Using more energy from renewable sources is an important strategy for nations, governments and individuals but, as a householder, you may be put off by the cost of solar heating systems. If you have do-it-yourself skills, however, you can try out several small-scale solar energy projects that are relatively easy to do. Achieving even the most basic will save you money and will add to your quality of life.
A Hot Water Garden Tap
If you have ever been sorting out the garden on a cold day you will know the misery of having to wash tools or just your hands in the cold water from the outside tap before you can get inside to clean off properly with some lovely hot water. One solar DIY project that is simple and such a great idea is to modify a solar shower and make it into a hot water tap for the garden. Solar showers are available from camping and outdoor shops for a few pounds – they have been developed to heat water for washing up and showers for people who go camping or caravanning in remote spots.
The shower, as purchased, consists of a black bag with solar panels, which is filled with water and placed in the sun. After a few hours of sunlight, the water inside is nice and hot. This works well for camping in summer, but when the weather gets a bit colder, it is less effective. For the canny gardener, removing the shower bits and replacing with a simple hose connector and putting the bag in the greenhouse is a perfect way to get warm water in the garden most of the year round. The days it doesn’t work as its freezing, you probably won’t be gardening anyway.
Solar Lighting for the Shed
If you have a garden shed away from the house, lighting it can be a problem. If you need to go and find something in there after dark, this usually means fumbling around with a torch. A slightly more complex DIY project is to set up a solar-powered lighting system for the shed that will run a fairly substantial light bulb, or even two, to give very good lighting for short periods. Kits are available that contain the solar panels, which go on the roof of the shed, facing south if possible, the wiring necessary and very low energy 12 volt LED spotlights. You need a bit of knowledge of wiring, but the kit will provide basic instructions. No need for wires from the house, and no more searching for the torch next time you want to find a tool.
Making a Solar Generator
Another option if you want to light a bigger shed, a summerhouse or a garage that is away from the house, or if you just want more environmentally friendly lighting and heating in your normally traditionally powered garage, why not build a solar generator? As well as being cheap to run, the other main advantage of a solar generator is that it is completely silent in operation. If you do already have need of a diesel or petrol powered generator for emergencies, you will know only too well that the noise these make can be very intrusive.
Again, all the materials you need to make a solar generator come in kit form, but you will need some knowledge of wiring and be able to fix up the kit. You can either make a fixed generator or a portable one, which houses smaller solar panels in a carrying pack about the size of a large briefcase. This can be transported easily and taken on caravanning holidays or camping to provide heat and lighting.