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Tips for Choosing Outdoor Solar Powered Lights

Outdoor solar powered lights are becoming a regular addition to many peoples yards and homes. Solar powered lights add a unique ambiance to your yard in the evenings, make great decorations and can be quite practical as well, adding light to otherwise dark areas of your yard. Here are tips for choosing the right outdoor solar powered light for your yard, as well as what options you have when purchasing solar lights.
Outdoor solar powered lights have become popular for a variety of reasons. Many people like the fact that these lights use solar power, which is not only better for the environment, but easier on their electric bill as well. Outdoor solar lights are also easier to install than traditional wired lights, making it a snap for your average Joe or Suzie homemaker to install on their own.

Decorative accent solar powered lights are one of the most commonly purchased forms of outdoor lighting. These solar lights come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. If positioned correctly, decorative accent lights can serve a practical purpose of lighting a dark area, however most of the time, these lights are meant to be used purely as decoration. If you are looking for an attractive way to add some life to your yard at night, decorative solar powered accent lights are definitely for you.

If your not concerned about appearance, and want an outdoor solar light for practical purposes, you may prefer choosing a solar powered spot light, or path light. Solar powered spot lights act as any other spotlight, and focus lighting on a particular area. These lights are great for outside doorways, or particularly dark areas of your yard that you would like to brighten up for safety reasons. Of course, you can also use a solar powered spot light to accent a particular landscape feature in the evenings as well. The downside to outdoor solar powered spotlights is that they generally require more energy than smaller solar lights. Because of this, they often have cords attaching them to a solar panel, rather than an internal and smaller photovoltaic cell.

Outdoor solar path lights are another favorite pick, both for practicality and beauty. These path lights can be placed in many areas of your yard to accent favorite flower beds or paths in the evening, or can be placed along driveways and walk ways to help provide a safely lighted path. Solar powered path lights come in variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Many are staked and meant to be stuck into the ground, however there are also others that can be hung from trees or poles, or strung on wires as well.

Whatever type of lighting you are looking for to help illuminate your yard, your sure to find an outdoor solar powered light that will fit your needs. Every time I go to the store, I find more and more styles of solar powered lights available to purchase. If you don’t have any outdoor solar powered lights in your yard already, you should get some. You’ll certainly be glad that you did!

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Easy Science Fair Project: Solar Powered Mini House

When I was a child I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I could go on an all expense paid trip to Washington DC and explore all that city had to offer. The catch? I had to be one of the winners in the school science fair. At first I was a bit intimidated about winning but then I came up with the following idea and found myself headed for Washington DC!! Now I am going to share my idea for a miniature solar powered house with you!!
First you need to find a small solar panel. I found mine at Radio Shack but I presume that other stores such as the Smithsonian or Discovery may have these as well. With the advent of the web you may even be able to find these online. These panels are an exact replica of a real solar panel you would find on the roof of a real solar powered house. The one I found had a fan attachment but you could also find them with light attachments. Either of these will work just fine.

Next you need to either gather some scrap wood or acquire a small dollhouse kit such as a one or two room cottage size. I was always handy with a hammer so I built a little attic size room. If you are not that handy with a hammer the dollhouse kits can be found at any hobby store, are inexpensive and can be glued together with relative ease. You will need to make some modifications to the dollhouse kit however so don’t start building just yet. You will need a hobby knife or Dremel tool and a drill to modify the roof so gather these items along with one or two one inch by two inch pieces of Plexi glass and a big bottle of Aileen’s Tacky Glue.

Well, that is all you need for supplies believe it or not. Unless of course you would like to add some paint, flooring, shingles, siding and draperies. I did this to mine just because I liked the look of it better then the rough product. If you do decide to pump it up a bit scrap paint and wallpaper left over from mom and dad’s around the house projects make for excellent interior and exterior wall coverings. Leftover fabric from mom’s sewing or from clothing you are throwing out makes excellent draperies. Leftover asphalt shingles from dad’s latest roof repairs can be cut with heavy duty scissors into small squares and glued on the roof for shingles. As for flooring, think out of the box. Paint little wood planks on floors with brown paint as a base and black paint for cracks between planks. Use a base of White paint that is dried and add black paint squares to create a tile floor. Use old wash clothes cut to desirable shapes for scatter rugs. This will give you an appealing finished product that is sure to wow the judges.

Now that you have everything let’s put it all together. First, build and decorate your dollhouse according to its instructions, leaving the roof off. Have a parent help you to drill a hole through the roof making sure the hole is located just above a room. Now, again with a parent’s help, add one to two square holes measuring three quarters of an inch by one and three quarters inch. You can use a Dremel tool or a very sharp hobby knife for this job. These holes will be the skylights which are extremely essential in any good solar home. Now glue your pieces of Plexi glass (These can be custom cut for free from the store you bought them from in most cases.) to what will become the underneath of your roof. Allow to dry thoroughly then flip your roof over and glue your solar panel to the top of the roof being careful to feed the wires through before gluing permanently in place. Once the solar panel is dry and secure flip the roof back over to expose its underside and attach the light or fan to the panel using the wires and the instruction sheet that came with the kit. This may sound scary but it is very easy and extremely safe as you are dealing with very low voltage. Now you can glue your roof to your dollhouse and put on your little shingles. I would like to note here that if you don’t have shingles you can paint the roof black prior to putting in the skylights and the solar panel.

