Here's an overview of a few popular solar-operated products:
- Portable solar chargers: ''Solar chargers that charge batteries, mobile phones, digital cameras cut down your electric bill and/or extend the life of your batteries,'' says Stephanie Welbes, author of ' The Cheap Diva, a weekly blog. Welbes likes a $60 solar charger by Freeloader, which can recharge cellphones, digital cameras and portable music players. The device is sold by Solar Technology through eBay. Solar Style (http://www.solarstyle.com/) and NRG Dock (http://www.nrgdock.com/) make similar products
- Homewide systems: Solar panels or modules, installed on a roof or near the home, collect energy from the sun, which is then converted into electricity. The cost ranges from $125 to $800 per panel.
- Solar appliances: Home Depot sells outdoor accents lights for the home that cost between $30 (for a set of four small lights) to $284 (for a solar-powered lamppost).
''Solar-powered flashlights and calculators are just two examples of solar-powered electronic devices that save money by eliminating the need to buy and replace batteries altogether,'' Welbes said. The equipment is charged in sunlight and will run for hours on one charge. Solar-powered flashlights, great for camping, cost about $10 to $30. Solar calculators and flashlights are sold at hardware stores and office supply stores.