Solar-powered lighting is emerging as an environmental-friendly and cost-efficient solution in many outdoor lighting applications. Many municipalities are finding them to be the perfect solution for illuminating streets, pathways, parking lots, and signs in location not easily connected to the power-grid.
Solar lights use solar panels to convert sunlight during the daytime into electricity and store it into the batteries. After sunset, the solar panel will detect a drop in ambient light and the system will automatically turn on the light. Due to their high efficiency and low maintenance, LEDs are used as the light source in the vast majority of solar lights.
Compared to traditional grid-tied HPS or metal halide lights, solar LED lights offer three main advantages. First, solar lighting can save the owners hundreds of dollars per light by eliminating trenching, wiring, and electricity costs. In many cities and states, owners can also qualify for solar rebates or subsidies. Second, solar lights offer a great deal of convenience. Their lack of trenching means there are few or no landscaping issues. Solar lights do not require timers, and their LED fixtures eliminate the yearly maintenance visits. In more remote places, solar lights are also a way to fight against copper theft. Finally, solar lights are good for the environment. Using only the limitless clean energy from the sun, solar lights also have the benefit of using less material and labor to install, which further reduces their carbon footprints.
While more and more people are moving to using solar lighting, there are several things buyers should beware of when purchasing a solar lighting system.
Lumens, foot-candles, and other technical terms can often make it difficult to determine the lights’ brightness level on the ground. Many buyers are also lured by the inexpensive solar lawn lights found in hardware stores, only to find that they offer almost no lighting. As a rule of thumb, a 15 watt system is needed for 16 foot lights, a 30 watt system is needed for 20 foot lights, and 60 watt systems are required for 26 foot lights. A solar lawn light should have a minimum of 3 watts. Another consideration would be the autonomy from poor weather. Solar lighting systems should be designed by manufacturers with large enough solar panels and batteries to provide enough rainy or cloudy backup days for the location where they will be installed. Finally, buyers should be aware of the type of battery used in the system. Because of the daily charging and discharging, batteries are usually the weakest link in a solar lighting system. For optimal performance, buyers should only select systems with gel cell deep-cycle batteries or lithium ion batteries.
As the technology in solar lights continue to improve, we will find solar-powered LED lights in more and more stand-alone and off-grid lighting projects. By selecting the latest generation of fully-integrated systems with the right configuration, owners can ensure they obtain quality lighting systems that can provide years of trouble-free lighting.