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HOMEWORK: POWER GENERATOR KNOW-HOW

An emergency generator can prevent many headaches when

there's a loss of electricity for more than a few hours. However, it's

important to determine what your electrical needs are, so you can select the

best one, home improvement experts say.

1 CHECK THE WATTAGE. Generators - most of which are powered by gasoline -

come in a variety of sizes and are rated by how many watts or kilowatts they

produce. For example, a small generator could be rated 2,000 to 6,000 watts,

enough to power a few lights, a television, a computer and a refrigerator.

These generators start at about $400.

2 THEY SLEEP OUTSIDE. Generators should never be used indoors because they

need to be well ventilated and should have at least 5 feet of space on all

sides. Special heavy-duty extension cords with three-prong plugs should be used

for all appliances plugged into the generator. Some generators have enough

plugs for six or seven items; others may have only two plugs.

3 REFUELING. How long a generator will work before being refueled depends

on how much wattage is being used. A 6,000-watt generator will run longer if

only 1,500 watts are being used as opposed to its full capacity.

4 COSTLY SYSTEM. Because generators run on fuel, this cost must be factored

in. One woman in Houston who was using a generator for a few days after

Hurricane Ike said she was spending $57 a day on gas to power it.

5 STANDING BY. To power an entire household without any loss of service,

the best bet is a standby generator, which kicks in automatically via a

transfer switch as soon as the regular power goes out. These generators can

cost from $6,000 to more than $12,000, and they must be installed by an

electrician. For some, the transfer switch is included; for others, the switch

must be purchased separately. Likewise, wheel kits for easy moving are not

always included.

6 CONSIDERING CENTRAL AIR. One thing to remember is that central

air-conditioning draws a lot of power, and if it's going to be used during an

outage, the AC must be considered when buying a standby generator, according to

Electric Generators Direct, which sells generators online. Standby generators

are generally best for areas where power outages happen often.

7 FLASHLIGHTS, ALWAYS.

It's also important to have emergency lighting on hand. Flashlights are

usually the first line of defense, and it's important to make sure they are in

working order and there is an adequate supply of batteries. Most flashlights

take D or C batteries.

Compiled from wire reports

Going greener with eco-friendly cork flooring

Green thinkers consider cork flooring to be eco-friendly because it's a

renewable resource: It's made from the bark of the cork oak, and the tree isn't

cut down. During periodic harvesting, the outer bark is stripped from the

trunks without injuring the trees, which live for more than a century.

Cork has been a popular flooring material in Europe for many years, but in

this country, it's relatively new. Known for its sound-deadening qualities and

durable surface, it's available in sheeting and tiles, the latter being the

easiest to install.

A flooring contractor will charge about $785 to install and finish

12-inch-square, 3/16- inch- thick cork tiles in a 10- by-12-foot room. A handy

homeowner can do the job for $625, the cost of the tiles and finish - a

savings of about 20 percent. The key to good results for any flooring

installation is a sound subfloor, which should be clean, dry and level.

You'll find cork floor tiles sold at most home centers and flooring

retailers; to find the material online, type "cork floor tiles" in a search

engine.

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