Go for solar outdoor lighting. Solar lamps can be bought almost anywhere, from online stores such as Amazon.com to big box stores, to the local hardware store. Best of all, they provide free light and direct the light down so there is no light pollution of our dark skies. And they come in many sizes, ranging from on the ground to lamp posts. And a lot of these lamps work great in the house, too.
Buy rechargeable batteries—and then some solar panels to charge them. These days you can get small solar panels that will recharge a laptop, a cellphone, or any other small electronic device, including a battery recharger. These can sell for between $20 to $200 depending on the size and wattage. You can search for “solar recharger” on almost any retail site to find them. Be sure to check the reviews to see they work with your electronic equipment—and you’ll save money in electricity bills.
You can get a solar panel gate opener at Costco for about $200, if you’re inclined not to open your gate manually.
Solar backup generators are also available these days. If you buy one ready made and set to go, expect to spend about $2000 to $4000. But if you’re handy, you can build one for around $500.
To build a solar generator, you’ll need a solar panel for about $150 (and you only need 1), deep cycle batteries (at least 2), a solar charge convertor, which is about $80, a heavy-duty cart to carry everything, an invertor for about $100, and the wiring (and DC wires need to be thicker than AC wires—and the wiring must be done correctly). You can build your own mounting with wood or metal—you do need some mounting hardware.
For help in putting it together, go to Google and search for “How to build your own solar generator”. There are plenty of good articles.
A great place to get your batteries is at Recon Battery Warehouse (505-750-0276) in Albuquerque. They sell reconditioned batteries that are fully sealed—meaning no maintenance. They’re perfect for a small solar system—either a generator or for a greenhouse, or to add a solar system. They’ve got some of the lowest prices for batteries, too.
And for a great deal to get your cabin or RV off the grid, Home Depot offers a full system (it’s only missing batteries) for about $1000.
You can also get a solar powered water heater for about $200, which can save in propane costs.
Remember when buying a solar panel you want to look at the watts produced. You really want something that produces the watts you need—not something low cost that only puts out 5 watts (meaning it could charge a cell phone over a very long time). A typical lightbulb is 60 watts, so keep that in mind when buying solar.
For a list of even more ways to start going solar, head to: theconnectable.com/coolest-solar-gadgets.