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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Solar Car Park Lighting for Stress Free Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

4/15/14 9:30 AM

solar car park lightingEvery business and building has a car park area where lighting is necessary to provide safety to people and their vehicles. Sometimes the lighting can be an afterthought and forgotten till the concrete is laid. This is where solar car park lighting comes in to save the day.

Instead of digging up that parking lot, placing stand alone solar car park lighting systems can provide the needed lighting without the destruction of the area. Each system generates its own power for the light with all the equipment situated at the top of the pole. The only area that needs to be disturbed on the ground is where the pole is placed.

Solar car park lighting saves time and money by not having to dig up the site to lay down traditional electric wiring. Instead, installing an anchor base pole on a concrete foundation and installing the solar power assembly and light fixture on the top of the pole gives you light in less than a day, not weeks of digging and pouring new concrete.

If you are looking to reduce your overall energy costs with existing lighting, solar car park lighting can still be a great option. Grid intertie systems can put energy back into the grid during the day and use the grid power at night. There is even an option for a battery backup with grid intertie systems in case the area is prone to blackouts.

Finally, for new construction sites, if the grid power is not easily accessible, solar car park lighting systems can provide a savings from trenching in the electric and no grid power fees ever. Even if the power is easily accessible, solar lights are becoming a more popular alternative to showcase a green image and provide LEED certifications. And with the advances in technology, the systems are practically maintenance free. Making sure there is a good autonomy to the system provides longer battery life and with LEDs lasting for 15 years or so, there is almost never anything to replace.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting

Solar Pavilion Lighting for Parks and Public Spaces

Posted by SEPCO

4/10/14 9:30 AM

Pavilions are installed in parks and public spaces to provide shelter and a great gathering area for people. In the early evenings, before the parks and public spaces close, there can be a need for lighting at these gatherings. Since most pavilions are located in an area with no electric power available, installing solar powered lights on the pavilions can be a great way to provide people the needed lighting while not disturbing the surrounding area trenching in standard electric.

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Solar pavilion lighitng is an integrated unit that uses the solar panels installed on the roof to provide power directly to the battery assembly installed under the roof. The solar panels charge the batteries during the day and the light fixtures use the power at night. The battery assembly is typically mounted under the roof to provide shading to the batteries and making maintenance easy to achieve. The light fixture is mounted center of the pavilion or around the perimeter, depending on the needs of the system. This low profile design provides the best option for lighting needs to remote pavilions.

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The fixtures can be either controlled by a dusk to dawn controller, but as most parks are not open all night, a spring loaded timer or set clock is the best option for these installations. Since the lights will not operate all night, the needed solar power assembly is much smaller than for applications where all night lighting is required. Specialty switch capabilities can also be installed for special events where the lights would need to stay on longer.

The pictures show an installation we have completed for a park in Kansas City, MO at a local park. The system runs four canopy fixtures all night for visitors to the park. These lights were installed in 2010 and show the perfect application for solar pavilion lighting as there is no nearby infrastructure. 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Building Structure 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

What You Need To Know About Light Distribution Patterns

Posted by SEPCO

4/1/14 9:30 AM

Light-Distribution-PatternsThere are many different distribution patterns available with different lighting fixtures. Each distribution pattern provides a different lighting footprint on the ground to provide a light pattern for specific area light needs. The larger the distribution pattern, the larger area of light that is produced. Here is a quick overview of different lighting distributions.

Type II Distribution

Type II distributions provides a wide, round pattern  and is more suited for small streets and wide pathways. The fixture is placed in the center of where the light is required and the light is distributed in an oval type shape around the entire fixture area. The width of the light pattern on the ground is about 1.5 times wider than the mounting height of the fixture.

 

Type III Distribution

Type III distributions provides a wide, round pattern like that of Type II distribution; however the amount of light it provides is much larger and meant for roadways, parking lots and larger areas. The width of the light pattern on the ground is about 2.75 times wider than the mounting height of the fixture.

Type IV Distribution

Type IV distributions are a round pattern that is pushed out away from the fixture with little light falling behind the fixture. This is ideal for perimeters, security and walls or buildings. The width of the light pattern on the ground is still quite large, about 2.75 times wider than the mounting height of the fixture.

Type V Distribution

Type V distributions provide the largest, most even pattern of light. The light is pushed in all directions from the light fixture and is used for large parking areas or anywhere a large even pattern of light is required.

