Prepper Book Festival 12: DIY Solar Projects

Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: August 24, 2021
Prepper Book Festival 12: DIY Solar Projects

Dozens of readers have asked about DIY solar projects and until now, I have had very little to offer.  That has changed. As you will see below, the latest entry in the Prepper Book Festival is flat out fantastic.

DIY Solar Projects: How to Put the Sun to Work in Your Home by Eric Smith is a full-color DIY book with lots of pictures, lots of diagrams, and lots of information.  Interested in building a real, wood-encased solar oven (and not a tin-foil and cardboard mockup)?  Eric will show you how using common materials available at most hardware stores.  Ditto a solar still for turning bad water into safe drinking water.

That is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are many other projects, both small and large, that will set you on the path to generating power from the sun, one way or another.

I believe you will find this paragraph from the introduction educational:

The term “solar power” is really a bit misleading. Solar power is not just big arrays of solar panels. There are two essential strategies for harnessing solar power. The first uses photovoltaic cells to convert light to electricity; depending on the size and number of panels, cells can power anything from a pocket calculator to an entire city. However, the basic building block— the cells— have to be manufactured.

The second type of solar power involves concentrating and converting sunlight to heat; the technology to do that is simple enough to be understood by children, relatively inexpensive, and very DIY friendly.  If you can glue aluminum foil to cardboard or cover a wooden box with a piece of glass you can make a working solar collector and start saving real money immediately.

In typical Book Festival fashion, I share an interview with Eric (be sure to read about the new book he is currently working on), and have three copies up for grabs in a giveaway.    Enjoy the interview then be sure to check in below to learn about the giveaway.

An Interview with Eric Smith, Author of DIY Solar Projects

Tell me about your book.  What is it about?

The book is part inspiration for people interested in solar power, with photos and descriptions of buildings, cars and even planes powered by solar energy, and part practical guide, with basic, DIY solar projects that anyone with tools and basic skills can build.

What type of research did you have to do while writing your book?

I spent a lot of time reading through catalogs from solar suppliers to get a better understanding of what’s available for DIYers, and also read a lot of how-to manuals, mostly online because the information tends to be a little more up to date there.

Every book, fiction and non-fiction, includes a message.  What message do you hope my readers will take with them after reading your book?

There are really two types of solar: There’s expensive, hi-tech solar like solar panels, which require sophisticated science and manufacturing and usually need professional installation, but there’s also lower-cost, DIY solar like solar water heaters that you can put together in your garage using basic materials from the local home center.

You don’t have to save for years or wait for tax rebates and loan programs to take advantage of solar power – you can get started right now, without spending a lot of money.

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself?

I worked as a carpenter and contractor for 20 years in St. Paul, MN, and as a writer and editor for home improvement magazines and publishers for the last 12 years.

I spend most of my free time fixing my house, gardening, making stuff or procrastinating. I also do as much hiking, camping and kayaking as I can.

As an author in the survival, prepping, self-sufficiency or homesteading niche, what are you personally preparing for?

The happy day when my three children are self-sufficient and can survive on their own. After that, I hope to build a small, solar-powered off-the-grid cabin near Lake Superior, where I’ll never have to worry about running out of water.

What would be your first prep-step if you were just getting started?

Learn as much DIY as you can and buy lots of good tools, so you can stop hiring people and start making and fixing on your own. Gradually you’ll gain the confidence and capability to take on any challenge. You may not ever do it, but it’s very empowering to know that if you had to you could build a house with your own hands and make a life for yourself and your family.

What movie do you think gives the best portrayal of what could happen?

Soylent Green.

Do you have plans for another book?

I’m currently writing “Lost Skills of the 19th Century,” which is a selection of how-to literature from the 19th century with links to the complete books. It covers everything from pioneer skills like tracking, repairing a covered wagon, rounding up cattle and digging a well to balloon framing, old cooking techniques, forgotten crafts and games, gardening – and even dancing and etiquette.

It’s part how-to, part history and part entertainment.

Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers?

Move north. It’s cooler and there’s more water.

The Giveaway

Eric and his publisher have reserved 3 copies of DIY Solar Projects in this newest Book Festival Giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The deadline is 6:00 PM Pacific Tuesday with the winners notified by email and announced on the Rafflecopter in the article.  Please note that the winner must claim their book within 48 hours or an alternate will be selected.

Note:  This giveaway is only open to individuals with a mailing address in the United States.

The Final Word

When it comes to putting the sun to work to save money, I have a wee bit of personal knowledge.  I have a small set of solar panels from Harbor Freight, a Sun Oven, and portable solar panels to charge my electronic devices and light sources.  My home in Arizona is also solar powered but it is the “tied to the grid” type.

In spite of all of that, I still need to learn more and suspect you do as well.  In reviewing this book, I don’t know what is more valuable, the step by step photos or the easy-to-understand instructions and explanations.  Either way, if you have any interest at all in solar, you are going to love this book.

For more information about the books in this latest book festival, visit Prepper Book Festival #12: The Best Books to Help You Prepare, Stay Healthy and Be Happy.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!

If you enjoyed this article, consider voting for Backdoor Survival daily at Top Prepper Websites!

In addition, SUBSCRIBE to email updates  and receive a free, downloadable copy of my e-book The Emergency Food Buyer’s Guide.


Spotlight:  .DIY Solar Projects: How to Put the Sun to Work in Your Home

Advances in solar technology have made many DIY-friendly products available to consumers. These include solar water heaters, solar battery charging stations, solar powered lights, photovoltaic shingles that provide supplementary electricity, solar heat pumps, and solar panel kits that generate primary home electrical service.

Among the step-by-step projects in this book is a solar water heating system you can build and install yourself for under $1000; simple thermosyphon solar heat collectors for barns and outbuildings; or “heat grabbers” that you can fabricate for $50 in materials and position below a south-facing window to provide auxiliary winter heat.

Plus: The Preppers Guide to Food Storage

No list of books would be complete without my own book, The Prepper’s Guide to Food Storage.  The eBook print version is available.

Third Edition:  The SURVIVAL MEDICINE Handbook

A frequent question I get on Backdoor Survival has to do with healthcare matters when there is no doctor around. This is the definite source of survival medical information for all Prepper’s and is my go-to bible for survival medicine.

Survival Medicine Handbook 2016

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88 Responses to “Prepper Book Festival 12: DIY Solar Projects”

  1. As always, a useful article. I’d love to win a copy. If I don’t though, it will go on my wish list.

    • 01Aug.2016, Yes this good information, but no one left behind after the Rapture of the Church, will be prepared for what comes during the Seven Year Tribulation Period the King James Bibles speaks of, unless they are willing to die(Head Chopped Off).

      Revelation Chapter 20 & verse 4. (KING James Bible) Highly Recommend everyone read all Twenty Two Chapters of Revelation, and you will see WHY I DO NOT WANT TO BE HERE DURING THIS TIME PERIOD!
      Highly Recommend everyone reading this to ask Jesus Christ to forgive his or her for their sins and ask Jesus to SAVE THEIR SOULS.

      MN1 Robert Briggs USN & Vietnam Veteran in TN.37748

  2. I think a lot of people don’t prep because they don’t think anything will happen to them. (Or they don’t know what it would be if something did happen).

  3. I’m amazed at the people who are not prepping but tell me they are headed to my house when “the Shumer Hits The Fan”. Talk about a welfare state! People have a responsibility to put food, water, bullets, and medical supplies of their own. No one person can take care of all their neighbors. Everyone has to lend a hand.

  4. People do not prep for a myriad of reasons but bascially they are lazy and have no concept of where our world is heading today.

  5. When I try to get my grown kids involved in solar they just flip on a light & tell me that’s all I need. So I guess I’m going to have to figure it out for myself! I would love this book. I only have one kid who is prepping for her family. The rest are “too busy”.

