Solar make me feel like I’m in charge

We weren’t allowed to use calculators when I was at school but they sure were handy for checking our homework.

Written by Bruce Devereaux

Solar powered calculators were my first foray into the world of solar and I loved them nearly as much as I loved typing 531608 into my calculator and turning it upside down. The idea of never having to go to the electronics store to buy a battery so I could cheat on my maths homework was all rather heady for my fifteen year old self.

I pine for my children who live in a world where they don’t understand the joy which comes from knowing you don’t have to change a battery in a calculator.

But these days we’ve moved so far ahead of calculators and my world is so much calmer and better, in ways I never thought possible. For example, I have solar panels on my roof and suddenly I don’t care if we leave the air conditioner on for days at a time. Thank you, Mr Sun.

With that in mind, here are my top five solar gadgets currently in the market that I wish were available when I was younger:


At first glance I always think the idea of solar powered torches are a bit counter intuitive, like concrete hulls for boats. Yet there seems to be a market for them, so who am I to question it.

Our kids love torches. LOVE torches. Specifically, they love to turn them on. Off: not so much.

This creates a problem when there’s a blackout and you finally need one to work so you can make scary faces at each other while you wait for the internet to boot up again.


I confess I like bringing out my dainty little two dollar set of screwdrivers and delving into the innards of the kids’ toys because it makes me feel like a manly man in a tinkery sort of way.

This usually lasts no more than a minute as I can never remember where we’ve put the spare batteries, or indeed if we have any. I hate buying batteries. To get half decent ones you need to spend a mint and then the kids flog them for torches they leave on all day.

What we need are solar powered toys. All of them. I’ll go so far as to say it should be mandatory. Certainly, we need to encourage more of our science minded geniuses into this important field of study.

If they won’t do it for money, maybe we could threaten to take away their iPods. Works for my kids.


The future of solar excites me, especially in terms of transport.

Personally, I want the Fisker Karma (a plug-in hybrid) for three totally unrelated reasons.

One: It is beautiful.  Seriously stylish and a real head turner. It’s the modern four wheeled equivalent of Sophia Loren or Grace Kelly.

Two:  It has eco street cred, what with all those solar panels on the roof and the electric engine.

Three:  We can’t fit the family in it, meaning it becomes a date night car.

But really, it’s the idea of a solarpowered car which gets me excited, rather than the actual car itself.

Imagine being able to park your car in the driveway and instead of ruining the roof’s paintjob you’re filling up for a trip to the shops. Imagine driving down the coast and the car is taking on board energy as you go.

Imagine, and this is the big one, the calories you’ll save by not having to navigate your way past the shelves of sugary sweets and salty chips when you go into the service station to pay for your petrol. Nothing but wins.


If this was the only solar gadget ever invented, I would still be excited.

Having a solar charger means I can leave the house, with all its joy giving power points, and venture into the world knowing I’m only a break in the clouds away from roadside assistance or Google when I discover, as I always do, I’ve forgotten to charge my phone.

Plus, getting away from the hustle and bustle of our plugged in lives and going camping is once again an option.

Assuming there’s phone service.

Garden lights

There’s something deeply satisfying about garden lights powered by mini solar panels. It’s like the Sun is saying, “Don’t freak out and stub your toe, I’ll be right back.”

I can’t see in the dark. At all. As a child I always lost at Murder In The Dark, but didn’t work out why until I was much older and realised I must have been an easy target, hunched behind the clothesline in the middle of the yard.

These days, the idea of being able to make it from the car to the house without walking into a clothes line or falling flat on my face is very appealing, and the number one reason I like these nifty little garden lights so much.

Plus, if there’s a blackout (and the kids have tried to charge their solar powered torches by leaving them in a drawer) we can pluck the garden lights out of the ground and use them as the modern day equivalent of Raiders Of The Lost Ark temple torches for avoiding trip hazards while exploring the house to locate my equally night vision impaired children.

About the author

Bruce writes about his family’s antics on his Big Family Little Income blog and assures everyone who’ll listen he’s one of the nicest people he knows. He is a forty-seven year old father of seven children, all of whom provide him with endless amusement and frustration, frequently at the same time. His favourite flower is self-raising. Ditto children.

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