Lightfair in Philadelphia this week bills itself as the world's largest commercial and architectural lighting trade show. But for the Consumer Reports staffers who test and report on energy-saving lightbulbs, Lightfair is our geeky go-to for the latest in lighting. As competition for the growing LED market heats up, manufacturers are promising lightbulbs that do more and cost less. Here are five developments from the show that turned us on.
Upbeat housing forecasts, including a projected 22-percent increase in single-family housing starts for 2013, made for a giddy International Builders' Show in Las Vegas. Our editors and analysts were among the 60,000 or so attendees there checking out the latest products, building practices, and technologies from more than 900 exhibitors. It was a lot to take in. But here are five trends we expect to see more of in 2014, when the Builders' Show returns to Vegas, joining forces with the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show for what promises to be an even bigger bonanza.
More and bigger storms like Hurricane Sandy have driven generator sales through the roof. You can check whether some of the latest models are working with your cell phone—and sidestep fueling issues when gas stations are closed. New models on display at the International Builders' Show can be monitored from a smart phone or run on propane instead of gasoline.
Why sing in the shower a capella when you can get a full orchestra accompaniment with the push of a button. A portable speaker on Kohler's Moxie Showerhead can stream music from a smart phone, MP3 player, laptop, tablet, or other Bluetooth-enabled device from up to 32 feet away. The singing showerhead was turning heads at this week's International Builders' Show.
From washers to thermostats, you'll find more touchscreen technology all around the house. Schlage's new Touchscreen Deadbolt Lock brings that convenience to your front door. The battery-powered deadbolt replaces your existing lockset without the need for modifications and uses simple, four-digit access codes to open and lock the door. The touchscreen lock was on display at the International Builders' Show.
Vinyl flooring may be relatively cheap and easy to install, but you still have to glue it down. Lumber Liquidators' Tranquility Click LVT is among the first you simply click together and lay down without glue. Tongue-and-groove edges let the sections snap together and float over old flooring, plywood, and below-grade concrete just like plastic laminate and some engineered-wood floors. It caught our attention at the International Builders' Show.
Your next toilet could save you more than just water—Gerber's new Viper also promises to save some space without sacrificing performance. On display at the International Builders' Show, the slim toilet can help you change a small space into a powder room.
Want a stone wall or mantle? Boral Versetta Stone lets you put one in your home yourself—with simple nails or screws—in as little as a few hours. Each two-foot-square composite panel has the look and feel of real ledgestone or limestone, and includes a galvanized fastener strip. It almost had us fooled at the International Builders' Show.
We've seen remote-controlled thermostats, door locks, and even washing machines. Now GE is bringing the convenience to cooking appliances, with the launch of its new wall ovens at the International Builders' Show. The ovens, available in black, white, and stainless finishes, will sell for between $1,000 and $3,500 starting in June.
Panasonic says its new EY74A1 drill is one of the fastest in its category. But the big news is the claim that this 18-volt drill can also run on just 14.4 volts with about as much oomph ... if a bit less run time. Called Dual Voltage Technology, it includes a more-advanced motor and electronics and lithium-nickel batteries that pack more energy than manganese or cobalt with less weight. We saw it in action at the International Builders' Show.
One of the most colorful booths at the International Builders' Show belongs to Formica, the Cincinnati-based inventor of laminate, which celebrates 100 years in 2013. To mark the milestone, the company is unveiling its new Formica Laminate Anniversary Collection, a line of 12 graphic patterns with a mid-century modern flair that captures the spirit of this American icon.
Even if you don't live in a part of the country prone to hail, such as the Great Plains and southeastern regions, you already know whether hailstorms pose enough of a threat to influence your choice of roofing. At the International Builders' Show in Las Vegas, Boral USA's announcements included its Class 4 Hail Resistant Roof Tile, a new concrete product that might qualify for a discount on your homeowners' insurance.
It's not easy to get excited about toilet seats, but the new Grip-Tight Reveal Q3 from Kohler, on display at the International Builders' Show, could really make life easier in the bathroom—especially if you're the fastidious type, or if you've ever landed on the bathroom floor after a movable seat sent you for a ride.
High-definition screens, web-enabled controls, smart capabilities—you'd expect to find these features on the latest televisions and tablets. But increasingly they're also on thermostats, as manufacturers look to up the wow factor of these relatively mundane products, while also making them easier to use. These features, which were on some of the top-rated thermostats from our latest tests, are also on new models introduced by Lennox and Honeywell at the International Builders' Show.
A vessel sink rests proudly atop a bathroom counter or cabinet, practically begging for your attention. When it's made from bronze and looks, well, a little misshapen and very artistic in a rustic sort of way, then it's no longer just a sink. The 963 Chalice Bronze Vessel Sink, $695 from MR Direct, is on display at the International Builders' Show and turning heads.
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