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Armand L. Fontaine

Tips to Homeowners

February 24, 1985

Among new products exhibited at the recent National Assn. of Home Buildersconvention in Houston, were General Electric refrigerator models with digital readings displaying temperatures and functions of the appliance. These models are similar to products merchandised by Whirlpool for the past few years. However, a fold-down counter that will provide more space when handling the contents of the refrigerator, is an innovation.

The Japanese and Italians now have entered the American refrigerator market. Sanyo has a complete line, but most of these products are basically manufactured for their domestic consumption and offer little in the way of innovations for the American markets.

A spokesperson for General Electric Co. said most of the major manufacturers of these products have been concentrating on the "up" market, brought on by the great increase of home improvements of the past few years. It seems that the home-improvement market has become the largest segment of merchandising for major building products and the average homeowners is interested in upgrading the atmosphere in which he lives.

TV Security System

Sharp Products of Japan has introduced a new closed-television security system that is good for home and office. The system has a camera which can be placed outside the entry of your home as well as a TV viewing screen. When someone pushes the front door button, the camera immediately goes on, giving you a view of the person at the front door. The product can also be used for scanning alongside the house and sells for well under $500.

The Flexwatt Corp. is manufacturing a radiant heating panel which is printed on a plastic sheet and can be nailed to the ceiling covered with plaster board. There is no extensive work or remodeling required when installing this heating system.

Crown of England has developed a process of embossed wall covering that has the features of fine Victorian sculptured walls. They also manufacture pelmets which are borders for the area where the wall meets the ceiling. This product has been used in many museums and in the State Capitol in Sacramento and is truly unique and original in its concepts.

Bathtub Safety Bar

On the more practical side, Franklin Brass has developed a new bathtub safety bar which gives safe support for getting in and out of the bathtub. The product sells for about $30 and is very practical for persons who are disabled or elderly and is easily installed.

An interesting new product was General Electric's Homeminder which can be plugged into your television set and will lock your doors, turn on your lights and do several chores after being programmed. The product does not require any extensive wiring and is done electronically.

One of the more important aspects of the Homeminder is that it can be programmed while you are away from home, by remote control with a touch tone telephone. In other words, you can start your coffee brewing, turn on your lights and even lock your doors by merely calling your house while you are on vacation and re-programming the Homeminder by telephone. General Electric claims that "by 1995, half the homes in America will be intelligent enough to run themselves."

Fontaine is president of the Western Regional Master Builders Assn. and a director of the American Building Contractors Assn. He will answer questions concerning home improvements. Phone 213/653-4084 or write him at 6404 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 850, Los Angeles 90048-5510.

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