Solar Lighting Basics

Solar Lighting Basics

Solar lighting provides an attractive ambiance and security without increasing your energy bill or carbon footprint. It can even help communities in need of centralized power avoid disruptions due to natural disasters.

Solar lights use photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity, which is stored in batteries for use at night or during periods of low sun. The type of battery selected can affect performance, depending on humidity and altitude.

Solar Panels

Solar panels convert sunlight to electricity. They come in several different types depending on the application, from crystalline silicon (pic 2) to amorphous (brownish) cells found in little yard lights and trinkets to concentrated solar power (CSP) used in large power plants.

A battery is required to store the energy that a solar panel creates so it can be used at night. The battery can be as small as SOLAR LIGHTING a few AA rechargeable batteries to as big as a car battery and the size is determined by the load that the system will be powering at night.

The direction that a solar panel is installed has a significant impact on it’s output, especially in winter when the days are much shorter and the sun’s angle is less direct. To optimize the performance of a solar panel it should be installed at an angle of 15 degrees plus the latitude of the installation site.

When determining the amount of power that a solar panel will produce it is best to test it. This can be done with a multimeter set to DC voltage. The open circuit voltage of a solar panel is printed on the manufacturers label located on the underside. It should be very close to the voltage specified in the installation instructions. The next step is to measure the current output of a panel. Again using a multimeter set to amps, it is best to test each lead separately as placing one leads on the other in an amperage measurement creates a dead short across the unit being tested and this can damage it.

LED Fixtures

Many lighting fixtures are available as a solar option, including street lights, bollards, lanterns and sconces. These solar LED fixtures provide the same lighting as traditional fixtures but eliminate the need for noisy, smelly generators that must be refueled and require regular maintenance. This provides a powerful and environmentally friendly solution that is perfect for construction projects, public events or any application where you need to light the way, fast.

Solar LED street lights are a great way to illuminate the path to your building, parking lot or sidewalk. They offer a bright and effective alternative to expensive, high-wattage bulbs and come equipped with a built-in battery that can be charged through the day by sunlight and then used at night. They also feature a programmable dusk to dawn sensor, providing the ideal solution for illuminating any outdoor space without the need of a costly power source or ongoing energy bills.

Solar LED lighting is a great choice for schools, churches and businesses that want to reduce their carbon footprint while saving on ongoing utility costs. Solar LED lighting offers a one-time cost, eliminating the need for a monthly electricity bill and replacing bulbs that can cost up to 25% more than traditional bulbs. Additionally, this type of lighting can be installed on existing poles through a retrofit process that saves even more time and money.

Batteries

Batteries are needed to store the energy produced by solar lights for use at night and during periods of low sunlight. They also provide backup power solar powered generator in case of a power outage. Batteries should be chosen carefully because there are many different types on the market, and not all are ideal for solar lighting systems.

NiCd (nickel cadmium) batteries are one of the oldest types of rechargeable battery, and they can still be found in some solar lights. However, they are not the best choice because they can experience a memory effect that shortens their lifespan. They also contain cadmium, which is an environmentally hazardous material.

Another type of rechargeable battery is the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery, which has a long cycle life and performs well in cold temperatures. They are a great option for solar light batteries because they can be charged and discharged over and over again without losing much of their energy. Additionally, they are not as sensitive to temperature extremes as other lithium variants.

Regular non-rechargeable alkaline batteries should never be used in solar lights, as they will quickly drain and corrode the battery terminals. This can prevent the battery from charging correctly, and may lead to permanent system damage. Using regular batteries in your solar light can also void the warranty, so always use rechargeable batteries designed specifically for your solar lights to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

Controllers

Controllers are the brains of solar systems, they control when lighting will turn on and off. They also regulate the voltage going to and from batteries. They prevent battery overcharging and over-discharging, making them an essential component of any solar system design.

Solar charge controllers utilize either pulse width modulation (PWM) or maximum power point tracking (MPPT) technology to regulate and deliver the right amount of current from PV arrays to run electrical loads and safely charge batteries during the day. In the evening, when there is no sunlight, they allow battery power to be used to operate LED lights.

Aside from providing energy efficiencies, smart controllers offer advanced functionalities that help maximize energy generation and performance optimization of each light unit in an array through cloud based software. They are also equipped with a variety of electronic protections that protect against nighttime reverse current, short circuiting, high temperatures and battery reverse polarity, ensuring the safety of your investment.

Lighting can be controlled by using a photocell or timer to detect when the sun sets and rises, and by setting the controller to only light for a specified number of hours after sunset and before sunrise. More granular controls can be implemented as well, such as turning on for 3 hours after sunset and off for 2 hours before sunrise.

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