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Questions to Ask Before Installing Commercial Solar Lighting

SEPCO 6/28/21 6:30 AM
Questions to Ask Before Installing Commercial Solar Lighting

Solar lighting is an excellent choice for all kinds of different businesses. You can reduce your overhead, all while reducing your carbon footprint - and potentially qualify for government incentives in the process.


Before getting your lighting installed, it’s important to ask some questions. Broadly, these questions fall into two categories: what your lighting will be used for, and what the company you’re hiring to install the lighting provides.


What area will the lighting be installed in - and how does it affect my lighting needs?


This is a broad question - and it may be the most important one you answer. When responding to this question, consider:


  • What the area being lit is used for (parking, heavy machinery, aesthetics, foot traffic, advertising, etc.)
  • The materials being lit (concrete, asphalt, epoxy, etc.)
  • Any potential obstructions of lighting or solar intake (trees, overhangs, etc.)
  • The dimensions of the area being lit
  • The geographic location of the area (geo-coordinates, ZIP codes, etc.)


You’ll want to provide your contractor with as much detail about the area the lights will be installed in as possible:


  • The area your business is located in determines how many sunlight hours you’ll get, on average, per day. This allows the contractor to determine if larger solar modules for commercial lighting are needed.
  • Obstructions will also let the contractor know if larger solar modules are needed, as well as if any obstructions will need to be removed.
  • Different materials reflect light differently and can change the amount of light you need.
  • Usage also determines how much lighting you’ll need.


By answering all of these questions, you’ll make things easier for your contractor, and improve the overall lighting for your business.


How long do the lights need to be on? (What is the operating profile?)


Commercial solar lighting can be designed to run all night long (often called dusk-to-dawn operation), or be dimmed or turned off when the business is off-peak hours. The schedule in which lighting turns on, dims, and turns off is known as its “operating profile”.


Unless your business runs 24/7, you should almost always dim or turn off your lights at a certain point every night. This can reduce the impact of lighting on the night sky, and alert customers that your business is closed. 


The operating schedule for your lighting can also change based on the season, especially in northern regions where sunlight hours can vary substantially from summer to winter.


You can also vary the operating profile of different sections of your solar lighting. For example, you may have footpaths that you’re fine with customers walking through at night, but parking lots in which you want to limit powerful lighting after business hours.


How experienced is my contractor?


There are solar contractors of all different types in North America. Many of them focus on solar arrays and dabble in solar lighting as a side project.


You want to find a contractor whose primary focus is solar lighting. You should ask to see their portfolio and testimonials. Call the people who gave testimonials;  discuss the nature of their project, how long it took, and how satisfied they are with the work.


In other words, shop around! Contact a number of different solar lighting providers, read reviews, vet their references, and find out how long they’ve been in business. Compare price and quality, then decide which contractor is right for your project.  

What guarantees do I have if the system doesn’t work as expected?

For some projects, upgrading your electrical panel for solar is essential. When it comes to exterior solar lighting, that’s almost never the case - solar lighting is standalone.


So where are the failure points?


There are three basic points of failure: 


  • The solar panels don’t absorb enough energy to provide the lighting you need throughout the night
  • The lighting itself isn’t sufficient for the area you want lit
  • The operational profile is defective


You may also experience problems with a mechanical breakdown. In any of these situations, it’s essential to know what recourse you have.


Talk with your contractor about how the work is warrantied, what you can do if you’re not satisfied with the results, and how the contractor handles repairs and customer service. 


Having asked these questions, you’ll be in a much better place when it comes to planning your solar lighting project and finding the contractor that’s right for you. We hope this piece has been illuminating (pun intended)!


Author Bio: Pat Gray provides comprehensive marketing solutions for busy entrepreneurs. Some of his most recent work has been alongside the content team at SRB Energy. Pat is keenly interested in writing about his experience and sharing advice with other businesses.