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.

Balancing Your Heating and Cooling

An important part of any forced-air comfort conditioning system is balancing it so that the distribution of heated or cooled air is proportionate to the loss or gain of each room. The ductwork may feed a dozen rooms in your house, all of varying sizes. Exposures differ, too - a sunny, south-facing room will require different levels of heating and cooling than one on the north side of the house. Getting a consistent temperature is even more complex in an older home with only one or two temperature-control zones.

Sprinklers Find a Following

Depending on where you live, the new home you build may require a feature that most people have never thought to include before: a fire-protection sprinkler system. These cousins of the systems found in commercial and institutional buildings are steadily making their way into new construction and some older homes as well, thanks in large part to local ordinances that mandate sprinkler systems in new construction or in major renovations.

History Under Foot

When antique dealers Mark and Elen Grove built a new timber-frame house outside Charlottesville, Va., last year, they sought the best building materials they could find. Fir for the house's frame, for example, was cut in the Pacific Northwest and shipped to a mill in New Hampshire for processing. When it came to flooring, the couple settled on century-old longleaf pine salvaged from a Worcester, Mass., distillery and re-milled into random-width flooring.

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.

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