Mother Earth Living

Manual Crank and Solar-Powered Radios Conserve Energy

Crank and solar powered radios hit the market for emergency and everyday use.
By Samantha Schwartz
June 2009 Web
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The Weather Mate’s injection molding process does not waste an ounce of plastic. The Weather Mate has an LCD screen and a radio receiver that can pick up signals from weather and non-weather radio stations.
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Say hello to a new wave of radios. Solar-powered radios and manual crank radios provide better options for environmentally conscious consumers willing to work for their entertainment.

For users who want a radio primarily for weather alerts, the Red Cross Solar/Self Powered Radio is a solid option. The built-in crank charges the internal rechargeable battery. Solar cells power the device when the sun is up, even in overcast weather. The radio picks up seven National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) channels as well as AM and FM channels, though it is not intended for everyday use. The 11.2-ounce radio includes a cell phone charger and flashlight for $30.

Kaito’s Small Pocket Portable Radio is a simple radio that gets the job done. Charge the Kaito by cranking it. Kaito specializes in emergency technology and is based in Los Angeles, California. The portable radios are so effective that the Civil-Military Operations Team in Kabul, Afghanistan, delivered the Kaito radios to the Office of Disaster Preparedness. Each providence in Afganistan was given no fewer than five radios to make civilians aware of natural and manmade threats to their safety. For campers, travelers, or anyone who needs weather alerts, the 80-gram portable radio is an reliable yet inexpensive choice at $6.49.

The best in weather radios is yet to come, however. If you want an emergency radio that is ecologically sound from start to finish, wait for the Weather Mate . In its creation, it eliminates excess waste because it uses a 400-ton injection system that inserts the exact quantity of plastic needed to create each piece. The Weather Mate generates energy through a crank like the Kaito and includes a flashlight. Its reports will come from NOAA. It will be released in late 2009. Pricing is not yet available.

Some companies have reached beyond creating radios solely for emergency use. These radios, intended for everyday use, are greener options.  

The Free Play Energy Self Sufficient Radio has both a solar-powered feature and a crank for sunless days. The solar cell atop the unit absorbs light and converts it to power. When fully charged via solar power, it can run for 25 hours. Or you can crank the tiny gadget for 30 minutes for 35 minutes of power. It can be purchased online starting at $50.

In Europe, solar-powered MP3 players with a radio function are popular. The first successful model, the Mega Player 540 , was made in Hanover, Germany, in 2006 by MSI, a global technological research and production company.

You could also save some green and build your own $5 solar-powered radio. Make this low-tech DIY project in six steps by using a solar garden light and an old radio.

More about solar-powered products and places

• Solar vintage accessories turn into decorative ambient lights for the home in the evening, powered only by energy collected through the day.

• The Kyoto Stove, an easy-to-make solar-powered cooker, won this year's Climate Challenge. Find out why two cardboard boxes took home $75,000 in prize money.

• Get away to a solar-powered eco-resort in Mexico.

• Once the ugliest house on the block, one solar-powered Berkeley, California, home now turns heads. Read about the homeowner's renovations.

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