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Why would anyone want to eat something called a chokeberry? Well, they're considered one of the best sources of antioxidants, which have a plethora of health benefits, that's why. Aronia berries get their nickname because eating the small, darkly colored fruits raw can dry out your mouth, but they are often added to jams, teas, purees, juices and even wine.

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We often hear about foods that can boost our immune systems, but did you know there are dietary choices that can actually weaken your body's ability to fight off infections? Studies show that ultra-processed foods, and those full of empty calories without nutrients can be detrimental to your health.

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Through net metering programs, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems can get utility credits for any electricity their panels generate during the day that isn't used to power home systems. These credits can be "cashed in" to offset the cost of any grid electricity used at night.

Where net metering is available, solar panels have a shorter payback period and yield a higher return on investment. Without this benefit, you only save on power bills when using solar energy directly, and surplus generation is lost unless you store it in a solar battery. However, net metering gives you the option of selling any excess electricity that is not consumed within your home.

Generally, you will see more home solar systems in places with favorable net metering laws. With this benefit, going solar becomes an attractive investment even for properties with minimal daytime consumption. Homeowners can turn their roofs into miniature power plants during the day, and that generation is subtracted from their nighttime consumption.

What Is Net Metering?

Net metering is a billing arrangement in which surplus energy production from solar panels is tracked by your electricity provider and subtracted from your monthly utility bill. When your solar power system produces more kilowatt-hours of electricity than your home is consuming, the excess generation is fed back into the grid.

For homeowners with solar panels, the benefits of net metering include higher monthly savings and a shorter payback period. Utility companies also benefit, since the excess solar electricity can be supplied to other buildings on the same electric grid.

If a power grid relies on fossil fuels, net metering also increases the environmental benefits of solar power. Even if a building does not have an adequate area for rooftop solar panels, it can reduce its emissions by using the surplus clean energy from other properties.

How Net Metering Works

There are two general ways net metering programs work:

  1. The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your utility company, and a credit is posted to your account that can be applied to future power bills.
  2. The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your home's electricity meter. Modern power meters can measure electricity flow in both directions, so they tick up when you pull from the grid at night and count down when your solar panels are producing an excess amount of electricity.

In either scenario, at the end of the billing period, you will only pay for your net consumption — the difference between total consumption and generation. This is where the term "net metering" comes from.

How Does Net Metering Affect Your Utility Bill?

Net metering makes solar power systems more valuable for homeowners, as you can "sell" any extra energy production to your utility company. However, it's important to understand how charges and credits are managed:

  • You can earn credits for your surplus electricity, but utility companies will not cut you a check for the power you provide. Instead, they will subtract the credits from your power bills.
  • If your net metering credit during the billing period is higher than your consumption, the difference is rolled over to the next month.
  • Some power companies will roll over your credit indefinitely, but many have a yearly expiration date that resets your credit balance.

With all of this in mind, it is possible to reduce your annual electricity cost to zero. You can accumulate credit with surplus generation during the sunny summer months, and use it during winter when solar generation decreases.

You will achieve the best results when your solar power system has just the right capacity to cover your annual home consumption. Oversizing your solar array is not recommended, as you will simply accumulate a large unused credit each year. In other words, you cannot overproduce and charge your power company each month.

Some power companies will let you pick the expiration date of your annual net metering credits. If you have this option, it's wise to set the date after winter has ended. This way, you can use all the renewable energy credits you accumulated during the summer.

Is Net Metering Available Near You?

Net metering offers a valuable incentive for homeowners to switch to solar power, but these types of programs are not available everywhere. Net metering laws can change depending on where you live.

In the U.S., there are mandatory net metering laws in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Most states without a mandate have power companies that voluntarily offer the benefit in their service areas. South Dakota and Tennessee are the only two states with no version of net metering or similar programs.

If net metering is available in your area, you will be credited for your surplus energy in one of two ways:

  • Net metering at retail price: You get full credit for each kilowatt-hour sent to the grid. For example, if you're charged 16 cents per kWh consumed, you'll get a credit of 16 cents per kWh exported. This type of net metering is required by law in 29 states.
  • Net metering at a reduced feed-in tariff: Surplus electricity sent to the grid is credited at a lower rate. For example, you may be charged 16 cents per kWh for consumption but paid 10 cents per kWh exported. Feed-in tariffs and other alternative programs are used in 17 of the states where retail-rate net metering is not mandatory.

Note: This is just a simplified example — the exact kWh retail price and solar feed-in tariff will depend on your electricity plan.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about net metering and other solar power incentives in your state. You can also look for information about solar incentives by visiting the official websites of your state government and utility company.

Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar

Net metering policies are one of the most effective incentives for solar power. However, there are other financial incentives that can be combined with net metering to improve your ROI:

  • The federal solar tax credit lets you claim 26% of your solar installation costs as a tax deduction. For example, if your solar installation had a cost of $10,000, you can claim $2,600 on your next tax declaration. This benefit is available everywhere in the U.S.
  • State tax credits may also be available depending on where you live, and they can be claimed in addition to the federal incentive.
  • Solar rebates are offered by some state governments and utility companies. These are upfront cash incentives subtracted directly from the cost of your solar PV system.

