Maybe sticking 1-liter, plastic soda bottles half-way through your ceiling isn’t personally your idea of the most attractive type of lighting décor. But, the solar bottle bulb is gaining popularity in homes and schools throughout other parts of the world, like Brazil, Kenya’s slums and the Philippines, where daylight is sparse or residents don’t make enough money to pay for daily electricity use (even if electricity is available).
Families in these countries may live in small houses set closely together. The metal roofs block most — if not all — of the daylight from permeating through the buildings, making it night-like for residents all of the time. So, this ingenious trash-to-treasure idea came from students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Basically, it uses sunlight refracting through water to create free solar ‘electricity’ during the daytime!
Explains Ben Coxworth in his 2011 article, Social project uses pop bottles to provide indoor lighting for the poor for GizMag.com, “Its construction and installation is simple. A clear one-liter pop bottle is filled with water, chlorine is added, then the bottle is squeezed part way through a hole in a piece of corrugated tin. A corresponding hole is cut in the tin roof of a house, the tin-and-bottle is secured over the hole so that the bottom of the bottle hangs down through the ceiling/roof, then caulking is applied to prevent rain from getting in.” One bottle is equivalent to a 55-watt light bulb.
Let’s call it up-cycling, because even though there’s nothing to be done to the recyclable bottle but adding purified water to fill it up with a splash of chlorine, to discourage mold/discoloration, the bottle is graduating from trash to useful resource!
Obviously, there are some concerns with the longevity of these skylights. An Ecopreneurist.com article, An Innovative and Cheap ‘Solar Bottle Bulb’ Solution Lights Homes in Manila, admits that “This simple innovation is not perfect — the water needs to be replaced every five years and obviously without any provision for energy storage, the bulb will not work at night. But the advantages are overwhelming for communities that are deprived of daylight. It is surprisingly effective, using cheap and locally available materials that allows the poor in these settlements to use their homes more effectively. The bulb does not produce any harmful pollutants and also reduces the dangers from faulty and temporary electrical connections that cause devastating fires.” Inevitably, the sun’s harsh rays or the liquid inside will cause the plastic to break down over time, causing leaks. Currently, there is little information available on whether the soda bottles could, with some modifications, work for colder climates.
A positive side-effect to the Installation of the solar bottle bulbs is that it creates work for some residents of these regions as well.
Let’s not stop there. What about using the lights all over the world for other uses than just small houses? Whether you have access to a lot of daylight/electricity or not, why not save some money off your electric bill and use a green source of energy? Maybe these bottle lights could work in your own chicken coop, ice shack, garden shed, garage, hunting cabin, outhouse, treehouse or other type of playhouse. Add a light to Fido’s doghouse, if you want! Check out this instructional video by Illac Diaz.
It’s a simple, energy-efficient solution for a worldwide, societal problem. Furthermore, it creates an income source for some, keeps more materials out of landfills, and gives free daylight to those who need it… No matter how you look at it, the solar bottle bulb is a win-win situation for everyone involved!
Plastic Bottles Light Up Kenya’s Slums
An Innovative and Cheap ‘Solar Bottle Bulb’ Solution Lights Homes in Manila