Just because the housing industry is going through one of its slower times doesn’t mean that the companies that think up glitzy and/or ingenious devices for your home have stopped being creative.

The  trade show floor at the International Builders Show overflowed with products, major and minor, for consumers to ponder.  A sampling:

1. If the noise coming from next door has ever made you want to scream, "Cut out that racket!" there may be a way to block out some of the irritation. United Plastics Corp. showed a noise-reducing system called dB2-4 that’s designed for installation in existing homes, apartments, condos and offices.

The material is sold in 4-by-8 rolls that weigh less than a pound per square foot and are installed with an adhesive, much like wallpaper.

The material, which is made from recycled plastic, can be painted over. The manufacturer says its product can dampen sound and reduce noise by 75 percent.

2. For better and worse, home appliances increasingly are able to do our thinking for us. Broan showed a combination recessed light and fan for bathrooms that contains a built-in moisture sensor. So if you’re showering away and have forgotten to turn on the fan, the SensAire technology will deduce that the humidity in the room is too high and will whisk it out of the room.

3. Solar power is inching ever closer to mainstream usage. Lennox Industries, for example, introduced a solar-powered central heating and cooling system. Called the SunSource Home Energy System, it consists of a solar-ready air conditioner or heat pump that serves as the platform of the system.

The homeowner can install one to 15 roof-mounted solar modules that will power the system as well as other applications – the more modules, the more homeowners can reduce energy costs, according to the company. A communications system allows homeowners to monitor each device online.

The system can be phased in gradually. A solar-ready air conditioner and heat pump can be purchased individually.

4. Baby gates are a fact of life for young families — and though the gates may have a huge safety value, they can be awkward to install and may mar the appearance of a dramatic stairway. Monahan Products has introduced the Smartlink gate latch for kids and pets that’s intended to be builder-installed into the stairway post.

When the gate isn’t in use, the latch just folds away unobtrusively. (The company also makes a retrofitted gate kit for existing homes). Monarch can custom-build the gates to match the stairs.

5. Elaborate gastronomic productions at the stove don’t necessarily require a huge air vent that overpowers the room. Jenn-Air has introduced a ventilation device that looks more like a flat-screen TV than the traditional hood that looms out over the stove.

The company says its so-called "perimetric hood" removes smoke, steam and cooking odors by pulling air through thin channels located on the perimeter (hence the name) of its glass, finished panel. The hoods are available in several sizes, finishes and in models for both wall-mounting and to be hung over kitchen islands. There’s also a ductless model, the company says.

Mary Umberger is a freelance writer in Chicago.


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