8 cool solar products for your home: buyer’s guide

Sunshine. Solar products
Photo by armaggesin via Flickr

Free, clean power from the sun now powers products literally everywhere. You don’t have to put solar panels on your roof to take advantage of solar power. In fact, you can carry some solar products with you, and others can even stay indoors! 

I went to a store to look for a digital clock that displayed seconds. The clerk who helped me find the clocks immediately noticed a solar clock and wondered why anyone would buy a clock they had to keep outside. Well, I bought it, and it didn’t take long for the lamps in my living room to start it working. 

The technically correct term for this kind of product is photovoltaic, but who wants to say and write that all the time? So we call them solar products or solar gadgets even if they don’t get sunlight on them even through a window. 

Inventors have come up with dozens of cool solar gadgets to make your life easier and amaze your friends. Here are a few to get you started. Let’s start with some you use outside, under the sun. 

Solar phone charger/camping charger from Big Blue

Take this versatile Big Blue solar charger on a camping trip or just out to the back porch and unfold it. It’s best to plug it into the wall to give it a full charge, but the solar panel will keep it charged. 

Meanwhile, it has three USB ports. Use it to charge any combination of phone, tablet, laptop, battery pack, digital camera, and more. It’s compatible with both Apple and Android products, but not with all the products of either. 

It has a hook that lets you easily attach it to your backpack. Or you can just spread it out on your lawn or picnic table or by the pool. It’s waterproof and splash proof, so don’t worry if it gets wet.

Don’t leave it out on sand, rock, or concrete, though. It will overheat.

Slim Solar Phone Charger BigBlue 24W Portable Solar Charger with 3 USB Ports(5V/4A Max Total) for Camping, Foldable SunPower Solar Panel for iPhone 11/Xs/X/8/7, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel etc.

Solar backpack from ECEEN

When people see you with this solar backpack from ECEEN, they’ll know that you’re into both the environment and technological innovation. Such personal and visible solar products might even start some meaningful conversations. 

This roomy backpack has plenty of compartments for maps, documents, electronic devices, and other essential gear for hiking or other outdoor activities. Or for students, room for textbooks and all but the largest laptops. It also has a detachable 7-watt solar panel that’s scratch-resistant and weather-resistant.

Use its USB port to charge your phone, GPS system, Bluetooth speakers, MP3 players, battery packs, and more—but not a laptop computer. The rip-resistant, water-resistant fabric makes it ideal for heavy outdoor use.

Be careful when ordering, though. Different colors have different features, and not all include the solar panel. Some include a bladder bag so you can carry water without having to pack a separate water bottle. So choose the one that best suits your need. 

Solar Backpack 7W Solar Panel Charge For Cell Phones and 5V Device Power Supply from ECEEN Electronics Limited

Solar Bluetooth speaker from Eton

Enjoy your music wherever you happen to be. This solar powered Eton Rugged Ruckus Bluetooth speaker charges in direct sunlight in less than five hours. It also charges with a USB cable. Then it can play music—or the news from a radio station––for eight hours. 

And while it plays, you can power your phone or other devices through its USB port. So if you’re drawing music from apps on your Bluetooth-enabled phone, the phone won’t run out of power before the speaker does. 

(It’s not a regular charger, though. It only brings a phone to 87% charge and does not charge larger items such as tablets. Also, charging a phone takes a lot of power, so it will reduce the length of time it can operate on a single charge.) 

It comes with a USB cable so you can play it through a computer. You can also plug it into the wall, but you need to buy an adapter to do it. 

Besides Bluetooth, it also has a regular audio jack. Besides a phone, it works with an iPod. It’s water resistant, so don’t worry about rain or getting it splashed at a pool, but on the other hand, it’s not water proof. Don’t submerge it.

Eton Rugged Rukus Rechargeable & Solar Powered Wireless Bluetooth Sound System & Smartphone Charger

Solar security lights from Hyperikon

It has become more important than ever for children to learn STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). And learning them has become much more fun than when most of us were in school. Sillbird’s STEM 12-in-1 solar robot toy is a very popular kit that can make twelve different solar robots, six at each of two levels of complexity.

Since it’s solar, you’ll never need to hunt for batteries. On the other hand, it’s strictly an outdoor toy in sunny weather. It’s possible to build the robots indoors, of course, but they won’t do anything without the solar panel charging them. They operate both on land and water

The kit comes with 190 pieces. It’s intended for children at least eight years old. The pieces present a choking hazard for very young children, so adult supervision is critically important. 

Fortunately, making the robots together can be a great bonding experience between parents and children. Just don’t assume that assembly will be easy. It might take a couple of hours to complete your first robot. Once you get the hang of it, the next ones should go together with less trouble. 

Besides STEM subjects, this kit helps children develop imagination, fine motor skills, teamwork, and confidence. 

Sillbird STEM 12-in-1 Education Solar Robot Toys -190 Pieces DIY Building Science Experiment Kit for Kids Aged 8-10 and Older,Solar Powered by The Sun

Solar pathway lights from Gigalumi

You and your guests can safely walk at night and easily see steps or anything left lying on the ground with these solar pathway lights from Gigalumi. Illuminate your driveways and sidewalks with no wiring. 

