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10 Different Uses for Solar Panels

The creation of solar panels is arguably one of the 20th Century’s most significant innovations. Having the sun as an unlimited source of energy means the potential different uses for solar panels are practically limitless.

Before solar panels, we developed different ways of harnessing energy regardless of its impact on our environment. Now, we are in a tight battle against the effects of our negligence as climate change becomes a more dangerous threat with every passing day.

The sun produces two kinds of energy, which are light and heat. Even without solar panels, it has provided us with our basic needs like food, oxygen, and our ecosystem. Yup, we owe all life in part to that big ball of nuclear fire in space.

These days with our tech-heavy lifestyles, our energy needs have become more challenging, and our means of producing energy have compromised our future. Solar panels could be the key to our planet’s recovery all while keeping our phones charged. Let’s keep reading to learn more about solar panels and how to utilize them.

Why Solar Panels?

Solar Panel with Windmills

Erm, why not? It’s hardly new technology, it’s getting cheaper and more effective all the time, and the sun’s energy will last for at least the next five billion years. If we haven’t devised ways to harness and use it responsibly, then we have failed as humans. Seriously. There is no excuse for a mass transition to solar. And no, wealthy execs and shareholders of big fossil fuel companies losing out on even more wealth is not a legitimate excuse. Here are a few other reasons why we should consider using solar panels. 

Clean Energy Source

We have always been largely dependent on fossil fuels as a source of energy, such as gas, coal, and oil. Harvesting them and using them is not eco-friendly. Their by-product causes air pollution, deforestation, the buildup of greenhouse gases, and a plethora of other issues that really should put our species to shame.

The sun is the easiest natural energy source, and we all have access to it (which is part of the reason why we haven’t all switched over – you can’t own rights to the sun). Solar panels create clean energy from the sun’s heat and light.

Renewable Energy

While the other sources of energy may run out, particularly fossil fuels, the sun is good for a few billion years. There’s literally no better sustainable option than the sun.

Long-Term Energy Guarantee

Most solar panels will last up to 20-30 years, and they will produce power as long as the sun still shines. As we’ve said, the sun will shine for the next five billion years, so we will realistically never run out of solar energy.

Less Impact on the Environment

We say “less” because it’s ridiculous to suggest any method of energy generation is completely clean. sourcing the materials used to create solar panels and their storage batteries (especially lithium) isn’t exactly clean.

But still, it is the most sustainable way of generating cleaner electricity and creates a fraction of the filth that fossil fuels do. Fossil fuels are harmful to extract and harmful to use for creating energy.

Cost-Effective

Investing in solar panels might hurt wallets up front. But in the long run, you’ll find that your monthly electric bills are more convenient since you aren’t paying for electricity anymore. Solar panels will save you 25–30 years of energy costs.

Not only that, but as solar panels have become more common, they have become less expensive. Additionally, there are tons of different ways of getting solar panels installed for home use without breaking the bank. Solar leases and government programs could mean that you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for solar power – or potentially nothing at all.

Different Uses for Solar Panels

1. Overall Power Supply

Solar Farm and Sunset

Solar panels can be your main and potentially only source of electricity. The number of panels that you will need will depend on the amount of your daily electricity consumption.

There are different types of solar panels, so it’s important to find some that are compatible with your needs. The common type of installing solar panels is mounting them for permanent use on your roof or on racks or stands on the ground. There are even portable ones you can use for camping or living off the grid.

The scope of using solar panels is not exclusive to domestic use. Many industrial companies have started using solar panels to sustain their operations, blanketing offices and factory roofs with panels. Electricity providers have also started using solar panels to supply energy to communities that can’t afford to invest in solar panels.

See Related: Best Solar-Powered Generators for Home Use

2. Water Heater

Water Heater Equipment

One of the most common uses of domestic solar panels is heating water. The typical installation for solar water heaters is via a rooftop cell connected to a water tank. The cells will absorb the heat from the sun concentrating solar power on warming the water tanks.

There are two main types of solar water heating systems for homes, which are active and passive solar water heaters. The difference between the two is that an active solar water heater moves water by using pumps, while passive solar heaters rely on gravity. 

