The industry of solar street lighting manufacturing has advanced immensely from 2008 to today. Many solar companies have emerged as solar lighting experts, but how can you know if the solar street lighting manufacturer is a company that you can rely on? The following five questions will help clients to ask the correct questions when choosing the solar street light manufacture they can count on:
- What light fixture are you recommending with the solar assembly?
Many manufactures do lighting, but there only a select few that actually are the best in the business. For example; Hubbell, which SEPCO uses their street light fixtures with their solar assembly, is one of the biggest in this industry. This is a light fixture you can rely on because it comes from a lighting company with experience. Almost all the Hubbell fixtures have 100K lifespan, which translates to around 22 years for dusk to dawn operation, longer for other operation schedules.
- What lighting distributions do you have available?
Street lights would usually use a Type II or Type III distribution, but not all the scenarios are the same. Maybe you want a Type V rectangular distribution as you are putting a single light in a small entrance. Do the other solar street light manufacturing companies have this type of distribution?
Distribution patterns allow for task specific lighting and can vary from project to project. Many distributions types can even be used along a single project, even a roadway. Depending on the number of lanes, medians, sidewalks, and other features along a roadway, the distribution patterns need to be set for each light and not generalized for a project. This ensures the lighting coverage is complete and does not leave drivers or pedestrians in the dark.
- Do you have a photometric layout to see how much lighting will be below the light fixture and up to how many feet from the fixture center would have light?
This question is a tricky one because you can have 5 foot-candles below the light fixture but at 20 feet from the light fixture there isn’t any light. This is something many companies will boast about, but instead of having even illumination along a large area, there will be spots of light. This also can increase the number of systems required to evenly illuminate a stretch of roadway.
That’s where the light distribution comes on handy since you want a great distribution to a big area and not only a spot. Even illumination also provides better visibility and less eye strain for drivers. Definitely a good safety feature when installing any type of street lighting.
- How much battery backup you are offering based in days?
Some solar street lights manufactures offer a two to three day battery backup which is actually a bad solar system design. Mother Nature doesn’t only provide a day or two of bad weather, sometimes there can be multiple days with very little sun. This also causes the batteries to over discharge, making their failure rates increase and increase maintenance and replacement costs.
Providing a minimum of five nights storage for most locations, additional storage for colder climates, will reduce operation and maintenance costs. The depth of discharge for a battery greatly affects the life of the battery, and keeping the battery’s depth of discharge to 20% or less, keeps the cycles at 3000 or higher, where just bringing the depth of discharge up to 30% per day decreases the cycles in half. Having only a two to three day storage means you will have to replace the battery every year or two.
- Warranty coverage and customer service response?
The warranties on solar street light systems are very important. A one year warranty on the system does not guarantee the system will even make it to a year. The system could only cost a couple thousand, but if you have to pay that every year or two for replacement, it could end up costing you much more after only a few years of operation. Instead, ensuring you are purchasing a system that lasts for 25 years or more will reduce the overall project costs greatly, not only in the first year, but for many years to come.
How does the customer service department respond when there is a problem? Do they stand behind their product and answer your questions? Or do they leave you in the dark and stop responding once the purchase is complete? Speak to the manufacturers and get references.
Anybody can provide service but there is a difference of service and confidence in the product that it is offered. Check the facts always and remember, SEPCO will help you in your solar needs from the quotation, to the installation, and service calls for years to come. We will always look for exceeding customer service and provide help when you need it the most.
Are there any other questions you think should be answered when looking for a commercial solar street lighting manufacturer? Feel free to leave us a comment below and let us know what questions you ask commercial manufacturers before purchasing a product.
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.