Solar Gadgets on the Homestead
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get portable, renewable power
By Alexis Griffee
Often times, solar power is viewed as a desired, yet unaffordable option to the farmer and homesteader. While a full solar system may not be in the budget for every farmer, there are still numerous ways that solar can be an asset to your farm without breaking a budget!
Due to the huge interest in renewable energy, many companies have branched out from traditional large systems to offer affordable smaller solar products. These products, while not all directly marketed to the farmer and homesteader, have a lot to offer to this way of life. These affordable and useful solar energy options are often overlooked.
SOLAR FENCE CHARGERS
Probably one of the most versatile and practical solar items for the farm is the solar fence charger. Solar fence chargers are an amazing, and affordable, asset to any farm and can be used in a variety of ways! Regardless of the size of your farm or homestead, the uses for solar fence chargers are endless. Aside from the obvious benefit of being able to have standard electric fence in an area where there is no power, these chargers offer other options to farmers.
Solar chargers also have a variety of uses off of the homestead. Trail riders often will set up portable corrals for their horses for the evening or when not riding. Traditionally, this required the use of heavy and cumbersome metal panels. Aside from taking up valuable space while you travelled, they also were very hard to manage, especially if you were on your own. Due to this, many people have started carrying solar fence chargers and electric fencing as a part of their normal camping and travel gear. Not only will the electric fence help to keep animals in, but predators out.
Back on the homestead, solar fence chargers can also be of great benefit to those without livestock as well. Gardeners know all too well the pain of losing valuable crops to pests, whether they are rabbits or deer. For the gardener plagued with these issues, solar chargers can be used to power electric nets to keep rabbits, dogs, and even deer out when combined with electric net fencing. On a similar note, beekeepers also use the combination of a solar charger and electric net fencing to protect their hives. These fences have even been known to keep a hungry bear from raiding beehives! The options with a solar fence charger and electric net fencing are virtually endless to the crafty and innovative homesteader!
SOLAR PHONE CHARGER
Another fantastic solar tool for the homesteader is the solar cell phone charger. Farmers often will spend all day working and generally, the charge on their cell phone is not at the top of their list of priorities! While a farmer or homesteader probably will not be using their cellular phone for games and social media, it is a vital tool for safety. Especially when working alone or with equipment, accidents can happen. Having a means to notify help can be a matter of life and death. Additionally, if you are in an area without good cellular coverage, the battery on your phone will be drained faster since it has to constantly search for a signal. Solar cellular phone chargers are great to keep in your vehicles, or on the tractor, ATV or even in your saddlebags. Costing around $20 to $40 each, solar cellular phone chargers are a great piece of equipment to own for added assurance.
SOLAR BATTERY CHARGER
Power tools are required for maintenance on the homestead. For those with larger parcels of land, this can be problematic, as they are needed where there is no electricity available. Even a fully-charged, battery-powered tool will not be able to handle a full day’s worth of use without recharging. Instead of having to run back to the home front and wait for your battery to recharge, a solar charging panel is a great option. With all of the recent advancements in solar technology, these panels are available in standard form, but also foldable for those that are short on space or may need to pack them to their locations.
The portable charging panels also have a variety of other uses. Far beyond just charging power tools, the options for these portable panels are virtually endless. They can be used to charge and power GPS systems, cell phones, computers, and numerous other small electric devices. Similarly, some panels are actually designed to plug into your vehicle or tractor. These are proven to work to help vehicles with weak batteries or starting problems. Many farmers are now keeping these systems on hand for just these instances. Depending on the size and specifications of the panels, they range in price at about $50 to $150.
SOLAR WEATHER RADIO
It is no secret that weather is vital to a farmer and homesteader. Knowing what the weather has in store for you each day is important, but weather has a habit of not sticking to the forecast and changing quickly.
Due to this, weather radios are an important tool for a farmer. Long days of work in the fields or pastures may take you away from typical weather alert sources like televisions, internet and a typical radio. Having a solar weather alert radio allows you to stay connected and informed no matter where your work takes you.
SOLAR LIGHTING FOR BARN
Farmers are no strangers to slogging to the barn at all hours of the night. Whether it is to make sure that the crops get in on time, calm an unsettled animal or to check on livestock that is due, late night barn visits are common. Depending on the location, running power to your barn may not always be feasible. It is in situations like this where you can really benefit from solar lighting. Aside from releasing you from dependency on the power grid, solar lighting can save you a lot compared to the cost of running power and then paying for your usage. With a wide range of solar lighting options, you will have plenty to choose from! Solar lighting is available in everything from pathway lights, overhead lighting and flood and security lights, all at a minimal cost!
On a similar note, late night journeys to the barn are easily lit up with the use of solar powered head lamps and flashlights. Starting at only $14, these are both great items to keep on hand at all times. Even if you do not trek outside at night often, these can be invaluable in emergency situations. Whether you lose power and cannot find batteries, or keep them in your vehicle’s emergency kit, these are yet another affordable and versatile solar option.
SOLAR GATE OPENER
While it may not be as versatile as some of the other solar gadgets, the solar gate opener is a welcome addition to any farm! Kids and all those who ride in the passenger’s seat will rejoice at no longer having to get out and manually open gates. Aside from saving you from the great debate of whose turn it is to open the gate, these can be wonderful niceties to have. Solar gates come with numerous options depending on your preferences and gate size. From remotes to open and close it to opening out, or up, there are solar gate options to fit all farms and their needs. More than simply a nicety, solar gates actually have practical purposes for safety too. These can be wonderful tools for the instances where livestock may accidently get out of their pasture and you cannot make it to the gate before them. Additionally, if you need to be opening gates in violent thunderstorms, it is always safer to not have to grab onto a metal gate yourself! Furthermore, for security, solar gates will only open with a code so people will ill intentions cannot simply unclip a gate and walk away with your possessions.
Possibly the most versatile solar gadget is a solar generator. The advancements in solar generators are astounding and they now range greatly in size and strength. Although costlier than the other solar gadgets, solar generators range in price from $200 to $7,500, depending on the size and options that you need. Each generator has unique qualities that are very customizable to your situation. The higher priced generators will have more capabilities with what they can power.
Before choosing a solar generator, you need to decide what exactly you hope to accomplish with it. If you want to have power for a few select items in your barn, you will not need one as large, and as expensive, as one that will connect to your home and power large appliances. Defining exactly what your needs are will save you money and time when choosing the product that is right for your situation.
Many smaller solar generators are portable, but still capable enough to power larger devices. However, if your goal is not to power tools and equipment, but your own home items in an emergency, there are generators for that as well. These generators are quickly becoming a “must have” option for areas that have to deal with natural disasters on a frequent basis. In the south where hurricanes can knock out power for weeks at a time, and gas can be scarce, these are a simple choice and one that people are turning to successfully.
While you may not be ready to go completely off grid yet, there are still several affordable ways to decrease your dependency on the power grid. Many of the smaller solar options currently available now offer some outstanding benefits to the farmer and homesteader. No matter what, you cannot go wrong when you are utilizing a tool that not only makes your life easier, but it is easy on your pocket book and benefits the environment.
With the advances in solar engineering, the availability of products and lower prices, this peace of mind truly is affordable for those of all budgets.