Five solar-powered gadgets that harness the sun’s power

The sun has an incredible amount of energy — more than we could ever fully harness. Fortunately, there’s an array of solar-powered gadgets and devices available to help you take advantage of this free source of energy. These technologies are a great way to power everyday things for free by simply using energy from the sun!

When you want to bring your music outdoors, solar-powered Bluetooth speakers are the perfect solution. Many Bluetooth speakers can be recharged with a USB port and electrical outlet, but solar-powered speakers are easily recharged by sunlight. As long as the sun is shining, the speaker will never run out of power. Most solar-powered speakers include a backup battery that allows the speaker to run long after the sun goes down. When shopping for a solar-powered speaker, be sure the speaker can handle the outdoor conditions. For example, if you’re planning to bring the speaker to the beach, make sure it’s water-resistant.

For an easy, low-maintenance approach to light up your lawn and walkways, solar pathway lighting (and other solar décor) is a great addition. Outdoor solar lights come in a variety of styles and can be used to decorate your outdoor space in different ways. They can be used as an alternative to traditional lights and offer several benefits. Once installed, solar lights run on their own and work relatively maintenance-free. Solar lights are powered by batteries that can run all night if the panels receive enough sunlight during the day. Solar lights are wireless, so there’s no need to search for an electrical outlet. You can purchase solar lights for about $5 to $20 depending on the size and design.

If you’re looking to engage your children, there are several DIY kits available for kids to learn more about solar energy. These kits typically include a small solar panel, connecting wires and the end-use device, which varies depending on the kit. From powering a small fan to lighting a lightbulb, these interactive kits provide an educational opportunity for kids to learn more about solar.

As an alternative to a charcoal or gas-powered grill, the solar-powered grill is another great way to cook meals outdoors. One of the most popular solar-powered grills is by GoSun and uses a solar vacuum tube to absorb light while also providing insulation. Using solar heat, the parabolic reflectors focus sunlight onto the vacuum tube. The tube can then convert about 80 percent of the solar energy into heat. There are plenty of occasions for using a solar-powered grill such as traveling, camping or even during a power outage. The internal temperature can typically reach up to 550 degrees while the insulation makes it cool to the touch on the outside — an important safety feature. Prices for solar-powered grills range from $150 to $300, making them comparable to gas-powered grills.

A gadget to help you keep track of time is the solar-powered watch. A small solar cell underneath the dial converts the solar energy into electrical energy, with excess energy stored into the rechargeable battery. As long as the watch receives a moderate amount of sunlight, the battery doesn’t need to be replaced for up to 10 years, which is much more convenient than replacing the battery roughly every year for conventional watches. Solar-powered watches can cost anywhere from $50 to $1,000 depending on their design.

The sun provides an endless amount of energy, and these gadgets are a great way to power everyday devices. As more solar-powered technologies are developed, you may find yourself considering a solar-powered gadget for your next purchase.

Maria Kanevsky writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the national trade association representing more than 900 local electric cooperatives. From growing suburbs to remote farming communities, electric co-ops serve as engines of economic development for 42 million Americans across 56 percent of the nation’s landscape.

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