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

March 2004

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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.

Calling a Truce With Weeds

Ever since the first plant was grown for food or beauty, the first gardener cursed neighboring plants -- weeds. A weed is any plant in the wrong place. Tomato seedlings popping up in the garden from last year's fallen fruit might be considered weeds. Goldenrod, often considered a weed in America, stands proudly in British flower gardens. We gardeners have to come to terms with weeds -- understanding the harm they do, as well as recognizing their benefits -- then keep them sufficiently in check.

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.

CRITICAL FACTORS IN CHOOSING GLUES

Toxicity Use glues with caution. Most have some precautions regarding chemical toxicity from inhalation, ingestion and absorption through the skin. Make sure you read the label and try to use the least-toxic glue for the job. Dry/cure time The manufacturer should tell you the setup time. However, there are external factors that may affect this time, including temperature (the colder, the longer to dry), humidity (dryer is better) and the amount of glue (PVAs and cyanoacrylates take longer the more you use, while epoxies set up faster in larger amounts).

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.

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