Many cultures have never relied on electricity, in fact, they literally shun it. Homesteads today are finding alternative means to electricity and utilizing more solar power than ever before, and with good reason, it’s a great way to save on utility costs.
Sunlight can generate as much electricity as your local utility company, and more.
However, you don’t have to go out and buy a full solar power system and spend tens of thousands of dollars, in fact, there are many great “do it yourself” or DIY solar projects that you can use on your homestead.
There are many benefits to living off the grid. Embracing the good life and living off the grid can go far in helping your homestead function well on a budget.
Many states will even pay homesteaders for producing cleaner energy and this can help to generate another passive income for homesteaders.
Solar power is an ideal way to save the environment and save money on your homestead.
It’s living the simple life only you’re going about it completely different than the way that your grandparents led the simple life. Here are some great DIY solar projects for you to try on your homestead.
These are all fun easy to do DIY solar projects to try in and around your homestead, even if you have minimal DIY building experience. They’ll save you money and your friends and family will be jealous when you’re saving money and they’re not.
As an added bonus, even if the regular power grid is out, you’ll still have power via your solar power.
1) Build Your Own Solar Jar Lights
One of the most achievable solar projects on our list. Whether you’re lighting up the house or the garden, you’re sure to appreciate the power of these solar jar lights. Easy to make and you can put them in and around your homestead, garden, barn, shop and more.
All you will need for each light is a simple solar kit from or for an outdoor light. If you don’t want to use up your mason jars (because you use those for canning), save some empty pickle or mayonnaise jars and use those.
String them together like Holiday lights and hang them up on the patio or deck. You’re sure to appreciate how very easy these are to make. You can find the full instruction video here:
2) Passive Solar Heat
On the days that it’s not quite cold enough to warrant running the wood stove, or you simply want to warm a room up for a short period of time, this passive solar heater works wonders.
Use it on the barn, shop, or in the home itself and you’re sure to appreciate how you can readily warm up a room with solar power.
I think this is also an ideal solution for a room that may be off of your main house and not really tied into the area that you heat up with your wood stove.
3) Build Your Own Solar Panels
Those cheap solar lights that are used in the garden are fairly easy to come by. If you don’t have any lying around, ask your friends if they have any that have stopped working or head to your nearest Dollar Store and stock up.
They change these out seasonally at the Dollar Store anyway and you’re sure to find some that work wonders. Even these small-scale panels can be surprisingly useful!
Since the batteries wind up wearing out you may be able to approach the employee’s with a deal that you’ll be glad to take them away for them, after all, they’re no longer working.
Little do they know that you have a great instruction set to make these into some great solar power panels for your homestead.
Here are the instructions for you to use once you have a good supply of those little garden solar lights. Even after you build your first solar panel you can still keep on the lookout for more of these so that you can build the next solar panel and so on.
Tell your friends, family, and neighbors that you’ll take all of their “no longer working” solar lights for free and dispose of them so that they don’t have to. You’ll have plenty of them coming in for free.
4) Convert A Lawnmower To Solar Power
If the yard on your homestead isn’t too large you may wish to use a solar powered lawnmower. That’s right, forget the old-fashioned manual labor style, you can solar power your gas lawnmower with these easy tweaks.
The solar power will run your formerly gas guzzling lawnmower and your kids will run out of excuses for not getting the chores done.
In fact, the kids will be so fascinated by the fact that the lawnmower is now solar powered that they’re going to be clamoring to be the one to do the lawn mowing.
No more “we’re out of gas” excuses, yes, they can mow the lawn now. You can learn how to convert your gas powered lawnmower to solar power here. Definitely not a small project, but doable for those with a little know-how!
5) Solar Powered Fan to Cool Greenhouses
What You’ll Need:
- Solar fan
- Caulking gun
- Jig saw
As a DIY homesteader we’re always trying something new. This struck us as a great idea although we haven’t tried it yet we wanted to share it with you.
