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.

Tapping Your Home's Value

Using a home-equity credit line to borrow against the equity in your home has become a popular source of consumer credit. Depending on your creditworthiness and the amount of your outstanding debt, home-equity lenders may let you borrow up to 85 percent of the appraised value of your home, less what you still owe on your first mortgage. The interest rate on a home-equity loan tends to be lower than credit cards and personal loans because your home is collateral for the loan. The interest is also a tax deduction in most circumstances.

Tools for Creating Your Perfect Space

Most of us spend considerable time and money shopping for clothes to perfectly fit our various shapes, yet we live in ill-fitting, cookie-cutter houses designed for the mythical average family. We acknowledge food, clothing and shelter as the basic necessities of life, but we give shelter short shrift. We say, and act as if we believe, that "clothes make the man" and that "we are what we eat," yet live in what amount to motel rooms with long-term leases. To the extent that each of us is different - that the ways we spend our lives are different - we need spaces that fit our needs.

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.

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.

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