The Typical And Not-So-Typical Uses of Solar Energy

solar energy

“Over the past few years, the cost of a solar energy system has dropped significantly–helping to give more American families and business access to affordable, clean energy,” the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) writes. In a nutshell, solar panels for homes can be utilized to a tremendous effect, reducing energy costs and ultimately lowering carbon footprints worldwide. That’s not all. Here is a brief overview detailing the impact of residential solar panels and the more unlikely–and sometimes even bizarre–uses of solar energy.

Solar Energy Can Save You Money

The U.S. DOE reports that 25 to 40% of energy in houses will amount to nothing. An infrequently maintained heating and cooling unit runs less efficiently, and that means that 25 to 40% of energy meant to heat or cool our homes does not do the job. Thankfully, solar panels can change that.

In especially hot states with heavy sun exposure, such as Arizona and Florida, solar panels have the potential to reduce energy bills from $200 to $300 plus to under $50 per month. For example, residences in Tampa, FL can expect an average of 246 full days of sun per year. That amount of sun exposure promises high returns over time. Similarly, most consumers are eligible for a 30% tax break if they install solar panels near or on top of their homes, and government initiatives to lower solar power costs met their 2020 goals three years early in 2017.

Solar Energy Reduces Emissions

Every year, the U.S. burns over one billion tons of coal. That amounts to tons of unnecessary carbon emissions. Solar power is going a long way in reducing emissions. If this trend continues, the environmental impact may be staggering.

According to the DOE, solar power has the potential to reduce pollution enough to save $167 billion in environmental damages and healthcare costs. On top of that, this reduction in pollution will be so significant, it will save a projected 25,000+ lives.

Solar Energy Has Many Lesser-Known Applications

While reducing air pollution and lowering fossil fuel and unclean energy use are great aims and more than possible using solar panels and solar power, some are putting solar energy to some less conventional uses. Here are a few examples:

  • Solar vaccine refrigerators. Certain vaccinations and medications must be kept chilled at specific temperatures. Solar vaccine refrigerators are making that possible everywhere, including remote locations and developing countries.
  • Solar hats, jackets, and backpacks. Solar clothing of all kinds is out there, ready for you to wear. Backpacks may be the most practical at this point, containing compartments and add-ons that enable you to charge your phone, tablet, or laptop using solar energy.
  • Solar paint. Solar paint is in the works. If researchers and scientists can come up with a reasonable solar paint, it is likely that homeowners will paint the exteriors of their houses using these paint varieties to generate electricity and lower heating and cooling costs.
  • Solar cookers. Campers, hikers, and adventurers rejoice! New portable solar cookers no longer require stopping to build a fire along the way. Now, campers and hikers can heat up meals using only the sun. Solar grills, ovens, and barbecues are growing in popularity as well. While these may seem fun or convenient for outings, solar cookers are also bringing cooked meals to locations temporarily or more permanently going without electricity.
  • Solar umbrellas. Spruce up your patio with a solar umbrella. These umbrellas have solar panels to absorb energy during the day. At night, LED lights automatically come on, casting that perfect glow for eating and entertaining.

Solar panels are on track to account for over a third of all energy sources in 2050. Look out for savings on solar panels and the growing number of solar-powered novelties you’re likely to see in stores.