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For The Home

Mexican Flavor

Author: Roberta Landman
Issue: January, 2009, Page 50

That vacation-all-year-long feeling is possible in your own backyard with this reminder of coastal Mexico—the ubiquitous shade-giving palapa. A Phoenix firm, The Palapa Guy, LLC, is building custom versions of the sustainable thatched palm-frond-roofed structure, including coverings for patios, outdoor bars, pool spas, grill areas and more. Poles for the palapas are made of trees from responsibly managed sources, says company spokesman Eric Ross. For details, call (480) 343-6653, or visit

Soak up tropical flavor with Oliveira Textiles’ Ocean Collection of “environmentally considerate” hand-silk-screened fabrics. Made from rapidly growing, sustainable Chinese hemp, the textiles’ enticing swirling patterns are created with eco-friendly water-based dyes. The fabrics, suitable for upholstery uses, pillow covers, window treatments and more, are available through design professionals and the company. For information on ordering, call the Rhode Island firm at (401) 396-9194, or check on the Internet.

Homeowners interested in buying household solar electric systems—which convert sunshine into electricity—can breathe a sigh of relief. A 30-percent federal tax credit for these purchases, set to run out Dec. 31, 2008, has been extended another eight years beginning Jan. 1, 2009. The new ruling removes a $2,000 cap on that tax credit.

There are other financial incentives to going solar, such as state tax credits (in Arizona, capped at $1,000) and rebates from utility companies, which encourage the use of solar as a renewable source of energy. In Arizona, for example, Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) and Salt River Project (SRP) provide $9,000 rebates for a solar electric system that equipment dealers typically sell for $21,000. This system will not service an entire home’s needs, but it can offset a portion of one’s utility bill, according to APS and SRP sources.

Solar electric systems are available with larger capacities, and rebates from utilities rise proportionately with their increased sizes and prices. Despite the rebates and tax incentives, the economic downturn has slowed consumer demand for purchasing solar, according to APS spokesman Steven Gotfried.

Consumers who don’t want to buy have another option: SolarCity, a California-based company, leases, installs and services rooftop-installed solar panels for a monthly fee. A lease/buy plan also is available. The company, which at this writing is the first to provide this specific service in Arizona, also serves California and Oregon.

For details, call (888) 765-2489, or visit 

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