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BrookeChaplan

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When you take a deep breath, you understandably expect the air to be fresh and healthy. However, air pollution is a growing problem in many areas. When the air you breathe is polluted, you bring toxins into your body. These harmful toxins can increase the risk of respiratory conditions, including asthma, chronic bronchitis, and even lung cancer. Unfortunately, outdoor air contaminants can enter your home, and this means that there may be no place for you to enjoy breathing fresh air. However, there are some steps that you can take to keep your indoor air as fresh and clean as possible.

 

Take Your Shoes Off

When you enter your home, you bring contaminants from outdoors in with you. Your shoes are a primary source of contaminants. When you walk across your home with dirty soles, pollutants become airborne. Some contaminants will lodge themselves in your carpet or will enter your HVAC system. One of the best ways to reduce this source of indoor air pollution is to take your shoes off before you enter your home. You can also wipe your pets’ paws off for additional benefit. Remember to vacuum regularly to remove particles from the carpet.

 

Replace Windows and Seals

Windows seemingly last forever at first glance. Unless they physically break, you may think that any piece of glass between you and the outside world would suffice. However, older windows may leak, and this could allow air pollution to stream into your home around the clock. This could also impact climate control and energy efficiency in your home. Replacing older windows and re-sealing the space around your windows and doors can help you to reduce or eliminate the amount of outdoor air that enters your home from these spaces. If you’re not certain of your ability to replace the windows perfectly to avoid drafts, consider hiring a professional window service to do it for you.

 

Clean Your HVAC System

Even when you take these steps, some air pollution will still enter your home. Your HVAC system can filter many of these contaminants out of your indoor air, but it is most effective when the system is cleaned and well-maintained. Replace air filters regularly. In addition, schedule HVAC system maintenance at least once per year.

 

You understandably want to breathe healthy air inside your home, but your air may not be as clean as it could be. As you can see, there are many ways that air pollution can enter your home, but there are also steps that you can take to improve the situation. Follow these helpful tips soon so that you can enjoy the benefit of fresher air in your home.

BrookeChaplan

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Burning a wood fire in your fireplace on chilly winter days can add a touch of coziness to your home, and it can also bring much-needed warmth to your space. However, a wood-burning fire in your fireplace can increase indoor air pollution. The air pollution can be so significant at times that it creates a true health hazard that puts you and your loved ones inside the home at immediate risk. With proper usage and maintenance of your fireplace, you can reduce the risk of indoor air pollution generated by your fireplace.

 

Clean the Chimney Regularly

Each time you burn a wood fire in your fireplace, creosote, and other elements are deposited in the chimney. These are highly flammable materials, and a stray spark could ignite the material and cause a house fire. In addition, when the material is very thick, it can partially or even fully block the flow of smoke out of the home. When even some of the smoke remains inside the home, the issue of toxic gases becomes a serious concern. Scheduling annual chimney sweeping service before you use the fireplace each season can reduce this risk. If you use your fireplace heavily, it may also be necessary to schedule a second service halfway through the winter season.

 

Open the Flue Completely

Another cause of indoor air pollution from a fireplace relates to the flue. The flue must be fully open in order to allow smoke to filter up and out of the home. If the flue is not open, the smoke can billow back into the home. During a chimney inspection, a chimney sweep can inspect the flue and ensure that it functions as intended.

 

Ensure Proper Ventilation

Ventilation is critical when you are burning a wood fire in your fireplace. Smoke typically will rise up and out of the home through the chimney when the flue is open. However, when you have open windows or doors inside the home or even when fans are operating in some rooms, the smoke can be pulled into the home. If you are concerned about carbon monoxide from your fireplace, invest in a quality carbon monoxide detector. If ventilation continues to be an issue with a conventional fireplace, you may need to replace it with a safer alternative like a gas fireplace insert.

 

As wonderful as a wood-burning fireplace can be throughout the winter, this charming feature can be hazardous to your health. Indoor air pollution is a serious concern for anyone who burns a fire even occasionally in their fireplace. Take these steps today to keep your home environment as safe as possible.

BrookeChaplan

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Growing an organic garden is not as arduous as some people think it is. Indeed, it may be easier than growing one that depends on lots of commercial fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides in an attempt to wrestle nature into producing perfect fruit and veggies. Organic gardeners believe that their garden can be healthy and grow abundantly with some guided help from nature. With this in mind, here are three tips for growing organic for the first time:

Cultivate the Earthworms

The sight of an earthworm in the soil brings joy to the organic gardener’s heart, for they are a gardener’s best friend. Their tunneling through the soil aerates it, breaks it up and homogenizes and loosens it, which helps the plant’s roots reach deep. Their burrowing also raises important minerals from the subsoil to the topsoil where they are available to your plants. They neutralize soil that is too alkaline or acid for your plants, and they liberate essential nutrients and help the soil retain water.

Use Compost and Other Natural Fertilizers

Compost is any organic material that has been broken down into simpler forms through the action of bacteria. When used as fertilizer, it feeds both plants and other creatures who live in the soil. This is in contrast to artificial fertilizers, which can kill such beneficial beasties as earthworms if they are not used in just the right way. Compost also lasts a long time because its components are broken down slowly. Chemical fertilizers give the plants a boost then they’ll peter out quickly. You can purchase Nature Safe organic fertilizer as an alternative to harmful chemicals if you can’t compost.  Another great thing about compost is that you can make your own out of kitchen scraps and other waste products. These can include the scraped skins and ends of vegetables, grass clippings, paper as long as it doesn’t have colored ink and autumn leaves. The few things to avoid include meat, the manure of carnivorous animals, charcoal and wood ashes.

Getting Rid of Pests

Even the most loved-up organic garden is going to attract pests, though probably not as many as you think. Ways to discourage pests without organic remedies include:

  • ·         Encouraging earthworms

  • ·         Composting

  • ·         Planting varieties of plants that are resistant to diseases and pests

  • ·         Using row covers before the pests or diseases can attack

  • ·         Encourage insect-eating birds to show up by building birdhouses

  • ·         Plant in the fall when pests and diseases are less common

These are only three tips for a first time organic gardener. With time, care and patience, you won’t believe how beautiful, healthy and fertile your garden will be.

BrookeChaplan

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There is consistently growing evidence that organic foods are most definitely healthier for humans than crops grown commercially, but the benefits of organic foods actually extend even further than just how they affect our bodies. Organic foods also have a significantly better impact on the environment as well. The term “organic” doesn’t just refer to what is or isn’t put in the food when it is processed, but also how the food is grown in the first place. Here are 3 ways organic crops are better for the environment.

 

The Types of Pesticides Used Are Tightly Controlled

One of the biggest problems with commercially grown foods is the types and amounts of pesticides allowed to be used. Some foods even have pesticides genetically embedded in the food itself, which means every time you eat a product made from that original material, you are ingesting pesticide. Even when commercial farmers spray pesticides, however, those chemicals end up in water sources, which contaminates and pollutes the water. Organic farmers are required to use natural pesticides which are better for your body and better for the environment.

