The Biggest Threats to a Healthy Home

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

By: Laura Fisher Kaiser

Originally Appeared Here:  HGTV

A healthy home comes under attack from several dangerous sources. Learn more about these threats to a healthy home and get healthy living tips.

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Water Intrusion

Be on the lookout for signs of a water leak or condensation: water stains that get bigger over time, musty odors, continually damp carpet, or beads of water or puddles on hard surfaces. When you do have water damage, thoroughly clean and dry carpets and building materials within 24 hours if possible, and consider replacing waterlogged items to eliminate the risk of mold.

If you suspect a problem (or better yet, as preventive maintenance), hire professionals to inspect for damaged shingles and siding, poorly connected plumbing and leaky pipes, and other moisture problems, such as inadequate vapor barriers. Mitigate the issues as soon as possible.

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Biological Contaminants

The EPA considers bacteria, molds, mildew, viruses, animal dander, cat saliva, house dust, mites, cockroaches and pollen all biological contaminants. Excessive moisture creates breeding grounds for these contaminants, so ventilate adequately and keep relative humidity between 30 percent and 50 percent to prevent condensation on building materials.

Regular household cleaning and maintenance go a long way toward limiting exposure. Change filters and have heating and cooling equipment cleaned and checked regularly by a professional; these systems can become not only breeding grounds for mold and other biological contaminants but also superhighways for dispersing them throughout the home.

If these methods don’t suffice, an indoor air-cleaning device may help an affected area. However, avoid ozone generators that are sold as air cleaners. The EPA warns: “Whether in its pure form or mixed with other chemicals, ozone can be harmful to health.”

Basements can be a particular trouble zone. The EPA recommends you clean and disinfect basement drains regularly and that you not finish a basement unless all moisture issues are abated.

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Mold

No one knows exactly how many homes have mold behind the walls, but the best current estimate is about 70 percent, according to Ronald E. Gots, M.D., Ph.D., of the International Center for Toxicology and Medicine. The EPA and World Health Organization state that some molds have the potential to cause health problems, particularly allergic reactions and asthma, in people who are susceptible.

To get rid of mold, scrub surfaces with detergent, preferably a water-based, VOC-free product like Microbloc dsinfx as opposed to bleach. Replace porous materials such as ceiling tile and carpet with non-porous or mold-resistant ones. If the mold damage covers more than 10 square feet, the EPA recommends hiring a professional.

Most important: Fix the underlying issue. “Mold is not the problem. It’s an indicator of a moisture problem,” says Kurt Salomon, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors. “You can get rid of the mold but if you don’t address the leaky pipes, high humidity and water intrusion, the mold will come back.”

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Dust and Respirable Particles

To cut down on household dust, declutter, reduce paper, eliminate smoking and regularly change or clean the furnace and air conditioner filters. Also, park your shoes at the door — two-thirds of all dust contaminants are tracked into the home from the outside.

To minimize the amount of dust kicked up during cleaning — especially if you are concerned about lead dust — wipe down floors with a damp mop, dust with a damp cloth and clean surfaces with a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.

You probably don’t need to have your air ducts cleaned unless there is mold growing inside, they are infested with vermin or they are excessively clogged with debris. Duct cleaning costs between $400 and $1,000. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association cautions consumers against air duct cleaning companies that make sweeping claims about health benefits of their services and/or are not upfront about fees.

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Toxic Chemical Compounds

Even when present in very low, hard-to-measure concentrations, semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) pose serious health risks — organ and nervous system damage and cancer included.

SVOCs are hard to avoid, as they are ubiquitous in our homes. Phthalate esters are colorless, odorless and used to make plastics soft and flexible, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) have been widely used as flame retardants in furniture cushions, textiles, plastics, paints and electronic appliances. Naphthalene is the key ingredient in mothballs. Other man-made chemicals such as the dry-cleaning solvent known as PERC (perchloroethylene) and the blue, sweet-smelling liquid called TCE (trichloroethylene) that is found in spot removers and carpet-cleaning fluids are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and they are likely carcinogens.

