• His firm, Elder Trucking, owns a fleet of diesel-powered trucks, and in order to start those vehicles on cold winter mornings, Elder must heat the engine blocks every night. Imagine 30 electrical cords extending to 30 large semi trucks and charging a heating element in each motor, an element much like the one in your kitchen stove.

    “There are times in winter when those heaters are going every day and we’re probably over $2,000 [per month] in electricity,” Elder said, shaking his head.

    Last year, Elder Trucking joined the Garfield Clean Energy Challenge and, with the help of electrical contractor Charlie Terrell and Holy Cross Energy, Elder recently installed a timing system on his engine block heaters that should cut his winter power bills in half.

    “They’ll start at midnight and shut off at noon,” Elder said. “I’m hoping to get those bills down to three digits.”

    The project was finished last March, at the tail end of a mild winter, so Elder doesn’t yet know how much energy and money he’ll save. But he has other energy-saving factors in his favor.

    Along with the engine block heaters, he also made some energy-efficient lighting improvements, first to the exterior lighting around his property, then in the shops where his crew maintains and repairs the truck fleet.

    Elder Trucking has been around since 1996, hauling gravel, asphalt, water and other materials to build roads for the natural gas industry and serve the communities of Western Garfield County. He occupies a sunny, 15-acre lot near the county airport.

    Scattered around Elder’s office, shops and parking areas are 16 light fixtures that, until recently, contained sodium lights between 70 and 100 watts apiece. Those have been replaced with 13-watt LED lights that not only consume less power, but also emit a brighter and more natural-looking light.

    Inside the shops, Elder has replaced 400-watt floodlights with high-output T5 lamps that, like the exterior LEDs, give off a more pleasing light and use less energy. Unlike the old lights, the T5s switch on and off with no warm-up or cool-down time. And by using two separate switches, Elder can use all or half of the available lights at any time.

    Because of the brightness of the T5s, Elder was able to reduce the number of fixtures in his tire shop (a separate building) from nine to five, and the overall number of bulbs from 36 to 20.

    “They [the employees] like it better because they actually have more light,” he said.

    Between the exterior and interior changes, Elder expects to cut the lighting portion of his utility bills by roughly two thirds. The real savings, however, will come from the timers on the engine block heaters.

    Elder spent $13,000 on all his energy-efficiency measures, and thus far has received rebates from Garfield Clean Energy and Holy Cross for over $3,000. If the engine block timers save as much energy as they should, Elder will recoup his expenses for that project in less than a year.

    The lighting upgrades will take between eight and nine years to pay off, but Elder is already exploring ways to invest the savings in more energy-efficiency upgrades, including solar panels.


  • The problem in the past was the difficulty of installing LED Lighting and controlling it with anything other than a wall dimmer wired into the lights and installed in the drywall. Now, Solid Apollo offers solutions to make it easy to install LED Lighting Control Systems. Solid Apollo offers a selection of innovative products to assist consumers in bringing their LED Lights to life!

    LED Lighting is rapidly emerging as an important tool for all interior designers and lighting experts, as well as architects and contractors. With so many home owners and businesses installing LED Lighting it is very important to have control systems in place to get the maximum benefit from the limitless possibilities LED’s have to offer. LED Lighting Control Systems allow for total adjustability and customization. Solid Apollo offers the widest range of LED Lighting Control Systems.

    Having LED Lights that can be remotely controlled brings new and fascinating possibilities! In the past this was a difficult thing to achieve. Now, it gives anyone the possibility to have a customized and personalized lighting system that can be changed according to mood, weather, season or special occasion.

    LED Lighting can be applied anywhere: businesses like restaurants, bars, hotels & cafes, to outdoor areas like terraces, patios & plazas, even for the home and garden!

    Solid Apollo produces a 5 Zone Dimmer for solid color LED’s to facilitate the control and enjoyment of LED lighting. Without LED Lighting Dimmers, the LED’s are just static lighting, switched on and off but never utilized as the powerful lighting solution they were designed to be.

    With the 5 Zone Dimmer, it is possible to control all the different areas in a house, bar or restaurant with a single device!

    Each remote comes with a receiver and for each independent zone, another receiver must be installed. In this fashion it is possible to use one remote to control all the zones in an installation, up to five zones with unlimited receivers in each zone, assigning each zone a different illumination setting. It is possible with the Five Zone Remote, to also install solid color LED lights and assign a zone to add color to any space.