Well, that is all there is to building it now let’s move on to presenting your masterpiece. Now you will need a light source. For this you will need to know if the presentation hall has an electrical outlet available to you. If they do get yourself a sturdy box or other item that can be used to raise a desk lamp up off of the table’s surface. A curved neck or goose neck lamp is best here as this will become your imitation sun and it will need to be able to be posed. Place your lamp on your box and flex its neck so it floods the dollhouse roof with light. Voila!! Now your solar light or fan should turn on within a few moments providing cooling breezes or lots of light to your imaginary inhabitants. Don’t be upset when it doesn’t work immediately because it takes time for the solar cell to store its charge. Also, don’t forget to try your project prior to presentation day to ensure everything is in working order. Your skylights will also add tons of “sun” light which is an important part of a solar house. In the event you don’t have electric access in your presentation room bring along a high voltage camp light and use that instead. It wont work as well but will do in a pinch.

Well, good luck with your project and be sure to tell Doc all about those awesome prizes you will be winning with this fun and rewarding project.

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Green Project: The Benefits of Louisiana’s Largest Solar Panels

The largest photovoltaic system (that’s solar panel to you and me) in Louisiana sits atop a large warehouse facility in New Orleans. Seventy-two 85watt panels with an output capacity of 6.12 kilowatts will help power The Green Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging environmentally sustainable living.
Shell Exploration amp; Production Company and Entergy donated a combined $35,000 to the project, which is designed to reduce The Green Project’s electrical demand and to provide an educational tool for the community to learn more about solar energy. During the first six months of operation, the system is expected to cover 20 percent of the organization’s energy needs, with that capacity increasing over time. In addition, the system is plugged into the city grid. This means as the panels suck up sunshine, they convert it into electricity to power the building; whatever the building doesn’t need to use at the time flows into Entergy’s circuitry, to be used by others on the same grid. Sometimes this system even reverses the electrical meter itself!

This is only one aspect of the group’s work to change the way Louisiana treats its fragile environment. Local contractors, artists, and home owners know the warehouse is the best place to go to find doors, tiles, recycled paint, and other building materials-all at rock-bottom prices. Everything at The Green Project is donated, usually by homeowners who might be tired of their bathroom’s look but who know there’s nothing wrong with the materials in it. This creates bargain sales and architectural finds for buyers plus keeps these items out of landfills.

“The Green Project views its role as an educational resource for promoting responsible sustainability practices in all areas,” says board vice-president Phyllis Jordan. That means field trips are welcome; gardening workshops are routinely offered to the public, with plenty of info about organic gardens and composting; recycled fabrics, Mardi Gras beads, and other items are used in artists’ workshops held regularly at the warehouse.

The group moved into its current location, 2831 Marais Street, in 2003. The building features a large, flat roof ideal for solar electric production, long a goal of the organization’s board. The panels were purchased from Shell Solar Industries LP, with the design and installation handled by Louisiana Homepower, based in Baton Rouge. Entergy, Louisiana’s premier energy company, also provided funding to support the purchase and installation of the panels. For more information about The Green Project, visit www.thegreenproject.org.

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Build Your Own Solar Power System

Have you ever considered building your own solar power system? I’ve toyed with the idea in the back of my mind for years, ever since my son came home from school and announced that he was going to build a solar power system for his Science Fair project. “You’re going to build WHAT?” I screeched in shock and horror. And he proceeded to go to work, doing it all by himself, using scrap and junk he found around the farm.
By the end of the allotted time period, he had built a tiny but working solar power system that could heat water in a small canister. Now, my son is a very bright guy but he’s no genius, so if a kid can do it, a reasonably intelligent adult can, also.

Building your own solar power system can be as simple as laying a coil of black plastic pipe on the ground, in a sunny spot near your swimming pool. You hook one end to the discharge outlet of your pump and the other end to the matching port on your pool. The pump pushes cold pool water into the coil of black plastic pipe on the ground, it circulates through the pipe and is heated by the sun. Warmer water is pumped into the pool, raising the pool temperature by a few degrees. It’s not a beautiful sight, but it is actually a functional solar power system.

Purchasing a commercial solar power system is expensive. Building your own solar power system is not. We’re not talking about converting your entire home to solar power here… we’re looking at heating an outdoor pool or providing hot water to the house. Even if you only pre-heat the water going to your water heater, your solar power system can save you money in the long run. And we all know that a heated swimming pool is just so much nicer than swimming in cold water. Why not make use of an eternally renewable energy source, the sun, and build your own solar power system to heat that pool.

The popular back-to-the-land magazine, Mother Earth News, has published numerous articles on building your own solar power system and solar heat collectors. Some of the projects they offer are quite simple and inexpensive ways to heat a room in your house or heat water.

Remember that building your own solar power system doesn’t have to mean converting your entire house to solar power. Every little bit of the sun’s free energy that you harness will help you save money on your electric bill. And in these days of skyrocketing prices, every penny saved is truly a penny earned. If you can build your own solar power system and save a few bucks on your electric bill, you’re ahead of the game. The fact that you are also easing the strain on our environment is a definite bonus.