Are you also wondering how light can work using the sun’s energy as a source? Initially, the solar cell was invented to power off satellites, and therefore they were highly expensive. But now, they are being used as an alternative to electricity and are attainable and cheap. So far, satellites and mars rovers were powered using solar cells, but now we see them being used everywhere.
Home devices, toys, lighting devices, and batteries have been using solar energy as an alternative to actual electricity. These are especially helpful to those that live without the power of electricity. Nowadays, solar lights have replaced a lot of candles and kerosene’s in people’s homes.
To understand how solar lights have helped us shape our environment-friendly world, we have created an article for you to articulate. Read further to see how do they work and how that has helped everybody.
What are solar lights and their components?
Solar light is a device that uses the sun’s energy and converts it into electricity to provide light in shady areas or at night. The solar battery comprises four components: the photovoltaic panel, a battery, the light fixture which usually employs LEDs, and control electronics. So when there is no sun, the solar panel takes the light it stored from the sun and creates electrical energy. The energy can then be used right there or stored in the battery.
Since solar lights were invented to provide light at night, the batteries that are present in them are made to do exactly that. The batteries don’t have a large capacity of holding energy, but they can save enough to last easily during emergencies.
The control electronics allow the lights to keep the system safe by moving the energy throughout the system and switching it on or off according to its usage. Some solar lights turn off during the day to preserve their energy and won’t be turned on until they are powered by somebody else.
The photovoltaic panel is yet another important component of the light as it recognizes the light from the visible spectrum and then further helps the battery conserve solar energy. Only then electricity will be produced from the battery.
How do they work?
Now that we are familiar with the components of solar light let us see the scientific part of the working mechanism of solar light. The photovoltaic effect is the biggest reason we see the light through solar light. The solar light has a photovoltaic panel, also called the solar cell, which is responsible for converting sunlight into electricity.
A solar cell is made from crystalline silicon layers and chemicals that produce negatively charged electrons and spaces that are charged positively. So when the light passes through the photovoltaic cells, the negatively charged electrons get excited and are pushed into the positively charged spaces. The spaces then send the electron as the direct current through the wire into the solar cell to be used, or the battery stores sit for being used some other day.
Therefore, the battery uses the conserved energy through the circuit. The electrons and positive spaces combined with the energy create electricity that powers on the lights, and we see the light.
What are other types of solar light available?
There are so many types of fixtures that use a solar panel to get electricity from, as mentioned below:
- Lemontec outdoor motion sensor lights are perfect as security sensors as they can sense motion, and they work on the electrical energy created by stored solar energy.
- Sunlitec outdoor solar lights consist of a set of LED bulbs that are used as decoration and lighting. These lights have a quick flash, slow flash, steady flash, and pulsating light as well in their modes of lighting. You can use solar energy to work these lights up or even use USB as an emergency backup charging method.
- Nekteck Solar outdoor Spotlight is used especially for the lighting of a landscape for the garden, driveway, pool, or yard. The angles on these lights are tilted to get the maximum solar energy. These can provide for at least 6 hours and a maximum of 10 hours.
- InnoGear Gutter lights are used for motion detection and have different lighting modes. They have a solar panel that is 4.25 X 7.28 inches in size and is waterproof and heatproof as well. These can be wall-mounted as well.
- Aityvert Yard lights are used to decorate or light your patios or driveways. They have a special flame effect that adds an aesthetic appeal to the area you planted them.
The solar lights differ on the types depending on where they are to be used – places such as pathways, driveways, patios, gardens, etc.
Why do solar lights have an on/off switch on them?
Imagine, you have to keep opening the lights for them to work; it could become a tedious job to be done. The main purpose of on/off switches is to get an automatic response to the batteries getting charged and conserve energy. Therefore, the solar cell requires a minimum voltage to turn the switch on. However, the light has two different circuits.
One circuit passes current at a different voltage from the other. Therefore, when the sun is shining, the current received at the first circuit is insufficient to light up the solar lights. It charges the battery but does not light up the lights.
As night prevails and the solar panel does not receive energy, the drop in voltage in the first circuit is shut down. As a result, the other circuit starts working as a switch is triggered for it to be in use.
Since the other circuit uses power from the battery, it runs at a higher voltage as it can. This is usually more than the threshold of the LED, and therefore, the light is turned on.
In simple words, solar lights have two circuits that work on different voltages. Therefore, when the switch is on, the light is using the energy which is stored; however, when the switch is closed, it draws voltage from the outside.
However, there are 4 major reasons of on/off solar light that you can find here.
How do you turn the solar lights on at night?
