Solar lights are lights that are powered by solar energy. It is still a fairly new technology to use in landscape lighting due to various technical difficulties. Below are product reviews of various solar lights to cut-down your research time in purchase of solar lights. If you wish to learn more about solar lights, we have articles written by industry experts to help you understand the technologies behind the products.
Solar Powered Lights Product Review
Solar Garden Lights Product Review
Outdoor Solar Light Product Review
Solar Landscape Lightin Product Review
Understanding Solar Powered Lighting
||In the past, solar cells were (and many still are) very weak and could not hold a reliable charge for more than a few hours. Now, solar lighting designers and engineers have been able to utilize advanced LED lamps which draw a minimum of current yet provide intense output of illumination (see below for further LED information).
Simply put, the solar cells collect sunlight during the day and then discharge the energy at night. Most solar lights are equipped with a built-in photo cell for dusk to dawn operation. The solar cell is powered by re-chargeable batteries (NiCad or NiMH) which normally last about 1 year under normal conditions. The LED lamps are so efficient that they have a normal life expectancy of several years.
The advent of new technology in solar lighting components (cells, batteries, and LED lamps) the quality of light output and discharge time is now sufficient for many residential (and some commercial) applications. Depending on the position and location of the solar light it is not uncommon to have output capacity for up to 10-12 hours at night with light projection up to 20 ft in distance! Adding landscape lighting to your project is now easier than ever.
Solar lighting may not be right for every application. At today’s level, solar power cannot compete with conventional (energy guzzling) lighting products. However, solar lighting can be perfect for those applications where regular power is unavailable and where accent lighting can provide great solutions.
The expectation of solar lighting is critical to customer satisfaction. As mentioned previously, solar lighting should be considered a form of accent lighting- not conventional flood or task lighting. However, in dark nighttime environments even a little light goes a long way. All solar lighting products will be strongest in the first few hours of operation and then slowly diminish in output as the battery source is spent. The batteries will then self charge (the next day) when re-exposed to sunlight. With fully charge batteries (4-5 hours of direct sunlight) professional solar products can provide illumination from dusk till dawn.
One of the most common questions is how will cloudy skies affect the output of solar light? Simply stated, solar panels are site and weather sensitive. All daylight contains UV rays and the solar collector will collect sunlight during the day. However, the battery storage may be affected (and the saturation level diminished) which in turn will affect general output. This would be the same when placing a solar collector in shadowy areas.
For best results, place solar fixtures so that they receive the optimum amount of direct sunlight and replace the batteries annually for best performance.
Solar Technology Overview-
||The science of solar lighting is called photovoltaic and was derived primarily from the United States space program and satellite technology. Photovoltaic (PV) cells are primarily made of semiconductors and silicon cells. Simply put, when sunlight strikes the semiconductor it is absorbed into the material. The energy created from “the strike” allows the electrons to flow creating an electric current. The current then sends energy to the power supply (rechargeable battery) which in turn energizes the lamp (LED). The efficiency (or light output) is based upon several factors—cell capacity, lamp source, battery type and the PC board design.
The most popular solar lamp (bulb) is LED (light emitting diode). This type of lamp is so efficient that they are now found in everything from automotive brake lights to city traffic signals. LED’s come in a variety of colors, the most intense being super white. LED lamps have different properties and characteristics than conventional light bulbs and the measurement terminology is foreign to most people. For example, LED lamp intensity is measured in milli-candles (mcd) as opposed to watts and lumens, milli-amps (ma) rather than amps and beam spreads are measured in viewing angles (20-60 degree avg.) instead of flood or spot.
Professional solar lighting products are equipped with super bright, efficient LED (light emitting diodes) lamps that produce an intense cool white glow that has often been referred to as a “moon light effect.” It is important to recognize that outdoor solar lighting products are “site sensitive” and perform best when placed in direct sunlight and away from shadowy areas. It is also important to note that the operating conditions of solar lighting will fluctuate with cloudy, rainy and winter-like weather. However, as solar technology continues to develop solar cells will become more “sensitive” and begin to attract even partial ambient light.
The key elements of solar lighting products are battery and lamp type. Most solar lights are equipped with rechargeable NiCAD (nickel cadmium) batteries. However, a better choice is NiMH (nickel metal hydride). This type of rechargeable battery has a much better memory than NiCAD and is non-polluting to the environment.
