Advantages of Solar Energy for Homes

Almost all of today’s most alarming environmental issues can be traced back to our relentless use of fossil fuels.  We must find a way to reduce our dependence on harmful methods of creating energy.   The most promising technology available to address this situation is the use of solar energy systems for homes.  The advantages of solar energy technology include countless environmental benefits as well as numerous financial incentives.  Harvesting the clean, renewable energy of the sun will contribute to a sustainable future and begin to reverse the damage we have released on our planet.

Solar energy is not simply renewable, in fact it can never be depleted.  The sun will provide free energy for as long as the sun exists, for all who have the ability to harvest that energy.  We can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and ensure that our family’s energy needs will be met regardless of outside circumstances.

Harvesting solar energy causes no pollution.  This may be one of the most promising advantages of solar power.  Burning fossil fuels releases dangerous greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, speeding global warming.  Oil drilling and oil spills are destroying vital ecosystems every day.

Home solar power systems generally last for decades, requiring minimal maintenance.  While the initial cost of a solar power system may seem intimidating at first, keep in mind that the system will generally pay for itself in a few years or less.  Beyond this, your electricity will not cost you anything, ever again.  It is quite simple to expand the capacity of any home energy system for increasing power needs.  Another of the many advantages of solar energy is its ease of use in remote locations where the traditional power grid may not be available.

Dealers of solar home energy systems offer a variety of options for any situation.  Occasionally, those interested in using solar power in their homes may want to begin with a smaller scale trial of solar power.   Some of the most common ways of doing this are replacing common household appliances and gadgets with solar-powered models.  Solar powered landscape lighting, pool lighting, and solar water heaters are also good first options.  All of these products require only minor installation, no wiring issues, and extreme durability.

Solar Powered Home
Photo by 350.org

Understanding all the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy is important before investing in your home solar power system.  Clearly, the major advantages of solar energy are the environmental safety of solar power, and the money we will save on our outrageous energy bills.  Some disadvantages of solar energy are the initial expense of installing solar panels, and the inconvenience of needing power at night or on cloudy days when sun exposure is very low.  Technology has addressed the latter issue: almost all home solar power systems available today collect energy harvested during the day and store it in powerful batteries that continue to power the home with absolutely no interruptions.

The advantages of solar energy are important, and the disadvantages of solar energy are slight.  As solar technology continues to improve rapidly, solar home power systems and solar powered items will evolve and become more common and less expensive.

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Use Divan Beds To Create More Living Space

We are all looking for new and unique ways to not only improve the look of the rooms in our homes but also to expand the amount of living space we have. Sleeper sofas and futons work very well for this purpose because they will change into a bed and expand your sleeping area. Both of these solutions however require you to pull the bed out, make it up and then reverse the process in the morning, a process that can eat into your precious time each day.

A better solution is to add divan beds in various locations around the house. Divan beds look much like sofas with two major differences. Divan beds do not need to be pulled out and folded back every time you use them. While they look like a sofa they are built to function as a bed also, in place. The second difference is that they have storage under the bed to allow you to save space in closets and the garage. These drawers are large enough to hold even thick quilts and comforters, extra clothing, books, kid´s toys or anything else you might need storage space for.

Dusk Guest Set
Photo by Dreams Beds and Mattresses

These beds come in every size that standard beds and sofas come in from the single to the king sized and the bases have many different types of storage compartments available. You should be careful about buying divan beds with side storage drawers because night stands and end tables or other furniture might block the drawers from opening fully or at all if they are close to the bed.

The next thing to consider is the mattress base. There are two types, spring edge and platform top bases. The first is the most comfortable but the second gives more support and is much less expensive and easier to find.

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3 Ways To Squeeze More Storage From Your Home

Living in a small apartment or home can be tough, but if you are active about finding the right amount of storage space for your things, you should be able to fit more into the apartment than you think, and do so without making the place feel cluttered or confined. By thinking outside the typical box, so to speak, you will find that you probably have more options when it comes to home storage than you realize. Here are a few ideas to get your thought processes kickstarted.

