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

September 2001

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Laser Levels: A Winning Lineup

Back in the 1990s, those carefree days when the stock market could only go up, the demand for laser diodes soared as well. These tiny, light-emitting devices were at the heart of every CD player ever made, and we were making millions of them.

Is Your Garage Making You Sick?

The time was when garages, mimicking the stables of earlier years, were built separate from the house. That changed after World War II, when architects began including garages in the house structure. Attached garages make life a little more convenient for homeowners, but they also have an unwelcome effect: They can, and frequently do, pose a health hazard for the home's occupants. A recent study in Anchorage, Alaska, found that attached garages readily leak or funnel airborne pollutants, most notably carbon monoxide (CO) from idling cars, into adjacent living quarters.

A Power Plant Of Your Own

Fuel cell technology - the centerpiece of what's known as distributed generation - is hot these days. Manufacturers are rushing units to market that will allow individual homeowners or neighborhoods to generate their own electricity directly from natural gas or propane, in effect creating decentralized mini-grids. Fuel cells were invented in the 1830s, but they didn't enter the public consciousness until the 1960s, when they were used to power spacecraft.

A Natural Herbicide's Humble Roots

Corn gluten meal has gone from byproduct to wonder product. Researchers at Iowa State University in the 1980s were studying how effective a corn byproduct would be as a fertilizer. In the process, they realized the product acted not only as a growth stimulator, but also as a weed inhibitor. The result was a natural weed-and-feed product that gives homeowners a chemical-free way to feed their turf and kill weeds, such as crabgrass, dandelions, pigweed and plantain, before they take root.

Remodeling With the Sun

The solarium addition opened the house to the outdoors, and in the process made the kitchen a wonderful place to dawdle any time of the year.Even a house with a tried-and-true kitchen design can use a little remodeling to supercharge efficiency.

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