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

May 2002

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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.

In Search of What's Solid

In the old days, I wished I was from Krypton. Then, like Superman of DC Comics fame, I'd have no trouble hanging some shelves or relocating a sink or adding a new electrical outlet. I could simply use my X-ray vision to see what was behind the wall and finish the job as if it had been an original installation. There would be no patched plaster, hidden wallboard holes, slightly unmatched paint or other embarrassments. Lacking superpowers of any description, I was usually reduced to more pedestrian ways of making the critical discovery of the location of solid objects behind walls.

What Lies Beneath

There's a time bomb in your basement, and you probably don't even know it. Down there with your furnace and tools are hazardous products for cleaning, painting, lubricating, disinfecting and scores of other uses. When used and stored properly, these household products are perfectly safe. But when it comes time to get rid of the quarter can of paint you've had for 10 years, the rat poison, the furniture polish or even mothballs that have been around longer than you can remember, these products can become downright dangerous.

Water and Sewage

In the last issue, we discussed getting access (road or driveway) and electricity to a building site. In most states a plot of land is not considered buildable - you won't be allowed a building permit - unless it is served by a sewer line or the soil is acceptable for on-site sewage disposal. This brings us to the remaining site services: water and sewage. WATER If you buy bottled water, you've seen distilled water on the shelves as well. The process of distillation - evaporation followed by condensation - removes all impurities from water, making it pure and nearly tasteless.

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.

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