Work on these solar power projects and take your first step toward complete sustainable energy self-sufficiency.
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Solar Power Projects: Your Intro to Alternative Energy Sources
1. Mason Jar Solar Lights
Spring is right around the corner, and that means it’s time for grilling and patio parties (yay!). How you light your yard can really set the mood and bring the party to life!
We have been doing some amazing mason jar crafts recently and have a couple of jars left over, so we decided to experiment with some mason jar lighting.
Plus, the dollar store just started selling solar lights that you can stick in the ground around your patio.
In this tutorial, we are going to show you how to make your own solar light with a mason jar. These DIY solar lighting projects and ideas are charming ways to save on energy bills.
2. Mini Solar Book Torch and Charger
The “mini solar book” is another solar power supply and charger, that acts as an LED light too. Its torchlight function is very useful and effective.
Indeed, a white LED only consumes 20 mA, so it will provide light for about 30 hours with a single charge of the battery, and with the addition of solar cells, its life is practically endless.
Of course, you can also use this device to power your cell phone, your GPS logger, or any other little USB gadget (although the battery has a reduced capacity due to its small size).
3. Solar Food Dryer
You're growing your own food and you come across one obvious problem: when something's in season, you have more than you can handle, and then there's nothing for the rest of the year.
So the obvious solution is to preserve your food when you have it in abundance.
Dehydration is an excellent preservation technique that's easy to do and that maintains a lot more of the original nutrients than canning or freezing. Dry your extra loads of harvest with a DIY solar food dryer you can make.
4. DIY Laminated Solar Panels
This instructable is all about making DIY solar panels. Solar panels are different than solar cells — a solar cell is a single piece of silicon.
Typically, solar cells are low-voltage, high-current devices, putting out about half a volt, with a current proportional to the cell's area and the intensity of the light. A modern 6″ x 6″ cell puts out about 7A of max-power current, at 0.5V.
Electrically, there's not much you can do with 0.5V and 7A, so we combine solar cells in series and parallel to get to a useful voltage and current.
If we combine ten isolettes in series, we get five volts at the max power point, which is a generally useful voltage for powering small electronics.
5. Window Mounted Hot Air Furnace
Projects that involve warming air for space heating using the sun are plentiful. However, most of them involve permanently installed flat plate collectors made out of soda cans or aluminum downspouts.
Installing a permanent collector usually means drilling two large holes through the side of your house to route the ductwork. My collector mounts just outside a window and can be taken down when the heating season is over.
The most invasive part of the installation is the removal of the window's flyscreen.
6. Solar Shrub
I'm a solar energy advocate, tinkerer, and enthusiast, but let's face it, solar panels are ugly! Flat, rectangular panels can only be arranged in so many ways and always look industrial, boring, and out of place.
So I decided to build a functional, but more aesthetically pleasing version of a USB solar charger. I call my creation the “Solar Shrub.”
It's designed to resemble a round-leafed plant in a flowerpot, but unlike a real plant, this one can charge my iPod, iPhone, and any other USB-chargeable device!
7. Parabolic Hot Water Heater
For this project, I set out to create the solar equivalent of the hot-water tap on a coffee machine: a solar on-demand hot-water heater.
I was inspired by the functionality of the new software called 123D-Make that makes it easy to build large, geometrical precise forms.
My goal was to build a device using 123D-Make that illustrates the power of the sun and has many practical uses.
I decided to make my solar water heater by creating a mirrored parabolic dish that focuses sunlight to a point, then adding copper tubing that runs a thin stream of water through the very hot focal point, creating near-boiling water on demand.
8. Portable Solar Outlet
I've been able to continuously power an 80-watt device for approximately three hours without interruption and it could have gone much longer, as well as run an electric drill under load with no hesitation or slowing. This is one powerful machine!
9. Solar Power Altoid Tin
An energy source when out camping can be a huge help or can come in handy if you ever get yourself into a scrape.
You will need:
- Some solar path lights (get the ones that can be easily disassembled)
- Some small gauge wire
- An ‘Altoids' tin
- A 1/4″ mono audio connector
- A soldering iron and solder
Follow the full instructions and the step-by-step guide on how to make this handheld solar power supply here.
Watch this video from Mark Jones and get the idea of how a home solar power system works:
These solar power projects could be the answer to off-the-grid energy and a lower utility bill. Not to mention, it helps shrink your carbon footprint when used correctly.
Whether you're interested in preparedness, efficiency, saving some money, or all of the above, these simple solar projects will help you harness the power of the sun.
Have you worked on any of these solar power projects? Tell us all about it in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on January 17, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.