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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Quick Overview of Sign Lighting from Big to Small

Posted by SEPCO

12/11/14 9:30 AM

Signs provide advertising and information to travelers day and night; however, if they are not properly lit at night, miss visual impact by someone driving by. There are many ways to light up a sign at night, including the use of solar when electric is not readily available. Here are some great tips and information for different types of sign lights from big to small.

 

Large Billboard Salt River Devco

 

Large billboard lights require quite a bit of lighting to see easily at night. Billboards are typically used for advertising along highways of local businesses and can generate great traffic for these businesses from travelers. Making sure they are properly illuminated during the night time allows for your message not to be missed. A typical billboard needs around one bright fixture every 10 feet to allow for proper illumination levels and to make sure none of the message gets left in the dark.  These can easily be solar powered as the solar panels can be mounted on top of the billboard to charge the batteries during the day and then power the lights at night. Best of all, there is almost never any shading concerns on a billboard. Since billboards are typically installed in the middle of nowhere and have no ability to install typical electrical grid lines, solar is a great option for these large signs.

 

Large Monument Sign Moraine Valley Community College

 

Large monument signs for communities, offices, businesses, etc. can also require multiple fixtures to properly illuminate the sign. These styles of sign lighting systems have fixtures mounted near to the ground angled upwards towards the sign face. These signs can be located along the side of a roadway or in a median. You can either decide to light up just the logo and information on the sign, or the entire sign along with surrounding landscaping. Solar can easily adapt to these signs as well since there is not always power located where the sign is installed, especially in a median, and the trenching involved with bringing in standard electrical power is costly and tears up the surrounding areas.

 

Small Sign Savannah HOA

 

Small signs typically use a single flood fixture and require much less lighting than larger signs. These too have ground mounted lighting; however, the light fixtures can also be mounted from the top of the sign. These too can easily be powered by solar power systems and typically require small solar power systems. For extra impact, additional fixtures can be used to light up the surrounding landscape to really light up the sign area.

 

Internally Illuminated Sign Denver Children Advocacy

 

The final topic to discuss is internally illuminated signs. These are typically either on a building face or stand alone along a roadway. Internally illuminated signs mostly used long fluorescent tube lights; however, there is a huge transition to LED strips to new signs as well as upgrades to older sign boxes. There are many options available with LED lights that can be installed within a sign box and can be as comparable to sizing in regards to the required lighting as a standard flood system to requiring much more power than an externally illuminated sign.

 

Speak with your sign company when deciding what type of sign you are having designed and the options available when it comes to lighting. Knowing the lighting requirements before the final sign is built will help you determine the best type of lighting and to get the most for your money. Most sign companies work with lighting companies directly and can help you determine what the best course of action is. If you are requiring a solar solution due to a lack of traditional power where the sign will be installed, contact your solar lighting designer to create the perfect solar sign lighting solution for your sign.

 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Getting Better Solar Lighting Results by Following 3 Simple Steps

Posted by SEPCO

12/9/14 9:30 AM

Better Solar Lighting ResultsPurchasing a solar lighting system for any application can be a daunting task. There are so many options and decisions to make that you can easily get lost in the specifications. There are three simple steps you can take to ensure that you at least have good results with your system, no matter what the application.

Step 1

Use LED fixtures that provide a high Lumen per Watt output. This information can be found on any specification sheet, and if it is not right there, ask for it. A high wattage LED fixture does not mean that it provides bright lighting; it all depends on the Lumens provided from the LEDs. Knowing the available Lumens per Watt for the LEDs can help you determine which fixture would provide the required light. Want to know more about the difference between Watts and Lumens, check out Wattage vs Lumens: Know the Difference for Better Lighting.

Step 2

Make sure your solar power system provides enough power during the day and provides plenty of backup storage. Solar lighting systems should always be designed for worst case scenario since if you use more than you put in, the system will begin to fail. Sizing your system with summer or even yearly average sun will not ensure that your system will operate when the days are short and nights are long. Make sure your system always provides around 20% over for power generation and you have a minimum of five nights autonomy for those times of inclement weather. This will guarantee your system operates even when the weather is bad for days at a time.