There you have it. When you decide what are you need lit, make sure you are asking for the correct distribution pattern for your application.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, General Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

4 Important Steps to Ensure Your Solar Lights Stand Up

Posted by SEPCO

3/4/14 9:30 AM

You have made the final purchase and your solar lights are on their way. Here are some tips before you install the light systems to make sure they stand up to the test of time. Have your lights already installed, these tips can be helpful for making sure your lights are installed properly and will continue to work flawlessly year after year.

1. Read the Installation Instructions Completely

I hate manuals as much as the next person, but reading the installation instructions for your new solar lights before you start to install them can save you time and frustration down the road. There is tons of useful information available on the installation manual and it can make sure the system installation needs are all met.

2. Make Sure the Solar is in the Sun

Well this one is a duh, but I can’t tell you how many times I have seen both large and small solar systems installed in the shade. This doesn’t work and will cause your system to fail in a matter of days. The solar panel needs full sun all day to work properly at night. If there is any shade, the solar panel will not be able to produce the power, to charge the battery, to run the light at night.

3. Follow all the Labels

4ImportantStepsCheck if there are labels on the wires or parts of the system. Read them and follow the directions. Additional labels are added when there are minor changes to the installation manual and will make sure the system is put together properly. Making sure to read all the labels before you connect wires will ensure you don’t overload the system and blow fuses.

4. Keep up Regular Maintenance

Just like your car and house, a solar lighting system requires maintenance, though hardly at all. Replacing the batteries at the end of their life span, cleaning off the panel every so often if you live in a dusty dry area and replacing the lamps / LED fixture at the end of their life will ensure that you will never go a day without light. Plus, by doing regular maintenance on the system will allow you to see if there could be any troubles popping up in the near future due.

So there you have it. No matter if you are using a commercial solar light system or a small landscape light, installing it properly and keeping up with the system will ensure your system will work flawlessly for years to come. Since most commercial solar light systems last 25+ years, make sure you get every moment of light these systems can provide.

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Topics: Solar Lighting

13 Solar and Lighting Terms to Know

Posted by SEPCO

2/27/14 9:30 AM

Solar_and_Light_Terms1. Watt – A quantifiable measure of power consumed. If you have a 15 Watt lamp, it consumes 15 Watts per hour. The lower the watt, the less energy used and LEDs are providing the most light with the lowest wattage necessary.

 

2. Kelvin Kº (colors of light) – measured in degrees, is a quantifiable measure of color temperature. You can get anywhere between a bright white light to a softer yellow light, even a dark yellow for turtle friendly applications.

 

3. Color Rendition Index (CRI) – a way to assess how light sources make objects appear. Any CRI greater than 80 has good color properties and is closest to the light provided by the sun.

 

4. Average Rated Life – referred to in lamp life is actually the median

 

5. Mounting Height – the measurement from the ground to the light source. The higher the light fixture is mounted, the larger the spread of light on the ground, but also lower light levels.

 

6. Distribution (I-V) – Determines how far light is emitted to each side of a fixture:

  • Type I – long linear pattern, long distance to the sides with a short pattern out to the front and back
  • Type II – Progressively growing distance to the front and back and shortening of the linear sides
  • Type III – most commonly available in most fixture types has a perfect oval shape
  • Type IV – has a more circular pattern with linear sides that extend farther on the sides
  • Type V – Round circular pattern same distance from front to back and side to side

 

7. Optics – control of light distribution from a fixture, sometimes controlled by aiming of the light or use of a shield to direct the light a specific way.

  • Non-cutoff – light is emitted in all directions
  • Semi-cutoff – most of the light is emitted below 90 degrees
  • Cutoff – controlled lighting where less than 2.5% of the light is allowed to escape the fixture above 90 degrees
  • Full-cutoff – used in dark sky friendly locations, optics put the light on the ground below the fixture not allowing light to emit above 90 degrees

8. Amps – a unit of measurement to determine the amount of electrical charge passing a point in an electrical circuit, typically used to determine the amount of power generated by a solar panel to charge the battery and how much power can be stored in a battery, i.e. an 85 Watt panel produces a 5 amp charge per hour and charges a 82 amp hour battery that holds up to 82 amps at one time.

 

9. Current—a flow of electrical energy. Solar produces DC (Direct Current) power and can run DC electrical devices directly. LEDs run off of DC current and do not require an inverter or ballast to create an AC current for these types of fixtures.

