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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Tips for Maintaining Small Solar Walkway Lights

Posted by SEPCO

6/24/14 9:30 AM

battery_for_walkway_lightsNow that summer is upon us some of you are digging out those solar lights to put along the sidewalk again to make a nice shining light on your walkway. So you put them all in the ground let them charge the whole day only to find out that night that most of them don’t work and the ones that do are very dim and not doing much. Even though they don’t cost much who wants to go out every summer and buy new lights, I know I don’t.

Working in the solar industry we sell batteries with our systems, so it would only make sense that these lights would take batteries too. Upon some investigations of my walkway lights I found some screws in the bottom of them, and me being the tinkering type of person, decided to see just how these little lights worked. What I found upon removing the screws was simply a little AA battery. I guess it never occurred to me that all I would have to do to fix these lights is just replace the battery inside and the next night when dawn came upon us my lights were working again.  Replacing all the batteries in my lights only cost as much as it would have cost to replace about 2 of the lights I currently had. 

nail_polish_on_lightsAnother quick tip that I found is that if the lights are still not bright after replacing the batteries you can try to put some more life into the cell itself. Looking at my own I noticed the plastic on the top looked a little cloudy, this would prevent the sun from being able to give a full charge to the battery. After looking into it I found a really neat idea that made sense so I tried it. I got out some clear nail polish and put a thin coat on top of the solar cells and once again they looked shiny and new like the day I bought them.

I really don’t know how much longer this will extend the life of my lights but it has saved me money for at least one more summer. I think the elements alone will probably affect the lights before they go out themselves so I guess we will see.

pathway_lights

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Topics: Green Ideas, Fun Green Articles, Pathway Lighting

Using Solar Outdoor Bollard Lighting for Pathways

Posted by SEPCO

4/8/14 9:30 AM

Solar Outdoor Bollard LightingA local park recently installed some solar outdoor bollard lights for their pathways around their park. These bollards light provide pathway lighting around the perimeter pedestrian walkway and add to the safety of this residential area. I wanted to provide you a good comparison of different style bollard systems for projects similar to this one.

You can find solar bollards that have the solar panel integrated into the top of the fixture with the battery storage inside the bollard themselves. These types of bollard lights are prone to vandalism as the solar panel is small and hard to protect. They are also typically not as bright and do not provide all night lighting. These systems are great for pathways that do not require much lighting and are used primarily for just path markers. If you find a system that will run all night, the lights are typically very dim and do not have much backup power for times of inclement weather. However, this type of bollard provides lighting and power all in one self-contained system.

You can also have a single solar power assembly powering multiple fixtures along a pathway. This can provide additional security for the solar as you can mount the solar high on a pole, out of harms-way. This design requires a little bit of trenching burying the wiring from the solar panel to each bollard on the string; however, there is still much less trenching than is required to bring in traditional grid power. The solar is typically sized for all night lighting with a bright LED lamp. The system also provides a minimum of five days backup power for times of inclement weather and to lessen the depth of discharge of the battery, extending the life of the system.

Depending on your needs for lighting, there is a system that will perfectly fit your requirements. Using bollards for low light applications where overhead lighting isn’t required is a great way to increase security while keeping with the style and architecture of the area.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Park Safety with Solar Walkway Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

9/10/13 9:30 AM

Solar Walkway LightA city municipality in the greater Miami area turned to SEPCO to design a custom solar power walkway lighting system for a small park located in the middle of a residential neighborhood.  The challenge was to create strong enough illumination for the neighborhood residents to be able to enjoy and feel safe walking in the park during park’s evening hours, yet not so much light as to disturb residents with homes adjacent to the park.

SEPCO’s solution for the lighting aspect of the project was to illuminate the walkways throughout the park with 20 strategically placed bollards, each equipped with a high performance 8 watt LED light engine.  The next challenge was figuring out a way to power the 20 8 watt LED bollards exclusively with clean, renewable solar energy.

