Solar power is of great benefit on a homestead – while it’s just plain better for the environment, it also saves a good bit of money and every homesteader wants to have a little more padding in their monthly budget. Some states will even pay you for the clean energy you produce, creating a passive income, and it adds to your home’s value much more than the actual cost of installation.
Solar power might strike the getting-back-to-your-roots set as being a little high tech for a return to the simple life, but let’s look at it from a different angle. Homesteading is about self-reliance – building your own energy grid and producing your own power is most certainly one of the most self-reliant things you can probably do on your property. We might be returning to our roots but we’re still living in the modern era – we’re not homesteaders to turn back time – and we know technology and use it, so we might as well use every resource, especially if it helps us to be more independent.
But if you aren’t sold on solar installations for your energy grid – or even if you are but you love them so much you have a hankering to play with them a little more – dust off your do-it-yourself tools and handyman attitude and take on a few projects around your homestead that will keep you entertained, make you stand out for sure, and certainly be an asset to the productivity and enjoyment of your farm. Why not use that technology to take you back to the simpler times while still living in the modern years?
Here are ten do-it-yourself projects to enhance your homestead. They’ll make the place easier to run and more enjoyable, and impress the neighbors who still have to pay a hefty power bill every month and lose electricity in every big storm.
#1. Solar Thermal Copper Pipe Water Heater
- ½” plywood (23 ¾” x 35 ¼”)
- ½” plywood (18” x 20”)
- 2 pieces of plywood 20 ¼”
- 2 pieces of plywood 35 ¼”
- 4 ⅜” square dowels
- 2 10-ft lengths of ½” copper pipe
- 16 ½” 90 degree elbows
- 18 tube straps
- ½” threaded pipe adapter
- ¾” to ½” garden hose PVC adapter
- ½” coupler
Homesteaders know about needing some quick hot water and only being near an uncontrolled temperature source. This do-it-yourself project will walk you through creating your own mobile hot water heater, powered by the sun’s rays. It’s lightweight and includes handles so you can move it from place to place on the homestead as you need it. You’ll have hot water when you need it for anything from a cup of coffee to washing off lawn mats.
It’s a pour-through, meaning no tanks for storage, only as-needed usage, but that’s still a nifty trick and you could add some insulated tanks if you find use for larger amounts of hot water over a period of a few hours. It only adds a few more minutes to the DIY and will just need a few minutes of maintenance daily for cleaning. In fact it’s easily customizable and you can also add timers, thermometers, and various other equipment for improvement.
Even in forty degree weather, this heater will provide water up to 150 degrees – effective for a farm, but be careful, because improper use or handling will get you third degree burns. It uses copper tubing, which heats naturally with the strength of the sun. With a water hose connected to the converter, hot water will come out the other side. There’s an additional video for building a stand for the water heater, but you can store it in a variety of ways, including using it in a table-like manner.
#2. Mini Solar Panels
- 10 solar cells
- Plastic cover
- USB micro-jack with cable
- 2 component glue for plastics
- transparent nail polish
- backup battery charger
- wire for solar cells
This is a neat little DIY that will have you creating project after project using these solar panels as a base. Before long you’ll have a cache of things you’ve purchased or created just for use with them, and they’re such a useful novelty sort of item that you’d probably be able to sell them. You can use these mini solar panels to power cell phones, toys, and various small mechanisms – essentially anything that has the same micro-jack ending.
Crafting this is not very difficult, and will only take up to an hour even for someone inexperienced at tinkering with mechanics and the do-it-yourself hobby lifestyle. It’s a small design but contains a good amount of power and starts working instantly. For homeschooling homesteaders, this would be a fun project to work on with older kids who are starting to learn about solar power or want experience in working with it.
A mini solar panel like this is very versatile, and its function is really only limited by your creativity. It would be helpful for small everyday things but could be used for fun oddities, such as powering a small area for plants or animals, or even mechanical costumes. Regardless of how you use it, it wouldn’t hurt to have a few of these on standby for use in around-the-house and homesteading projects.
#3. Solar Powered Fan to Cool Greenhouses
- solar panel (can make your own!)
- wood block for mounting
- 12v automotive fan
This is a great do-it-yourself project for your greenhouse! As you probably already know, extreme heat can cause wilting, dehydration, and other problems in plants, and can attract critters and little pests too when combined with humidity. But a climate-controlled greenhouse is out of most people’s reach – and once you know this workaround, you’ll probably think it sounds like a big waste of money to invest those sorts of resources too.
This project is so easy! To make this solar powered fan you can purchase a solar panel, available in stores for about $100 or shipped to your doorstep for $150, or you can check out some more videos to DIY your own. This video uses a factory-made 100 watt solar panel that is wired into the fan for direct power. In the tutorial, the creators have also added a door hinge for easier mobility and direction of the fan to direct that breeze on hot stale air days.
This DIY would be really easy to customize for your own specific needs around the farm; you could put it just about anywhere, with different strengths and sizes of fans. In this video it’s used in a greenhouse, but we’d add a few around the farm for use in livestock areas or on the patio for super hot days, or wherever you would appreciate a little extra cooling breeze.
