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As summer comes to a close and your solar garden lights have had a good run for weekend barbecues and late nights on the porch, it may be time to replace the old batteries. Winter months are in fact the ones where lights are on the longest (think, coming home after work and it’s already dark out) and will have the greatest effect for use, illumination and enjoyment. One thing to remember when changing your the batteries in solar lights is to keep the chemistry consistent.
We now know that you can interchange a NiMH rechargeable battery (or more, if your solar light uses 2 or more batteries) with a NiCd rechargeable battery. Conversely, NiCd rechargeables can be used in place of NiMH, but we recommend using our NiMH rechargeable batteries whenever possible because:
This brings us to our point in question: Can you use Alkaline batteries as replacements in solar lights? Yes and no. But mostly…. no. As Alkaline batteries are not rechargeable, they will not drain completely each night, allowing for charge during the day to be stored from sunlight via the solar panel.
Think of it as a train moving down the tracks during daylight hours. The train is moving along fine with all of its momentum from the load it is carrying. Suddenly, a Mack truck is driving down the tracks for a head-on collision with the train. Assuming the truck isn’t annihilated by the train at impact, the energy from the train is still moving, but now with less force as the Mack truck is pushing with its own momentum against the train. As the sun sets and night falls, the truck has veered off the track and the train continues with its payload. The train has slowed down and will not go as far as it had initially planned for the entire trip. Dawn comes and that same Mack truck is back on the track heading straight for the train (you think the truck would have learned by now to stay off the track, but it is a persistent thing). The process is repeated until the train eventually stops well short of its final destination. Yet, the truck continues on the track waiting for the next choochoo.
This analogy is what happens when you put an Alkaline battery in a solar light. In the story above, the train is an Alkaline battery and the Mack truck is sunlight providing electron exchange via the solar panel into the non-rechargeable battery. With a rechargeable battery, the truck (sunlight) is filling the train (rechargeable battery) with energy during the day and is essentially on board the train during the night as it heads to its final destination. There is no competing or opposing energy between the two vehicles. And so, as a solar light generates energy during the day, it is collected and stored in the rechargeable battery. As the sun sets, this energy is released from the rechargeable battery and powers the LEDs of your light, giving you illumination. Each night, this energy is completely (or as near as possible) used up, leaving the rechargeable battery “empty” and ready for refueling the next day.
All of this daily stoppage caused by the truck takes its toll on the train tracks by leaving behind a residue that comes from the train’s engine compartment. Every day a little bit of fuel spills from the train and the leaks onto the tracks in front of the engine car, making it dangerous for the train to travel while creating a barrier which will make it near-impossible for the train to keep its traction on the iron tracks. Eventually, so much residue will be left on the track that the train is no longer in direct contact which will cause the train to stop moving altogether. This is equatable to the corrosion you will find on the battery and battery terminal of solar lights with prolonged use of Alkaline batteries. Corrosion can be cleaned off of the battery terminals, but often it is past the point of repair that will ultimately lead to the disposal of the solar light. Severe corrosion caused by Alkaline batteries can be cleaned off with a combination of brushes and baking soda diluted in water, but it must be done in a way that no water (or the chemical solution created by mixing the water with the corrosion) gets into the solar light which may damage the inner workings (ie: circuit board, wiring, LEDs, etc.) and thus render the light damaged even more than was caused by the corrosion alone. Excessive corrosion will break the contact between the alkaline battery and battery terminal, thus no energy will be delivered to the LEDs and you will not get any illumination at night.
So, you can use an Alkaline battery in a solar light to illuminate the LEDs; just be sure to do so for a short time (no more than a week or so is recommended) if you are waiting for your replacement rechargeable batteries to come in the mail. If you leave an Alkaline battery in your solar light for an extended period of time, the above scenario will take place and the battery will eventually leak and develop corrosion at the terminals. This corrosion can become excessive and possibly (most likely) damage the terminals of the light’s battery compartment to the point of disrepair. Corrosion may consist of Potassium Hydroxide, which is a caustic agent that can cause respiratory, eye and skin irritation.
If you are ever unsure about what batteries to use as replacements in your solar lights, be sure to do research beforehand just to err on the side of caution. If you are still not sure, contact the folks at Your Solar Link to get further information and a potential solution to replace your solar light rechargeable batteries. Stay safe and have a happy Fall Equinox!
