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According to the EPA, the average electric bill for residences in the United States was $110.21 in 2013, which means households were spending over $1,300 a year on electricity. That really adds up. It also means there’s a huge demand for fossil-fuel-based power providers, who in turn add a significant amount of pollutants to the environment.

Solar power What Is Solar Energy And Why Hasn't It Taken Off? What Is Solar Energy And Why Hasn't It Taken Off? What's the big deal with solar energy? If it's really as important and necessary as so many claim it to be, why hasn't it taken over the energy industry yet? Read More provides cleaner, more sustainable electricity, but few people can afford to mount solar panels on their houses, and few power providers have invested significantly in solar power generation. It’s time to take solar power into your own hands. These 12 devices won’t let you take your house off the grid, but they will help reduce your power bill and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

Creative Edge Solar Cell Phone Charger ($30)

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Solar Charger - Creative Edge(TM) Solar-5 Solar Panel 5000mAh Water/ Shock/ Dust Resistant Portable Backup Power Bank Dual USB output, Fits most USB-charged devices (Apple Lightning Adapter Included) Solar Charger - Creative Edge(TM) Solar-5 Solar Panel 5000mAh Water/ Shock/ Dust Resistant Portable Backup Power Bank Dual USB output, Fits most USB-charged devices (Apple Lightning Adapter Included) THE BEST OF ITS KIND - The Original Creative Edge Solar-5 Solar Panel 5000mAh charger transforms environmental friendly solar energy into power to charge the internal battery of the SOLAR-5. Your SOLAR-5 can be charged by being plugged into a wall outlet and used as a power bank while you're on the go! Solar charging isn't as fast as wall charging but it's a great way to charge your SOLAR-5 in an emergency situation. Buy Now At Amazon

This five-panel solar charger can store up to 5,000 mAh; for comparison, the iPhone 6 packs a 1,810 mAh battery, which means you could fully charge up the battery 2.5 times on a single solar charge. The small size of the Creative Edge charger means you can easily leave it on a window sill or the corner of a desk to charge in the sunlight. And two USB ports lets it charge two phones (or a single tablet) at once.

XD Design Solar Window Charger ($20)

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New Window Emergency Solar Battery Charger for iPhone iPod MP3 MP4 Mobile Phones (silver) by XD Design New Window Emergency Solar Battery Charger for iPhone iPod MP3 MP4 Mobile Phones (silver) by XD Design Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 296.08

Though its small size and 1800 mAh battery means it doesn’t pack the punch of a larger charger like the Creative Edge above, the XD Design solar window charger’s ability to stick to a window is pretty cool. It comes in fun colors, too, so it’s not an eyesore if it has to stay on your desk to charge up your phone throughout the day.

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Swiftly Done Peel-n-Stick Outdoor Solar Lights ($17)

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Swiftly Done Bright Solar Power Outdoor LED Light No Tools Required Peel and Stick Motion Activated Swiftly Done Bright Solar Power Outdoor LED Light No Tools Required Peel and Stick Motion Activated Installs easily in seconds; just peel and stick to any surface (bricks, stucco, siding, wood, metal, glass etc.) Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 66.50

There are a lot of solar-powered outdoor lights Strip Down & Recycle Old Garden Solar Lamps For Tech Projects Strip Down & Recycle Old Garden Solar Lamps For Tech Projects Costing just a few dollars each, garden solar lamps are a low-cost solution to night-time illumination – and they might just give you a useful piece of equipment for completing a tech project. Whether you’re... Read More , but not many of them are quite this simple. Just peel off the backing and stick it wherever you need more light. It charges up during the day and then lights up your driveway, front door, or other area at night. To save power, it dims when there’s no motion detected, and increases light output when motion is detected.

