Tankless water heaters, solar-energy systems, and garage organization packages don't have much in common. But they do share the distinction of being some of the building products readers most wanted to know more about.
Over the next 22 editorial pages, you'll find the top 100 products that readers asked for information about during the past year by mailing us the reader service cards found at the back of each issue. The products, which come from the editorial pages of Building Products and its sister publications Builder and Remodeling, represent diverse wares that can save you installation time, boost your productivity, slash material costs, or make your clients say, "Wow!"

Each Top 100 product is listed with a photo, a descriptive caption, and the manufacturer's Web site and phone number. If you missed these products the first time they appeared, now's your chance to check them out. We hope you'll find a number of items that you can incorporate into your new and remodeled homes. Happy hunting!


26 Evergreen Solar. EC-100 series solar modules have spare terminals for pass-through wiring and four knockouts which give more installation options, according to the manufacturer. The firm also claims half as much silicon is used in the environmentally friendly manufacturing process, but the product performs just as well as other modules. The panels come in 12- or 24-volt configurations. 508-357-2221. www.evergreensolar.com.

27 SolarShield. This metal roof is engineered to withstand winds faster than 155 mph, the company says. It does not attract lightning any more than other roofs and also deadens sounds from rain, hail, and other bad weather, according to the maker. The manufacturer offers metal roofs in more than 100 colors and seven styles, including panel and shingle designs. 888-361-3236. www.solarshieldroofing.com.

28 Sanyo. HIT solar modules are manufactured in a variety of sizes for both residential and commercial use. The cells are 200 micrometers thick and use less silicon than conventional 350-micrometer-thick panels, the manufacturer claims. The panels have black anodized aluminum frames, and each module comes with a junction box, lead wires, and MC connectors. 310-834-5800. www.sanyo.com.

29 Jacuzzi. Designed in connection with Pininfarina, Morphosis whirlpool baths come in three profiles. The two-person Alpha model features a curving-arch design; Gamma is a corner unit; and Sigma is a stand-alone configuration. Alpha and Gamma offer chromatherapy lighting while Sigma has fiber-optic and LED lights to enhance the mood. 800-288-4002. www.jacuzzi.com.

30 Sharp. In addition to square and rectangular modules, the firm manufactures triangular panels designed to fit better on angled roofs. The modules come with black frames, trim, and clamps, which make the solar panels look like high-tech skylights, the firm claims. The manufacturer makes cells that range in power output from 70 watts to 185 watts. 800-237-4277. www.sharpusa.com/solar.

31 Genesis Homes. In conjunction with Country Living magazine, the firm created this house in 12 weeks. The 2005 Country Living Home of the Year features brand-name appliances, fixtures, and more, according to the maker. There is no visible difference between this home and site-built structures, the manufacturer says. Many floor plans are available nationwide. 866-241-2230. www.genesishomes.com.

32 GarageTek. The patented, UL-listed, and Class A fire-rated TekPanel wall system allows a variety of storage elements to attach to it. Specially engineered clips evenly distribute the weight of each storage element on the 1-foot-by-10-foot tongue-and-groove panels. Storage accessories include activity racks, shelving, large storage chests, wall cabinets, tall floor cabinets, tool brackets, baskets, and utility hooks. Workbenches and flooring materials also are part of the system, which is backed by a 10-year warranty. 866-664-2724. www.garagetek.com.

33 Woodport Interior Doors. Select and knotty alder are available on the manufacturer's collection of interior wood stile-and-rail doors including two-panel arch- and square-top styles as well as traditional raised- and flat-panel designs. Imported vertical-grain clear and knotty pine come in raised-panel, V-groove, and French glass interior doors. 715-526-2146. www.woodport.com.

34 Raynor Garage Doors. Inspired by the heritage of custom-made carriage doors, the American Rivers collection offers four distinct models, including the Potomac (shown). The doors are built around a solid 1-3/8-inch-thick Douglas fir frame with a Western red cedar surface material. Several decorative hardware options are available, as are several window designs. 800-472-9667. www.raynor.com.

