video chat services to keep you connected

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Video Chat Services to Keep You Connected during COVID-19

3 minute read

Our lives have slowly moved toward becoming more and more online. As the coronavirus outbreak continues to interrupt our normal routines, we’ve turned toward the Internet and video chat services to keep us connected.

Whether it’s chatting with Facebook, watching live concerts on Instagram, or texting, most of us have been looking for human connections with friends and family in the midst of social distancing and self-quarantines. Video chats have become increasingly popular as more people are seeking different ways to hang out with friends and family.

Video Chat Services History

People were able to video chat when Skype was founded in 2003, but it wasn’t until Apple introduced FaceTime in 2010 that the networking tool gained popularity. The immediacy and convenience of chatting with friends and family through your iPhone made video chatting more commonplace than having to be tethered to your laptop. Since then, different companies have looked for different ways to improve the experience of video chatting through both mobile and desktop features.

Google introduced Google Hangouts in 2013 and has made various upgrades to the platform since then to include more users and additional features. Facebook introduced the Portal in late 2018. Amazon also has its own video chat software through the Amazon Echo Show.

My sister, who lives in Indianapolis, has the Facebook Portal and we’ve used it to chat and see my niece as much as we can due to the distance. One of the biggest benefits of the Portal is that you have more freedom of movement. We’ve found that the Portal camera can have trouble focusing when there is movement in the frame, but overall it’s a great tool.

Zoom, a company founded in 2011, has seen a rise in its number of users skyrocket as people across the world are in lockdown during the coronavirus outbreak. The company has added 2.22 million monthly active users in 2020 compared to the 1.99 million in all of 2019.  It has become the software of choice for primary and secondary schools to host online classes including many Ivy League universities. It’s being used to host as well. As restaurants and bars have closed across the country, many of us are looking for ways to reconnect with friends, family and coworkers. You can also break off in to separate groups too, but this feature is only accessible in the paid model.

My friends and I used Zoom for playing an online version of the game Jackbox this week as a way to reconnect and catch up. It worked super well. We used the free service, but as mentioned above there are different subscription options for a better experience.

Another service you can use is Netflix Party, which allows you to watch Netflix shows together with a group of people and with synchronized video playback and group chat. It’s a free service that just requires a Netflix subscription and Google Chrome.

Future of Video Chat Services

Although the use of video to interact with friends and family may seem foreign, the idea of telecommuting will become more common as workers may continue to work from home even after the COVID-19 outbreak. Some doctors, including psychiatrists, have even used telemedicine to help treat patients.

Due to the recent surge in internet use from school to work, many different companies are lifting data caps or allowing you to upgrade your service without incurring a rate hike. These different promotions are short-term fixes. You can discuss the length of terms with your specific company.

Let us know if you have a particular service you like to use while practicing social distancing and self-quarantining.

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    fall allergy forecast

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    Here’s Your Fall Allergy Forecast

    2 minute read

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    Have your seasonal allergy symptoms lasted longer than normal? If so, you’re not alone. A recent study found that pollen levels are higher and longer lasting than normal, caused in large part by climate change.

    That means that your summer allergies could linger into the fall months, as many areas of the country are experiencing higher-than-normal temperatures, leading to higher pollen counts from cone-bearing and flowering plants. The map below from the National Centers for Environmental Information shows average temperatures for September 2022, compared to historic averages.

    Statewide Average Temperature Ranks

    The fall season also introduces ragweed pollen and mold. These particles can travel easily through the air and cause allergy symptoms outdoors, or attach to clothes and enter through open windows to cause issues inside your home.

    Mold can form when untouched piles of leaves or grass collect moisture, like leaves trapped in rain gutters. Ragweed pollen is more common in rural areas where turf grasses and other perennial plants easily become overgrown and release large amounts of pollen in late summer and early fall. Ragweed spores have been found to travel up to 400 miles, and areas east of the Rocky Mountains are especially susceptible to ragweed.

    Fall Allergy Solutions

    Despite higher allergen levels, you can still enjoy the fall season by taking steps to lower your exposure. Try out these solutions for your home environment.

