Thursday, April 7, 2011

Not Your Grandma's Solar Lighting

Well, it's Thursday, and you know what that means. Time to confess a horrible, dark (light?) secret about my life. I'm kind of obsessed with all things solar-powered, but especially solar lighting.

My obsession began in my youth, whenever I decided to turn off my video game system or the TV with the Nickelodeon logo burned into the screen, I watched it so much, and actually went outside. I noticed a bright glowing ball in the sky, and it felt hot. Little did I know then, that glowing thing can be used to power solar-powered things.

My first experience with solar power was building an awesome 4 foot tall (or so it seemed at the time) K'nex ferris wheel that turned with a motor powered by a solar cell. I'm not joking about that, guys. It was sweet.

More recently, however, with the "green" movement in full swing, major companies are getting on-board the solar bandwagon (hope they don't have leather seats, ouch!), which is great because hopefully higher demand for solar cells will create more innovation and cheaper prices (see here for an article on solar's amazing growth).

Sure, those goofy solar landscape lights are fairly cheap and ubiquitous these days, but they have some serious drawbacks when it comes to practical indoor solar lighting, which is what I'm most interested in. Their main issues are: 1. they lack an on/off switch, so you have to toss them in a closet and shut the door when you want to go to sleep, and 2. they come with the cheapest rechargeable batteries possible, so they don't really last long enough/output enough power to really count as indoor lighting.

And then Ikea came along, stole my heart, and rekindled my solar obsession. They have a wide range of indoor solar lighting solutions, but I'm just going to review one I actually own and have experience with. Hopefully as I add more to my collection I'll review them too.

In case you're getting bored and are about to click away, hang on, here's the good stuff. Ikea's Sunnan Table Lamp (I think Sunnan can be roughly translated as "solar power is great everyone should buy one of these seriously) is a great "gateway" product to get into the world of indoor solar lighting. It has an easily detachable solar cell/battery combo pack, which you can place either outside or in a sunny window, and then easily snap back into place when you're ready to use it. It's reasonably priced at $19.99. And it really is super bright, with white LED's. Adding to that, it's got a flexible neck, so you can position it however you want to light whatever you want. I use it as a reading light at night, but it also works well as just a general lamp. A great bonus is that it uses Ikea's own brand of rechargeable batteries, which they recommend requires replacement every two years or so. Not bad, folks! Not your grandma's solar lighting indeed - by that I mean actual sunlight, opening a curtain, you get the drift.

Feel free to comment on whether you think it's reasonable to incorporate solar lighting into your indoor space. Or if you think my obsession is weird and dumb.

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