35 Atlantis Energy Systems. Sunslates are made by attaching modules to the exposed area of fiber-cement roofing shingles, making the resulting roof look much like a regular roof, the manufacturer says. Sunslates are compatible with tile, shake, metal, and composite roofs, according to the firm. The exposed area of the slates is 11-3/4 inches by 15-3/4 inches. 916-438-2930. www.atlantisenergy.org.

36 Energy Photovoltaics. The EPV-40 is a thin-film solar module with a power rating of 40 watts. The panel is laminated with ethyl vinyl acetate to provide an environmental seal, the firm says. The module weighs 27 pounds and measures 25 inches by 49 inches. Some components, such as lead lengths, wire type, and mounting brackets, are customized to meet consumer requirements. 609-587-3000. www.epv.net.

37 Shell Solar. PowerMax Ultra solar modules are 10 percent more powerful than other panels on the market, the manufacturer claims. PowerMax Ultra modules are designed to perform the best in limited space and have peak outputs of 175 watts and 165 watts at 35.4 volts and 35 volts, respectively. PowerMax Ultra panels measure 63.9 inches by 32.1 inches. 805-482-6800. www.shell.com/solar.

38 Leviton. Leviton Spec-Grade Sound is a cost-effective line of audio components, including speakers and controls, designed to make installed entertainment systems standard features in new construction. Key system components can be installed with a home's structured cabling package, allowing homeowners to more easily roll the costs into the mortgage. 718-229-4040. www.leviton.com.

39 GE Energy. These roof-integrated solar systems blend seamlessly into the profile of concrete roof tile and their interlocking design makes installation quicker than with traditional panels, according to the company. The modules weigh 18 pounds and are 17.6 inches by 59.3 inches by 2.1 inches in size. The panels are designed to withstand 1-inch hailstone impacts at 50 mph. 866-770-5248. www.gepower.com/solar.

40 BP Solar. The 175-watt EnergyLux solar panels come in monocrystalline and polycrystalline styles, as well as in small area modules. These modules are available with the company's Universal frame or its low-profile Integra mounting system. The module frames, which are designed to withstand winds over 125 mph, come in silver or dark bronze. 301-698-4200. www.bpsolar.com.

41 GE Appliances. Designed for wine connoisseurs, the Walk In Wine Vault is a wine storage and display chamber that must be professionally installed. The 7-foot-9-inch-by-8-foot-8-1/2-inch unit maintains humidity levels for long-term storage and comes with the Electronic Sommelier, an inventory tracking system. The system includes a touchscreen monitor and printer to create labels for bottles as they're stored. 800-626-2000. www.ge.com.

42 Grace Construction Products. Grace Ice and Water Shield, a self-adhered roofing underlayment, is a membrane that sits between the shingles and roof deck, providing protection against the elements, the maker says. The product seals around nails; it will not crack, dry, or rot, the firm claims. It can be applied to all standard roofs. Ice and Water Shield strips are also available. 800-444-6459. www.graceconstruction.com.

43 Stone Mountain Brick. Brick veneers come in smooth and textured finishes for interior or exterior, new or remodeling residential applications. The 1/2-inch-thick veneers do not require additional footing, wall ties, or foundations, the firm says, and weigh only 2 pounds 12 ounces per square foot. They come in 11 standard colors; custom colors also are available. 888-955-3571. www.stonemountain.ca.

44 Heliocol. This company's pool heaters operate by using the existing pump to circulate water through pipes in solar panels. The sun heats these tubes, which take the water back into the pool until a desired temperature is reached. The polypropylene tubes do not deteriorate or discolor pool water, the manufacturer says. 800-797-6527. www.heliocol.com.

45 Clopay. Described as part shoji screen, part 1950s-era gas station door, Avante collection aluminum and glass garage doors add an urban touch to modern homes, the firm says. Options to control the degree of light transmission and privacy are available. The glass is supported by a 2-1/8-inch-thick aluminum frame that can be painted or sealed with a clear, white, or brown finish. 800-225-6729. www.clopaydoor.com.

