You might think that solar-power is solely restricted to those panels on your roof at home. Until now you’d have been correct; historically everyday solar integration into our lives has been poor. While solar energy is most commonly used in powering your home, there are a bunch of everyday items being released that harness the power of the sun. These items are more than just existing products with a solar panel slapped on. They’re nifty, useful and fun to use. Plus they’re good for the environment.
What are some everyday solar-powered gadgets?
This could be perfect for end-of-year exam time! Why get all stuffy inside hunched over your desk, when you could bust out this bad boy and sit in the sun with your textbooks. The table surface is made of integrated solar panels, which power the electrical outlets on the table. You could charge your phone and laptop while studying. Or you could even bring a lamp out there if you’re still studying at dusk. Make the garden your office; there’s no need to go inside anymore.
The practicality of this table means that you can enjoy the jacarandas blooming and the birds singing. Soon enough, it won’t even feel like you’re studying. This solar powered table is weather-resistant meaning you don’t have to worry about it getting ruined if you accidentally leave it out while it rains.
You wouldn’t be wrong in assuming these tables are more expensive than any old regular table. This small, basic table starts at around AUD $400. However, can you really put a price on happiness, less stress and better grades?
If the thought of forking out the money for a solar-powered table turns you off, perhaps go straight to the source of your battery woes and buy a solar-powered phone charger!
There are a whole heap of manufacturers that make solar powered phone chargers, as they are becoming more popular among consumers wanting to squeeze some extra life out of their phones. We all know how much phone batteries lack these days! The market has become really well stocked recently, with varieties of chargers to suit almost every consumer.
Chargers come in all shapes and sizes. They vary from a simple snap-on case for your phone that gives your battery a bit of extra juice to see you through the day, or an entire bulky – but powerful – mini solar panel that you can lay out and charge your phone with. Think of the potential activities you could do. Suddenly, camping out in the middle of nowhere doesn’t seem so daunting.
Of course, generally speaking, the larger capacity chargers are more expensive. However, this slim charger costs around AUD $50, which we consider a fair price if it means you’re able to call someone when you’re in a pickle if your phone’s battery life is abhorrent. Plus, the case provides your phone with added protection, and is dust and water resistant.
There are fewer sadder things in life than a dead laptop inside a laptop bag. It symbolises unsaved work, missed deadlines and a cranky employee – not healthy aspects of an office.
One solution to your battery problems is the Voltaic Array 10W solar backpack. The solar panel is powerful enough to charge your laptop, phone and digital camera. The sleeve comfortably fits a 17 inch laptop. The solar panel, situated on the front pocket, is removable and can be taken anywhere without the backpack, so you can leave it in the sun without taking out the whole backpack. It comes with an array of charging ports to suit most mobiles and laptops.
On top of all the gadgetry, the bag also serves as a good old-fashioned backpack. It boasts 24.5 litres of storage space, and the outer shell is waterproof. Voltaic also offers more powerful solar cells to give a full charge to a laptop or camera, as well as solar satchel bags, and many other innovative solar products.
Convenience is not cheap, sadly. The 10W backpack will set you back about AUD $600, which is a hefty price to pay for something you ordinarily wouldn’t give much thought to. Though, if you’re constantly on the move and needing a charge wherever you go, this laptop bag could be for you.
Be a contender for the Tour de France this season with a solar-powered bike. Technically it’s not cheating if there are no exhaust fumes, right?!
While you’re unlikely to pass Tour de France regulations with a solar-powered bike, having a handy motor could help boost you up those hills. On a Friday afternoon after work, the last thing you want to do is handle that last big hill that’s conveniently downhill on the way to work, but uphill coming home.
This solar-powered bike by Fremantle-based Solar Bike is sure to give you a helping hand getting up that last hill. This fixed-gear bike weighs 17.5kg, instead of the usual 27.5kg for electric bikes, making maneuverability a breeze. Even the 200W package option would be a great benefit; 200W gives you a 40 minute range, and is rated at 28km/h. What’s more is the power cell looks like a slightly large water bottle, making charged biking discrete. That hill is going to seem like an ant mound with this bike!
The fixed-gear option is surprisingly not that expensive. The base bike costs $600, while the electric conversion costs $1050, bringing the total to $1650. Considering it doesn’t take much for a bike to cost over $2000, we consider this bike a fair investment.
Solar Bike not only offers electric bikes and trikes, but also conversion kits to make your own bike solar powered. They have done this by teaming up with a solar product import company to design two solar systems as ways to power an electric bike.
Did you know that Husqvarna make a Roomba for your backyard? That’s right, this lawnmower isn’t just solar powered, it is automatic – so you don’t even have to spend an hour pushing it around the backyard!
Watch the little fella that looks like a racecar do his thing in your yard as you put your feet up and drink a martini. The mower operates in all-weather as it is waterproof, and can tackle steep slopes and small laneways. It is also near-silent meaning nosy neighbours won’t be offended at 4am. Really, it’s an all-terrain vehicle that mows your grass.
It can mow an area of up to half an acre, and can be programmed to tackle even the most complicated shapes of lawns. It uses GPS to mow the lawn correctly. It is also trackable with an app to your smartphone, so you can control the little guy when you’re not home. Plus, it will send alerts to your phone if anything should go awry. Husqvarna has been developing this mower for over 20 years, so a lot of fine-tuning has gone into making this device.
Though, there are a few limitations. It is not fully solar powered, as it does require some charging from the mains power, but it has made it on this list because it is so convenient. However, if your whole house is solar powered, then the mower may technically be fully solar powered.
When there is sunlight, the mower’s cutting time can be extended before it needs recharging. But if you set it to mow at night, it may return to its charging station before finishing the lawn.
As has been the theme with this article, the convenience of this lawn mower doesn’t come cheap. Prices for the basic, small-lawn model starts at around $2000, and climbs up sharply for the more advanced models.
Is solar-powered gadgetry worth it?
You have to weigh up how much you are willing to pay for the convenience of not having to do the lawns every second weekend. That couple hours can be much better spent doing other things, but it’s going to be an expensive couple of hours.
Globally we are at that stage where alternative energies are becoming more prevalent and ‘cool’ to use, but they are still expensive. This is truer in none other than these gadgets. While they are beautiful, useful and innovative, they come at a cost. Often with full solar integration comes a hefty price tag. You’ll have to assess if this innovation is worth it; if not, these prices are surely going to come down when alternative energies become more prevalent in our lives.