The ins and outs of solar lights
Solar energy has many diverse applications. Additional to the traditional rooftop or ground mounted solar system installation, you can benefit from this form of renewable energy with solar lights that capture, store, and use the sun’s energy to light up your property.
Solar lights – How do they work?
There are many different types of solar lights available, from garden lights to festive string lights and more. Solar lights work like a miniature version of a solar panel system with one important differentiator: they include battery storage.
During the daytime when the sun is shining, solar cells attached to the light generate electricity and store it in a battery. Most solar lights include a light sensor so that when night falls, they automatically switch on and start using their stored electricity. While many solar lights have their solar cells built right into the same unit as the light itself, some versions have lights separate from the solar panel providing power to it.
Most solar lights incorporate LEDs that use a small amount of electricity. Because of this, many can run for a full night (if not more). Most solar lighting systems have a “nightly run time” rating that indicates how long you can expect them to produce light given a certain amount of sun exposure. Bear in mind that these run times may vary from the actual lighting time you get from them, as factors such as shading, geographic location, and cloud cover will all impact how much sun the attached solar cells can convert to electricity.
How do solar cells generate electricity?
A standard photovoltaic (PV) solar panel consists of a layer of silicon cells, a metal frame, a glass casing, and various wiring components to allow current to flow from the silicon cells. Silicon is a nonmetal with conductive properties that allow it to absorb and convert sunlight into electricity. When light interacts with the silicon cell, it causes electrons to be set into motion, which triggers a flow of electric current.
Solar lights – Various types
There are many types of solar lighting solutions. Here are a few commonly used types and their typical applications:
Solar lawn, garden, and path lights
Solar lighting is in and around gardens and paths has become very popular for homes and office gardens. Generally, solar garden lights are small and easy to install. Simply bury the pointed end in sunny ground space and voila! Be cautious of how close your solar garden lights are to trees or anything else that might cause shade. The more light they are exposed to during the day, the longer they can keep your garden lit up at night.
Solar Christmas lights and solar string lights
Another popular application option is a solar Christmas light string. Unlike garden lights, these lights usually come with a separate unit to house detached solar cells. Solar Christmas lights look like a normal set of holiday string lights. However, instead of being connected to an extension cord, they connect to a small solar panel that gets placed in a sunny spot to charge its battery during the day.
Solar Christmas lights are generally a little more expensive than traditional string lights, but you’ll save money over time by not using electricity from the grid, plus get to keep them on during load-shedding.
Solar flood lights
Solar-powered lights can also be used as ultra-bright or security lighting on your property. Solar flood lights will often come with a larger solar panel than solar garden lights in order to power a more robust LED. Additionally, solar flood lights usually have a motion sensor attached so that the light only switches on when someone is approaching. A common use for solar flood lighting setups is as security lights near a front door or garage.
Buying a solar flood light will cost more than solar garden lights, as these are more powerful and require a more robust solar setup.
If you have spotted small solar panels mounted on light poles in a road, these solar streetlights are a way for municipalities or estates to save money and time on outdoor lighting setups. Solar streetlights provide many benefits, including little to no maintenance needs, low operational costs, and a low risk of accidents.