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Sweets are peeking at us from every grocery and drug store aisle. Chocolates, gummy bears, little fun-sized bars of sugar and fat in 20-pound bags. These will give you calories, but not a lot of anything else — except maybe health problems. Eating too much candy can increase your risk of diabetes, cavities, and obesity.

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Whether you live on the beach or in a landlocked city, all water eventually makes its way to the ocean, which is why it's so important to use reef-safe sunscreen. Traditional sunscreens can be toxic both to your body and to our important ocean environments, but there are plenty of safe options available.

At its most basic, reef-safe sunscreen is sunscreen that only uses mineral-based UV-blocking ingredients. However, there's no regulation on using the term "reef-safe," so it's important to thoroughly vet the ingredients of any product you're considering purchasing.

To save you some time and effort, we've done the research for you, and in this article, we'll break down the six best reef-safe sunscreens on the market today.

Why Switch to Reef-Safe Sunscreen?

Some places, like Hawaii, have banned many reef-harming sunscreens, but most Americans still have the choice to stick with traditional sunblocks or go the ocean-friendly route. Why switch to reef-safe sunscreen? There are a number of reasons, including:

  • According to National Geographic, there are as many as 82,000 kinds of chemicals from personal care products (including sunscreen) in the ocean, and in 2015 alone, around 14,000 tons of sunscreen ended up on coral reefs globally.
  • Even if you aren't near the ocean, when you shower after applying sunscreen, much of it goes down the drain, entering the wastewater stream and eventually ending up in the sea.
  • Ingredients found in commercially made sunscreens such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, nano titanium dioxide and nano zinc oxide are toxic not only for reefs, but also for sea urchins, fish, marine mammals and other ocean creatures.
  • Oxybenzone can be absorbed by humans and has even shown up in urine and breast milk.

The 7 Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens

Now that you've got a few reasons to choose an ocean-friendly sunblock over an ocean-polluting one, here are our recommendations for the best reef-safe sunscreens on the market.

Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Best Overall: Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen

Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen is our overall first choice for reef-safe sunscreen. Once applied, the full-spectrum protection begins instantly and the formula won't leave your skin feeling greasy or sticky. This sunscreen has the highest water resistance per the FDA and can offer protection in water for up to 80 minutes, after which it should be reapplied.

Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 3,800 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: This sunscreen doesn't contain any parabens, phthalates, BPA, oxybenzone, avobenzone, petroleum, gluten, dairy or toxic chemicals. Its one active ingredient is non-nano zinc oxide, and it is not tested on animals.

Best Tinted Sunscreen: Olita Tinted Mineral Sunstick

Olita

If you're worried about mineral sunscreen leaving a white sheen on your face, we recommend trying Olita's Tinted Mineral Sunstick. The SPF 30 formula comes in two shades — Coco Bronze and Light Tan — and its compact size makes it easy to toss in your beach bag or makeup bag. Its made with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and aloe and is free of chemicals or fragrances.

Customer Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars with about 100 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: Olita's tinted sunscreen goes on like a foundation and lasts about two hours before reapplication is needed. All of the company's products are verified by the Environmental Working Group, and Olita donates 10% of all sales to the Coral Reef Alliance to further reef protection.

Best Organic Sunscreen: Badger Clear Zinc SPF 40 Sunscreen

Another product we love is Badger Clear Zinc SPF 40 Sunscreen. This reef-safe, broad-spectrum formula only has four ingredients: zinc oxide, sunflower oil, beeswax and vitamin E. It is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and is fragrance-free.

Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with about 200 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: This sunscreen is SPF 40 and doesn't use any fragrances, allergens, GMOs, parabens, dyes or artificial ingredients. Badger is a women-run B Corporation, and its sunscreen lotions meet the strict safety guidelines of the Environmental Working Group and Protect Land + Sea.

Best for Sensitive Skin: Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion

The SPF 30 formulation of Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen is made for people with very sensitive skin. It uses a 100% non-nano zinc and mineral-based formula that has an 80-minute water resistance before needing to be reapplied. It also includes natural ingredients like soothing organic sunflower oil, jojoba oil, shea butter and avocado.

Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 1,400 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: Babo Botanicals is a certified B Corp. Its sunscreen doesn't contain any added fragrances and is a PETA-certified cruelty-free product. It's also approved by the Environment Working Group.

Best for Kids: Earth Mama Uber-Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

This SPF 40 water-resistant product is pediatrician- and dermatologist-tested for irritants, making it a good choice for children. Earth Mama sunscreen is made from a non-nano zinc formula that sits on top of the skin instead of absorbing into the skin, so it can effectively deflect UV rays and offer maximum sun protection.

Customer Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars with over 450 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: Earth Mama's kid-friendly sunscreen doesn't use chemicals or artificial fragrances. Using natural ingredients like shea butter and organic colloidal oatmeal helps kids who may get rashes on their skin. It is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes and has UVA/UVB protection.

Best for Activity: Stream2Sea Sport Sunscreen

Unlike typical chemical sunscreens, Stream2Sea uses organic, mineral-based ingredients to shield against UV rays. It sits on your skin rather than being absorbed into your pores, so it's safer for your health while also being safe for marine life. It's water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and holds up to sweat, so it's great for outdoor activities.

Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 440 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: This sunscreen's formula is eco-conscious and is free of parabens and sulfates. The packaging is also environmentally friendly, as it's made from sugarcane resin and recycled plastic milk jugs.

Best Face Sunscreen: REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen

This mattifying sunscreen is made with 22% non-nano, naturally derived zinc oxide for broad-spectrum UVA, UVB and blue-light protection. Its mattifying effect helps to reduce the visibility of pores, making it great for everyday use.

Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 180 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: This product is silicone-free, cruelty-free and vegan. The packaging is made with recycled plastic and can be recycled again when the tube is empty. It uses ingredients such as yellow passionfruit and rice extract and is non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog your pores.

FAQ: Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Which sunscreen is safe for coral reefs?

There are many sunscreens that are safe for coral reefs. We recommend Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen and the Olita Tinted Mineral Sunstick as two of the best options on the market.

How do I know if sunscreen is reef safe?

The claim "reef-safe" is not regulated, so the only way to know if a sunscreen is safe for coral reefs is to check the ingredients list for yourself.

What sunscreen ingredients are not reef safe?

According to Save the Reef, when looking for reef-safe sunscreen products, the ingredients you should avoid include: oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, homosalate, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, PABA, parabens and triclosan. Additionally, avoid any forms of microplastics, like "exfoliating beads" as well as nanoparticles of zinc or titanium.

Do I need to wear reef-safe sunscreen?

You should wear sunscreen every day to protect your skin and help prevent skin cancer. Whether it's reef-friendly sunscreen is up to you, but we highly recommend it for both your own health and the health of the ocean ecosystem.

Prostock-Studio / iStock / Getty Images

We had a lot of questions when we heard that Hallmark was releasing 41 Christmas movies this year alone. First off, how? Secondly, do I have the time to watch them all? Do I have the energy to watch all 41 (mentally and physically) so as not to miss out on this timeless holiday tradition? How much electricity would that even require?

With the holidays approaching, we thought you might like the answer to the question us solar nerds are asking: how many solar panels does it take to watch a Hallmark Christmas movie?

Don't celebrate Christmas or watch Hallmark movies? Fret not. This framework can help you understand the amount of power it takes to watch any movie, TV show, sports game or even provide electricity to your entire home.

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The best solar string lights add a classy, welcoming flair to any outdoor space. From bespoke rooftop parties to boho backyard hangouts, solar string lights allow you to achieve an ideal ambiance powered by 100% renewable solar energy.

But with so many options on the market, how do you know which outdoor solar string lights to buy? In this article, we'll recommend a few top products as well as explain factors to consider when purchasing solar-powered lighting.

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What's a Siphonophore and Why Is There One on the UN This Week?

"These organisms make the earth habitable." Peter de Menocal, WHOI director

Climate
The image of a siphonophore was projected onto the facade of the United Nations' 505-foot tower from September 21 -24, 2021, coinciding with the 76th General Assembly and Climate Week NYC. Artist Rendering: UN Photo / Eskinder Debebe. Visualizations: SUPERFLEX.

This week, in honor of UN Climate Week, a Danish arts collective projected a siphonophore onto the UN Secretariat building in New York.

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Can You Go Off-Grid With a Solar Energy System? (2022)

We discuss benefits, shortcomings and what you'll need to go off-grid.

Popular
Photo by Alex Bierwagen on Unsplash

I think I speak for everyone here at EcoWatch when I say I've dreamt of living off the grid. Imagine being completely self-sufficient, impact-free and unrestricted by society at large. Even if this thought hasn't crossed your mind, I imagine going off-grid interests those plagued by high energy costs, or those building their own cabin, shed or other DIY solar project.

The way we generate and use energy has shifted dramatically over the last decade. With solar panels and battery storage technology advancing as quickly as it has, the discussion around off-grid living has become much more complex. What does living off the grid mean? Can you go off-grid with solar? Is it legal?

It's not quite as simple as just flipping your breaker panels off, as there are safety concerns, legal considerations and greedy energy corporations to take into account. Let's dig in.

What Does Going Off-Grid Mean?

In theory, living off-grid means you live independently from public utilities, meeting 100% of your own energy needs on-site. Most commonly, this is achieved using solar energy.

Public utilities are the companies that supply you with the energy, water, gas or other services you use in your home every day. The public infrastructure supporting these utilities has been in place for hundreds of years, and it encompasses the production, transportation and distribution of energy throughout a region or community. Any adjustments to this infrastructure require permitting and inspections (and often fees) so that the rest of the grid stays stable and safe.

But now that so many localized renewable energy options are available, people are realizing we can decentralize the power grid. This would eliminate a great deal of public costs — both financial and environmental — surrounding energy and infrastructure. In this article, we'll approach going off the grid from a big-picture perspective, but off-grid living can also mean something more simple, such as independently powering a cabin, shed or vacation home.

Is it Legal to Live Off-Grid?

This is where the conversation gets interesting. Public opinion differs on the legality surrounding off-grid living. In most cases, living off the grid as we know it is done in rural areas more out of necessity than choice. Within more densely populated areas, many jurisdictions require their residents to adhere to local building codes and zoning restrictions, both for safety and for public image.

As a result, you may be legally required to maintain a connection to your city's power grid or sewer systems. Failure to comply with these local ordinances can result in fines or seizure of land or property.

Before renewable energy generation became possible for individual homes, there was really no reason to want to be disconnected from your local utilities. But now that homeowners are capable of generating their own electricity, will the legality of off-grid living change?

Homes with modern solar technologies and solar battery systems are likely to meet all the legal requirements to operate safely and reasonably without connection to outside power sources. With public opinion about outdated utilities beginning to sour, we may start to see modern off-grid living become more widely accepted.

Even if it is already legal to live off-grid in your state or area, remember you'll have to file for the proper permits and inspections before you can completely cut the cord. If you're looking into living off-grid, we advise you to consult your state, city or county to learn about any legal restrictions, permits or fees.

