Solar energy is more than a “green dream”. It is very much a reality as more and more homeowners invest in this alternative energy. Today, there are practical ways that you can make use of solar energy in your home. Going solar no longer means that you have to invest tens of thousands of dollars to cover your roof with solar panels. There are now a variety of stand-alone solar-powered devices that serve essential practical purposes, as well as DIY- friendly solar panel kits let just about anyone create a small solar system for custom uses. Some innovative ways to harness solar power are below.
Cool Ways to Use Solar Power
1. Solar Heated Swimming Pool
Swimming pools are one of the greatest assets to have in the summer. Everyone is excited to jump in, except when the water is just too cold. To fix that problem, you can add a solar blanket that will warm the water. It is a basic, floating blanket is a passive heating device that works simply by absorbing the sun’s heat and transmitting it to the water. There are also more high-tech options such as full-fledged solar water heating systems. These systems utilize solar heating panels that are mounted on your roof to collect the sun’s heat. The heat is then transmitted to the water through a series of tubes looping through the panels. As the water is slowly circulated from the pool up through the solar heating panels and back to the pool, the water temperature in the pool is gradually increased.
2. Charging Batteries With Solar Power
Any device that operates on a battery can be charged with solar power via some type of photo-electric panel system. Photo-electric solar panels generate DC current, which is the same form used in most batteries. Many solar panel kits have connections that allow you to plug in cell phones, devices, and laptops for direct charging. When you add a simple inverter that converts DC current to 120-volt AC current, you can also plug in the chargers for other batteries.
3. Solar Energy For Outdoor Lighting
You can provide great landscaping lights with individual lighting fixtures and solar power. You do not need to use 120-volt underground circuit wiring, or even low-voltage lighting powered by a transformer. Individual lighting can come with its own small solar cell and rechargeable storage battery. At one time, these were rather puny and dim lighting fixtures, but today, thanks to LED technology and improved batteries, you can get quite adequate landscape lighting with solar-power fixtures. There are also no wiring connections to worry about. The solar panels charge the batteries during the day, and the charge is often enough to keep the lights powered all through the night.
4. Solar Powered Bikes
You may not be able to afford a Tesla Model X but you don’t have to give up on your solar-powered transportation dreams. Electric bikes are becoming an increasingly popular mode of travel, especially in states like California where there is plenty of sunshine year-round. Electric bikes offer power-assisted pedaling to help you rocket up hills and cruise for miles while hardly breaking a sweat. You get a great little boost courtesy of a lithium-ion battery that powers a small engine connected to the bike.
5. Solar Powered Pumps
One major problem with some hot-water heating systems is that they require a pump to circulate water from the solar collector to the holding tank. These pumps are typically powered by household electrical service, which consumes some of the energy you hoped to save by installing the system in the first place. For maximum energy-saving impact, you can also run those circulating pumps on solar power through the use of photo-electric panels. These panels will generate the power needed to run DC motors on the circulating pumps. The sun’s energy can be stored in batteries so that you can still run the circulating pumps at night or on days when the sun is hiding behind the clouds.
6. Power Your Gadgets
Solar power systems can cover all your current energy needs and give you the perfect excuse to invest in some new electric toys. The electric car is one such option especially since gas prices are not always friendly. The electric car is not the end of it though. Now is the time to put in that hot tub you always wanted, or the new theater system. Add cool outdoor lights to show off your backyard. Your solar power system can keep these luxuries going and even give you enough juice to charge your family robot for when that becomes a reality.
7. Solar Fountains
Installing solar panels can also power up your garden fountains. Fountains are great centerpieces for a yard and are popular because of the serenity they bring. Running a fountain with solar power saves energy and money and it eliminates having any outlets and wires in your yard. Just make sure the fountain is not shaded by any tree or building.
8. Solar Cookers
Special outdoor cooking equipment uses the power of the sun to heat and cook meals. You can invest in solar grills, ovens, and barbecues. Rather than using photovoltaic panels, they focus the sun’s energy on cooking surfaces. These are great for both having in your yard or to take on the road when you travel. Many RVers invest in solar power cookers to conserve the energy of their RV. These devices have also become popular in some remote parts of the world where locals don’t have access to electricity, and SCI uses solar cookers to empower those who need it most.