Biggest Concerns About Solar Lighting
concerns about solar lighting
Buying a new product–especially an expensive one–isn¡¯t just a simple decision. Smart consumers research the market by looking at positive (and negative) reviews online, consulting friends, reading case studies, and examining the quality and source of the product¡¯s components. Understanding the build of a product and educating yourself on the reputation of a brand isn¡¯t always an easy task. However, most of this information can be accessed through the web, so the process to educate yourself is easier than it¡¯s ever been. But what if I were to ask you about the components and company reputations for commercial solar lights? That isn¡¯t as easy as logging onto a review site and checking for a review score, so we¡¯ve prepared a guide to help you look for what sells and what stinks when it comes to solar lighting.
Concerns About Solar Lighting: What Makes a Quality Product?
Just like us, you want the best bang for your buck. Here¡¯s what to look for when it comes to quality, service, warranty, and other aspects that may be a concern for people switching to solar lighting over traditional.
One of the most important components for a solar light is–well, you guessed it, the solar panel itself. When you¡¯re searching for quality panels on your lights, you¡¯ll want to check a few boxes and ensure your panels have these key build factors.
You¡¯ll want to purchase a panel build of what¡¯s called monocrystalline silicon. The biggest difference between these panels and others is that they¡¯re made of a single ingot of 99.9% pure silicon, so the efficiency of the panels is higher than other (commercially available) panels on the market.
Solar Panel Adhesive
Elmer¡¯s glue might have a fantastic application for in-house projects, but it has no place in photovoltaic builds. What you need is a heat-activated, electrically-conductive bonding solution. Remember, these are solar panels and they¡¯ll be sitting in direct sunlight for years. If you want to ensure your panels will stay functional through constant temperature fluctuations, check that your solar light manufacturer has a great adhesive for the panels. Otherwise, the silicon wafers may lose their effectiveness.
Another concern about solar lighting that you need to consider is the temperature coefficient for a panel. Some areas that receive a lot of sun hours are also notoriously hot, and so a strong TC would be -0.3% to -0.5 percent. A solar panel with -0.3% means for every degree in Celsius the panel¡¯s temperature increases above 25 degrees, the panel¡¯s efficiency decreases by .03%. Anything above .5 is a sign of a low-quality panel.
Glass for a monocrystalline photovoltaic panel needs to be tempered glass. The difference is that it can be anti-reflective and also shatter-proof in the rare but entirely possible situation of something severely damaging the solar light. It¡¯s another concern for solar lighting that is commonly looked-over since it¡¯s a misconception that any glass will work fine for the panels. The certificates of IEC (IEC61730, IEC61215) and UL1307 for your solar panel mean that their glass meets the industry standard.
Solar energy is important, but if the light fixture on your solar investment doesn¡¯t work well–or at all–your light might as well be a wonderful street decoration. Here¡¯s what you want and don¡¯t want in a light fixture.
LED light fixtures are known for being incredibly efficient. These lights are best for solar energy since their luminous efficacy (lumen output per watt consumed) is about 60 lumens per watt. To easily compare, an incandescent bulb is about 15 lumens per watt–not that any proper manufacturer would use an incandescent bulb on an outdoor light (we¡¯d hope), but ensure LEDs are used for your solar light to ensure the best lumen output for the power available.
Insufficient Heat Dispersion
Heat is a huge concern for solar lighting. A proper light fixture needs a sufficient heatsink to draw heat away from the bulbs to dissipate into the air. For LED fixtures, the heat is a by-product of the semiconductor within the bulb that produces the light. It¡¯s important to check the material and shape of the heatsink to determine if it¡¯s sufficient for keeping the junction temperature of the LED bulbs down. Copper is the best material for heat conduction¡ªhowever, it tends to be very expensive so aluminum is used to keep costs down. Ensure the finish and conductive adhesive are quality too so your investment will last a long time.
Check what¡¯s holding your fixture together. If the construction components are screws that are easily removed or parts that require a little force to disengage their locking mechanisms, then go in search of a higher-quality fixture. Remember, your biggest concern with your solar light is you want it to last in all sorts of temperatures and weather conditions. Cheap glue and screws to easily remove is a telltale sign of a short-lived investment.
There are plenty of electrical components ¡°under the hood¡± of a solar light, and so it¡¯s best to check and make sure your investment doesn¡¯t use cheap-quality parts. Here are a few components that you¡¯ll want to have a high concern with on your solar light.
These components generally serve two functions¡ªthey manage the flow of electricity from the battery to the fixture and instruct the light fixture when to turn on and off. A bad controller can shorten the lifespan of your battery or light fixture, so if either (or both) the fixture and battery have problems, be sure to consider that it could be your controller.
A lot of controllers have full light system customization options and are protected with rugged materials so they can survive temperature changes.
A solar light driver is another major concern for solar lighting. They regulate the flow of electricity to the battery and light fixture. A poor-quality driver won¡¯t be able to dissipate heat very well¡ªdrivers are under frequent electrical load, so if a driver feels like it¡¯s made of material that won¡¯t last, that¡¯s likely the case.
As a general rule, the solar lighting company you decide on should provide a range of warranties, either full or limited. Some of the best warranties on the market will provide full coverage for 10 years which covers every component as long as the functionality of the component isn¡¯t drained from regular use, improper installation, or damage.
If there aren¡¯t a range of warranties, or the warranties last a very short time (only a year for example), there¡¯s a large reason for this. Don¡¯t buy from that company.