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

September 2001

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Dark Times for Deregulation

Lighting up California's suburban sprawl: Deregulation was supposed to save ratepayers millions of dollars but wound up causing power shortages and disruptions instead.California's energy fiasco has created an impression that electricity deregulation is a failed experiment, a debacle that produced nothing but out of control prices and rolling blackouts.

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.

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.

Hot Water Savings

Americans take hot water for granted, and we still heat it and consume it in fundamentally archaic ways. We burn non-renewable resources - natural gas, fuel oil, propane - to heat water. Incredibly, we then dump the warm waste water out of our buildings and into the environment - wasting at least 75 percent of the water's heat, much of which could be recovered simply and affordably. But it doesn't have to be that way. There are practical and cost-effective strategies available that can provide plenty of hot water, save energy and help the environment all at the same time.

Replacing Your Water Heater Element

Changing a water heater element is easy. Shown here is a screw-in element. If your water heater suddenly produces less hot water - and you haven't added a teenager to the household - you've probably burned out one of its heater elements. But don't worry. Unless the tank is leaking, it isn't dead.

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