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They might’ve been commercially available for a few decades now, but don’t underestimate the humble solar light. These handy little lamps might not be as cool as Amazon Echo and Alexa, or as smart as a Nest thermostat, but they’re just as useful as those snazzy gadgets.
You don’t need fancy panels to take advantage of solar energy: small solar lanterns with tiny solar panels attached are essential for any household. Here’s why.
Electricity is one of the biggest regular expenses for households, rivalled only by gas. And charges only ever go one way – up. In 2014, the average monthly electric bill for American residences was just over $114 (up from $110 in 2013), while anyone living in Hawaii generally spends nearly $190 a month. That’s an insane amount.
Most think of solar lamps as exclusive to outdoors: they’re there to line gardens and look pretty. But indoor solar lights are plentiful as well – and extremely useful. Awesome gadgets are available; even if you opt for just a simple lamp, it might shave a few dollars off your bills every month.
Cost-effective lighting is, by extension, also good for the environment. As a Muppet once said, it’s not easy being green, and yet solar lights are an eco-friendly solution to fighting that hole in the o-zone layer.
You won’t be eating up the state’s utility grid, for one. Additionally, solar-powered units only come on when their surroundings are gloomy enough for it.
The idea is also being rolled out to street lighting, currently in Kabul, Copenhagen, and the Philippines.
Light Up Areas Prone to Thieves
Solar technology is constantly adapting to your needs, and so they’re no longer just available as lanterns to edge your plant pots. They’re now available as security lights too, including small wireless units, or floodlights.
These come in handy if you’ve got a large garden, want to protect expensive equipment in a shed or garage, or if you simply want to be alerted when someone comes through your gates. Members of your household coming home late at night will also appreciate their path being lit up.
Motion sensors mean the solar energy won’t be used up all night either.
They’re Safer During Blackouts
In July 2012, India suffered from the largest power outage in history, with an estimated 700 million residents without electricity; in January last year, around 80% of Pakistan – that’s some 140 million people – was cast into darkness following an explosion damaging a transmission line; and just a few months ago, more than 161,000 citizens in Washington city were left without power for nearly a week after an ice storm.
Candles and oil lamps are great at such times, but they do pose a risk to safety and need to be monitored. Both can be serious fire hazards. Solar lights, on the other hand, are just as portable but are a much safer option in desperate times.
Light Up Dangerous Walkways
We’ve all slipped off a pathway and hurt ourselves, whether that’s a simple (but nonetheless painful) sprained ankle or a more serious injury. It’s not life-threatening, but if you can reduce that worry, there’s no reason not to.
All you need to do is strategically place some solar lights on any potentially treacherous walkways or patios on your premises. Maybe the edge is a sudden drop, the path slopes, slabs are uneven, or they’re liable to become slippery when wet. Solar lamps are an efficient way of making the outdoors safer for you and your family.
Highlight Pools and Ponds
Using the same technique of placing solar lamps around further hazardous areas – or even using floating ones – you can draw attention to any swimming pools or ponds you might have on your premises.
Accidentally falling into one of these can prove extremely dangerous, especially in cold weather, or if you knock yourself out in the process. Slipping into a pond in the middle of winter, for instance, can bring on illness, but hitting your head on the side as you fall could prove fatal. In the United States alone, from 2005 to 2009, an average of 3,533 people died from unintentional drownings: that’s about ten deaths a day, and children are particularly at risk.
Additionally, lights for a pool can be costly; solar lights can be a great way of providing this feature without spending a fortune.
Eliminate the Need for Electrical Wires
We’ve established how useful lights are outdoors, but they generally need power cables when located there. These can obviously be a trip-hazard, could be chewed through by an animal, or especially if outside, are a concern in wet weather. You have no such worries about solar lights.
Standard silicon wafers, used for photovoltaics (PV) in order to convert energy from insolation to electricity, can’t withstand extreme weather by themselves, but they’re sealed behind plastic, so you’re safe in the knowledge that even if water does get in, the worst that’ll happen is that the light will stop working.
You can give them added protection by putting them behind glass or some other housing to protect them from bad weather conditions.
Help Identify your Home
Ever been in a cab and struggled to describe exactly which house is yours? You might’ve considered taking some extreme action and painting your gates, so you can simply say, “it’s the one with the blue gates.”
But if you generally only use cabs after a night out on the town, try placing an interesting pattern of solar lamps near the entrance to your home, or a particularly striking lantern near your mailbox. If you’re trying to direct someone who has never been to your house before, this is ideal.
Use as a Burglar Deterrent
Concern about leaving your house empty for a while can taint a holiday. You could use a timer to program your lights to come on every night, but a patient thief might not be fooled; they can recognize the pattern of house lights sparking into life at exactly the same time every evening. Have you seen Home Alone? Yeah, exactly like that.
Using solar lights indoors, however, is a smart way of ensuring windows are lit up only when it does actually go dark, not at a set time.
You’ll need a particularly strong lamp for this to be completely effective (and you might supplement it with other smart inventions such as a FakeTV device), but putting them near your windows or even a door with frosted glass should be sufficient.
Light Up Keyholes
Solar lights come in all shapes and sizes, and one of the coolest ideas is a smaller unit designed specifically to aid you in your hour of need: desperately trying to find that keyhole.
You can aimlessly thrust your key somewhere in the general direction of where the slot should be, but frustration swiftly takes over and before long, you’re leaving ugly marks scratched into the front door.
Tiny solar lights, mounted to just above the keyhole, can save you the trouble every time you’re home late – and they’re pretty cheap too!
More Bright Ideas?
Do you light up the night with renewable energy? What made you choose solar lamps? I’m sure we’ve missed loads of benefits, so what other ideas do you have for utilizing solar lights?