4 Solar Upgrades for Your Back Yard
By Timothy Johnson
Making your back yard more “green” doesn’t only mean maintaining a lush and healthy lawn. While a nice lawn literally makes your backyard more green, sprucing it up with practical solar gadgets like these is a fun, easy, and affordable way to add green in the environmentally friendly sense as well.
With the invention of the solar cell, lighting and charging directly from the sun’s energy is safe and easy. And when it comes to revamping your backyard, solar lighting isn’t limited to just lighting up garden paths. Interior and exterior décor trends are getting more and more eco-friendly, giving you more options to make changes that are better for the environment (not to mention your electricity bill).
A Quick Lesson on How Solar Cells Work
A solar photovoltaic cell (or PV cell) converts sunlight into a direct electrical current. The cell itself is made from several layers. Two layers of semiconductor material (typically crystalline silicon) are “doped” with other elements (often boron and phosphorous) to create positively and negatively charged sub-layers. As photons from the sun strike the cell, electrons are knocked free from the negatively charged region and move through the positively charged region and into a metallic contact grid, where they flow as direct current (DC) electricity that can be harnessed. The electrons ultimately feed back into the negatively charged region of the semiconductor material, allowing the process to repeat itself for as long as photons of sufficient energy continue to strike the cell.
There are many different things solar cells can be used for as a source of light or energy. Here a few household and backyard applications of solar PV you may not have heard of.
A surface pump is designed to remove water from water sources like ponds, tanks, springs, or shallow wells. Most surface pumps are rotary vane pumps or diaphragm pumps, and many operate simply and inexpensively on DC power (i.e. directly from a solar panel).
Surface pumps also make for an eco-conscious solution for water use when it comes to garden and lawn care. All you have to do is connect the pump to your sprinkler system to allow you to use your surface water supply instead of the municipal water service – which of course saves you money on your water bills. As LawnStarter Lawn Care suggests, “this is a great way to collect water and disperse throughout your yard while adhering to any local watering restrictions.”
Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern
This inflatable solar lantern displays eight relaxing colors of light through an elegant frosted matte finish. It can be used to liven up a party atmosphere around your fire pit or pool (it can even go in the pool since it’s waterproof and buoyant). It can also create a peaceful spot if you just want to relax in your yard.
The high-efficiency built-in solar panel is placed in direct sunlight, and the rechargeable lithium-ion battery fully recharges in 7 hours.
Solar Fountain Kit
If you enjoy the sound of trickling water from a fountain but hate tripping over the cord that powers its pump, consider this solar-powered backyard fountain kit. It will power a small fountain or a birdbath with a pump that moves 33 gallons of water per hour. It comes with its own unbreakable, weatherproof solar panel and 3 fountain head attachments for a variety of spray shapes that can reach up to 17″ high when the solar panel is receiving full sun.
Solar Battery Charger
This is a great little device for charging household batteries with solar power. It holds eight rechargeable batteries, two of each size of D, C, AA, AAA and charges them at 150mA at 5 volts. There’s a built-in, adjustable stand so that you can place the integrated solar panel toward the sunlight for the optimal charging angle. It has a built-in meter on top of the charger that keeps track of each battery as it charges, and a diode blocks current when there isn’t any sunlight so the batteries stay charged.
Timothy Johnson is a green living and landscaping expert. He can often be found hiking with his two dogs or in the lavish garden he curates in his backyard.