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

September 2002

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A Refined Floor Plan

In the previous installment, we documented the needs of a family of four through an activity analysis. The analysis resulted in a list of the family's activities that required space, approximate size of each space in square feet, preferred orientation of the space (activity) relative to the position of the sun at the time of the activity, and degree of privacy appropriate to the activity. We then cut out oval bubbles proportional in size to the area of each activity space.

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.

Safety Notes

Woodburner Installation: Before burning wood in any wood stove or fireplace, have local officials inspect the installation for clearances. A wood stove placed too near a wooden wall or mantel can heat it enough to ignite it. Chimney Cleaning: Be sure your chimney flue is cleaned properly after each burning season. With the right equipment, you can clean your own chimney. Most people hire chimney cleaners, who for $50 to $75 will brush and vacuum the flue and issue you a cleaning certificate.

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