Solar panels can be installed on your home and save you thousands a year in energy. However, your house is not the only place they can be applied. You can save money and help preserve the environment by using solar panels in a number of outside-the-home applications.

1. Cell Phones

Some smartphone cases come with solar panels on the back. When the panel faces the sun, it can generate electricity and charge your phone. It’s ideal for those who spend a lot of time on the road or doing outdoor recreation.

2. Boating

It sounds like something from a science fiction novel, but some boats have been designed to run entirely on solar panels and accessories. There’s no need for fuel or oil because the electricity generated by the sun alone can operate everything from the motor to the appliances on board. This technology continues to develop, and there are now some boats that can go on long-range trips without using any harmful fossil fuels.

3. Camping Gear

Rather than letting your car idle while camping so your devices can charge, you can use solar energy. There are a number of solar-friendly devices designed just for campers, including solar-powered tents, charging stations, cook stoves and more. There’s no more need for propane tanks.

4. Flashlights

Say goodbye to expensive batteries that can explode and pollute the environment. Instead, you can simply leave your flashlight outside or near a window where it will store solar energy for use in an emergency or just when you’re trying to see in the dark.

5. Charging Stations

There are dozens of portable solar panel chargers. They won’t generate enough power to run a household appliance, but you can easily charge your laptop, camera or tablet while on the go. Many of these can be attached to the outside of your purse or bag so they gather the sun’s rays while you’re out and about.

6. Heated Pools

Most homes with a pool experience a lot of sun. Therefore, it makes total sense to use the sun’s energy to heat the pool. Solar panels can easily be installed onto the pool’s cover or insulated pool sheets that retain heat in the water. You could also use solar tubes that heat the pool much like you would normally heat the water, but through solar power instead of gas or electricity.

7. Wearables

Needing to charge your wearable devices has always been limiting. No one likes to take off their fitness tracker every few days to charge it, especially when it leads to inaccurate data in the long run. That’s why makers of these devices are looking into solar-powered devices that collect and store energy from the sun when worn outside.

8. Public Transit

Cities are constantly examining smart grid initiatives, including their transportation systems, for solar opportunities. They’re using photovoltaic (PV) energy to partially power trains, subways, buses, cars, planes and even roadways. It’s a bright new world with incredible possibilities in energy.

9. Outdoor Solar Lighting

Cities, commercial properties and residential areas can all benefit from outdoor solar lighting. All it takes is a small solar panel hooked to a lamppost. It essentially circumvents the need for grid electricity at night, saving individuals and cities thousands of dollars.

10. Thermal Energy

Have you ever needed a space heater while camping or on a long trip, but didn’t have an energy source? Now you can get a solar-powered space heater to be used anywhere you go. You can also get solar water heaters so you can take a warm shower on a campout.

11. Solar Signs

Any sign that uses flashing lights or backlighting, such as school zone signs or billboards, can now be operated using solar panels. This significantly reduces the cost of these signs while greatly reducing the overall carbon footprint.

A cleaner world is just around the corner. These incredible uses of solar power can reduce our environmental impact one charger at a time.

Read More:
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A Bright Future? Yes, with These Solar Power Technologies

By Jenna Cyprus

Jenna is a freelance writer and business consultant who covers business, technology and entrepreneurship. She's lectured for several universities and worked with more than 100 businesses over the course of the past 15 years. She's a mother of two kids, and loves to go camping, hiking and skiing with her family.