Solar lighting provides a great alternative to traditional electrical lights. They can be installed anywhere as long as the solar panel has direct access to sunlight. Here are three easy steps to see if solar lighting is your best alternative for lighting just about anything.
1. Is there electric already available?
There may or may not be electric already available in the area needing to be illuminated. If there is electrical, great, then you have two options, solar or electrical lighting; however, if there is no electric available, then the cost of trenching and adding the needed electric should be considered when looking at the cost difference between solar and electrical lights. Don't forget montly electrical costs as well.
Solar lights, because of their nature, can be installed anywhere. The solar panel must have direct access to sunlight, but the lights can be placed just about anywhere, even in shaded areas, with the solar on a separate pole in a nice sunny spot. The cost of trenching and bringing electric out to some sites can be very costly and solar is a great alternative then adding those unnecessary expenses.
2. What are the required lighting levels?
In today’s industry, lighting can be a faint glow just for mood, or bright enough to read under, and all types of lighting can range from one end of the spectrum to the other. Personally, I have solar LED strand lights on my back porch which are powered by solar that provide just a soft warm glow for atmosphere.
Other applications can be for street or parking lot lighting. Solar lights can be a great alternative in replacing already installed lights for a lower overall electric bill or installed in a new application where a green alternative is high on the list. There are many design elements that go into these types of applications, see Solar Power Street Light Design: Step by Step and Solar Parking Lot Lighting Design: Step by Step for more information on these systems.
3. Are you looking for a green alternative?
Solar lights provide a green alternative to traditional lighting applications. Solar lights are separate from the grid, produce no greenhouse gases, and provide lighting even if the electric fails for any reason. They are completely self sufficient and require little to no maintenance. If you are lookign for a green option, solar lights are definitely the way to go. There are also LEED points for using solar lighting systems.
So next time you are in the market looking for lighting options, look at solar lighting. From commercial applications such as parking lots, roadways, and signs; to smaller applications like gardens, driveways, and atmospheric lighting, solar provides a great alternative.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in May 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.