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

July 2002

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The New Look of Laminate Floors

Hardwood, tile, vinyl, carpet. Marble, stone, bamboo, rugs. Does the number of choices have you floored? Over the past few years, another option has gained ground. An increasing number of Americans are choosing laminate for their floors, an option that's been in the United States for less than 10 years. Laminate, or engineered, flooring is durable, easier to install and maintain than other floor coverings, simple to replace and, at $2 to $5 a square foot, costs less than many other surfaces.

A Modular-Housing Checklist

In a nutshell, modular housing compares favorably with ordinary "stick-built" structures erected on site. In six key categories, here's how the two methods stack up: Initial Price: Modular house prices are generally less expensive than site-built, coming in 5 to 20 percent less for the same structure. The difference usually depends on local labor and materials costs for site-built. Design Variety: In wood-framed structures, modular should be able to match anything a designer for site-built homes can come up with.

When the Water Runs Low

Water is a resource we often take for granted - until there is a drought. About 80 percent of Earth's surface is covered with water in some form, yet only 1 percent is fresh water that we can easily use. The rest is either saltwater or water frozen in glaciers. For most of us, water is as close as the nearest sink or toilet. It always seems to be there when we turn on the tap. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Throughout history, there have been cyclical patterns of too much or too little rain.

The Lowdown on High-Definition TV

If you want the best picture money can buy, high-definition television (HDTV) offers jaw-dropping clarity. But when you start making decisions about which set to buy, that picture looks muddy. As with any new technology, the prices are falling - they already dropped about 40 percent over the last three years, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, and are likely to fall further. And the bells and whistles are becoming more sophisticated as competition increases. So there's a lot to be said for waiting.

How Heat Moves

Insulation's primary job is to resist the conduction of heat: The more resistance, the higher the R-value. But this skill comes at a price because heat transfer (and therefore energy loss) happens not just through conduction but also through convection and radiation. A low-density, high-R insulation like fiberglass minimizes conduction but by itself doesn't present much of a barrier to air movement (convection), while some sprayed foam does both.

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