Over the past decade, solar panels have become more efficient and less expensive than ever before.
For those looking to live off the grid or embracing the tiny life, they’re rapidly becoming the most attractive option for a power system.
Once you’ve got the power though, what do you do with it?
Home solar still can’t match the convenience and availability of traditional grid power. This makes it essential you pick out the best gear to maximize the usefulness of your solar system.
We put together a list of the 10 best solar gadgets to help you jumpstart your new solar powered life.
Not all solar gadgets are electrically powered. Solar ovens have been used by campers and others in the off-grid community for decades.
They harness the power of the sun to cook a variety of foods quickly and reliably.
All without any kind of power source.
The Sunflair Solar Oven Deluxe is a foldable solar cooker. It weighs just over a pound and folds up to the size of a seat cushion when not in use.
This makes it perfect for storing in the seriously limited storage space of a tiny house.
The Sunflair is capable of reaching temperatures up to 280 ℉ in summer or winter months. It comes standard with everything needed to cook a meal with the power of the sun. This includes:
- Two Baking Trays
- Two Baking or Dehydrating Racks
- Two Silicone Pots
- One Enamel Pot
Because it stays below 300 ℉, the Sunflair isn’t suitable for all kinds of cooking. It allows you to quickly heat up water, boil soups or stews, and simmer various meats and fish.
For something that packs down as small as it does and requires no fuel, this is a great range of capabilities.
The GoSun Sport solar oven is a parabolic style solar cooker that focuses the sun’s rays on a vacuum cooking tube.
It’s capable of baking, roasting, steaming, boiling, and pretty much any other kind of cooking you can think of.
The design of the GoSun Sport is honestly quite remarkable. It uses a pair of high-efficiency aluminum reflectors to focus heat on the main cooking surface.
What separates it from its many competitors is the added safety features of the glass tube.
The heat of the sun passes right through the glass to heat up the internal tube. Once there though, it can’t pass back through the vacuum chamber.
This gives you internal cooking temperatures up to 550 ℉ while leaving the outside safe to the touch.
The insulated design also allows it to retain heat extraordinarily well. We had no problem roasting a mix of veggies in olive oil even with intermittent cloud cover.
Even better, the whole thing folds up into a small carry case when you’re done using it.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint even further, this fuel-free solar oven and grill is an excellent option.
Solar Charge Controllers and Appliances
Capturing solar power is just the first step. In order to use it effectively, you have to charge batteries.
That requires a charge controller to prevent the fluctuating power of the sun from damaging sensitive battery systems.
Another important aspect is how you can use your power. Every watt counts in an off-grid solar system and any appliance needs to have the highest efficiency level possible.
Renogy is a well-known company in the off-grid solar world. They manufacture a comprehensive line of solar panels, charge controllers, and connecting equipment.
Their Rover range of charge controllers are some of the easiest to install and use available.
The Renogy Rover 100 amp system is the best unit for a tiny home set up. It can effectively control up to 1300 watts of solar panels, ample for most tiny house needs.
It uses a maximum power point tracking (MPPT) algorithm to extract up to 99% of the power being produced by your panels.
The Rover 100 amp allows you to connect numerous additional monitoring and control tools. It’s compatible with a temperature gauge and Bluetooth connectivity add-ons.
This gives you significant flexibility in monitoring the status and charge rate of your batteries.
The Renogy Rover line includes several smaller charge controllers as well as the 100 amp.
Their combination of excellent functionality and intuitive interface make them some of the best available.
One of the big questions people ask when talking about going tiny is how they’ll store their perishables. Refrigerators require significant power and are absolutely essential for modern comforts and medical supplies like insulin.
The Dometic CFX 100W is a high-efficiency refrigerator for off-grid use. It’s designed to run off both AC and DC power sources and is heavily insulated to limit power demands.
It offers 88l of usable space. This is plenty to keep your essentials chilled and ready to eat.
The powerful compressor is capable of reaching -7 ℉ for effective deep freeze. It’s ruggedly built to allow you to take it with you anywhere without fear of damage.
Dometic offers a range of size options for this solar-powered refrigerator system to help match your needs.
Solar Batteries and Portable Panels
The batteries and solar panels determine just how much power you’ll have for your various electronics and gadgets.
If you’ve decided not to go with a permanent installation using individual components and mounted panels, these portable charging and storage systems are great options.
Probably the biggest benefit of these systems are their flexibility. They provide very useful amounts of power and can be set up basically anywhere.
The Anker Powerhouse 400 is the company’s first foray into large capacity battery systems. Given their well-deserved reputation for excellence in chargers and portable batteries, we had high hopes for this battery system.
The Powerhouse 400 is the largest unit in the line. It’s capable of storing 120Ah of power.
This is suitable for use with laptops, tablets, smartphones, and even small appliances like refrigerators. It offers three different output modes and is small enough to be stored just about anywhere.