It is worth noting that while there are many solar power LED bollards on the market today that feature self-contained / built-in solar power systems. SEPCO does not subscribe to this design philosophy. The key reason being that our extensive testing has shown that available surface area of a standard bollard is simply not large enough to house a solar array that is large enough to power an LED bollard capable of creating commercial quality lighting for any meaningful amount of time (ex. 6-8 hours) without fail 7 nights week, 365 nights a year.  

SEPCO’s solution for the off-grid solar power portion of the project was to design one large, centrally located 340 watt solar power system with the inherent capacity to provide ultra reliable power needed to illuminate all twenty 8 watt LED bollards for a total of seven hours per night (i.e. system is programmed to operate from dusk for five hours…then turn off…then back on automatically two hours pre-dawn for the early morning walkers).

The net result is an ultra reliable, high performance solar power walkway lighting system that both local residents and adjacent homeowners can enjoy and appreciate. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Solar Pathway Lights are the Perfect Solution for Remote Areas

Posted by SEPCO

1/22/13 9:30 AM

Solar Pathway LightsPathway and sidewalk lighting are great applications for solar lighting solutions. These walkways are often located in parks or generally off the beaten path. The electrical grid may not be available in these areas. Even sidewalks adjacent to roadways can present costly challenges related to extending the power grid for lighting purposes. Solar lighting can be used for lighting these walkways without the need of the electrical grid. Solar panels produce their own electrical energy that is stored in batteries which are used to power the lights at night.

There are a variety of reasons lighting may be needed on pathways. As mentioned earlier, often times these walkways are located in remote areas. These areas may not see any significant ambient lighting making them too dark to use at night. Solar lighting can make these spaces available for enjoyment at night as well as during the day. Safety from crime can also be a factor in the need for pathway lighting.  Proper lighting can be a powerful deterrent to criminals and allow people to feel safe walking at night.

Solar Power for Pathway LightsMost solar pathway lighting installations use one or more solar power assemblies to run power to a string of lights mounted low to the ground.  This reduces the cost of the overall installations by not needing a separate solar power source for each light fixture. This also allows the power assembly to be located in an area with full access to the sun during the day, while the fixture locations may be shaded part or all of the day. Usually low voltage DC power is run from the power assembly to the fixtures, allowing for the use of direct buried UF cable instead of having to run the wires through costly conduit. In other installations with longer strings of lights, an inverter may be used to run AC power out to the fixtures.

With the advancement of LED’s, several fixture styles have become available for use with solar pathway lighting systems. Most any size, shape and style of bollard lights are available. If preferred, pagoda style lights may be used also. Even lights specifically used for dock and boardwalk type applications have their place in solar pathway lighting solutions.

Like many lighting applications where light is needed in remote or hard to reach areas, solar lighting can be an ideal tool for improved pathways.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Solar Bollard Lights: Forgotten Commercial Solar Lights

Posted by SEPCO

10/11/12 9:30 AM

SolarBollardLightBollard lights are popular in pathway and walkway applications. These too can be powered by solar panels. Large panel assemblies can power multiple fixtures with the solar power assemblies being fit into the surrounding landscaping, or there are solar bollard fixtures that have the solar panels fit into the top of the bollard. There are two major differences between these two applications; larger solar means higher powered lighting and smaller, built in solar panels provide lower power lighting.

High powered bollards are great if security and areas where a larger amount of lighting is required. These larger powered bollard fixtures can be installed anywhere on a walkway with the solar power nearby to showcase a green initiative, or be remotely mounted and blended within the landscape. The bollard fixtures themselves come in a variety of styles and colors to match the architectural surroundings.

Bollard Light Solar Powered

Lower powered bollard lights with the solar panels built into the top of the fixture are used primarily for accent lighting. These fixtures provide enough light to mark the walkway area so pedestrian traffic knows where the walkway exists. These fixtures also come in a variety of styles and colors to match the architectural surroundings and do not have to worry about blending the solar power system within the area.