This is super easy to set up depending on what you add to it or adjust. However, there is obviously a bit of price range. In this video the cost is under $220 for the fan, hinge, and panel. If you have some of these laying around already and make your own solar panel, you will face a fraction of the cost. Making a solar panel like this may seem like a small project that won’t matter much but this one could be a real money- and timesaver!
#4. Portable Solar Power Generator
Check out the complete parts list here.
This DIY is a lifesaver – I mean that rather flippantly, as a lack of power is an annoyance, but it may actually one day be a literal lifesaver. It’s easy to transport from area to area, so if you like camping or boating you will have a ton of use from this machine. The tutorial here doesn’t have wheels because it’s for use in the maker’s boat, but four casters and a few minutes with the drill can add them for your own usage.
This is a more costly DIY at about $950 according to the video and $1050 if you look closely at the materials list (there is no mention of why there is a price discrepancy); however you will find it to be quite helpful depending on how often you go somewhere away from your own grid or your power goes out, and if you’re a frequent DIYer you likely have some of these items waiting for use already. I might even suggest that you build up a supply of several of these units.
While at home you simply wire it up to a solar panel and allow it to power up from there. After that you can unplug and begin use. This particular generator has multiple ports for various plugins or chargers, as well as an emergency LED light. There is also a fan and vent to help air flow and cooling if the generator overheats. There is a monitor to check the internal temperatures and the fans are used at discretion.
Ultimately it is fairly easy to use and follow, as well as containing its own systems to protect from damage. The video tutorial itself has a great quality, with literally step by step instructions on a pretty complicated project.
#5. USB Solar Charger For Cell Phone
- small solar panel
- DC to DC 5V USB module
- AA battery holder
- hook-up wire
- electrical tape
- double-sided foam tape
- small plastic container/tack box
- soldering iron
- wire strippers
- cutting pliers
- rotary tool
This is one of the most handy DIYs there are; you can’t have too many solar panels and now you can make your own. Travelers and campers will especially love this as it takes away the need for an electric outlet entirely, and can be recharged by just placing in sunlight or even by a lamp. Since this DIY needs a mini solar panel as well, you could hook up the panel from above to this mechanism with some slight altering.
This is not a super fast charger but will definitely provide some benefits, and it’s great during outdoor travels. It’s rather straightforward once you take a moment to process the project, and the creator of this DIY specifically has all of the items available for sale in his store if you feel overwhelmed by this one. You don’t need to worry about gathering the exact items and running through trial and error of different brands.
Even if you aren’t much of a traveler, as a farmer living in the age of technology, you’re going to love this DIY. When you’re in the garden or mucking out an animal pen, if the battery goes, you don’t have to trek up to an outlet just to walk back down again, and you won’t miss an important call. This little gadget is easy to carry around and will work right next to you, so you don’t have to leave your work again.
#6. Off-grid Air Conditioning System
- 800 watts of solar panels
- MPPT solar charge controller
- Pure sine wave inverter 1500 watts
- 6 golf cart batteries
There’s not much worse than coming back to the main house after a hot day working outside and feeling like you aren’t cooling off fast enough. Central air conditioning gets a little pricey on the electrical grid, and all of us waver between wanting to cool off and not wanting to pay the light bill. And we all know that one family who refuses to turn on the heat until the first freeze and the air until August.
Instead, charge up your unit during that hot summer and when you need air conditioning, you can run it as often as you like with solar power.
This isn’t a cheap installation by any means, but its cost is offset by low energy bills! All but the most skilled of do-it-yourselfers will probably want a professional doing this installation, but you can check out the video instructions and give it a try or pitch in to help where you can!
This proect will be the pride of your homestead and you’ll save a ton of money and help conserve the planet. With a major project like this under your belt, you’ll boost your confidence to work on other home improvement projects – boost your home’s value, comfort, and functionality while you pick up new skills too!
#7. Solar Food Dehydrator
- Metal Hinges
- Door Clasp
- Metal Mesh
Structure for dehydrating:
Dehydrating your garden produce is a great way to make your bounty last longer and enjoy snacks and treats all year. You can also use it to buy produce you don’t grow on your own when it’s at really low prices, then have cheap nutritional snacks all year. It’s a great tool to have for food preservation and general cooking purposes – not just fruits or veggies, but meats too. Veggie chips, fruit roll-ups, sausages, and beef jerkys will fill your kitchen pantry in no time.
Dehydration also preserves the nutritional value of the food, whereas cooking out the moisture depletes it. It’s especially helpful if you have animals; those who make their own treats for their pets recommend using a large dehydrator in order to make healthy rewards for their pets for a huge discount in price. You can keep your animals spoiled on snacks and healthy treats without paying high commercial prices
A regular dehydrator often needs to run for several hours at a time, up to a day and sometimes even longer. This will run up an electricity bill and can be a hazard too, not to mention all of the constant time it needs for monitoring. While you will still be keeping a close eye on this dehydrator, you will not face running up your bill and you can feel guilt-free because it’s green.