You can minimize exposure in the home by using green cleaning methods. To protect woolens from pests, wash items and let them dry in the sun (which also helps get rid of mothball odor) before storing them with cedar chip sachets. Read labels before purchasing and avoid buying items that contain phthalates and PBDEs.

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VOCs

Thousands of household products — paints, paint-strippers, adhesives, MDF, carpet, glues, cleaners, fuels, degreasers and more — off-gas volatile organic compounds. These chemicals cause a number of health effects including eye, nose and throat irritation; headache; nausea; liver, kidney and central nervous system damage; and cancer.

According to the EPA, studies have found that VOC levels are two to five times higher indoors than outdoors. During and for several hours immediately after certain activities, such as paint-stripping, levels may be 1,000 times background outdoor levels.

There are many steps to reduce exposure. For example, replace vinyl wallcoverings with Cradle-to-Cradle-certified ones made with new polymers and water-based inks and coatings. If dry-cleaned goods have a strong chemical odor, which indicates a high concentration of the solvent PERC (perchloroethylene), do not accept them until they have been properly dried. Use non- or low-VOC paints, glues, epoxies, adhesives and building products. Even when using low-VOC products, ventilate the space with plenty of fresh air. Dispose of even small amounts you won’t use right away in an environmentally responsible way.

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Formaldehyde

Exposure to low concentrations of formaldehyde may cause eye, nose or throat irritation, rashes, breathing problems, nausea, asthma attacks and allergic reactions. And formaldehyde causes cancer in animals and humans.

The American Lung Association recommends you use furniture and pressed-wood board made with laminated surfaces because they release less formaldehyde. Allow plywood and other formaldehyde-containing materials to air out before you use them indoors. If possible, use non-toxic alternatives to formaldehyde-containing products like glue and adhesives. Ventilation is key, so open windows and use exhaust fans to bring in a fresh supply of air. Also, wash permanent-press clothing before wearing. Formaldehyde is used in the production of special fabrics.

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Carbon Monoxide and Other Combustion By-Products

You can’t see, taste or smell carbon monoxide (CO), a toxic gas produced by incomplete combustion of fuel-burning devices, and people often dismiss the symptoms of CO poisoning (headache, nausea, dizziness and confusion), which can be fatal. This “silent killer” accounts for an estimated 15,000 emergency room visits and 500 deaths a year.

“Carbon monoxide is an underappreciated risk, particularly during heating season when people don’t open windows as much to let in fresh air,” says Meri-K Appy of Safe Kids USA. “But there’s no other way to know you’ve got a problem unless you have a CO detector to let you know levels have reached a dangerous level.” If the detector sounds, evacuate your home immediately and call 911. And be sure to replace the battery when you change the time on your clocks each spring and fall.

According to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, the chimneys and connector pipes that serve oil and gas furnaces are subject to weathering, animal invasions, deterioration/rust-out and the accumulation of nest materials and debris. As a safeguard, have fuel-burning furnaces, stoves and fireplaces — as well as their connections and exhaust vents — inspected and serviced before each heating season. And never idle your car in the garage.

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Lead

Lead poisoning is the leading environmentally induced illness in children, according to OSHA. If you live in a home built before 1978, chances are it contains lead paint.

To protect you and your family, make sure there is no peeling or chipped paint. You can encapsulate lead paint by painting over it. If you must scrape or sand lead paint, wear a HEPA respirator, enclose the workspace with plastic, keep debris contained and “work wet” to minimize dust. Clean up with a HEPA filter vacuum and damp mop, and be careful not to track lead dust through the house.

Because it can be “tough for DIYers to follow all best practices,” Rebecca Morley, president of the National Center for Healthy Housing, recommends hiring a contractor certified in lead abatement. A new EPA regulation requires anyone working in homes built before 1978 to take an eight-hour lead safety certification course or risk a $32,000 fine. More than 500,000 contractors have been certified since April 2010, but it’s up to the homeowner to ask for proof of certification.

To find a lead sampling technician to do a dust test, including the soil around your house (a common source of lead), call the EPA’s lead hot line at 800-424-LEAD.