 

Creates a Better Food Chain

Animals raised on organic grains are not only better for you but better for the environment. Remember that animals create a great deal of waste. When animals are fed an organic diet, that waste can be used to fertilize organic crops, which preserves the purity of the food chain. When animals are fed commercial grains, which contain commercial pesticides and are often genetically modified, then those ingredients end up in the animal waste, which once again ends up in the dirt, soil and water supplies. Animals that are fed organic grains made by companies like Grainpro Australia Pty Ltd are not only better for them, but for the environment as well.

 

Better for Wildlife

One thing that is important to remember is that animals share the same food and water sources that we do. While our bodies may be able to handle the trace amounts of pesticides found in commercially grown food, that doesn’t mean that animals can. Keep in mind that wildlife is a vital part of the food chain. From bees that pollinate crops like cucumbers, pumpkins, cherries and apples to microbial organisms that tend soil and create a more hospitable atmosphere for crops to grow, organic farming is friendlier to wildlife, which in turn is more environmentally friendly on the whole.

 

While there are certainly modern farming practices that commercial farmers can employ which can lessen the environmental impact of commercial farming, they are not required to the way organic farmers are. The rules and regulations guiding organic farming are far more stringent, which means—for the moment at least—organic farming is by far the most beneficial to the environment.

BrookeChaplan

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You want your home to be a comfortable place, and the temperature of it plays a large role in keeping it as cozy and refreshing as possible. While you may not realize it, your roof plays a large role in the temperature of your home. In fact, there are many different characteristics to consider when choosing a roof for your home that will provide you with the best temperature all year long. Here are four main characteristics that affect the temperature of your home.

 

Color

It may seem silly, but the color of the roof can have a large impact on its ability to absorb or retain heat. Studies have proven that dark-colored roofs keep what’s underneath them 10 to 15 degrees warmer than the material under light-colored roofs. This is simply because dark colors absorb light, while light colors are more reflective. Darker colored roofs are popular in colder places that get a decent amount of snow in the winter since they absorb heat and help the snow melt away faster.

 

Material

The material the roof is made of also impacts the internal temperature of your home. Asphalt and metal roofs are the most popular materials to construct a roof with, and each has pros and cons, but an asphalt roof only reflects about 30 percent of the light, while a metal roof reflects the majority of the light rays and can keep your home an even temperature all the time. This perhaps makes it the best choice when it comes to roofing material. But, if you’re not a fan of how metal roofs look, you don’t have to settle. Most roofing materials are now constructed to offer a “cool roof” option. These materials have been designed to absorb heat and reflect light to regulate the temperature of your home. Although they may be more expensive up-front, the energy savings can make them worth it in the long run.

 

Construction

It’s important to keep in mind that, while you may pick the perfect color and material for your roof, the most important part is the construction of it. Most professional roofers, like Acoma Roofing, Inc., will tell you that ventilating the attic area properly is the best way to keep your home cool in the hotter months. On the other hand, proper insulation is an extremely important part of keeping your home warm in the cooler months.

 

Each of these things plays an important role in regulating the temperature of your home. But, it’s important to remember that every home does not have the same roofing needs. Be sure to consult with a professional to determine what type of roof will fit your style and needs.

BrookeChaplan

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Remodeling a home is a great way to shake things up. If you care about the environment, one of the major shakeups you can make deals with environmental friendliness. As you change things up in your home, you can make sure your new space is a bit greener. Here are a few tips to make your remodeling more environmentally conscious.

 

Reuse What You Can

The remodeling process involves a great deal of destruction but it can also involve quite a bit of creation. Instead of getting rid of everything that doesn’t work, why not try repurposing some of it? You might be able to save money and help the environment by repainting old cabinets or repurposing some of the building materials from the area that you are remodeling. If you can’t reuse what you’ve got, try using reclaimed items from someone else. This helps to cut down on the pollution involved in manufacturing new items and keeps detritus out of the landfills at the same time.

 

Dispose Of Your Waste

The way you get rid of rubbish can play a huge role in the green nature of your company. If you’re burning trash or just dragging bags out to the curb every week, the odds are that you’re contributing to the problem more than helping. Instead of going that route, why not work with professionals, like those at Green Bin, to make sure your trash is hauled away in an environmentally safe way? While you should always do what you can to reduce waste, getting rid of what is left in the right manner is a good start.

 

Be Energy Efficient

Finally, pay attention to the efficiency of what you’re adding to your home. Bringing in newer appliances is usually a good way to ensure that your energy usage is a fair bit lower, but you don’t have to stop there. Look into other energy-saving techniques like environmentally-friendly insulation or lower ceilings that will require less energy to heat and cool. You can even reduce your dependency on the electrical grid by installing solar panels when you remodel. Choosing energy-friendly additions to your home can help you to reduce your carbon footprint.

 

Always make sure you keep environmental friendliness in mind when you remodel. Reuse materials when you can, dispose of things properly when you can’t, and always look for more efficient ways to bring energy into your home. If make going green a priority you should be able to find ways to make your remodel fall in line with your plans.

BrookeChaplan

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Staying warm and cozy throughout the winter months is important, but many homeowners will deal with unpleasant drafts, high energy bills and other unpleasant issues. Your instinct may be to run the furnace more frequently to make your home warmer, but this is expensive and not necessary. There are many factors that can affect your comfort level in the home as well as your energy costs throughout the winter months, and tackling them head-on may help you to save money and avoid energy waste. These are some of the most effective solutions available to combat energy loss all season long.

Upgrade Your Roof

While the primary function of your roof is to protect your home from direct exposure to the elements and to prevent pest infestations, an important secondary function is to promote energy efficiency. Different types of roofs have various energy efficiency ratings. More than that, the condition of your roof can also affect your home’s energy efficiency. Consult with a roofing company, like Top Dog Roofing, to determine if your roof needs to be repaired or replaced. If you need to make a replacement, choose the new roofing material carefully.

Re-Seal Doors And Windows

Even when your roof is well-maintained and in great condition, be aware that the doors and windows can let climate-controlled air escape from the interior of the home. Seals around the doors and windows are designed to prevent this from happening, but seals will wear down over time. Re-sealing doors and windows throughout the home is an affordable and simple project that most homeowners can complete on their own.

Update Your Insulation

Another excellent idea to consider if you are concerned about conserving energy throughout the winter season while still keeping your home warm is to update your insulation. Because insulation is not easily visible, it is easy to overlook the importance of this component of your home. However, some insulation is not as energy efficient as other types. In addition, it can deteriorate or even slouch down in the walls to decrease its effectiveness. If you are thinking about updating your insulation, consider the benefits of spray-in foam insulation.

