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

March 2004

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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.

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.

Paint Like a Pro

When it comes to painting projects around the house, many Americans become consumed with selecting just the right hue, finding the perfect faux finish, and then starting the masking and taping. But experts say one of the most important ways to ensure a successful paint job is by using the proper brushes and rollers. Knowing what type of bristles to use, the proper brush size, how much nap your roller should have for a specific surface, and what effects varying qualities of brushes and rollers have on the painted surface are all key.

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.

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.

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