5 Reasons Your Off-Grid Solar Lighting Fails and How to Fix It
Whether you purchase large off-grid commercial solar light systems or smaller off-grid home solar light systems, there are generally only a handful of reasons these lights will fail. Hopefully after reading this list you will be able safeguard your off-grid solar lights against failure thus ensuring many, many years of trouble-free operation.
1. Solar Panel is Located in the Shade
Shading is very bad for your solar panels. Solar panels use sunlight to gather energy that is stored in the battery to power the light fixture at night. Shade prevents maximum amounts of sunlight from going through to the solar panel which in turn severely inhibits the solar panel’s power production capabilities which in turn has an adverse effect on your off-grid solar light system. Seems simple, but you would be amazed at how many off-grid solar lights we have seen installed under a bush, tree, or some other obstruction that shades the solar panel.
2. Light is Located Above the Solar Panel
The charge within the solar panel is what lets the system controller know when it is dusk and thus time to turn the light fixture on. If the light fixture is installed above the solar panel, the system controller will think it is daytime and shut off the light fixture. As such, the solar panel needs to be installed above the light source or in a remote location away from the light fixtures.
3. Solar Panel Doesn’t Face the Correct Direction
Since the sun moves from east to west in North America, the optimum amount of sun is collected when the panels are facing South. If solar panel is not facing South, its sunlight harvesting and power production capability will be severely inhibited—thus negatively impact off-grid solar light system performance. If the solar for any reason cannot be pointed directly south, say if installed on a roof structure, then sizing the system for a SE or SW orientation should be determined in the beginning of the project specification.
4. Solar Light or Panel is Undersized for the Job
A high quality off-grid solar light system is designed using a meticulous combination of calculations revolving around light fixture power consumption, load, solar insolation (based on geographic location of project) and autonomous battery storage to name a few. If any of these calculations are not performed properly, the net result will be a poorly design system that is suspect to failure.
5. Lamps or Batteries Need to be Changed
The only scheduled maintenance required for a high quality off-grid solar lighting system is a) light fixture lamp change and b) battery change. The typical life expectancy of a CFL lamp is 20,000+ hours while high performance LED lamps are rated to last well beyond 100,000+ hours. The battery life expectancy within a properly designed off-grid solar lighting system is 5-7 years. If the system is not operating properly—and the solar panels are facing South and are not shaded and the system calculations/design are done properly, chances are high that its either time to replace the lamp of the batteries.
By making sure your solar lights are installed properly will ensure many, many years of reliable operation for any application. What other reasons do you think solar lights typically fail?