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

May 2002

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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.

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.

Where There's Fire...

Pity the homeowner who tries to sort out the facts about unvented gas heaters. Unvented fireplaces have become popular over the past two decades because they are designed to be installed anywhere in a home without being vented outside. Homeowners find that flexibility and simplicity hard to pass up. Yet as their popularity has built, so has opposition. Critics say unvented heaters are potentially dangerous - a source of indoor carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and damaging moisture.

The Mysteries of Switches

Multiple-switch circuits can be mysterious things. Controlling a light from both the top and bottom of a stairway is accepted without question. Even controlling a single light from three, four or more locations is considered unremarkable by most homeowners. But how many of us understand how this is accomplished? Could you troubleshoot or replace one of the multiple switches in such a circuit? Understanding how three- and four-way switches work will allow you to design complex lighting circuits, as well as repair them when they go bad.

Whole-House HEPA

Indoor air quality is a hot topic these days. Asthma and allergies seem to be epidemic - a reflection, some experts say, of building practices that are producing tighter, and therefore more polluted, houses. Broan-NuTone is targeting the problem with its GuardianPlus whole-house HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filtration system. Guardian Plus units are lightweight and small enough to install in tight spots like utility rooms or closets, can be fitted to either new or existing forced-air systems, and can handle up to 2,500 square feet of living space.

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