 

10. Autonomy – The number of days storage an off grid system has for times of bad weather or low sun. This can be determined by calculating the number of amps used per day divided by the number of amps in a battery backup system.

 

11. Depth of Discharge - The amount of power pulled from a battery; i.e. if the battery is fully charged, its depth of discharge is 0%, if it has been used 25% to light a fixture, then the DOD is 25% etc.

 

12. Photovoltaic Power – The method of generating electrical power in the form of DC power by harnessing the solar radiation typically through the use of solar panels.

 

13. Solar Radiation – The radiant energy emitted by the sun on a daily basis. You can feel it on your skin when you step into the sun in the form of warmth. Solar panels convert this radiation into electricity. 

 

Well there you have it. Have any terms you would like to add? Share them below.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power

Common Solar Lighting Installation Mistakes We Keep Seeing

Posted by SEPCO

2/13/14 9:30 AM

It is time to install your solar lighting system. Have you read all the instructions? Determined the installation site of the solar lighting system? There are common mistakes that we keep seeing with solar lighting system installations that you can easily avoid. Here are a couple mistakes and what you can do to make sure your system is installed properly to ensure great performance and reliability.

1. Not facing the panel south

 

PanelsOppositeIf you are above the equator, the solar panel needs to face south. The only time this changes is if you have worked with your manufacturer or representative for a different configuration. Facing the panels opposite of each other, like the picture shows, may be aesthetically pleasing; however, one of these lights will begin to fail quickly as it will not get the required sun to charge the batteries properly. Make sure your systems are facing south to get maximum sun exposure and are charging the batteries to their fullest.

 

2. Swapping wires during initial hookup

 

There are installation instructions that come with each solar lighting system. When you hook the system up, make sure you have read all instructions thoroughly as not to reverse the polarity of the light fixture. In most systems, this will not hurt the system, but it will cause the light fixture not to operate correctly, or could even pop a fuse in the battery assembly. Make sure to look at the system, installation instructions and even for additional labels on the system for all wiring directions.

 

3. Shading on the panel

 

PanelShade.jpgWe hear over and over that lights are placed under a tree or up close to a building that provides shade to the solar panel. The sun needs to be able to reach the panel fully and any type of obstruction, even just a shadow, can seriously reduce the power output of the solar. Trim nearby trees and make sure the panels are clear of any obstruction. Remember, with off grid solar light systems, the panel assembly can be remotely mounted away from the light fixture if the light is required where there is shading. Moving the panel assembly is always an option. Also, like in the first picture, installing the solar power low on the pole can cause the pole to shade the solar power system. Just remember, the solar needs full exposure to the sun to charge properly.

 

4. Weak poles not meant to hold the weight of the solar

 

Cutting costs by purchasing poles that are not structurally certified to hold the weight of a solar power system will end up costing you more in the long run. These poles tend to fail in the first decent storm and will fall over, damaging the solar power assembly, brackets, fixtures, etc. and you will spend more replacing the broken parts than if you purchased a structurally certified pole in the beginning. Depending on the needs of your area, you can even get poles that can withstand 150 mph winds with the solar on top of the pole. Work with the manufacturer to provide the requirements for the pole.

Making sure your systems are properly installed will ensure their operation. If there are any installation questions, you can always contact the support team to provide additional information and answer any questions you may have for installation of the system.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Installation

You are the solar light manufacturer, where are the prices?

Posted by SEPCO

2/4/14 9:30 AM

PriceForSolarLightThank you for visiting our site. As you might have noticed, there is tons of product information available; however, there are no prices. We get quite a few emails from potential customers that ask where our pricing is and I wanted to cover that with a quick post.

The answer is simple; because there is more to the solar light or power system than just a one size fits all. There are quite a few factors that need to be considered before you get into pricing. Let me break it down for you:

How much light is required? How long does the light need to run? How many days backup is required as most solar light systems are off grid and require a battery backup? There are quite a few factors that need to be taken into consideration before pricing can be offered.

Solar light systems go through a process. Contacting your solar lighting manufacturer or lighting representative is the first step to making sure your system works properly and you have an accurate price. Yes, you can go to some websites and find a price for a solar street light; however, there is no way to guarantee it will work the way you are expecting. A reputable solar light manufacturer or lighting rep will provide specifications and information on exactly how the light will operate as well as backup the product after installation.