Mario @ Your Solar Link
by Maria Ramos, Contributing Editor
Plenty of attention has been devoted to the growing adoption of solar energy systems all around the world. A tremendous amount of experimental solar projects have helped drive the progression of this renewable power source, bringing it ever closer to solving more of the Earth’s energy needs.
However, additional applications for solar technology are far removed from the surface of the planet we inhabit. Way back in 1958, the “grapefruit sized” Vanguard 1 satellite took off, becoming the first solar-powered satellite to launch into the Earth’s orbit. Since then, many other solar spacecrafts have been cleared for launch – but none quite like the LightSail, Bill Nye’s groundbreaking achievement in low-cost, “democratic”, space exploration.
Initially proposed by the legendary astrophysicist Carl Sagan (founder of the Planetary Society, the world’s “largest non-profit space advocacy group”), the LightSail employs solar sail technology: sheets of material that unfurl and gather energy from photons emitted by the sun. This energy is then used to generate thrust for a spacecraft. The IKAROS probe, launched in 2010 by Japan, and the NanoSail-D2 satellite created by NASA are two vehicles that have used solar sails to prior success.
The LightSail, promoted by Bill Nye as the now-president of The Planetary Society, is a citizen-funded spacecraft which uses similarly designed solar sails for propulsion. These sails are made of Mylar and are only 4.5 microns in width despite having an area of 32 square meters. As light from the sun hits the surface of the sails, the momentum from the photons is transferred, in accordance with well-established physical principles, to the sailing craft. As one would imagine, the energy thus imparted to the system at any moment in time is trivial. But because there’s hardly any friction in space and the sun’s rays are always shining, these gentle pushes can accelerate the craft to very high speeds.
Bill Nye, the “Science Guy” that is he, is a powerful promoter of science literacy and awareness among the public at large. In recent years especially, he has also shown himself to be an adept orator and science communicator, debating with those who continue to denounce the reality of climate change. After establishing the LightSail project, he teamed up with renowned cosmologist Neil DeGrasse Tyson to create a video explaining the principle motivation behind their work. Inspired by Sagan’s infamous cosmic wanderlust, the LightSail establishes solar as a viable propulsion source for a tiny spacecrafts called CubeSats which will allow for low-cost space missions for research and education.
The LightSail took off on May 20th. It encountered several problems initially, such as delayed deployment of the solar sails and a brief lapse in communication. But it made a recovery, and the sails did eventually deploy and data has been successfully sent from spacecraft back to Earth-based scientists. And while this first mission had a few hiccups, it was enough to convince researchers to begin preparing the craft for a real test flight in April of 2016. Private groups have already contributed more than $4 million to the LightSail’s next round.
As Carl Sagan once said, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” The growing prevalence of crowdfunded clean energy projects is indicative of a much broader trend – everyday people are increasingly aware of the need to both protect and better understand the nature of our world in the face of impending climate change. Whether it’s making the switch to a clean energy provider or backing another solar Kickstarter project, making a contribution (no matter how small) empowers individuals to connect with the planet in a more meaningful way.
If future hopes for the LightSail pan out, then it could mean a whole new way of exploring space by harnessing energy from the sun. By taking space exploration out of the hands of large government agencies and reducing its cost, ordinary people have the ability to invest in it in growing numbers. These advancements will likely tie in with the burgeoning solar power industry here on Earth, leading to more efficient and cost-effective solar energy options and a more hopeful future for our precious planetary home.
There’s little better than relaxing in the confines of a toasty conservatory.
In the UK, however, the often erratic weather can quickly turn your agreeable extension into a disagreeable white elephant, as heating costs spiral out of control and your conservatory becomes little more than a glorified broom cupboard.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
With approximately 200,000 new conservatories added to homes around the UK every year, little changes can be factored into the design and construction process to make a massive difference to their eco-friendliness.
Consequently, before you rush headlong into adding a conservatory to your property, it’s important you understand the environmental implications and how you can reduce its impact by reading our top tips below …
Heating and Cooling
Depending on where your conservatory is positioned, your heating and cooling needs will vary. As a result, this will determine how much energy you’ll use to keep the space warm in the winter (through halogen heating etc) and cool in the summer (by using fans or air conditioning).
Indeed, a whopping 28 per cent of the UK’s CO2 output comes from the energy used in homes, so rather than adding to the issue, it’s important to have a strategy in place to make sure your conservatory is a temperate environment all year round.