Updating your home’s features is important if you want to decrease energy loss throughout the winter months. These are steps that can save you money throughout the season and that can also make your home environment more comfortable. Spend time reviewing each of these tips to determine which ones may be most effective for your home’s needs.

BrookeChaplan

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As winter rolls in, many people find their energy bills rising quickly. While it may be difficult to warm your home throughout the winter without seeing some increase in your energy bill, there are several things you can do to conserve energy throughout the winter.

 

Remove Phantom Power Users

Phantom power users are devices and appliances that use small amounts of power whenever they’re plugged in, even when they’re not in use. To prevent this, attach your gaming systems, televisions, and other similar items to power strips and turn the strip off when they aren’t in use. Get used to shutting your computer down completely when you aren’t using it. Turn off appliances that aren’t being used. Phantom power can add a significant amount to your energy bill each month and is particularly wasteful because the power is being wasted without any of the benefits of using the device.

 

Have Maintenance Done

Even if you don’t do it every year, which is advisable, you should still call out professionals like Classic Air and Heating to inspect and maintain your air system. During the maintenance process, your system will be cleaned and examined to ensure that it’s performing at its optimal level. As a result, your unit won’t have to work too hard to warm your home.

 

Drop the Temperature

Every degree that you drop the temperature in your home throughout the winter could save as much as 3% on your energy bill. Even reducing the temperature overnight, when you’re wrapped up in bed anyway, can make a substantial difference in your energy costs. You don’t have to freeze yourself out, but if you keep the temperature a few degrees lower and bundle up a bit, you’ll save money and energy all winter long.

 

Invest in a Programmable Thermostat

 A programmable thermostat will allow you to reduce the temperature in your home when you aren’t there, saving on your energy costs while still keeping your home comfortable when you’re at home. Many models can even be controlled by your phone. It’s not hard to see that you can save money and energy by only running the heater in preparation for being home and not when you know you’ll be gone. Many smart thermostats also integrate into smart home systems that allow you to turn on and off different lights and fixtures to save even more energy.

 

Block Unused Rooms

If there are rooms in your home that you don’t use on a regular basis, close the door and block the bottom of the door with a towel or blanket. This will stop heat and cold from that room interfering with the thermostat readings. The more space you have in your home, the quicker the heat can dissipate. Closing off rooms allows your thermostat to take its readings based on the temperature of the main spaces of your home. Additionally, you’ll want to keep doors to high traffic areas open so air can circulate easier.

 

Seal Doors and Windows

Small leaks and drafts can add up quickly as the warm air inside your home is replaced with cold outdoor air. Take the time to caulk around drafts in your windows and, if necessary, purchase a seal to place against your doors. This especially important at night, when temperatures drop.

 

Controlling your energy costs throughout the winter doesn’t have to be your biggest challenge of the year. By implementing these simple tricks, you can watch your energy usage decrease and your energy bills become easier to handle.

BrookeChaplan

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Severe storms are one of the more common reasons why you may lose electrical power in your home, but other factors can also create this problem. Many electrical service providers will restore electricity within hours, but there may be other instances when you are without electrical power for days. Keep in mind that your ability to control your home’s climate, to keep your refrigerated foods fresh and more are eliminated when you have no electrical power in your home. If you want to be fully prepared for this type of situation, consider some of these alternative ways to power your home.

 

An Underground Propane Tank

While you may use electrical power for many purposes, you may use gas fuel for cooking, heat, and even electricity if you have the right system. This could help you to meet many of your needs for energy. You may still want to light candles to see around your house at night. However, this is an excellent way for you to reduce the inconvenience associated with a power outage. Propane is a clean-burning fuel and can be used in nearly any home. You can easily search for a service to install a tank by searching “underground tank installation in Kitsap” for your area to get started.

 

Solar Panels

Another energy option available is solar panels. You can install solar panels on your roof now, and your panels may produce energy for you on a daily basis. In fact, you may completely eliminate the need to draw energy from the public energy supply. When your friends and neighbors experience a power outage, your home could still be well-lit. In fact, solar energy panels may provide you electricity to power your lights, appliances, HVAC system and more.

 

Wind and Solar Power Generators

You can also create a backup energy plan by using a power generator. Some generators use propane or other types of fuel, but some eco-friendly options derive power from solar or wind generators. You can explore the many power generator options available to select one that may be most suitable for the environment where you live. Remember that solar panels for a generator may not provide energy at night, but solar panels on your roof may store power that can be used throughout the night.

 

At first glance, a power outage is simply a minor inconvenience. However, when a power outage extends for hours or even days, you may face issues with rotting food in your fridge, uncomfortable or even dangerous temperatures in your home and more. Many people will experience at least short power outages several times per year, and more significant outages can also occur periodically. By exploring some of these alternative sources of energy and calling companies like Kitsap Propane to assist in implementing them today, you can be prepared for any future power outages.

BrookeChaplan

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Winter can be a brutal time for your family as well as your pets, and your whole crew may spend much of your time indoors where it is safe, warm and cozy. However, winter weather can be harsh on your home in different ways as well. Some of the more common types of winter damage that homeowners may have to deal with actually can be prevented when you take a few steps to prepare for the weather conditions to come.

 

Ice Dams on Your Roof

Heavy snow and ice on your roof can be potentially damaging because of the added weight on the roof, but this is not the only issue that cold weather presents to your home. When your home’s attic is not properly insulated, several patches of melted snow and ice may develop in pools over warmer areas of the roof. These can ultimately cause water to unnaturally pool up and even to flow upward into the shingles. Roofs are not designed for water to flow upward, so leaks commonly occur when this happens. Adding a new layer of insulation in your attic can prevent uneven heating. It can also help you to reduce heating bills in the months and years to come.

 

Ruptured Irrigation Systems

When the temperature is very low outside, the temperature of your soil may also plummet. Any water that is inside your irrigation system’s pipes may freeze. As water freezes, it expands. This exerts outward pressure on your pipes, and they ultimately may leak or rupture. This can waste water, and it can also result in the need for expensive repair work. Winterizing your irrigation system, or having a company like Hydrotech Irrigation Co. do it for you, is a great step to take to prevent this type of damage.

 

Tree Branch Damage

When snow and ice buildup on tree branches, the branches may become heavy with the weight. Branches that may not normally touch your roof, windows or siding may now brush against them regularly and cause damage. Some tree branches may even break under the weight of snow and ice, and this could damage the roof of the side of your home. Trimming branches away from the home in the summer or fall months is a smart idea.

 

As you can see, there are several types of property damage that can be caused by winter weather conditions. As common as these issues are, they can easily be prevented when you spend time preparing your home for the weather conditions that will soon arrive.

BrookeChaplan

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There is no question that the world is ready for solar energy. In the United States, the Office of Energy Efficiency estimates that the growth of major solar energy installations has grown by more than 1,700 percent since 2008. While most installations have been of the utility, industrial and commercial kinds, residential systems are expected to grow exponentially through the end of this decade.

