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

March 2002

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Windows That Work

Paying attention to details can save you energy, hassles and money. When it comes to buying windows, we can be awfully shallow. Whether for a new home or a remodeling project, we usually select our windows - casement, awning, double-hung or fixed glass - for their looks, not because they provide a tighter seal or the best natural ventilation. Convenience is important, too, as demonstrated by the fact that an entire industry has been built around the tilt-out window that allows us to clean the glass without climbing a ladder.

Water Without Worry

Is my water safe to drink? It seems like a simple question but finding the answer may not be. The EPA regulates more than a hundred chemical contaminants that can be found in public drinking water. Some naturally occurring and some man-made, these contaminants range from immediate health threats to some that will cause harm only after long exposure. If you're on a well or a private water system, testing your water is a prudent thing to do. But with so many potential threats out there, where do you begin?

Trouble On the Line

The only tools you need to troubleshoot your home telephones are a screwdriver and an inexpensive telephone with a modular line cord. That's right - the best piece of electronic test gear for chasing down a dead-phone gremlin is a spare $10 discount-store phone. That's essentially what the phone company repairman uses. First, however, you need a few telephone wiring basics. The telephone plugs into a modular wall jack, either along a baseboard or in a wall coverplate. The line cord has a universal modular jack (plug) at both ends, so that it is replaceable.

Getting the Right Gutters

With his foundation cracked and moving at glacial speed inward, my neighbor called for help. Over the phone he said he also suspected the sill was rotten. Could I come over and take a look? Is this rotting sill and cracking foundation on the north side of the house, or on a side of the house with lots of shrubs close to the wall? I asked. Yes, he said. Both. And are there any gutters on that side of the house? No, he said, sounding increasingly puzzled. And did you remove the gutters because someone told you they were creating ice dams and making your roof leak? How do you know all that?

In Defense of the Old

A preservationist makes the case for saving old windows when possible. Thousands of wood windows are ripped out of this country's older homes each year and hauled to the dump. This astonishing loss is due in large part to the fact that few people know how to care for existing wood windows. Even if your home is not historic, it can make practical and economical sense to care for your fine old windows rather than replacing them. In my work of restoring older and historic homes, I have discovered why it is so difficult to find someone to maintain or repair wood windows.

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