Step 3

Make sure to follow installation instructions carefully and provide shade free south facing site for installation. Reading the installation manual before starting the installation will allow you to decide if you have everything necessary and alert you to any special needs of your system. There can also be labels on the system itself pointing you as to what is needed. Finally, ensuring the system faces directly south and has no shade on the solar panel all day will make sure that the solar lighting system can stand up to the test of time. If there are trees nearby, make sure they are trimmed well.

Following these three simple steps will guarantee that your solar lighting system will provide the best result possible.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Solar Bus Stops & Bus Shelters for Energy Efficient Transit System

Posted by SEPCO

12/4/14 3:22 PM

Solar Bus ShelterBus stops and shelters are used along any bus transit system. These areas provide information to travelers along the route to make sure they get where they need to go at the times they need to get there. Daytime travelers do not have to worry about visibility; however, at night, lighting is required to ensure the bus driver spots them and they can see the information on the routes. This is where solar lighting can easily come in to play.

Most bus stops and bus shelters are located in an area that grid power is not easily accessible without tearing up the nearby area to bring wires out to the location. Solar makes the lighting at night possible since the solar is either roof or top of pole mounted. The power is generated wherever it is needed without the destruction of surrounding areas.

Solar bus stop light systems consist of a pole mounted solar power system that provides power to a fixture, sometimes integrated within the battery assembly, and can provide lighting all night, via a motion or push button activation, or on only when the transit system is in operation. These systems are completely integrated together and can be installed in just about any sunny location along a route.

Solar Bus StopSolar bus shelter light systems can integrate easily into an existing bus shelter or be specified with a new installation along a route. The panels can mount on the roof of the shelter structure or be pole mounted nearby. The LEDs are integrated within a battery assembly and mount under the roof of the structure to provide lighting within the structure.

Advertising bus shelters can also use the solar to light the ad boxes that are sometimes on these shelter structures. The solar can power the entire lighting requirements of the bus shelter. These typically use LED strips along the edges of the ad box and are fed by the same battery pack as the overhead light fixture within the bus shelter. These systems require additional solar power and battery; however, allow for the advertising message not to be lost at night by travelers and others just passing by.

Not only do these systems save money due to lower installation costs, they save on monthly electric bills. Since the systems provide the power by the sun, there is no need for standard electric and to pay the utility company for the lighting. With the rise of utility power costs, this can turn into a huge savings in the long run. Definitely a win-win.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Bus Stop & Shelter Lighting

Here is Your Solar Flag Light Systems Comparison and Overview

Posted by SEPCO

12/2/14 9:30 AM

solar flag lightThere are many different types of flag light systems. Proper flag lighting etiquette states that you should light the flag all night long if you do not want to take it down at night. There are many types of flag light systems you can find online and offline, from $30 systems that operate only with a single charge and only last part of the night, to large industrial custom built solar flag light systems that will last days even if there is little sun due to weather conditions.

The small solar lighting systems you can purchase off large online stores and in big box stores typically provide about 8-10 hours of light for your flag if the solar is able to fully charge the batteries during the day. If you have an overcast day, or do not set it up just right, the light will not operate all night, leaving your flag in the dark. Make sure to read the complete specifications and installation on what you are purchasing if you want to ensure that your flag will stay illuminated all night long.

The smaller solar lighting systems will also require a battery replacement every year or two; depending the depth of discharge allowed for the battery used. Make sure the replacement batteries are easy to purchase and replace will allow your system to be able to reused year after year. If the batteries are not able to be replaced, this will end up costing more as you will need to replace the entire system when the batteries no longer hold a charge.

Custom built solar flag lighting systems provide all night lighting and provide much better backup for times of inclement weather. These types of systems come with a minimum of five nights storage and enough solar power to charge the battery in almost any weather conditions. They take into account the length of your night, the available sun in your area, and the amount of light required for your specific size flag to ensure good coverage.