 

In 2017, electrical vehicle manufacturer Tesla announced its intention to start taking deposits on residential installations of an advanced solar roof panel system complete with transformers and batteries; this announcement has sparked considerable interest from homeowners who are now looking up at their roofs and wondering what they would need to do in order to get some panels installed.

 

In essence, there are three important things for you to consider before weighing the possibility of going fully solar:

 

Roof Inspection

When was the last time you had your roof inspected by a professional company like Burke’s Roofing ? Unfortunately, many homeowners wait until they spot a leak or an ugly brown stain on their ceiling panels before they resolve to call technicians for roof repair services; this is about the only time an inspection is conducted, and on many occasions, the findings are not pleasant. A roof inspection is a must before installing heavy solar energy panels on top of your house; in fact, you may want to do this now before the next winter or rainy season so that you can budget for repairs accordingly.

 

Ventilation

Your current roof system has a particular ventilation arrangement that may not be fully compatible with the intended roof panel installation. The vents may need to be relocated and tested so that they preserve the level of energy efficiency your household requires.

 

Roof Leaks

In rainy climate regions such as South Florida, some homeowners will notice a roof leak during a heavy tropical storm or when a hurricane makes landfall. In many cases, the leak seems to be manageable because it is limited to a drip and does not seem to spread across the ceiling; in other words, these leaks are nothing that a pan or bucket will not solve, and they tend to not be an issue until the next hurricane or spectacular rainstorm arrives. The problem with this nonchalant approach is that it could be ignoring serious issues such as missing shingles or damaged flashing, which would certainly need to be repaired before solar panel installations.

 

In the end, the state of your roof will determine whether you can really take advantage of solar energy production. Do not attempt to forego roof inspections and repairs before solar panels are installed.

BrookeChaplan

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At first glance, it may seem like the struggle to protect the environment is counter to the government’s goal to boost GDP and to provide the highest quality of life to its many citizens. However, the reality is that many green initiatives also benefit the government in various ways. With a closer look at how green building policies are impacting the environment and the government, you can see how beneficial these programs truly are when you incorporate them into your next projects.

 

Construction Improvements

There are many aspects of construction that can destroy the environment. For example, natural habitats can be eliminated through construction. The depletion of natural resources, the effects of erosion, the emissions in new construction HVAC systems and more all play a negative role in the environment. It may cost the government millions of dollars or more to combat these issues. However, green construction initiatives are designed to work more cohesively to minimize the effects on Mother Nature, and this means that the government can save money related to addressing these issues.

 

Water Management Solutions

The amount of fresh, clean drinking water on the planet is a source of concern for many. The government is typically tasked with supplying water to the public through utility services. New construction projects that have green practices in mind can contain the natural drainage on the property and can capture rain through the guttering system. This allows the property owner to more successfully take advantage of natural rainwater for irrigation and more. There are also desalination efforts available in areas close to the coast. Desalination systems allow the property to create its own fresh water supply without having to rely on the public water supply.

 

Wastewater Management Improvements

Dealing with the wastewater produced in buildings and homes is a governmental concern as well. This water must be properly contained to avoid polluting waterways or contaminating the fresh water supply. New construction projects may use their own purification systems or treatment systems. In addition, some grey water may be re-used in toilets without having to be treated. In some cases, wastewater management facilities can be protested, or their construction contested. This is where a masters of diplomacy degree comes into play to make sure necessary facilities can be built or operated while keeping nearby businesses and homeowners happy.

 

While the issue of new construction and urban sprawl must be addressed, you can see that some construction projects are actually beneficial to the environment and the government. If you are planning a new construction project soon, carefully review modern green practices that could be incorporated into your plans and that could benefit the environment and those who plan to spend time in the building.

BrookeChaplan

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Solar energy has never been more popular, and in the United States alone, the number of solar installations is 17 times greater than it was less than 10 years ago. Still, the vast majority of solar installations are used to power homes and businesses or provide additional energy into the electricity grid. However, the fact is that solar power actually has a great number of uses—especially in times of an emergency or natural disaster. When disaster strikes, solar can quickly become your best friend by providing the following potentially life-saving benefits.

 

Solar Provides Backup Power Whenever You Need It

If you truly want to be prepared in case of a power outage, a solar backup generator is most definitely the way to go. When the local power grid goes down, you can switch over to your solar generator to ensure that you still have electricity when you need it. Although you may need to monitor your power usage, a solar generator like those offered by Renogy can still allow you to have lights, keep your food cold, etc. As long as the sun is shining, your solar generator will continue to produce power and thus ensure you won’t be near as affected by power outages.

 

Helps You Stay Connected in the Event of an Emergency

A solar generator also enables you to charge your phones, tablet and other handheld devices. There are also a number of smaller solar chargers that can be used for the same purpose. In this way, you can ensure that you are able to stay connected and can get up-to-date information about the emergency or disaster situation. Although your ability to make calls or get online will obviously be dictated by your local network, solar can still ensure that your devices remain charged and ready to use whenever you have a signal.

 

Keeps You Prepared for Any Eventuality

In the event of a hurricane, tornado or another major natural disaster, there is a high chance that the power could be out for days, weeks or even months. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to begin the cleanup process and start getting back to your normal life until electricity has been restored. This won’t be nearly as much of an issue for you if you are able to rely on solar to power your essentials. Whether it is used to keep food or life-saving medicines from spoiling or simply to ensure that you don’t have to eat by candlelight, solar allows you to be prepared for any long power outages or other disruptions to the electricity grid.

 

Based on this evidence, it is obvious that solar energy can be a huge help during an emergency or disaster situation. Although solar won’t make it any easier to overcome the loss or devastation of a disaster, it can still ensure that you have access to electricity when you need it most. In this way, solar power really is an emergency essential.

BrookeChaplan

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Going green has become increasingly popular in many families. If you’re building a new home, creating eco-friendly opportunities doesn’t have to wait until you’ve already moved in! There are several methods that will allow you to keep your building project more ecologically friendly, making your home green even before your move-in date.

 

Think It All The Way Through

In many cases, the biggest waste on construction projects occurs when new homeowners make substantial changes to their plans in the middle of the building process. Take the time to think through what you want before you get started and try to stick with it to avoid excess material waste.

 

Use The Right Materials

There are several recycled materials available that will allow you to complete your home’s construction without tapping as many natural resources. Make sure that you’re using the right kind of lumber to decrease your environmental impact. Reclaimed wood is a great choice, as is wood sourced from managed forests.

 

Material Disposal

Using an eco-friendly disposal service like Ware Disposal will allow you to recycle materials that can be recycled safely. Not all waste is eligible, but most green disposal companies will make sure those materials are taken care of separately. To go even further, see if there are building materials you can use that are made from recycled or repurposed waste.

