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

July 2002

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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.

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.

Living With a Tight House

Today's energy-efficient wood-frame houses are the most expensive, the most comfortable, and very likely the least durable residential structures ever built in the United States. Over the past 20 years, moisture-caused problems in new houses have skyrocketed. Homeowners complain increasingly of window condensation and mold indoors; of mildew, staining and peeling of exterior coatings; and of rot in windows, doors, trim, siding, sheathing and framing, all within a few years of construction.

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.

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.

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