    Keep Windows and Doors Closed

    The mild temperatures and lower precipitation levels of fall make it tempting to open up your windows and doors to control indoor temperatures. But that also gives allergens a clear path into your home, causing things like pollen and mold spores to settle on your furniture and floors, and then go airborne. Instead, when allergen counts are high, rely on your heating and cooling systems paired with AprilAire MERV 16 air filters to create a comfortable indoor environment.

    Stay Aware of Allergen Counts

    Before you head outside to enjoy the classic changing colors and mild temperatures of fall, take a look at allergen levels in your area, which are typically highest between 5:00 and 10:00 a.m. Windy days can make allergens even worse.

    Allergen levels can remain high until the first freezing temperatures of the season. So if you need to be outside when levels are high, try wearing a face mask or other breathing filter.

    Stay Safe During Outdoor Chores

    Mowing the grass, raking the yard, and cleaning out gutters are common fall tasks. They can seem even more laborious for those with fall allergies, as leaves and grass can hold onto allergens that go airborne when disturbed by mowing or raking.

    Solutions can include hiring a landscaping service, wearing a breathing filter while you handle the chores, and removing clothes in the garage to avoid bringing allergens indoors.

    monitoring air quality with satellites

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    Monitoring Air Quality with Satellites

    2 minute read

    Click play to listen to the Monitoring Air Quality with Satellites article. 

    It’s estimated that air pollution is responsible for more than 6.5 million deaths annually. Unhealthy air causes issues in every area of the world, and one of the most important parts of fighting this trend is to accurately monitor and report air quality levels in a timely manner. Pollutants like smog and wildfire smoke are easy to see, but sometimes airborne dangers aren’t so easy to detect on the local or regional levels. In those situations, some air quality monitoring organizations are taking measurements using a higher vantage point—satellites.

    How NASA Is Monitoring Air Quality with Satellites

    States in the Great Lakes region are incorporating high-resolution satellite data from NASA into their efforts to measure ozone levels (more detailed information here). The enhanced information gives a more accurate reading than ground observations alone and provides states with more resources to meet federal air quality standards.

    Additionally, NASA can provide information on other factors relevant to air quality and the overall environment, like wind, weather, temperature, and soil moisture levels.

    One of the main benefits this measurement information provides is giving regulators a clear picture of both current air pollution levels and the results of any mitigation efforts—basically, the before and after pictures for air quality improvement.

    Strategies to reduce ground ozone and other air pollutants are essential for people’s health (especially those in densely populated areas), and are relevant to large-scale climate change efforts.

    Indoor Air Quality Monitors for Your Home

    You can also stay down to earth with air quality monitoring. AprilAire is partnering with Airthings, a global technology company that produces award-winning, best-selling Indoor Air Quality monitors for radon and other dangerous airborne contaminants that impact overall health and wellness. Find out more about the partnership here.

    Interview with the American Lung Association

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    Breathing Healthy Air: Interview with the American Lung Association

    4 minute read

    At AprilAire, we encourage breathing Healthy Air because we know it benefits your overall health. The American Lung Association knows it too. That’s why AprilAire air filters are the National Proud Partner of the American Lung Association*, playing a key role in the fight to improve lung health and prevent lung disease.

    We got to interview National Senior Vice President of Development Sally Draper about the importance of Healthy Air and how both AprilAire and the American Lung Association are working together to help you Breathe the Fullness of Life.

    Could you introduce yourself for the readers and tell us about why you chose a career with the American Lung Association?

    “I joined the Lung Association in 2014 because I was attracted to its comprehensive mission—to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Every day we help Americans breathe easier through our efforts to fund innovative research, advocate for policies that protect our lungs, and educate patients, caregivers, providers, and the public with science-backed information. We were founded more than 115 years ago, and the needs are greater today than ever before, including the youth vaping epidemic, climate change, and COVID-19!”

    Can you tell us about the American Lung Association’s mission?

    “The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. Our work is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; champion clean air for all; improve the quality of life for those with lung disease and their families; and create a tobacco-free future. Whether it’s searching for cures to lung diseases, keeping kids off tobacco, or advocating for laws that protect the air we breathe, the work of the American Lung Association helps to save lives every day.”