We plan to try ours in the spring. The fan will help us to better ventilate our greenhouse and prevent our plants from becoming overheated and wilting.
Here is the plan we plan to use on our greenhouse however there are many great ideas out there.
Since this is a DIY we can customize it as required for our needs. I don’t see any reason that these wouldn’t work out on a patio or in another area of the house, barn, shop or homestead as well. I’m excited to try it and see how it works.
Don’t forget that wrapping your greenhouse in heavy duty plastic and/or clear plexiglass or glass will also help to give it more heat.
Always make sure that your greenhouse is located in the sunniest area of the homestead so that you can rely on solar heat as well as a solar powered fan to keep the temperatures just right for the optimal growing conditions.
6) Mini Seed House Built From A Window
I’m always on the hunt for new and innovative ideas with items we already have laying around the homestead.
Our homestead had a barn full of “obsolete” items when we moved in so I’ve been systematically going through them and found a few great uses for the old windows that were stored out in the barn.
Whether you call it a cold frame or a mini greenhouse, it’s sure to work to keep your little seedlings warm and cozy while they’re germinating to give you a great garden. Here is a great plan that we found and plan to try this year.
7) Sun Jar
We’ve all done it. Walked through the garden center oohing and aahing over some cute whimsical item. For me, it was the Sun Jars. These are solar powered lights that are in a cute little jar and sit outside in the garden. I was so very tempted to buy one.
So I took a few covert pictures and went home to figure out how to make one. I used the search engine on my computer and found these great little jars for a fraction of the cost.
- Solar garden lights (again, I went to the Dollar Store)
- Glass candle holders, vases or jars (I have plenty of all of these so I got them out and mixed and matched)
- A roll of twine
- Hot glue and hot glue gun
- Decorative pebbles or rocks (I love rocks and have a huge collection so now I had a project to use them on)
- Decorative Wire
Simply place your solar garden lights in your glass candle holders, jars, or vases. Use the rocks or pebbles to fill them in so that your solar lights will stand up. Use the hot glue to attach twine around the jars and give them a decorative look.
You could also use fish tank rocks that are colored or even glass marbles or glass stones that you can find at craft stores. The possibilities here are endless and I love it because I get to use up so many of those jars and vases that I had sitting in dusty cupboards.
After you’ve set up your favorite style you can place them in and around your garden or on a garden path, in or on your patio, on the porch, deck, or in the yard or walkway.
The more you have the brighter the area is going to be after dark. You can also use these in gallon sized jars and put two or three of the solar garden lights in them if you wish for even more light.
I also made some and wound decorative wire around the rims of these and “strung” several together to sit on a balcony.
They look festive and lighten up a dark area of the balcony. You could even spray paint the outside in a pretty pastel or neon color to give them a stained glass effect.
8) Solar Food Dehydrator
I first tried solar food dehydrating when I was in my late teens. I made fruit roll ups by the power of the sun. I laid some baking sheets out in the attic where it was very hot. We had a huge window up there and I left it closed which made the focus on the sun even hotter.
I placed a table in front of the window and placed plastic wrap on the baking sheets and poured my fruit puree onto the baking sheets. I then covered them with cheese cloth that was balanced slightly above the pans to keep them from actually touching the fruit puree.
In an afternoon I had fruit roll ups. I’ve since refined this and here is another idea that I found and am planning to try.
What You’ll Need:
- Wooden frame
- Piece of glass to fit over the frame or an old piece of glass that fits or even a window.
Set up your wooden frame. I made our small enough that I can move it around either outside in the yard, or up in our attic where I have some work space and a nice clean area with a table.
Using your hinges, attach your framed piece of glass or old window to the top of your wooden frame. You can now set food items into the frame and close the lid ensuring that the dogs, cats, birds, etc. don’t invade your dehydrating foods.
I place a metal oven thermometer in mine to make sure that it’s reaching a high enough temperature. I made it lightweight enough that I can move it around if I need to move to sunnier location.