  6. I have made ans taught how to make a inexpensive solar wax melter for beekeepers – I am looking forward to do more projects

  7. This one sounds good and so doesn’t his upcoming book! Part of my prep now is to get used to using less.

  8. When I was younger it was simple economics. I had a bunch of children and no room in the budget for extras. Now I’m old on a fixed income with no room in the budget. At least I’m alone now and not responsible for anyone but me.

  9. People to prepare because the masses have preconditioned to think 1) it can’t happen to me and 2)some entity (government, community organization, etc.) will help me if I need it. Besides they would have to stop playing Pokemon Go to notice the world around them.

  10. I think people are unaware, or simply choose to ignore of the issues of today, whether they be environmental, political or security issues. Ignorance is bliss

  11. Most people don’t prepare because they haven’t HAD to. They feel no need to take their eyes off their cell phone/facebook/TV because “everything will be fine, don’t be paranoid”.

  12. My budget is definitely in the cardboard and foil range but I would love to expand my solar horizons. This book would be a great help.

  13. Solar, as an added at amenity is smart. As a source for off grid power, is smart, but hard to figure out, in terms of how mu

  14. Sorry, kindle still likes again. How much wattage is needed to maintain appliances, is where it gets confusing to me. Should I get wind generator, as a back up to the solar panels. The questions abound, where solar power, and the sizes of the panels.

  15. Most people don’t prep because they are overwhelmed with distractions, drivel and false information from politicians and mainstream media.

  16. The question asked for the blog entry was about prepping and why some folks don’t do it. I think they just can’t fathom a time when they won’t be able to just run to a store and get what they need whenever they need it. Some folks have had their power out for a day or so due to storms, but perhaps they had family/friends they could go to and be taken care of for that short time. Again, they just don’t seem to grasp the concept of preparing themselves for any type of catastrophe. I may not be the most organized prepper, and I still have lots to learn. Mostly, I want to start working on setting up solar power as I know we won’t have access to fuel for generators forever if the SHTF in a big way. I’d love to see what this book has to teach me on the subject.

  17. I have one friend deep in denial who desperately needs everything to stay ok so she believes whatever reinforces that without regard to actual truth. Most of the others are just too busy with life as it is now, While they may kind of suspect things aren’t exactly ok, they don’t want to take the time to stop and really consider the implications of how that “not ok” may impact them.

    So I just talk about my sorta normal “hobbies” (diy herbal products and “experimental” cooking ideas) and keep the rest to myself. They think I’m a little odd but that’s better than crazy.

  18. I think that people are living in THEIR own little world and pay attention to nothing else. Me,Me,Me. Live for today. It takes too much work, thought and distraction from their world to concentrate on anything else. They may figure someone will take care of me if anything happens so I don’t have to worry about that.

  19. There is no one reason why people do not prepare. For starters, it is basic human nature to take the path of least resistance. Also, current society is focused like a laser on entertainment. The entertainment list is almost endless. Smartphones, TV, Facebook, pro sports, pop music, shopping, restaurant dining, bars and clubs, selfies, newest fad fashions, and a whole lot more.

    Entertainment is mindless FUN. Prepping involves WORK and lots of serious thought. Preppers have to learn how to save, set priorities, and get out of debt.

    People would have to let go of their entertainment addiction to begin to prep for emergencies and/or a simplified way of life. Unfortunately, 99% of Americans are not going to do this.

    Also, prepping does not offer instant gratification. Our culture has become accustomed to instant everything. Prepping does not fit that mindset.

    • agreed. most people in the u.s. have never had to grow food, eat a meal that wasn’t what they had in mind, travel very far or wait very long to get something they want, suffer pain or illness for more than a few hours, or work hard out of necessity. and the entertainment industry does its best to keep our minds so busy with nonsense that we lose the ability, or at least the desire, to think anything out. i would call it the “selling” industry though, because the whole point of keeping us distracted is to prevent us from realizing that we don’t need or want all the stuff they tell us to buy. when you’ve lived like that all your life, it must be terrifying to face the possibility of losing it all and having to use your brain to survive.

