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 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.
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.
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.
There are a lot of solar-powered outdoor lights , 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.
Whether you’re an avid camper 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.
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.
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 to see what we thought.)
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. The Rukus can make a great gift for cyclists and bike riders.
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 . Get a solar generator.
Birksun Boost Solar Backpack ($100) [Broken Link Removed]
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.
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.
The Skylock is a smart lock 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.
Using solar power isn’t all about saving money. It’s also about changing the world 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