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Educational   2 May 2024

 

Five common issues with solar lighting (& why they aren’t an issue when you choose Sol)

Prairie dusted with snow in background with Sol solar streetlighted highlighted with golden yellow circle around fixture

 

Outdoor solar lighting is gathering steam worldwide as cities, businesses, and government agencies tighten their focus on renewable energy and decarbonization. At the same time, advances in solar technology–coupled with decreased costs—have made it an even more efficient and cost-effective option for everything from street lighting to playgrounds to military facilities.

 

While this growth is to be celebrated, it has resulted in a flood of new players to the market, eager to make a quick buck on a new trend without taking the time to fully understand intricacies of the technology. To the uninitiated, these companies’ claims can be hard to parse, and as a result, many customers are ending up with products that, at best, don’t have the features they need and, at worst, don’t work year round.

 

In this article, we’ll share some common problems people encounter with solar lighting, and how Sol solves them with proper sizing, quality manufacturing, and best-in-class customer support.

 

 

Problem: Solar lighting doesn’t work during winter

It’s easy to power solar light during the summer when days are long and solar is abundant, but when winter sets in, it gets tougher. Solar panels and batteries must be carefully selected and sized to the system’s location and load. If either one is off (e.g., the panels are too small to collect enough energy during the day, or the batteries can’t hold enough charge to power the system at night), achieving reliable, uninterrupted light will be an issue.

 

Sol’s solution: Custom sizing and batteries

A sunny southern city like San Diego receives much more sunlight in winter than in a place like Detroit or Boston. As such, the solar panel and battery requirements will be vastly different. Sol provides custom sizing to each location based on the worst solar conditions and the longest night (December 21 in the Northern Hemisphere), and if low temperatures are an issue, we’ll be sure to recommend a battery that can handle it (NiMH can withstand lows of up to -40°C.)

 

Problem: Solar lighting doesn’t provide enough light

We’ve heard it once, we’ve heard it a million times: Solar lights dim when they’re not supposed to. Solar lights aren’t as bright as they need to be. These problems generally stem from one of two things: overestimated LED performance or underpowered batteries. If the fixture is inefficient, or the system doesn’t have enough storage, it will either dim down to a level it can maintain or die.

 

Sol’s Solution: Top-tier LED fixtures and transparency from the start

At Sol, we use only Tier 1 LED fixtures with high efficiency ratings (lumens per watt, or the amount of light produced in relation the the amount of energy consumed). We’ve also completed LM-79 testing on all our products, which verifies the true output of the system, versus the bare LED (which tends to overstate performance). Finally, we include a detailed specification document with every quote, including a photometric layout that shows exactly where and how much light a system or configuration of systems will provide.

 

Problem: Solar lighting doesn’t last the night

When an outdoor solar light switches off before it’s supposed to, it’s almost always a sizing issue. Sometimes the battery is too small for the load. Other times it’s been discharged too deeply too many times. Still other times the solar panels are undersized and incapable of collecting the energy required to charge the batteries in the first place.

 

Sol’s Solution: Proper batteries, ample autonomy

We get in front of the problem by ensuring the right batteries are selected for each project. We size our systems for the worst solar conditions and the longest night and build in ample backup power, ensuring our systems can operate for four days with zero solar. And if the batteries do fail? We provide a 10-year warranty covering the whole system, batteries and all.

 

 

 

Problem: Bird nests, droppings, and snow

A flat solar panel makes an attractive place for birds to build their nests. While we’re all for helping our feathered friends find comfortable places to call home, it creates a problem for solar collection—and cleaning. While not quite as bad to remove, snow can also accumulate on flat solar panels, making it difficult to absorb that precious winter sun.

 

Sol’s Solution: Tilted panels and bird spikes

Sol’s panels are specially designed to maximize sun exposure while minimizing snow accumulation and deterring birds. Their tilted design is a simple yet effective solution for clearing off snow—and no bird wants to build a nest on a 45-degree angle. (If you find yourself dealing with particularly sturdy, tenacious fowl, we offer bird spikes.)

 

Problem: Can’t find replacement parts—or even reach Customer Support

As mentioned up top, the past few years have seen a slew of new companies entering the market hoping to tap into the solar lighting opportunity. Unfortunately, many of these companies have already changed or discontinued some of their products and parts, leaving their customers in a jam. To make matters worse, product support from these companies is generally sub-standard or non-existent.

 

Sol’s Solution: Long-term presence and mindset

We’ve been in the industry for nearly 35 years and plan to be around for another 35 (or more!). This long-term presence informs how we support our products: Besides our comprehensive 10-year warranty, we’re committed to supplying parts and support for products sold well before that. We regularly supply retrofit kits to help customers upgrade their technology—whether they originally purchased our lighting or someone else’s!

 

Your trusted solar advisor

If you’ve tried solar lighting and experienced the problems described in this article, it doesn’t mean that solar isn’t a viable solution for you; it just means you haven’t yet worked with a reputable solar provider that performs proper solar sizing and is there to support its products no matter what.

If you have questions about solar lighting, or a project you’d like to discuss, our team is always happy to chat.

 

Other news articles you might be interested in

ODOT’s Journey to Safer Roads with Sol

Leveraging the enhanced Investment Tax Credit (ITC) to reduce the cost of solar lighting

Using solar lighting to enhance safety and security at electric vehicle charging stations

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