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Solar has quickly gone from being a green buzzword to a household necessity – and no wonder. Even if you aren't ready to install a full-on set of solar panels, or even a solar-powered hot water system, there are all sorts of ways you can harness the power of the sun. There's an ever-increasing range of products, from basic, budget-friendly solar lights that you can install yourself and use to illuminate parts of the garden, to relatively sophisticated gadgets such as security cameras. With positive effects on the environment (by reducing our reliance on fossil fuel energy) and reducing the impact on your hip pocket, there are plenty of reasons to explore solar-powered options.
As we're driven to fill our homes and gardens with great gadgets, solar power makes it easier than ever to bring our outdoor spaces into the now. A sundrenched backyard can soak up the benefits of solar energy, potentially using it to run motorised blinds for an outdoor room.
Using the power of the sun to – ironically – introduce shade is simple with solar-powered motorised blinds, says Carleen Rigas, sales and marketing coordinator for Coolaroo. “The blinds are solar powered for renewable energy and there is no hard wiring, so no electrician or tradesman required,” she explains. “Even on cloudy days, the solar panels still collect some charge, and the control lasts up to 72 hours without any sunlight. You can also charge the solar panel by facing lights – artificial light can still power a solar panel, though the best way is always direct sunlight.” Solar energy can also be used to power a pump to operate a water feature or a filter in a small pond. As no wiring is required, the added bonus is that you can site it just about anywhere in your garden. Bear in mind that because of the power needed to drive the pump, the panel will need to be positioned in full sunlight.
As soon as the sun goes down, good lighting can make or break your garden scheme, but hardwiring a whole system of garden lights is a big and potentially expensive job that's strictly for the professionals.
Solar lights are a fantastic alternative when your lighting scheme is lacking, says Gardenglo sales manager Jim Mavropoulos. “Powered by the sun, solar lights are free to run and can be installed almost anywhere as they don't require wiring,” he says. The range of solar lights is enormous, from practical path lights, bollards and deck lights to spotlights that can highlight statement trees and features. There are also all kinds of decorative lighting just for fun; and even solar numeral kits, which combine a solar panel with an illuminated panel over which you can place your house numbers, so guests can always find you, even in the dark. The only limitation with solar lights is that they do, obviously, require plenty of sunlight for maximum performance. But the good news is that, as no wiring is involved, they couldn't be easier to relocate should you get the placement wrong. If natural light is your thing, you can still benefit from solar energy; some skylights can also be plugged into a solar panel and operated remotely.
Spate of burglaries in the neighbourhood? Solar power enables homeowners to bump up their home's security in just a weekend. Small solar panels can be used to charge a security camera, meaning you can hook up the camera system yourself in minutes – no licensed sparkie required! – and you'll never have to worry about running out of batteries. Team your camera with a sensor-activated solar security light or two for added peace of mind.
Check out your local Bunnings and start going solar powered.