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

March 2002

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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?

Home Q&A: Likely Roof Leaks

QUESTION: During a recent trip to my attic, I found evidence that I have a leak in my roof. Can I fix a leaking asphalt roof myself? ANSWER:With a little time and patience, most roof leaks can be tracked down and patched. The first step is assessing the entire roof before you begin patching. A roof truly in need of re-shingling will thwart most attempts at patch jobs. Typically, asphalt roof shingles at the end of their lives will curl up and/or bubble. Also, the granules on a defunct shingle's surface will be nearly gone, and pieces of shingle or entire shingles will be missing.

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.

Access and Power

Regardless of its other qualities, a plot of land is not a building site unless you can get there in all seasons and it can be provided with electricity. While there are people who live happily on remote islands and six miles into the woods, we will restrict ourselves here to sites you can access by ordinary two-wheel-drive vehicles and those that have electricity service from the utility company. ACCESS We generally look for land during fine weather, when the earth is dry and free of frost.

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.

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