These systems can still be quite small, depending on the type of fixture used and the sizing required for your geographical location. Fixtures range from small 3 Watt LED fixtures to much larger 25 Watt LED or more for larger flags. The fixtures can either be ground mounted or mounted high on the flag pole, depending again on the needs of the project. They can also be installed on a roof that is near the flag.

No matter what type of system you chose, make sure it will operate reliably and how you want it to. Don’t overlook the specifications and make sure you follow the installation instructions carefully to ensure your system operates as designed.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Flagpole Lighting

The A – Z of Solar LED Area Lighting

Posted by SEPCO

11/13/14 9:30 AM

Solar LED Area LightingSolar LED area lighting can be used for many applications ranging from small single LED lights along a pathway to large overhead lights for roadways and parking lots. Each system should be designed for the specific application and to provide the required lighting levels. Good research on the project application, design work and choosing of the final product will ensure that the end user gets exactly the type of system that perfectly fits their needs.

Small walkway lighting can be accomplished in multiple ways. From small off-the-shelf lighting systems for home walkways to larger corporate walkways using higher powered bollard fixtures vary in their design, costs and maintenance. The off-the-shelf systems typically each have their own solar panel, battery and all included in each fixture. These systems are not high powered, but can outline the area they are placed along. These systems require a lot of maintenance as their solar is only sized to provide a small amount of power with little to no backup from the battery, making the system use all available power nightly and reducing the battery lifespan dramatically; typically needing replacing every year or two.

Larger bollard fixtures can be installed in one of two ways; each having their own solar power system integrated within the bollard fixture, or multiple bollards powered off a single large power array. The single bollards that each has their own solar power system provide a little better storage than the small big box solar lighting systems; however, they will still require much more maintenance than a commercial lighting system. These types of systems have a flat panel on the top of each light requiring constant cleaning, especially in the northern snowy areas, and are more prone to vandalism. The batteries are typically only a couple day backup, which still produces a short lifespan of a battery. Large solar arrays powering multiple fixtures will provide a longer lasting system as there is typically a minimum of five nights autonomy and the solar is sized to replace the total usage every night in the worst case scenario, winter.

Other area lighting applications use larger fixtures such as floods and overhead light fixtures. These are much higher powered systems and provide large area lighting for parking lots, streets, perimeters, etc. These systems each have their own solar power assembly to provide the power to the fixture and operate as specified by the end user. These systems need to still be sized properly to ensure they are reliable and provide a long lifespan.

These larger projects have a considerable amount of customization options and discussing the needs of the project with the lighting designer will guarantee that the light specified for the project will meet the needs perfectly. Different distributions for different lighting applications can be used to customize the lighting system so that lighting is only installed where needed and not wasted. Also, control options provide specific lighting needs, such as dusk to dawn or specific timing, even dimming options that can be considered. Always make sure that the lighting representative knows the end project requirements before specifying any type of custom control electronics.

Next time you are looking to light up an area and need a solar option, consult your solar lighting specialist to help you design the perfect system tailored to your specific needs. From big to small, solar LED area lighting can be a great choice.

 

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Area Lighting

7 Questions That Level the Commercial Solar Lighting Playing Field

Posted by SEPCO

11/6/14 9:30 AM

Commercial Solar Lighting Playing FieldSolar Lighting is not all the same. Yes, they include panels, batteries, light fixtures, control electronics and brackets for mounting the fixture and solar; however, there are many differences when deciding the best solution for your project. Here are the 7 questions you should ask to ensure you are getting exactly what you are looking for and to be able to compare the offerings of different solar lighting manufacturers.

  1. What is the type of solar module used?

Is the solar module single or multi-crystal panels? Mono (single) and Poly (multi) crystal panels, though vary in efficiencies, are both great for energy production and work well in off grid solar situations. Making sure you are purchasing quality solar panels will ensure their long life span and energy production. Some unknown brands of solar panels will state that they provide the same power; however, they typically cannot stand up to the test of time like well-known solar panel manufacturers do, as well as back their products and stand by them on the warranties.

