Category: Major Systems

This Motion-Sensing Dimmer Fully Automates Your Lighting

Finally, a dimmer for all bulb types that automatically turns on for you when you enter a room. Now that's progress!

Motion Sensing Dimmer Switch from Lutron - Before


If you’ve bought new light bulbs anytime in the last few years, you know the selection has changed dramatically for the better, with traditional incandescents having been mostly replaced by newer CFLs and LEDs. The transition to more energy-efficient bulbs, however, has not been without its share of hiccups. For example, some people initially struggled to find a next-generation bulb whose output resembles the warm incandescent glow that had become so familiar over past decades. In addition, many homeowners discovered that their old dimmers were not compatible with the latest lighting. Industry leader Lutron has solved that problem by creating a line of cutting-edge dimmers specially designed for use with dimmable CFLs and LEDs. But the company didn’t stop there. With its Maestro C.L Dimmer Sensor, Lutron now offers a dimmer that’s even more fully featured and convenient for today’s homeowner. Leveraging innovative motion-sensor technology, the product actually turns the lights on and off for you, automating your home while saving you time and energy.

Motion Sensing Dimmer Switch from Lutron - Product Solo


Smooth, Reliable Operation
Though dimmers perform a seemingly straightforward role, they are in fact sophisticated electrical components whose proper functioning depends on a variety of factors. When a homeowner uses CFLs or LEDs in combination with a conventional dimmer, the two may work fine in concert, more or less, but the pairing isn’t UL-listed. That means it has not been determined to meet nationally recognized safety standards. Performance issues may also be evident, including:

dropout: when lights turn off before the slider on the dimmer reaches its lowest setting

pop-on: when lights do not turn on at a low level, abd the slider must be raised for the lights to turn on

flickering: when dimmed CFLs or LEDs flicker excessively or turn off when household devices turn on

Lutron eliminates these problems with the company’s advanced, patented technology that provides improved, safe dimmer performance with dimmable LEDs and CFLs. And though the Lutron C•L line works reliably with the latest bulbs, it also boasts compatibility with incandescents and halogens.

Motion-Sensing Technology
Besides smooth and reliable dimming, the Maestro Dimmer Sensor includes a motion sensor. By configuring the simple press-and-hold settings, you can set the dimmer to turn on the lights when you enter the room, turn off the lights when you exit, or both. For laundry rooms and storage rooms—spaces you are likely to enter with your arms full—automatic lighting provides a high level of convenience. You no longer need to set down your load, hit the light switch, and then carry on with what you were doing. The lights go on for you.

The Maestro Dimmer Sensor employs passive infrared technology (PIR) with Lutron’s XCT sensing technology to sense true human movement. It also uses patented technology to detect fine motion, such as turning a page. In tests comparing the performance of Maestro sensors with the sensors from three other major companies, researchers concluded the Maestro sensors were two to three times better at detecting fine motion. That level of precision helps to ensure that you’re not left in the dark when, for instance, you are working on the computer at night.

The Maestro can save even more energy by sensing the amount of ambient light in the room. When in “Ambient Light Detection” mode, the dimmer turns on the lights only if there’s not enough ambient light, whether from the windows or a table or floor lamp. You like even more light? Hit the switch and, over time, the sensor learns your preferred light level and adjusts.

Lastly, don’t worry about the Maestro compromising your decor. Sleek and unobtrusive, the dimmer comes in 27 colors to match or complement any scheme.

Motion Sensing Dimmer Switch from Lutron - After


This post has been brought to you by Lutron. Its facts and opinions are those of

Innovative Pipe Fittings Let You Be Your Own Plumber

No soldering, clamps, or glue? Read on to learn about DIY-friendly pipe fittings that make quick work of the improvements and repairs you used to hire a pro to handle.