    An optional upgrade is to install color changing RGB LED lights and have total control over specific colors, brightness levels and effects. Such color changing effects are achieved by the use of Solid Apollo’s Color Changing LED Controllers. One of Solid Apollo’s newest products is the 4 Zone LEDwizard RGB LED controller which brings new possibilities by enabling users to personalize programs easily and adjust them to their preferred colors.

    Previously, basic RGB controllers did not offer any option to tweak or adjust any of the predefined color changing programs. In the past, the only options to make adjustments were pre-programmed into the remote with no option to change anything. If the program wasn’t there, it was not possible to add or change a new one.

    In the past, in order to maximize all adjustable options, high end and complex DMX Control systems were needed. Nevertheless these controllers required a great deal of understanding and programming to make it work correctly. The 4 Zone LEDwizard Remote Controller provides the user with an easy way to make any custom color and/or color effects and save it into the remote to be recalled as the need arises.


  • National Solar Technologies(NST), announces the release of its new commercial grade Portable Solar Powered LED Floodlighting system. The unit is 100% solar powered using a high efficiency solar module that captures the suns energy to recharge the system during the day, and power the lighting system all night long. The product is engineered to operate the LED floodlight fixture dusk to dawn, even after days of overcast weather. The system incorporates sealed, non-spillable maintenance free batteries for power storage.

    The LED floodlight fixture is designed for up to 150,000 hours of operation. The main unit frame and power unit enclosure is welded aluminum, powder coated in a variey of color choices. For portability/mobility, the system light mast folds down to a height of ~5.5 ft(fully extended mast is ~9.5 ft). Never flat wheels make it easy for anyone to wheel the unit to the location that needs to be illuminated.

    “The benefit of using solar energy for power production is that it allows for cost savings since there is not a need for the use of fossil fuel”, says Paul Vargovich, Director of Business Development at National Solar Technologies. “We ensure that the best components are utilized in the system so there is longevity with system reliability and zero routine maintenance required. Our goal is to provide superior solutions that will help build long lasting relationships with our customers.”

    National Solar Technologies Portable Solar Powered Floodlighting system is ideal for site lighting or general temporary lighting requirements. The US Military has deployed numerous NST Portable Solar Powered Floodlight systems supplied for use in remote and austere environments in both Afghanistan and Iraq. According to a US Military supply officer in Afghanistan, “You have a great product and we want to buy more.” There is currenty a push to expand the use of these systems throughout US Military Forward Operating Bases and Patrol Bases in Afghanistan.

    The Portable Solar Powered LED Floodlight system is the best choice for temporary lighting or site lighting needs. Utilizing green solar energy and long life LEDs for illumination, NST’s Portable Solar Powered LED Floodlighting solution is the environmentally clean alternative to generator powered lights. Whether its a small construction site, temporary parking lot, or remote location, National Solar Technologies offers a solution that will pay for itself in a short amount of time.

    FoxFury Lighting Solutions has modified the model names of its Nomad LED Area-Spot lights. The original Nomad design (previously referred to as the Nomad 3600 and Nomad 4000) is now known as the Nomad Prime while the newest addition to the Nomad family is called the Nomad 360. This name change places the look and function of the light at the forefront rather than the number of lumens.

    The Nomad, a dual action LED area light and spotlight, was originally released in November 2010 following two years of R&D. The original names of this portable, rechargeable area light (Nomad 3600 and Nomad 4000) reflected the number of torch lumens generated by the light. Rather than changing model names every time brighter LED technology becomes available, FoxFury has chosen to rename this original design the “Prime.”

    FoxFury released the innovative and versatile new Nomad 360 in July 2012. It is believed to be the first portable LED scene light that offers 360 degree scene lighting with the option to use it as a (12 degree) spotlight. This 7000 torch lumen model is brighter than the Nomad Prime and has a higher price point. The 360 degree ability of this light stands out right away, which is why the product name was chosen.


  • The report begins with an introduction about the different broad dimensions of the lighting market. A brief description of the evolution of LED technology has also been included in this section. It is followed by a brief overview of the global lighting market and the global LED market. Description of the Indian lighting industry highlights its major segments. Overview of the Indian LED industry provides details on the industry size and the growth in demand.

    The next section provides a brief overview of the value chain present in the LED industry.

    The report provides detailed information about the exports and imports of LED under specific HS codes in terms of value and volume. It provides country-wise import and export data for the year 2010-11, mentioning the major countries exporting and importing from India.

