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

January 2002

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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.

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.

Pool Owners Warming To Solar

The fastest-growing market for solar water systems is swimming pools. Last year, about 95 percent of the square footage of all solar collectors shipped to U.S. markets were for swimming pools. And there are good reasons why the number is that high. Solar heating systems for swimming pools can be very cost-effective. A recent analysis of such systems for pools in Florida found that homeowners generally recoup their investment in 1.5 to seven years. A system typically costs from $2,000 to $4,000 installed.

From The Ground Up: A Just-Right Site

In the last issue, we discussed the ways in which human comfort is affected by four environmental variables: air temperature, relative humidity, radiation and air movement. For starters we looked at the large-scale (macro) climatic maps of these variables published by the National Climatic Data Center. I advised studying the maps while imagining your favorite outdoor activities, whether swimming, golfing, bird watching or ice fishing. Doing so will give you a general sense of where in the country you would be most comfortable.

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.

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