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

September 2002

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Uninvited Guests Eating You Out of House and Home?

Carpenter ants and termites are wood-destroying insects that cost us billions of dollars every year. More than 90 percent of the homes in the United States are wood framed. But even homes built of masonry and steel serve up delicious wood treats to these pests. Left unchecked, they systematically destroy our homes and valuable wood objects in them. Termites pose a considerable economic threat to wood structures. As a nation, we spend two-thirds of our annual pest-control budget on termites.

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.

Time-of-use Pricing

When the temperature in the Florida panhandle steams into the 90s and air-conditioners thirst for electricity, Gulf Power strains to keep up. On the hottest midsummer afternoons, the system can hit critical - the point at which all of Gulf Power's generating resources are put online to meet the swelling demand. While most of the Pensacola utility's 300,000 residential customers pay a fixed rate of about 6 cents per kilowatt-hour - no matter how limited the supply - a fraction of them fork over a staggering 29 cents per kWh during periods of peak usage. And they do it willingly.

Home Energy Audits

Throughout your house, air is escaping out of every hole, crack, gap, nook and cranny. It's leaking through floors, walls, ceilings and windows. It's seeping out of ductwork, fireplaces, vents and even electrical outlets. It's making you uncomfortable - it might even be making you sick - and it's definitely costing you money. The energy wasted through poorly insulated windows and doors alone is equivalent to what we get from the Alaskan pipeline each year, according to the Department of Energy. But it doesn't have to be that way.

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.

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