The Pros And Cons Of Using A Solar Shed Light

Is installing a solar shed light in your shed a way to save you money on your electric bill, reduce the load on the electrical grid and make a step in the green direction? Will it save the environment and can it help you save money? Read on to find out the types of system available and how they can save you money - but not in the way that they are advertised.

Types of solar panel

There are several types of solar collection panels from which to choose. The important thing is to pick the type that is right for your shed as well as your location. The two main kinds of solar collection panels currently commonly available:

  • Photovoltaic panels which are used for energy collection.
  • Solar Thermal panels which are used for water heating.

Since we are discussing solar shed lights we will be talking about the Photovoltaic (PV) type here.

The basic premise behind most solar panel technology is that the panels collect the UV energy from sunlight and transfer it to a battery which charges up with electrical energy to be used later by whatever solar shed light system you have installed. This system is used to produce Direct Current (DC) normally 6V or 12V. For appliances that require Alternating Current (AC) a Power Inverter is required, however these are only generally appropriate for larger panel areas with a higher power output than that needed for just keeping the light on in your shed!

Type of batteries used

In this type of system a lead-acid battery is the most popular choice for systems requiring good quality lighting. (For a low power solar shed light, AA type Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cad) or Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-Mh) batteries are used in conjunction with LED bulbs.)

The most commonly known type of lead-acid battery is the car battery, these are designed to be light in weight and deliver a very heavy current for a short period of time followed by a long slow period of charging.

For solar power use the opposite is required, a battery is used that can deliver power over relatively long periods with a short period of charging. The type of battery commonly used are known as leisure batteries and are good for use in small systems that will not necessarily be used every day, such as in a caravan, holiday house. This can make it a perfect choice for your shed if you are using them for simple work lights or for light current loads. A typical leisure battery has been known to last up to ten years making it a good choice for longevity as well.

Types of light source

Fluorescent tubes have traditionally been used as workshop lights and are a good low power alternative to the incandescent/filament type bulbs as they have a greatly increased life span and only use 1/4 of the energy. The Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) is a fluorescent tube bent into a lightbulb type shape and runs off 12Volts at between 7 and 18W (an 8W CFL bulb is roughly equivalent to a 40W incandescent bulb). These bulbs give off about 5 times as much light as a conventional bulb for the same energy use and are fine for use in a workshop or office type environment.

One way to ensure maximum efficiency of your system is to use LED lights. LED lights have an even lower power consumption than CFLs. For lighting in a work type environment they are currently more expensive than the fluorescents and as such do not make a viable option unless you have a good deal of money to spend.

However many of the diy solar shed light and shed security light kits use LEDs. These kits are inexpensive, easily installed and probably the way to go if all you need is a security light to go on as you reach the shed door and a light source to find a screwdriver at the back of the shed on a dark night.

Costs and benefits

In my view the cost of setting up a solar shed light should be compared with the ongoing running costs. Running a 9W light for 111 hours costs 10p (with electricity costs at 10p/kWh). In the UK a certified electrician must be employed to run an armoured mains cable to your shed and install/check the wiring, giving a starting cost probably in the reqion of £300+. The cost of installation far outweighs any running costs for a single occasionally used bulb, in this situation a stand alone solar power package at £50 looks a good option.

An alternative scenario would be the home office type shed where the power requirement is a lot higher include heating, power for office equipment as well as the lighting requirement. In this situation using solar electricity may help your conscience but as the mains power infrastructure is there already using low power requirement bulbs on the mains would probably be the best for the pocket.

As more and more people begin to make use of solar panels the cost is coming down. Also more technologies are constantly hitting the market that are more cost effective and consumer friendly. At the end of the day you must weigh up the initial and ongoing costs to work out the best solution for you.

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