So next time you are looking for an architectural way to light up your pathway, look into solar bollard lighting. Its a perfect way to be beautifully sustainable.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Landscape Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Award Winning Solar Lighting Project for West Colfax, CO

Posted by SEPCO

12/20/11 9:30 AM

Solar Promenade LightingThe West Colfax, CO Business Improvement District recently installed eleven SEPCO Promenade Series solar power lighting systems to illuminate walkways throughout its downtown district.  Beyond sustainability benefits, West Colfax was able to save a considerable amount of money in the sense that the off-grid Promenade solar lights did not require West Colfax to incur additional expense of tearing up streets/sidewalks as the means to extend AC-power grid to the solar lights.  Better yet, the decorative design of the solar lights added aesthetic appeal to the overall project.   For these reasons and more, the installation of eleven SEPCO Promenade Series solar lighting systems played an instrumental role in helping West Colfax Business Improvement District win the Governor’s Award for Best Sustainable Downtown Project—the details for which are outlined below.

BID Wins Governor's Award for Best Sustainable Downtown Project

Solar Promenade LightThe West Colfax Business Improvement District (BID) has won the 2011 Governor's Award for Downtown Excellence for Best Sustainable Downtown Project in Colorado.  This award went to the BID for its work in creating "Denver's Sustainable Main Street" through infrastructure improvements making West Colfax more walkable and successful promotion of green technology in businesses.

The award committee commended the West Colfax BID for having "accomplished significant improvements to the overall sustainability of the district. Through both forward-planning and proactive / targeted retrofits, the BID has structured a future plan for increased sustainability in building and construction, while also actively educating and supporting existing business owners in 'green' retrofits. The program has already shown significant, measurable progress, and their model for how to work with a BID to establish and implement sustainable goals could be easily adapted by other downtown districts."

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Topics: Solar Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, Pathway Lighting

SEPCO Completes LED Solar Walkway Lighting Project at USMC Base

Posted by SEPCO

8/16/11 9:30 AM

Solar unit operates 4 Slide fixtures on long walkway sm
SEPCO recently completed a solar LED walkway lighting retrofit project at a US Marine Corps Bachelor Enlisted Quarters. This installation allows for improvement on energy security and reduces current energy usage on the base. The new fixtures were selected to match the old lighting fixtures in design to fit the architectural integrity of the area and allow for more efficient LED technology to be used in conjunction with solar power. The project also allowed for lower costs by utilizing the existing light poles.

 Parking Lot Before Solar / LED  Parking Lot After Solar / LED
 Parking Lot Before Solar  Parking Lot After Solar

Mandates currently set forth by the US Federal Government pertaining to federal facilities make solar LED lighting an ideal solution. One requirement is that federally owned property and buildings are mandated to materially reduce current energy use. A second requirement is to improve energy security by employing renewable power that operates independent of the electrical utility grids.

 Pathway Before Solar Walkway Before Solar / LED
Walkway After Solar / LED  Pathway After Solar

At US Marine Corps Bachelor Enlisted Quarters installation there were 143 area and walkway lights long installed and operating. The light fixtures were post top pole mounted luminaries using high energy consuming 150 Watt high pressure sodium lamps. The goal of the project was to disconnect the BEQ lighting and retrofit with much lower Watt, higher quality, longer operating life light from solar power, thus, the area would be completely off a costly, potentially compromised public electrical grid.

Walkway Before Solar / LED  Sidwalk Before Solar
 Walkway After Solar  Walkway After Solar / LED

The most efficient, economical way to meet federal mandates was to reuse the existing light poles and attach the new, more efficient LED post top fixtures that provide equal or better quality light than high pressure sodium. Technical calculations determine that 18 Watt LED direct Slide light fixtures from Beacon Products provide superior illumination. All existing light poles were reused with existing underground conduits and wiring in most locations. SEPCO’s ground mounted stand alone solar electric power arrays were installed, able to operate up to four fixtures each.

The USMC BEQ light fixtures operate dusk to dawn by using the solar panels themselves to sense day and night times. They formerly consumed 257,400 Watts of costly grid power each night. The new LED solar lights operate with improved white lighting quality, far lower maintenance costs, and higher visual acuity for enhanced facility security. The new solar units draw zero Watts electricity and are completely independent of an outside electrical grid utility.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, SEPCO News & Information, LED Lighting, Pathway Lighting

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