  1. What type of fixture is being used?

All fixtures are not equal. Finding out the lumens per watt provided by the fixture will allow you to determine the light output of the fixture. Also, you need to find out how long the fixtures have been in production and if they are from a reputable company. You don’t want a fixture that hasn’t been field tested for some time by a company that has no experience in the lighting industry. Especially with LED fixtures, you want to make sure the fixture will last as long as the system does.

  1. Is there protection for the solar?

Protecting your solar power system is a great way to safeguard that your system will stay standing for years to come. Some companies, such as ours, use panel pans to protect the fragile backside of the solar panels. Vandal hardware can also be used to make sure that the system cannot be easily removed from installation site. Finally, higher quality solar panel manufacturers use tougher glass material on the front of the panel so not to get damage from wind-blown debris and storms that include hail.

  1. What are the controls of the system?

Knowing exactly how your system will operate will guarantee you are getting exactly what you are expecting from your solar lighting system. Some companies hide in the fine print that their systems in fact operate all night; however, after so long, it will be at a reduced wattage, sometimes as low as a fraction of the original wattage requested. Make sure you get the control profile of the system that matches your needs. If dimming is an option on your project, great, but make sure you know how much the fixture will be dimming. If no dimming is allowed, make sure to read through the fine print. Learn about all the control options available before you finalize your design.

  1. Is there enough storage for inclement weather?

Five days storage is the minimum required backup for most areas; however, the further north your installation site is, the larger the storage will need to be. Five days does not cut it in New York like it does in Texas since the depth of discharge on cold batteries is much larger than in the warmer weather, lowering the life of the battery and increasing down time and maintenance costs. There are also many more overcast days in the north during the winter than in the south. Know the amount of storage that is appropriate for your area and verify that there is enough storage for your systems to operate all winter long.

  1. What type of materials is used in construction?

Materials may not seem like a very important discussion initially, but the way the systems, including the mounting brackets, fixtures, etc. are constructed will determine how long your system will hold up in the field. Marine grade aluminum is one of the best materials used in the industry since it does not corrode or deteriorate and can last as long as the complete system. Other metals, such as steel, tend to rust (unless galvanized) and powder coating the system can also improve the life of the metal as well. Plastics are a definite no-no in the main construction of the system as sunlight tends to break them down and cannot withstand the long lasting needs of a commercial solar lighting system.

  1. What type of pole is the equipment mounting to?

Finally, what type of solar light poles is the equipment mounting to? Is it round? Square? Steel? Aluminum? There are many questions that need to be asked before installation. We never recommend using a square pole since the solar power system needs to face due south and this does not always allow for the fixture and the solar to face the correct directions. A round tapered pole is best as the taper allows for added strength to withstand the added weight and EPA (effective projected area) of the system as a whole. If you purchase the pole from the manufacturer, make sure it will withstand the local AASHTO wind ratings, is made with a long lasting material and compliments your project as a whole.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

Implementing Solar LED Outdoor Lighting for Commercial Property Saving

Posted by SEPCO

11/4/14 9:30 AM

ABC-Domes-7One of the primary problems facing any commercial business operator is making sure their business stays profitable. If you can't make money you're bound to have trouble keeping a business afloat, it's just the nature of the beast. Of all the things you could do in hopes of cutting costs one that's probably going to be the least detrimental to health of your company is looking into switching out your source of electricity. Standard electric can be a bit costly, not only due to rate increases from whichever company is supplying your power, but also the upkeep of the system and the constant changing of the bulbs in your system. As a result of this cost many businesses have been taking steps to focus more on use of solar LED outdoor lighting systems. These systems will allow you to cut the cost of having to pay one of the power companies for the sake of lighting your business and the surrounding parking area. Solar power is the best option these days due to its cost cutting ability as well as its ability to renew itself day after day. If you're looking for a way to light your business, you can't really do much better than to switch over to solar power instead of standard electricity.