 

Save Water

Toilets that use less water to flush waste are becoming increasingly popular in many areas, as are shower heads and faucets that regulate water usage. Energy-saving appliances may also include information about how much water they’re able to save, so research your dishwasher and washing machine carefully before making a choice.

 

Go Solar

Solar panels are a great investment for your new home that will significantly reduce your reliance on energy providers. Take a look at how solar power can transform your home. Even if you can’t remain off the energy grid entirely, you may be able to significantly reduce your energy usage. Even better, solar panels will pay for themselves over time!

 

Get The Best Roof

Roofing materials can have a huge impact on your overall energy usage. Choose materials that are insulating, to keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer, and that won’t transfer heat into your home during the winter.

 

Note Small Details

Programmable thermostats are transforming energy usage in many homes. You’ll also find that your windows can have a substantial impact on the amount of energy used to heat or cool your home. Paying attention to these little details when you’re building your house will make a big difference in the energy your home uses long-term.

 

As you build your home, you’re focusing heavily on staying green and being eco-friendly. By utilizing these strategies, you’ll find that your new home can be green even before it’s completed--and that means you’ll reduce your environmental impact while enjoying everything that your new home can offer.

BrookeChaplan

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We are still a few months away, but the earlier you start preparing for the cold season, the better. Winter seasons are often characterized by high energy consumption, and now is probably the best time to start thinking about ways to cut down the cold weather utility costs.

 

According to the United States Energy Information Administration, about 50 percent of homes in the US use natural gas for heating during cold seasons. One of the biggest challenges for these homes is the sky high heating costs they have to endure during winter. However, there are some tips homeowners can utilize to control the costs of energy in the winter and save money. Here are three of them:

 

Install Better Windows

Replacing windows is one of the most worthwhile home improvements you can make before winter. Old, thin, single pane windows don’t do much to keep out the cold air. If your windows have been around longer than anyone can remember, it’s probably time to replace them. Energy-Star rated windows and specialty storm windows recommended by professionals like Valley Glass Utility can provide great insulation in your home and keep that precious warm air inside. This means lower utility costs and a nice cosmetic change to boot.

 

Caulk Doors, Siding, and Windows

Air leaks can increase the cost of heating and cooling your house by a significant amount, pay attention to them. Start with the big gaps, like broken or jammed windows, poorly hung doors, and damage to the exterior of the home. Once those are done, you can focus on the harder to find problems. Air leaks are common where wiring, duct work, and plumbing goes through floors, ceilings, and walls.

 

You can find these small leaks by passing your hand close to suspect areas and noting any change in temperature. If that isn’t working, you can turn off fans or HVAC systems and hold a candle near potential leaky areas and see if the flame flickers or moves. Sealing leaks with caulk can save more than enough money to pay for itself, and can easily be done in an hour or two for even a large house.

 

Replace or Clean the Furnace Filter

It's important to clean or change the furnace filter on a regular basis, especially when it is running every day. When a furnace can 'breathe' easily, they use much less energy. Check the manufacturer's manual for information regarding the replacement of furnace filter – some require changes every three months. The cost of replacing the furnace filter will depend on the furnace.

 

On average, furnace filter replacement costs range between 10 and 50 dollars. Depending on how often your furnace runs, how dusty your house gets, and the age of the furnace, you may want to replace it more often.

 

A huge chunk of your home budget goes towards heating costs, especially during winter. Taking a few measures to make your home more efficient will go a long way for your budget, and will make cold weather stay outside where it belongs.

BrookeChaplan

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Transitioning your home's electrical system to include solar power can provide a huge number of financial and environmental benefits. Installing a solar power generating system on your roof or in your yard has the potential to greatly reduce your electricity bill while also reducing your carbon footprint and helping to protect the planet. In this way, going green with solar power is truly a great thing to do.

 

Unfortunately, making the transition isn't always as simple or straightforward as it seems. Despite the price of solar systems and installation continuing to drop to new record lows, the fact is that solar still remains prohibitively expensive for many homeowners. As well, the overall success of your solar system depends in large part on how and where it's installed and the quality of your equipment. For these reasons, it is essential that you pay attention to the following tips in order to help you overcome any potential obstacles and hopefully simplify your transition to solar.

 

Always Have a Solar Feasibility Study Performed

Not all homes are suitable for solar power and even if your home is suitable, you'll still need to know where the best spot for the panels is, how many solar panels you'll need and how much energy you can expect the system to produce. A solar feasibility study helps you answer all of these questions in order to ensure that you get the best possible system for your home and your energy needs.

 

Most reputable solar installation companies will offer this type of study for free. In this way, you'll not only be able to ensure that you get the best possible system, but you'll also be able to compare the prices, products, and services offered by each company to find the best possible deal.

 

Purchase Everything Up-Front

When deciding to go solar, you will typically have the option to purchase all of your own equipment up front, lease the equipment from a solar company or sign a Power Purchasing Agreement with your power company, in which case they supply and own all of the equipment. Although purchasing your own equipment requires a much larger initial investment, it is well worth it since your investment will provide tangible goods. Otherwise, you'll end up paying for something that someone else still technically owns.

 

You will generally be able to qualify for a variety of local, state and federal rebates and tax incentives to help offset the initial costs. However, if you're still unable to afford what it costs, it's well worth it to try to get a loan to cover your solar transition in order to help you meet your energy goals. If timing is the only thing holding you back, searching regionally for something like “Texas payday loan” can help you find short term lenders you can use, so long as you’re prepared to pay them back ASAP. The energy saving benefits of your solar system should help to offset any interest payments you make on the loan. Buying your solar equipment out right also gives you the ability to sell your solar panels or other equipment should you ever decide to upgrade, and the solar system obviously boosts your home's total value. All of this makes a loan more than worth it in the end.

 

Make Any Necessary Repairs or Upgrades Ahead of Time

In addition to the solar feasibility study, you'll want to make sure to have your roof inspected to ensure it can fully support the solar panels. If the inspection discovers any leaks, structural damage or other issues, it is essential that you have them fixed prior to the solar installation. Similarly, if your roof is only a year or two away from needing to be replaced, you should definitely consider having it done now. Otherwise, you risk having to have the solar system removed to fix the damage and then starting all over.

 

Forget about the DIY Route

Although you can read numerous articles online about DIY solar, the truth is that installing a solar system is something that's best left to the professionals. The complicated electrical work required is not only incredibly dangerous for anyone other than a certified electrician, but any wiring issues also have the potential to destroy your solar system or potentially even burn down your home. At the very least, wiring issues can harm the efficiency of your solar panels.

 

The actual installation of the solar panels should also be left to a trained professional since the exact position, angle and orientation will directly influence how much energy they can create. Therefore, if you want your solar system to be safe and work properly, it is imperative that you have it professionally installed.