This means most opt to have their conservatory facing south, allowing them to capture the sun’s warmth in the summer AND winter – although it’s important to have quality blinds and vents in place to help avoid the space becoming unbearably warm in the balmier months.
Blinds and Glass
Of course, a conservatory contains more glass than you can shake a stick at, so one of the easiest ways to make it more eco-friendly is by opting for the most energy efficient glass during the consultation and subsequent design process.
This means choosing a glass that has a low U-Value, as the lower the U-Value, the more energy efficient the glass will be. The upshot, obviously, is you spend less money on cooling and heating your conservatory – and the environment is better off.
While you’re at it, it’s important to select the right type of blinds for your space, with many folk opting for vertical or roller blinds, which allow you to keep your conservatory cooler in the summer and let in more light in the colder winter months.
What do you think?
Do you have any other ways our readers can make their conservatories more eco-friendly? How about other areas of the garden where they can save energy AND help the environment? Please let us know by leaving a comment below – we’d love to hear from you.
Many people have asked “can I use NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) batteries in my solar lights that have NiCd (Nickel Cadmium)?” And the answer is, yes! Not only can you replace with NiMH, but they are the better choice of battery as they have benefits that their NiCd counterparts don’t.
NiMH battery benefits:
1. Long shelf-life. They can remain unused for anywhere between 3 and 5 years. However, we recommend using your new NiMH rechargeable batteries sooner than that, gotta keep those solar lights shining.
2. No memory effect (compared to NiCd). NiCd batteries have issues with attaining a “memory” that will reduce the life of that kind of battery. NiMH can be partially charged (say, on cloudy days) and be fully recharged to their maximum capacity on the next full-sun day. There is a little discharge (trickle discharge) during storage, so it is best to put your NiMH batteries into your garden solar lights in the pre-dawn hours before a sunny day. Then they will be ready to go for your nighttime enjoyment.
3. NiMH rechargeables are considered more environmentally friendly than NiCd batteries. Cadmium is classified as a toxic element, so it needs to be disposed of properly. There are many recycling locations (from what we’ve seen, Target and Best Buy have drop-off bins at the front of their stores for battery recycling), but if for some reason they end up in the trash, NiCd are not good for landfills. NiMH batteries can be recycled (it is recommended), but it won’t be “bad” to toss them into the trash, should there be no options of recycling.
4. NiMH rechargeable batteries for solar lights are almost always more expensive than NiCd. But not at Your Solar Link! They offer NiMH batteries at the same price (and sometimes lower) than the NiCd counterpart. But never more! You won’t find a better deal than at Your Solar Link for NiMH rechargeable batteries, anywhere! They are priced to get your solar garden lights up and running with the best option available. The price you see is the price you pay: no hidden fees, shipping charges, sales tax (for our California customers), etc.!
Just remember, don’t mix the chemistries in your solar lights (if they take 2 or more batteries). Use only NiMH or NiCd, not one of each in your 2-or-more-battery lights. Also, typical lifespans of both batteries is about 2 years (of nightly operation/use). So, if you have had your solar lights for about 2 years and are noticing that the output is diminishing at night, it may be time for a replacement. Just be sure to go with NiMH rechargeable batteries. They are indeed the best option.
Mario @ Your Solar Link
You’ve seen them. Maybe you didn’t know exactly what they were, but you’ve seen them. You’re driving along, listening to the latest Depeche Mode remix, and you notice that those street lights are different than what you remember from a decade ago. Yes, street lights are going LED (Light Emitting Diode). Some are going induction or halogen, but the point to make here is that they have been going away from that yellow HPS light that was prevalent a decade (or two) ago. However, as we have reached the middle of the second decade in the new millennium (yes, it’s 2015 already), technology has changed. And with it, we are going back to the white light at night to illuminate our streets, parking lots, and any other large exterior space.
Why go back to white light? First, it helps to give a true color to whatever is beneath the light (car, clothes, etc.) that helps with nighttime security (no more “they were driving a blue car, no green, no red….”; you get the picture). Second, it is closer to daylight color, so it is easier on the eye. And third, with LEDs, white light can be directed in a more controlled manner such that light pollution is greatly reduced as compared to their HPS predecessors. It is this third reason that interests cities and those who enjoy looking up to see the stars when outside of cities. As illustrated in the before and after images below, the lack of proper designs with HPS yellow lights created a haze of light pollution that spread beyond the ground they were intended to illuminate. The “after” picture shows how light on the ground is not compromised by switching to white LEDs, while the layers above the city are going back to dark, as it should. After all, we’re not trying to illuminate the air traffic above. Cheers.