The most effective way to add storage is to find some decorative storage boxes for sale and use them to simultaneously add storage space to your home and also decorate it at the same time. It’s as though you’re using the same space for two things at once, which is really the only way to ‘add’ storage space to the apartment. Some good options include an antique trunk, perhaps used as a coffee table, decorative boxes from China, where the options are almost limitless, or simply colored plastic containers that match the look or color of the room. Add a couple decorations that match the look of the box and you’ve given your room a distinct style.

Have you heard of vacuum storage bags before? These bags can be vacuum sealed after they are filled up, and if all you’re putting in it is clothes, they will very easily shrink by 40% or so, which is a significant space savings. Use this for clothing that is out of season or in long term storage to save closet space – just be careful that you don’t puncture the bag on a loose nail or splinter!

Finally, the next time you are buying any type of furniture, pick furniture that works with you in helping you store things out of sight. This includes a couch that has room underneath for some things, or a TV stand with a closing cabinet, a dresser or bed with plenty of room underneath, or a foot rest with a storage space inside. Every little bit of space you find will help you make the room you need to keep your things stored away.

When storage is a luxury, you may need to work a bit harder than usual for it. These are a few ideas on how to arrange the things in your home a little more efficiently.

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Robotic Pool Cleaners and Swimming Pool Chemicals

In this article we try to simplify the process of pool maintenance. Our focus is on chlorine treated pools. Some owners can become a little overwhelmed with the chemistry behind maintaining a safe and hygienic pool, but we confident that once they have a series of practical steps to follow, most find the process straightforward. In fact it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours a week to keep your pool safe, clear and hygienic. The two main aspects to pool maintenance are filtration and keeping pool chemicals within recommended levels. We tackle these two in turn below:

Filtration – Many pool problems are caused because owners don’t run the pump and filtration systems for long enough each day. If you are in a warm climate, bear in mind that you’ll need to run the pump for around eight hours every day. Make sure that the entire volume of water in the pool has circulated before you switch off the pump. In addition to running the pump, make sure you check the skimmer and pump baskets on a regular basis cleaning out any debris that has collected. A pool vacuum cleaner is a good investment to make in a clean pool and these days there are a good selection of completely automated models on the market. Check out these reviews of robotic pool vacuum cleaners, for example?

Swim! (74/365)
Photo by :D uncan

Adjusting pool chemicals – It’s a good idea to get into the habit of regularly testing your pool water for pH, chlorine levels and alkalinity. You want your pH levels to be between 7.2 and 7.6. Outside of this range and you’ll pool chlorine will not be working as effectively. Alkalinity should be maintained at around 90-220 ppm. Highly acidic or alkaline water can damage your pool equipment and also be irritating for people using the pool. Alkalinity and pH can be easily adjusted by adding water balancing chemicals. The chlorine levels need to be within the range of 1 to 3 ppm at all times the pool is in use. Never allow a swimmer into the pool if the chlorine levels fall outside of this range. A critical aspect of pool maintenance is to add a pool shock treatment on a weekly basis. You may have to do this more often if the pool is being heavily used. You can choose between chlorine-based and non-chlorine shock treatment. Read more about pool shock at this dedicated site.

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How To Unclog A Toilet: The Do’s And Don’ts

Most articles on how to unclog a toilet focus on providing practical tips and strategies for getting the job done.  Far fewer focus on what you need to avoid.  In this article we attempt to set the record straight and provide some “Don’ts” along with the ‘Do’s.”  Let’s get started with three of each:

  1. Don’t flush the toilet if the water is close to reaching the rim of the toilet bowl.  Your bowl is designed to hold an entire tank flush, but not any more than this.
  2. Don’t use an unfolded wire coat hanger to try and reach into the toilet trap-way and dislodge a clog.  First, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll reach the cause of the clog (toilet trap-ways are around 3 feet in length, with numerous bends) and second, you can easily scratch the porcelain of the toilet.
  3. When using a toilet plunger, don’t plunge against air but ensure there is some water in the pipes.  Air compresses under pressure far more than water does so your plunging action will be much less effective.
  4. Do use a toilet snake to get rid of stubborn clogs.  These consist of a flexible cable that retracts and extends from a hollow tube when the handle is turned.  They are also referred to as plumbing snakes and toilet augers.
  5. Do add hot water and detergent to the toilet to get things moving.  The hot water will help break down soft clogs and the detergent acts as a lubricant.  But you’re less likely to have success using this technique if you are dealing with a hard clog.
  6. Do be patient.  Sometimes all you need to do is wait for 30 minutes and the clog will clear on its own.  This is especially the case if the toilet bowl has filled with water.  The simple action of gravity may be enough to get things moving again.
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Kitchen Remodeling On A Budget