Sharkbite Fittings


Quick-connect, push-fit plumbing has been taking a bite out of local plumbing trades, as homeowners discover the ease, versatility, and quality of SharkBite fittings. Their innovative design “allows anyone to connect copper, PVC, and PEX tubing—in any combination—in seconds,” says Daniel O’Brian, technical expert from online retailer For that reason, “SharkBite fittings are a homeowner’s best friend and the bane of plumbers everywhere.”

When you insert pipe into one of the corrosion-resistant, solid forged brass fittings offered by SharkBite, its stainless steel teeth bite down and grip tightly, while the specially engineered O-ring compresses to form a perfect seal. That means the homeowner can join pipe without soldering and without using clamps, unions, or glue. All you need to do is make sure the end of the pipe is cut square and stripped of rough edges. As O’Brian says, it’s “cut, push, done!”

Made a mistake? With SharkBite fittings, it’s easy to undo a measuring or installation error—something that cannot be said for soldered connections. Simply use the disassembly tool to press the release collar on the fitting. Doing so retracts the teeth within the grab ring, allowing the pipe to be removed. From there, you can reuse the fitting wherever you please. Another convenience: You can even rotate assembled SharkBite fittings for easier installation in tight places.

SharkBite Fittings - Section Diagram


In the average home, for the average do-it-yourselfer, there are any number of ways to capitalize on the convenience and dependability of SharkBite fittings. For instance, if a pipe freezes over the winter, small cracks may develop once it thaws. After turning off the water supply and flushing the system, you can remove the damaged section of pipe and re-establish the connection, quickly and easily, with a SharkBite coupling—and save yourself the cost of a plumber’s visit.

For all their benefits, SharkBite fittings do come at a premium price. They are ”significantly more expensive than some other options,” says O’Brian of But, he points out, working with SharkBite means you don’t have to purchase any special materials or tools—soldering paste, for instance, or a propane torch. So, if you are doing small repairs and improvements on a one-off or occasional basis, SharkBite fittings may be the wisest choice.

The SharkBite system includes couplings, elbows, tee fittings, ball valves, stop valves, male and female adapters, conversion couplings, fitting reducers, and an assortment of faucet, toilet, and water heater connectors, all geared toward simplifying additions to, or modifications of, potable water plumbing and hydronic heating systems. All SharkBite fittings are rated to accommodate pressures up to 200 pounds per square inch and temperatures up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. not only carries a large selection of SharkBite products, but has also put the fittings to the test—watch!


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Never Lose ANYTHING with Tile Tracking Tags

Don't lose your marbles over missing possessions! With the help of this small-but-mighty gadget, you can keep tabs on your keys, wallet, luggage, and other frequently mislaid items.

Tile Tracking Tags


A panicked frenzy over misplaced items as you’re rushing out the door—we’ve all been there, and the stressful search has the potential to derail an entire day. Thanks to apps like Find My iPhone and Android Device Manager, finding an errant phone isn’t a lost cause. But what happens when non-electronic possessions get lost in the shuffle—your keys, wallet, or even a pet? Enter Tile, a tracking tag that enables your smartphone to help you hunt down all your misplaced things.

Tile Tracking Tags - Keychain


As the name suggests, each Tile takes the shape of a white square chip, roughly the size of a half-dollar. You can affix one to nearly anything you’d ever want to locate. Slip a Tile onto a key ring using the handy hole punched in the top left corner, use adhesive to stick one onto the remote, or simply place a Tile into the pocket of a bag or wallet. Then, just link up the device to your account on a mobile app. If the Tiled item ever goes missing, this tiny helper will enable you to scout it out via a map on your smartphone. It’ll tell you when you’re getting warm, and you can even have the app ring your Tile so you can follow your ears to dig it up—a very useful feature when you’re trying to find buried keys or a remote control that’s fallen behind the sofa.

Rather than utilizing GPS technology to find a real-time location, each tracker tag emits a Bluetooth signal that your phone will pick up when it’s within 100 feet of the tag. Fortunately, if you’ve stepped outside of that radius, the app keeps track of the last place it “saw” your item, which could be roughly where you last walked away from it—a helpful starting point for retracing steps if you’ve spent a day running errands and don’t recall if you left your wallet at a returns counter or on the table at your coffee stop.