For the sake of discussion, let's proceed on the assumption that you are legally allowed to live disconnected from your public utilities and you've secured any necessary permits to do so.

What Do You Need To Live Off-Grid?

What makes going off-grid unfeasible for some is that their homes weren't built with self-sufficiency in mind. Meeting all of your energy needs on-site necessitates smart planning — energy efficiency, an unobstructed south-facing roof, good insulation and more. The needs of living efficiently go far beyond the question "how many solar panels do I need to live off-grid?" (though that's a valid thing to ask as well).

Solar Panels

Let's say you have a nice south-facing roof that's perfect for a solar array. Even if you packed that roof to the gills with solar panels, you'd still only be able to use that energy while the sun is shining, and the majority of it would actually go to waste.

Energy Storage

This is where backup batteries come into play. The concept is simple: You connect batteries to your home's solar panels that store the excess energy they generate during the day. This allows you to spread out the usage of the energy your panels generate.

But how many batteries do you need to be completely self-sufficient? Even with a battery as powerful as the Tesla Powerwall, most averaged-size homes need at least two batteries to reliably store all the energy necessary to keep a home powered off-grid. (For context, Tesla Powerwalls are about $10,000 each.) If your home is on the smaller side or your energy use is low to begin with, you may be able to get by on a smaller battery closer to $5,000.

Energy Efficiency

Designing or retrofitting a home to be energy efficient can sometimes save homeowners just as much as installing solar panels. If you're designing an off-grid project, prioritize energy-efficient lighting and other appliances to minimize the number of solar panels you need to power your property.

Other Solar Equipment

In addition to panels, batteries and efficient appliances, homes with solar and storage require wiring, charge controllers, inverters, mounting and safety equipment. Most of these can be provided by any solar company (if you're hiring someone to install your system), but if you're set on a DIY solar project, you'll need to acquire all of the above.

Pros and Cons of Going Off-Grid With Solar

Of course, there are a few pros and cons of solar energy to consider when deciding whether to go off the grid.

Pros include:

  • Saving money: With the costs of solar and storage as low as they currently are, most homeowners can save tens of thousands of dollars when they generate their own energy instead of relying on public utilities.
  • Avoiding utility fees: As outdated utilities struggle to make money, many add fees to the bills of customers who install solar on their properties. If you're not part of the power grid, you can avoid these fees.
  • Lowering your impact: Generating your energy with solar, whether on or off the grid, offsets the harmful effects of generating and distributing conventional electricity.
  • Increasing your independence: Living with solar allows you to take control of your energy use. With energy independence, you can more accurately predict your energy use and energy costs and free yourself from rising utility rates.

Cons of going off-grid with solar include:

  • You don't have a backup: To live reliably off-grid, you generally require a system that can provide three to four days' worth of electricity in case of long stretches of cloudy days, changes in your energy use or extreme weather events. Retaining a connection to the grid can provide some peace of mind that you'll never be left in the dark when things don't go as planned.
  • You may pay unnecessary expenses: As mentioned, when living off-grid, you need to ensure your maximum energy use is covered rather than your average energy use. This can make the process more expensive than maintaining a grid-tied system would be.
  • Utilities are always changing: Before saying goodbye to your power company, remember that people can change! Though the changes are coming slower than many may prefer, utilities are shifting toward generating clean energy with a localized approach, which will reduce costs, emissions and power outages in the future.

Final Thoughts

Electrical systems around the world are undergoing rapid changes as we confront the climate crisis and expand our infrastructure. Going off-grid may seem like a satisfying idea, but in reality, it may be too complex for projects larger than a small cabin or shed.

Sooner than seeing homeowners going fully off-grid, we hope to see more promotion of decentralized energy generation through things like:

  • Partial grid-reliance via solar: The most common solar option, partial-grid reliance keeps you connected to the grid — but you meet most of your energy needs with solar and storage anyway.
  • Community solar initiatives: You can join a community solar project by purchasing a share or by paying a subscription. The electricity production that corresponds to your ownership percentage or subscription level will be measured and subtracted from your power bills each month.
  • Smart grids and microgrids: Large apartment complexes or commercial buildings can operate on their own microgrids, capable of disconnecting from the main local grid during an outage and powering themselves via solar and stored energy.

The benefits of a decentralized clean energy system are many: reliability, lower costs, more autonomy and decreased emissions. Every home that installs solar lowers the strain on public infrastructure, which in turns lowers bills and promotes stability in the rest of the community.

So, what's the moral of the story? Keep things local, and only go off-grid if you have to.

Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.

Paul Watson on board of the "Brigitte Bardot," a Sea Shepherd multihull moored in Paris, on January 15, 2015. Loic Venance / AFP / Getty Images

Author Paul Watson has no problem with critics calling him and his marine-life-defending colleagues pirates — it's far better than helplessly standing by and doing nothing in the face of the violence against animals they have witnessed.

By Paul Watson

In 1975, Robert Hunter and I were the first people to physically block a harpooner's line of fire when we intercepted a Soviet whaling fleet and placed our bodies between the killers and eight fleeing, frightened sperm whales. We were in a small inflatable boat, speeding before the plunging steel prow of a Russian kill boat. As the whales fled for their lives before us, we could smell the fear in their misty exhalations. We thought we could make a difference with our Gandhi-inspired seagoing stand. Surely these men behind the harpoons would not risk killing a human being to satisfy their lust for whale oil and meat. We were wrong.