Etekcity Solar Lantern ($18)

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Etekcity Portable Rechargeable Outdoor USB and Solar LED Camping Lantern (Orange) Etekcity Portable Rechargeable Outdoor USB and Solar LED Camping Lantern (Orange) COMPACT AND PORTABLE: Green Energy camping lantern with solar panels, portable, light weight and compact, light up to 8 hours. Buy Now At Amazon

Whether you’re an avid camper 10 Sites For Budget Travel & Backpacking Trips Across The World 10 Sites For Budget Travel & Backpacking Trips Across The World Backpackers are an adventurous breed. They are also awfully budget conscious too. It comes with the territory I guess, because the taste of adventure cannot be experienced from the luxurious couches and air-conditioned coaches. If... Read More or you just need some extra light when you let the dog out at night, a solar lantern is a great tool to have. This one from Etekcity charges in two hours of full sunlight and packs enough power for eight hours of LED-fueled brightness. It can also be charged with an included USB adapter with a wall plug or through your computer.

Sunnytech Solar-Powered Reading Lamp and USB Charger ($20)

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Wish you could harness the sun’s light and use it later when you need it? A solar-powered reading lamp will help you do just that. This one also includes a USB port so you can charge your phone if you need an emergency boost. The entire lamp folds flat so it’s easy to transport or takes up less room when not in use.

Logitech Solar Wireless Keyboard ($50)

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Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K750 Solar-powered keyboard: No battery hassles - any light source keeps your keyboard charged for at least three months in total darkness Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 57.44

Your computer already draws a lot of power—why use even more to power your accessories? Logitech’s solar wireless keyboard charges from the sun or artificial light, and will keep a charge for up to three months in total darkness. And at only 1/3 of an inch thick, it’s sleek enough to compliment your desk. (We reviewed this keyboard a while ago; check out the review Logitech Solar Keyboards K750 and K760 Review and Giveaway Logitech Solar Keyboards K750 and K760 Review and Giveaway Wireless keyboards and mice have been historically undervalued because of unreliability in their wireless communications and constant need for replacement batteries. But I took one step further and got solar keyboards to see if they... Read More to see what we thought.)

Eton Rukus Solar Powered Bluetooth Speaker ($50)

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Eton NRKS200B Rugged Rukus All-Terrain Portable Solar Wireless Sound System - Black Eton NRKS200B Rugged Rukus All-Terrain Portable Solar Wireless Sound System - Black USB to charge smartphone Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 112.43

Though it won’t give you the sound quality of a full-on speaker system, the rukus is highly portable and stores enough power to play music for eight hours on a full charge. It will also charge your smartphone via the USB port. It’s water resistant as well, making it great for poolside listening and go-anywhere versatility.

Goal Zero 150WH Generator and Solar Panel ($355)

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Goal Zero 22004 Yeti 150 Solar Generator Goal Zero 22004 Yeti 150 Solar Generator Powers laptops, lights and smartphones anywhere you need them with a built-in AC inverter Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 299.98

Tiny solar chargers are cool, but if you’re looking to really take advantage of solar power, Goal Zero’s generators are the way to go. The 150WH generator will power laptops, cell phones, and lights with a built-in AC inverter. The more powerful generators can even power tools, TVs, and refrigerators. Unfortunately, the $195 generator doesn’t include a solar panel, but Goal Zero’s panels are easy to pick up from Amazon. Don’t be without power after the apocalypse Survive An Apocalypse: Setting Up A Complete Emergency Survival Kit Survive An Apocalypse: Setting Up A Complete Emergency Survival Kit The apocalypse will need to be documented with Facebook updates and Twitter hashtags for future generations to fully enjoy - so how are you planning to do that with no power or Internet connectivity? Read More . Get a solar generator.

Birksun Boost Solar Backpack ($100)

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There are a lot of solar backpacks out there, but Birksun has some of the best-looking. With simple colors, clean lines, and an unobtrusive solar panel, the Boost will help you charge your devices on the go without carrying around a giant panel on your back. And the price can’t be beat.

