Why don’t we have that here?

An ITN reader suggested subscribers write in about great inventions, systems, time savers or conveniences that they have seen overseas. A number of responses were printed in the April ’07 issue. Here are a few more.

If you run across a great idea, write to “Why Don’t We Have That Here?,” c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com (include the address at which you receive ITN). Please add where you saw it and when you were there.

Early this year I visited New Zealand, where most of the hotels and B&Bs have washers and dryers available for guests. Usually, even laundry detergent is available. It certainly made it easier to do my laundry.



Seconding the observation about grocery cashiers being seated while they checked customers’ purchases (April ’07, pg. 54), I can report that the phenomenon also was practiced, at least, in Helsinki (October ’06), London (October ’05) and Lima (March ’00).



One reader, Mr. Hampton, wrote about instantaneous hot water heaters. These also are commonly used in Great Britain, Ireland, Belgium, India, South Africa and many more countries. I was brought up in Holland and we had only tankless heaters, which were called “geysers.”

While tankless hot water heaters may not be allowed in the Hamptons’ cabin and won’t work in all homes (it depends on the existing wiring and utility pipes), they are available in the U.S., as can be seen at the website www.washingtonwaterheaters.com/tankless.html.

That website states, “Gas fired tankless or ‘on demand’ type water heaters have been used for more than 50 years in other parts of the world. While tankless heaters have been available for many years here in the U.S., the models that were available would not supply enough hot water for more than one fixture at a time. Because of this, tankless water heaters got a reputation as being inadequate for use by Americans who want it all and want it now. The good news is those days are behind us. Models are available now that will supply an endless supply of hot water and serve three or more fixtures at a time. . .”



I have just returned from two separate trips to Asia and have been bemoaning the seeming loss of our technology lead.

• I just installed a toilet by Toto of Japan (Drake model) that actually works, using the same system we

have but with improved technology. While in Japan, I noticed that all of the bathroom fixtures were by Toto. I didn’t opt for the heated, automatic seat, built-in bidet or heated blown-air model; I just wanted one that would actually work on one flush! It’s great.

• On my first trip this year, I discovered tankless water heaters in China. I found out they have been in use throughout Europe, etc., for at least 10 years and are now going into many new homes here. These are not the instant hot water heaters referred to in the April issue but real replacements for the traditional U.S. hot water tank.

The hot water still travels the same distance through the pipes so takes as long to heat up, but the device heats water only upon demand and doesn’t contain but 0.2 to 0.5 gallons of water (no chance of getting 50 gallons all over your attic or wherever).

After researching three different Japanese brands, I am replacing my two 50-gallon hot water tanks with one Noritz brand tankless water heater. There is a $300 federal tax credit allowed for this appliance, since the energy savings should cut one’s gas or electric bill about in half.

• Cell phones overseas seem to work better. They use one cell system, while in the States we use four different systems. Also, apparently air time there is much cheaper.

• Many foreign places have traffic signals that display how many seconds are left until the light changes.

• In Shanghai there were beautiful light displays on the highrises. The lights went out at 10:30 p.m. Do we really need all our buildings wasting energy being lit all night?

• All over Asia, hotels have guests each use their plastic room key to activate/deactivate the electricity when they enter/exit the room. What a tremendous energy savings, and very simple and inexpensive!

• Worldwide, except here, for at least 15 years window-unit air-conditioners have been used that can be mounted on an inside wall. By using these units individually or in conjunction with other units (but without ducts), one can cool just one or two rooms without having to air-condition the entire house. Again, a tremendous overall gain in energy savings!



Two items mentioned by readers in the April issue are available in the States.

You can get a Japanese bidet seat (Toto brand) in the U.S. for your existing toilet; call 866/927-4538 or visit www.bidetseatwarehouse.com.

You can also get a tankless hot water heater. Just Google “tankless hot water” and you’ll find a number of them, and Consumer Reports will help you pick one.



For energy savings, a lot of European hotels put their hall lights on movement sensors.

Also, the lights inside each room have a central control unit by the door in which you insert your plastic key card to turn them on, then remove the key when you leave to insure they are turned off.

They also often have a set of switches by the bed with which to turn all the lights on and off — a great convenience.



We were on a homestay in Japan in 2001. As you can imagine, many of the homes there are very small; the kitchens can be especially crowded.

One family partially solved the problem by having a small refrigerator that opened from both sides. We loved the idea and even tried to fi nd a manufacturer in this country who sold such an appliance. No luck.



Ten years ago I flew from San Francisco to Moscow on a Russian Aeroflot aircraft. I was very surprised to note and utilize their individual heat/air outlets as well as the light, which were convenient located on the back of the seat directly in front of me. That’s convenience.



While driving in southern Turkey in May ’05, I noticed that their traffic lights, as in most countries, went from green to yellow to red. What was interesting and made me ask “Why don’t we have that here?” was that the red lights then went to yellow again before turning green, informing stopped traffic that their red light would be changing to green.

The impact was — unlike here in the U.S. where aggressive drivers watch the cross-traffic signal to see it change to yellow and then start revving up the engine or inching forward without paying attention to someone entering the crosswalk — drivers in Turkey could keep their eyes on their own signal, watching for last-minute pedestrians or bikers and safely moving forward when the light turned green. Interesting!



Want to slow down traffic? Why don’t we install those special speed-control lights that I’ve encountered in Europe?

Traveling into, say, a 50-kph area, the lights stay green as long as your speed stays around 50 kph or under. But if you exceed that limit, the light flashes and, if you don’t quickly slow down, then turns red and stays red for a minute or so. So you have to stop and sit there along with any other cars traveling in your direction.

For that minute of sitting, you’re not happy with yourself, nor are the other drivers! It’s a great way to keep the traffic flowing under the speed limit.