It's almost impossible to avoid picking up home improvement and maintenance tips if you're a homeowner yourself. The tricky part is sifting out the useful information from the myths and mistakes. This article will set you right on a number of issues that many homeowners get misinformed about.

The Truth About Bathroom Ventilation

According to some homeowners, you only need an exhaust fan in your bathroom if it's an interior room that doesn't have a window. It's true, there are some bathrooms out there that lack fans. Bear in mind that building codes have changed over time! These days, proper ventilating fans are required in virtually all bathrooms. Even when it's not a code requirement, installing a fan is a great idea. 

Obviously, bathrooms can be very humid environments. A bath or shower pumps tremendous amounts of moisture into the air, and relying solely on a window to let that water out can be a big mistake.

Every time you bathe, you're driving up the local humidity in your bathroom. When the room cools again, (especially in the chilly depths of winter) that airborne water turns into condensation on the walls. If there's enough water involved, it can even get through the internal structure of your home, leading to big problems like frosting in your attic. 

In most parts of the US, (Idaho makes a fine example) bathroom fans are now a code requirement. It's an important feature to look out for when you inspect a new home. If you want to buy a home that lacks these fans, be prepared to retrofit them.

The Economics Of The Furnace Filter

A cheap filter for your furnace isn't going to do much good, right? You need fancy top-of-the-line HEPA filters, right? Think again! It's true that furnace filters catch debris like dust, dirt, and pet hair. The point many homeowners miss is that these filters are designed to keep that junk out of the furnace, not out of the air! 

Top-quality filters are designed for use with air conditioners, not heaters. If you install a pricey filter on your furnace, (one with anti-bacterial coatings or dense pleating) all you're doing is making your furnace work harder to maintain proper air flow. This puts undue strain on the furnace and makes it more likely to break down. Also, you may be tempted to leave an expensive filter in place longer than it's supposed to last. Give your furnace and your budget a break. Stick with ordinary fiberglass filters and make sure you change them out regularly.

There IS Such A Thing As Too Well-Insulated

A lot of homeowners are terrified of getting caught with inadequate insulation. They think that their heating bill will skyrocket unless their attic is stuffed to the brim with insulation. Although a well-insulated attic is one of the best tools you have for improving your home's energy efficiency, it's definitely possible to have too much of a good thing. The truth is that over-insulation causes nearly as many problems as shoddy installation or missing insulation. 

Besides being thermally protected by insulation, your home also needs air to circulate through both the living spaces and the "behind the scenes" areas like the attic. This is why some homes require attic ventilators. Cutting off airflow with too much insulation creates opportunities for water to condense, stagnate, and rot. This can lead to real structural damage and mold infestation. Stick to the amount of attic insulation recommended by local authorities.

Speaking of Mold, Bring More Than Bleach

Mold is one of the most irritating problems a homeowner can face. It has a negative impact on both the health of your household and your home's value. Fortunately, well-meaning homeowners will tell you, you can get rid of mold yourself with a little bleach and elbow grease!

By this point you should already suspect that this advice is misguided. It's true that mold can remove the appearance of mold from wood, drywall, and other finish surfaces. The exterior is all that bleach can reach, though. Due to its ionic structure, bleach has a hard time penetrating porous surfaces. Mold, on the other hand, lays down roots like a weed. 

Based on research conducted by the EPA, you must take more aggressive steps to eliminate a mold problem. Cleansers designed specifically for mold eradication are by far the most effective tools. In contrast, diluted bleach is just about the least useful thing to use on mold.

Your Lawn Doesn't Need An All-Nighter

"Water your grass at night and it'll grow better" is the next myth to tackle. This is simply not the case. When you put lots of water on the ground at night, a lot of it ends up standing on the surface. This can actually damage grass, and it also produces an unhealthy environment that's great for breeding hostile insects (e.g. mosquitoes). It's much better to water in the early morning. This gives your lawn enough time to absorb all the moisture it needs, then allows the sun to evaporate away any excess.

Do More Than Push A Button On Your Smoke Alarm

As a responsible homeowner, you have at least one smoke alarm in your house. You even test it every few months by pushing the button and hurting your ears with the loud siren. This is just a commonsense follow up: What does it really tell you when you make your smoke alarm squawk with the test button? It means the siren and the batteries work. The important part (DETECTING SMOKE!) isn't tested. A better way to confirm your safety is to light two or three matches together and blow them out close to the detector. If this doesn't set the alarm off, it's time to buy a replacement!