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

March 2002

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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.

Finding A Lab

You should use a local lab to test for any issues you have concerns about. Do not rely on the results of any in-the-home test by a company trying to sell water treatment. Check the Yellow Pages under Water Testing for a lab. Ask the lab what they are certified to test for and who issued the certification. They should be certified by your state of residency, though some states recognize certification from independent companies. Many labs are only certified to test bacteria, nitrates and nitrites.

Saving Energy by the Numbers

You're already a thoughtful, energy-conscious homeowner. You've done smart things, such as installing compact fluorescent bulbs and wrapping your hot water tank. But with the average home energy bill topping out at around $1,300 a year, you're probably looking for more ways to save energy and money without launching into major renovations. As it turns out, there are plenty of home energy flaws that aren't immediately obvious, but can be remedied simply.

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?

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.

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