46 Tamko. EverGrain composite decking now is available in weathered wood, a natural brown shade. The compression-molded plastic and wood fiber decking features a deep wood-grain pattern and additionally comes in redwood, cedar, and Cape Cod grey colors. Matching skirting and railing systems are available. 800-253-1401. www.evergrain.com.

47 KitchenAid. Pro Line stainless steel washers and dryers feature stainless steel internal drums and complement the firm's entire Pro Line series of kitchen appliances. The luxury laundry appliances are the first to feature stainless steel on all exterior surfaces, comments the maker. The large-capacity washer and dryer boast glass touch-sensitive controls in a blue LED display. Matching stainless steel pedestals are optional. 800-253-3977. www.insideadvantage.com.

48 Tre-Piu. Pavilion interior sliding doors provide privacy between rooms while allowing light to pass through. The glass-panel doors slide left or right, come in an oak-veneered or aluminum frame, and can be speced from 11 options. Many modern as well as classic styles are available from the maker. 39-0362-861120. www.trep-trepiu.com.

49 HAI. The Lighting Control family of products includes 600- and 1,000-watt switches and dimmers, an auxiliary switch, a PIM, and a room and house controller; all products meet UPB digital communications standards, ensures the firm. Lighting Control products can be used independently, with HAI controllers, or with other UPB-compatible controllers. 985-867-5877. www.homeauto.com.

50 Corstone Sinks. The design of the Harmony sink makes it ideal for tight corners. The double-bowl sink comes in self-rim and undermount styles and features a center-mounted faucet deck. The non-porous surface offers high scratch, stain, and heat resistance, the maker says. The sink is available in more than 40 colors. 334-382-1991. www.corstonesinks.com.


Clearly, builders have seen the light. Twelve of the Top 100 products are solar-oriented–either photovoltaic roof panels, integrated shingles, or hot water heaters–and readers want to know more.

Yet solar-generated energy accounts for less than 1 percent of household electricity in the United States. That’s because the upfront costs are high–a minimal system could cost at least $16,000. But interest in solar-powered homes is growing by about 30 percent annually, spurred by tax incentives and rebates from states and utilities, according to industry experts.

"Areas like Arizona and Hawaii already have significant state and local incentives for green building," notes Tom Bohan, president of SunSystems. And California, he says, passed $2.9 billion solar-incentive legislation that continues funding for photovoltaic systems and solar water heaters.

These days, home builders and homeowners are buying two kinds of solar electricity products: traditional rooftop panels and cutting-edge integrated roofing products like photovoltaic tiles and shingles.

"The integrated look is going to be the future," contends Timothy Merrigan of the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "It’s more appealing architecturally."

But it’s the upfront costs that are holding solar back. Builder/developer Carter Scoot of Massachusetts has constructed a few solar homes with a grant that subsidizes half the price of the $18,000 systems. He says he won’t build others without the funding. "It won’t be cost-effective," he notes.

Besides photovoltaic systems, solar thermal water heaters are hot. By using sunlight to heat water that is stored in tanks, these systems are designed to provide up to 80 percent of the home’s hot-water supply, reducing energy costs by about two-thirds when compared to the costs of conventional water heating, according to the DOE. For a family of four, that savings can add up to about $200 to $300 per year based on 70-gallon-per-day usage, according to Bill Guiney of Solargenix Energy.

Despite the higher cost–systems are $1,500 to $4,000, installed–solar thermal hot water is on the rise in low-income, multifamily, and smaller commercial operations such as laundry facilities and public pools. Residential installations should continue to grow, experts say, as tax breaks and other incentives swell.

"Everything that’s connected with solar is evolving," says Linda Schieffelin, Clarum’s senior purchasing agent, "and in the coming years [all types of solar power] will be used more."

–Julie Weber