There are a ton of benefits to going solar over standard electricity; one of the primary positives is the fact that the government looks very kindly on people going green. When you choose to go solar in place of a standard electrical hookup you're eligible for certain tax breaks as you're helping to turn around things in favor of the environment. Not only are you able to get apply for, and receive, tax credits for the work you're doing in swapping from standard to solar power, you also may have the opportunity to sign up for grants to pay for your project. If you're looking to make your business turn as solid of a profit as possible you're going to want to go with solar LED outdoor lighting, it's one of the best moves that anyone can do while starting things up. Solar power has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years and it appears that it's growing even more every day, with the potential for printed solar panels on their way to the market soon it would seem that solar will finally become much more affordable than in years past as well.

With the steady stream of companies switching over to the solar power sources for their lighting, one of the top choices has become to go to the LED lights in the system. LED lights are amazing due to their low wattage output while not losing any of their luminosity. LED bulbs have a tendency to be incredibly bright which would help guarantee your location is well once the sun goes down. Between the low wattage use, the high visibility created, and the length of time that the bulbs last you're looking at an incredible cost savings. This is typically one of the biggest expenses a business could have up front; going the solar LED way is the best option to keep your location well lit so that nobody is injured on your property. You've got plenty of choices when it's time to change out your lights, of all those choices, the combination of LED and solar lighting is easily the best bet for saving energy, and more importantly saving money. You can consider your options, but in the end you're not going to find anything better than LED lights run on a solar powered system.

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Topics: Solar Lighting

Solar Lighting Solutions are Bound to Make an Impact on Your Business

Posted by SEPCO

10/30/14 9:30 AM

Solar lighting solutionsSolar lighting solutions can positively impact a business for a few different reasons. Here are three, but I’m sure there are more. Feel free to add yours below.

 

Impact your bottom line

Solar lighting solutions will impact your bottom line, especially in the long term. Installing solar in the initial build phase of a business will do the most impact in regards to the bottom line. The solar lights reduce the cost of wiring parking lots and entrance roadways with standard electric. They also allow for the addition of lights on existing areas that do not have access to the electric grid. Replacement of existing electric does not have the initial financial impact since the purchase of the solar lighting systems can be costly; however, when looking at the long term ROI of the solar project, and comparing that to electrical costs that rise year after year, the savings will add up in the long run.

 

Impact your green initiative

Is your business looking to be greener and have less of an impact on the environment? Solar lighting solutions provide just that. Since the systems are off the grid, they use no power to operate the fixtures and have a zero carbon impact. The systems charge during the day and operate from the solar charged batteries at night. The system is completely self-contained and practically maintenance free with the implementation of LEDs, there is little costs past initial installation. The only thing to worry about is changing of batteries, but these are also recyclable so there is much less impact there.

 

Impact your image with your customers

Image is always top on the list of any business; you always want to attract customers to your place. With the climate change awareness that is happening today, people prefer to use greener companies and local businesses over other types of companies. Showcasing the green initiative to your customers by using solar lighting, along with using solar to help offset your actual building electrical usage, will impact you image positively to your customers. It shows how you are looking out for our future and doing your part to lessen your impact on the earth.

What other impacts on a business would solar have? Let me know in the comments below.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Street Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Outdoor Solar Lighting Solutions to Exterior Illumination Needs

Posted by SEPCO

10/23/14 3:27 PM

Outdoor Solar Lighting Solutions Parking LotWe've become a very energy conscious society these days, going from fossil fuels and the old format of electricity to more renewable resources. One of the most popular areas to make this change has been in the area of lighting. Standard electric is great but can get quite costly over time, as a result people are starting to turn toward an outdoor solar lighting option in order to recoup some of the money they've been spending in order to light their locations. Going solar is the best move in many cases, but there are other things to consider when you're taking the leap from one lighting option to another. Probably the biggest question to ask is what the application of your lighting will be, is this something that is being used to light a parking lot at a business, are you putting up lights along the side of a road that will help drivers see where they're headed at night, or are you putting up lighting in a public park so that people taking a walk in the night hours can see their way along the path? Depending on the location you'll have to weigh the options, once you've made a decision to go solar, the choice of lighting styles becomes a bit easier.