    Factors driving the growth of the LED market in India are also explained in detail. Growing population and rise in income provides an impetus to the growth of the LED market in India. Demand from consumer electronics is expected to emerge as a major growth driver for the Indian LED market. Increasing usage in street lighting and growing indoor lighting applications is expected to boost the growth prospects of the LED market in India. Better lamp life and energy efficiency and environment friendly technology is expected to contribute significantly towards market development. A Global ban on the usage of incandescent lights also has a favorable impact on the growth of the LED market.

    The players operating in the market also face challenges which are impeding their development and growth. High initial cost barrier has emerged as a major challenge hindering the market growth. Lack of consumer awareness and high import dependency are also expected to have an unfavorable impact on the growth of the LED market in India.

    The next section incorporates some of the initiatives that are needed to enhance the growth prospects of the Indian LED industry.

    Brief description of the published LED standards in India has been included in the report. The support provided by the government to promote the LED market and the key initiatives undertaken by the regulatory stakeholders in order to develop the LED industry in India have also been highlighted in the report.

    Emerging trends in the LED market include growing usage in automotive lighting, digital signage, solar LED lights and technology development.

    The competition section outlays the competitive landscape of the LED market in India briefing about the public and private players existing in the market. The report features brief profiles of major players in the market and a snapshot of their corporation, financial performance along with the key financial ratios, business highlights and their product portfolio providing an insight into the existing competitive scenario.

    Some of the key statistics or factors impacting the LED market in India covered in the report include market size & growth, rise in population, rise in income, LED Television - Sales Share, LED Monitor Sales and Digital Signage Market Growth.

    The report concludes with a section on strategic recommendations which comprises an analysis of the growth strategies of the LED market in India.


  • The second generation of the rear-drive giant, which was called the 300C first time around, arrives in Australia at a time when Ford’s and Holden’s large cars are on the ropes. Chrysler reckons it will draw people back to the big sedans that once ruled our roads. The heavily revised car will be available with a strong petrol V6, an efficient diesel V6 and a monstrous SRT V8.


    Chrysler has sharpened the pricing by as much as $10,000 on certain models and the base petrol V6 300 Limited now kicks off at $43,000, while the base diesel is $5000 more.

    There’s a choice between a better-specified V6 petrol 300C for $46,500, a fully loaded 300C Luxury at $51,000 or diesel equivalents for $5000 extra. The red-hot V8 SRT is great value at $66,000.

    The base 300 has a goodly amount of standard gear such as cruise control, an 21cm touch screen, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and 18-inch wheels, but misses out on leather seats (which used to be standard). The other models come loaded with more features than you would expect for the price.


    There’s something old and something new in every 300. It sits on a base that originates from a Mercedes E-Class introduced in the mid-1990s, but Chrysler has changed large sections of the body, fiddled with the suspension and replaced all engines. There is a potent 3.6-litre petrol V6 with 210kW and 340Nm linked up to a brand spanking eight-speed ZF automatic.

    The diesel is a premium 3.0-litre V6 from VM Motori with 176kW and 550Nm, while the rip-snorting V8 manages 347kW and 631Nm. Both of these engines make do with a five-speed automatic. Average fuel economy runs from a miserly 7.1L/100km for the diesel to 9.4L/100km for the V6 petrol and hits 13L/100km for the SRT V8.


    The last 300 looked so cool that rapper Snoop Dogg rang Chrysler and asked to drive one. Its brash and brutal design polarised people, but it had enough admirers to keep sales going. Then the fad faded.

    Now Chrysler has the difficult task of making an equally cool sequel. The new 300 doesn’t have the same impact as the first car, but its unique LED running lights, bold grille and tough, squat proportions give it presence. It looks grand, but won’t cause as much of a stir as the last one.

    It comes with a full load of safety kit, including front and side airbags for the driver and passenger, side curtain airbags for the front and rear passengers and a driver’s knee airbag.

    Electronic stability control is also standard, as are parking sensors and a rear-view camera. Optional safety gear includes a blind-spot detection system, adaptive cruise control and a collision warning system.


    The 300 is a big American sedan with lots of presence and performance. It’s a better car all round than the last model, as it should be. The interior is not quite at the level of Audi or BMW, but is vastly improved. We were impressed by the petrol V6, which is a sweet engine. The diesel is generally good, but lumpy at low speeds, and not worth the $5000 premium despite superior efficiency.

    The SRT V8 is a sledgehammer, an absolute cracker. We want one, but could never afford the fuel or the rear tyres.


