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

September 2002

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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.

Green Building: A Consumer Status Report

Homebuilders are gradually constructing more environmentally friendly homes around the United States, but deeper-green environmental building is still slow to emerge. One sure way builders will include more environmentally friendly features is by informed consumers asking for them more frequently. According to interviews we conducted, homebuilders are not yet reporting increased consumer demand for aggressive green-building approaches, but they are responding to energy efficiency, health (mold resistance) and low-maintenance needs.

Turning Yard Waste Into Garden Gold

Composting crusaders have just about given up on persuading the rest of us that when we get to heaven, there'll be a compost pile just inside the Pearly Gates. These days they're preaching a less evangelistic message. "I just want people to know two things,€ says Rachel Solomon, who runs the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Urban Composting program. "It's easy, and it doesn't stink.€

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