A great variety of Solar Lamps/Lanterns:
Solar Lanterns are the most common solar gadgets. They come in various sizes and brightness levels. They are portable and rechargeable through solar power (most of them can be recharged by AC power too). Some of them have option of mobile charger too.
Solar lanterns can be great replacement for kerosene/gas lamps/lanterns. For the people living in cities, they may be seen as just another emergency light. But, for the poor or people in villages, they could mean ‘more light, no smoke, no fuel cost and less fire accidents’. Hawkers/street side vendors, people who start work in the farms before sunrise (eg. flower collectors) and fishermen going into sea by boats etc. can greatly get benefited using these.
The cost of a Solar lantern depends on the backup time (more the backup time, bigger the battery and more the cost), the light used (LED light is more durable, gives more backup time, but more costly), the brightness and the power of the solar panel provided. Then, some of them are 120 degree flash lights and some are 360 degree lights.
I have gathered 6 different solar lanterns starting from 1W LED to 23W CFL. Some of them give a backup of just 2-3 hours, but some last for as long as 10-12 hours with one complete charge. They come with anywhere between 1W-10W solar panels. The cost is anywhere between Rs.1500 to Rs.7000 (the big, bright one with 10W panel). I have recently seen a small one that costs less than Rs.1000 and hoping to get that one soon.
Unfortunately, many people often compare these prices with battery lights or rechargeable emergency lights (which will cost under Rs.1000 most of the time). But, I hope readers of this post can appreciate the difference.
Solar table fan:
This is not so widely available in India. They cost from Rs.3500 to Rs.10,000 based on the size and the panels provided along with them. My parents like them very much, especially when there are power cuts (our native place is a hot area and we get power cuts during mid summer and when we are about to sleep).
Apart from working as emergency purpose, these fans are very good in terms of power savings too. They consume only 7W power compared to 80W taken by a ceiling fan. I use them in my house in Bangalore too instead of ceiling fans and they are saving me power bills around Rs.50/month. Secondly they are completely portable with no cords hanging out. Of course, the downside is the low air output (this one is a bit less than one feet diameter fan compared to regular 2-3’ fans) and high cost (you can get a regular fan for as low as Rs.700).
But, again, if I know that I am reducing the carbon footprint by 80%, I feel ok to spend an extra Rs.3000 to have this cool looking product.
These are useful for people who need to go out in hot summer. From the picture you can see that there is a little fan attached to the cap and a tiny solar panel on the top. The fan rotates when you are out in sunlight. This could be very useful for the people going for trekking or for the people sitting in a stadium, watching a game. I never got a chance to use it personally. Costs Rs.250.
If you want to make more impact, there are solutions you can use in your home. Eg. you can convert some or all of your lights/fans/television to run on Solar power. This way, you will never need to miss your favorite TV show due to power cuts.
Serious attempts are being made to use solar technology to run pump sets for agriculture. Some are successful too. But, we still need to wait for a little while before farmers start using them and stop depending on the government power supply.
Other cool products I am yet to find:
There are several other very cool solar products. I am in the process of checking where I can buy them in India.
- Solar backpack: You can charge whatever is inside (mobile, laptop, just batteries).
- Solar Air Conditioner: I talked to one guy from Gujarat, who was manufacturing these. They cost around Rs.50K/piece, they run partially on Solar power and partially on AC. He claimed that it will reduce the power consumption, especially in offices, by 40%.
- Mini Solar water heater pack: I bought a sample from US. This one is like a plastic bag with a capacity of 3 liters. We need to fill it with water and leave it in sun for 2-3 hours, you almost get boiling water. It costed me $20+shipping, but the same can be manufactured in India for Rs.150/piece with a small investment. I thought this could be “poor man’s solar water heater”. Just buy 5-6 such pieces and a 20 liter insulated container (everything under Rs.3,000), you get 15-20 liters of near boiling water ready everyday.
- Solar Car Air Conditioning: This is one of my dream products. The technology is available, but not the product. This will convert the heat from Sun into the cold breeze inside the car. The hotter outside, the colder inside !
- Solar Water pump: Serious attempts are being made to use solar technology to run pump sets for agriculture. Some are successful too. But, we still need to wait for a little while before farmers start using them and stop depending on the government power supply.
- Solar TV: I am badly looking for this. All I need is a TV that runs on DC power and that is highly energy efficient. Please let me know if any of you come across such TV. Converting that to Solar can be done relatively easily.
If you are planning to buy any of the cool products mentioned above, you can do so from www.indosolmart.com.
Author of this article is Raghavendra Ijjada, who is experimenting with Solar Energy. See the first post of this series for more info. In the mean while if any of you are looking to author a guest post here on a topic that interests you, feel free to contact me.