  20. Why don’t most people prep? Hmmmm I believe there are multiple reasons,
    1. They don’t want to look like a nut.
    2. Its confusing and overwhelming.
    3. They live paycheck to paycheck and think they can’t afford to.
    4. Life is busy and its one more thing to do.
    5. They don’t think about all of THIS going away.
    6. The government wouldn’t do anything to hurt us or cause it to happen.
    7. The government will help us i.e. FEMA, military, shelters, Red Cross, etc.
    8. They just don’t think about it.
    9. They believe the media.
    10. Laziness and/or ignorance

  21. Responsibility is no longer taught by parents or the school system. People are told that they just have to look out for themselves & do whatever you want to do. This world needs to have a revival of Christian values!

  22. I don’t think people don’t prep for a number of reasons.

    – can’t happen to me
    – nothing happens where I live
    – budgetary constraints
    – lazy
    – everything I need is always just a short ride away.

  23. People just don’t think that far ahead anymore. For most, the store is a quick trip down the street. Instant gratification. When folks actually had to plan ahead and be in line with the seasons, they prepared out of necessity. If you didn’t, you stood a good chance of starving.

  24. Very interesting interview. We are looking to add solar power to our property and this book is certainly one I will look at.

  25. My husband is a pragmatist. He figures if the SHTF, we’re all going to die anyway, sooner or later, so why prolong the process. He knows those who are unprepared are likely to be the ones who take what they think they need from the ones who have prepared but are unable to defend themselves.

    I’m also a pragmatist but of a different nature. Sooner or later the Big One will hit and we may have to shelter in place for an extended period of time. We could be subject to an EMP and life as we know it will be forever changed. Terrorists, domestic or foreign, could disrupt the flow of our lives, leaving us to fight back for either the short or the long term. I want us to be as ready as I’m capable of making us, no matter what we’re hit with.

    My husband may not see the value of the long term storage food, or the off-grid living preps, or the extra bottles of water, but I hope he’ll be around to appreciate it IF/WHEN. In the meantime, when he asks “Dear, are we preparing for the end times?” I can honestly tell him if the world ends, I damn well plan on having my cup of morning coffee first. That he can understand (or at least know better than to argue about).

  26. I would love to do something solar but there truly is so much that it is too much for one person with the tech available at present. Things need to get simpler for folks like me otherwise we really need to hire professionals whom we can’t afford if we start and goof somewhere along the process.

  27. They don’t because they haven’t experienced anything THAT bad Oh sure the power went out for awhile but the electric company fixed it,They can go to restaurants if they need to eat. A Lot of the people I hear think the government will take care of them when times get bad. My own husband I’m sorry to say doesn’t think it will EVER get so bad that we won’t be able to go to the store or have electricity or be able to live “normally”. HE tells me I’m acting as if Armageddon is around the corner. I know it sounds crazy but I can’t shake the feeling that we are heading into something bad that will affect us and our current way of life for a VERY long time AND it is coming sooner than later. This book would be so wonderful to win I am trying so hard to convince Da Hubs that we NEED to get solar on the house. It’s too expensive he says but if I can show him we could DIY it our selves and be cost effective that would be marvelous

  28. People who do not prep are in extreme denial about the state of affairs on the planet. The book seems to be a great reference, especially for beginners.

  29. Should be an interesting read. I just finished building a solar generator after
    quite a bit of study and research. Anyone can prepare if they are interested and a little handy…

  30. I feel the Gov has brain washed so many people into thinking the Gov will always take care of them. If this were not so, there would be no one voting for Hillary. The people voting for the current people in Washington definitely think they will be taken care of no matter what. I think most people that understand where our country is headed have been prepping.
    I have enough solar power to keep my C-pap blowing air.

  31. The reason people don’t prep because they don’t think anything will happen to them, dependant on the government to come to them rescue, and being lazy.

