensor that captures light and coverts it into digital data. One advantage of the digital type SLR over the film-based version is that images can be stored on reusable memory cards that have the capacity to store hundreds or even thousands of images. With digital storage, the cost of film and processing can be avoided. Instead, you just print the images you want. Another advantage of DLSR cameras over their traditional counterparts is that most now come with an LCD screen. This allows you review your pictures straight after taking them instead of waiting to get your film developed. So, if your photo doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to, you can make the necessary setting modifications immediately and reshoot the scene. Film also determines the light sensitivity of the camera. So, if you are shooting with ISO 400 film, you are unable to change your light sensitivity until you have finished the whole roll. With a DSLR, you have the advantage of simply adjusting the ISO with the push of a button, helping to extend you creative control.

Which Vacuum Cleaner is Right for My Floors?

With such an such extensive array of floor-care appliances on the market, it can be difficult to know for sure whether the vacuum cleaner you are buying is really the right one for your floors. The most popular types of floor cleaning devices are:

  • Canister or cylinder vacuum cleaners. These are light, compact units that have a long hose with a cleaner head.
  • Upright vacuum cleaners are erect units consisting of a motor, hose and beater.
  • Broom or “stick” vacs are like upright cleaners in shape, but are thinner, light-weight and do not contain rollers or beaters.
  • Handheld vacuums are small, light, cordless vacuums.
  • Steam vacs use steam to clean and sterilise both hard surfaces and carpets.
  • Shampooers use their rotating heads to massage the shampoo into the carpet.

Different floor-care appliances are suited to different types of floor coverings. Carpet Since uprights are adjustable to different heights, they are suitable for cleaning all different types of carpets. For cut pile carpets, cylinder cleaners with a turbo brush attachment are also appropriate. If you have loop pile carpets, either upright or cylinder cleaners can be used, however the turbo roller should be removed to avoid damaging the pile. For heavily soiled or stained carpets such as high-traffic areas, a carpet steamer or shampooer will deliver a deeper clean than a vacuum cleaner alone. Hard Floors Steamers, cylinder and stick vacuum cleaners are ideal for tiled, wooden or vinyl flooring. Cylinder and stick vacs are lightweight, provide great suction and are capable of gliding smoothly over bare floors without scratching. As well as removing surface debris, steamers remove stubborn residue and grime while killing bacteria. Confined and Hard-to-Reach Spaces The slender design and portability of stick vacs means they can easily access hard-to-reach areas such as stairs, round corners, edges and under furniture. Cylinder vacuums are also suitable for the task as their flexible cleaning heads make them ideal for handling difficult spaces. If storage space is an issue at your place, go for the more compact and easy to store stick cleaner over a cylinder model. For cleaning even tighter spaces like car interiors, a handheld vacuum cleaner is your best option. These vacs are also convenient for quickly cleaning small messes. Multi-Surface Cleaners If you have different types of flooring throughout your home, buying several appliances is not necessary. Most quality upright and cylinder vacs come with adjustable settings or attachments enabling them to clean anything from hardwood floors to shag pile carpets without damaging them. If you choose to go with a multi-surface cleaning unit, make sure that you read the user manual to ensure that you are using the appropriate setting or attachment properly. Pet Owners Upright vacuum cleaners are equipped with rotating motorised heads, which are great for removing pet hair. Since cylinder vacuums use only a suction-powered hose they are not as effective, even with a turbo brush attachment. Some manufacturers produce machines specifically catering to the needs of pet owners. These vacuums are designed to remove pet shedding, odors and stains from carpets.

What to Look For in Hair Care Appliances

Looking for the right tools to keep your locks looking luscious and lustrous? Check out the guide below to help you find the right appliance to achieve and maintain your ideal hairstyle.
Dryers
If you want a hair dryer that will make your hair healthier and minimise your drying time, look for a tourmaline and ceramic model that includes an AC motor and ionic technology.
Certain wattages should be used for particular hair types to avoid damage. For damaged and fine hair, it is best to blow dry towel-dried hair on the lowest setting using a 1200 – 1500W dryer. A 1300 – 1800W hair dryer will suit people with normal wavy and straight hair. Thick and curly hair requires the strength of a 1600 – 2000W dryer.
Other features you may look for in a hair dryer will depend on your hairstyle. Curly hair needs a diffuser for softening the airflow to dry hair gently and reduce frizz. Those looking to boost volume or to create waves and flips need a dryer with variable heat and speed settings as well as a cool shot button. Straight hairstyles are easier to achieve using a nozzle attachment.
Straighteners
To get beautiful straight hair that is both smooth and shiny, you will need to use a flat iron of straightener. There are different types of plates and technology used in straighteners:
• Ceramic plates diffuse heat evenly while producing negative ions to reduce frizz