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Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, which cannot be seen, smelled or tasted but is found in the dirt and rocks beneath houses, in well water and in some building materials. When you breathe radon, the sensitive cells in your airway get irritated, increasing the risk of lung cancer. Radon causes an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year, but it can take up to 20 years of exposure before one falls ill.

The U.S. Surgeon General and EPA recommend that all homes be tested for radon; even if the house next door to you tests low, your particular house could be at risk. Short-term tests take two days (often for real estate transactions), while long-term tests take about 90 days but give more accurate results.

If your house tests above EPA standards, a remediation professional can retrofit an exhaust vent from a suction pit underneath the foundation slab to the outside of the house. Costs range from $800 to $2,500. For more information, contact the EPA’s radon hot line at 800-55RADON (557-2366).

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Asbestos

Before 1985, asbestos was used in more than 3,000 construction products, from flooring and insulation to soundproofing for strength and flame-resistance. The government outlawed asbestos after it was discovered that the mineral fiber causes lung cancer and mesothelioma.

If you live in a home that contains mid-century vinyl floor tile, ceiling tiles or insulation, have a professional asbestos inspector test your home before you do any remodeling. Unless there is a need to remove or disturb the material, which would release asbestos fibers into the air, leave it alone.

In many cases, says the Resilient Floor Covering Institute, new flooring can be successfully installed over the existing. For material containing 1 percent asbestos that is friable — so damaged that it crumbles in your hand — it’s best to hire government-certified asbestos contractors to remove or encapsulate it.

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Fire

The National Fire Protection Association reports that of the 2,565 civilian deaths from home fires in 2009, almost two-thirds (63 percent) involved homes with non-working or non-existent smoke alarms. New code requires smoke alarms in every room, bedrooms being of most importance.

“If you have a fire, you need to know about it,” says Meri-K Appy, president of Safe Kids USA, who recommends having hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarms, “so that if fire breaks out in the basement and you’re two floors up sleeping, at the first moment the basement alarm goes off, all will go off.” Such alarms buy you precious time; it can take fewer than three minutes from the time a fire starts to the time of “flashover” – complete ignition of all gasses and combustible elements in a room.

She also notes that smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. That’s a good time to upgrade to either a hard-wired or wireless interconnected system. New technologies include ionization systems that react to fast-burning fires, photo-electric alarms that react quickly to smoldering fires, integrated carbon monoxide detectors and fire sprinklers, remote controls and smart-phone apps.

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Fire

The National Fire Protection Association reports that of the 2,565 civilian deaths from home fires in 2009, almost two-thirds (63 percent) involved homes with non-working or non-existent smoke alarms. New code requires smoke alarms in every room, bedrooms being of most importance.

“If you have a fire, you need to know about it,” says Meri-K Appy, president of Safe Kids USA, who recommends having hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarms, “so that if fire breaks out in the basement and you’re two floors up sleeping, at the first moment the basement alarm goes off, all will go off.” Such alarms buy you precious time; it can take fewer than three minutes from the time a fire starts to the time of “flashover” – complete ignition of all gasses and combustible elements in a room.

She also notes that smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years. That’s a good time to upgrade to either a hard-wired or wireless interconnected system. New technologies include ionization systems that react to fast-burning fires, photo-electric alarms that react quickly to smoldering fires, integrated carbon monoxide detectors and fire sprinklers, remote controls and smart-phone apps.

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Shorts and Shocks

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, GFCIs have contributed “significantly” to the reduction of electrocution and severe electric shock incidents since their introduction in the early 1970s. The National Electrical Code requires GFCIs, an inexpensive device, for receptacles with proximity to water: outdoors, bathrooms, garages, kitchens, crawlspaces and unfinished basements, laundry/utility rooms, and pools and spas.

You should also take commonsense precautions when it comes to electricity. All electrical outlets and switches should be covered by faceplates. Use the right light bulbs in all lamps and lights. Check the wattage requirements by looking inside the fixture.

Only use household appliances in good working condition. All electrical appliances, cords and tools should be listed by a nationally recognized, independent testing laboratory, such as UL or ETL. Periodically check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s list of product recalls to see if any of your appliances have been recalled for fire hazard or other issues.