Another use for solar panels is as pool heaters. There are a few types of solar pool heaters, many of which you can find online for dirt cheap. These solar heating systems can be connected to the pump system as it regulates the pool temperature. Then your swimming season can be extended without worrying about an excessive electricity bill!

3. Powered Water Supply

Water Supply

As well as heating water, the sun’s energy can also power water pumps. In places where access to running water is difficult, having a solar water pump can be a good problem-solver.

The hard part is digging your well and setting up your water pump. After that, all you have to do is connect your system to the solar collector, and hey presto.

See Related: Solar Panels for Sheds: What You Need to Know

4. Solar Ventilation

Roof VentilationS

A well-constructed house will have effective ventilation. But if the ventilation fans are not installed correctly, energy efficiency may be compromised. Ventilation fans do not typically consume a lot of electricity, meaning that solar power is a great option.

There are even solar ventilation fans available if you’re not that willing to commit to a full solar energy-generated household. These are easier to acquire and will only focus on the ventilation part of the whole house. Solar ventilation will maintain the air quality inside your house and help ease the humidity during the summer.

5. Outdoor Solar Lighting

Solar Drive Lights

Solar energy can be used to light your place in different ways. Many types of solar lamps are available, with many designs to match the aesthetics of your house. Best of all, most are really inexpensive. Neither are they hard to find. They are available at your local hardware store or online on Amazon, Renogy, Jackery, Arcadia, etc.

As well as these tiny lights, solar power is also used to light the streets. It is a very convenient innovation since no one is going to need street lights during the day, and all the energy collected during the daytime can be used at night.

6. Portable Equipment

Portable Solar Generator

Going camping and need to power your gadgets and gizmos? See if you can find som solar-powered alternatives or some portable panels!

Let’s face it; it’s the 21st Century and going to remote locations in the wilderness is not great for everyone, especially for those who are totally technology-dependent. Hence we must come prepared for trips like this by gearing ourselves with sun-powered devices.

Where else will you get power from the wild? Windmills? Hydroelectricity? Here are a few devices that you must pack with you.

  • Solar flashlights – Who’s in for a treasure hunt or an exciting evening adventure? Flashlights are a necessity in camping, and solar flashlights and lamps have been about for ages.
  • Portable solar lanterns – It’s nice to sit around a lantern and swap stories when camping. At the very least it’s good to check everything in your tent before going to sleep. In either case, you will need a portable solar lantern!
  • Portable radio – Some of us need tech to be entertained. If they can’t watch TV then the radio will just have to suffice.
  • Portable solar panel – This is a big leap equipment-wise and function-wise compared to the first three. A portable solar panel will provide everything you need electricity-wise, so you can bring all your rechargeable gadgets and still feel at home. The good news is that portable panels come in all shapes and sizes, from the large one linked above to wee waterproof solar panels you can hang on the back of your backpack and charge on the go!

See Related: Best Solar Power Banks to Buy Today

7. Battery Charging

Electric Vehicle Charging

The concept of charging batteries using solar energy is not a new one, but before long it may be what powers most of our devices. If we focus on batteries alone, solar energy has more to offer.

Like a standard solar panel, a solar charger will absorb the sun’s heat (photons) through its cells and convert it to electrons, then transfer it to our devices. The charging speed will vary depending on the weather.

Solar battery chargers can power any modern gadget. Most people use it for charging their laptops, cell phones, tablets, and more. Solar chargers are also used for charging the batteries in electric cars, and many folks are opting for installing solar panels on the roofs of their garages to charge their EVs.

Portable battery chargers come in many different types. The most innovative and useful chargers on the market are items of wearable solar tech, like solar bags and solar phone chargers that you can clip onto accessories.

Development in the charging aspects of solar energy is boundless, so you can expect to see more and more innovative solar-powered battery charging tech items flooding the market as time goes by.

See Related: Best Greenhouse Fans to Buy Today

8. Cooking

Solar Cooking Equipment

The most basic factor needed for cooking, (besides the equipment and ingredients), is heat – just ask Samin Nosrat. But can you use solar power to cook food? You betcha!