 

Solar power is now more accessible than ever, and there truly has never been a better time to make the transition to clean, green, renewable solar energy. However, a poorly designed or improperly installed solar system will still be a huge waste of money. In this sense, it is essential that you get the expert advice and financial assistance you need to ensure your transition to solar is a success.

BrookeChaplan

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Pollution is a serious problem that is having a major impact on the world. While the pollution problems in places like China tend to get more publicity, the truth is that the United States is also facing major pollution problems. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that at least 40% of American rivers and streams are in poor biological condition due to pollution, which makes it necessary that everyone does their part to reduce their environmental impact.

 

One of the most important things you can do to protect the country's waterways is to focus on your plumbing and/or septic system. The wastewater that your home produces can be a major source of pollution if not handled correctly, so here are a few ways you can do your part to help the environment.

 

Watch What You Pour Down the Drain

One of the main problems is that all wastewater eventually ends up in our streams and rivers. This water is first cleaned at a wastewater-treatment facility, but these treatment facilities are much more effective at removing bacteria and biological contaminants than they are at removing chemical contaminants.

 

It is advised that you never pour any strong chemicals, adhesives, or other potentially dangerous substances down the drain and instead dispose of them as instructed. This includes cleaning products, nail polish, and many other household items. Additionally, you should never flush your old medications, as these are another major source of water contamination.

 

Consider Grey Water Recycling

An easy way to reduce the impact of your wastewater is to limit the amount that you produce. To this end, gray water recycling is one of the best and easiest things you can do. With this type of recycling system, the gray water that comes from your sinks, showers, dishwasher, and washing machine is reused instead of being sent down the drain. The black water that comes from your toilets will still end up in the wastewater-treatment facility, but the rest of your water can be used for watering your lawns and landscaping.

 

 

Check the Condition of Your Plumbing or Septic System

A properly maintained, functioning sewage system or septic system is designed to prevent environmental contamination by ensuring that the wastewater doesn't come into contact with the environment until it has been properly treated. However, a leak in your plumbing or sewage could eventually lead to toxic conditions around your home due to the sewage contaminating the surrounding soil.

 

Similarly, it is essential that your septic system is properly installed, placed in a suitable location, and functioning properly to reduce the risk of polluting the surrounding area. If you are considering a septic system, consult a company like Rob’s Septic Tanks Inc to ensure it can be implemented safely. It is also very important that you have your plumbing or septic system inspected regularly by a professional in order to ensure that your wastewater doesn't harm the environment.

 

The fact is that wastewater is always going to be a primary cause of pollution, which means that everyone should do what they can to minimize the damage. While you'll never be able to fully eliminate the impact your wastewater has on the planet, you can at least reduce the damage by being diligent and responsible.

 

BrookeChaplan

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Making your business more environmentally friendly has the potential to help lower operating costs over the long term, while also ensuring that you and your employees are doing your part in order to protect the planet for future generations. However, going green can also benefit your business in another major way by allowing you to attract new environmentally-conscious customers.

 

Unfortunately, many of the most common green business practices take place behind the scenes—meaning there is no way that your customers will know about all that you're doing. For this reason, you may want to consider using the four following methods, which will help your business appear as green as it actually is.

 

Restrooms

Using biodegradable green cleaning products is a simple way to reduce your company's environmental impact, as soaps and other cleaning products are a major source of water pollution and contaminants. In this sense, you should really attempt to use green products wherever possible. However, one area where this is especially true is in any restrooms your customers may use. Installing low-flow toilets and water-saving faucets is a good start, but you'll also want to make sure that you provide biodegradable hand soap and only use post-consumer recycled toilet paper to show customers proof that you take environmental responsibility seriously.

 

Landscaping

Exterior landscaping can be a huge waste of water. Luckily, it isn't all that difficult to make your exterior landscaping more environmentally friendly. One option is to landscape using only native plants. As well, you may want to consider installing a system that allows you to take advantage of rainwater in order to irrigate your landscaping. Not only are your customers sure to notice, but installing this type of system may also allow you to qualify for special rebates and tax credits.

 

Vertical Garden

Although it may not do much to improve your business' sustainability, installing a vertical garden in your lobby or office will go a long way towards improving the overall appearance of your location. Not only that, but all those plants will continuously produce oxygen, which will help to improve indoor air quality and make your business a more pleasant place to be. These can be tricky to install, though, so consult with a company like Advance Plant Services if you need help.

 

Solar

Solar panels are a sure sign that a business is attempting to be more environmentally conscious. Unfortunately, a full solar-power system is still beyond the financial reach of most companies. Nonetheless, even just installing a few solar panels and a solar-power backup generator can easily make your company appear greener, while also ensuring that you'll be protected in case of a power outage.

 

In this day and age, going green is one of the best things a company can do—both in terms of its bottom line and for attracting new customers. Still, it is important that your customers actually know about your new green practices, which is why it’s a good idea to try to incorporate as many of the above ideas into your business as possible.

BrookeChaplan

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Many people are now realizing the need to go green and remain environmentally friendly with their construction efforts. There are plenty of ways to make that happen: using green building materials, opting for energy-efficient options in your home, and even considering energy-producing options like solar panels. One of the most critical parts of the construction process, however, is the planning period.

 

Less Waste

Planning ahead will help reduce material waste. Construction projects have the potential to be incredibly wasteful. With the average building project yielding around 3.9 pounds of waste per square foot, it doesn't take long for your "green" construction project to become incredibly wasteful. Planning ahead, however, can help you substantially reduce the amount of waste by preventing you from having to go back and redo work, wasting materials unnecessarily, and more.

 

Quality Assurance

Working with the right construction team makes a big difference. Hiring quality services can keep your construction project both timely and efficient, saving substantial resources along the way. Construction crews who are dedicated to green construction will avoid wasting energy and resources throughout the construction process. Do your research on construction crews in your area that have worked on eco-friendly projects before, and make sure you talk with the company before you hire them to ensure that they have your goals at the forefront of their minds while working on your project. Speaking with companies like Robar Boring Contractors Pty Ltd can make achieving your goals much easier.

 

Research

Planning ahead will help prevent you from missing green options. There are a wide range of sustainable building materials and other eco-friendly options that you can add to your construction project. The problem is, if you don't know about them, you can't add them to your project! You may be familiar with solar panels on the roof and using windows that will help keep your home at a more even temperature throughout all parts of the year, but have you thought about how your home's insulation can affect its environmental impact? What about the materials used to design your kitchen or bathroom? Prior planning will ensure that you're using the right materials throughout your entire construction project.

 

Planning ahead is vital to most construction projects. It saves time, energy, and expense, especially when it helps you avoid last-minute changes. When you're aiming for an eco-friendly construction project, however, the need to plan is even more critical. With the right forethought and planning, you can ensure that your construction project is as eco-friendly as possible.

