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

January 2002

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The Roofing Revolution

Few parts of your house are exposed to the elements as completely as the roof. The roof has to rise above anything the sky throws at it - rain, snow, hail, ultraviolet radiation. Its surface suffers the extremes of temperature, in many places reaching 120° F in the summer sun and falling well below zero in the winter. And after it contends with those challenges, we still expect the roof to shed water and keep the structure snug and dry. It's no wonder a new roof is often one of the first major maintenance projects that homes require.

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?

The Facts About Mold

Q. What is mold, and where is it found? A. Mold is everywhere. There are more than 100,000 species of mold, and at least 1,000 of those species are common in the United States. Some of the most common are species of cladosporium, penicillium and aspergillus. Mold is most likely to grow where there is water or dampness, such as in bathrooms and basements. Q. How can mold affect your health? A. Most types of mold that are routinely encountered are not hazardous to healthy individuals. However, too much exposure to mold may cause or worsen conditions such as asthma, hay fever or other allergies.

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.

If Power Fails, UPS Delivers

You don't have to live in California to worry about electrical power. All over the United States, power authorities are straining against high consumer demand. Brownout conditions or unannounced outages may become more frequent in many locales. Why are computers so susceptible to sudden power loss? Most of the components in a computer are solid-state and unaffected by power dropouts. But the hard-disk drive is the Achilles heel of your computer system.

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