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America’s Power – Formerly American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) - spreads misinformation about "clean coal" with its "mobile classrooms." America's Power / CC BY 2.0

By Nick Cunningham

From coining “clean coal” to “carbon footprint,” public relations firms have been instrumental in shaping the public discourse around climate and energy policy, and as a new study underlines, their powerful efforts have flown under the radar for too long.

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4 Best Solar Umbrella Lights of 2022

Light up your outdoor space with solar power.

Reviews
Patricia Marroquin / Moment / Getty Images

Solar umbrella lights use a solar panel to subtly capture photons during the day and power lights at night. They're a great way to incorporate solar energy into your outdoor spaces, seamlessly combining shade, shelter, power and lighting into one practical package.

If you're looking to upgrade your outdoor lighting and furniture, we'll give you our recommendations for four of the best solar patio umbrellas on the market below.

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The film Footsteps on the Wind raises awareness about children displaced by war and climate change.

In the last decade, more than 40 million children have had to flee their homes because of conflict and the climate crisis.

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MAXSHOT / iStock / Getty Images

Solar panels allow you to harness the sun's clean, renewable energy, potentially cutting your electric bills as well as your environmental footprint. But do solar panels work on cloudy days, or during seasons of less-than-optimal sun exposure? For homeowners who live outside of the Sun Belt, this is a critical question to consider before moving ahead with solar panel installation.

In this article, we'll go over how solar panels work on cloudy days, whether solar panels work at night, and how to ensure you always have accessible power — even when your panels aren't producing solar energy.

How Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels can use both direct and indirect sunlight to generate electrical power. This means they can still be productive even when there is cloud coverage. With that said, solar panels are most efficient and productive when they are soaking up direct sunlight on sunny days.

While solar panels still work even when the light is reflected or partially obstructed by clouds, their energy production capacity will be diminished. On average, solar panels will generate 10 to 25% of their normal power output on days with heavy cloud coverage.

With clouds usually comes rain, and here's a fact that might surprise you: Rain actually helps solar panels work more effectively. That's because rain washes away any dirt or dust that has gathered on your panels so that they can more efficiently absorb sunlight.

Do Solar Panels Work at Night?

While solar panels can still function on cloudy days, they cannot work at night. The reason for this is simple: Solar panels work because of a scientific principle called the photovoltaic effect, wherein solar cells are activated by sunlight, generating electrical current. Without light, the photovoltaic effect cannot be triggered, and no electric power can be generated.

One way to tell if your panels are still producing energy is to look at public lights. As a general rule of thumb, if street lamps or other lights are turned off — whether on cloudy days or in the evening — your solar panels will be producing energy. If they're illuminated, it's likely too dark out for your solar panel system to work.

Storing Solar Energy to Use on Cloudy Days and at Night

During hours of peak sunlight, your solar panels may actually generate more power than you need. This surplus power can be used to provide extra electricity on cloudy days or at night.

But how do you store this energy for future use? There are a couple of options to consider:

You can store surplus energy in a solar battery.

When you add a solar battery to your residential solar installation, any excess electricity can be collected and used during hours of suboptimal sun exposure, including nighttime hours and during exceptionally cloudy weather.

Batteries may allow you to run your solar PV system all day long, though there are some drawbacks of battery storage to be aware of:

  • It's one more thing you need to install.
  • It adds to the total cost of your solar system.
  • Batteries will take up a bit of space.
  • You will likely need multiple batteries if you want electricity for more than a handful of hours. For example, Tesla solar installations require two Powerwall batteries if your system is over 13 kilowatts.

You can use a net metering program.

Net metering programs enable you to transmit any excess power your system produces into your municipal electric grid, receiving credits from your utility company. Those credits can be cashed in to offset any electrical costs you incur on overcast days or at night when you cannot power your home with solar energy alone.

Net metering can ultimately be a cost-effective option and can significantly lower your electricity bills, but there are a few drawbacks to consider, including:

  • You may not always break even.
  • In some cases, you may still owe some money to your utility provider.
  • Net metering programs are not offered in all areas and by all utility companies.

Is Residential Solar Right for You?

Now that you know solar panels can work even when the sun isn't directly shining and that there are ways to store your energy for times your panels aren't producing electricity, you may be more interested in installing your own system.

You can get started with a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company in your area by filling out the 30-second form below.

FAQ: Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days?

How efficient are solar panels on cloudy days?

It depends on the panels, but as a rule of thumb, you can expect your solar panels to work at 10 to 25% efficiency on cloudy days.

How do solar panels work when there is no sun?

If there is literally no sunlight (e.g., at night), then solar panels do not work. This is because the photovoltaic effect, which is the process through which panels convert sunlight into energy, requires there to be some light available to convert.

However, you can potentially use surplus solar power that you've stored in a battery. Also note that solar panels can work with indirect light, meaning they can function even when the sun is obscured by cloud coverage.

Do solar panels work on snowy days?

If there is cloud coverage and diminished sunlight, then solar panels will not work at their maximum efficiency level on snowy days. With that said, the snow itself is usually not a problem, particularly because a dusting of snow is easily whisked away by the wind.

Snow will only impede your solar panels if the snowfall is so extreme that the panels become completely buried, or if the weight of the snow compromises the integrity of your solar panel structures.

Will my solar panels generate electricity during cloudy, rainy or snowy days?

Cloudy days may limit your solar panel's efficiency, but you'll still be able to generate some electricity. Rainy days can actually help clean your panels, making them even more effective. And snowy days are only a problem if the snow is so extreme that the panels are totally submerged, without any part of them exposed to the sun.