    How did AprilAire and the American Lung Association come to work together in the first place? What does that relationship look like presently?

    “AprilAire and the American Lung Association forged a new relationship in 2018. We quickly realized how much we had in common. Our partnership was developed as we saw an opportunity to educate and help more consumers improve the air in their homes to create a healthier environment.

    Since 2020, AprilAire has been a Proud Partner of the Lung Association with its 4” residential air filters. Additionally, AprilAire joined the Lung Association as our FY20 National Fight For Air Climb Partner For Healthy Air. The company has also supported the Lung Association’s “Stand Up For Clean Air” campaign. As part of this initiative, we are driving conversations around air quality, climate, and health. The Lung Association invited people to share their #MyCleanAirStory—knowing that when people realize climate and air quality are impacting the health of their neighbors, friends, and loved ones—they are more willing to act. AprilAire provided prizes for the #MyCleanAirStory contest, including one grand prize of a whole-home Indoor Air Quality upgrade (the AprilAire Healthy Air System®) and nine AprilAire Room Air Purifiers. This year, the company stepped up once again to sponsor the Wisconsin Fight For Air Climb in Milwaukee. Also in 2021, the Lung Association welcomed Dale Philippi, President and CEO of Research Products Corporation, AprilAire’s parent company, to the Lung Association’s Wisconsin Leadership Board of Directors.”

    Tell us about the Fight For Air Climb.

    “The American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb is the nation’s premier stair climbing challenge. At 38 events nationwide, children and adults of all ages participate in this celebratory stair-climbing adventure. Pre-pandemic, the Fight For Air Climb was held in several of our country’s most iconic skyscrapers. This year, the Lung Association invited participants outdoors for a one-of-a-kind adventure to support healthy lungs and clean air. In fact, Dale was among the company’s team of more than 50 employees that climbed the stairs at Milwaukee’s American Family Field on May 22nd, proving he puts his feet, time, and talent behind causes he supports.

    AprilAire has been a stalwart partner in the Fight For Air Climb, promoting the event to employees, customers, trade partners, family, and friends. Through this unique vehicle, the company is engaging individuals of all ages to understand and celebrate the importance of Healthy Air.”

    AprilAire’s air filters are a National Proud Partner of the American Lung Association. How do you feel our mission aligns with yours?

    “Our CEO, Harold Wimmer, has said, ‘Breathing should not be an uphill battle, but for many it is… no one should have to fight for air on a daily basis.’ Similarly, Dale has declared, ‘We believe everyone deserves to breathe Healthy Air.’ As a National Proud Partner, AprilAire’s mission to enhance everyone’s health by improving the air in their homes aligns very closely with that of the American Lung Association, champion of clean air for all.”

    What are the benefits of breathing Healthy Air and what are everyday things that people can do to Breathe the Fullness of Life?

    “Clean air is essential for healthy lungs. The American Lung Association works to ensure that the air we breathe is clean and safe from harmful pollution. In fact, every year we publish our State of the Air Report, which looks at two of the most widespread and dangerous air pollutants, ozone and fine particulate matter. Our 2021 State of the Air Report found that more than 4 in 10 Americans—over 135 million people—are living in places with unhealthy levels of ozone or particle pollution.

    One of the most important things you can do to Breathe the Fullness of Life is to keep sources of pollution out of your home. Check out these commonsense tips on Lung.org. Additionally, ventilation helps reduce indoor air pollution, but it works best if paired with keeping known sources of air pollution out of the building. For tips on how to use ventilation to protect your lung health, check out our section on Ventilation: How Buildings Breathe.”

    Fight for Healthy Air

    At AprilAire, we believe everyone deserves to Breathe the Fullness of Life, and we’re not the only ones that feel this way. Through our Proud Partnership with the American Lung Association, we aim to fill every home with Healthy Air. Both AprilAire and the Lung Association believe that breathing Healthy Air should be available to everyone, and maintaining healthy Indoor Air Quality is an important step for your lung health. Read more about our partnership and the efforts of the American Lung Association on their website.

