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

January 2002

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Solar Water Heating, Reborn

Back in the mid-1970s, my father had a solar water-heating system installed on our house in Memphis, Tenn. The neighbors thought we were "with it," but like so many solar water systems back then, the equipment was unreliable. We ended up with little more than a flashy piece of junk on our roof. Solar has come a long way since then. These days, solar water heating is a well-established, highly effective technology that can be used virtually anywhere in the country. Sure, solar water systems can be expensive to buy and install, but they have a number of benefits: They don't pollute.

Mastery Over Mold

For homeowners, mold is a four-letter word. Mold is ugly. Mold can make you sick - really sick. It can damage your carpets, sofas, cabinets and other furnishings. Over time it can rot wood, drywall, ceiling tiles and other structural components of your house. But homeowners don't have to be held captive by the mold that grows in their basements, on their bathroom floors or behind their walls.You can learn how to identify it and get rid of it. Mold has received a lot of attention lately.

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.

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 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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