I’m a huge fan of utilizing whatever I have around me and using the power of nature is no exception. I’ve mentioned in the past, however, that I’m not a very “out of the box” type of thinker so it helps me tremendously to have seen what can be done by others first. So, without further ado, here’s my top 5 ways I see you and I benefitting by putting sunlight to work for you:
1. Make Water Safe to Consume
Solar Water Disinfection (also known as SODIS) harnesses the ability of the sun to kill harmful water-borne pathogens and is, in my opinion, among the coolest ways to use the sunlight to your benefit. Granted, it’s not perfect and isn’t very useful for some pathogens like protozoa, but it should work quite well for most bugs you and I would need to be concerned about, including many bacteria and viruses.
For some reason I’m still amazed that this is possible and is–in all likelihood–something I never would have thought of on my own. Anyway, they say many third-world countries are using this technique with much success and I see no reason why we cannot as well. The process is quite simple using nothing more than clear 2-liter soda bottles, a bit of time, and a good sunny day. Reference How to Clean Water Using the Power of Sunlight – SODIS (and other article here [PDF File]) whic are both part of my “How to” Knowledge base.
2. Clean the Un-Cleanable
The reason why sunlight is so useful for making water safe to consume is because it has an uncanny ability to kill (or more precisely inactivate) harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Remember that there’s a reason why they say you should keep your long term food storage out of the sunlight and that is because the radiant energy speeds up certain chemical reactions (it’s called photodegradation) and I believe the same holds true for speeding up reactions that kill off un-wated micro-organisms like fungi.
For example, I recall a while back that we had a bathmat that ended up turning quite moldy on the underside because my kids like to get out of the bathtub sopping wet and basically drip-dry over the mat. Well, we weren’t aware of this problem and the mat turned moldy. Even after multiple washes and scrubbing with pure bleach, the mold seemed to persist. Then we decided to simply lay the mat out bottom-side-up for a few days and, believe it or not, the mold seemed to disappear… less a bit of discoloration.
3. Cook Food for Free
This is another one of my favorite reasons to rely on the sun’s power. Sure, you could go out a purchase a nice All-American Sun Oven (I have it’s predecessor) but you could also choose to makeshift one for cheap that works ok in a pinch. Reference How to Build a Cloned Solar Oven (and another article here) and I even linked to an article on A Solar Oven Made From an Old Tire that shows just how easy it can be. The best part is that you waste no fuel whatsoever cooking food or heating up water! It’s a win-win so long as you have a sunny day, and that is the catch: no sun=no power.
Regardless, I would suggest that for most people a sun oven is a must-have and if you can rely upon one for even a single meal a day then you will effectively extend your precious fuel resources that much longer. And remember that it’s more than just for cooking too. Allowing the sun to heat up water for free is another huge benefit. Of course, you could also use a sun oven to dehydrate foods too if you’re so inclined.
I should mention that you can cook nearly anything in a sun oven, from things you would expect like soups and stews to foods you might now expect such as desserts, bread, whole chickens, and more. The only downside is that nothing will brown in a sun oven… which could also be a benefit if you’re a relatively poor cook like me. 😉
4. Heat Water for Free
I know I mentioned that a sun oven could be used to heat water but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Instead, I’m talking about large-scale systems called solar batch water heaters. Again, reference How to Build Your Own Passive Solar Water Heater (and another article here [PDF File]) both part of my “How to” Knowledge base for more information and instructions about them, but the general idea is that you heat your water in larger water tanks (usually old gas water heaters) painted black and set out in the sun, often in an enclosed case as if in a really large sun oven.
This idea is no different than cooking food, relying on the sun’s radiant energy to do the work for you! In fact, there are people who do this already with much success. You could even supply a solar batch water heater with a portion of your rooftop rainwater so that you have a constant supply of hot (or at least warm) water with which to rely upon. That said, there are some concerns with this setup (such as needing to filter it before consumption) but at least the idea is in your head.
5. Run Critical Electronics
The ability to keep a few lights on, a refrigerator running, maybe a fan or two, and a few other things is darn difficult without the ability to recharge a battery bank and for most of us sunlight is a great way to do just that via solar panels. Obviously, there are other possibilities such as wind and hydro but solar is quite reliable too, albeit still relatively expensive for any large-scale endeavors. Regardless, it’s great if you can afford a descent sized one or two kilowatt system and will last for many years if cared for.
If you haven’t yet considered how to truly harness the power of the sun then I think you’re missing out on a huge resource. No doubt there are times when you can’t use it and in some instances it’s better or even easier to do something else, but when it comes to true long term survival (or even short term disasters) then you had better learn how to make use of such a power resource. You won’t be disappointed!
In fact, spend some time reviewing the Power and Energy Videos here. You’ll find videos on a solar panel system, solar batch water heater, sun oven cooking, and more. Enjoy.