Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Here comes the Sun

While many of us would love to outfit our homes with massive, energy-saving solar panels, the cost can be somewhat of a deterrent. There are, however, small ways that you can harness the sun’s energy without making a huge financial investment.
With a little ingenuity, you can start a solar project and end up saving money in the long run. Even though the weather is starting to cool down, the sun is still out and about – so start soaking up some rays!
Outdoor solar lights: Whether you want to illuminate your garden or light up an entire backyard, you have plenty of options. Installation is often as easy as sticking a spike in the ground, so you can forget hiring a professional to uproot your garden for wiring. Small, outdoor solar lights sell for as low as $10. Not only are they practically effortless to install and maintain, but you also won’t spend a small fortune to replace them when necessary. Need some inspiration? Check out The Solar Garden at where you’ll find a variety of stylish lamps to light up your yard.
Chargers: Let’s face it: Most of us live our lives around cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and MP3 players. While they take up our time, why let them use up extra energy? Solar chargers are available for most any gadget and come in a wide range of wattage. Many chargers are portable and start around $20 – roughly the same price as pesky plug-ins. Visit to see what’s out there. They even have automotive solar chargers that work in cloudy weather! There’s something for everyone; hikers, for instance, will greatly appreciate the solar backpacks.
Tubular skylights: If completely transforming your home into an eco-friendly habitat is not financially plausible, then consider the next best option – tubular skylights. Also known as solar tubes or tubular daylighting devices, these cylinders are usually about 10 to 12 inches in diameter and are installed in areas of your roof that receive many hours of direct sunlight per day. When the light collector is mounted, the sunlight is absorbed through the reflective tube and makes its way down to the diffuser lens on your ceiling. The result is instant light without taking a chunk out of your roof as with a traditional skylight. Many people insist you can mount a tubular skylight yourself, but homes with metal or tiled roofing may require a professional. While tubing starts from $150 to $600, it will save you much, much more on your monthly electric bill.
With a little imagination and motivation, going solar can be easy, affordable and extremely rewarding. The expense of heating and cooling, two big budget-breakers, can be alleviated with solar space heaters and solar attic fans. Forget about that pricey pool heater – how about a solar pool cover? Many solar panels and structures can be made by hand and are adaptable to countless tasks, from cooking to water purifying. Handyman Phil Heiple offers a guide for making your own solar-powered generator that can power a computer, TV and lights – for under $300! So roll up your sleeves and help Mother Nature out. You’ll be doing both the environment and yourself a big favor.

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