New products ease work of home projects

HOME WORK

May 29, 1993|By Karol V. Menzie and Randy Johnson

Spring is the time for all sorts of things to blossom and, among them, it seems, are new products for home improvement. Home-builder shows, traditionally held in spring, are one impetus, but it's also the season when people start planning projects for better weather.

There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of new tools, fixtures and equipment introduced each year. Here are a few from this year's crop that caught our eye:

*A two-in-one power painting tool from Wagner, which works as a sprayer or a direct-feed power roller. For some items, a spray painter is the only practical tool -- louvered shutters, for instance, which could take hours of meticulous labor with a small brush, can be coated in seconds with a paint sprayer. Wagner says the sprayer can reduce painting time by two-thirds, and the power roller can cut rolling time in half.

The new Power Painter 404 has fully adjustable pressure for applications from thick latex to light-bodied stains, a low-noise, piston-driven 1/3 horsepower pump, a quick-connect roller attachment and 25 feet of spray hose. It costs about $289. Wagner's headquarters are in Minneapolis, Minn. Call toll-free for product information: (800) 328-8251.

*A device that makes using any kind of spray can easier is the "Can Hand'ler," from Products International Inc. of San Diego. It's a pistol-grip device that snaps on and off any standard spray can; the manufacturer claims it reduces hand fatigue and allows steady and even spraying of substances from paint to insecticides to solvents.

It has a patented safety lock to keep can contents safe from small children or other unauthorized users. The plastic device costs $3.98 including taxes and postage; order it from Products International Inc., 7840 Mission Center Court, Suite 101, San Diego, Calif. 92108. Or call (619) 296-7376.

*Probably the last time you saw the name Square D was when you checked a circuit breaker on your electrical panel. It might surprise you to know that the company also makes a home-electronics network that links video, stereo and intercom functions throughout the house. It allows any touch-tone phone to connect with in-wall speakers; it expands stereo sound into zones with individual controls; it allows remote video access from a TV that's tuned to another program. And it does it all without computers, programs or special wire.

Instead, the system uses modular components to coordinate telephone, audio and video functions. It links existing systems to built-in speakers, controls, optional closed-circuit cameras and other equipment.

There are three Elan systems: one for new construction; one for existing homes; and a more sophisticated version that Square D says provides "the ultimate versatility in home electronics performance."

For more information about the Elan system or to locate a dealer, call toll-free, (800) 767-0914. (Professionals who wish to install or distribute the systems can call the same number.)

*Kohler Co., among the more innovative makers of kitchen and bath fixtures, has two new products designed to achieve environmental as well as practical and aesthetic goals. One is the Trocadero Power Lite toilet, a low-flush or water-saver fixture that uses a small electric pump to push water through. The toilet has two flushes, 1 gallon and 1.6 gallons. It fits a standard 12-inch rough-in, and plugs into a conventional wall outlet. The toilet, which so far comes only in white, will be available in July.

Kohler is also offering the EcoCycle sink, a two-basin kitchen fixture that has a chute system in the center to deposit recyclable materials, or for materials to be composted. The chute leads to a bucket under the sink that swings out for easy emptying. The EcoCycle sink will be available in August from Kohler products dealers.

This is a tiny fraction of the new things springing up in the home category, but they do illustrate three common themes that seem to be running through all manufacturers' lines this season: Simplicity, security and environmental sensitivity. Look for those traits to continue throughout the '90s.

Next: Building fences.

Mr. Johnson is construction manager for Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore. Ms. Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

If you have questions, tips or experiences to share about working on houses, write to us c/o HOME WORK, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St. Baltimore, 21278. Questions of general interest will be answered in the column; comments, tips and experiences will be reported in occasional columns.

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