• Ionic technology neutralises positive charges which make hair look dull and damaged

• Infrared gently heats without damaging it balancing neutralizing ions to smooth the hair

• Nano particles are infused into flat iron plates for smoothing and styling

• Silver eliminates germs from the iron’s plates and your hair

• Titanium provides quick straightening by maintaining consistent levels of heat

• Tourmaline provides more powerful ionic effects than ceramic and standard ionic models, giving smoother and shinier results.
Different hair types require different qualities from a straightener to achieve optimal results. People with curly or thick hair need a professional straightener made specifically for their hair type featuring advanced technology and high temperature settings. Medium thick and wavy hair is best suited to ceramic tourmaline irons. Thin and fine hair can be easily styled using any type of straightener however, it is important that heat settings be kept as low as possible to prevent breakage, frizz or dry ends.
Curlers
Different curling irons make different types of curls. Make sure that you select the right sort of curler to produce the type of curls you desire. A slimmer barrel will create tighter curls while larger ones will produce soft waves. The higher the temperature an iron is capable of reaching, the longer lasting the curls will be.
Spring curling irons have an arm that holds hair while curling. This kind of iron is available in the largest range of barrel sizes. Clipless irons don’t have an arm, making it easier to get close to the roots for extra volume. Ribbon curlers have a barrel with raised ridges to produce spiral curls. Wavers are double or triple barreled curling irons used to create flowing waves.

What To Know Before Buying an Electronic Language Device

Cross-cultural communications are now much simpler with electronic language devices helping to bridge the language barrier for international business people and travellers. These devices are also assisting students of foreign languages by providing them with a range of tools to facilitate their learning.
These devices are also referred to as electronic language translators and dictionaries, or simply as e-translators. While all electronic language devices offer the basic functions of translation and a dictionary, some offer much more. Because of this, they can range from less than $100 dollars to over $700. So, before you buy, take a quick look at the different features available to help determine what you want and need in an electronic language device.
 

Languages Capabilities
Do you require a bilingual or multilingual device? If you intend on only using your e-translator for regular business trips to Tokyo, then a simple bilingual English-Japanese device is all you will need. On the other hand, if you want a unit to assist you as you travel across Europe, a multilingual device is more suited to your needs. However, keep in mind that the greater the number of languages a device is equipped to work with, the pricier it is likely to be.
 

Talking Versus Non-Talking Dictionaries
Non-talking dictionaries provide fast bi-directional (and in the case of multilingual devices, multi-directional) word translation as well as extensive databases of useful expressions and colloquialisms. In addition to these functions, talking electronic dictionaries also provide an audio pronunciation of the text, which serves as an added benefit to those wanting to develop their oral language skills.
 

Vocabulary and Spelling Checker
The larger the vocabulary capability of an electronic language device, the more useful it is likely to be, particularly if you will be using it for dealing with technical language like medical, legal and business terminology. If the device you like only provides basic general vocabulary capabilities, find out whether it has the capacity for specialist dictionary add-ons.
Since many foreign languages are not phonetic, you are bound to misspell many words that you type into your translator. For this reason, having a spell-checking function is essential.
 

Speech Recognition and Text Scanning Capabilities
Devices with speech recognition technology make speech-to-speech translation possible, saving you time and helping you to speak to the locals in their native tongue. Having a built-in scanner can also save you the time of typing in text, by allowing you to scan words and passages of text for translation, which is great for helping you to find the meaning of anything from bus timetables to newspaper articles while in a foreign land.
 

Travel Tools
Before buying, also check to see if the device offers any other functions you may need while abroad such as world clocks or calculators for currency and measurement conversion.