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New Products

Innovative Design Gives Certain Devices an Edge

Second of Two Parts

March 04, 2000|From TODAY'S HOMEOWNER

These new products were chosen based on quality, innovation, value, style, long-term reliability and ease of installation and use. Though we didn't test them all extensively, we did talk to product engineers, tradespeople and retailers before we arrived at the winners. Some of them are discussed here, the others were featured in last week's Home Design section.

Safer Water Heaters

The burners and pilot lights on gas-fired water heaters have the nasty habit of igniting flammable vapors from gasoline or solvents used around the house, resulting in about 2,000 serious house fires a year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

To contain those fires, American Water Heater Co. has developed the Flame Guard System. Here's how it works:

The combustion chamber is sealed so the amount of air entering the chamber is controlled. If a fire does break out, it will be contained in the chamber and will not spread back into the room. Finally, a thermal switch shuts down the gas supply during a flame-up.

The system is available for 30- and 40-gallon heaters marketed under the Envi-ro-temp, U.S. Craftmaster and American Proline brands. An average 30-gallon heater with the system costs about $230.

American Water Heater Co., (800) 937-1037;

Total Redesign

The name Clad Ultimate Double Hung Window won't win any awards for modesty for Marvin Windows and Doors, but the firm wasn't trying to design just another window when it engineered these wooden units.

Of the 100 improvements the company says it made, here are some of the ones we like:

* The vinyl jamb liners found on most windows were replaced with all-wood liners, making this a better-looking window.

* The tilt-out feature is controlled by a latch hidden in the sash lock.

* Pins make it easier to snap screens into the screen channel for simple removal and replacement.

* The aluminum cladding on the exterior is available in five colors, and each window comes with a screen and glazing.

Prices start at $350 for average-size units.

Marvin Windows and Doors, (888) 537-8268;

Killer With a Gentler Side

Watch out ants, flies, hornets, cockroaches, fleas and spiders.

EcoSmart's natural organic pesticides kill common yard and household insect pests as fast--if not faster--than chemical pesticides. But these pesticides are made of naturally occurring plant oils, such as eugenol from clove trees, and they are harmless to people, pets and the environment when used as directed.

The formulation works on contact by destroying the insect's nervous system. The aerosol insecticides, each in a 14-ounce can, will kill crawling and flying insects, as well as wasps and hornets. Also available is a dust insecticide in a 12-ounce squeezable plastic bottle. The products sells for $3.99 each.

EcoSmart Technologies, (877) 723-3545;

Cutting-Edge Lopper

Even with a top-quality lopper, it's a hassle to cut branches in tight, hard-to-reach spaces. That's not the case with the Fiskars Gooseneck Swivel Lopper ($50), which features a unique 15-inch-long cutting shaft. Now you can reach in and cut dense growth without interference from the handles. And, because the shaft rotates 360 degrees, you can cut branches from your strongest, most comfortable working position. The extended shaft also lets you reach higher or cut at ground level with less bending.

The replaceable bypass blade, coated with Teflon to reduce cutting friction and resist rust, cuts branches as big as 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The tool is backed by a lifetime warranty.

Fiskars Lawn & Garden, (800) 500-4849;

Easy-Squeeze Caulks

It's easy to select one of Red Devil's new House & Home Restore Caulks--the label tells you in which situation you should use each of the eight different caulks (for example, driveway crack repair, spackling paste, window and door).

But what really sets these caulks apart is the applicator, a dial-type dispenser that pushes the caulk toward the tip, maintaining pressure and minimizing waste. They run $2.99 to $3.49 for a five-ounce tube.

Red Devil Inc., (800) 423-3845;

Saving It for Later

The Resource Saver Washer from Whirlpool is one of the most aptly named products we've seen. The full-size clothes washer uses only 17 to 28 gallons per load (most comparably sized washers of this type consume 25 to 45 gallons per load).

It's also an energy miser, using about 56% less electricity than other models. It achieves this efficiency by closely monitoring incoming water temperature so a minimum of hot water is wasted. Plus, six high-power sprays rinse clothes without the need to fill the entire tub. What's more, it's an easy-access top-loader. And at $599, it costs hundreds of dollars less than most other energy-efficient, water-saving washers.

Whirlpool, (800) 253-1301;

Strong, Silent Type

Looking for a wet/dry shop vacuum? There are dozens available and, truth be told, most do an adequate job of cleaning up dry and wet spills. However, there's more to performance than pure sucking power.

The new Craftsman 16-gallon Convertible Wet/Dry Vac ($119) has a low-profile, oval-shape tub that's nearly impossible to tip over and, at only 22 inches high, it stores beneath most workbenches.

Also, the hose locks onto the motor housing, so it won't pop out if you tug on it. This unit (Model 17016) has an 11.4-amp motor, which draws 165 cubic feet per minute of air; flip a switch and it converts to a blower. But despite its pumped-up power, this vacuum is 30% quieter than comparably sized vacs.

Sears, Roebuck and Co., (800) 377-7414;

* Reprinted from the pages of Today's Homeowner magazine. To receive more expert advice on improving your home, call (800) 456-6369 or visit the Web site at

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