Your kitchen is one of the most popular rooms in your home.  You spend a lot of time there cooking, preparing meals, entertaining, etc.  This is a room you and your family want to feel comfortable in.  When we first move into a home this is perhaps the room that gets the most attention when it comes to decorating.  However, over time it can become outdated and tired looking. Here are some inexpensive ideas to help revive your kitchen’s look.

1.  Replace your pictures with something new —  You can get tired of looking at the same old artwork after a while.  A great way to breath some new life is to get some new pictures and paintings on your walls.  Find a new style or maybe some brighter colors.  Just make a change and it will make a big difference.  Including some fresh flowers on your counters can do a lot as well.

2.  Wallpaper can make a big improvement —  Wallpaper is so simple yet it can make such a big difference.  You will be amazed at the improvement if you put up some wallpaper.  Even if you currently have wallpaper, replacing it with something new will have a big affect.  Imagine getting rid of your old wallpaper and replacing it with an elegant style of black and white wallpaper.

Kitchen Remodeled
Photo by Webb Zahn

4.  Change your lighting —  Installing new lighting is something you can do yourself and it won’t cost a whole lot.  This is probably the area that can improve the kitchen the most.  Updating your lighting with some newer styles such as those made by Hampton Bay Lighting will make a dramatic impact.  If your kitchen has not been updated in a while your lighting is probably outdated and out of style.

Your kitchen is the focal point of your home.  It is highly visible and you spend much of your time there.  Take the time to keep it updated, even if it is just simple things, to make sure it is a room you look forward to spending time in.

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Landscaping Your Backyard With Zebra Grass

Zebra grass (miscanthus sinensis) is an ornamental plant that is also known as maiden grass, susuki grass, or eulalia grass. It is abundant in Asian nations — particularly Korea, Japan and China. This plant can grow from 4 up to 7 feet tall and a clump of zebra grass can spread from 2 to 4 feet wide.

Zebra grass is similar to its cousin monkey grass in that it is ideal as a border plant since it is deer-tolerant and will not spread unevenly. It being a deer-tolerant plant is the reason why a lot of people are choosing this type of ground cover for their backyard projects.

This plant will not leave you with too much dead foliage, so you don’t have to constantly clean the area surrounding it. Although it may look like a regular clump of grass at first glance, closer inspection shows that the tips of this grass is actually silver, making it look quite ethereal and beautiful. The foliage also has yellow bands making it look great if planted with other types of flowering plants.

zebra grass in july 2010
Photo by wintersoul1

If you are planning to add some zebra grass to your garden you should know what the plant requires so that it will grow well and beautifully for a long time to come. Here are the requirements of this ornamental grass:

•    Lighting Conditions- Eulalia grasses grow well under the full sun but can also grow in the shade. If you want your grass to achieve its full bloom when in season make sure that you put it in full sunlight as doing otherwise can result in little to no blooms.

•    Water conditions- This plant loves a slightly moist soil, which is why you should water it a couple times per week if it does not receive any rain. Although it can survive drought conditions it definitely prefers occasional water.

•    Propagation- You can propagate this ornamental grass by getting some clumps from full grown zebra grass and planting it in another area. You can also plant seedlings but if you want to have the grass spread quickly and mature easily it will be best to propagate by separation.

You can plant zebra grass directly in the soil or you can make a garden bed for it, surrounding it with dwarf mondo grass and attractive flowers. Either way the plant should grow well as long as the soil is good and you fertilize and cultivate it often.

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Get More Usable Kitchen Space With A Drop Leaf Table

Most of us probably wish we had more space in our kitchen – it’s probably a little harder to use than we’d like, but we aren’t quite sure how to go about making more room. Here are a few ideas on how to rearrange and organize your kitchen so it doesn’t feel as cramped, and maybe even make it a little easier to use.