Perhaps the app’s most fascinating feature is its access to an extensive network of Tile users, which can be key to locating those truly lost items. If a Tiled item of yours goes missing (say, a piece of luggage at the airport), use the app to report it as lost. Then, when any other phone running the app comes within 100 feet of it, the app will notify you of its location—without alerting the other user to lost goods nearby. Whereas before if you left your bag somewhere your only recourse would have been calling around to all the places you stopped at in a day’s worth of travel, now you can rely on a larger search party of strangers to get to the bottom of the case of the missing purse.

Purchase Tile, $25 each

Get Instant Alerts Whenever Leaks Threaten Your Home

Even a relatively small leak can result in extensive, expensive repairs. The key to damage control has always been to catch moisture problems early, but only now is there an affordable and effective, truly homeowner-friendly means of doing so.

WallyHome Leak Detection System


With the exception of fire, water poses the greatest threat to our homes, whether it’s a slow-and-steady leak or a sudden flood. In fact, it’s estimated that every year, moisture plays a role in property loss claims to the tune of $11 billion. To help homeowners fend off expensive damage, dozens of manufacturers have brought water leak alarms to the market. But until now, those products were often too cheap to be effective or too expensive for many to adopt. Thankfully, that’s no longer true.

The WallyHome Water Sensing System has made leak detection not only more affordable, but potentially more effective. Whereas some competing leak detectors simply make noise, albeit a piercingly loud alarm, when triggered, Wally recognizes that you might not always be at home when a problem arises. So, when one of its sensors registers a red flag—moisture, or a worrying change in humidity or temperature—you immediately get a text message or email notification about the issue.

Operating on 10-year batteries, Wally sensors are small enough to fit beneath or adjacent to all the most common sources of leaks, including kitchen appliances, toilets, sump pumps, and water heaters. Those sensors communicate readings back to the system hub, which in turn updates your Internet monitoring account. No matter where you are, you can log on to the Wally site or its companion smartphone apps to check on things. Here, you can also configure your own custom alerts.

WallyHome Leak Detection System - Product Image


Once bitten, twice shy: For those who have shelled out thousands for extensive water damage repair in the past, it’s probably easy to justify the purchase price for Wally, because the system promises to catch problems while they’re still small and manageable. The kit comes with six sensors; if necessary, you can always buy more, either individually or in packages of six. There are no monthly charges, and because it’s easy enough to set up yourself, there’s no hefty pro installation fee to cough up.

Of course, for all its virtues, Wally can sense only those leaks that occur within the radius of its sensors, and some of the most devastating water damage stems not from known problem areas, but from areas within walls or under flooring. These are spots where you either are unable to place, or wouldn’t anticipate the need for, a leak detector. That said, the company behind Wally plans to develop additional sensors that should allow homeowners to better handle problems, expected and not.


Purchase WallyHome Leak Detection System, $299.

Act NOW for Greater Comfort NEXT Winter

Today, you can play games, watch movies, send email, and surf the Internet—all on a device that's small enough to fit in your pocket. So why can't you be totally comfortable at home during the winter months? Take the home heating off-season to reassess your options.


After a long, hard winter that saw record-breaking snowfalls and temperature lows, it’s only natural to look forward to the fairer weather ahead. But don’t let the arrival of spring distract you from the reality that, if you were uncomfortable at home during the cold months, you are likely to be uncomfortable again. And it’s only a matter of time before winter returns. So rather than wait around for the weather to turn foul once more, capitalize on the off-season to reassess your home heating. There may be no such thing as a perfect system, but, hey, it’s 2015: You deserve heating that operates efficiently to create consistent comfort. Has it been a while since you last looked into your options? Read on for an examination of three main issues that factor into home heat decision-making today.