  • I’ve never been the type who is into animals like bats, frogs and spiders, no matter how often people tell me that they are beautiful. So I was fairly unenthusiastic about the prospect of a night trip to Shanghai Botanical Garden. How wrong I was. The two-hour trip turned out to be much more fun than I could have imagined.

    Every summer holiday, the garden, together with the Shanghai Wild Bird Society, organizes weekend night trips for children aged between six and 12. Accompanied by their parents and armed with flashlights, young nature lovers observe animal and plant life under the instruction of volunteers from universities and non-governmental organizations.

    My trip started on a hot, muggy Saturday evening - a thunderstorm was predicted that night - as volunteers were receiving their final training before sunset.

    Night at a botanical garden feels a lot like the Ben Stiller movie “Night at the Museum” - nothing really sleeps there either. Bats swoop over your head, frogs come bouncing out of the water, weasels run through the woods and night-blooming plants open their petals.

    My first experience of the trip was listening for bird calls. “Twilight is the best time to listen for birds, and the sound stops after sunset,” said Zheng Wenqin, an official with the society.

    “Herons are the most frequently heard birds in the garden, though they’re secretive and we don’t actually see them very often.”

    Meanwhile, as dusk falls insects and arthropods are stepping out.

    Observing them, I saw commonplace things which I’d never bothered to consider before.

    I learned that a young mantis is a deep-brown color to camouflage it on the bark of a tree from predators.

    And I learned how spiders breed. In a small cave on a rockery, a spider was carrying eggs on her abdomen. Under the flashlight, I could see several translucent eggs gathered together, which was interesting, though also a little creepy for someone who’s not a huge fan of arachnids.

    “This is not something visitors would notice in daytime, when the garden is crowded with people,” said Zheng. “At night, people have more opportunity to closely observe the creatures using flashlights.”

    The frogs were fun. When darkness fell, numerous cricket frogs began hopping on to the muddy ground around the lakes. We needed to be careful not to stomp on them in the darkness, which was fairly difficult because they’re small and you never know in which direction they’re leaping.

    “Different breeds of frogs give out different croaks. Some have a variety of tones, while others just a single one,” explained Zheng. “We get the children to distinguish between species according to their croaks.”

    Many of the volunteers seemed absolutely obsessed with the little creatures. And although many volunteers are young women, they seemed totally unafraid of the frogs, or the creepy crawlies, for that matter. They caught several frogs and let them compete with other to see which one jumped higher and farther.

    I’ll admit that I was a wuss, so although I was interested in the amphibian athletics under the spotlights formed by torches, I stood well back to ensure the frogs didn’t jump onto my legs.

    Continuing on, we struggled through a construction area - where some of us almost got stuck in wet cement - and presently reached a small wood in the middle of the garden. There I witnessed an amazing sight that I had long hoped to see. Fireflies.

    We turned off the flashlights and couldn’t help but gasp. Like shining green spots, more than a dozen fireflies dotted the dark woods, drifting, swirling and trailing light. It was not as I had imagined - I thought there would be of hundreds lighting up the wood - but the scene was still amazing. Fireflies don’t seem scared of people. They hovered above outstretched palms, bathing them in brightness, like a small ball of positive energy.


  • This way, the solar plant controller meets the requirements of the grid operators regarding state-of-the-art feed-in management for large solar parks.

    According to the EEG (Renewable Energies Act), solar power plants are required to provide an active contribution to the stability of the public power supply and to allow the grid operator to temporarily reduce the fed-in active power if required (EEG feed-in management). Additionally, for newly built solar parks some grid operators require that reactive and active powers are controlled directly at the feed point since January 2012. In order to equip PV plants for these requirements, the new SolarMax solar plant controller MaxWeb NX pro is ideal, controlling the inverters of the plant so that these feed into the public power grid according to the specifications of the grid operator.

    The grid operators normally control large solar parks with the help of a SCADA system (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition). This way, MaxWeb NX pro is provided with the required target specifications of the grid operator and compares these to the current actual values at the grid feed point. Now, the device controls the cos-φ value, reduces the active power, provides for compliance with the reactive power specification, and controls the circuit breakers, amongst others.

    “The further the expansion of photovoltaics proceeds, the more important it is to guarantee precise control of the grid feed-in, particularly for large solar parks. We developed the MaxWeb NX pro solar plant controller so that it is designed for continuous operation and works maintenance-free even at extreme temperatures of -40°C to +70°C,” says Rudolf Bühler, senior Product Manager Data Communication at SolarMax. “The MTBF value, i.e. the expected operating time between two consecutive failures, is approx 22.5 years. This way, both the plant and the grid operator are provided with continuous output and, thus, high reliability regarding grid feed-in.”