Ultimately, this is a great DIY that will save you a ton of money and keep your family snacking delicious, nutritious, and affordably.
#8. Homemade Solar Cooker
- Aluminum sheets
- Laminated wood boards
- Double sided tape
- Plastic ties
- Fiber glass
- Bolts and screws
- Wood planks
- Glass covers × 6
We all love to cook a big feast for the family or the neighbors every once in awhile – or maybe some of us just love to eat it! It can take hours of preparation on a regular stove top or in the oven, and it drives the power bill way up – maybe more so if it heats up the house and the air conditioning kicks into overdrive.
There are some alternatives – firewood stoves heat up well and replace electric energy, but it’s a hassle to keep up with firewood and uses up resources. The smoke it creates isn’t great for the environment either, and it can make the air around you too smokey, creating breathing hazards. A solar-powered cooker eliminates those problems, and it can be customized to various sizes.
It’s also not a terribly expensive project, so if you feel the need to make multiples, you can. Your only limit really is storage space. You probably already have an oven and stovetop, so this at least doubles your resources and means cooking the Christmas dinner or weekly family dinner will have a huge time load removed from the process.
This cooker can be made in larger sizes; the video tutorial is for a smaller one that will suffice for most projects though. It is large enough to fit in a large stewing pot with plenty of depth and it’s a versatile cooker that will completely cook meats. If you need more convincing, check out the links in the video’s description box – the creator has plenty of videos demonstrating how to make various meals in his cooker.
#9. Solar Lanterns
- Solar garden lights
- Decorative pebbles
- Glass candle holders (or vases or jars)
- Twine roll
- Hot glue
How many times have you been through the frustration of needing to go outside after sundown or having to rummage through the house, only to find that your flashlight is dead? It seems to be a rule of life that the batteries in the house flashlights give out the moment you actually need them. This is a perfect do-it-yourself for anyone on the homestead or otherwise, because it happens to all of us.
Most likely, you’re already familiar with solar lights because they’re a popular lawn decoration to put along pathways and in planted areas. This do-it-yourself is for those nights when you need to go check on things outdoors, are on a camping trip, or the power is out in the middle of the night – or for ambient decor as well. It’s customizable, takes just a few minutes to create, and it’s pretty inexpensive, too.
The materials listed here includes the specific items the creator of this DIY tutorial used, along with his alternative suggestions, but you can really do anything you want with this. The creator used rope, a candle jar, and some decorative pebbles to give it a rustic look, but you could use an assortment of tiles, broken china, knick-knacks, or just about any other small hoard of objects. The solar light is placed above the objects and won’t touch them, so you don’t have to worry about the objects affecting the light or vice versa.
If you want to try a more fun version of this, for your porch for occasional or seasonal use, a colored glass jar creates a lovely stained glass effect. The possibilities are limited to your creativity.
#10. Solar Powered Workshop
You can build an endless variety of gadgets for your homestead, but what about making a smaller unit for a guest house or even your barn? This might benefit you if you have livestock, being able to provide heated water for consumption or bathing, heating in the winter, and so in. If you have an office spot outside your home, this is perfect to keep it running without using the main grid.
It only needs one small solar panel to operate everything, depending on the size of the building and its use, but if you can build this set-up, then its expansions are endless. In this tutorial the workshop is built from scratch, which you can do if you’re up to that challenge, or you can simplify it with a prefabricated workshop. Their design is rather basic so the single panel will have no trouble powering the space.
You can expand, using multiple or larger panels. Ideas aren’t just limited to a workshop or small office; whatever you can imagine using a small outbuilding for will work – it’s a great set up for a guest house or a pool house, and could be a project or craft room or a “man cave” as well. This DIY will be a huge wow factor on your homestead!
With a little ingenuity, free time, and a passion for do-it-yourself projects, you can power just about everything on your farm using solar panels. Imagine only having to tap into your power grid in an emergency of some kind, almost eliminating your bill altogether, but having a property more lit up and modernised than you ever thought possible with such a scheme. A farming budget is always a little strapped, and with a solar energy set-up you may save hundreds on your electric bill every month, making room in the finances for some other necessity, or building a much-needed emergency fund.
Solar energy is clean, renewable, and produced in an abundance most of us can’t use fast enough. These projects are so much fun that being environmentally friendly is almost just a side benefit. From keeping mobile phones charged while out in your fields, to cooling or heating your home or small outbuilding; cooking gas or electricity free or just having a little extra ambient lighting, these projects will make your life and farm richer.
And they’re just the tip of the iceberg – get a feel for the concept and next you might be powering your computer, extending the WiFi to reach throughout the farm, solar-outfitting your gas-guzzling lawnmowers, purifying your water, making toys and projects with your kids, and building the solar panel itself on your own. There’s really no end to these ideas and the benefits are an endless fascination, perhaps a bonding experience for the family, a growth opportunity, and a definite money-saver.
If you could harvest the sun to power anything, what would you DIY to run off of your own renewable power grid?