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Choosing Solar Power Beyond the Home Market

When you think of solar power, visions of rooftop panels and LEED-certified buildings downtown spring to mind. But even if you don't live or work in a green structure, there's still an opportunity for you to take advantage of solar power. There are literally dozens of devices that store up and run on solar power that can help lower your utility bills.

solar-powered flashlight device
Photo by shutterstock.

Charge Household Items

You don't have to have solar panels on your home to invest in portable solar solutions to power household items like TVs and laptops. Some can even charge small refrigerators.

There's a healthy, growing industry that designs, manufactures, and sells portable solar panels and packs that soak up energy from the sun to power devices used in the home. They also serve as great backup devices for items that need a steady supply of energy, such as CPAP machines and emergency lighting.

Power packs can be charged by connecting to solar panels, of course, but also through a wall outlet (with or without solar panels), as well as a 12-volt car charger. However, you'll get the quickest charge through panels.

Heat Your Pool for Year-Round Use

Homeowners with pools often lament the cost to keep the water warm for year-round use. It's a shame, because swimming is such an excellent way to stay in shape. There are also large parts of the country where pools are rarely, if ever, subjected to freezing weather; it's just that the water is too cold in January.

One solution is to heat pools with portable solar-powered heaters. The pool's pump circulates water through the panels, which heats the water and returns it to the pool. Add a solar blanket to cover the pool when it isn't in use to prevent heat from escaping.

Make solar a backyard theme. Install solar-powered landscape lights or hanging garden lamps to light your yard at night. Provide additional pizzazz with solar-powered decorative string lights.

Entertain yourself and guests with solar-powered radios, or watch the game on a solar-powered TV. You can even get solar-powered portable fridges and coolers for your upcoming Super Bowl pool party.

Best of all? Once you purchase the batteries, there are no added costs to run these things.

Solar Energy Doesn't Harm Anyone

Solar power does not harm people or the environment.

• It does not cause disease like black lung.
• It does not need to be pulled from the earth in collapsible mines or exploding oil rigs.
• It also does not produce waste to store for millennia.
• It does not put off polluting emissions.

The Union of Concerned Scientists points out ways solar power actually preserves the environment:

• Photovoltaic (PV) solar cells need just a small amount of water to produce. They do not need any to generate power.

• Larger-scale concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP) are often criticized as desert eyesores, but they can be located anywhere they can capture the sun's rays. This includes less desirable sites like brownfields, abandoned mining sites and alongside transportation lines.

• PV manufacturers recycle and reuse many of the chemicals needed to produce the product.

In addition, charges that the chemicals used to produce panels are largely baseless. Given the two-decade lifespan of current panels, the cost of emissions falls to zero after two years of use, according to SolarPowerRocks.com.


Ruth Ann Monti provides copywriting and content development for all things webby. Her interests include content development and SEO topics and small business issues, including technologies that support them.