When you're trying to light a parking lot you're going to need some seriously high powered bulbs for the job. You're lighting an incredibly large area, with the one positive being that it's mostly wide open spaces. The goal is to keep the entire area lit up, leaving as little room for dark spaces as possible. If you're running a store this is mandatory because it means a bit more safety for your customer base. The most popular lighting for a parking lot is typically going with large area lights. These give you the choice of CFL style bulbs, Metal Halide, and the increasingly popular LED light option. As long as you're going an outdoor solar lighting any option is great, but you're going to want to lean more toward the LED in most cases as it provides amazing light while burning less energy, and lasting longer than your other choices. While CFL is good, they just can't compete with the luminosity put out by an LED bulb. When combined with a solar setup you're looking at the absolute best energy option available.

Outdoor Solar Lighting Solutions Park LightingLighting a park is another interesting scenario as it requires a bit more intimate lighting than what you would use for a parking lot. You're going to want to have lighting closer to ground level, something that's going to be used to light up a walkway instead of looking to light the entire area around said park. Once again you have to select LED versus CFL and Metal Halide light bull options, you'll have to look decide which one works best for your location. The fun part of park lighting is less in the bulb style and more in selecting the appearance you want for your lights. Many locations these days are going for the more classic column with a canister on top, a touch of old world style with modern LED bulbs. It gives you a great blend of past and present, lighting the way toward the future. No matter what decision you make, as long as you're focused on going with solar lighting solutions, you'll be coming out as the winner in your project. With the breakthroughs in solar cell production in recent years it's bound to get even better as time ticks forward, keep your finger on the pulse and all will go well.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Parking Lot Lighting, Pathway Lighting

Tips for A Successful Outdoor Solar Lighting Installation

Posted by SEPCO

10/21/14 9:30 AM

DR-Horton-1With the recent trends to go green, there are more and more government and institution outdoor solar lighting installations being undertaken. But how do you know if you've got everything as it should be to install your outdoor solar lighting? Here are some tips on what to consider so that your outdoor solar lighting installation goes smoothly:

Do you have the appropriate building permits in place?

Building permits are more than just an inspection on the safety of your installation itself; it also deals with the systems it is interconnected to, such as whether the framing on your structure is robust enough to handle the weight of your outdoor solar lighting equipment, whether the electrical lines running between your panels, charge controller and light fixtures are installed safely and whether the installation will meet your local codes. By checking with your local building inspector, you can find out if there are any unique permit requirements that you are not otherwise aware of.

What is the minimum amount of sun you get daily during the year?

Getting beautiful, sunny days all summer long doesn't mean that your system will work well in the winter! Usually during the winter months in the U.S., the minimum daily sunlight will affect how many solar panels you'll need to power your installation. From under two hours daily in the northern U.S. to over six in the southwestern U.S., the number of hours your panels can effectively work under will determine how much power can be provided during the shortest days and longest nights every year. If you're on the short end of that range, we can help you develop a customized solution.

Is there excessive dust, snowfall or trees at your project's location?

Though most panels are somewhat self-cleaning because of rain or because the angle the panels are at allows snow to slide off, excessive dust or snowfall can block sunlight and severely limit the amount of power your system can produce. Additional cleaning or maintenance may be required to keep your system functioning at peak performance, which will be safer and easier if the installation is more easily accessible using a shorter structure or pole-mounted system.  Similarly, large shade trees can also prevent sunlight from reaching the panels in a simple setup, especially evergreens. If your project site has issues that may cause dust, snow or shading problems, please let us know. We're more than happy to help you find a customized solution for your project.

By considering your answers to these questions, you'll have dodged the biggest problems that can come up in outdoor solar lighting installations. Thinking ahead and giving careful thought to all the steps of your installation and the future use of your lighting will greatly help the process go as smoothly as possible.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Installation

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