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Slip-and-Trip Zones

Even a little clutter underfoot can be hazardous to your health, especially on stairs and in dark hallways. To prevent trips and falls, keep those areas clear and get rid of slippery scatter rugs.

“Lighting is also a big factor in falls,” says Meri-K Appy, president of Safe Kids USA, who recommends having lights at the top and the bottom of stairs. Also, don’t delay repairing loose treads and rails.

In the bathroom, grab bars in the bath or shower are a good idea for any age. Make sure throw rugs have rubberized mats or bottoms — in the bathroom and throughout the house.

The same rules apply outside. In the yard, shore up loose pavers and crumbling pavement, and make sure pathways and entrances are well lit.

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Photo By: Eric Isselee

Pests and Pesticides

As if vermin were not repellent enough, here’s a fun fact: When urine from rats and mice dries, proteins can become airborne and become potent allergens.

The Surgeon General and EPA advocate Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which uses commonsense strategies to reduce sources of food, water and shelter for pests and, when necessary, the judicious careful use of pesticides.

The US Green Building Council recommends a number of nontoxic strategies for keeping pests out of your home without endangering your health or the environment. These include planting landscaping at least 24 inches from the home, treating lumber and cellulose material with borates and sealing all cracks, joints and other entry points with fiber cement board or galvanized insect screen.

Avoid using mothballs, which contain carcinogens naphthalene and paradichlorobenzene. If you do use pesticides, mix or dilute the ingredients outdoors, and ventilate affected indoor areas well.

To discuss these risks and your home insurance policy, please call us at (317) 886-0081 or visit us on line at: Scott Lynch Agency
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12 Best Ways to Heat a Garage in the Winter

Brenda Porter-Rockwell Original Article

Even in winter, projects, repairs and hobbies must go on. And that often means you’ll be spending time in the garage. Instead of risking frost bite, consider these 12 ways to heat your garage safely and reliably in winter.

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Are Barstad/Shutterstock

Determine Your Heating Needs

How difficult will it be to warm your garage in the heart of winter? How easy is it to get cheap heat in your garage? Consider how cold it gets in your part of the world, the square footage of your space and if you have sufficient insulation. Heat output is measured in BTUs or British Thermal Units. To get to that number you’re going to need to measure your space and think about how warm you need it to be. After you get that number you’re ready to shop for a unit!

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Insulate Your Garage

Before you invest in a garage heating system, make sure your garage has plenty of insulation. Insulate garage doors where possible as well as walls and ceilings. You can easily and inexpensively add clear plastic shrink film over windows for added protection against the cold. Once you get a garage heating system installed, you don’t want all of your warm air—not to mention the money you spend on utility bills—seeping out through cracks.

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Forced-Air Heater

You can use a forced-air unit to heat your cold garage. These heaters range in price and size and are not as pricey as an infrared heat source. Here are some factors to consider: Forced-air heaters work by blasting hot air into the room. They can be professionally installed to tie into your home’s gas or propane line, too. The downside here is if you do a lot of woodworking, for example, the forced air will blow dirt and debris around, which is a major drawback especially when you’re painting, staining and finishing projects.

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Yevhen Prozhyrko/Shutterstock

Convection Heater

A convection heater is another versatile option for a garage space heater. You can choose a unit that’s powered by electricity, natural gas or propane. These heaters operate by air convection currents circulating through the unit and across its heating element, thus heating the air around you. Depending on the type and size of your appliance, the unit could heat pretty quickly, while others take a little longer to warm a room. So, factor in how cold your garage gets and how long you’re willing to wait for it to warm up when you choose a convection heating system.

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Ductless Heating and Cooling

There are many reasons to go with a ductless heating and cooling system to heat your garage. Sometimes called split systems, multi-split systems, or split-ductless systems, a ductless system heats or cools with a single unit. They’re an efficient use of energy, thereby saving you money on your utility bill. And ductless systems are eco-friendly since they meet the highest, most efficient energy guidelines. If that wasn’t enough to consider this option, they are easier to install than most HVAC systems.

