Whereas solar panels and bulky batteries are by far the most efficient way to power your home in a survival situation. , which they’re not the whole story. In this article, we will look at seven other ways to use solar energy in everyday life.

1. Fire starter

By increasing or concentrating sunlight, you can create a huge amount of heat.

YouTuber Grant Thompson used a Fresnel lens from an old rear projection TV to create a «Solar Scorcher» capable of temperatures up to 2000 F at focus.

You can get similar effects by concentrating solar energy at one point. YouTuber NightHawkInLight was trying to build a DIY telescope mirror, and came up with this parabolic fire starter instead.

While burning things with sunlight is a lot of fun, how about a practical use?

2. Cook up a storm

Cooking with sunlight eliminates the need to use the energy stored in fuel or batteries and, when done well, does not require exposure to sunlight at Sahara levels. There are already portable solar cookers available.

These constructs can be reproduced on your own, as Instructables user yasintoda shows us. This large parabolic mirror setup uses a wooden frame and cheap aluminum reflective tape to create an oven capable of cooking an hour’s worth of food using only sunlight.

parabolic over briefing
Image credit: yasintoda via Instructables

YouTuber Rich Allen designed a solar vacuum tube oven for something more portable. This design, which is commercially available as the GoSun Sport, is built using a vacuum tube from eBay and some simple parts available at a hardware store.

This video introduces you to the build concept and tests it to show the concept in action.

If you managed to get hold of an old Fresnel lens, you could turn it into a grill by focusing the light on a pan. This is a great alternative to barbecuing as there is less cleanup afterward and there are no burning embers.

Why not take this concept one step further by creating a variable temperature controlled cooking grill?

This is exactly what YouTuber John Solar 283™ created using scrap parts. What makes it different from other builds are the parts used. The welded metal frame is a reliable and durable alternative to a patio grill.

His YouTube video walks you through design and assembly before showing him in action to cook shrimp.

3. Cup of tea Anyone?

For a quicker and easier build, or an easy way to wait for a cup of tea when you need a break, consider a solar kettle.

There are many designs. While you can use any of the stoves listed above to boil water for you, Instructables user bprophetable has suggested a solar kettle that can completely eliminate the need for a lens or large reflector.

teapot black marble
Image credit: bprophetable via Instructables

Using a glass teapot or cup (make sure it’s safe for the heat) and the heat-absorbing properties of black glass marble, he created a teapot that can function using two ordinary mirrors. It’s a simple and easy to use idea and a great excuse to buy a lot of marble! Or you can just buy a solar kettle if you’re feeling lazy.

For a more survival-oriented idea, YouTuber Mad Science Hacks shows off a simple water treatment design using two plastic bottles and a piece of PVC pipe.

The water from the bottom bottle evaporates and condenses in the top bottle, which purifies it. However, it should be noted that this does not guarantee the complete safety of drinking water. This is strictly for survival situations!

4. Solar Spirits

If you’re in the mood for something stronger, Instructables’ Coctland user uses reflected sunlight to power the still. As they point out in the «Tutorial» while this is technically the same process used to create «moonshine», they strongly recommend against it. Instead, it is used to produce ethanol for fuel — they had to get a permit for that.

Solar Still’s design uses regular mirrors from a hardware store, along with some pipes and end caps from a brewer’s hobby shop.

solar fixed solar spirits
Image credit: cobergland via Instructables

Note: it may be illegal to make one of these in your area, and given that you produce flammable substances, distillation is not without risk. Make sure you know what you are doing in both cases before attempting this build!

5. Let there be light

The words «solar lighting» usually bring to mind LED batteries and solar panels. Although there are many reasons to use these settings, in some places this is not an option.

In recent years, a video has been circulating showing a simple DIY idea to get sunlight in dark places — using just a bottle, some water and bleach.

This was designed primarily with Manila’s slums in mind, although the design could be modified for use in outbuildings, sheds, and porches.

The concept is essentially the same as commercially available «solar tubes».

6-7. Heating and water

The principles described in this article can be applied much more. If you live in a place that receives sunlight but is usually cold, an air heater can help.

diy solar panels
Image Credit: Dr Drashco via freeonplate.com

The system works by stacking several cans of soda together with holes cut out at the top and bottom. Spray them on black to absorb more light, and any air passing through them will heat up significantly. You can use a small solar-powered fan to facilitate airflow, but if you mount them vertically, hot air should still rise naturally, drawing cold air in from below. Visit freeonplate.com for a detailed guide on how to build a DIY solar heating system using soda cans.

To further expand the concept of home heat generation, how about getting all your hot water from the sun? Gary Reisa of builditsolar.com has built a large scale solar water heating system for less than $1,000.

solar water heater house
Image Credit: Gary Reisa via builditsolar.com

The system pumps cold water through the collector panels and returns hot water to an insulated tank for later use. This extensive guide will walk you through the process of creating something like this. In addition to this, it gives alternate designs, subsequent system tweaks, and extensive performance data over time.

There are countless ways to use the energy of the sun in everyday life. Those wishing to move away from traditional food sources have never had more options. Maybe you dream of living completely off-grid, or maybe you just want to add some renewable DIY installations to your daily routine. By combining projects like the above with other forms of DIY renewable energy, you can get close even on a tight budget.

Are you using solar energy in an interesting or unusual way? Have you created a system that we did not cover in this article? We are interested in hearing about all kinds of DIY solar systems, post your ideas and creations in the comment section below!

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