Granted, there is so much more to photovoltaic science and LED technology than can be said here but what seems like magic is simply good science at work. We have already seen significant improvements in the efficiency of solar products as demand for this technology continues to grow. Solar power is now part of everyday products such as calculators, clocks, water pumps, irrigation controllers and more! It can be said we have entered into a new “energy” renaissance and solar lighting is just one of the aspects to this revolution.
Finally, as the U.S. and the rest of the world continues to grapple with higher energy costs with dwindling non-renewable supplies (such as coal, oil and petroleum products) renewable energy sources such as solar power will become even more important.
Summary-Solar powered lighting is now being requested by more homeowners, designers and architects than ever before. Improvements in solar circuits, LED lamps and rechargeable batteries now make solar lighting a viable choice for outdoor lighting. Manufacturers are now offering solar lighting products in a wide array of designs and applications. Solar lighting provides new solutions and alternatives to conventional lighting products that, until recently were not possible.
Technology in Review
Lightcraft Introduces Solar-Scapes tm, Professional Solar Lighting Products.
LIGHTCRAFT INTRODUCES SOLAR-SCAPES tm, NEW LED TECHNOLOGY IN SOLAR POWERED OUTDOOR LIGHTING.
Chatsworth, CA, January, 2005-
NEW SOLAR LED TECHNOLOGY ALLOWS LIGHT DISCHARGE OF UP TO 12 HOURS PER NIGHT WITH AN EQUIVALENT OUTPUT OF A 20 WATT LAMP.
SOLAR-SCAPES tm, HAS INTRODUCED A COMPREHENSIVE LINE OF SOLAR OUTDOOR LIGHTING—LANDSCAPE, POST, COLUMN, WALL, ADDRESS, FLOOD AND SECURITY AND MORE!
There is no doubt as to the demand for solar lighting. Imagine having the option of placing a light almost anywhere in the landscape area without concern for trenching, wiring or voltage drop issues.
Technological advances coupled with an increased world-wide commitment for energy conservation has spawned a new generation of lighting—photovoltaic or solar renewable power.
In the past, solar cells were weak and could not hold a reliable charge for more than a few hours. Now, the Lightcraft engineers have designed advanced solid state circuit boards utilizing super bright white LEDs (at 5 times the intensity of standard solar lights) and more efficient NiMH power packs (as opposed to NiCAD) providing longer operation and discharge time than conventional solar products.
Solar lighting products are now being produced for all types of applications—landscape, posts, columns, walls, patio, deck and more. The Lightcraft Solar-Scapes product line offers the widest and most complete selection of solar lighting products available today. Simple solutions such as lighting an address or providing light to remote areas where power is hard to come by is now as easy as digging a hole (for a post or ground spike) or mounting a bracket with a pair of screws. With today’s technology, solar lighting can provide solutions that, up to now, were not possible.
Lightcraft is proud to announce the introduction of the Solar-Scapes product line.
Technological advances coupled with an increased world-wide commitment for energy conservation has spawned a new generation of lighting--photo-voltaic or solar renewable power. Imagine free energy from a renewable resource (sunlight) that allows light to be placed almost anywhere in the landscape environment without conventional constraints.
With solar power there is no need for transformers, wire and cable, conduit or concern for voltage drop issues.
Landscape lighting is one of the most popular features in outdoor home improvement with approx. 20% of all residences having some form of landscape lighting on their property. The main reason this percentage is not higher is that most home builders do not provide landscape lighting and most homeowners are either not keen on installing low voltage lighting or hiring a contractor to install a system. However, when surveyed most homeowners would like their properties well lit for beauty as well as for safety and security.
There is no doubt as to the growing demand for solar lighting. Imagine having the option of placing a light almost anywhere in the landscape area without concern for installation, design limitations or energy usage. Also, the cost savings over 12v and 120v lighting installations are tremendous.
Solar lighting products are now being produced for all types of applications- landscape, posts, columns, walls, patio, deck and more. Simple solutions such as lighting an address or providing light to remote areas where power is hard to come by is now as easy as digging a hole (for a ground spike) or mounting a bracket with a pair of screws.
As more efficient and decorative solar fixtures become available introducing the element of light can provide immediate drama, safety and excitement to most any landscape setting. Adding just a little light can make a big difference in a landscape project as well as to the overall enjoyment to the homeowner.