Photo by Andreas Dress on Unsplash

Gone are the days of bulky, power-hungry flashlights requiring pocketfuls of extra batteries. A modern rechargeable flashlight packs a potent lumen output from highly efficient LEDs, drawing their power from lightweight and long-lived rechargeable batteries. They're a fraction of the weight and size of your father's old flashlight and come packed with many useful features, taking handheld lighting places it's never been before.

In this article, we'll discuss the best rechargeable flashlights on the market as well as key features to consider when choosing the right torch for you.

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What Are the Best Solar Batteries for Energy Storage? (2022)

We'll help you find the right solar panel battery bank for your home's energy system.

Reviews
Petmal iStock / Getty Images

Homeowners typically look for the best solar panels, but an increasingly important part of installing home energy systems is finding the best solar batteries. After all, what good are solar panels if they only produce when the sun is out and you can’t store any of the extra power to be used at night or when the sun isn’t shining?

Energy storage has long been one of the most prevalent challenges to the large-scale feasibility of solar power, but thanks to advances in solar panel battery bank technology, there are plenty of batteries on the market today that can allow homeowners to take full advantage of their solar production.

In this article, we’ll discuss our five favorite batteries for solar panels in 2022. We’ll also talk about how energy storage works and why it will be paramount in solar installations for decades to come.

5 Best Solar Batteries

  1. Best Overall: Tesla Powerwall 2
  2. Most Intelligent: Enphase Encharge
  3. Most Powerful: Generac PWRcell
  4. Best Value: LG Chem RESU-10H
  5. Most Versatile: BYD Battery-Box Premium HV

Importance of a Solar Panel Battery Bank

Before getting into the best solar batteries, let’s clarify why energy storage is so important.

How Solar Energy Works

When you make the decision to go solar, you’ll have an array of solar panels installed on your roof. If you don’t know how solar panels work, they collect energy from the sun and convert it into an electric current. This direct current (DC) electricity then passes through an inverter which turns it into an alternating current (AC), which is the type of electricity we use in our homes.

Most home solar panel systems are connected to local power grid systems, which means that any excess energy produced by your solar energy system is fed back to the grid. If your utility company has a net metering program, you can receive credits for this excess energy. By contrast, if your solar system does not produce enough energy to power your home at any point, you’ll draw energy from the grid.

Using a Solar Battery Bank

So, where do batteries come into play? A solar battery bank will store energy that’s produced by your system rather than sending it back to the grid, allowing you to use it later. Then, when your unit is not producing any energy (for instance, after dark or on cloudy days), you can tap into those energy reserves in your solar battery bank.

The economics of a solar battery makes perfect sense; the more solar energy stored, the less energy you’ll have to purchase from your utility company. In recent years, however, people have started to realize the importance of solar batteries as backup power during a prolonged power outage. With growing instances of extreme weather exposing the vulnerabilities of our infrastructure, backup batteries and solar panels are becoming a mainstay for those in outage-prone areas like the Southeast and West Coast.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at our recommendations for solar batteries, but if you’re interested in seeing how much a full solar system would cost for your home — battery included — right away, you can use this tool or fill out the form below to get a free, no-obligation quote from a certified installer near you.

Full Reviews of Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Tesla Powerwall 2

Tesla Powerwall 2

Tesla

Tesla isn’t just an automotive company; it also produces some of the best-reviewed, most technologically sophisticated solar products on the market today. The Tesla Powerwall 2 sets the standard for the best solar batteries, and there are several reasons why.

What We Like:

  • While it’s on the pricier end (over $10,000), it offers a usable capacity of 13.5 kWh, making it one of the most robust solar batteries you’ll find anywhere. As such, we think you’ll have a hard time finding a better bang for your buck.
  • This is a full AC lithium-ion battery system, which means it has an inverter/converter already built in.
  • The AC system means it can be very easily retrofitted to any house with an existing solar panel installation.
  • Its compact design allows for some of the highest energy density on the market and many solar battery storage options for homeowners.

What We Don’t Like:

  • The Powerwall 2 is one of the only batteries on this list that is not modular, meaning, there is only one size available. The only way to get a larger capacity is to purchase multiple Powerwalls.

Learn more about the Tesla Powerwall 2

Most Intelligent: Enphase Encharge

Enphase Encharge 10

Enphase

A leader in solar manufacturing, specifically microinverters, Enphase Energy unveiled its solar battery backup system, the Enphase Encharge, in 2019. The Encharge 10 acts as an all-in-one smart energy hub for your entire home energy system, not just your solar panels. A modular battery system, the Encharge is available in increments of 3.5 kW, with the Encharge 10 being the most common option.

What We Like:

  • The Encharge system features the Enpower™ smart switch, which automatically toggles between solar, grid, battery or generator power depending on the needs of the home.
  • Enabling the direct integration of generators for additional off-grid power makes the Encharge one of the most versatile batteries available on the market.
  • If you’re using your battery as backup power for an outage, the Enphase is one of few batteries that can automatically detect a grid outage and switch your home into off-grid mode. For context, the Tesla Powerwall requires a manual switch.

What We Don’t Like:

  • The Encharge 10 typically costs around the same amount as a Tesla Powerwall, but with less capacity and a lower power rating.

Most Powerful: Generac PWRcell

Generac PWRcell

Generac

When it comes to sheer power, look no further than Generac. Generac specializes in generators and backup power, so it’s no surprise the company focuses on a product capable of providing the most backup power relative to its competitors.

