Solar technology is becoming more commonplace as individuals and communities around the globe are making the transition to renewable energy. We take a look at ten cool solar gadgets and devices that can help anyone be more eco-friendly.
Solar Gadgets for the Home
1. Solar Energy Generators
The best use of solar energy in the home would be to gradually be able to power your entire home with electricity from solar energy, collected with your own panels, stored in your own batteries, and distributed in your own grid. This, however, seems to be something that would upset a lot of business interests, and therefore at this point going totally off-grid is something only people with some degree of wealth or knowledge can afford to do.
This, however, should in no way stop you from taking your own steps towards energy independence. Typical payback periods for solar kits are now roughly 5-30 years, depending on which part of the globe you live in. Some countries have great tax incentives for independent solar energy producers. Germany seems to be leading the way in this effort with over 50% of homes being powered by renewable energy at one point.
Pictured is UK’s BASF House, a project implemented to prove the concept of building affordable, low-energy, low-carbon-footprint housing. This home uses solar panels solely for heating water.
2. Solar Appliances
More and more home appliances are making the conversion to solar power. Some have gone as far as to rely on solar power entirely. Typical examples would be your pocket calculator. More unique examples would be the solar-powered lawnmower or boom-box. NASA have even created a solar-powered refrigerator. Perfectly logical move, considering the business they’re in.
Solar Gadgets for Your Business
3. The Solar Charger
Besides the obvious benefits of having your own solar power plant (or panel array) for your office, you might consider equipping your employees who are out on the field with portable solar chargers. This would not only help them increase productivity (no downtime due to device power failure), but would also greatly boost morale. If you have lots of sunlight in your office or store you might want to consider installing smaller solar panels that are connected to designated device charging stations, or even directly to employee workstations. This could greatly reduce power consumed by employees charging their personal and company devices.
4. Solar Signs
Signage is always important for a business, especially when creating a brand. Eco-friendly alternatives for your office signage come in the form of solar signs. Those that use LED bulbs give an added power-saving advantage.
5. Solar Lights
So you might have a business that operates at night, or you just want the place to look less gloomy when dark. There are so varieties of solar lights to choose from nowadays it can be really time-consuming if you don’t know what you’re after in the first place. The most common purposes for outdoor office lighting would either be decorative, lighting for general illumination, or for security.
Solar Gadgets for the Great Outdoors
5.5. Solar Signs & Lights
Solar lanterns and deck lights have been around for a long time now. There are cheap varieties that don’t last very long (due to poor solar panel quality) and some really good ones.
Solar security lights charge during the day and either turn on automatically at set time intervals, upon darkness, or upon motion-detection, depending on product. Solar security lights are pretty similar to normal security lights, with the only difference being solar lights lack of dependence upon a man-made power source.
Just as the office used a solar sign to designate its address, so could you do the same at home. It would be especially helpful if you host guests regularly.
6. Solar Shower
This is a really interesting product: a solar outdoor shower for the pool. Water is collected from a garden hose into the base of the shower system. The base is sensitive to sunlight and converts energy to heat the water.
7. Solar Fountain / birdbath
The solar fountain or birdbath is one of the cooler solar innovations you could want in your garden. All traditional fountains and birdbaths require an electrical system to pump the water through the structure. This means two systems: one for water pipes, one for electrical wires. This also means two separate costs. Solar fountains and birdbaths power themselves through sunlight. This eliminates the need for a wiring system. Some fountains and birdbaths contain internal reservoirs that are constantly recycled. Some varieties combine aquaponic technology to create a mini ecosystem in one device.
8. Solar Flashlight
The solar powered flashlight can be a lifesaver. Even if you are marooned for an unprepared-for duration, with proper conservation and efficiency, you can use your solar flashlight indefinitely. Even if it does run out you can always charge it again tomorrow when the sun comes up.
9. The Portable Solar Charger
The solar charger makes a re-appearance on this list in a version better suited for the great outdoors.
Now that portable energy generation is a reality, forays into the great outdoors don’t have to be as daunting. Portable solar arrays that can be secured to backpacks and other surfaces allow outdoors-men to still enjoy the wonders of modern technology in the wild. Solar powered devices have been used by scientists to measure data in locations that have in the past deemed to be impossible due to the limitations of technology. Entire research stations are now powered by solar panels.
10. Solar Charging Stations
Solar charging stations placed in convenient or strategic locations within a city block allow the general public to make use of free energy. Parks and other public areas are obvious choices for charging stations. More and more universities and colleges have adopted the use of charging stations on campus grounds. Not only has this helped reduced energy bills, students now have better flexibility with their work as they are no longer limited to the time constraints imposed by batteries.
Electric modes of transportation are becoming more and more common, with vehicles catering for personal transport as well as mass transit available. The first electric train was built in 1879. In the 1890’s, electric cars actually outsold their petrol-driven counterparts. The placement of solar charging stations for vehicles in city areas by responsible local governments or corporations can help encourage the use of more eco-friendly modes of travel within the population.