Solar Lighting Systems

A lighting professional will often be asked by customers if there are any solar options for a lighting package. Until recently, solar lights have generally been shunned by lighting professionals as a poor quality product. The large retailer or online stores do stock wide varietiesof solar kits consisting of mostly path type lights or novelty items. Contrary to most opinions of solar lighting products, there are some more recently produced professional productsthat work well when properly installed.

Today, there are two types of solar lighting products being used in landscape lighting: 

1) onboard panel and
2 remote panel systems.

The onboard style is the most recognized. 

With the onboard style, fixtures are equipped with solar panels to provide a charge to a series of rechargeable batteries.The fixture is normally controlled by a small photocell that is built intothe fixture or panel.   These fixtures provide a quick and easy installation if there is no electricity for a transformer to be powered. Remember the sun is constantly moving during the day. It is important to install these fixtures in areas with little or no shade. Professional onboard products are equipped with high-quality panels that can be moved to face the sun in different seasons. These products also use larger battery systems which allow for longer run times. Plus, the light sources in the professional products allow for higher outputs and better color renderings.

Remote panel systems are very similar to a standard low voltage lighting system. This style of system will require a solar panel, controller, battery and fixture. All of these components must be engineered for the run times and load requirements. The solar panel will need to be attached to a pole and an adjustable mounting system. The panel works best when facing true south and away from any shaded areas. Being attached to aswivelmount will allow the contractor to adjust the panel for the proper latitude and longitude. Panels should be adjusted for different seasons throughout the year. The size of the solar panels will be determined according to the size of the battery required.  

Batteries for these systems will be specified by the amp hour rating. The amp hour rating will be an important factor when determining the amount of 12vdc load and run time required for the system. Batteries for these systems are generally mounted in a weather proofenclosure off of the ground. Remote panel systems are a great solution for areas that are off grid or too far from a standard power supply. Regardless of solar lighting type, controllers for solar lighting systems are generally easy to program and are available in indoor and outdoor rated units. Fixtures can be selected accordingto the project requirement. The majority of low voltage LED landscape lighting manufactured today will work on both 12vac and 12vdc systems. A battery system such as this will be delivering 12vdc. In summary, keep an open mind. Solar technology is advancing!

Kevin SmithComment