What We Like:

  • The PWRcell offers the highest capacity and power rating of any of the batteries on this list.
  • The Generac PWRcell features a modular design that allows you to expand your storage capacity as your power needs evolve. This flexibility allows you to start out with a 9kWh solar + battery storage system and expand in increments of 3kWh up to 36kWh.
  • Smart Management Modules (SMMs) automatically manage power distribution during an outage, ensuring critical loads maintain power.

What We Don’t Like:

  • Though the most powerful, the PWRcell is also one of the more expensive batteries on our list.

Best Value: LG Chem RESU-10H

LG Chem RESU-10H

LG

The LG Chem RESU-10H lithium-ion battery was developed in South Korea and now stands as one of the most popular solar batteries in the world. The LG Chem is the battery of choice for many major solar companies, including Sunrun and Vivint.

What We Like:

  • It’s sized at 9.8 kWh with 90% usable capacity, making it a real powerhouse.
  • The battery cells are layered in a unique pattern that helps prevent failure and maximize long-term reliability.
  • Independent testing and consumer reviews routinely tout this as a very consistent, high-quality solar battery.
  • It has a 10-year warranty and claims to have a battery life of 4,000 cycles.

What We Don’t Like:

  • LG’s warranty only offers a 60% energy retention guarantee over the lifetime of the battery, which is a step down from some of its competitors (Tesla and Enphase offer 70%).

Most Versatile: BYD Battery-Box Premium HV

BYD Battery-Box Premium HV

BYD

BYD is a Chinese solar company, and its premium battery is one of the best we've seen for solar power storage, specifically larger-scale residential or commercial solar applications. BYD batteries are known for their high power and flexibility.

What We Like:

  • This modular tower battery is available at a number of different voltage levels so that you can choose the option best suited for your home or business’ energy needs.
  • It's a cobalt-free lithium iron phosphate battery, which performs well at high temperatures and has a longer cycle life than other lithium-ion batteries.
  • Battery modules can be stacked in order to increase the total capacity that's available to you.
  • The BYD battery comes with a 10-year warranty and claims to be good for around 3,000 total cycles.
  • BYD batteries have some of the best continuous power ratings, meaning despite their capacity, they can provide a great deal of power.

What We Don’t Like:

  • BYD batteries are more powerful than some smaller residences require and will only be suitable for larger home or commercial-scale energy storage needs.

Comparing the Best Solar Batteries


Tesla Powerwall 2

Enphase Encharge

Generac PWRcell

LG Chem

RESU 10H

BYD Battery-Box HV

Battery Capacity

13.5 kW

3.4-10.5 kW

9-18 kW

9.3 kW

5.1-12.8 kW

Continuous Power Rating

5.8 kW

3.84 kW

3.4-6.7 kW

5 kW

5.1-12.8 kW

Depth of Discharge (DoD)

100%

100%

84%

95%

100%

Round-Trip Efficiency

90%

96%

96.5%

94.5%

95%

Price

$10,000+

$5,000- $10,000+

$9,000+

$7,000

$4,000+

Choosing the Best Solar Battery Bank for Your Home

As you consider investing in your own solar system, you’ll have a few types of solar panels and backup batteries to choose from. Here are a few key things to look for when seeking the best solar batteries for your home.

Battery Capacity

Capacity refers to the total amount of electricity you can store in your battery. It’s typically measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Note that most solar batteries are modular (or stackable), which just means that, by combining multiple batteries, you can pool their collective storage capacity so that you can store a higher amount of energy.

Power Rating

In addition to a battery’s capacity, you’ll also want to take a look at its power rating. This tells you how much electricity the battery can provide at any given moment, and it’s typically measured in terms of kilowatts (kW). We should note the difference between peak power rating and continuous power rating:

  • Peak power refers to the maximum amount of power that can be provided at any one time
  • Continuous power refers to the power that the battery can provide over a duration of time. We find the continuous power rating to be the more important figure.

So, how do power and capacity relate? Consider, for instance, a battery with a high capacity but a low power rating. This battery would be able to provide a small amount of electrical power (say, enough for a couple of small appliances) over a long period of time. A low capacity but high-power battery could produce enough electricity for much more robust appliances, but would only be able to power them for a short span of time.

Depth of Discharge

Another important consideration is depth of discharge (DoD). This refers to the level of charge the battery must maintain at all times, as dictated by its chemical composition. The rule of thumb here is that a higher DoD means you’ll be able to utilize more of the energy storage system’s total capacity.

Round-Trip Efficiency

A battery’s round-trip efficiency measures the efficiency of the battery bank, or the amount of energy fed into the battery that can then be used. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association, the industry average round-trip efficiency of solar batteries sits around 80%, meaning that 20% of the energy fed to your battery by your solar panels is lost in the process. The higher the round-trip efficiency, the better the battery. None of the batteries on our list above have a round-trip efficiency of less than 90%.

Price and Warranty

Naturally, any time you’re investing in solar equipment, price point is going to be a big concern. Although you may not want to spend much on top of the cost of solar panels, keep in mind that what you’re really after is value. Different batteries have different costs associated with them, and paying less money for a less powerful battery may not be the most cost-effective option in the long run.

Closely related to price is warranty. Most batteries for solar panels will guarantee either a certain number of cycles or a set number of years. Warranty is something to weigh against price point, as it can have a major impact on overall value.

Types of Batteries for Solar Panels

As you may have noticed, there are a variety of different types of batteries for solar panels. In this context, type refers mostly to the chemical composition of the battery. Lithium-ion batteries are the most common type, but you may also hear about lead-acid batteries, AGM batteries, gel batteries, deep cycle batteries and more.

