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

May 2002

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Maintaining Your Cool

Whether you™ve got a room air conditioner or a central air conditioner, you™ve got one of the luxuries of modern life, now almost taken for granted. But you don™t take it for granted when it doesn™t work. With the cooling season here, there are steps homeowners can take to help keep their AC up and running. Moreover, performing this simple maintenance can help lower your electricity bills. Your air conditioner is a mechanical system, like a car. It likewise needs regular maintenance.

On Deck: Composites

Decks are an important part of our homes and lifestyles. As transition areas between the inside of the house and the yard, they can provide space to entertain or just a pleasant spot to drink a cool one on a summer evening. Estimates put the number of residential decks in the United States at more than 30 million. And about 3.2 million new wood decks, porches, verandas and balconies are built every year" either as part of a new home, an addition to an existing home, or a replacement for older installation.

5 New Home Trends

From its framing to its appliances, the American home is being reinvented. Here are five trends to watch. The revenge of the building scientist may be at hand. Plying a complex trade, these experts on the inner workings of the American home have never had much luck in getting the public at large excited about what they do, but James and Delores Williams could help change that. The Atlanta couple will spend only about $300 a year to heat and cool their new house.

A Household 'Fuel Gauge'

Home automation systems can sometimes seem a bit, well, superfluous. It's nice to be able to control lights all over the house or pre-program the heat, but is it really all that useful? Smart Systems Technologies has developed an automation system that it insists really is useful. Its Em-Power system does all the things you'd expect, like controlling lighting and HVAC and home security, all by transmitting signals over the home's power lines.

Plastering: An Old Skill's Comeback

The word "plaster" conjures up images of old, ornate homes, the kind with thick walls, Victorian furniture and perhaps a few Gothic columns out front. Drywall, of course, is the material of choice in most homes built over the past few decades. By and large, it is a fine product that is affordable and easy to install. But that doesn't mean that plaster is dead. Nowadays, a growing number of people are turning to veneer plaster - sometimes called thin-coat plaster - for construction in their new homes, room additions and renovations.

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