CHARLESTON - Carl and Anne Clark of North Charleston were carrying two blue recycling bins and checking out solar panels in Marion Square on Sunday afternoon.

They were two of the hundreds of people who turned out for the third annual Charleston Green Fair. Organizers estimated 5,000 people attended in years past. Those attending Sunday paid $5 each to check out the latest in energy savings, as well as enjoy the food and music, and let the kids see snakes and alligators, check out the Eco-Carnival's message of "Green is good" and climb a wall promoting exercise.

Charleston County was giving out the bins to promote recycling. Several companies were displaying solar panels.

"With the tax credit you get for installing them, they're actually relatively affordable," Carl Clark said.

The young couple has been studying a program that allows people to sell sun-generated electricity that they don't use back to the utility company for use in the power grid. They look forward to moving from consumers to producers.

"We're saving up for it," Anne Clark said.

David Beckford of Johns Island was carrying a bag of free compost from the Bees Ferry Landfill. He considers it a great deal at $10 a ton or $2 for a 50-pound bag.

"People need to know about this," Beckford said. "It is the best compost, absolutely."

Volunteers at the Charleston County Recycling table said the landfill has changed the process recently to make the compost drier.

Beckford also was checking out a new solar water heater to replace the one he's been using for the past five years.

Water from his well goes up a pipe to a solar panel on the roof, where it's heated by the sun and piped back to the hot-water tank.

"It certainly has paid for itself," he said. "Hot water is one of your worst costs."

The Charleston Green Committee was teaching homeowners how to cut their energy bills.

"People don't know how much energy they're wasting out of their house," volunteer Bruce Looney said.

Among their tips:

--The biggest energy wasters are holes in floors, ceilings and walls.

--Every degree you lower the cooling thermostat raises your electric bill 3 percent to 5 percent. For example, running the air conditioner at 78 degrees instead of 73 degrees could mean you're paying $125 instead of $100 a month.

--Air conditioner filters ideally should be changed every three months; an air filter that gets clogged up quicker than that indicates an air-flow problem.

Chris Coons with South Carolina Electric & Gas was reminding people that the utility offers free energy audits to see where people can save energy. It's more important for the utility to conserve energy usage than to collect more money from homeowners wasting electricity, he said.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.