    *Disclaimer: The American Lung Association does not endorse any product, device, or service.

    2021 Good Neighbor Values

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    2021: AprilAire’s Good Neighbor Values

    2 minute read

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    We take the importance of caring for others to heart at AprilAire. We believe we have a purpose beyond the individual work we do and that being a successful company also means “Being a Good Neighbor.” It’s one of our core values, and something we put into action each year.

    We remain committed to helping our local communities in a number of ways, including financial contributions and volunteering. In the past, we’ve raised funds to provide pack-n-plays to mothers in need, volunteered at local blood drives, and held various donation drives throughout the year.

    While our partnership opportunities may look different in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re excited to continue our work with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, whose mission statement reads:

    “A membership organization, the Society began working in Madison in 1925 with two parish-based groups of members serving their neighbors in need. Today, programs the Society operates in Dane County include a large customer-choice food pantry, a charitable pharmacy, storage for the goods of persons who are homeless, seven thrift stores offering direct charity, housing at Port St. Vincent de Paul and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton House, and several other forms of assistance for people struggling with poverty.”

    We’ve been working with St. Vincent de Paul – Madison since 2014, giving us a number of incredible opportunities to give back and live out our mission of being Good Neighbors.

    We believe the work they’re doing to provide assistance for our community is more important than ever right now, which is why it’s our honor to be a 2021 Platinum Sponsor for St. Vincent de Paul’s 6th Annual Care Café fundraising breakfast on May, 5th 2021. The theme is “Love Made Visible.”

    They’re going virtual this year, which means they have unlimited capacity to reach their goal of $140,000. If you live in Dane County, we encourage you to attend the virtual event and support our neighbors in need through your contributions to the food pantry, free pharmacy, and housing programs.

     Click here for more information on St. Vincent de Paul – Madison to see how you can get involved.

    Or find a charity in your area that you may be able to connect with to make an impact.

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    How Smart Thermostats Create a Healthy Home Environment

    2 minute read

     

    Creating a Healthy Air environment in your home is great for your family, and can save you money on energy costs over time. One way to make the process even more beneficial is to automate the systems that control your temperature, humidity level, and air quality.

    AprilAire Wi-Fi thermostats are designed with your health and convenience in mind, pairing with your AprilAire whole-house solutions and the AprilAire Healthy Air App to deliver simple, round-the-clock control of your home’s air.

    Smart Thermostat Benefits

    Control from Anywhere

    No more wasting electricity while your home is empty. AprilAire Wi-Fi thermostats and the Healthy Air App give you consistent control over your heating and cooling systems, and all of your AprilAire whole-house solutions from anywhere you have a mobile connection.

    The connected thermostat even lets you create temperature schedules, so you can turn down the heat at night to create an environment that’s more conducive to restful sleep.

    Balanced Humidity

    Humidity levels fluctuate throughout the seasons and during large weather events. It’s crucial to ensure a balanced humidity level between 40–60% in your home, with benefits for your health, finances, and property values.

    AprilAire Wi-Fi thermostats let you set up your preferred humidity levels and automatically maintain those levels through every season.

    Fresh Air Ventilation

    Working with your AprilAire fresh air ventilation system, AprilAire Wi-Fi thermostats offer total control of the fresh air intake for your home. Whether you do it manually or set up an automatic schedule, the system will let you know when fresh air is pumped into your home, giving you peace of mind that your family is breathing Healthy Air.

    Air Purification

    Certain events can make the air in your home less than fresh. When doing things like cooking, using your fireplace, or kicking up dust while cleaning, you can protect your air with Event-Based™Air Cleaning. When paired with an AprilAire whole-house air purifier, this feature gives you a simple way to scrub pollutants and irritants from your home’s air.

    It’s also a huge benefit for allergy and asthma sufferers. On days with a high pollen or other allergen count, you can schedule a cleaning cycle and enjoy Healthy Air indoors throughout the allergy season.

    Check out all the options available for AprilAire thermostats, and see what will best fit your home and lifestyle.