Always ensure that you’re foods are properly dehydrated. Not all foods should be dried in this type of a dehydrator. Meats, for example, need to come to an internal temperature of about 165 Fahrenheit to kill off all bacteria so you may have to finish that portion of dehydrating in an oven set to low for an hour or so.
9) Solar Powered Oven
My first venture into solar powered ovens was when I was living off the grid in Washington State and had no power at all.
I desperately wanted a cookie one day and contemplated ways to make them. I had heard about using the manifold of a hot car to bake on but decided I didn’t want to waste the gas. Then I saw how the sun was hitting the windshield of my car and
I had an epiphany. I quickly mixed up a batch of cookie dough and placed it on a baking sheet. I took this out to the dashboard of my car and moved my car so that the windshield was directly in the suns path. I rolled up all of the windows and left the baking sheet on the dashboard.
I checked on my cookies a little over an hour later and they were the best cookies I had ever eaten.
From there on out while I lived there I found innovative ways to bake in my car on hot sunny days. It gives a whole new meaning to the old adage of “hot enough to cook an egg on a sidewalk”.
There are many variations of solar ovens. Many impoverished countries have variations of them that they use to cook their foods on. These countries rely on the heat of the sun to cook with and they’ve become rather innovative.
This model uses a reflective insulated box. Inside of the box is a lining like foil that will reflect the heat back onto whatever is being cooked.
Temperatures can easily reach 285 Fahrenheit (140 Celsius) or more. In my mind, this makes it more like a slow cooker which is fine, as that will make for some fairly tender meals.
You might find that this project can supplement or replace your outdoor BBQ grill.
10) Solar USB Charger With An Upcycled Altoids Tin
If you’re like most of us, you rely on your smart phone or cell phone a lot. What if you could power it up without regular electricity? Do you ever wish you could charge it without having to have an electrical outlet handy? I know I do.
I found this idea online one afternoon and am waiting to try it out. It looks pretty promising.
According to the instructional video it says you can charge your music player or your cell phone regardless of where you’re at. I can’t wait to try it. There are many different videos on this but this particular one made it look fairly easy:
11) DIY Solar Water Heater With A Stock Tank
I like this idea, it makes sense and looks fairly easy to do. I usually have several stock tanks and yes, when they’re filled with water and left out in the sun the water does heat up so it makes complete sense when you consider that.
These directions make it look fairly easy to accomplish. I’m not sure we’ll get to this one this year, but perhaps next year we can add it into our homestead.
here. According to the directions you’ll get about 5 gallons of water heated with this one. Just enough for a quick shower or laundry load. It may even work for an RV or other set up.
f you’re looking for the least expensive solar hot water heater you may wish to consider this particular model. It states that it’s only about $5 to make.
12) Solar Powered Attic, Barn, Shop, Or Shed Fan
If your homestead is like ours, there are a few buildings that you really wish had fans in them.
Although these instructions are for an attic, I believe the concept could work well in any building on a homestead. We’re going to try this for our shop area where it gets very stuffy.
13) Multi Purpose Dehydrator
I love this one. I am not sure that we actually have enough room for it on our homestead, but I’m certainly going to consider it on a smaller scale. This dehydrator works as I said above, as a multi purpose. It’s a solar dehydrator that can dry laundry, dry food, and the guy was even drying out some firewood in it.
I’ve included the video here and I must say It does have some potential but again, it’s rather large scale:
14) Solar Powered Clothes Dryer
Last but not least, is the famous solar powered clothes dryer. In yesteryear, all homesteads had them. It’s called a clothes line and the clothes dry by the power of the sun. Even the most diehard electricity user has tried one of these a time or two in their life.
We use ours almost daily and are proud of the fact that we don’t have to boost our power bill to dry the laundry.
In the winter months, we have a folding clothes rack that I put in a corner of our laundry room. It gets just enough heat in there that the clothes dry overnight.
These DIY solar power projects are all ideal ways to help you save money on your homestead.