    On the basis of the diverse interfaces, the functions of MaxWeb NX pro can be extended easily and can be adapted quickly for future requirements as well.

    After moving to the Western Isles Bill was immediately impressed by the open landscape which is dotted with spectacular lochs, enormous skies and prolific wildlife, and as an avid conservationist he was keen to retain the landscape he loves to paint.

    Recently Bill decided to branch out into solar energy in order to do his part for the environment as well as supplement his income and reduce his electricity bills.

    He said: “As a lover of wildlife I have been interested in solar energy for a while and was keen to experiment with different ways of producing green energy.

    “Above all I felt the need to reduce my carbon footprint, and was delighted to discover a solar panel company working directly from South Uist who were able to install my system with minimal disruption.”

    Bill and Norma had a 16 panel solar PV system installed by Absolute Solar and Wind on their property near Bill’s studio and gallery in Askernish in December 2011 and are already seeing the benefits.

    He added: “I generate and use a lot of my own energy now, which not only has a feel good factor but has also given us a great financial investment as we have lower out-goings and also receive money back through the Government’s feed-in tariff.

    “We’ve been very pleased with the results so far. On a sunny day it generates energy before we even get up. Of course it doesn’t need to be hot to generate electricity, even on clear cool days it will be working away.

    By May, Bill and Norma’s ground mounted system had already produced 1260kWh of clean green energy despite the winter months’ low light levels.


  • All Shakespeare plays were once done in outdoor theaters in the daylight, but certain works lend themselves best to being done in the open air. Along with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest is one of them. CalShakes’ opening production of the season, directed by Artistic Director Jonathan Moscone, is as funny, light-hearted, and playful a production of the play as we’ve ever seen, and outshines the one the theater put on just a few years ago.

    The play has all the fun elements of Shakespeare’s lighter works — drunken clowns, magic, a “monster,” love at first sight, and even a bit of flying. And it takes place on an island, home to a wizard named Prospero who was once a wealthy Italian heir, and thus feels appropriate on an outdoor stage. The cast in this version is only six actors, each playing two roles, with the help of three “sprites,” who are actually dancers who aid with some of the actors entrances and exits.

    Moscone has imagined a Prospero (Michael Winters) who is gruff but not unlikeable, human in every sense except that he carries a large staff and has the power to cast spells and silence people at will. Prospero is aided by a spirit named Ariel (played beautifully by the diminutive Erika Chong Shuch, who also served as choreographer), whom he freed from a curse in which a witch had trapped her in a tree. Because of this, she must do Prospero’s bidding for a year, and she helps shipwreck Prospero’s brother, Alonso (local every-king James Carpenter), after Prospero raises a great tempest on the sea in the opening scene.

    We won’t get into the rest of the plot, which is complicated, involving Prospero wanting revenge on his brother, and his daughter Miranda (played by a glowing and earnest Emily Kitchens) falling in love with one of the men aboard Alonso’s boat. There’s also Calaban, a smelly, deformed man who serves as slave to Prospero and causes some trouble. Suffice it to say that the double-casting adds to the confusion if you’re a bottle of wine in and you don’t know the play backwards and forwards. But it’s still a joy to watch, shot through with levity by some well staged slapstick, and with the added delight of Ariel floating on and off stage as though she were actually aloft — we especially loved the visual, in the final act, when she is finally freed and makes her final exit.

    Moscone’s sense of humor and good taste shine through in every scene, and the production is buoyed by a beautiful set from designer Emily Greene — stacks of trunks, jagged boards like the deck of a ship, and piles of books reminding us constantly of Prospero’s journey from duke to dark island warlock. It’s a series of pleasant surprises how Moscone uses the set throughout, having characters enter the stage via trunks and wardrobes, and at least one trunk is magically bottomless, with the auditory illusion of a sloshing sea below. All these elements come together to create a spellbinding night of theater, and an auspicious start to another season of CalShakes.


  • We are fortunate to live in a country that offers us a multitude of natural resources yet to be harnessed for their entire potential. Arguably, the most important of these, with reference to the present atrocious energy crisis and the intensifying effects of climate change, are the renewable sources of energy. It is imperative that not only the government but also private entrepreneurs take the initiative of harnessing renewable energy sources.