  32. I don’t think it’s any of the pejoratives that some commenters seem to be willing to throw around – unless you grew up in a prepping household you didn’t prep at some point yourself, we all start at the beginning. I think it’s a mix of inertia, avoidance, and “never happen to me” for some people, and simply not knowing where to star or how to prioritize for others.

  33. Too many people expect to be taken care of by govt. Also, many do not prep because if they do they have to admit there might be a problem.

  34. For the most part, I think people don’t believe anything catastophic can happen, and if it does then the gov. will step in and help. Hard to believe no one is paying attention-even Katrina taught us that the gov is not prepared to help. Then, if they become convinced, I think they feel overwhelmed. That’s where you have been helpful, I think. You don’t tie this all up in a religious or political bundle. Thank you. You just stick to the facts, and help people break it all down into bite sized pieces.

  35. It takes time away from their day to day lives and makes them realize they need to be responsible for themselves.

  36. I think that there are many reasons why people don’t prep. Some are only trying to get through the day and cannot deal with tomorrow. Some people firmly believe that the government will step in and save them.

  37. I think the main reason most people don’t prep is they have gotten so used to someone (mom and dad) or something (the government, church or other organization) taking care of them. They’ve all become accustomed to someone else swooping in and rescuing them. That coupled with the “it could never happen here” mentality makes them scoff at those of us who do prep. But as someone else pointed out, we will be their first stop when it all hits the fan.

  38. It’s hard to confront anything that may be uncomfortable or hard. We want the easy life, things to turn on at the touch of a button, quick order food. Nobody ever thinks anything bad will happen to them.

  39. Delayed gratification does not seem to be a characteristic that is particularly prized these days. But I think an even larger issue is that through our cultural influences and the government educational process our current population (the younger 2 or so generations anyway) have basically been programmed to avoid personal responsibility for anything. We have an “entitled” population to a depressing degree. Think about some of the absolutely ludicrous warning labels on every single product you buy. The whole “victim mentality” that seems so prevalent today. We live in a world of excuses. Add to these factors the fact that common sense isn’t (common I mean) anymore and you set the stage for a population that expects, even demands, someone else “be responsible” to take care of their basic needs, fix their problems and keep them from doing stupid things. (Oh and apparently you aren’t supposed to offend them or hurt their feelings either). Independence isn’t prized anymore, conformity is.

    Ok sorry. I could keep going on and on. I need to stop now before I make myself suicidal. LOL

    But some days I truly despair …………………

    • yes, some of the warning labels make me tear out my hair. i fully expect to see a label on a new tire that says “do not feed shredded tires to your toddler”. but that’s the result of attorneys working very hard to create a system in which they can sue for everything imaginable–and a few things we can’t even imagine. and they’ve succeeded. i don’t know what the government has done to make people believe that it will always take care of them; but i remember how the failure of fema and other agencies during katrina shocked me into realizing that it wouldn’t. i guess any population that has so much wealth and convenience (and is so brainwashed to buy whatever is being sold to them) for a generation or more will produce people who have never had to take care of themselves. but don’t despair; i’ve seen even the most dependent people wake up and smell the coffee, and even turn into very effective survivors, when push comes to shove.

  40. the first time i watched “soylent green” i felt a knot in my midsection and an utter conviction that this was the future of my world. in the 43 years since then, nothing has changed my mind. as i recall, the movie was set in the early 90’s, so fortunately we’re a little behind schedule. maybe things won’t get that bad in my lifetime…too bad i believe in reincarnation. lol!

    • We watched Soylent Green last night. I had not seen it before.The setting is 2022 which, knowing what we know now, is eerie given most of us feel close to a tipping point.

      I was unaware of the ending but the comment about the Soylent Corporation planning to feed the world and then running out . . . well, kind of struck home. Monsanto has been quoted as “making progress toward feeding the world”.

      I need to purchase more beans, rice, and freeze dried meats and cheeses. Like another year’s worth.

