Residential solar power is booming in the United States. Last year, the number of solar instillations in the U.S. hit 1 million—impressive, when you consider that there were just 30,000 solar homes 10 years ago. And consumer interest is soaring: a 2015 survey showed that 6 million Americans are now considering solar for their homes.
But not all homes (or bank accounts) can accomodate solar panels. Happily, there are other ways to tap into solar power. Here are five ways to go solar—no panels required.
(On just a quarter-acre of land, you can produce fresh, organic food for a family of four—year-round. Rodale's The Backyard Homestead shows you how; get your copy today.)
Sunport Solar Power Converter
The Sunport harnesses rays to charge any device that plugs in, regardless of whether you have access to panels. The Sunport measures your device’s energy use and then purchases the equivalent amount of energy from certified solar farms. $60; sunport.co
Even apartment dwellers can tap into the sun’s power. With solar sharing, you lease a panel in a garden run by a commercial operator, or buy power from a solar farm partnering with a utility The producers feed power to the electrical grid, adding back the juice you take. Solar typically costs less than conventional power, and the environmental benefits are real. And if you move, you’re not stuck in a lease or with rooftop panels you can’t take with you.
Lattis Ellipse Solar Powered Bike Lock
Photograph courtesy of Amazon.com
The sun-powered Ellipse pairs with your smartphone so you can open your bike lock without a key. It uses your phone’s accelerometer, an internal doodad that measures when and how your phone moves, to detect theft and crashes and sends you or one of your “trusted contacts” an alert. Twelve hours of solar charging gives you six months of power. $199, Amazon.com
Carry your stuff and charge your phone, or any USB-connected device, with a Boost backpack from BirkSun. Its rain-resistant fabric comes in six colors, and the attached solar panels are waterproof so you can take it on even your most adventurous outings. Four to five hours of sun exposure will load the built-in battery with enough power to fully charge a smartphone. $99-$144; birksun.com
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