Lithium-Ion Batteries

The most commonly used batteries for solar panels today are lithium-ion. Advanced lithium-ion technology was developed for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, but the solar industry soon realized the potential it held for home energy storage. Lithium-ion batteries are appealing due to their density, high DoD and long lifespan.

All of the best solar batteries on our list use some form of lithium-ion technology. We should note that lithium iron phosphate batteries are a type of lithium-ion technology.

Lead-Acid Batteries

Lead-acid batteries are what you most likely associate with a common rechargeable battery. This technology has been in use for hundreds of years. Lead-acid batteries offer less than their lithium-ion counterparts due to their low density, shorter lifespan and slow charging. AGM (absorbent glass mat) batteries, flooded lead-acid batteries and deep cycle batteries are all types of lead-acid batteries.

Flow Batteries

Flow batteries are an exciting emerging technology that could one day rival lithium-ion batteries. When supplied with energy from solar panels, an electrolyte liquid undergoes a chemical reaction, creating a flow of energy between two separate chambers within the battery. Flow batteries are appealing due to their 100% DoD, relative simplicity and the fact they don’t require as many rare metals.

Flow batteries are currently in development and are still too large for residential applications.

Final Thoughts: Solar Batteries

The bottom line is that to get the most out of your solar system, you’ll need more than just top-of-the-line panels. Having a reliable solar battery can also be crucial. Make sure you explore your options and account for your home’s specific energy needs when choosing the best solar batteries for your system.

If you want to book a professional solar consultation for free, you can do so using this tool or the form below. A consultation with a certified company is a great way to find out what type of battery would work best for your home, how much your solar system would cost and how much you can save by taking advantage of local and federal solar incentives.

FAQ: Best Batteries for Solar Panels

How long do most solar batteries last?

The typical solar battery lasts between five and 15 years. What this means is that you’ll need to replace your battery at least once during the long life of your solar panels, which tend to hold up for 25 to 30 years. Most solar batteries are maintenance-free.

How can I extend the lifespan of my battery?

One way to extend the life of your solar battery is to protect it from extreme temperature drops. This means getting a battery with built-in temperature moderation (the Tesla battery is an excellent example) or ensuring a sheltered enclosure for your solar panel battery bank.

How many solar batteries do I need?

The number of batteries required can vary from home to home, based on the energy needs as well as the capacity of each battery. (Generally, a higher capacity means you’ll need fewer total batteries.) Reach out to a solar installer near you for a more individualized assessment.

How do I install a solar battery?

Many — but not all — of the top solar companies include battery setups with solar panel installation. When you buy solar panels, ask your installer about battery add-ons. If you want to retrofit your current system with new battery technology or if you have a DIY solar panel system, you can hire a separate company to install batteries or look up your specific solar system to figure out how to do it yourself.

Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.

EcoWatch is a community of experts publishing quality, science-based content on environmental issues, causes, and solutions for a healthier planet and life.
Olga Shumytskaya / Moment / Getty Images

Sweets are peeking at us from every grocery and drug store aisle. Chocolates, gummy bears, little fun-sized bars of sugar and fat in 20-pound bags. These will give you calories, but not a lot of anything else — except maybe health problems. Eating too much candy can increase your risk of diabetes, cavities, and obesity.

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Whether you live on the beach or in a landlocked city, all water eventually makes its way to the ocean, which is why it's so important to use reef-safe sunscreen. Traditional sunscreens can be toxic both to your body and to our important ocean environments, but there are plenty of safe options available.

At its most basic, reef-safe sunscreen is sunscreen that only uses mineral-based UV-blocking ingredients. However, there's no regulation on using the term "reef-safe," so it's important to thoroughly vet the ingredients of any product you're considering purchasing.

To save you some time and effort, we've done the research for you, and in this article, we'll break down the six best reef-safe sunscreens on the market today.

Why Switch to Reef-Safe Sunscreen?

Some places, like Hawaii, have banned many reef-harming sunscreens, but most Americans still have the choice to stick with traditional sunblocks or go the ocean-friendly route. Why switch to reef-safe sunscreen? There are a number of reasons, including:

  • According to National Geographic, there are as many as 82,000 kinds of chemicals from personal care products (including sunscreen) in the ocean, and in 2015 alone, around 14,000 tons of sunscreen ended up on coral reefs globally.
  • Even if you aren't near the ocean, when you shower after applying sunscreen, much of it goes down the drain, entering the wastewater stream and eventually ending up in the sea.
  • Ingredients found in commercially made sunscreens such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, nano titanium dioxide and nano zinc oxide are toxic not only for reefs, but also for sea urchins, fish, marine mammals and other ocean creatures.
  • Oxybenzone can be absorbed by humans and has even shown up in urine and breast milk.

The 7 Best Reef-Safe Sunscreens

Now that you've got a few reasons to choose an ocean-friendly sunblock over an ocean-polluting one, here are our recommendations for the best reef-safe sunscreens on the market.

Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.

Best Overall: Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen

Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen is our overall first choice for reef-safe sunscreen. Once applied, the full-spectrum protection begins instantly and the formula won't leave your skin feeling greasy or sticky. This sunscreen has the highest water resistance per the FDA and can offer protection in water for up to 80 minutes, after which it should be reapplied.

Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 3,800 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: This sunscreen doesn't contain any parabens, phthalates, BPA, oxybenzone, avobenzone, petroleum, gluten, dairy or toxic chemicals. Its one active ingredient is non-nano zinc oxide, and it is not tested on animals.

