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

September 2002

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Electronic Caretakers

Imagine arriving at your ski house one Friday night to discover that the furnace had failed during the week, causing the pipes to freeze and burst, resulting in thousands - maybe even tens of thousands - of dollars in damage. This grim scenario illustrates the unique risks facing second homes or vacation homes that sit unoccupied for weeks or even months at a time. With the combined threat from weather, burglary, fire and water, even minor events can become acute problems when left undetected and unrepaired.

How To Read Your Appliances

Since 1980, all appliances sold in the United States have been required by the Federal Trade Commission to carry an Energy Guide label. The original intent of this label was to inform consumers of just how energy efficient -or inefficient - their white goods (refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, etc.), heating and cooling equipment, and water heaters are in use.

What's Out There and Where To Find It

Currently, there are numerous green building programs operating in the United States. Additional information is available for each one on their websites. In the near term, lacking national guidelines for green homes, these programs represent an opportunity to look under the hood and see what green builders are doing to prepare for the next phase of the market. In general, most of the programs appear to evolve from the Austin Energy Green Building Program developed in the 1980s.

Gardening in a Drought

When a man who invented the process that enables peanut butter to spread smoothly decided to invent something to alleviate water scarcity, people around him probably wondered what in the world he would come up with. Well, he came up with something called DriWater. In 1987, former Skippy Peanut Butter Company food chemist Lee Avera developed a product that would soon be used commercially in agriculture, landscaping, erosion control, highway revegetation, reforestation and mine reclamation around the world.

The Ins and Outs of Reverse Mortgages

If you or a loved one own a home but are strapped for cash, i.e., house-rich but cash-poor, a reverse mortgage may be just what the doctor ordered. Until fairly recently, there were only two ways to get cash from your home - you could sell your home and move, or you could borrow against your home and make monthly loan repayments. Now there is a third alternative called a reverse mortgage, and it is another way to draw cash from your home - without selling it or making regular loan repayments.

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