by Maria Rosemary
The last decade has brought a number of advances in clean, renewable energy, and its use is steadily increasing in the United States. Hydroelectric and biomass sources are among the most productive, but solar energy is also a clean energy source with tremendous potential. It’s cheap, it’s clean, and it’s available virtually anywhere-including around your home. If you’re not inclined to jump into the deep end with a full photovoltaic solar power system, there are still a number of projects you can tackle at home to harness the power of the sun.
Solar-Powered Wi-Fi Extender
Okay, so maybe it isn’t the most practical project on this list, but a solar-powered Wi-Fi extender is a pretty cool piece of tech. The Wi-Fi extender works by using a repeater, which detects nearby wireless signals and repeats them, boosting the signal and allowing you to effectively extend the range of your network. Packed into a cigar box or something of similar size, the repeater can then be powered by a small solar panel placed on the lid. For cloudy days and nighttime use, you can install a backup power source with five AA batteries, which can also be charged by the solar panel while not in use.
Have you ever wanted to bake something during the summer without adding even more heat to your already stuffy house? Use the power of the sun! A solar oven is a quick and easy project that can be done with materials you probably already have lying around the house. Begin with two sturdy cardboard boxes, one several inches smaller than the other. Cover the bottom of the smaller box with black construction paper and cover each of the sides with aluminum foil, being sure to place it shiny side out. Place the smaller box inside the bigger one and carefully pack the empty space between the boxes with newspaper to act as insulation. Finally, cover the flaps on top of the outer box with aluminum foil as well. These will act as reflectors, allowing you to direct sunlight into the inner box. Place the food you’d like to cook on the bottom of the inner box, adjust your foil flaps and wait for the sun to do its work!
Solar-Powered Phone Charger
One of the most popular do-it-yourself solar projects is the solar-powered phone charger. By using a small solar cell, a compatible plug-in charging module, and a small container such as an Altoids tin, you can build a quick, portable charger powered by the sun. Best of all, each of the required parts can be had for very little money. The project does require a bit of know-how and some basic soldering ability, but the result is a convenient and delightfully inventive piece of homemade tech.
Solar-Powered Garden Light
One of the best places to start your adventure into DIY solar-powered projects is a simple garden light. There are several options available, but the easiest is to begin with an existing solar-powered light and reuse the hardware. One popular option is to place the hardware inside a glass mason jar, which can then be frosted to produce a soft, beautiful light. For those who are up for the challenge of handling the designing, wiring and soldering themselves, the same project can be done with custom hardware to produce all sorts of exciting results.
Studies have shown that more than a third of the food produced in the world is eventually wasted. People tend to buy more food than they can possibly eat, and the resulting waste has a tremendous effect on the environment. One great way to reduce this waste is to grow your own food, and a solar-powered greenhouse can help you do exactly that! By simply using sheets of clear plastic and some basic construction materials, you can build a greenhouse that will greatly enhance the effectiveness of your garden and allow you to reduce your reliance on commercially produced foods.
The sun is one of our most valuable resources, but we rarely recognize how powerful its energy can be. Luckily, solar power has been steadily gaining recognition and many companies have made efforts to have it readily available to the average consumer. According to ATCO, solar energy will actually be cheaper than natural gas in the near future. With these and other DIY solar-powered projects, you and your family can take a hands-on approach to taking advantage of one of our greatest sources of renewable energy. Every person can do something to help push us toward a more sustainable future, from taking on small DIY projects to using more environmentally conscious technology, and these projects are a fantastic way to introduce children and teenagers to the possibilities of renewable energy.