How to Make Your Own Power

by Little House on 11 August 2011 10 comments
Photo: Hans Pama

Have you ever wondered how to power your home, small electronics, or a generator using natural resources? I know I have. Countless times I've forgotten to charge my cell phone and wished I had a solar powered source to trickle-charge it throughout the day. While riding my bike I've pondered how to harness my own pedal-power and charge a laptop, especially when I'm no where near an outlet. Generating your own power isn't just a lofty thought anymore; today there are a plethora of products that make it possible. (See also: Houses You Can Build Yourself)

Solar Power

One of the most abundant sources of energy available to us is solar power. The sun's rays create more energy in one hour than the entire world uses in one year. Though solar panels have gone through years of improvements, today portable solar devices such as the Solio can charge small electronics within a few hours or help extend battery life by giving them solar-powered boosts. Larger solar chargers are also available through a few different vendors.

Want to power your home off the sun's rays? Home solar panels can help reduce your dependence on other energy. If you produce more energy than you need, some solar systems allow you to store your energy for a cloudy day or sell it back to your utility company. Not only are you saving energy; you could be profiting off it as well.

Many everyday items also have solar panels built right into them that can charge small electronics, like the Voltaic Solar Backpack, cell phones such as Samsung's touch-phone Blue Earth, computer keyboards and mice, calculators, outdoor lighting, and bicycles from Thera-P Products in Toronto to name a few.

Water Power

Much of the electricity I purchase through our utility company is created at Hoover Dam's hydroelectric plant. But did you know you can create your own hydroelectric energy if you have a constant water supply, like a lake or stream, near your house? An example of this in action is Judy of the Woods in Wales. Using micro-hydro turbines, she turned her nearby springs into a source of energy.

There are also water-powered gadgets such as clocks, calculators, or radios. However, I owned a water-powered clock a few years ago and couldn't get it to work. Maybe the newer products hold their charge better.

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Wind Power

The concept of wind power via a windmill isn't new; it's been around for over 1,000 years. Yet today's personal windmills are mostly used on farms and ranches to pump water or mill grain. This doesn't have to be the case. Depending on your community's rules and regulations, you can erect your very own windmill to generate power to your home or to pump your well water. Smaller windmills can be used to aerate a pond or other stagnant water sources as well.

The key to erecting a windmill boils down to where you live; the less dense the population, the less likely you'll have neighbors complaining about the towering structure.

Animal Power

Almost exclusively seen on farms or ranches, work horses can pump water while exercising or charge a generator by walking in a circle. Though this might not be an option for most people, animals can generate about 5-10 times the amount of energy that people do.

Human Power

Many small electronics now come in hand-crank versions: radios, flashlights, generators, even washing machines. You simply crank or squeeze the handle and the energy from your own body charges the item's batteries; it's simple and effective.

Want your legs to do all the work? Pedal-A-Watt turns just about any bicycle into a stationery generating machine. Charge your cell phone, laptop, or iPod while pedaling, or connect it to a PowerPak for later use. You can even find plans on the web to build your own pedal-powered generator.

Charging my cell phone or laptop on the road no longer seems as baffling as it once did since I can choose from various clean, self-powered energy sources.

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Guest's picture

I've been really wanted to put solar panels on my house, and I was told it would cost around $67 a month for 15 years. I would be saving around $100 a month, so I'm starting to think it might be worth it. I'm not sure how it will affect my house value though. Any ideas?

Little House's picture

That's a good question. I would think that some potential home buyers would love it, and others would think it was an eye-sore. It really depends on how you would market the benefits of solar power to an existing buyer. If you are saving $100 a month, it's a definite up-sell!

Guest's picture

Thank you for the info! My wife and I were just talking about this the other day. I think we're going to purchase a push-mower (old school style with no engine or solar, just blades turning with a push) soon for our yard and make some other improvements to cut back on our carbon footprint.

Little House's picture

@Life and My Finances - Human power is a low carbon footprint, and great exercise. Good luck on that push-mower!

Guest's picture

It's pretty awesome, the power that we have at out disposal if we just take the time and resources to tap into it. The industry has come a long way in the last few years, and it'll be interesting to see what happens over the next few years as oil becomes more and more expensive.

Little House's picture

@Beating Broke - There have been some huge improvements in solar power sources, like the smaller Solio's or solar powered backpacks. They are a great way to trickle charge small electronics. I'm curious as well what will happen over the next few years.

Guest's picture

Currently, I live in a townhouse, but I would love to get off the electrical grid. Someday, I hope to either build or convert a home to meet those objectives. Living in southern California, I would probably use solar power on the roof to heat the water and provide electricity/heat.

Guest's picture

We would love to cut our dependence on the power grid. Thanks for the info.

Guest's picture

I saw that there are companies that now lease solar equipment. If it generates enough power you end up saving. My BF and I are seriously looking at it. We want to get off our grid dependency.

Guest's picture
Forest

I'd love to be able to power all my stuff. I run a lot so it would be great to carry a battery pack that could charge off my kinetic energy, I did hear a while back about clothese that may be able to collect static caused by friction from running and walking so maybe I should look into these.