by Maria Juniper, Contributing Editor
The gift that keeps on giving has never been greener, and the time to buy one for your friend or loved one is quickly approaching. This year for the holidays, instead of giving some trite piece of clothing or kitchen appliance, try looking for the perfect gifts for those eco-friendly friends who wants to help benefit the environment, or perhaps for a family member who could use anything to help decrease their utility bill. Buying a solar powered gadget can do both of these things and more and there are any number of gifts that would make the perfect choice for any number of people.
These can charge a number of different electronic devices depending on what kind of device you get. Some cheaper models may only power cell phones while more advanced ones can power laptops or higher-energy devices. They can range in price from $50 up to $250, depending on your budget and needs. Most will include about a 10-foot extension cord so you can charge your device outside while you sit nearby. Furthermore, you can also purchase solar powered batteries, most commonly AA or AAA sizes, which you can charge and then put into a device that needs batteries.
Solar Outdoor Lights
Solar lights can come in many different varieties and are very useful for anyone who likes to work outdoors in the garden in or on an outdoor workstation. They will be able charge through the day and then help illuminate a space at night to save any nuisance from charging with wires or electricity. Ranging from $30 to $150, some lights may be simple path lights to mark a walkway, while others may be brighter and more intense security lights that work in conjunction with your home security system. These can be programmed to come on automatically if there is motion and remain on for as long as you like.
Perfect for little tykes that don’t even know how much they want to save the environment yet, solar toys can foster an appreciation for solar energy. These green toys can range from model trains, houses, cars, or robots, ranging in price from anywhere to just $20 up to $200 depending on how much you would like to spend. Make sure the product is durable enough to withstand the age group for the child you’re purchasing, as these can be very specific sometimes.
These timepieces can range anywhere from wristwatches to desk clocks to radios, some of which are even water powered! These usually run for cheaper, often just around $20, so solar watches could make perfect gifts for close acquaintances or friends. Simply leaving the watch or clock where there is sun will power it for hours or even days, depending on the model.
Solar-powered backpacks can come in especially handy for those who love the outdoors. Ranging from about $80 on the low end on up to $200, these can help charge laptops or cell phones while on a hike or bike ride. As with other solar energy products, sometimes the easiest place to find them is to shop online because this will allow you to browse through a number of different options, read reviews, and make a decision without having to look at a limited selection and feeling pressured to buy something you don’t want.
Purchasing any of these items for gifts will bolster the solar industry and environmental movement. They are gifts you can be confident about giving and knowing that they will be met with excitement on the receiving end and they will, even more importantly, be of great use if given with careful thought and attention.
We have received many inquiries regarding the various sizes of rechargeable batteries for solar lights. There are a few reasons why manufacturers choose one size over the other. They are as follows:
So, we will address each of these points above in further detail.
Item 1. A smaller battery will give the manufacturer the option to create a solar light that is smaller than what it would be had a larger rechargeable battery been used. Smaller batteries can store the same amount of energy capacity (mAh, or milliAmp hours) for each night’s use. For instance, a 600 mAh 1.2 Volt rechargeable battery can come in either a AA or AAA size. However, if you compare it to water flowing in a river, the AAA size is going to be a smaller river width, while AA batteries represent a larger river and thus more water can flow through. They will both flow for the same amount of time, only the AA will be able to provide more current (water, in our river example above) than its AAA counterpart over the same amount of time. The force of the water (ie: Voltage) is the same for both, only the AA will be able to provide more current and thus, a larger or demanding LED component (think, more current will allow for a brighter LED to be used). In the image above, two Lithium batteries with the same specifications are set side by side. However, the black battery is what is considered a 2/3 AA, while the grey battery is the more common AA size. The smaller battery will give the same output, but for a less powerful LED demand. The smaller battery is compact, but it is sufficient enough for a lower output illumination device (in this case, it was used in a solar spot light with 1 LED that was purchased from a big box store.) The advantage of the smaller battery is that it allows for a smaller solar light. The biggest disadvantage is that the replacements for these batteries are difficult to find, and when found, relatively expensive compared to their AA counterparts.