15) Swimming Pool Heater
So long as you don’t mind taking care of them, swimming pools are great, but even when they are at their best you’re always held captive by the weather.
Any day that isn’t blazing hot with full sun can leave your pool with water that is decidedly cool and less than inviting. Just try to jump in on a genuinely chilly day and you’ll wind up with chattering teeth!
But once again solar power can come to the rescue in the form of this solar swimming pool heater, one that will keep your water warm and allow you to avoid the high energy costs associated with electric heaters.
Using a simple intake and outflow to circulate the pool water through sun heated copper piping you can enjoy a three to six degree improvement in temperature on a good sunny day.
This is a surprisingly simple build that all pool owners can make use of, and it is adaptable to virtually any type of pool, be it above or below ground.
16) DIY Solar Landscape Lighting
Another of my favorite solar builds, landscape lighting can add a wonderful touch of ambience to your flower beds, planters or garden, and help keep you safe by reducing accidents whenever you have to leave the house at night for whatever reason.
One of the simplest and approachable solar projects for beginners is simple landscape lighting or pathway lighting.
Yes, you can buy these lights cheaply enough virtually anywhere these days, but they all pretty much come in that same basic style and are usually made with components that are so cheap it is a rarity if you’ll get anything more than a year of use out of them before they break.
A better option is to make your own in a style that will either complement your own or just blend into the background, and it will be made with higher quality solar components. There are all sorts of plans for this project around the internet, but here is one of the best.
17) DIY Solar Security lighting
Sometimes you need to push out more light on your property than is needed for just avoiding a slip, trip or fall.
Security lighting is one of the best and most economical upgrades you can give your home and surrounding property to keep yourself, your possessions and your family safe.
Just like roaches typically scatter when the kitchen lights come on, bad guys and thieves do the same when they get spotlighted by security lighting.
This project is a little more involved compared to the “always on” nature of the landscape lighting above.
The nature of security lighting incorporates infrared motion sensors that will turn the light on when it has been tripped, and both the detector and the light itself must run off of an attached battery bank that is charged during the day by the sun without turning on at that time.
It is still easy enough to do yourself if you have good fundamentals concerning wiring and electronics, and the solar power part is a breeze so long as you have all the components you need on hand.
In any case, it is pretty approachable for most enthusiastic DIYers. Plans are here, and you don’t have to make your casing from cardboard!
18) Solar Marker Light
If you are out for a walk, bike ride, horseback ride or anything else in conditions of low light or reduced visibility, you can improve safety by making yourself more visible to other people and vehicles who might be in the area. To do this, you should use a marker light.
Compared to a basic reflector or high visibility fabric panel, lights are far more likely to attract attention and that means they do a much better job of keeping you, and potentially your vehicles or animals, safe and unharmed.
It is a pretty simple thing to rig up a small, lightweight solar powered marker light can be easily attached to a person, a bicycle, a vehicle or even clipped onto a horse’s saddle to increase visibility.
You won’t be wasting any more money on disposable batteries after you craft a couple of these.
19) Solar-Powered Wi-Fi extender
Let’s face it, we are living in the 21st century and even if you are making a go of it on a completely self-contained and off-grid homestead, chances are still pretty good you can have access to the internet if you want to, one way or another.
And assuming you do have access to the internet, you’ll probably want to extend the range of your access point so you can stay connected even when you’re out and about roaming around or working on your property.
That’s where this ingenious solar powered Wi-Fi extender comes in. Aside from doing the necessary work of increasing the range at which you can reach your home network, it also eliminates the bothersome necessity of running wires from your home to the extender that is placed out on your property.
The best part is by designing it yourself you can tailor the form factor to your preferences. You want to disguise or blend the extender into your existing landscape or other structures? Easily done.
Do you want to stick out as something obviously mechanical and portable that you can reposition or place when and as needed? You can do that too.
A good solar charging system is plenty small enough and efficient enough for this project and is one of the best for tech-savvy homesteaders.
