Whether you heard about them from a friend bragging about their new outdoor solar panels or seen roofs full of panels as you drive by the freeway, solar-powered lighting is definitely here to stay.
WHAT ARE SOLAR PANELS?
Solar panels are modules that utilize sunlight as a source of energy. So how does energy from the sun convert to electrical energy and how does it shine for hours even when the sun goes down? Time for a mini science lesson. The main principle behind the function of solar panels is the photovoltaic effect. The solar or photovoltaic cell which is seen as a dark panel at the top of a solar panel is the part that converts sunlight into electricity. Solar cells consists of many layers of crystalline silicon which creates layers of positively charged spaces and negatively charged electrons. So as light passes through the solar cell, the negatively charged electrons get energize and are then pushed into the positively charged spaces. These spaces then transfer the stream of electrons as direct current via wires to a battery, where the electricity is stored until it is needed. Basically during the day, when there is an abundance of sunlight, the battery is being charged, but at night, the solar cell starts to weaken and stops converting sunlight. With a fully charged battery, it supplies energy to the device it is connected to. Then, the cycle continues. Charge during the day time and use the stored energy during the night time.
TYPES OF SOLAR POWERED LIGHTING
The growing use of solar power has sprung a demand for innovation in everyday electrical devices like our home lighting. Solar-powered lights that we may use every day include:
These are the most popular form of solar lights because they have better access to direct sunlight. They are easy to install, mostly maintenance-free, and very easy to use. Most outdoor lights are sold with solar panels built into the unit so you would just need to place them in a sunny location. There are some sets however which have a separate solar panel. In that case, only the solar panels should be placed in sunny locations while the actual lights can be placed wherever you would prefer. Common solar-powered outside lights include:
- Pathway lights
- Wall mounted lamps
- Security lights
- Pool lights
- Garden lights
- INDOOR LIGHTS
Although solar indoor lighting is not as widespread as outdoor solar lights, they are a great way to reduce energy costs and provide a more natural-looking light in your household. These are a few options available to you if you’re considering purchasing any form of indoor solar lighting. They include:
- Solar indoor lights that are attached to windows using rubber suction cups. They absorb as much sunlight as they can during the day and can be used wherever you want at night.
- Solar indoor lights that use separate solar panels are another option. These are installed inside the home, but they have an external solar panel that can be installed in areas outside the house with better access to sunlight. The main light can be in any room of your choice.
- Okay, solar skylights technically don’t use solar power technology, but they are a great source for natural lighting. These are windows installed on the roof of your home that is usually made out of glass and encased in a metal frame. They can be open and closed, both manually or automatically depending on the design. The main point is they allow lots of natural light into your home.
- Solar-powered tube lights are just like skylights but at a fraction of the cost. They harness sunlight from your roof and transmit it down a reflective tube and into the room they are installed in.
Skylights and solar tubes differ from modern solar indoor lighting appliances because they do not use photovoltaic cells to store energy in batteries. They just provide direct light from the sun. So do not make them your only source of lighting because there will be no sunlight to illuminate your home during the night time.
WHY CHANGE OVER TO SOLAR POWERED LIGHTING?
One of the main advantages of switching over to solar-powered lighting as a homeowner are the significant differences you would see in your electricity bills. Since solar lights use photovoltaic technology, they obtain energy from the sun. It may seem like an expensive choice at first but after a few months, you will realize that the money you’ve saved on light bills more than makes up for the cost of installation. Apart from saving money, here are some more reasons you should switch to solar lighting today.
- EASIER TO MAINTAIN
Apart from the fact that they are quite easy to install, they also don’t require much maintenance, unlike traditional lighting which regularly need light bulb changes or wiring checks. Solar lights do not require much apart from technical checkups once in a while, occasional battery replacements, and panel cleaning to prevent the buildup of debris.
Not only are they extremely practical but they also come in various aesthetically pleasing options. You can get lights made from copper, plastic or stainless steel. There are a variety of colors and shapes to choose from. There are even some designed to look like stones that could be used to decorate your garden.
- ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY
Solar energy has been identified as one of the most effective sources of all renewable energy. It is a great way to preserve energy and reduce your carbon footprint.
Due to the lack of electrical wiring, these lights do not pose the risk of electrocution, overheating, fires, or damage from power surges. It is also a great child friendly option.
The only major problem is in countries where there are periods (e.g. autumn and winter) where sunlight is limited, the solar panels will not be able to receive enough sunlight to charge the battery for later use. Moreover, during winter there is a possibility of snow, which could block the solar panels further preventing the already limited sunlight available to the panels.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to get the energy you need for your home, you should definitely consider solar panels and solar panel lighting.