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

March 2002

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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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