17 Alternative Uses for Solar Power

Residential solar power systems are among the most impressive applications for solar power, but they’re far from the only way to use it. From cars to water heaters, laptops, and even furniture, solar power can be used for a variety of uses in everyday life. Curious about how else solar power can be used? Read on to learn about 17 uses for solar power that aren’t residential solar electricity.

Solar Water Heaters

One of the most common ways home owners use solar power other than electricity, solar water heaters do just what it sounds like: they heat up water using the power of the sun. Smaller than a full solar power system, a solar water heater is often more affordable and offers a quick return on investment.

Solar Powered Ventilation

Solar powered fans can circulate air throughout a home, cutting down on heating and cooling bills. Fans using solar power can include ceiling fans, bath fans, even fans in your kitchen.

Solar Lights

Many home owners are familiar with solar lights, particularly small garden lights on stakes. Portable solar lights can be used to illuminate backyards, or you can even take them camping or use them on emergencies. Solar bricks can be used to illuminate pathways at night. Solar indoor lights can also be used, soaking up sunlight during the day and storing the energy in small batteries to power lights at night. This concept can also be extended to solar powered street lights.

Solar Furniture

Another solar powered idea for the outdoors, solar patio furniture can generate and store energy from the sun. They soak up sunlight during the day, and then flow in the dark. Some models even come with adapters for mobile devices.

Portable Solar Chargers

You can’t run a refrigerator on a portable solar panel, but you can charge your laptop, phone, camera, and other mobile devices. Either stand alone panels or those attached to bags can be used conveniently to keep items running even when you’re on the go.

Solar Powered Tents

Camping takes on an entirely new level with plenty of available power. Solar cells on a tent generate power during the day and can be used for lighting and equipment at night.

Solar Signs

You’ve probably seen one on the road: a sign with a little solar panel on top. School zone signs, billboards, and more can all be powered using simple solar panels.

Solar Flashlights

Light up the night with a solar flashlight. These flashlights soak up and store solar power, then deliver hours of light on a single charge. Some even come with emergency cell phone chargers, making it easy to make it through a blackout even without batteries.

Solar Ovens

During the summer, people love to joke about frying an egg on the sidewalk. But with a solar oven, you really can cook using just the power of the sun. Using a solar oven, you can direct sunlight to raise the temperature of a box in order to make it high enough to cook food. This is a great resource for outdoor cooking.


Solatubes offer a convenient daylighting option for rooms without enough window light or inadequate space for a skylight. Solatubes are clear, reflective tubes that direct sunlight into a particular space. They offer natural light without using electricity, and they’re typically inexpensive. Some even come with accessories such as dimmer switches and light bulb fixtures so that you can conrol the brightness.

Solar Screens

Similar to blackout shades, solar screens allow home owners to keep rooms cool or warm depending on whether the screen is up or down. Lowered shades can keep the sun out and make a room cooler, while open shades invite the sun to make a room warm.

Solar Heated Pools

Even when it’s sunny out, pools can be a little too cool for comfort. But with a solar pool cover or a solar pool heater, pools can stay warm even when it’s cold outside. Solar pool covers are insulated pool sheets that retain heat in the water, and solar pool heaters pump water through tubes where they’re heated by solar panels.

Solar Road Studs

On dark roads at night, road studs can be life saving, keeping drivers in the right part of the road. Solar road studs are glowing markers that light up the outlines of roads at night, making it easy to see the clearly defined areas of the road.

Solar Powered Cars, Boats, and Planes

It sounds like science fiction, but vehicles that are powered by the sun already exist. Solar cars, boats, and planes can be designed to run solely on solar power and can even take long range trips.

Solar Trash Compacting Bins

Placed in public spaces and designed to look like ordinary trash cans, solar trash compacting bins use the power of the sun to charge the device that compacts trash into a smaller space.

Solar Internet Cafes

In Africa, ZubaBoxes are mobile Internet cafes with solar panels on the roof. Constructed from used shipping containers, they’re outfitted with computers and monitors that exclusively use solar power to offer Internet access to rural areas and disaster zones.

Solar Powered Electronics

Consumer electronics from mobile phones to laptops have been developed with solar options. And most have seen solar powered calculators in use for decades. These electronics are designed to operate solely using solar power or simply go several hours without an electronic charge by filling the gap in power with solar power.

Photo by Flickr user oregonstateuniversity