How is Solar Energy Used? A Guide to Common, Practical, and Beneficial Uses of Solar

Feb 14, 2018
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One of the fastest growing green energy sources, solar power produces 1 percent of energy used worldwide. That number has been on the rise for several years. Over the last ten years, solar has seen an annual growth rate of 68 percent — growth indicating consumers worldwide believe the time to switch to solar is now. With the cost of solar energy dropping  some 70 percent in the last 8 years, it’s an increasingly affordable and budget-conscious energy source for homes and businesses worldwide.

All these savings result in a slew of questions for the everyday user. What does the rise of solar  mean for your home and day-to-day life? How do we use all that solar energy? Can it help us save money on our bills? Could we even sell it back to local power companies? These are important issues that we need to address if we wish to embrace the growth of solar power and its related industries.

Solar Homes: Solar Powered Devices and Systems

In the home, solar energy is used to power major appliances and systems, such as water heaters, air conditioning and lighting systems. In-home solar works two different ways. In the first, a grid-connected power system incorporates panels, often on the roof, that feed into the electrical system. Alternatively, standalone systems operate independently of the home’s electrical system.

Heating and cooling account for the majority of most homes’ electric bills, which makes more efficient HVAC system an important component in an energy-efficient home. Standalone solar systems can take the burden off an electrical grid (and bill), and these systems can even use add-ons such as air cleaners and humidifiers to deliver extra benefits for the needs of users.

For homeowners looking to start small in solar investment, solar energy can be used for a number of items around the home. Solar-powered lawn and landscape lighting often uses small, fitted panels on the fixtures themselves. This cuts down on clutter and delivers a wireless, seamless look. Smaller lawn panels can heat pools, power outdoor entertainment devices and deliver the spark needed to ignite gas-powered tools. Solar power can even manage the entirety of your yard, from your annual Christmas light spectacular down to your weekly hedge trimmings.

Solar Cars and Other Vehicles

In the United States, solar power is more and more commonly used to improve our driving experience. Street lights and signs that run off the power of the sun help local governments achieve their renewable energy goals. Those benefits not only help preserve the environment, making cities more habitable by cutting down on pollution, but also allow the government to invest money back into the community instead of spending it on subsidizing electrical power projects.

Solar power doesn’t end with road visibility. Electric cars can use charging stations that draw their energy directly from the sun. Owners of electric cars even benefit from the ability of solar grids to power their vehicles from the safety and security of their homes. Some recreational vehicles employ solar technology to keep families in the comforts of home while on the road. And while we’re not yet at the point where cars can be powered by mounted solar panels, companies like Ford (as well as engineering students at colleges like Stanford) are experimenting with a wide variety of designs that could lead to widespread use.

Solar Charging Stations

Our lives are very much spent on-the-go, and portable solar-powered charging stations help us keep up the mobility we need. Public stations allow you to charge your phone or laptop while away from home. Businesses, including malls and outlet shopping centers, can use this to keep customers engaged and present. The draw of solar power makes a wonderful marketing tool, and it gives these locations a chance to share in the benefits homeowners receive on an industrial level.

These stations are also useful at bus stops (where they can provide shade for weary travelers), or outdoor entertainment venues, like concerts or restaurants. In parks, they allow families to keep recording or photographing memories. Concerts can make the most of light shows and laser demonstrations without increased draw on the power grid or bills, making even the biggest partypalooza a more eco-friendly endeavor.

Campers can make use of portable solar charging kits to keep their favorite pieces of technology working while spending time away from civilization. Medical, communication and entertainment equipment can all be plugged into a kit roughly the size of a briefcase fitted with a small panel and battery. GPS sensors can keep hikers on the right paths, and the ability to recharge satellite phones on the goal can be a literal lifesaver.

Wearables and Mobile Devices

While we’re not quite at the point of solar panels stitched into our clothing, wearable solar power already exists in the form of accessories designed to charge your phone and any other smart devices. Watches with solar technology keep your wearable tech powered longer, while a pair of stylish modern sunglasses can utilize solar tech to charge your favorite personal tech.

Integrated sensors on clothes can tell you when a nearby WiFi signal has the juice to get you connected online, and smart gear from top fitness manufacturers can measure everything from heart rate to temperature and blood pressure with real-time accuracy while relying on a combination of solar tech and body movement for power.

Smart jackets, which allow you to communicate with your smart devices, take away much of the need for manual inputs and commands, while heating your body with distributed solar energy. Voice-activated, solar-powered gear may well already be on its way to stores. As the technology evolves into thinner, lighter and more portable versions (not to mention washing machine friendly), solar-integrated clothing is sure to move firmly from idealized, science-fiction concept to become an integral part of our everyday lives.

Worldwide, consumers turn to renewable energy more and more. As technology advances, the uses for solar power will expand into every nook and cranny of daily life. From far-flung travel to the alluring comforts of home, solar power is definitely here to stay. When you decide that it’s time to transform your home or business and prepare for the future, get an estimate on solar projects that can make the biggest difference for you.


Image Source: Pixabay

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