Cedar shingles have enjoyed a long run as top dog of the roofing world. They’re attractive, durable, and have a charm that suburbanites just can’t resist. Unfortunately, fireproof they ain’t, and that’s a big concern when you live in dry territory. Past attempts at synthetic and less flammable versions never quite took—their effect was often artificial and lacked the detail of the real thing. A new product, from DaVinci Roofscapes, has been making a stir in the builders arena. Their Synthetic Shakes, with deep shadow lines and textured surfaces, have fooled even the skeptics at recent trade shows. And because they are made of an engineered polymer, these shingles are less likely to fade, split, or dislodge in extreme weather. They meet UL performance standards for fire, impact, and wind, plus they can't absorb water so they won't be impacted by freeze/thaw cycles. The catch? Well, they aren’t cheap —somewhere in the $600-$900 range per 100 foot square, installed. DaVinci notes that their manufactured shakes can last up to twice as along as cedar, thus halving the lifetime cost. Still a pile of cash, but it's worth it and might get you an insurance break if you live in a wildfire zone! Available now.
I’ve been burned before—those sleek remote controls that promise to “do it all” and, of course, fail miserably—so I’m trying to stay grounded this time. But it’s hard ‘cause I think this could be it, yesssss, the one, my Precioussss. First, as the name suggests, the OpenPeak WiFi SimpleRemote is indeed WiFi enabled, meaning it can wirelessly access your home network and the Internet from it’s gorgeous 262,000-color 2.2” LCD display—pictures, movies, TV listings, even RSS feeds are literally at your fingertips. It also means that unlike typical RF and IR remotes, it can control just about every device you own, no matter where they are in the house. Think about it, you could stream music from the PC to the stereo, check your flailing Google stock, watch a movie trailer, dim the porch lights, even instant message with your buds as you watch Battlestar Galactica, all while keeping an eye on Jr.’s babycam. Yes, that’s a lot to take in, but honestly, if only half that works it’ll be a huge victory for us couch potatoes. Another great touch is its “interview-based” setup—no codes, no fumbling for old manuals, just a couple questions about your devices and how you want use them. If you haven’t experienced this type of setup process before (several manufacturers are now using it) believe me, you’ll love it. Pricing is set around $250 and OmniPeak is said to be partnering with some big name companies for additional branded versions. Enjoy, my little Hobbitses.
Depending on your musical taste (that means you, Yanni-heads), Paradigm’s new Rock Monitor speakers may or may not be considered a home “improvement". I know, it’s not the first speaker to look like a rock, nor is it the prettiest, but Paradigm is a big name in high-end audio, so it may very well be the best sounding. Each of the faux fieldstones houses two 1-inch titanium offset dome tweeters and a 6 ½-inch woofer with dual voice coils. Geek to English, that means for most backyards you’ll only need a single rock to get stereo coverage. For bigger properties, you can arrange a veritable quarry of speakers to bathe every inch, if that’s your thing. They’re weatherproof (obviously), available in a variety of finishes, and include a security cable for those "can-I-borrow-that" type neighbors. Available very soon at $249 a pop.
Skylights have become pretty popular lately, especially in the new builds. I even considered installing a few in my house, until I remembered how much I hate the sun before 8 a.m. That's the downside to skylights—the lack of control over what comes in and when. VELUX has a new option that changes the equation—their SageGlass switchable skylights. Using electromagnetic glazing, these new windows are capable of darkening and lightening in just minutes. The process uses a small electrical current to control the gradation, and in full block mode they can reduce up to 77 percent of your solar heat gain. That means a nice savings on cooling costs come summer. And, before you ask, a house full of these windows could operate on the same amount of energy as a single 40-watt bulb. Available this spring. Looks like I might be rethinking my project list.
editor's note: BVC has been cheering for SageGlass for years! We're glad to see this technology in a window that finally brings it all home. Read more.
Cordless tools rock—be they drills, hand-held vacuums, or my kid's electric toothbrush. Unfortunately, they aren’t so nice to the planet. In fact, charging one of these gadgets can require up to 20x more energy than is actually stored in the battery. Now, take that excess and multiply it by 230 million—the number of chargers currently used in the U.S. See where I’m going? The EPA does and will soon be certifying new earth-friendly chargers via their ENERGY STAR program. These units will be 35% more energy efficient than conventional chargers, saving us about 1 billion kilowatt hours of energy per year—the equivalent emissions of 150,000 cars! Now go hug a tree.
Though probably not intended for residential use, I suspect those of you with teenagers in the house may be interested in NaturalNano’s latest creation—cell phone blocking paint! That’s right, once again nanotechnology has your back. This time they’re using copper halloysite nanotubes suspended inside everyday, spray-on paint. When applied to a surface, the compound will effectively stop any and all RF signals from passing through (that’s in and out). Obviously, the first place you’d put this is your local movie house, but other applications include concert halls, schools, and even churches (Amen!). “But what about those super important calls, like the babysitter, doctor stuff, and the Pats' score,” you ask? One option would be a localized network, within the building, determining which calls are “high priority” and then passing them along internally. I suppose this would require registering your number at the door, but hey, it’s a start. Of course, let’s not be naive, this technology will also allow the above facilities to charge us for such calls—that’s America for 'ya. Not much word on when you’ll start seeing—or not hearing—this stuff in the real world, but it can't be soon enough.
I was not what you would call “cool” in my younger days. In fact, my violin and I were known as an excellent target for snowballs, not to mention wedgies. I suspect that's why I hear the words “prom” and “duct tape” used in the same sentence, I tend to imagine the worst. Apparently times have changed and Henkel Adhesives may be the reason. Starting March 6th, nerds from a across U.S. will once again enter the Stuck on Prom Scholarship Contest, an annual competition that challenges the teens to create and wear their own prom attire made entirely from, yep, Henkel brand duct tape. First prize is $6,000 to the wining couple and another $3,000 to their school (presumably for not tossing them from the dance). Other awards include Most Likely to Stop Traffic, Most Likely to be Seen From Space, Most Likely to Have Had Help from Mom, and it gets weirder from there. Obviously, this is shameless marketing, but you have to hand it to Henkel—going after the teen market with an adhesive takes guts. Past winners can be seen at here, good for a laugh.