20) Whole-House Battery Bank Recharger
Seasoned homesteaders, and anyone who wants to reduce their dependency on the electrical grid, understand the value of having their own personal electrical generation and storage infrastructure.
In this category, there is hardly anything more dependable and more convenient when you need power right now than battery banks, specifically suitably rated whole-home systems.
But batteries, as you know, are only capable of storing electricity, not making it.
If you want to replace the power that you use from your battery banks you’ll need a way to generate it assuming you don’t tap into the existing power grid. In this case, a battery bank and a small solar farm are the perfect pairing.
Quiet, efficient and reliable, this is one big ticket upgrade that can truly take your off-grid homestead to the next level.
This will require more components than are found in typical solar panel kits, as you’ll need a charge controller and other devices to make it work, but if you are going all in on solar power this is probably the best return on investment that you’re going to get.
21) DIY Illuminated Address Box
This is one of my favorite projects on the entire list, and extremely simple to boot. You can take a cheap off-the-shelf solar powered lantern, or else make your own using any of the plans for outdoor lighting provided elsewhere on this list.
You can stencil or add die cut house numbers to the translucent panels in order to make an clever illuminated box that will help people see your driveway or mailbox at night.
This is another great opportunity to flex your creative muscles and craft it so that it fits the style of your property. Colors, materials, the font of the numbers, all is easily done for this project.
Once it is finished, you can permanently mount it to a post by your driveway, on top of your mailbox or even just set it out by your driveway when you’re expecting company to make things easier on them, taking it up once they have arrived.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to options on this one, and is a great way to improve visibility and safety for first responders and visitors alike.
22) Solar Kiln
This next project will be of great interest to our woodworkers who are reading. Using the same basic principles of a greenhouse, it is possible to construct a compact and highly efficient solar kiln that can be used for drying and curing lumber.
The build process is fairly involved unless you are only making a solar kiln for small, short pieces of wood, but simple.
For typical structural sizes, larger panels and even a whole planks this design is tops and works well. It can even help you get a jump start on drying out your firewood!
23) Solar Refrigerator
It might sound silly at first glance, but it is indeed possible to build a solar powered refrigerator. It generally won’t be as efficient as one you can buy from the appliance center but it will work!
Think of the possibilities: using nothing more than the power of the sun and perhaps some other personal power management tech like battery banks, it is entirely possible to have a properly functioning refrigerator that you made yourself.
You don’t need me to tell you what an advantage this can be anytime after a disaster when the rest of the power grid is down for the count: imagine not losing your whole fridge’s worth of stored food, and all without having to run a generator!
The only downside is that this project is definitely going to put your skills to the test, and is not suitable for beginners. But if you are already a seasoned solar power tinkerer and have some skills with fabrication then this project will be right up your alley.
24) Solar Panel Sun Tracker
It seems almost redundant, but a solar sun tracker is a device, or rather an upgrade, that you can give to any existing solar panel to further improve its efficiency.
You might already know that solar panels are at their absolute best in any given conditions when they are facing directly at the sun and are perpendicular to its incoming rays. This gives them maximum efficiency.
But because the sun moves through the sky throughout the day you are forced to put up with reduced efficiency most of the time unless you manually want to move to track the sun on its journey.
An alternative to doing the solar panel cha-cha day in and day out is to rig up this solar sun tracker for any given panel. This will automatically orient the panel directly at the Sun as it moves, ensuring maximum efficiency under the given conditions.
This is a great way to boost performance, but also to free up time and make your day to day life easier.
Solar Projects for Every Need
Even if you’re not running your entire homestead off the grid, you’re going to find that even a few simple tweaks and changes are going to go far in helping you to reduce the cost of running your homestead, improve your self-sufficiency and your budget.
Solar power is an ideal way to embrace greener living and take advantage of free power. Even small simple changes can make a huge impact on your budget on a homestead.
If you’re trying to save as much money as you can, take advantage of a few of these and see if you can’t save some money on the power for your homestead.