So, the simple act of switching to LED fixtures for street lights is having a positive effect on security, near-natural light conditions and unwanted light pollution. Not only do we have these benefits, but LEDs outlast their predecessors by many years and use less energy to operate. Thus, the long-term costs of operation are greatly reduced and resources are preserved for future generations.
Now, it you want to take all that preservation, savings, efficiency and control of exterior lighting (cities, this is for you), then you can go off-grid with your street lights by cutting your ties to the utility company with the solar lights at SolTek Renewables. Their autonomous solar street lights include all the components to install a system that is comparable to (and often exceeds) industry standards while costing the user (and that would be you, the taxpayer) nothing in nightly operation. The only cost is that of a rechargeable battery (like the one in your car) replacement every 5 to 7 years (at today’s rate, that’s about $150 a battery). Not a bad deal for generating illumination that is controlled and owned by the city (again, that’s you taxpayers), doesn’t involve wars over oil, isn’t affected by black-outs or brown-outs, is free from utility company fees and their nasty increases, is as reliable (if not more so) than the conventional/grid-tied lights, and is a 100% renewable energy light.
To give you an example, a solar street light from SolTek Renewables costs anywhere between $4,500 (for your typical 1-fixture light you see along the streets) to about $6,500 for a dual-fixture light (that you see along the median of a multi-lane highway). Typical installation costs run around $2,000 a light (depending on your contractor). So, to install a light where there was not one before will run you about $6,500 to $8,500. Compare that to grid-tied lights that cost even more after installation (trenching, wiring, labor, etc. are not cheap, nor free) and have energy costs every single night they are on (and look around, they are on in the daylight as well. Not efficient at all.) Furthermore, you can have your solar street light up and running in a matter of 2 to 3 months. Compare that to the decades (yes, decades!) of planning, political rhetoric, etc. with conventional grid-tied lights. If there ever were a no-brainer, solar street lights are it!
Mario @ Your Solar Link
Juicebar Pocket Solar Charger.
This stylish, sleek and reliable pocket size Universal Battery Charger (Juicebar Solar Charger) is proven to be your best friend in a situation when conventional electric supply is not available or if you are trying to use eco-friendly renewable power supplies.
Great as a solar phone charger for any type of Mobile Phones, IPhones, PSA, PDA, Mp3 Players, Satellite Navigation, and much more.
Get it HERE.
SOLAR PATH LIGHTS.
Stainless Steel Conical Solar Path Light (Set of 2).
Path solar lights are an excellent choice for lighting your garden paths, walkways, driveway perimeters and other regions in your landscape. They are often used in multiples to guide the way along a set of stairs or a dark walk.
Featured Stainless Steel Solar Light set uses 2 ultra-bright LEDs for maximum light output and minimum battery usage.
The lights are safe around kids and pets and water and corrosion resistant.
Read more HERE
STONE SOLAR SPOT LIGHTS.
Stone Solar Spot Lights (also known as Solar Rock Lights) completely camouflage with existing landscapes and look like any other rock in your garden.
SOLAR GARDEN FOUNTAINS.
How to start using ecologically friendly energy to power up your garden fountains and other garden water features?
Why not go with a solar powered water pump?
To accommodate your needs the Solar Fountain Pump Systems we carry range from 2 to 8 Watt. Browse our collection of solar water pumps for your fish ponds and solar fountains.
Enjoy your garden water features and your energy savings at the same time. Make a note of the various power levels and the flow rate of the solar water pumps before your purchase.
Please write us your review after your purchase. Your opinion is important to us!
DECORATIVE SOLAR ACCENT LIGHTS.
Solar accent lights (Set of 2) create an enjoyable and inviting glow for your landscape.
They are designed to mark a place.
Solar Spot Light - $26.99
Super High Output Spot Light (4 Super Bright LEDs). Free Shipping!
Solar spot lights like this one rely on energy from the sun to charge their batteries and provide light throughout the night.
This means that there is no need to tap into the electrical grid for these lights to operate.
The solar spot lights will work consistently, even if the whole neighborhood is dealing with a power outage.
Learn more about Solar Spot Lights at http://www.yoursolarlink.com/solar-spot-lights, where we have a great selection of solar spot lights to choose from.
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