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

September 2003

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Your Tap Water: Fit or Failing

A recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council graded the municipal drinking-water supplies of 19 major U.S. cities, and they were found to be lacking. While none of the cities failed outright, only Chicago earned a rating of excellent, and that was in only one of three categories tested.

Making New Paint From Old By Recycling

Try this exercise: Go to your basement and inspect every can of old paint you have. Estimate how much is left in each, then add it all up. How much do you have? Five gallons? Ten? You may not use all that paint yourself, but it doesn't have to stay there or be thrown away. Whether the paint is oil-based or latex, someone in your community could have a use for it. Check with your local government or recycling center; many sponsor programs that collect paint for use by others. If that's not the case in your area, simply ask your friends, colleagues or neighbors if they have any use for it.

Not the Time to Fall Behind

  Freeze-proof faucets are self-draining -- as long as no hose is attached to them. Traditional faucets require removal of the hose and closing the valve inside the house to prevent bursting.

From the Ground Up: Sizing Joists and Rafters

In the last issue we considered the multiple functions of a building frame. We discussed the role of each framing member in supporting the loads imposed on and within the building, but we stopped short of determining sizes. In this issue we hope to give you some insight into how engineers calculate the sizes of beams (specifically joists and rafters) required to support specified loads. As a practical matter, of course, builders-and even architects-rarely calculate the sizes of joists and rafters. So we will also leave you with some of the precalculated tables they rely upon.

The Home RF Alternative

You may have heard of another wireless networking technology called HomeRF. HomeRF uses the 2.4-GHz band just like Wi-Fi, but the standard is squarely aimed at the home and has had a slow start due to late approval from the FCC for a faster version that closely matches Wi-Fi's speed. Wi-Fi has built up momentum due to a rapid drop in price during 2001. Prices fell for most equipment by 50 to 70 percent, while HomeRF's fast version just started appearing in electronics stores last summer. If you expect to use a laptop or other portable device, Wi-Fi is the only way to go.

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