Warmth is warmth, right? Wrong. If you have radiator, baseboard, or forced-air heating, you know the thermostat only approximates the temperature in your home. It cannot provide an accurate reading, because the indoor temperature fluctuates, not only from room to room, but from one corner of a room to another. Typically, it’s warmest near the heating unit and considerably cooler farther away. So depending on where you’re standing or sitting, you can feel either too warm or not nearly warm enough. With forced-air heating, the most ubiquitous type in America, temperatures are particularly variable, thanks to the roller-coaster effect of the system turning on and off. When the heat kicks on, blasts of hot air rush into the space until the target temperature has been reached. Then the heat suddenly turns off, and it stays off until the room gets cold enough to snap the system back into action. Is any of this comfortable? Not really.

If you want steady, even heat in your home, one option is to forego traditional systems in favor of radiant heat. The technology has been around for years—centuries, in fact—but only more recently has it become a viable whole-home solution. In this type of system, heat arrives, not via vents or standalone units, but from panels under the floor. Panels, each inset with hot-water tubing, lie under the floor material of your choice, delivering heat to the space above quietly, invisibly, and in a constant, enveloping way. Certainly, there are aesthetic advantages to a heating system that does not force you to decorate around bulky radiators or wall-hugging baseboards. Air quality benefits too, since there are no dust-spreading, allergy-exacerbating ducts at play here. But for homeowners who want warmth more than anything else, the reason to choose a radiant system is that its design and technology always ensure maximum comfort.




In an era when energy costs were not so prohibitively high, it might have been fine to install an all-or-nothing system, one that offered no compromise between the “off” setting and full-throttle operation. Times have changed. Today, innovative systems allow homeowners to target different temperatures for different parts of the home. So if you’re sleeping in a second-floor bedroom, you no longer need to cover the cost necessary to keep the unoccupied first-floor at 70 degrees. Though it’s not always impossible to achieve zoned heating with traditional systems, newer technologies accommodate zoning from the get-go. Warmboard, a leading radiant manufacturer, designates a separate thermostat for separate zones, enabling customers to minimize household energy usage. What’s more: In a family with members who prefer different temperatures, zoning makes it so that everyone can get through the winter comfortably.




Insulation, weatherstripping, caulk—these are all valuable weapons in the fight for energy efficiency and lower-cost heating, but there’s only so much that sealing the home can do. In other words, you can insulate every wall and plug every air leak, but if your heating system consumes a relatively large amount of energy in the effort to reach and maintain a comfortable indoor temperature, you’re inevitably going to be stuck with sizable month-to-month utility bills.

That’s one of the reasons that more and more homeowners are switching to radiant. Compared to forced-air heating, radiant systems operate at least 25% more efficiently, according to a study conducted by Kansas State University in conjunction with the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. In part, radiant excels in efficiency because, unlike forced-air systems with imperfect ductwork, the former isn’t vulnerable to heat loss. So whereas a forced-air furnace has to work overtime, consuming extra energy to make up for its losses, radiant panels waste virtually no energy when running.

Not every radiant heating system maximizes homeowner savings. Certainly, the basic technology offers efficiency advantages, but individual system components make a big difference too. For instance, in some radiant setups, hydronic tubes (or electric coils) are embedded within a slab of sluggish concrete that takes hours to heat up and cool down. Seeing the limitations of concrete, manufacturers like Warmboard moved on to sheathing under-floor panels in highly conductive aluminum. Here, the heat responds to thermostat adjustments, not gradually, but more or less instantly. In addition, because aluminum transfers heat so effectively, the home boiler can heat the water for the system to a lower temperature than other systems would require. In the end, you can save serious money on home heating by choosing any radiant system, but among all manufacturers offering radiant products, Warmboard can save you the most.


This post has been brought to you by Warmboard. Its facts and opinions are those of

Small-Duct, “Invisible” AC Cools Any Home, New or Old

Thanks to high-velocity mini-duct systems, vintage and custom home owners no longer need to sacrifice space or architectural features in order to enjoy central air conditioning. Innovators like Unico have made HVAC unobtrusive and all but invisible.

