Improvement Inspiration

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"Warm Up to Geothermal" was like a breath of (cheap) fresh air ["50 Ways to Improve Your Life," Dec. 31, 2007-Jan. 7, 2008].

When I recently built my new home in Oregon, I planned for geothermal because there was only electricity available where I was building, and I had the space for a ground loop. Plus, I knew that a geothermal system did not rely on the temperature of the outside air as its starting point. Unfortunately, there were no utility incentives and minimal state incentives for geothermal. If I had gone with solar panels to heat water or the living space, the incentives vastly improved. The trouble is that I live in an area that is cloudy about half the year and question whether solar would be effective. One other advantage to my geothermal system is it provides partially free hot water. The system naturally heats water that is piped through it. That water (55 degrees) is then stored in a tank (in this case a second unheated water heater). The preheated water is the first water to go into the water heater when hot water is used. With geothermal, I am saving 57 percent in electricity costs even though I have living space 66 percent larger.

David R. Gray


Dallas, Ore.  

Seeing the pictured child sloshing in dirty water reminded me of my childhood on an Edgar County, Ill., farm ["A Little Dirt Won't Hurt"]. Our hogs ran loose in the barn lot. Free-run hogs adopt a low spot where rainwater accumulates and proceed to build what we called a hog wallow. My sister and I, on a hot summer day after a rain, decided that the wallow was not solely for the hogs. I have had relatively good health in the 70 years since playing with the pigs. I am not sure the event was the stimulation that led me into soil sciences as a profession or not. I suggest reading Dirt: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth by William Bryant Logan.

James R. Brown


Professor Emeritus
University of Missouri
Columbia  

Although I'd have listed more high-minded reasons for adopting a pet than Ellen DeGeneres's apparent inability to read her adoption contract, you are right on the money about the satisfaction and love pets bring to our lives ["Find a New Best Friend"]. Muddy paw prints and pet hair adorning every surface are no price at all compared with what we receive in return. Rescuers sometimes tend to focus on the horrible statistics of rescue work, but using guilt to sell a cause doesn't work as well as promoting the fun and foolishness that come with your new adopted pet.

Lezlie Crosswhite


North Potomac, Md.  

Regarding "Teach Your Children How to Vote": There is another reason those turning 18 should register to vote: the voter registration card. It is an advantage especially at times when a person is required to have two acceptable id cards. The voter id card is recognized when cashing checks and setting up credit accounts.

Charles H. Bertram


Ormond Beach, Fla.  

In response to "Bye-Bye, BottledWater": Some of us cannot drink the municipal water even though the EPA certifies it as acceptable. Certain minerals create health issues for some. For instance, one doctor stated that in the Southwest, the high incidence of kidney stone issues is due to the minerals in the water.

Elise Haley


Alamogordo, N.M.  

Many thanks for calling attention to the overuse of corn products tainting our foods ["Try to Cut Back on Corn"]. It would behoove food manufacturers to consider the many thousands who are allergic to corn. Grocery shopping is a quandary for those with food allergies.

Kathleen R. Mutters


Chico, Calif.  

It was dismaying to read your advice to "Open Wide" ["Wake Up With a Yawn"]. Stifling a yawn is unnecessary and almost impossible. However, not covering your wide-open mouth with your hand is very ill-bred. Nobody wants to look at one's tonsils; covering your mouth while yawning is not difficult to do.

Svetlana Shales


Rochester, N.Y.