This is one of the simplest use cases for solar power, mainly because we all need to eat, and from a biological (if not just comfort) perspective, cooked food is typically easier and safer to consume. On top of that, cooking with the sun’s heat doesn’t need expensive gadgets or the kinds of stuff that are bought online – although these are an option.

There are many ways of creating solar ovens online, and you can make your own improvised solar cooker with the following objects that you can find at home:

  • Cardboard box
  • Aluminum foil
  • Pan
  • Cooking bag
  • Duct tape
  • Styrofoam insulation
  • Thermometer

Some versions online will require other materials. However, you don’t have to be confused since all the concepts are consistent. In your custom one, the aluminum foil will act as a heat collector as it reflects the heat inside the box. The box must be properly insulated for better efficiency, which is where the styrofoam comes in. The cooking bag will secure the food and will also help trap the heat.

Regardless if you bought or made one, solar ovens are all created to trap the heat inside the cooking space.

See Related: Best Energy Efficient Kettles | Eco-Friendly Options

9. Transportation

Electric Vehicle and Solar Panels

Solar transportation is an innovation that is not yet enjoyed by many, but is rapidly on the rise. As we all know, most transportation use fossil fuels which have cost us more than we already know – and we know it’s pretty bad. If it is to become obsolete in time, and all vehicles are powered by solar energy, our planet will have a chance to heal itself.

Manufacturers have developed buses, cars, motorcycles, and even boats powered by the sun’s energy. It is starting to hit the mainstream and fully solar-powered vehicles with integrated panels are starting to become more of a reality.

The future of solar vehicles has a way to go, but there is hope as manufacturers look forward to making not just cars and trucks, but also solar-powered trains, boats aircraft, airships, and spacecraft. Until then, we will have to wait for solar vehicles’ dominance in the market. 

See Related: Best Energy Efficient Electric Heaters for Large Rooms

10. Agribusiness

Farm Aerial View and Solar Panels

The sun has provided us with food since it started shining. Literally every single food chain on Earth relies on the sun in some capacity. So it’s a no-brainer surprise that we should utilize it more from an agribusiness standpoint.

So far, using solar panels for Agrivoltaic farming has shown exceptional results all over the world. So impressive are the results, this solar solution is being promoted more and more by world leaders to combat the effects of climate change. Scientific studies have proved its effectiveness in helping different crops grow.

South Korea, East Africa, Kenya, and France are some of the countries practicing Agrivoltaic farming. The system may seem land-consuming, but the researchers had already come up with a way to solve the issue.

An Agrivoltaic farm setup means that the crops are grown underneath the solar panels, which are positioned two to three meters above. This helps retain moisture that would have otherwise evaporated and the panels can also serve as protection from destructive weather.

As the population rises, we must find ways to keep everyone healthy and fed. Agrivoltaic farming will likely play a huge role in this being possible in compliance with nature’s rules.

Final Thoughts

Overall, solar panels are advantageous in countless ways and have already contributed to making our planet a better place. But we have a long way to go, and the plant is on track for certain doom unless we make changes now. Scientists, corporations, and governments must implement new applications for different types of solar panels to further improve our planet’s wellness if we are to have a chance.

See Related: Best Solar Panels for Greenhouse

FAQ

How long do solar panels last?

Household rooftop solar with entry-level quality will last for 20–30 years. Make sure that the brand is trusted and proven.

Do solar panels need maintenance?

Yes. Everything needs maintenance. However, solar panels require relatively little maintenance without affecting their performance.

Are solar panels eco-friendly?

Some factors may make solar panels not as eco-friendly as we expect them to be, like the materials and process for their construction. Manufacturers have recommended ideas to recycle the parts that don’t decay properly. That said, they are the most eco-friendly form of energy generation compared to virtually every other method.

Do solar panels work in rainy weather?

Solar panels will work in any weather but decrease their energy output on cloudy days. On a rainy day, your solar panels’ energy output may be reduced by 15% to 20%.

How many solar panels are needed to run a house?

The number of solar panels needed to run a house will depend on how big the home is, how high or low its electricity consumption is and the quality and efficiency of the panels and energy conversion system. A typical house with 1500 square feet will need approximately 15–18 solar panels.

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