High Velocity Air Conditioning


Whether you own an old house or would like to build a new one, you’ve likely asked yourself a hard-to-answer question: Is it more important to preserve architectural integrity or to stay cool through the summer months? For decades, traditional central air-conditioning systems forced homeowners to choose either comfort or aesthetics. That’s because the ductwork that would deliver the cool air had to be coaxed into the structure somehow, upsetting the design. Now, thanks to innovators like Unico System, you no longer have to make that hard choice. Finally, you can enjoy invisible cooling while preserving the look of your historical or new custom home. So if you ever discounted air conditioning, it’s time to reassess things: A high-velocity mini-duct system may be the ideal solution for your home.

High Velocity Air Conditioning - Custom Home


Small Ducts
Whereas full-size ductwork demands such accommodations as added soffits, drop ceilings, and chases run through closets, Unico HVAC relies on flexible round ducts that are only a few inches in diameter. These mini ducts easily slide in behind walls and snake between joists, which means they stay permanently out of sight and do not require that you alter the design of your home in any significant way. Meanwhile, Unico air handlers are much more compact than average models and can be tucked into tight existing spaces, without stealing square footage from your living areas.

Quiet Operation
Traditional central AC systems work to cool down home interiors, but in solving the one problem, they typically create a new issue—noise. Unico systems are different; they are designed to operate as quietly as possible. On the one hand, their small ducts feature an exterior layer of sound-attenuating insulation, which virtually eliminates the noise created by the high-velocity rush of air within. On the other hand, Unico air handlers are comprised of components that likewise include decibel-dampening insulation. You can’t see the Unico system at work—and you can’t hear it, either.

Energy Efficiency
It’s important to note that the insulation ensuring quiet operation plays an additional, equally important role—it keeps air leaks to an absolute minimum. Particularly when traveling through uninsulated space, traditional ductwork loses enough energy to hinder overall efficiency by around 25 percent. With Unico, in contrast, you can achieve zero percent leakage due to its insulated ducts. That means you’re not wasting energy dollars, and you get the cooling you pay for.

Besides duct leakage, another factor influencing air conditioner efficiency is how well (or poorly) a given system deals with humidity. Thanks to high-tech cooling coils, Unico HVAC systems are 30 percent better than others at removing moisture from the air. Lower humidity doesn’t only translate to a higher level of comfort. It also means that you can set the thermostat a few degrees higher than you normally would. With each thermostat degree representing three percent energy savings, the ability of Unico to lower humidity means that from month to month, it’s less expensive to operate.

Even Cooling
When a conventional air conditioner blasts cool air into a room, uneven temperatures tend to result. In one part of the room, you may feel completely comfortable, while in another part of the room, you may feel beads of sweat on your skin. Unico sidesteps the common problem of striation by leveraging the principle of aspiration. Here, cool air enters the conditioned space in such a way that it draws the ambient air into its stream. What results is a draft-free environment with a wholly consistent temperature. In a house cooled by Unico, the temperature remains steady from room to room and from one level of the house to another.

Unobtrusive Vents
Unico places heavy emphasis on its outlets being hardly noticeable. Smaller than traditional vents, and with no unsightly grillwork, Unico outlets can be installed anywhere—on walls, ceilings, or floors—wherever would be least noticeable in the room. Further, Unico outlets can be painted or stained to match your decor perfectly. Indeed, from its broad concept down to its finishing details, Unico has been engineered to deliver comfortable cooling as invisibly as possible.

This post has been brought to you by Unico System. Its facts and opinions are those of

Cozy Up Key Spaces with European-Style Towel Radiators

Add comfort to your bathroom, entry, or laundry area with towel-cozying, space-warming radiator heat.


You’re stepping daintily out of the shower when—bam!—you’re hit with a shock of cold air that makes you want to scamper back to bed and jump under the covers. If that scenario sounds too, too familiar, then it may be time to install a towel radiator. While these appliances have been a staple in European homes and hotels for years, they’ve gained popularity here only recently. You may know a similar entity—the towel warmer—but towel radiators are a little different, and a lot better!