In addition to seeking out solar incentives available to you, you should compare quotes from multiple installers before signing a solar contract. This will ensure you're getting the best deal available and help you avoid overpriced offers and underpriced, low-quality installations. You can start getting quotes from top solar companies near you by filling out the 30-second form below.

Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Net Metering

Why is net metering bad?

When managed correctly, net metering is beneficial for electricity consumers and power companies. There have been cases in which power grids lack the capacity to handle large amounts of power coming from homes and businesses. However, this is an infrastructure issue, not a negative aspect of net metering itself.

In places with a high percentage of homes and businesses using solar panels, surplus generation on sunny days can saturate the grid. This can be managed by modernizing the grid to handle distributed solar power more effectively with load management and energy storage systems.

How does net metering work?

With net metering, any electricity your solar panels produce that isn't used to power your home is fed into your local power grid. Your utility company will pay you for this power production through credits that can be applied to your monthly energy bills.

Can you make money net metering?

You can reduce your power bills with net metering, using surplus solar generation to compensate for your consumption when you can't generate solar power at night and on cloudy days. However, most power companies will not pay you for surplus production once your power bill has dropped to $0. Normally, that credit will be rolled over, to be used in months where your solar panels are less productive.

On very rare occasions, you may be paid for the accumulated balance over a year. However, this benefit is offered by very few electric companies and is subject to limitations.

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Can mushrooms improve your health? Eastern medicine has used the reishi mushroom for years because it is common in hot and humid areas of Asia. Reishi mushrooms include triterpenoids, polysaccharides and peptidoglycans, each of them contributing certain health benefits when they are eaten fresh or in powders and extracts added to other foods and drinks.

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A plant-based lifestyle has multiple benefits, but if you are a new vegetarian or vegan, it may be hard to find healthy ways to replace the protein you are used to getting from meat. Even if this diet is old hat for you, there are definitely some foods that pack more of a nutritious punch than others.

Protein makes up about 17 percent of your body weight, and is required for our muscles, including the heart and brain, and helps to make the antibodies that fight infections. It also regulates blood sugar and helps with energy function.

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You put the donut down, saved the candy for your kids, and even substituted yogurt for ice cream, but you're not off the hook yet. Even when trying to be conscientious about sugar, the average American consumes three times the amount recommended by the American Heart Association daily. With women not supposed to have more than six teaspoons a day and men not more than 12, according to the World Health Organization, even health-conscious, all-natural, well-rounded diets can contain hidden sugars.

What's wrong with sugar? Studies show it can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. And, actually, humans don't need any added sugar at all.

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"Certified organic superfoods."

"Nutrient-dense, plant-based superfoods."

You'll find these glowing, adjective-laden descriptions of certain foods in grocery stores, specialty shops and on the Internet, but news flash — there is no such thing as a superfood. At least not according to science.

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Everyone thinks about the fountain of youth now and again. How do we make life last longer, and, more importantly, how do we make sure that life is quality throughout the years?

People in the Blue Zones may have the answer — and some of it has to do with their diet. It's not just what they eat, but how much and when. They stop eating when their stomachs feel about 80 percent full, which helps to avoid weight gain. They eat their smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or early evening, and don't eat again after that. They eat a lot of beans and other plants. They don't avoid meat, they just eat it sparingly, as part of their lifestyle. They even drink wine in moderation, up to a couple of glasses a day.

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Are you thirsty? So is the rest of the United States. Nearly 80 percent of working adults self-report that they don't drink enough water, according to a survey conducted by Quench, which is a filtered water system provider.

The body is almost 60 percent water, which is necessary for nearly every bodily function. People can lose their water quickly, particularly if they are sick, exercising a lot or if it is really hot outside.

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When most of us think of vinegar, we think of cleaning supplies, or maybe a tang to add to a salad or marinade. We rarely think of vinegar as a component to good health, but some studies suggest that apple cider vinegar, in particular, may have benefits when added to your diet.

How It's Made

Apple cider vinegar goes through the fermenting process twice. First, manufacturers add yeast to crushed apples, which turns their sugars into alcohol. Next, they add bacteria which furthers the fermenting process and turns the alcohol into acetic acid. The 5-to-6 percent acid content is what gives vinegar its strong scent and taste.

You might notice a cloudy substance hanging out toward the bottom of your vinegar bottle, and that's supposed to be there. It's called "the mother" and it is composed of that yeast/bacteria mix in the fermenting process. It counts as a probiotic and gives the vinegar a supplemental boost in addition to the B-vitamins and polyphenols found in it.

This vinegar has been known as a home remedy for everything from a sore throat to varicose veins to dandruff, but science only supports some of these claims. So, which benefits does apple cider actually have?