    The aim should not only be to close the ever widening gap between energy production and need in the country, but also to introduce a new market for sustainable ways of increasing consumption through low emissions development. The Pakistan Council for Renewable Energy (PCRET) has already undertaken some groundbreaking work in this regard by researching the potential of renewable sources of energy for commercial and personal use through localised design and development principles.

    In the last few years, PCRET has designed and developed 10 solar dryers for drying of dates, a solar hybrid system for dehydration of apricot on commercial scale and more than 500 solar cookers handed over to NGOs for dissemination and popularisation (see Pakistan country report on renewable energy).

    A commendable initiative taken by the CDA is giving a local manufacturer the approval to install solar-powered lampposts along the strip of Jinnah Avenue in Blue Area, Islamabad, with no cost to the city exchequer. The manufacture, installation and maintenance costs are to be borne by the providing company, which will recover its project cost by renting out advertising space on the lampposts.

    The Karachi administrator has also announced that the city will utilise solar power for lighting in public places. Solar PV technology, coupled with LED lights, has a high potential for saving significant amounts of energy and reducing the burden on the environment by reducing carbon emissions and slowing the rate of deforestation associated with fuel wood usage in rural areas.

    While these products can help urban users cut down on their energy bills and ensure sustainable and cheap energy sources, among the vast off-grid rural populations, these products can transform the way people live by providing them with street lighting for security, commercial activity and linking them to the world through electronic media. Although the government has a key role to play in facilitating the development of such a market for renewable energy products, local private entrepreneurs have an excellent opportunity to harness what are already common and commercially viable products in a number of developing countries.

    Solar-powered lights, heating systems and cooling units offer viable alternatives to current fossil fuel burning equipment for household energy needs. Importing assembly kits and setting up a small-scale assembly plant for these products in secondary towns and cities offers the potential for becoming a successful social enterprise, utilising the triple bottom line goals philosophy by targeting the planet, people and profits. A number of NGOs are already working in numerous regions across the country to help create awareness and build capacity for replication of energy efficient and sustainable sources of lighting, heating and cooking technologies.


  • If your utility situation is similar to mine, your bills are skyrocketing as rates rise. However, you aren’t completely helpless in this situation. There are many steps you can take that will help you reduce your bills.

    First, you should check your water heater to make sure the heat setting is correct. A few degrees will make a difference on your bill. If the heater is older, make sure there are no leaks and insulate it so that it conserves electricity. Next, check the pipes from the water heater for leaks. A small drip can waste gallons of water. When you are sure your water heater is ok, move on to your toilet. A toilet that constantly runs is not economical. Also, check for dripping faucets or rusty pipes throughout the house.

    After giving your home a plumbing check up, you should move on to your laundry room. You can save a lot of money on your electric bill if you run your dryer on a short time setting and put blue jeans and quilts on a line to dry. Also, try washing laundry in cold water. It gets just as clean and saves wear and tear on your water heater and conserves electricity.

    Next, you need to examine your electricity. If you consistently are coming down in the morning, only to see the same lights still shining, try plugging those lights into a timer so that they shut off by themselves after a certain time. Also, don’t leave lights and television sets on when you are not in the room. Even a little savings can add up to big payoffs when you get your electric bill.

    Do you have outdoor lighting for paths and walkways? Look into solar alternatives. These formerly black plastic, unattractive lights have become quite trendy and there are many styles to choose from. Of course, you can also still get the old black style as well. Do you have an outdoor water feature? Solar pond pumps have really improved over the last few years. Go solar-replace outdoor lighting and pond fountains with solar lights and fountains. These products have really improved over the last few years and solar lighting has become very stylish.

    You can cut electric or gas bills by adjusting your thermostat. If you lower it a few degrees in the winter and raise it a few degrees in the summer, you will save big. Also, try using nature’s air conditioning system. If you properly position deciduous trees in your yard, they will provide shade in the summer months and naturally make your house cooler. Throw open the windows in the late spring and early summer and use ceiling fans and window fans to pull in cool air instead of using your central air.

    Finally, maintain your heating and cooling systems once a year. Have duct work cleaned, filters changed, and furnaces and heat pumps serviced to be sure they are working effectively. If you have radiators, be sure they are bled to provide proper pressure. Once your heating and cooling systems are clean and ready to go, check to make sure you do not have furniture or curtains covering any of the vents. Also, take a look at your house and see if there are any areas, such as guest rooms, that are unused for most of the year. Closing vents in these rooms, especially in a larger home, can substantially cut costs.