Secur Solar Powered Flashlight ($20)

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Secur Waterproof Hand crank or built in Solar powered 3 LED Flashlight, High power 3 functions LED, Dynamo powered no batteries needed, waterproof up to 45 feet Secur Waterproof Hand crank or built in Solar powered 3 LED Flashlight, High power 3 functions LED, Dynamo powered no batteries needed, waterproof up to 45 feet The high power Flashlight comes with a built in Dynamo powered hand crank, Buy Now At Amazon CDN$ 27.64

Using the sun to light up the dark isn’t restricted to your desk—this solar-powered flashlight will give you two hours of light after an hour in full sun, and packs a hand crank in case you need more light after that.

Skylock Solar Bike Lock ($160)

The Skylock is a smart lock Forget Keys: 5 Smart Locks You Can Unlock With Your Phone Forget Keys: 5 Smart Locks You Can Unlock With Your Phone Here are 5 different locks that you can unlock with your phone. Read More for your bike—it connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth to unlock when you approach your bike, can detect crashes and notify anyone in your network, sends theft alerts, and lets you share access with others. It won’t save you any money over a regular lock, but it could keep your bike safer, and that’s worth investing in. Expected to ship Q4 2015.

Bonus: Sunport Solar Plug ($50)

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Using solar power isn’t all about saving money. It’s also about changing the world Changing The World Is Easier Than You Think With These 3 Websites Changing The World Is Easier Than You Think With These 3 Websites The definition of being an activist has changed over the years thanks to the Internet. It used to mean that you had to handwrite a petition and run around town getting signatures, or you had... Read More  by supporting solar energy producers and showing the government and power providers that solar is important to consumers. That’s what Sunport does.

By plugging it into the wall and plugging your device into it, you can request solar power from your provider through purchasing solar renewable energy credits. It’s a bit complicated, but Sunport’s Kickstater page has a detailed explanation.

Solar Power Your Home

Putting solar panels on your roof is really expensive and environmentally unsuitable in many locations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start powering your home with solar energy. By using the devices above, you can charge your phone, light up the dark, listen to music, and even secure your bike with solar power. And that’s a great first step to a cleaner world.

Do you have any solar-powered devices in your home? Will you be adding any soon? Share your thoughts below!

Image Credits: solar energy house via Shutterstock

  1. fcd76218
    September 2, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    The one Achilles' heel of solar, as well as all other alternative energy generation, is that it is becoming a victim of its own success. As more and more people are generating more and more of their own energy, the power companies are losing more and more income. To prevent that loss, these companies are raising the fixed costs for their customers. (Fixed costs are those that customers pay regardless of how much electricity they use) Power company customers wind up paying for less.

    The current issue, October 2015, of Consumers Report is devoted in part to "going solar." It's a must read for anyone interested in home solar energy generation.

  2. Maryon Jeane
    August 30, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    Try finding sufficient sunlight in the UK to power up even the most modest solar device - and our fuel bills are much, much higher than those in the US!

    I'm afraid I've had to give up on solar devices completely - they were rarely sufficiently charged to be of any use. I wish someone would sort out the human-powered charger thing so that one could dash out to the shed and do three-quarters of an hour's cycling or something and then use the resulting power with a clear conscience!

    • Mihir Patkar
      August 31, 2015 at 5:28 am

      Piezoelectric energy is fascinating, isn't it? I agree with you here. Till solar energy becomes more efficient, I think piezoelectric is a great bridge for alternative energy. But eventually, solar is the only way to go because of how inexhaustible and powerful it is.

    • Dann Albright
      August 31, 2015 at 12:54 pm

      I just moved from the UK to Colorado, which gets tons of sun, so I definitely understand your point. I had a solar lamp in York and it would stay lit for about 30 seconds on average! As Mihir mentions, that can be a great bridge into alternative energy, but hopefully solar advances enough that it'll be viable in England. Some devices can be fully charged in an hour or two's sunshine, and that might work, at least in the summer. And some devices can now be charged with electric lights. Here's hoping the UK gets to take advantage of solar power in the near future!