Education is the best way to make sure you get exactly what you need. There is tons of product information available on our site and we are available to answer any questions you may have.
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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Looking to Use a Solar Lighting Option? Talk to a Lighting Specialist

Posted by SEPCO

1/28/14 9:30 AM

SolarLightingOption.jpgThere are so many companies out there today that provide top quality products; however, there are so many cheap alternatives available that get in the mix. Solar lighting is not the cheapest option available. Sometimes switching grid powered lights to LED fixtures is your best alternative. But in the cases where solar lighting is what you need or want, make sure not to talk to just anyone. You want to talk to a lighting specialist to make sure that the lighting will still be adequate for your project.

Solar companies will sometimes sell you the least expensive option available. This is not good practice since the light requirements of most applications cannot be met by the cheap alternative. The first thing that needs to be analyzed is the light level requirement. For example, you need a parking lot to be illuminated from dusk to dawn in Arizona. The parking lot is 500’ square and the lights need to be bright enough for security.

The inexpensive option will not function properly here. Instead, a higher powered LED light fixture is what is needed to ensure illumination. The higher the fixture wattage, the larger the solar power system is required to operate the fixture from dusk to dawn year round.

The system also requires a minimum of 5 days of backup battery storage for times of inclement weather. To do this, the battery storage assembly must be large enough to hold the amp hours required for that backup. Having 5 days autonomy also produces less stress on the batteries, making them last longer in the end.

Starting with a lighting representative can factor all these parts of the equation together including the required lux or lumens of the project. They will be able to design the properly lighting layout and work with the solar company to come up with the best solution to your project.

Solar companies provide the solar and do not always take the lighting levels into consideration when assessing the project and providing a solution. There is definitely no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to solar. Talking to the correct people will ensure your system fits your needs while also providing years of flawless lighting.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

4 Questions to Answer Before You Get a Solar Lighting Quote

Posted by SEPCO

1/21/14 9:30 AM

Wanting to use solar lighting for your business? Maybe for a sign. Or a parking lot. Maybe you would like to have solar lighting installed on the roads of your HOA. There are so many applications that solar lighting can perfectly fit into; however, there are six questions that a reputable solar lighting company will ask you. Having the answers before you contact them will ensure a more accurate quote and information provided for your project. It will also make sure your systems perform exactly how you want them to for years to come.

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1. Where geographically will your systems be installed?

There is so many factors that goes into making sure your solar lights have enough solar energy to power the lights how they are required. One of the biggest factors is the number of sun hours provided on the worst day of the year, typically December 21st. The reason for this is if you size the system to run perfectly for the summer sun hours only, in the winter the systems will fall short, turning off or not even operating at all. Having an undersized system will also put unnecessary strain on the battery system, making it not last as long as it should. Determine the geographical location of where you want the systems installed. A zip code works perfectly and will help your solar company determine the number of sun hours available.

2. What are you light level requirements?

Knowing the light level requirements for the project is a great way to make sure the lights perform how you need them to. Getting a quote for a 15 Watt LED fixture when high security is needed and a 40 Watt LED would provide better light can completely change your quote around. Make sure you explain to the solar lighting company whether you need something that is very bright or just for small area spot lighting. And remember, the higher the wattage fixture, the larger the solar power system required to power that fixture properly. You can always reduce costs by having the light turn off when it is not needed, or dim down at non-peak times.

3. What are the dimensions of the area requiring light?

This questions needs to be answered no matter what the project is. If it is a sign, making sure the correct size fixture or number of fixtures is specified for the project. Parking lots require fixtures that provide a larger light pattern, but still knowing the size of the overall area will help determine how many fixtures are required. Make sure you get the dimensions of the area needing light and let your solar lighting systems company know. If you have an AutoCAD file or overall sketch of the area, this is a plus, but not needed to provide an accurate quote.

4. Do you require poles?

If you purchase poles from your solar lighting company, they can make sure the pole is sized to hold the weight of the solar as well as be the correct height for the project. If not, they can let you know what size pole you will need. There are many options available and most companies can even get wind load calculations for areas in hurricane prone areas so that the lights will still be there even after a storm.

Making sure you know the answers to the above before contacting your solar lighting company will ensure you will receive the most accurate quote possible. Without the above information, it is hard to determine exactly what your needs are for lighting and can create a lot of back and forth between you and the company. If the questions are not even asked, this is a good sign that your solar light will not operate how you expect it and you should look for a more reputable company.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

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