Best Tinted Sunscreen: Olita Tinted Mineral Sunstick

Olita

If you're worried about mineral sunscreen leaving a white sheen on your face, we recommend trying Olita's Tinted Mineral Sunstick. The SPF 30 formula comes in two shades — Coco Bronze and Light Tan — and its compact size makes it easy to toss in your beach bag or makeup bag. Its made with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and aloe and is free of chemicals or fragrances.

Customer Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars with about 100 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: Olita's tinted sunscreen goes on like a foundation and lasts about two hours before reapplication is needed. All of the company's products are verified by the Environmental Working Group, and Olita donates 10% of all sales to the Coral Reef Alliance to further reef protection.

Best Organic Sunscreen: Badger Clear Zinc SPF 40 Sunscreen

Another product we love is Badger Clear Zinc SPF 40 Sunscreen. This reef-safe, broad-spectrum formula only has four ingredients: zinc oxide, sunflower oil, beeswax and vitamin E. It is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and is fragrance-free.

Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with about 200 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: This sunscreen is SPF 40 and doesn't use any fragrances, allergens, GMOs, parabens, dyes or artificial ingredients. Badger is a women-run B Corporation, and its sunscreen lotions meet the strict safety guidelines of the Environmental Working Group and Protect Land + Sea.

Best for Sensitive Skin: Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion

The SPF 30 formulation of Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen is made for people with very sensitive skin. It uses a 100% non-nano zinc and mineral-based formula that has an 80-minute water resistance before needing to be reapplied. It also includes natural ingredients like soothing organic sunflower oil, jojoba oil, shea butter and avocado.

Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars with over 1,400 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: Babo Botanicals is a certified B Corp. Its sunscreen doesn't contain any added fragrances and is a PETA-certified cruelty-free product. It's also approved by the Environment Working Group.

Best for Kids: Earth Mama Uber-Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

This SPF 40 water-resistant product is pediatrician- and dermatologist-tested for irritants, making it a good choice for children. Earth Mama sunscreen is made from a non-nano zinc formula that sits on top of the skin instead of absorbing into the skin, so it can effectively deflect UV rays and offer maximum sun protection.

Customer Rating: 4.2 out of 5 stars with over 450 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: Earth Mama's kid-friendly sunscreen doesn't use chemicals or artificial fragrances. Using natural ingredients like shea butter and organic colloidal oatmeal helps kids who may get rashes on their skin. It is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes and has UVA/UVB protection.

Best for Activity: Stream2Sea Sport Sunscreen

Unlike typical chemical sunscreens, Stream2Sea uses organic, mineral-based ingredients to shield against UV rays. It sits on your skin rather than being absorbed into your pores, so it's safer for your health while also being safe for marine life. It's water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and holds up to sweat, so it's great for outdoor activities.

Customer Rating: 4.1 out of 5 stars with over 440 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: This sunscreen's formula is eco-conscious and is free of parabens and sulfates. The packaging is also environmentally friendly, as it's made from sugarcane resin and recycled plastic milk jugs.

Best Face Sunscreen: REN Clean Screen Mineral SPF 30 Mattifying Face Sunscreen

This mattifying sunscreen is made with 22% non-nano, naturally derived zinc oxide for broad-spectrum UVA, UVB and blue-light protection. Its mattifying effect helps to reduce the visibility of pores, making it great for everyday use.

Customer Rating: 4.4 out of 5 stars with over 180 Amazon ratings

Why Buy: This product is silicone-free, cruelty-free and vegan. The packaging is made with recycled plastic and can be recycled again when the tube is empty. It uses ingredients such as yellow passionfruit and rice extract and is non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog your pores.

FAQ: Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Which sunscreen is safe for coral reefs?

There are many sunscreens that are safe for coral reefs. We recommend Thinksport SPF 50 Sunscreen and the Olita Tinted Mineral Sunstick as two of the best options on the market.

How do I know if sunscreen is reef safe?

The claim "reef-safe" is not regulated, so the only way to know if a sunscreen is safe for coral reefs is to check the ingredients list for yourself.

What sunscreen ingredients are not reef safe?

According to Save the Reef, when looking for reef-safe sunscreen products, the ingredients you should avoid include: oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, homosalate, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, PABA, parabens and triclosan. Additionally, avoid any forms of microplastics, like "exfoliating beads" as well as nanoparticles of zinc or titanium.

Do I need to wear reef-safe sunscreen?

You should wear sunscreen every day to protect your skin and help prevent skin cancer. Whether it's reef-friendly sunscreen is up to you, but we highly recommend it for both your own health and the health of the ocean ecosystem.

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We had a lot of questions when we heard that Hallmark was releasing 41 Christmas movies this year alone. First off, how? Secondly, do I have the time to watch them all? Do I have the energy to watch all 41 (mentally and physically) so as not to miss out on this timeless holiday tradition? How much electricity would that even require?

With the holidays approaching, we thought you might like the answer to the question us solar nerds are asking: how many solar panels does it take to watch a Hallmark Christmas movie?

Don't celebrate Christmas or watch Hallmark movies? Fret not. This framework can help you understand the amount of power it takes to watch any movie, TV show, sports game or even provide electricity to your entire home.

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The best solar string lights add a classy, welcoming flair to any outdoor space. From bespoke rooftop parties to boho backyard hangouts, solar string lights allow you to achieve an ideal ambiance powered by 100% renewable solar energy.

But with so many options on the market, how do you know which outdoor solar string lights to buy? In this article, we'll recommend a few top products as well as explain factors to consider when purchasing solar-powered lighting.

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