First consider the furniture in the kitchen. Do you think you need more drawer or cabinet space? Are you sure? Forgetting about the clutter for a moment, imagine if you had one less cabinet for a moment. Would it make the kitchen feel a little more open and easy to use? This may be a way to make you feel more comfortable. Do you have a table in the kitchen? What if you had a drop leaf table instead, one that you could break down when not in use. Think about winning back some of the space.

Antique Cherry Drop-Leaf Table
Photo by em_on_flickr

Now what about inside the cabinets. Are they filled to the brim? If so, are they filled with pots and pans that you use on a regular basis? Unless you are feeding a lot of people, or are a professional chef that has a different pan for your chicken then you do for your steak, you probably have some pots and pans that are mostly gathering dust. Get rid of them! Empty the cabinet a bit, so everything doesn’t fall out when you open the doors.

Finally, keep the counter clear as much as you can too. Try keeping the dish soap under the sink when not in use, put the hand towel away when you’re done, and so on. Clear the space so it doesn’t weigh on your mind when not in use.

Antique Cherry Drop-Leaf Table
Photo by em_on_flickr

Think about your kitchen from this perspective, and you’ll see that your method of storage in the kitchen can be as bad as the things you’re actually storing. You may find that something as small as a round drop leaf table can go a long way in making your kitchen easier to use.

P.S. Another good tip for increasing usable space in your kitchen is to use an under counter spice rack. These will keep all of your spices handy without taking up any of your work space!

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Whole House Surge Protection For Your Home

To prevent expensive electronic equipment from being damaged by power surges, your home should be equipped with a whole house surge protector. Often, whole house surge protectors are connected to the service panel where your home’s electrical breakers are. To ensure it is installed correctly, you can hire a certified electrician to install it, or you could do the installation yourself. Whole house surge protectors are a sound investment because they will likely save you from having to pay costly repairs in the future. You can probably spend less than $300 to adequately protect your home.

If heavy winters, electrical storms or high winds are common in the area where you live, it is important to have whole house surge protection. Spikes in power can be caused by lightning strikes near the home as well as power lines and utility poles that are damaged by high winds and heavy snow. In effect, the device will absorb the electricity spike, protecting all of your valuable electronics from being damaged. Spikes that last for only a millisecond can heavily damage your expensive items such as washers, dryers, and computers. The protectors that you plug these items into directly will not adequately protect them from large spikes. You should not trust your electronics to fancy extension cords. Your electronics will be guaranteed to be secure and safe with a whole house protector..

Plug-in surge protectors will absorb the extra voltage that might slip by the whole house unit. Both devices work the same in normal conditions by allowing electricity to flow through. When there is a power surge, the extra current is deflected into a grounded wire. The better protector you have, the quicker it will respond to a power surge. The cost of installation, if you hire an electrician, will usually cost about two hours for labor plus the cost of the unit. Your insurance company may offer a discount for installing a protective device in your home. The device will pay for itself when you experience a power surge.

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3 Facts About Growing Orchids At Home

Orchid plants are a truly amazing and very beautiful genus of plants. There are many interesting facts about orchids and indeed a few are more unusual than others. Growing orchids can be a fantastic hobby for many people – once you start growing orchids you will want more and more and it’s easy to see why.

Orchids are the second largest group of plants grown today and have become the number two most popular pot plant in the USA closely behind the seasonal Christmas poinsettia. The reason for the prolific numbers of varieties available is that growers have bred different hybrids over many decades, continually improving and creating new colors for commercial production. It is estimated that there are over one hundred thousand orchid hybrids in existence today.

Of course the main reason for the popularity of orchid types is the beautiful flowers they produce in various colors and forms. The more commonly available plants are instantly recognizable as orchids but you will be amazed at the diversity of the less well known varieties – many that you will not recognize as orchids at all. This diversity is mostly down to the continued hybridizing over many years and the fact that orchids come from many different areas of the world.

Orchids are found across much of the world and from a range of different climatic regions. They are found grow mountains, temperate zones, tropical rainforests and even in the Arctic Circle. They are however most commonly found in the tropical climates in South America, Central America and Asia.

Orchids are also very different in their growth habits and general appearance. Some species known as terrestrial orchids grow in the soil, whilst others – known as epiphytes – will be found growing on trees or rocks with aerial roots. It is the natural diversity of the species of the orchid that helps to make them such a popular choice today. And of course they look great!

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