With an ever-increasing emphasis on the use of sustainable energy, the focus has been shifting to lighting solutions that are efficient and cut down on energy wastes. One such solution that has been gaining a significant amount of attention recently combines the sustainable benefits of renewable and free solar power with the energy efficiency of LED lights.
Solar power and LED lighting form the perfect combination, kind of like peanut butter and jelly. They work very well with each other to complement their best attributes. The sheer nature of solar power makes it a near-perfect solution for any outdoor lighting application from parking lots to street lights. Outdoor lighting is typically only needed during the night, which leaves the daytime for obtaining solar energy that can then be converted to electrical power and used in powering light sources at night. The benefits of solar power could be totally negated if implemented with inefficient lighting technologies. That’s what makes the combination of solar power and LED lighting one that has been gaining so much attention.
How does it work?
Components of a typical integrated solar streetlight.
There are many components which make up a solar light. They may differ from one manufacturer to the other. However, most LED solar lights share these common components:
Solar Panels. The most popular solar panels in use today are Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline. These solar panels perform the major duties of energy collecting and conversion, in the daytime. They collect energy from the sun and convert them into electric power which is then stored in the batteries as chemical energy. Monocrystalline panels perform better than the later, especially in cold weather. They have higher conversion rates than polycrystalline panels. So, Monocrystalline panels are more commonly used in integrated solar lights due to their limited size.
LED Light Source. LED fixtures are the most popular pairings to go with solar light assemblies. . Picking the right type of fixture and distribution pattern that gives the right level of light will ensure and fulfill the required lighting design. LEDs generally broaden the range of style of fixtures available for solar lighting. It also provides better lighting at a lower wattage. Also, compared to traditional light sources, LEDs take up far less space in the lamps, which allows for more compact fixture designs.
Battery. Both MH(metal halide) and HPS (high-pressure sodium), which were used as light source in streetlights at that time, are with the relatively obsolete lighting technology (60-80 lumens/w) compared with that of the LED. those bulbs/lamps usually require a large amount of energy per day from its battery bank, which is considered as a downright burden to its battery capacity. Compared with lead-acid batteries, lithium batteries are lighter, smaller, with longer lifespan and larger DoD, what is more, important is that lithium batteries are with larger capacity at the same volume.
Solar Light Controller.
Usually, the battery box houses the controls of the solar lights. These controls enable the automatic switch on and off of the solar light systems. For customization of runtimes, these controls also operate the correct profile of the system. They provide a Low Voltage Disconnect (LVD) for times when the battery gets drained to a critical point, to ensure that the battery never goes down to zero. This functionality increases the life of the battery system.
Some solar lights even come with remote controls for easy access to light controls. Furthermore, there are many project-specific light control options that are customized by the manufacturer, to suit specific needs.
Split vs. Integrated
Integrated solar lights use lithium batteries. The charge and discharge time is 3 times that of lead-acid batteries.
The Split-Type solar lights use lead-acid batteries. At temperatures below 5 ℃, its capacity shrinks.
The Integrated solar lights can be installed in just 3 simple steps. It requires digging a pit for the fixture cage, fixing the light to the pole and finally, erecting it.
Installing the Split-Type solar lights require digging pits for cage and battery, installing the solar panel and lightbox to the pole, and finally, wiring the lightbox, solar panel, and the battery together to make the whole system work.
The Integrated solar lights are designed to hold all its components in the fixture's housing. This allows it to uphold its aesthetic appeal without compromising its performance.
Due to the makeshift nature of their design, Split-Type solar lights have most of their components exposed and are of different shapes and sizes, making them look unappealing.
The LED Advantage
Runs on DC Power
The traditional combo of solar panels and CFLs or halogen lights requires a converter to run the lights. This causes a major loss in power and requires the solar panels to be larger and the batteries to have extra storage. Thus, making them bulkier and unappealing. But, that is not the case for LED lights powered by solar panels. LEDs run directly from DC power and doesn’t require a converter or extra power to make up for the loss in their efficiency. Most importantly, LEDs provide a better quality of light and have the best lumen per watt ratio.
Better Light Quality
LEDs win by a large margin against the traditional light sources when it comes to light quality. The technologically advanced LED lights can produce light colors present in any part of the lighting spectrum. From cool blue-white like CFLs to warmer yellowish glow like that of incandescents, LED lights come in a variety of colors, making them suitable for all sorts of applications. LEDs again take the top spot when it comes to Color Rendering Index (CRI). With 80+ CRIs, LEDs ensure that they make everything look stunning when used in street, landscape, decorative and mood lighting.
The bright white of LEDs provides a better CRI (color rendition index) and less flicker, which provides better sight at night. This is better for security and puts less strain on the eyes. Less strain means that people who have to work or drive at night will be less tired.
More Lighting time
LED lights use a fraction of the power needed for one incandescent lamp and one third less power than compact fluorescent lamps. They provide better efficiency and light quality for the same size of the solar panels used for their traditional counterparts, which make their combination extremely effective and allows for higher lighting durations.
Solar power provides power for applications without using any other source of energy other than the sun, and LEDs use that energy to provide lighting. LEDs also use no mercury or other hazardous materials, making them safe to recycle when they eventually go out.