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.

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.

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.

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.

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