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In-Floor Heat

Warm floors aren’t just for bathrooms anymore! They’re also great for heating garages and perfect for the part-time mechanic. If you find yourself rebuilding that classic car from the ground up, treat your toes, back, neck and more with an in-floor heating system. This is a great addition to any other heat source you have in the room. Check out how to get started with PEX tubing for your radiant heat system and get one step closer to your toasty-warm dream garage.

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Add a Propane Heater

Whether the garage is the place where you tinker or you do more serious work, you’ll want to be comfortable in winter. When searching for a heat source you’ll come across many options including a propane appliance. Propane, an affordable heat source, also delivers great warmth. With a propane heater you can go big or small, depending on your needs. With this type of heater you add the fuel to the appliance and begin to instantly warm your space. The unit typically provides an automatic setting or manual ignition. Their affordability and mobility make them a great option for warming up your space.

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Electric Ceiling Panels

If you’re looking for a primary way to heat your garage in winter consider the radiant electric ceiling panel. These 1-in.-thick panels mount on the ceiling and can be an energy-efficient option that heats up quickly and cools down just as fast. Plus, if your garage not only needs to function well, but look good, you can’t go wrong with these ceiling-slimming panels.

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Consider a Mounted Electric Heater

Bigger than a portable space heater, a wall-mounted electric heater is among the best ways to heat your garage space in winter. Here you’re typically looking at installing a 240-volt hard-wired unit. Another plus—these heaters can be easier to install than a forced-air heating system, so you may not need to call in a professional for help. If you go with this kind of heater, here are some DIY tips for mounting a heater on a wall to help you.

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Dmitry Galaganov/Shutterstock

Portable Space Heater

A portable space heater—like the kind used to heat up a cold room in your home—is a simple way to augment an existing heat source to better warm your garage on those super-chilly winter days. Depending on how much additional heat you’re looking for, a garage space heater comes in nearly any size to fit any budget. Plus, they’re very portable and readily available. The U.S. Department of Energy’s tips on buying and installing a heater can help you decide what type and size unit is right for your garage.

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Install an Infrared Heater

A low-intensity infrared tube heater can be one of the best ways to heat up your garage. (Not the kind that glows red, since that could be a potential fire hazard.) Instead of blowing air like a forced-air unit, a tube heater radiates heat throughout your space. This kind of heater tends to heat objects first, people second. So, you’ll get comfortable, but it may take a little while. Check out these tips on how to install an infrared heater or a forced air unit, so you’ll be ready to go if you choose this type of system.

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Wood Burning Stove for Cheap Heat

A wood burning stove is an economical way to heat your garage space in winter, if done safely. Just like you take steps to make your indoor wood-burning fireplace safe, you’ll want to do the same with your garage stove. First, check with your local municipality for the permits that may be required. Then check with your insurance company to make sure installation of a wood stove in the garage for cheap heat will not void your homeowner’s policy. After getting the necessary approvals, you can order a wood stove from your local hardware store. Once installed, don’t forget to periodically clean your chimney and flue or hire a professional. Otherwise, you risk exposure to toxic gases.

When installing wood burning stoves – check with your insurance agent for guidelines on installation that won’t void your insurance policy. Shopping for insurance in Indiana – call Scott Lynch at (317) 886-0081 or visit him on line at: Scott Lynch Agency

The 10 most affordable electric vehicles to insure

The list is based on the Mercury Insurance price for full coverage in California.

Electric vehicles have come a long way in the past four years, as the market has seen a strong growth in sales and the number of makes and models available to consumers.

Insurance cost


Mercury Insurance put together a list
 of the 10 most affordable electric vehicles to insure.

Mercury’s research and development team examined the 2017 electric vehicles available at car dealerships today or in the near future to compile a list of the most affordable vehicles to insure. The list was created based on the Mercury price for full coverage — liability, comprehensive and collision — in California.

Consumer interest increasing

“Consumer interest and intent to buy electric vehicles has increased substantially,” said Chong Gao, senior product manager, R&D for Mercury Insurance. “We put together this list to help inform your decision, because many people don’t consider what it will cost to insure a vehicle before they buy it.”

