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The List: 7 Ways to Incorporate Solar Power into Your Life

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Harness the sun to power a wide range of things you use every day.


It’s free, it’s easily accessible, and its production is clean… it’s surprising that solar power is not more widely used. Advances in technology mean that it’s easier to manufacture solar panels, which makes them more affordable to consumers, and today’s solar panels can harness more energy with a smaller surface space. There is even technology available to make clear solar panels, which could potentially be used on office buildings to generate power.

You can take advantage of this cool technology in a variety of ways, whether you have a little to spend, or a lot. Here are a few ideas.

  1. Outdoor lighting: Leaving electric path lights on all night to light up your walkways can burn through electricity, but if they’re solar-powered, you won’t have to worry about making sure they’re turned off before you hit the hay. And because there are no wires, solar-powered path and accent lights are easier to install. Some companies also have strands of solar-powered string lights to decorate your yard or porch, so you can enjoy the twinkling lights, guilt-free.
  1. Chargers: Plugged-in chargers for phones and other devices are a leading source of vampire energy. Set your charging station by a sunny window and switch to solar chargers instead. And keep an eye out for some cool inventions seen in other countries, such as solar sockets that stick onto a window or a magazine ad that doubles as a charger. Hopefully they’ll soon come stateside!
  1. Solar toys: Do you believe children are our future? Get them interested in solar power at an early age with the wide range of solar powered toys and kits available. They’re as simple as solar beads that change color when exposed to sunlight or as elaborate as solar-powered robot kits. It’s a great way to educate kids about the power of sunlight. As adults they’ll understand the importance of this source of energy and hopefully their generation will find more and better ways to harness it.
  1. Solar oven: The old idiom about it being hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk isn’t so far-fetched. You can buy solar ovens or even find ways to make your own DIY solar oven. They’re good for camping, but also would be a great way to cook a meal in the dead of summer when turning on the oven is likely to heat up the whole house.
  1. Water heaters: Imagine being able to slash your energy usage by heating the water in your home via solar energy! There are several types of solar water heaters designed for different climates.
  1. Cars with solar features: You won’t mind parking in the hot sun if your car has a solar roof, like some Prius models. The solar roof panels on this car power a fan that keeps the air circulating, reducing the interior temperature of the car while it’s parked. And a new experimental car design by Ford has solar panels in the roof that help recharge the battery.
  1. Solar power system for the home: IKEA is busy outfitting many of its stores with solar roofs, and soon it will sell solar kits so that you can do this in your own home. They are already being sold in the U.K. for around $9,000.

What solar-powered items do you have? Share in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

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  • Richard E. 25 days ago
    Your solar garden idea..Ive used em for years. Not durable. But, how can I use points if you send, or link me, to Amazon?
  • tommy b. 6 months ago
    Today
  • erica m. 6 months ago
    Online there are ikea hacks about how to use a cheap solar ikea gadget and convert it to other things. Could be a good STEM project.
  • erica m. 7 months ago
    On the sunny side of the house, open and close drapes to either let in sun (winter) or block it (summer). Do this every day and you'll see energy savings in your utility bill.
  • sherry m. 7 months ago
    I have solar panels on my roof and get a check from the electric company about 4 times a year. I generate most of the electricity I use and send "extra" back to the company for others to use. Other months (Winter) my electric bill is zero or a very small amount. The panels offset the cost of electricity over the course of a year. It was expensive when I bought the panels, but state rebates helped and, over time (13+ years), they will pay for themselves.
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