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

January 2004

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Outfitting the Modern Garage

The American garage has changed considerably in the past 100 years as the automobile has become an ever larger factor in our lives. At the turn of the last century, a carriage house was rare. If one existed on your property, it was not attached to the main house and it was simply a smaller version of a barn. At the turn of this century, the garage has emerged as our personal entry point into our house, the storage spot for garden tools and sports equipment, and some of us even park our cars there. That can make it a cluttered and even dangerous place.

Take Away That Toggle Switch

If you're like most homeowners, when you walk into a dark room, you reach for the light switch and turn it on. That's so 20th century. Increasingly, homes are being outfitted with advanced lighting controls. At the top end, there are systems that can automatically illuminate areas, to varying degrees, indoors and out, based on time of day or the homeowner's wishes. The most sophisticated systems turn off lights when no one is in a room, or can be activated remotely from a cell phone, for instance. You can control audio systems, heating and air conditioning, too.

Soak Yourself in Hot Water

Water therapy has long been a part of our collective culture -- from Roman baths to Finnish saunas to geothermal mineral soaks in Iceland. However, what used to be a communal experience is today often practiced at home, transforming many a simple bathroom into a personal health spa retreat. Restorative and therapeutic benefits are often attributed to cleansing the body through long soaks, circulating water and steam.

Smart Windows

Forget miniblinds, verticals, curtains and shades. If you want privacy in your bathroom, you might want to consider getting SPD-Smart Windows. These windows have a small electric current passing through the glass. When the electricity is off, the window is dark; turn on the juice, and the window becomes clear. Several window manufacturers have licensed this technology, including SPD Systems, Razor's Edge Technologies, ThermoView, Cricursa and Traco.

Understanding Plant Growth

Most plants rest - go into dormancy - for part of the year. When a plant rests, it stops blooming and producing new leaves and shoots, and its color may look a little faded. During this time, cut back on watering so the soil is just marely moist, and do not fertalize. When you see signs of new growth in a month or two, gradualy increase watering and resume feeding.

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