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

March 2004

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Let It Shine

Unlike sunlight that blankets everything in its path, landscape lighting can provide islands of light and shadow that highlight selected areas, including trees, shrubs, flower beds, walkways and other elements of your yard and grounds. In addition to increasing curb appeal, illuminating your home's exterior extends the usability of many areas for you and your family to enjoy safely. A deck or patio that is a terrific place for breakfast or lunch can also be a great place to dine, entertain or just plain relax after sunset, with the appropriate lighting.

Play it Safe

Whether it's two swings and a slide or an elaborate structure of climbing bars, tunnels and a pint-size rocket ship, the backyard play area is the ideal place for kids to stretch their legs and their imaginations. But before you send your children outside, you should consider some safety factors to help keep play time pain free. Not Just a Scraped Knee You might think your backyard is safer than the local community playground, but the numbers don't agree. An August 2001 press release from the U.S.

Installing Insulation

In the previous installment we reviewed how to determine the optimum amount of insulation, considering the nature of the construction, the fuel type and the climate. In this installment we will consider a building™s thermal envelope, the type of insulation appropriate to each surface, and how to install it properly. The Thermal Envelope Building scientists define a building™s thermal envelope as the collection of building surfaces (walls, floors, ceilings, etc.) that separate the conditioned (heated and/or cooled) spaces from the outdoors.

Sticky Business

When I was growing up, the only glues I used were model glue and various brands of white paper glue. Even the local hardware store only stocked two or three types of adhesives. Now when you walk through your hardware store you are faced with a daunting array of glues and adhesives for every possible application. The problem, as with any large menu, is how do you know which is the right one? Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a miracle adhesive that will work with all types of materials. As with many other homeowner decisions, you need to understand the basics.

How to Boil Water

Astute readers (you know who you are) might think this is a Dave Barry column. Well, although both amazing and entertaining, it isn't one of his. It is my attempt to save the gazillions of BTUs Americans waste every year when they boil water. While you may now think this is a blonde joke, it is actually a very serious matter adversely affecting our national security. Assuming all 100 million U.S. households use the same water-boiling techniques as my spousal equivalent, Barbara, the exact amount of wasted energy is 1.05 x 1015 BTU, which equates to 178 million barrels of oil annually.

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