  41. I think too many people are ignorant of what is going on around them…they believe the government and media that everything is OK, and even if something were to happen, they would take care of everyone. It isn’t, and they can’t. That’s why it’s so important to keep getting the word out to anyone we can, that being prepared is essential.

  42. I believe a lot of people don’t prep because they think that the government will step in and take care of whatever the problem is or they rationalize that it is unlikely that anything of consequence will happen or they hate to even think about bad things…or they like to procrastinate and think that they will get around to it *one of these days.”

  43. I think people are either too busy surviving their day to day lives and not looking up to consider beyond today, or fear and feeling overwhelmed freezes them and leads to inaction.

  44. same reason people do not set up living wills, etc. They are afraid to think about bad things happening to them.

  45. I think people don’t prep for a combination of reasons: their belief that nothing will happen, their belief that the government (or someone) will take care of them, and the general lack of accepting responsibility for oneself/loved ones.

  46. People tend to believe nothing is going to happen to them. Or on the other hand, it’s too overwhelming for them to even consider preparing for such an event.

  47. I hate to sound negative or cynical but I think, as a society, we are not teaching responsibility to our kids. Discipline, respect, hard work and other core values are falling by the wayside. This anything goes, it’s all okay, someone will take care of me/do it for me, everyone gets a trophy attitude is slowly seeping in everywhere. If it’s all good, why prep for anything?

  48. I believe that part of the reason is that there is a little bit of a social stigma related to prepping because of some of the so-called reality shows that have been on TV the last few years. In addition, prepping is perceived by many people as taking a lot of money, and in today’s economy money is often hard to come by. And on top of that, it’s just easier to sit back and figure that the government will take care of you in the event of an emergency.

  49. People think “it” can never happen to them and if it does then somebody (i.e. “the government”) will come and save them and give them everything they need to survive. Then when “it” is over, they think they will be able to resume their normal lives like nothing ever happened.

  50. People don’t prep because they believe the government will take care of them. They forgot what happened during Katrina, and other disasters.

  51. Some people are sheep, some people are self serving, some people expect the government to take care of them. Prepping is hard work requiring thought and determination, notice I didn’t say money, knowledge trumps stuff. Getting your mind ready is 1/2 the task.

  52. Every single one of the previous comments have covered the gamut of reasons why people don’t Prep. I don’t think I could add anything to what’s already been listed, except maybe that people don’t even think about Prepping.

  53. people don’t prep because they don’t believe the things we all talk about aren’t
    real. I sure hope people wake up because it’s almost to late now. God Bless

  54. New to this site. Been a prepper for along time, but nice to have a place to learn something new almost everyday.

  55. There are so many reasons that people don’t prep. A lot has to do with how our parents reared us. My parents lived through the depression. That made an impact on them. They never wanted to be in such a desperate situation again. My mother always had lots of things stored up. Many people today haven’t experienced really hard times. They have no concept of the difficulties that could arise. If they do understand that things could get really bad, they have the expectation that the government is going to help them. So the thought is, “Why should I spend MY time or money getting prepared?” They would much rather spend their money on the latest electronics, cars, clothes, Starbucks, going out to eat all the time, fancy vacations, manicures/pedicures, etc. Many people today have no concept of responsibility for self, delaying gratification and/or setting priorities in their lives. Sorry I sound so negative here.

  56. I believe people do not prep because they have become complacent, too involved in social events, and have lost the skills of yesteryear…and do not see the larger picture.

    The grocery stores will be resupplied. We can always get vegetables and fruit from another continent. The storm will be over soon…etc.

    I want my child/ren to be part of church group, sports, academics, etc., and I must drive all of them all over. Plus, they must have the latest electronics to keep up with “The Joneses.

    Garden? My flowers look lovely this year. Plant vegetables? I don’t have the space, time, knowledge, etc. I must follow my sports team.

    Preserve or can my food? Why? The store is full and meals are waiting for me in their freezer/deli/ canned or dry section.

    Society has spoken and captured their attention to become part of the numbed masses.

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