Innovative solutions for creating healthy, efficient, eco-friendly homes

January 2002

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Preserving Without Peril

When I go into my local building supply store to buy lumber, the first thing I'm asked is whether I want "white wood" or "green-treated." Over the last few years, my home projects have been a deck, a privacy fence for the back yard and low retaining walls in my garden. For these projects, I want the wood to last a long time, so I've bought green-treated lumber. But in recent years, this widely used product - also known as pressure-treated, or PT, lumber - has come under fire. Many people are concerned about its health effects, especially on children. Is the threat real?

Home Q&A - Rotating Ball Faucet

Question: The rotating ball faucet in our master bathroom has developed a stubborn leak. The faucet seems to be in fine shape otherwise; it matches the rest of our single-lever plumbing fixtures, and to be totally honest - I don't feel like replacing the entire faucet just yet. Can you tell me how to repair it so I can get a few more years out of it? Answer: The first thing to try with any leaking rotating ball faucet is to tighten the cap, which is just under the handle and usually has a band of ridges on it much like the ridges on the edge of a quarter.

Busting Your Shop Dust

Using modern power tools to cut, shape and sand wood, you can create useful and beautiful projects. You'll also create wood dust - probably lots of it. Ranging in size from the relatively large wood chips that might shoot out the back of a thickness planer to fine dust from sanding (with some particles smaller than one micron), this dust is more than a just a nuisance - it's downright dangerous. The dangers of wood dust in the shop come on two basic fronts: health hazards and fire risks.

The Energy Below

Imagine finding free energy on your property, so much of it that you'd never run out no matter how much you ran your furnace and air conditioner. Now for a surprise: There's a bonanza like that beneath your home right now, courtesy of the sun and the earth's massive ability to store heat. It's called geothermal energy, and it can be pumped out of the ground almost anywhere in the country by anyone willing to spend a relatively small amount of money to do it. The real surprise is that so few Americans go to the trouble.

The Multi-talented Multimeter

To troubleshoot household, appliance or automotive wiring, you can buy all sorts of devices: receptacle analyzers, continuity testers, circuit finders and voltage testers. Or you can buy a multimeter. These multi-talented little devices are widely available for as little as $20 in both analog (swinging needle) and digital form. Even if you prefer your clocks to have hands, get the digital version of the multimeter. It is more accurate and more rugged. There are about as many uses for a multimeter as there are devices in a home.

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