These lights have glass lenses in a brass housing. Only the stakes are plastic. Some users report trouble moving them if they don’t like where they put them in the first place, but at least one user has drilled holes in a wooden fence and mounted them there. And if you can find metal stakes, you can use them instead of the plastic. Considering that so many pathway lights are all plastic, that doesn’t seem like too much of an imposition. 

When these lights come on, they cast a pretty pattern on the ground. And the light doesn’t project upward to shine in your windows or contribute to light pollution. It’s bright enough so you can see where you’re going, but not at all harsh. Your property will look great at night.

These are only two of a number of outdoor solar LED lights you will find handy.

GIGALUMI Solar Pathway Lights Outdoor, 6 Pcs Super Bright High Lumen Solar Powered LED Garden Lights for Lawn, Patio, Yard.

Solar NOAA radio from JALL

In emergencies, you need to keep informed of what the weather is doing, but it’s hard when the power goes out. That’s why you need a NOAA radio that doesn’t need to be plugged in. 

This NOAA radio from JALL can be charged with a USB port, a hand crank, or a built-in solar panel. It’s probably not best to use the solar panel as the primary way to charge it, but when the storm has passed and the power hasn’t returned, solar products like this will certainly give you peace of mind. 

It will come on with weather alerts. The earlier you receive alerts, the more time you have to prepare to act on them.

Not only does it find weather stations, but it also has an AM/FM radio, a bright flashlight with three settings, an alarm, a motion sensor, a reading lamp, and a phone charger. So if you can’t charge your phone from your wall socket, you can use this radio.  

You don’t need to wait for an emergency to use it. If you like to listen to the radio while you shower, for example, this one is perfect. It’s also great to take camping. For a device with so many features, it is not large. That is, it won’t take up too much space in an emergency kit or backpack.

Emergency Solar Hand Crank Portable
Weather Radio, with AM FM WB, 3 LED Flashlights, Motion Sensor, Reading Lamp, SOS Alarm, 4000mAH Rechargeable Battery USB Charger

Solar atomic clock from LaCrosse Technology

Here’s the clock I mentioned earlier. 

Just as “solar clock” isn’t precisely accurate, neither is “atomic clock.” The actual atomic clocks are precision scientific instruments, and only a few exist. The official clock in the US is located in Boulder Colorado. It sends out a radio signal. The clock you buy is actually a radio-controlled clock that detects that signal and sets itself automatically. But isn’t “atomic” easier to say than “radio-controlled”? Not all atomic clocks are also solar products, but the combination is a good one.

So you need to set your solar atomic clock from LaCrosse Technology to your local time zone. After a few minutes, it will detect the radio signal from Colorado and set itself. You won’t need to do anything more, because it even switches between standard and daylight saving time automatically. It’s a digital display, including seconds.

La Crosse Technology WT-8112U-BK Solar

It also displays the indoor temperature (in your choice of Fahrenheit or Celsius) and humidity. For some reason, it also has an alarm/snooze alarm, although it’s too big to fit on a nightstand. You can mount it on the wall or pull out two tabs on the bottom to keep it on a shelf, countertop, or other surface. 

You can use it with a rechargeable battery. In that case, the display is always on and you have to replace the battery from time to time. That means a delay in catching the radio signal to set itself. So the solar mode is best. It will only display the time in ample light. But then, if it’s too dark in the room to see the clock, you probably don’t need to. Just turn on a light, and it displays again.  

So long as the room is lit—either from daylight streaming in through windows or with lamps on––the solar panel will operate indefinitely. 

Solar computer keyboards from Logitech

Wireless keyboards are all the rage these days. You can charge them with a computer’s USB port, but then it isn’t wireless anymore, is it? Or you can use rechargeable batteries and risk having them stop working in the middle of a project. The best alternative? A solar keyboard. As with the solar clock, it works on whatever light happens to be in the room. 

Logitech makes solar keyboards for both Apple and Windows computers. Once the battery is charged, your keyboard will work in total darkness far longer than you’ll ever need to use it under those conditions.

If you have both Windows and Mac products and want to use the same keyboard with all of them, buy the Logitech solar computer keyboard for Mac. The heading on the page at Amazon says it’s Mac-friendly, but that must be a careless error since it’s a Mac-compatible keyboard in the first place. It’s PC-friendly, but, of course, it has the Apple keyboard layout.

The Logitech solar computer keyboard for PC appears to be more expensive than the Mac version.  It’s not, actually. Logitech chooses to include a mouse with the PC keyboard but not the Mac keyboard. And for some reason, it has chosen not to put an indicator light in the caps lock key, and some people find it annoying. Still, nearly every list of cool solar gadgets I have looked at includes Logitech’s keyboards. Lots of people love them. 

Logitech K750 Wireless Solar Keyboard for Mac — Solar Recharging, Mac-Friendly Keyboard, 2.4GHz Wireless – Silver

Logitech MK750 Wireless Solar Keyboard and Wireless Marathon Mouse Combo for PC
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