The Health Benefits

1. It kills bacteria.

Studies show that vinegar of all kinds help kill pathogens, including bacteria. This is why we associate vinegar with disinfecting and cleaning. This power also makes vinegar a preservative by stopping the growth of food spoiling bacteria like E. coli.

Researchers proved this by treating groups of tainted arugula with one of the following: vinegar, lemon juice or a combination of both. Both the juice and vinegar decreased the growat of Salmonella, and the mixture dropped the bacteria levels to nearly undectable.

2. It helps regulate blood sugar.

While the most effective way to regulate blood sugar levels is avoiding sugar and processed carbohydrates, apple cider vinegar has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity.

One study showed that apple cider vinegar lowered blood sugar and insulin response by improving insulin sensitivity by more than 20 percent. The participants ate a bagel with butter and orange juice, then got either 20 grams of apple cider vinegar or a placebo. Those taking the vinegar posted significantly lower blood glucose levels after the meal. The results have been replicated in both healthy people and those with diabetes. Other studies confirm that apple cider vinegar improves insulin function and lowers blood sugar, which can be very helpful for those with pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes.

The vinegar works similarly to a blood sugar lowering drug called metformin, and those who benefit most from this treatment seem to be those who are insulin-resistant.

3. It can help you lose weight.

Vinegar has been shown to increase feelings of fullness, which can lead to weight loss when people consume fewer calories but no longer feel hungry. In one study, participants taking vinegar alongside a meal ate 200-275 calories less throughout the day.

Not only that, but a study on those with obesity showed apple cider vinegar lowered belly fat and led to weight loss. One tablespoon led to a loss of 2.6 pounds and people taking two tablespoons lost on average 3.7 pounds. The study, however, lasted for three months, so the weight loss was moderate to low.

Another, more recent study, showed marked weight loss. Researchers found people drinking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar ate 250 calories less than the daily requirements and lost nearly 10 pounds over a 3-month period. It also found the vinegar lowered cholesterol.

The benefits of apple cider vinegar with regard to weight loss need to be further studied, but scientists agree that it won't hurt.

4. It can improve heart health.

High cholesterol levels and triglycerides are risk factors for heart disease, and some studies link apple cider vinegar to lowering those levels. Unlike the other benefits associated with apple cider vinegar, the heart healthy studies have been done mostly on animals. The vinegar also reduced blood pressure in rats. High blood pressure and hypertension can lead to heart disease and kidney problems.

We need to conduct human studies to conclusively prove any benefits to human heart health, but as before, scientists say adding it to your regimen won't cause any harm.

5. It promotes healthy skin.

Put away that skin cream and break out the vinegar. For years, apple cider vinegar has been used on dry skin and even eczema because the epidermis is slightly acidic and topical apple cider vinegar is thought to help balance the natural pH and improve the protective layer where more traditional soaps might exacerbate the skin's dryness.

As mentioned before, apple cider vinegar also has anti-bacterial properties, which could possibly limit topical infections, which is why it is sometimes added to face wash or toner in a very diluted form.

Still, researchers at the American Academy of Dermatology don't recommend apple cider vinegar for serious skin health, preventative measures or rejuvenation. While it has drying capacity, experts maintain there are other, more effective products for heavy-duty skin care.

Keep in mind that vinegar is potent, and when you use it, you should dilute it in water or tea, or take it with food. There are also some drawbacks to consider before making it a regular part of your routine. Apple cider vinegar could lower potassium levels, so make sure you don't suffer from hypokalemia before taking it. If you are on any medications (including insulin), check with your doctor to make sure the vinegar won't interact poorly with them. And finally, if you experience any nausea from the vinegar, your body is probably sensitive to its strong sour acidity, so consider alternative methods to health.

Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer and a professor at the University of Florida, with degrees in communications and ecology.

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Would you like to live to 100? It's a far-fetched plan for many of us; hitting centenarian status happens for less than 2 out of every 10,000 people in the United States. And experts agree that when it comes to years, quantity doesn't matter if you don't have quality.

"The question is if you live to be 100 years old, what sort of 100-year-old are you going to be? Are you going to be bedridden and unable to take care of yourself? Or are you going to be reasonably independent and alert?" said Steven N. Austad, Ph.D., who studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms of aging at the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio. "To me, that's what the best health practices can really have an impact on."

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When we think about skin health, we typically think about topical creams and lotions to hydrate and refresh but nourishing our skin from the inside is just as important. Although skin is our largest organ, it gets its nutrients after other vital organs receive their share.

Cutting the processed carbs can help. Research shows low glycemic diets can help reduce skin conditions like acne. Eat more whole grains, beans and nuts, and knock off the sugar, if you can.

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Picnics, barbecues, swimming pools and ice cream. Summer is here, and bringing the heat, but this year, a combination of changing weather patterns and a record-breaking drought is raising temperatures to dangerous levels.

Hundreds of people have died in the last week, as a result of more than a hundred-degree temperatures in areas not equipped for the extreme weather.

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