BrookeChaplan

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The process of flipping a home is increasingly common, and it involves fixing up an older, outdated home for the purpose of turning a profit. Flipping can be lucrative, but it can also be wasteful. Some people are looking for green ways to flip homes. These may be ways that limit waste or that make the future owner’s use of the home more environmentally-friendly. If you are thinking about green-flipping a home, these are some excellent project ideas to consider.

 

Install Solar Panels

The source of energy that a home uses can play a major role in how green the building is for future occupants. The sun provides a steady stream of renewable energy to homeowners each day, and solar panels are responsible for capturing and converting this energy. Installing solar panels and a full solar energy system on the building can eliminate the need for homeowners to use fossil fuels for energy. This can have a dramatic impact on how green the home is for years to come.

 

Replace Old Windows

Older windows, typically, are poor insulators, and they can allow an incredible amount of thermal energy transference. This can decrease how energy efficient the home’s HVAC system is. Modern windows may have two or three panes of glass as well as an insulating layer of gases between them. They may also be better sealed than older windows. As a side benefit, updating older windows can also improve the interior and exterior look of the home with beautiful results. There may be tax credits for the installation of energy efficient windows that can help you to save money on this project.

 

Add New Insulation

Another idea to consider when green-flipping a home is to improve the building’s insulation. Old fiberglass insulation can slouch down in walls or even deteriorate or rot. New spray foam insulation has a higher R-value for decreased thermal energy transference. It also will hold its shape and remain in place for long-term protection around the home. Some of the side benefits associated with adding spray foam insulation to the home include noise reduction for improved ambiance inside the home as well as improved air quality in the building.

 

Choose Reclaimed or Recycled Materials

There are many aspects of a flipping project that are designed mostly to improve aesthetics of the home, and using new materials is common in these projects. However, new materials may use natural resources and may increase pollution. A better idea is to use reclaimed or recycled materials as much as possible. You may even be able to reuse some of the materials in the existing home. For example, you could refinish an existing wood floor or expose decorative shiplap that may be buried underneath drywall. In many cases, exposing and refinishing beams in a historic home incorporates the character of the home in beautiful ways. You can also use reclaimed materials from other buildings to further decrease the use of new materials.

 

Replace the Appliances

From the HVAC system and water heater to kitchen appliances and more, appliances can use a substantial amount of energy. This is particularly true when the appliances are older in age. Modern appliances that carry the EnergyStar rating are green, and you can easily improve the look and function of the home when you select the right appliances to use when flipping the home.

 

While renovating a home for the purposes of flipping it can generate a substantial amount of waste and pollution, it does not have to. The use of recycled materials can keep waste to a minimum. You can also limit waste by making extensive plans. Taking educational courses like Success Path can help you make better plans to get the job done right.  In addition, there are multiple green projects that you can work on throughout the home that can make the home energy efficient and green. Consider incorporating some or all of these project ideas into your next flip project for incredible results.

BrookeChaplan

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Between the increased heat and the extra freedom that kids get from being out of school, summer is the season where water usage is most likely to increase. Because increased use of anything can result in an equal increase in the chance of contracting an illness, among other hazards and issues, we present a trio of safeguards against the potential contamination of your water supply.

 

Be Environmentally Aware

Be mindful of what you use when washing things like your house or your car outside, the chemicals in substances like car-washing soap can seep into the ground and contaminate the water table by commingling with groundwater. The same goes for being careless with bleach when cleaning around the bathtub or allowing oil leaking from your car to seep down into an outdoor drain. Research the chemicals in the things you use that could potentially worsen the quality of your water and adjust your supplies accordingly.

 

Install a Water Conditioning System

There are a variety of minerals and chemicals that can wreak havoc with your water system and what you use it for. Left unchecked, these minerals can reduce the flow of your water, become problematically rich in sulfur, iron or manganese and "harden" the overall quality of your water. Fortunately, a reliable water conditioning system can assuage worries of these problems. You can get in contact with a company like Johnson Water Conditioning to find out what is best for your home and water.

 

Maintain Your Pool

An untreated swimming pool is a haven for algae and other contaminants to not only develop but thrive. Make sure to regularly check the pH level of your swimming pool, with readings between 7.2 and 7.8 being ideal conditions for swimming. Also, remember that scrubbing the submerged tile on a weekly basis is a good way to reducing the potential for algae to bloom and that there are different types of filters. When "opening" your pool for a new season, it is important to remember that the preparatory work involved can sometimes require up to a week of balancing things out before it is safe to swim.

 

While your local sanitation plant handles the lion's share of stopping water contamination, every person can affect those efforts by their choices made near, or involving, water. Consider installing a water conditioning system to avoid hard water or as a defense against using chemical-saturated water. Pool owners should treat their pools like a low-maintenance pet; while the upkeep isn't much, it must still be done to avoid illness.

BrookeChaplan

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It's happened to the best of us. You're unwinding after a long day at work on the couch, cozied up with a glass of wine and feeling utterly relaxed when suddenly a gross spider or centipede scurries across your coffee table. Gone is that feeling of relaxation, replaced with formication and unease.

 

While some earthy types might be okay sharing their home with pests, the majority of us want them out. If you're in a situation where pests are disturbing your sense of ease and contentment in your home, then ask yourself these three questions before taking action.

 

Is It Something I'm Doing?

Most pests will take up residence in your home regardless of your housekeeping skills. However, there are some situations where to be put it bluntly, it might be your fault. For example, unswept hardwood floors and dusty ceilings can create a paradise for some types of spiders. Messy kitchens where food particles are allowed to accumulate can create a paradise for ants and roaches. The best first step is a day of hardcore cleaning in your home. While not guaranteed to get rid of your pests, it might help.

 

Is It Fleeting?

There are some periods throughout the year where we see an increase of spiders and centipedes, such as late spring and early fall. This coincides with their mating habits. Some infestations are in fact fleeting and will go away on their own. However, if you've been repeatedly seeing pests for longer than two months, you might need to take action.

 

Can I Eradicate Them On My Own In A Safe Way?

The short answer to this is "no." There are lots of commercial insecticides available at home supply and hardware stores, but most professionals dislike them for two reasons. First, they're generally not as effective as the chemicals used by the pros, sometimes rendering them a complete waste of time. Second, the average person doesn't take precautions for safety, such as wearing a mask and removing pets from the area. Eradicating insects is generally a job that is best left to the professionals like those at Allstate Pest Control, especially if you want those pests gone for good.

 

After you've considered these things, you'll be able to make a decision about how you want to deal with your pest problem. No one wants to share their home with creepy unwanted guests, but thankfully, there are steps you can take to solve the problem.