It uses the Anker Battery Management System (BMS) to prevent the battery from over discharging. This helps extend the life of the battery while still maximizing its usefulness.
The only downside with the Anker Powerhouse was its inability to charge directly from solar panels.
It doesn’t contain an internal charge controller, but is fully capable of connecting to one. It’s a great option for limited scale power needs, but not comprehensive enough to be your primary power source.
Goal Zero has established itself as the premier supplier for portable solar systems, chargers, and solar generators. The Yeti 1400 is their mid-range lithium ion solar generator.
It’s specced to provide 1425 watt-hours of capacity with available inverter capability to cover 1500 watts of the continuous draw, and up to 3000 watts of surge draw.
This is sufficient to run refrigerators, laptops, TV’s, and just about any other small electronics you can think of.
The Yeti 1400 has full Bluetooth connectivity features built right in. You can monitor the battery level, charging and discharging rates, and remotely activate or deactivate different ports.
Where the Yeti really shines is its vast range of charging capabilities. It has a built-in charge controller, allowing you to hook it up to just about any solar panel with connector compatibility.
All Goal Zero products feed right in natively. One thing we really liked was the ability to pass through power.
You can use it to charge your devices even while it’s being charged from your panels.
If you’re looking for a one-piece solar system that’s highly capable and less involved than a permanent installation, the Goal Zero Yeti line is an excellent option.
Check out our comprehensive, in-depth review of Goal Zero Yeti 1400 and other top solar power generators here.
This foldable solar panel from RavPower is an ultracompact and highly efficient backup charging solution for off-grid living. It offers 24W of charging capability in a very small package.
The panels have a three-part design. Each panel is backed with durable nylon fabric for protection and linked together for maximum productivity.
It provides three USB charging ports capable of producing up to 2.4 amps each.
They include iSmart technology to intelligently provide the optimal charging voltage and amps to whatever device you plug in. They’re also capable of charging up portable batteries or larger solar generators.
The whole system weighs just 76 oz and folds down to an easy-to-store 12 x 6-inch package when not in use.
If you’ve just started dipping your toes into off-grid living, this portable solar panel system, when paired with a small battery, is a great way to get started.
Even seasoned tiny lifers and off-grid pioneers will appreciate its lightweight and high-efficiency design.
The Goal Zero Boulder 200 is a briefcase-style monocrystalline solar panel designed to provide off-grid and camping power.
It’s made with a high strength aluminum frame and folds down to a 40 x 26-inch package for easy storage.
It provides you with up to 200W of solar energy and is built for the backwoods. The foldable design lets you deploy the legs at different heights and angles to maximize sun exposure throughout the day.
It’s optimized to work seamlessly with Goal Zero’s massive line of solar generators and portable batteries, as well as traditional charge controllers.
If your perfect tiny life doesn’t include major appliances or other significant power draws, the reasonably priced Boulder 200 may be the perfect charging solution.
Solar Lighting Solutions
One of the best ways to make tiny life feel a little larger is through the enjoyment of the great outdoors. One downside to this is how dark it can get once the sun goes down.
A great way to improve your outdoor living space is with solar-powered lights.
These all provide ample light without drawing on any of your stored power. They’re self-contained, work as either outdoor lighting or security lighting, and generally brighten up the space around your tiny home.
These InnoGear solar-powered light sticks are designed to activate as soon as the sun goes down. They combine a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a small solar panel for a 100% self-contained power system.
They stick right into the ground on small spikes and are available in two different lighting colors, white and warm white.
One really great feature of their design is just how easy they are to set up and use. They’re IP65 water resistant and can be placed around the outside of your tiny home.
You can use them to light up your home itself or as a way to illuminate a table, firepit, or other recreation areas.
Their rugged and self-powered design make these solar lights from InnoGear perfect for use wherever you end up in your tiny home.
Outdoor lighting and night time security are an important consideration for anyone going off the grid.
The SunForce motion-activated solar floodlight allows you to attach self-contained security lights to your cabin, tiny home, or other dwellings.
Each light has three banks of 60 LED lights. This gives you a total light output of 1200 lumens.
One thing we really liked about these lights was their motion sensors. Instead of having a traditional on/off switch, they turn on whenever they detect movement.
They’ll stay lit up as long as you’re moving around outside and will also trigger if they detect any suspicious movement at night.
These are a great addition to any off-grid home to improve your outdoor visibility and security once the sun goes down.
Buy With Purpose
One of the central tenets of the tiny life is conscious consumption. Each of the gadgets above provides real value under the right circumstances.
If you’re off the grid and looking to stay that way, saving on power is essential.
To help you save power when you need it most, these appliances, charging tools, and lighting sources can greatly extend the time you can stay off the grid.
When purchasing solar powered gadgets, make sure to consider your current needs and find the tools that work best to fit your lifestyle.
Suggested Read: Learn how to power your tiny house in our recent post titled Step-By-By Step Guide To To Power A Tiny Home