Yes, as you might expect, towel radiators keep your bath linens quite toasty, but they also provide a perhaps vastly more valuable ancillary benefit. In the course of their regular operation, towel radiators give off gentle, quiet, room-warming heat. “Towel radiators are an attractive and practical means of adding heating capacity to a bathroom,” notes Daniel O’Brian, a technical specialist with online retailer You can imagine how the supplementary heat provided by a towel radiator in a bathroom could, on a daily basis, mean the difference between complete contentment and nagging post-shower discomfort.


There are two types of towel radiators—hydronic and electric. O’Brian explains, “Hydronic models are a good choice if the heat in your home originates at the boiler, because the towel radiator can simply connect to the closed-loop system.” If you have another type of home heating—forced-air, for example—you can install a self-contained electric unit. One advantage of an electric unit, O’Brian notes, is that “you can use it throughout the year, even when your main heating system is turned off.” Of course, when it comes to running—and enjoying the benefits of—a towel radiator, it doesn’t much matter how exactly it’s hooked up to the house. For the user, it’s all about cozy towels and spaces.

Industry leader Runtal has been designing and manufacturing towel radiators for well over 50 years. Today, the company offers a wide variety of models, and though its many products put out different levels of heat, they all share a compact, wall-hugging profile. Extending only three to five inches from the wall, Runtal towel radiators are unobtrusive and eminently versatile. They’re most commonly placed in bathrooms, but the radiators might also be used in entryways or laundry rooms.

Owing to their clean lines and timeless design characteristics, Runtal units look at home in both traditional and contemporary environments. Plus, customers are spoiled for choice when it comes to customization options. For the radiator panels, you can select from 10 standard and 99 custom colors. You can even specify the finish desired for the metal components of the unit. In other words, it’s easy to ensure that a new Runtal towel radiator will smoothly integrate with the look of an established room.

What about installation? Mounting a towel radiator is a DIY-friendly project, according to O’Brian at When it comes to completing the hookup, however, he explains, “Some electric units are furnished with a simple wall plug, but others must be hardwired, and hardwiring may be beyond the capabilities of a typical DIYer.” Similarly, to a install a hydronic unit, “you would either need to tap into existing lines or run a new line. Either could be daunting for someone without experience.”

Runtal products are manufactured of high-quality cold-rolled steel or stainless steel. The company operates a state-of-the-art factory in Massachusetts to serve the North American market. All products are designed to meet American building requirements and carry a limited five-year warranty.

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Bob Vila Radio: The Reason for Rafter Vents

Attic insulation promotes, not only energy efficiency, but comfortable indoor temperatures—year round. For best results, however, be sure to supplement attic insulation with air-channeling rafter vents. Here's why.

Seasonal extremes in temperature put your attic insulation to the test. To get the best performance out of your insulation year in, year out, you would do well to install rafter vents in your attic.

Rafter Vents


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Rafter vents channel air from the vents in your soffit—that’s the underside edge of the roof—all the way up to the ridge vents at the roof peak. That air flow helps keep the attic cooler during the summer, and during the winter, it helps keep ice from forming on the edge of the roof. It also guards against mold, mildew, and rot.

Rafter vents are usually made of aluminum, sheet metal, or plastic. They come in various lengths and are installed between the rafters, under the insulation. Once installed, they allow you to cover your attic floor with insulation all the way out to where the floor meets the roof.

Use a step ladder to install the vents, starting from the edge of the roof and working up to the ridge. And when you’re installing, make sure you don’t cover either end of the vents with insulation. Otherwise all your work will be for naught.

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.

How To: Choose a Water Filtration System

Concerned about household water quality? There are a number of ways to approach the selection and installation of a water filtration system. Which is best depends on your needs.