BrookeChaplan

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Some people don't see the value of conserving water unless they live in a desert or drought zone. They fail to recognize that fresh water resources can dry up at any time or become polluted by nearby agricultural and industrial processes. No matter where you live, reducing water waste when landscaping is critical to protecting this life-saving resource and the environment. You can decrease the amount of fresh water used for your landscaping by following these three simple tips:

 

Build a Patio

Since grass is the primary feature of many landscape designs and requires a lot of water to thrive, homeowners should always decrease the amount of grass in their landscaping. One of the best ways to do this is with a paving stone sitting area or patio. A properly sealed patio surface prevents water-greedy weeds from growing between the stones. You can also design the surface in a way that channels rain run-off directly to nearby plants. You can check out companies like Paving Stone of San Diego to find the right size, shape, and style of pavers and other materials you want to use.

 

Install Rock Gardens

A patio isn't your only stone landscaping option. Many homeowners who care about water conservation invest in a variety of small, medium and large loose natural stones in wide bands, geometric shapes and other patterns with or without plants for ground cover. Some people also install large boulders surrounded by small plants that use little water. A serene Japanese "Zen" rock and rake garden is another option. Some homeowners even replace grass with painted square pavers designed to duplicate a life-size chess, Scrabble or other popular game board for outdoor play with family and friends.

 

Swap Out Plants

Unlike grass and many common seasonal flowering plants that need a lot of water every day to maintain their healthy appearance, succulents like cacti, agave and aloe retain water longer so that you don't have to water them as often. Even though moss species need moist environments, moss is another option that can store enough water from short daily misting to survive periods of dryness. It also rejuvenates quickly after a dry period when it's re-hydrated. Additionally, both succulents and moss are more diverse and colorful than grass and they don't require maintenance via gas-powered mowers and trimmers that also cause environmental pollution.

 

Always keep in mind that with all plant-based landscaping options, misting and drip irrigation works better than a sprinkler because they use less water in a more targeted and efficient fashion. It is possible for you to have a beautiful landscape and reduce water waste. Start redesigning your landscape today.

BrookeChaplan

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In an increasingly environmentally aware world, much debate has been raised about what the most eco-conscious materials are. While natural materials are the most eco-friendly over the long haul, there is also great concern about the stripping of natural resources with which to make those products. Wood can be and is, however, still the most eco-conscious choice, when used responsibility. Here are 4 reasons why wood is still the best eco-conscious choice for home building projects.

 

Biodegradable

Most plastics are not actually biodegradable, but will eventually decompose. However, based on the type of plastic, this can take anywhere from 5-10 years to 100 years or longer to occur. A piece of scrap wood is fully biodegradable and will be reabsorbed by the earth in anywhere from just a few months to a few years depending on conditions.

 

Sustainable resource

Resources only become stripped when they are not replaced or replanted. Sustainable harvesting involves replanting at the same - or greater - rates than resources are being consumed. While trees that produce hardwoods may take 100 years or more to mature, other woods like bamboo and pine can be regrown in just a few years, providing a limitless and sustainable supply of resources.

 

No toxic waste

The creation and processing of plastics requires a number of chemicals that can produce a great deal of potentially toxic waste. Wood is an organic substance that creates organic waste and is therefore far better for the environment. In addition, the chemicals used to process plastic can remain on even the finished product. In today's energy conscious homes, tight seals on windows and doors keep chemical fumes from plastic products trapped tightly inside, creating a toxic zone inside your own home.

 

Upcycling

There is almost no limit to the number of times wood can be used again and again. With a little sanding, old furniture can be repainted or pieces from one item of furniture turned into a completely different item of furniture. Old wood pallets and crates like those offered by Acme Case Co Pty Ltd can become chic statement pieces, dressers can become bathroom vanities and armoires can become beautiful TV cabinets. Once most plastic products become old, scratched, broken, stained or worn out, they generally just have to be thrown away because they often can't be repaired or restored. When the same thing happens to wood, however, it often just increases its character and value.

 

While new uses for recycled plastics are constantly being developed to keep them out of landfills and oceans, plastic bags, bottles and other items have still become an environmental menace. In spite of a few companies that have made headlines for their unethical harvesting of natural resources, wood still remains one of the most eco-conscious choices you can make for everything from furniture to building materials.

BrookeChaplan

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Solar power is the fastest-growing renewable energy source in the U.S., increasing more than 23 times in the last eight years, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. As demand has grown and the technology has improved, the price of solar power has fallen. Are you uncertain about how solar power works? Here's a quick guide to the basics.

 

Solar Panels

When sunlight hits certain materials known as semiconductors, the materials convert the light energy to an electrical current. Solar panels that use this technology are photovoltaic (PV) panels. Within the panel are cells containing crystals. Most residential systems contain silicon crystals, like the silicon chips in a computer. Each cell produces only a small amount of power, but they're connected in series which collect their output.

The cells are sandwiched between protective layers of glass or plastic. Panels are built to withstand hail, wind, and lightning strikes. Several panels together make an array. Because the system is modular, it can be designed to meet any electrical load.

 

Mounting Structures

Most residential solar systems are mounted on a south-facing roof. Panels can also be placed on a rack set on the ground. The panels are angled for maximum sun exposure at that latitude. Tracker systems follow the sun across the sky but are more expensive and need more maintenance.

 

Inverter

PV panels produce direct current. An inverter converts DC current to the AC current needed for household appliances. The inverter has a display showing how much power the array is producing. Some inverters can be monitored remotely via the Internet.

 

Electrical Meter

The meter connects the PV system to the local electrical grid. If the system is producing more power than the house needs, the meter will run backward. At night or when the panel isn't in service, the meter will show normal electrical demand.

Because the house is drawing at least part of its electricity from the panels, homeowners can see significant savings on their utility bills. They will still have to pay a monthly connection fee to the utility.

If the power goes out, most solar systems will shut down even if the sun is shining. This is to protect line workers.

 

Storage

The sun doesn't always shine. Battery systems can save electricity for use at night or in bad weather, and can be put on systems on- and off-grid. Lead-acid batteries are the most common. Lithium-ion batteries have recently come on the market. Storage systems can help utilities reduce their peak demand since the house will draw from its batteries before it needs power from the grid.

 

Site

PV panels will produce some electricity even in low light, but they need full sun for best performance. The ideal solar energy site has full exposure to the south, east, and west. Large trees, buildings, or hillsides that shade the site may make it unsuitable for a solar installation.

 

Life Expectancy

Solar panels are designed to last at least 25 years. They gradually lose efficiency, but should still be generating more than 80 percent of their original output at that point. Inverters need to be replaced more often.

 

Installation

More often than not, professional services and electricians are called to install solar panels and integrate them into electrical systems. While this is the safest option, it’s not impossible to set up without help. For a DIY installation, most will find parts and pieces from hardware stores or specialty electrical suppliers like Enercon Engineering Inc that professionals frequent for solar installations.

 

Depending on local regulations, solar systems may need permits and have zoning restrictions. Some utilities limit how much solar power they'll accept from customers. They also vary in how large a credit they give customers for the solar power they produce.

Depending on the state, solar systems may qualify for tax and other incentives. Check with your utility and your state's energy department.

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