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The Top Technologies for Your Home

The Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing (PATH) spends a lot of time thinking about the future of housing. What will make homes safer and more efficient? How can homes be constructed faster?

Coordinated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD), PATH is a private-public partnership between leaders of the homebuilding, product manufacturing, insurance, and financial industries and representatives of Federal agencies concerned with housing. Its Top Technologies list, first introduced in 2004, takes a glimpse into the future of homebuilding and alerts homeowners to valuable innovations ready for adoption.

Selected for their strengths in one or more of the following areas—quality and durability; affordability; energy efficiency; environmental performance; safety and disaster mitigation—these top technologies hold the promise of making our homes more durable, stronger and more resource efficient.

Mold Resistant Gypsum
Survivors of the floods of the last few years would not have such extensive loss of property if this type of gypsum had been available years ago. Treated gypsum wallboard products resist mold because they don't absorb moisture as easily as typical gypsum board. The paperless surface of such products does not support mold growth.

Solar Power for the Shower
Solar water heaters have been around since the 1800s. However, with federal tax credits have made them a more affordable alternative ($1,000 to about $3,500) and one that is growing in popularity because of environmental benefits as well as energy cost savings.

Grey Concrete Goes Green
Byproducts of the industrialized world have found a better final resting place in alternative concrete substitutes and aggregates. Recycled materials such as granulated coal ash, blast furnace slag and various solid wastes like fiberglass and granulated plastics can substitute for sand, gravel and stones. Different admixtures can improve workability, curing temperature range, fire control, set time or color. And relying less on mined materials is a benefit for everyone.

Make Your Power and Heat It Too
Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is not just for isolationists anymore – commercial and industrial facilities have been using it for years and now it’s available to homeowners. Whether those homeowners want to be entirely off the power grid or they just want to supplement the utility power, CHP systems can supply electricity much more efficiently than power plants. Using fuel such as natural gas to produce heat and electricity simultaneously, a CHP system can act as a built-in emergency generator. The electricity can power any household device, such as lights and appliances, and the heat produced can provide water heating or heat spaces. Home-sized units range in capacity from about 1 kW to 6 kW and are about the size of a major appliance.

Save Energy, Water, Space and Time (But the Folding is Still on You)
Horizontal Axis Washers/Dryers are two-in-one units that run automatically from wash to dry so that users don't have to throw clothes from one machine to the other. The compact size makes it perfect for apartments and condominiums, and the units cost less than two separate units. Such machines run quietly and require no venting, so they can be installed almost anywhere. The high efficiency horizontal-axis washer reduces water and energy consumption, and the high RPM (rotations per minute) spin cycle means the dryer uses less energy to dry the clothes.

Windows That Do Windows!
Now homeowners can get self-cleaning and glare-reducing windows that also reduce the risk of window failure during abnormal weather. In Hydrophilic, Impact-Resistant Windows, a window coating causes water to run off the glass surfaces like quicksilver, preventing permanent water spots and making the glazing easier to clean. Plus, glass laminated with composites provides enough strength to allow windows to withstand high winds, projectiles, and even bullets.

A “Cool” Way to Cook
Induction cook tops offer flexible, safe and energy-efficient cooking. The can go from extremely low to extremely high settings and back again nearly instantly. The stovetop doesn't actually heat up or radiate heat from its surface because the heating elements under the ceramic-glass surface use electricity to produce a magnetic field that heats only the cooking container. Food heats much faster, which saves energy while pleasing hungry mobs. Induction cooking is about 90 percent energy efficient, while gas and electric are about 50 and 60 percent efficient, respectively.

Surfaces for All Seasons
Rainwater seeps through Permeable Pavers & Pavement systems and filters naturally through soil on its way to groundwater aquifers and surface waters. That means less unfiltered, nitrate-laden stormwater running off paved surfaces into drainage gutters. And since engineered curb and gutter storm drainage systems are costly to design and build, permeable pavement systems can mean lower construction costs for developers or municipalities.