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Photo courtesty of Emerald Cities. Cool Pavement provides a cool oasis in an urban heat island.

Cool Pavement Reduces Heat Island Effect

Cities get hot. Especially in the summer. All the black asphalt on the roads and on rooftops soaks up the sun and creates the dreaded "heat island" effect, sometimes also called the "urbane heat island" or UHI. Anyone who has traveled on a summer day from the countryside into a nearby city knows exactly what this is. It's like entering an invisible heat bubble where temperatures are 10 - 20 degrees hotter. It's brutal.

Small wonder a company specializing in reducing the heat island effect picked Phoenix, Arizona to feature its product. Residents of the city returned from their Memorial Day weekends to find that Emerald Cities had installed a 90,000-square-foot "Cool Pavement" in central downtown Phoenix. Their "Celadon Green" solar reflective permanent cool coating is going to reduce the hot asphalt surface temperatures by around 30 degrees. It will also reduce CO2 and the overall heat island effect of the city.

First thing first: I'm not a huge fan of the color. It is reminiscent of the Wizard of Oz, both in name and in hue, which I can't take seriously. It's going to clash with just about every color of car driven on the lot, not to mention the color of the establishment. What goes with emerald, anyway? Besides white?

But this isn't about color. It's about stepping out of an air conditioned vehicle onto a cool surface. Okay, well, if it's Phoenix in July it's not going to be cool outside, per se, but at least it will be a lot cooler than if the pavement was black. And that's what this is really about, so I guess my color issue is pretty petty. Get this: average summer heat in Phoenix can hit 118 degrees. An average black asphalt surface can heat up to 170 degrees. That's Asics-melting temperature right there.

Urban dwellers should be looking to their city elect to bring this kind of product into their metropolis. It's no so dissimilar to the Coolest Block project undertaken in Philadelphia last year. Mayors of cities with serious heat island issues should take a close look at this product and a contest like Mayor Nutter ran to see if a combination of the two would work.

So what's next? Can a product like Emerald Cities' Cool Pavement work for residential application? I doubt there are many homeowners who feel their small strip of driveway is having a huge impact on their little personal neighborhood climate, but even a larger suburban development might benefit from a little cooling effect in the hot summer months.

If you could get HOAs to buy into the color, that is.

What do you think? Would you want to see some Cool Pavements where you live?

Toro mowers and snowblowers recalled due to fire hazard.

Toro Recalls Snowblowers and Mowers Due to Fire Hazard

Toro recently announced the recall of over 20,000 snowblowers and 6,000 mowers due to a fire hazard.

On both the Toro PC-421Q Snowblowers and the Toro 20" Recycler Mowers the carburetors can develop fuel leaks which can ignite when exposed to an ignition source. There have been at least 500 reports of carburetor leaks, but so far no reports of fire or injury.

Anyone who owns an affected model should stop using the product immediately and contact a Toro Service Dealer for a free repair. Hopefully there aren't many people in the States still using their snowblower…

More information, including specific model numbers, can be found on the Consumer Product Safety Commission recall site and at toro.com

Check for the serial number if you own a recalled American Honda snowblower.

Recall on American Honda Snowblowers

About 18,500 American Honda snowblowers have been recalled due to a fire hazard, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The affected snowblowers have a faulty fuel tank joint and o-ring on the underside of the fuel tank that can seep or drip fuel, posing the fire risk.

Although Honda has received almost 100 reports of leaking fuel there have been no fires reported, which is a good thing, particularly given the use this army of snowblowers no doubt saw over the past few days.

If you own an American Honda snowblower, be sure to check out the CPSC recall page for model and serial numbers. Additional information can be found on the Honda's website at www.hondapowerequipment.com.

The HeatTrak performing its snow-melting magic.

HeatTrak Melts Hearts, Wins Gold | Heated Walkway

Winter is the last thing on our minds, but I had to blog again about this cool winter walkway product. Back in February, when the cold winds were blowing down from Canada (and smoke from Quebec was NOT), we came across HeatTrak, a new plug-in product that unrolls to cover your walkway and stairs and heats up the falling snow to provide a clear, ice-free walkable surface. (Watch the cool time-lapse video showing the product in use).

Well, no surprise that HeatTrak just took first place for best new product in the annual Homewares Show Awards at the recent National Hardware Show held in Las Vegas.

I guess the judges hate shoveling snow as much as the rest of us.

Well done, HeatTrak, for making grandma's walk to the front door a safe one and for preserving our backs during the winter.

Driveway on a half shell. Photo by Michaela Tomko.

An Oyster Shell Driveway

A native Vermonter friend of mine is down visiting her friend Lisa in Charleston, SC for the week. She sent back this picture of Lisa's gravel driveway, which is "maintained" by the landlord.

As you can see in the picture, "maintain" means dumping oyster shells over the stone base, to be crushed by the repeated passing over of cars.

Oyster shell driveways are not something you see everyday, particularly if you don't live along the coast. They used to be a common practice in New England in the early 1900s, and the material is still used by homeowners looking to capture that seaboard essence. You can find bags of crushed oyster shells in some feed stores and home improvement stores, or online. Its uses range from chicken feed to bocce courts--and, apparently, as cheap fill-in for South Carolina driveways.

Unfortunately, I don't think this particular scenario casts oyster shell driveways in the most flattering of lights. I'd be interested to see a more aesthetically appealing application of the recycled waste shells.

Do you have oyster shells as part of your landscape design? Tell us about it.

Making the most of the extra hour of daylight.

Making the Most of Daylight Savings

This Sunday is Daylight Savings. That's right: Everyone in the States (with the exception of Arizona and Hawaii) gets an "extra hour of daylight."

So what will you do with your extra hour? Here are a few suggestions for ways that you can make the most of Daylight Savings:

- Spend some time in the garden. Yes, it's about that time to get the garden plot ready for the growing months. Better yet, build a compost pile. This will provide natural nutrients for your plants, flowers and veggies and help reduce waste. See how to build a compost pile on your own.

- Hold a yard sale. I love the people in my town who live for the weekend so they can pull out all their old "junk" onto the lawn, affix price tags to each and sip lemonade (or stronger beverages) while watching cars pass by. I love that after this weekend they get an extra hour to do it! Seriously, it's spring cleaning time.

- Repair cracks in your driveway and walkways. I don't know about everyone else, but the snow is just about all gone up here in Vermont, exposing unsightly (and unsafe) cracks in the driveways and walkways all around town. Take the extra hour to repair these problems. It's easier to do than you think.

- Prepare for Pests. Sure, you're enjoying mosquito-free fresh air now, but those little buggers are soon to hatch, and they'll be looking for a way in. Take some time this weekend and defend your home against the five biggest pest: mosquitos, ants, wasps and hornets, spiders and ticks.

- Clean your grill! The extra hour means a longer bar-b-q, but that also means a grimier grill. Don't put up with it. Take a few minutes and properly maintain that crucial instrument of a successful spring and summer.

Enjoy your extra hour of sunlight!

A Heated Walkway


As much as I loved snow days as a kid, I hated spending the day off from school shoveling the driveway and walkway.

I think that's why I like the idea of the HeatTrak, the plug-in heated mat for walkways, stairs and rooftops. The video above tells all. No more shoveling!

Take a look at the different options on their product page. I like the stair mats, personally, although $60 for a single mat seems a bit steep.

The mats plug into standard 120 V outlets and melt snow at a rate of 2" per hour.

Too bad I didn't have one arriving today, with the Winter Storm Warning and all. Guess I won't be throwing out that shovel anytime soon.

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