The solar lights have an automatic mechanism in them that can turn the light on when there is no light detected. When we are talking about solar lights, they have an automatic mechanism that switches on and off on its own. This is usually because of the circuit that is made in that way. However, the main point is that the solar lights are provided with a small fixture known as photosensors that are those components that can detect sunlight easily.
The solar light is fitted with a photosensor that works as a gate between the battery that you can recharge and the LEDs. When the sensor cannot detect any sunlight, which is usually during the nighttime, it connects the circuit present in between the LEDs and the battery. This action allows the battery to power up the LED.
Therefore, you see the solar light working on its own at night. Usually, you don’t have to do it manually as it happens on its own; if it doesn’t work, you can get it checked by an electrician.
Do the solar lights work in the garden, and how?
If you feel like using solar lights to light up some spots in your garden, especially during the night, you are in the right direction. These are cost-efficient and won’t make you worry about the wiring.
Solar gardens for gardens are very small that take the solar energy and convert it to electricity which is then used up during the night. Each of the lights has a separate photovoltaic cell on its top that absorbs the sunlight in the day and converts it to electricity at night.
Usually, the solar energy gets stored up by the batteries, which then has a photo register that senses the absence of light and turns on the LED light.
The solar lights for gardens can last up to 12 to 15 hours easily; however, they need at least 8 hours of the sun’s energy. You can also charge them using ambient light from regular bulbs to charge them.
Are there batteries in solar lights?
Solar lights are famous for their cost efficiency and environment-friendly features and are being used everywhere. However, solar lights were made by using batteries as a part of the solar light as it is the most important component of the battery.
The battery is the main component that is responsible for converting solar energy into electrical energy that lights up the light fixture. Batteries are also responsible for conserving solar energy so that when there is no sunlight available, they can use the stored energy to convert it into electricity and light up the area.
There are various kinds of batteries such as Nickel Cadmium batteries (rechargeable batteries), Lead-acid batteries, Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, Lithium-Ion batteries (commonly used), and a Lithium-Ion Phosphate battery.
The most commonly used battery is the lithium-ion battery that can conserve energy and easily store it to convert it into electricity later. You can also see that nickel is the most common metal used to make these batteries because it is a good conductor of electricity.
How does solar light work on cloudy days?
The energy that can be generated from the sun greatly depends on how dense the clouds are and what is the quality of the solar panels. Some panels can even detect diffused or reflected light of the visible spectrum. However, cloudy days do not mean that the sun rays cannot pass through them because you definitely can get sunburn even on cloudy days.
Edge of effect is a phenomenon that talks about solar panels that make more electricity even on the cloudiest days. This usually happens as the solar radiation radiates even from the clouds. As sunlight gets through the clouds, it gets refracted, and this intense light helps the panels generate more energy from the sun than it would in the usual days.
Therefore, it is a myth that clouds do not let solar lights work as clouds help in the generation of more energy as compared to that during sunny days.
Also, remember, solar lights could not use their own light as their own charging light sources.
How do you charge the solar lights the first time you use them?
When you buy the solar lights for the first time, they usually come semi-charged, which means that you can use the lights for at least 4 hours the first time you use them. However, it is always advisable to charge the solar lights previously before you plan on using them.
To charge them for the first time, you can either place them in the sun and let them stay there for at least 8 to 10 hours, or you can keep them under regular light. Regular light includes light bulbs, LEDs, flashlights, and even lit candles. The light should be ambient enough for the solar panels to catch the light.
The other important thing would be to angle the solar panels in such a way that they can get exposed to maximum light from whatever source they’re getting energy from. Also, check how to make solar lights last longer.
We have probably seen so many solar devices nowadays, yet we don’t realize how beneficial they are. Not only are they cost-effective now, but they are also a huge boon to the environment. They help reduce the carbon footprint, which means that they reduce the production of carbon that is leading to global warming and our ultimate demise.
We are blessed with an abundant amount of energy from the sun, and if we don’t use it, we are wasting an absolute perfect source of energy that is otherwise proving to be a bane for our environment. We have enough technology produced to effectively create solar lights that can be used because of their convenience and benefits.
Thus we can conclude here that solar lights are the perfect invention and work merely easily as you would hope it to be.
Eng. Matthew Joseph Nandirio is the Founder of walkingsolar.
After graduating from the University of Houston in 2002, matt started working as an electrical and electronic engineer for several multi-national solar energy companies.
He has a wide range of experiences including solar system requirement analysis, planning, maintaining, debugging and even solar device development through research.
He now shares his 20 years of expertise through his articles on the walkingsolar website.
Further, he is also the author of two books on Solar Technology, “Solar Power for Villages” and “DIY Solar System for Dummies”.