It’s no newsflash that solar energy is a cleaner way of producing personal household electricity. This is evident by the growth of solar energy, and energy-from-the-grid consumption being steadily on the decline every year. You likely drive by neighbors with PV solar installations on their roof to power their home. But what about different ways to use solar energy?
As powerful as our sun is, surely we should be harnessing it for other things. And we are! Below you’ll find a list of some of the different ways solar energy is used in everyday life.
Let’s take a look at some of the creative uses of solar energy:
1. Solar Heating for Your Swimming Pool
Having a heated pool is one of the ultimate luxuries in life. With a heated pool, you can use your pool year-round, not just on warm summer days. However, heated pools usually come with a big price tag that most homeowners can’t swing. Heated pools can increase your electricity bill every month substantially, sometimes as much as hundreds of dollars.
Homes with swimming pools use about 49% more electricity and you can bet a large chunk of that comes from heated pools. This all depends on what type of pool heater you get. However, homeowners can go the creative route of pool heating by using a solar pool heater system. These work by circulating the pool water through a tank collector to be heated by the sun. Cost-wise solar pool heaters are about the same investment as an electric heat pump and gas pool heaters. But the biggest differences come from the lower maintenance costs and a much quicker payoff time.
The allure is that the payoff time can be as little as five years. So, for the cost of a solar heating system for your swimming pool, you will have paid that amount additionally on your electricity bill in 5 years.
2. Solar Water Heater
Solar water heaters are not just for pools! They can also heat all the water you use in your home.
More than 1.5 million homes and businesses currently use solar water heating in the United States.
Households have options of either active or passive solar water heating systems. The main difference is that active heaters have circulating pumps and controls, and passive ones do not. Each has their own benefits for the cost, weather of the area they’ll be used in, desired maintenance etc. In places, like Florida, where sunshine is ample, homeowners with solar water heaters have reported saving anywhere from 50-80% on their water heating bills.
3. Solar Transportation
Get where you’re going using sunshine! The sun is powering all kinds of different methods of transportation these days. Railroads, busses, trains and cars have all had leaps of innovation to shift toward this greener type of fuel called sunshine. Even airplanes are crossing the Pacific Ocean in iconic solar-powered flights. This further proves the growing faith in solar technology (since hello there aren’t exactly many emergency landing options available out there!)
4. Solar Ventilation
Hot and leaky attics can do a number on your HVAC system. But there are many ways to reduce the temperature of your attic and therefore, reduce how hard your air conditioner has to work. You might not think the sun’s rays could actually cool your attic, but with solar attic fans, they actually can! These ventilation fans vent hot air and moisture from your attic, bringing the temp down. Good insulation and proper seals also help achieve lower attic temperatures. Solar powered fans are also used to cool off places like garages and sheds as well.
5. Solar Outdoor Lighting
It only makes sense to power things outside with the sun, right? It’s right there after all, use it to your advantage! This is an easy way to cut back your electricity usage and save money. Outdoor lighting is a very common use of solar energy. It’s affordable and readily available at your local home improvement stores. They’ll spend all day soaking up the sunshine so you can stay powered when the sun goes down.
6. Wearables and Personal Solar Technologies
Solar has become more accepted by the masses and the technology for it has become more efficient. Many companies are trying to incorporate solar energy into various different technologies (or improve their existing technologies) for consumer convenience. Think of all the gadgets you use daily. Solar watches are probably the first thing you think of, and you probably know someone with one. But tablets, e-readers, radios, speakers, flashlights and even cell phones can all be powered by solar too. The possibilities are endless and they are already out there.
For wearable solar tech – think textiles. Designers and engineers have embedded mini solar cells into yarn that can then be knitted into garments! Charge up your devices while taking a walk outside in your cute sweater? Sounds good to us. These tiny solar cells are able to charge things, like mobile devices and your Fitbit. Walk around in your woven solar sweater and gain power to charge up your devices.
Even if it isn’t incorporated directly into your garment, there are portable solar chargers that can attach to the outside of your purse or bag. These make it possible for you to get a charge when you’re out and about. They soak up energy from the sun and are ready to use whenever you need a charge.
7. Solar Signs
County and state governments have incorporated solar energy to power road signs, street signs, speed detectors, traffic lights and other infrastructure needs. This comes after data proves that illuminated signs can reduce accidents by up to 52%. And instead of governments running costly and complicated electricity to these signs, they’re using the sun to power them! We don’t mean to be dramatic, but solar is literally saving lives. All it takes is a solar panel to avoid using grid electricity at night. We love a green government and some even operate on 100% clean energy.
The private business sector is also soaking up the power of the sun. Businesses are utilizing solar to light up their road signs for customer recognition and powering their businesses. Wal-Mart is one of the many big businesses that uses solar power to power its stores and offices. In 2016, they were the largest commercial user of solar electricity in the United States.
8. Solar Cookers
Another important use for solar energy is solar cooking. When you’re in a bind, you can make a solar cooker using a box, aluminum foil, pan, duct tape, a cooking bag, Styrofoam insulation and a thermometer. Although there are many different ways to make a solar oven, this is one of the easiest. You might have even made one as an old science fair project or put those Scout skills to use for a shoebox oven! You can even go the simpler route and buy a solar cooker. Many people incorporate cooking using solar energy when on camping trips and enjoying the great outdoors, but they’re also critical in underdeveloped areas of the world.
9. Charging Batteries With Solar Power
We’re rounding off our list with perhaps one of the most common, widely-accepted and available uses of solar energy, and that’s to charge external batteries. You can always charge a device that is battery operated with solar energy- you just need the right tools to do so. There are portable solar power chargers that can easily charge your laptop, camera, or tablet on the go. And to save electricity at night, you can charge reserve solar battery banks in the sunlight throughout the day and use them when the sun goes down.
What are the advantages of these different uses for solar energy you ask? Saving money on your utilities bill and reducing your carbon footprint are at the top of our reasons. Perhaps the best part about these different uses for solar energy is that the fuel for them is free and abundant sunshine. The future of solar is bright. Try out these and more in addition to rooftop solar, which can be your first step to taking advantage of the sun!