Home appliances consume up to a massive 20% of our total energy use, so it makes sense, both from a financial and an environmental viewpoint, to find ways to either cut down our energy consumption or invest in appliances which use alternative energies.
Solar powered appliances are clean, green and use the sun’s free energy. As with all appliances, there are both benefits and drawbacks to each one, but the huge market for solar powered appliances points to a solar future.
1. Solar Ovens
Solar ovens are gradually growing in popularity and there are now hundreds of different designs on the market.
There are three basic types, which all utilize the sun’s energy in different ways, either by concentrating sunlight, converting light to heat, or trapping heat. They include:
- Box cookers: which are the most common worldwide and cook at safe moderate to high temperatures;
- Curved concentrator cookers: which are mainly used for large-scale cooking due to their fast cooking times at high temperatures;
- Panel cookers: which are the simplest and most inexpensive to buy and are thus used extensively in sun-intensive developing countries.
Cooking in a solar oven typically takes longer than in a conventional oven but the advantage is that they’re lightweight, easily transportable and free to use. Electric ovens powered by solar cells do exist but they are still in development and are currently very expensive.
2. Solar Flashlights
Solar flashlights feature solar photovoltaic panels which collect energy-intensive sunlight, ambient light, and even artificial light, before converting it to electrical energy. This energy then powers the bulb, which is often an extremely powerful and durable LED bulb. You’ll never need to replace batteries, which cost money and are hard to dispose of in an environmentally friendly
You’ll never need to replace batteries, which need to be replaced and are difficult to dispose of in an environmentally friendly manner. Plus, they work in extreme temperatures — something most battery-operated appliances fail to do.
Of course, you need a source of light in order to power them, and their beam isn’t always as wide or as strong as battery-operated flashlights. But they can be left for long periods of time without worrying that the battery will die.
3. Solar Chargers
Solar chargers offer the advantage of powering a wide range of appliances with free, green sunlight via small, easily transportable solar panels. There is a range of solar chargers on the market with the ability to charge pretty much any portable device, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, and GPS devices.
Not only are solar chargers a cheaper and greener way of powering up your portable devices, they give you the ability to charge your appliances on the go, wherever you are.
Of course, an alternative to investing in solar powered appliances is to install solar panels on your home in order to power your entire house with the energy of the sun. Investing in solar power will lower your carbon footprint, save you money in the long term, and give you the satisfaction of knowing that your home is powered by nature.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.