When I worked for a homebuilder’s association, I was lucky enough to work with their green builder’s committee. I loved everything they were doing. Unfortunately, I found that most of their products were out of my price range. I just cannot afford to put solar panels on my house or retrofit my plumbing to use expensive gray water recycling systems. One day, I hope to build a new house that will use these technologies, but until then, I decided to see what other ways I could incorporate solar into my life. I found some great products that are incorporating solar to help everyone reduce their reliance on energy generated through fossil fuels.
Around the House
Solar power can be as simple as a solar powered keyboard. I love my Logitech wireless keyboard and now they have a solar powered one! The keys have the same great feel but it doesn’t have to be charged with a USB cable. This one will charge from any light source, sunlight or even a desk lamp, and once charged, will run for up to 3 months in total darkness.
I love all the products I have pulled together in this list, but the solar water fountain is one of my favorites. After work, I love sitting outside by the fountain and relaxing. With the solar-powered pump, I never feel guilty leaving the pump running all the time. This, in turn, helps reduces buildup of algae because the water never just sits. So, I waste less water by not have to constantly empty and refill. It is a win-win situation. If you are looking for ways to de-stress, I recommend this one.
Have you ever realized that you forgot to charge your phone, as you are dashing out of the house? Well, this backpack will solve that problem for you. It will charge your phone while you are outside, approximately 1% for every two or three minutes you are in the sun. Plus, it is weatherproof and holds everything you need for your day. Not a huge reduction in CO emissions, but every little bit helps, and it is handy.
The solar powered Skylock bike lock uses bluetooth technology to connect to your phone. It will let you unlock your bike with your smartphone, alert you if someone is trying to steal your bike, and send a text to family if you are in accident. The built-in solar panel recharges the battery in 12 hours and the charge will last for six months. This sturdy product just made commuting on your bike a little bit easier.
This an expensive upgrade for your house, but depending on your circumstances completely worth it. Solar pool heaters can be installed with new pools or retrofitted to existing pools. Not only will they save you money over your existing heating system, but they will make it cost effective to enjoy your pool longer. Who wouldn’t want to extend the swim season?
When you are off the grid that is when solar technology can really shine. Here are three great tools small enough you can even take them backpacking.
Lightweight, inflatable, waterproof solar charged lantern that will collapse to one inch. When I used one, it lit up a two- person tent well enough that I was able to read by it. The Luci recharges in 7 hours in direct sun and one charge will last for 12 hours on the bright setting.
At a little over nine ounces, this lightweight, weatherproof solar charger is perfect to keep your devices charged no matter how far off the grid you go. It is compatible with 5V devices such as smartphones, gps units, rechargeable headlamps, and e-readers. Because of its design, it can charge your phone at the same time it is charging its internal battery. With its durable design and handy carrying case, you can attach it to the outside of your pack so it will charge while you are hiking. Never again be without your gps.
This is the simplest tool on the list and yet arguably, the most valuable. If your matches are wet, and the lighter fell in the river, you can still have a fire going quickly with this tool, as long as you have sunlight. It focuses the sun into a precise focal point, quickly reaching hundreds of degrees, and setting fire to your kindling.
You never know when security products might be needed. Keeping them always powered can get expensive and if the power fails, they become useless. This is why solar is so useful in this area.
These smaller, mobile surveillance units are perfect for security on remote property. Not only do they provide remote viewing and surveillance, but because they are powered by solar panels, they can be used in places off the grid. Their solar panels are so efficient you can even plug power tools into units so you can work off the grid as well.
Be safe in your home, without high energy bills. This security light illuminates across a 120° area, automatically turning on when motion is detected. The duration of illumination can be set from 10 to 60 seconds. The solar panel fully charges the battery in 8 hours and allows for up to 100 activations.
The last item on my list is the most versatile, coming in many sizes and price points. Solar generators are great for supplying power in an emergency, or in places off the grid. A small one will work great when you are camping or even out in the yard where a power cord won’t reach. If you live somewhere with an unstable power supply, you can find larger generators that will power more of your household appliances on a short-term basis. These are still cheaper than a full–blown solar installation on your house; and in emergencies, you will never have to worry about running out of gasoline.
New advances are made yearly in solar energy efficiencies. Even if you cannot afford to take your house off the grid with a full solar installation, there are still ways you can utilize the sun in your everyday life. Help decrease your carbon footprint with even just one of the above tools.