What to Know About Solar Umbrellas

Solar umbrellas offer convenient access to alternative energy and a nice shady spot on your patio. What's not to love?

What are Solar Umbrellas?

Solar power has been touted as a clean, reliable source of energy for years, but it’s been slow to take hold as a popular alternative energy. While a solar electric system can dramatically lower utility bills, they’re also bulky and expensive to install.

Solar umbrellas, on the other hand, offer none of those problems. To the casual observer, a solar umbrella resembles any sleek and stylish umbrella you might see on a patio. The main difference: A solar umbrella is designed (unsurprisingly) to soak up sunlight during the day and convert it to energy that powers the LED lighting under the umbrella at night.

It’s brilliantly simple — solar umbrellas block the sun’s rays all day long, then turn around and efficiently convert that energy into solar-powered lighting. There’s no complicated set up or wiring. Just open the umbrella and let it do its thing.

Image Credits: Patricia Marroquin/Getty Images

How Do They Work?

Solar umbrellas typically pull power through a small solar panel mounted to the top of the unit so it’s constantly exposed to the sun. The unit captures sunlight and turns it into electricity through what is called a “photovoltaic effect.” That power is then stored and accessed by flipping a switch on the umbrella pole that powers the built-in LED lighting.

Benefits of Solar Umbrellas

The main benefit of solar umbrellas is their built-in convenience. Putting a solar umbrella on a patio gives you shade during the day and lighting during the night in one simple package. No need to run an extension cord or wire lights throughout your backyard. The sun takes care the power. All you do is flip a switch

How Much Do They Cost?

Most come in the $100-$200 range. That might seem like a lot for an umbrella, but it’s not — standard umbrellas cost nearly the same if not more. When you consider you’re essentially getting an umbrella and solar lights in one bundle, the savings speak for themselves.