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

July 2002

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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 to Harness the Wind

Mankind has been harnessing the wind since learning to sail the Nile River thousands of years ago. From old Holland to the old American West, wind has been used for centuries to pump water, grind grain and sail the seas. Today, wind turbines are becoming an increasingly popular way to capture wind's power to generate electricity for our homes. Wind is a free renewable resource and is environmentally sound. It cushions the blow of volatile energy costs and can reduce utility bills - sometimes by more than 90 percent.

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.

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.

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.

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