How to Choose a Water Filter


In the United States, we are fortunate not to have to think much about water quality. Most of us simply turn on the tap and cook, clean, or bathe with whatever comes out. Due to a variety of factors, however, your tap water may host problems ranging from a bad taste or foul odor to unseen (and unhealthy) bacteria. If you have any reason to doubt the quality of your well water or municipal supply, then it’s time to give serious thought to installing a water filtration system.

According to Daniel O’Brian, a technical expert from online retailer, there are warning signs to watch out for. These include rust stains or scale buildup on kitchen and bathroom fixtures as well as other similarly obvious clues you can see and touch. But there are also more subtle indications of poor water quality. For instance, when showering, do you ever have “a hard time developing lather with soap”? If so, O’Brian says impurities may be to blame. “Calcium, iron, chlorine, sulfur, lead, and decaying organic compounds” are only some of the impurities that people seek to banish through filtration.

How to Choose a Water Filter - Housing Isolated


Basically, water filtration systems remove impurities in one of three ways. Some products physically block the passage of contaminants by means of a filter medium. Others filter by means of a chemical process. Still others work via ultraviolet light. No matter the design, water filters tend to come in either a plastic or stainless steel housing, and though some filter media last comparatively longer, all lose effectiveness over time and must be replaced periodically.

You may be familiar with pitcher-style water filters or devices that attach to the faucet. In homes with known water problems, however, you may wish to go a step further. Of the multiple options that exist, point-of-use filters are perhaps the most common. Installed under the sink, such products feature either single- or multistage filtration. Similar in-line filters hook up not to the sink, but to the hot water heater, enabling you to bathe in clean, pure filtered water. There are even filters designed specifically for appliances with ice and water dispensers.

The most comprehensive solution is a whole-house filtration system, installed at the point where the water supply enters the home. By intercepting water right before it reaches your home’s plumbing, whole-house systems go a long way toward protecting pipes from the damaging effects of hard water, scale, and the miscellaneous chemicals and compounds—such as acids and tannins—that can spell trouble for the critical components of a plumbing system.

Different types of water filters and media are best suited for different types of water problems. For example, hard water responds best to an ion-exchange softener. For water that tends to have sediment, reverse-osmosis systems are recommended, as these employ a semipermeable membrane to prevent particles from moving beyond the filter medium. If the goal is to target organisms in the water, ultraviolet filters sterilize bacteria and viruses, as do chlorination filters. For improved taste or to eliminate odors, concentrate on oxidizing or activated-carbon filters. Perhaps the best option of all is a multistage water filter, which combines several technologies.

“Different methods and types of filters are available depending on your needs,” notes O’Brian of “It is important to confer with a company that can test your water and help you determine the best course of action for tackling any impurities that may be present. In addition to the contaminants you’re trying to eliminate, your usage habits and patterns may affect what you ultimately decide is the best product to purchase and install.”

How to Choose a Water Filter - Ultraviolet


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Bob Vila Radio: Child-Safe Power Outlets, Reinvented

A promising new company seeks to provide families, finally, with a safe and reliable child-proof power outlet.

You can’t possibly pick a more important job to do around your home than keeping your family safe. And of course many families include little ones who are toddling or crawling around the floor.

Child-Safe Power Outlets


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Listen to BOB VILA ON CHILD-SAFE POWER OUTLETS or read the text below:

While past attempts to protect kids from electrics hazards have met with only limited success, a promising new “smart” outlet has arrived on the market.

Made by a company called Brio, the child-proof outlet installs much like a regular one, but it behaves much differently. In fact, it automatically withholds power to the outlet until it confirms an actual plug has been inserted—not, say, a screwdriver that had been left lying around.

If you decide to make the switch, make sure you turn off the appropriate breaker in your electrical panel before doing any electrical work. Shocks are serious for anyone, children or adults!

Bob Vila Radio is a 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day carried on more than 186 stations in 75 markets around the country. Click here to subscribe, so you can automatically receive each new episode as it arrives—absolutely free.