    • Tony Karakashian
      August 31, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      You cannot judge the effect solar will have on your house by comparing to cheap gadgets. Granted, you're in the UK, so pricing and incentives are different, but here in Upstate NY (which is about the same latitude as you), we get ample sunlight for solar. The sun is always shining above the clouds, and clouds don't block UV. Our city's in the midst of an initiative to go all solar by 2025, and everyone's jumping on board because it's a no-brainer.

      Again, you can't take advantage of the grants and tax incentives we have right now, but for the US readers: go solar, now. With the costs being as low as they are, it's practically free. My coworker next to me just got his install done...$28k for install, after breaks and grants it comes to about $10k, or $100/month for the next 10 years. His current electrical bill is $150/month, so he's already getting "paid" even before selling the excess current to the power company. Total system ROI is under 7 years, after which he can minimally expect another 18 years of guaranteed use of the panels, but more realistically they'll outlive the house.

      Anyone tells you solar isn't efficient enough for home use has in no way done their homework.

      • fcd76218
        September 2, 2015 at 6:02 pm

        If anyone has not gotten solar installed yet, they better do it before the end of 2016 because government subsidies will be phased out by then.

        "Anyone tells you solar isn’t efficient enough for home use has in no way done their homework."
        "Efficient enough" is a relative term. Currently commercially available panels are at best 25% efficient. If you have low energy needs or the room for a very large array of panels, 25% efficiency may be "enough" for you. Granted that some energy from solar is better than none. However, for someone with limited space or someone who wants to get off the grid, a 50% or 75% efficiency is much more desirable.

        • Dann Albright
          September 2, 2015 at 9:45 pm

          Government subsidies are being phased out? I hadn't heard that. That's really unfortunate. They're a great way to encourage people to take advantage of renewable energy! Hopefully something else comes into play that will serve the same function.

      • Dann Albright
        September 2, 2015 at 9:45 pm

        Tony, that all might be true, but this article isn't about installing solar panels on your house (which may or may not be effective in England; I have no idea). It's about little devices that you can use to start cutting down on your electricity consumption. And those, which have much smaller panels, do tend to suffer in the UK. It's not about the latitude; it's about it being cloudy all the time, especially in the winter. Seasonal affective disorder is big in the UK for a reason.

  3. fcd76218
    August 29, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Sorry, Dann, but with the exception of the Solar Backpack, the Window Charger and the Stick-on Outdoor Lights, the solar devices are more trouble than they're worth. You have to bring them out in the Sun, then remember to bring them out of the Sun so you can use them. More time is spent trundling them around then using them.

    Yes, it is "kewl", chic and environmentally responsible to be green but 9 out of these 12 devices are just too inconvenient to use. They would be something that Bill Nye and Ed Begley Jr. would use for no other reason than because they are solar powered.

    • Dann Albright
      August 29, 2015 at 7:36 pm

      I think saying that something is inconvenient to move in and out of the sun is much more a personal argument than one against the device. A number of these can sit somewhere in your house that gets a good amount of sunlight, which means you don't have to move them at all, or very little. The Bluetooth speaker is meant to be used outside, in the sun. The Skylock will be outside a good portion of the time. The keyboard can be set in a window in the sun next to your desk. Same with the reading lamp.

      So it seems to me that these aren't inconvenient in themselves; it's just that you're worried about expending the energy or remembering to carry a lantern, flashlight, or cell phone charger outside for a few hours and then bring it back in before you use it. And that's totally fine. But that doesn't mean that these devices are more effort than they're worth for everyone, or just in general.

      • Mihir Patkar
        August 30, 2015 at 5:41 am

        I think fcd's point was about mass adoption. Till the convenience factor matches up to what existing technology offers, mass adoption is unlikely. (Or at least I think that was fcd's point :D)

        • Dann Albright
          August 30, 2015 at 1:28 pm

          Ah, I see. Yes, that's definitely something I'd agree with. Unfortunately, I think solar isn't ready for the big time when it comes to small devices. I'm not sure what it'll take for that to happen; hopefully some company or other figures it out soon. Roof-size panels are great, but something needs to change to bring the smaller ones to the next level.

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