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Getting Involved in Green Energy

Written By kar yati on Wednesday, August 8, 2012 | 12:00 PM

Traditional energy sources such as petroleum-based products, coal and natural gas rise in cost as supplies vary with seasons and availability. People look for ways to lower costs and to find less expensive energy and ways to save valuable natural resources. Here are some tips to help you realize these goals.

Visit your local home improvement store to find the large assortment of solar-powered outdoor lights and illumination for gardens. Installing them is not difficult and they come in attractive designs that can match or blend with your outdoor living space. They can be easily moved around. They do have batteries that need to be replaced over time, and solar lights made of plastic--which are less expensive than metal--do not last as long as those made of metal. Solar lights appeal to people because they are user-friendly and don't need costly electrical contractors for installation as do ordinary electric outdoor lights.

Venting attic space can help lower cooling costs in summer. There are ridge vents for installation in roofs with a gable and circular vents that can go under the eaves on the sides of the building. These allow the escape of built-up hot air under the roof. It also helps conserve the roof decking and shingles because they age faster when exposed to excessive heat. Small turbines or whirlybirds can also be installed and serve a similar purpose, but they usually have to replaced over time because of the wear on moving parts.

For rooms with low light levels, consider installing skylight tubes to give natural light without paying for electricity. Look over the products available and choose one that gives the quality of light you want for your room. There are a variety of designs available--frosted glass or clear glass, domed versus flat coverings, and different tube lengths and amount of reflectivity. Look into how the tubes need to be installed; some have to be pointed toward the sun to work well and others are engineered to collect light without precise directional pointing.

A lot of energy goes into heating water for showers and baths, washing clothes, and doing dishes. It is possible to use the sun to heat your water for you instead. The two basic types of solar water heating systems are passive, with no pumps or mechanisms that move the water, and active, which contain pumps and other devices. Solar water heaters work best in areas where there is a good amount of sunlight year-round, such as places with mild-winter climates. However, if properly chosen, a solar hot water system can help to reduce energy costs anywhere. Once installed, they have relatively low maintenance needs, especially for the passive kinds.

Alternative fuels to non-renewable petroleum products are becoming increasingly available to power vehicles. Some possibilities include fuels made from alcohol derived from plant sugars from corn and other crop plants, fuel derived from plant cellulose, and plant oils and animal fats that can be used in diesel engines.

Because of the volume of water involved, heating a pool can be expensive with ordinary fuel sources. Solar systems are cost-effective, especially during the summer when there's lots of sunlight. In cold-winter climates they can extend the swimming season significantly each side of warm-weather months. Although an electric pump needs to be used to circulate the water, the savings are still substantial.

Check with your accountant or with information provided by the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Energy and your state revenue department for possible tax rebates you can take when you install green energy systems. Rebate systems change in availability and terms, so make sure they apply and that you understand them before you begin installation if you are counting on rebates to help you recoup installation costs.

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