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

January 2004

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Fireplace Fix: Gas Inserts Are Hot

Fireplaces top many homeowners™ wish lists, but reality rarely matches the romance. In fact, a recent survey by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association found that most people who have a fireplace don™t use it. Why the chilly reception? During conventional, or open, fireplace operation, warm air gets sucked out of the house and up the chimney. Meanwhile, in come cold drafts -- more work for your furnace. Older masonry fireplaces reach 10 percent fuel efficiency at best, and only when they are in operation!

Bringing Your Spirit Home

You've heard the clich, Home is where the heart is. More appropriately, home is where the spirit is. Enter the latest trend in home amenities meditation rooms, devotional sanctuaries or prayer rooms, a move fueled by the restless times just outside our front doors. Bringing spirituality into the home is not a new concept. Religious followers have built shrines and meditation corners in their homes for centuries. Not limited to eastern religions, Catholic, orthodox Christian, and Native American cultures have practiced similar customs for centuries.

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.

Green Building Products

Top 10 Green Building Products BuildingGreen Inc. (http://www.buildinggreen.com), the publisher of Environmental Building News and the GreenSpec product directory recently announced its top 10 new green building products. EBN's editors, using criteria developed over the last 12 years, selected these top products from among the 1,750-plus listings in the directory. Material selection is a key aspect of green building, says Alex Wilson, executive editor.

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.

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