Related: Volvo to pull plug on gasoline engines

Mercury Insurance developed the list using a 30-year-old male with a clean driving record, who lives in Newport Beach, California, and travels 13,000 miles per year. The full coverage with a $500 deductible includes liability limits of $100,000 in injuries per person, $300,000 per accident, and $50,000 in property damage.

Here are the 10 most affordable 2017 all-electric vehicles to insure:

Tesla Model 3

(Photo: tesla.com video screenshot)

10. Tesla Model 3

Tesla has characterized the Model 3 as its inroad to

mass-market drivers — the base model, before options or incentives, at $35,000, will be roughly half the price of the company’s cheapest Model S, according to Bloomberg.

Related: Choosing a plug-in electric car

A blue and black 2017 BMW i3

(Photo: bmwblog.com)

8. BMW i3 (tie)


The new BMW i3 received the inaugural 2017 World Urban Car award at the New York International Auto Show, in April.

Related: Best eco-friendly cars for Earth Day 2017

A white 2017 Hyundai Ioniq electric vehicle

The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq electric vehicle is shown at the New York International Auto Show, Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

8. Hyundai IONIQ Electric (tie)

The Ioniq Electric is EPA-rated at 124 miles of range from the 28-kwh battery pack that powers an 88-kilowatt (118-horsepower) electric motor.

Related: The best cars for senior drivers in 2017

Red 2017 Ford Focus electric car

(Photo: ford.com)

7. Ford Focus Electric

The Ford Focus Electric is now in its sixth model year, although it’s still sold in limited numbers and only in certain regions of the U.S. This 5-door hatchback is currently the only full battery-electric vehicle (EV) sold by Ford, as noted by CarGurus.

Related: 10 things you don’t know about electric vehicles

white 2017 Mitsubishi i-Miev

(Photo: mitsubishi-motors.com)

6. Mitsubishi i-MiEV

With a base price of less than $24,000, the i-MiEV is the least expensive electric car available in the U.S., according to Kelley Blue Book.

Related: 5 reasons why auto accidents are on the rise

2017 white & green Smart ForTwo Electric Drive car

(Photo: smartusa.com)

5. Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

The 2017 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Cabriolet is actually the only convertible EV on the market.

The ForTwo battery is 17.6 kWh, and range is up from 68 miles to between 70 and 80. It now has a faster on-board charger, so it takes only about 3 hours to bring the battery from empty to full — twice as fast as it was before, notes CNET.

Related: Shocked! The dangers of electric vehicle charging stations

A white 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf electric car

The 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf is shown during the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

4. Volkswagen e-Golf

Now in its third year, the 2017 Volkswagen e-Golf is the first and so far only all-electric VW offered in the U.S. and Canada. The 2017 e-Golf’s range is substantially improved over previous versions. This year, VW says the e-Golf will travel up top 124 miles on a charge, according to The Car Connection.

The VW e-Golf has launched only in 10 Northeast and West Coast states, although the company says it will expand distribution in future.

Related: 20 best cars for the money in 2017

2017 Nissan Leaf electric car

(Photo: nissanusa.com)

3. Nissan Leaf

The Leaf arrives into the 2017 model year all but unchanged as Nissan prepares a redesigned second-generation model for launch at some future date, according to Green Car Reports.

With the 30-kWh pack, the Leaf gets an EPA-rated 107 miles of range. A full charge from a 240-volt Level 2 AC sources takes around 7 hours with the 3.6-kW charger, and around 6 hours with the 6.6-kW charger, according to Nissan.

Related: 20 best car insurance companies of 2016 ranked by consumers

2017 Kia Soul EV electric car

(Photo: kia.com)

2. Kia Soul EV

The 2017 Kia Soul EV offers more space for people and cargo than many other small battery-electric cars, but you can only buy it in limited regions.

The range for a fully charged Soul EV is 93 miles.

Related: 10 states with the worst drivers

2017 Fiat 500e electric car

(Photo: fiatusa.com)

1. Fiat 500e

The 500e is unchanged for 2017. The 500e is powered by an 83kW electric motor with a single-speed transmission that provides a range of 87 miles, according to Autoblog.

Original Article