HOME: Ready for what the ?future house? might bring?

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY NANCY PETERSON – KSU
A refrigerator with a see-through door, microwave clothes dryer, and furnace that can be programmed to take the chill out of the air a few minutes before the family gets up may all be part of the house of the future, said Marilyn Bode, K-State Research and Extension housing specialist.



The see-through door will offer an opportunity to view snacks and survey grocery needs.



Applying microwave technology to clothes drying should save time and energy, but the microwave dryer also is expected to kill bacteria that may be present on the clothes. The shorter drying times should extend the life of clothing, too.



Consumers are, however, advised to wait for the new appliances and not to try drying clothes in conventional microwave ovens, Bode said.



Programming appliances is not new, but there will be new applications of the technology that should increase comfort, convenience and provide cost-savings for home owners, she said.



?Home builders are being asked to serve two distinctly different audiences. Families are choosing substantially larger homes?their kitchen may be large enough to accommodate two ranges, two dishwashers, two sinks ?while a growing number of empty-nesters are choosing smaller town or patio homes. Both groups indicate preferences for comfort, convenience, and low maintenance,? Bode said.



Newer homes are built to be energy efficient. Many also will utilize alternative energy sources, which can provide a cost-savings and needed energy when ready power is not available.



Environmental concerns, including water conservation, also are on builders? and homeowners? preference lists.



?New technologies can seem costly but the increased efficiency they provide usually will provide a savings in time and money. For example, energy-efficient refrigerators use about 60 percent less energy than refrigerators manufactured as little as 20 years ago.



?Energy-efficient front-loading clothes washers and dryers have been introduced recently; so has a free-standing double oven. Prices on the innovative appliances and other new technologies are likely to come down as sales increase,? Bode said.



New home products also are expected to target special needs.



Simplified audio, visual and computer equipment can simplify life itself; voice-activated equipment will make additional services, like a security system that allows you to talk to the person on the other side of the door, available.



A wheelchair capable of climbing stairs also is on the drawing board, she said.



?Smart? houses are not new, but are becoming more commonplace. Many of the ideas they initially offered?motion sensitive lights; systems and appliances that can be programmed?are standard in many homes.



The idea behind the ?smart? house is to link all of these conveniences together with a central computer.



Newer frills, like a programmable whirlpool tub that will fill and await homeowners each evening, will add cost but please gadget-conscious consumers.



Other new ideas in the works include some time-savers as well as some gadgets that may compete with creative new toys. They include:



— A free-standing round refrigerator with rotating shelves;



— An ?electric? ice chest that plugs into the cigarette lighter in the family vehicle;



— Space-saving under-the-counter refrigerator popular with homeowners and apartment dwellers;



— Odor-free paints, solvents, cleaning supplies;



— Increased energy efficiency for climate control systems;



— Rechargeable batteries that could last decades;



— Home recycling systems;



— Lightweight vacuum cleaners that can tackle tough jobs;



— Cordless headsets; and



n Robotics inside and out, including a food-service robot capable of reheating food; vehicle with a built-in navigation system; and lawn mower able to sense when the lawn needs mowing, then get the job done.



?Consumers stand to benefit from these and other applied technologies,? Bode said.

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