Item 2. The battery chemistry will play a factor in the design in a number of different ways. For one, the amount of electrical potential (Voltage) that a battery can provide will depend on the chemical makeup of the battery. AA Lithium ion batteries typically have a Voltage rating of 3.2 Volts; whereas the same size NiMH (Nickel Metal Hydride) or NiCd (Nickel Cadmium) will have a Voltage rating of 1.2 Volts. So, using a Lithium battery in a NiMH light will burn out the LEDs of the NiMH light almost instantly. The LED will be brighter than ever, but that moment in the spot light, so to speak, will end in a matter of seconds. So it is recommended to not use Lithium batteries in either NiMH or NiCd battery lights. Using a Lithium battery will give the manufacturer the option of increasing the LED load capacity (thus a brighter light), but will ultimately cost the customer more in the long run as replacement batteries for Lithium lights are more expensive.
Item 3. Since AA and AAA battery sizes are more common (AA moreso than AAA) than fractional sizes (such as the 2/3 AA in the photo above), costs for production have been set to allow for the best available pricing for customers worldwide. Being that AA batteries have been around since 1907, their production infrastructure has had plenty of time to develop and take hold on the battery market. There are square 9 Volt and larger Lead Acid rechargeable batteries on the market for use in solar lights. However, since they are odd shaped for the purpose of streamlining solar light designs, they are less commonly used and ultimately will cost more (also for the fact that they hold more energy) and are weighty.
Item 4. There are a number of chemical components that make up solar light rechargeable batteries. The primary distinguishing components are Nickel Cadmium (NiCd), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH), Lithium Ion and Lead Acid. Developed in 1899 by Swedish inventor Waldemar Jungner, it would take NiCd batteries over 4 decades to hit the market for commercial consumption. At the time, the competitor for NiCd batteries was the Lead Acid battery. However, due to the latter’s dimension restrictions as a small and portable battery, NiCd took hold and was widely used as a consumer-ready battery. Not until 1989 (with subsequent years of development) was the NiMH battery introduced to the market as an alternative to its Cadmium-based battery. NiMH rechargeables are capable of a better performance over the long term (for solar garden lights, typical lifespan of both chemistries is about 2 years). NiMH rechargeables also use a mild toxicity chemistry as opposed to the heavy metal toxicity of Cadmium (which makes up about 18% of the battery). NiMH batteries are capable (although it is recommended to recycle them whenever possible) of being thrown out in the trash. Whereas NiCd batteries must be recycled/disposed of in the proper facility. Lithium Ion batteries are taking their hold on the market due to their unsurpassed performance compared to other chemistries. But their setbacks are their disposal at the end of their lifecycle (recycling costs more than mining, so they may likely be thrown in the trash), higher cost of the battery for the consumer and transportation restrictions.
So, with all the considerations above, you will be better able to find the right solar light for your specific project. All of the battery chemistries have proven to have working track records, but each have their own pros and cons. Just be sure that the specifications you are looking for match what your solar lights came with when you first purchased them. If you are still not sure about the correct solar light batteries to use, check out our previous posts on the subject. There is much to know, but it is all worthwhile as solar lighting has great potential when it comes to illuminating your home, garden and office exteriors.
Should you have any questions or like to have us discuss other aspects of solar lighting around your home, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be safe and stay solar!
Mario @ Your Solar Link
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
Have you ever wanted to get some solar garden lights for your home, but were unable to find some that were chic and fashionable? The ones they sell at the big box stores just aren’t fitting the aesthetic you are looking for? Well, look no further. At Your Solar Link, there are options that may fit that style you need and want for your garden and landscaping. You can get solar lighting that casts a white light onto your landscaping to showcase the beautiful flowering plants you have, or you can get an ambiance feature such at the Tiffany-style glass mosaic solar light with shepherd’s hook that is simple to install and lights up every night with free energy from the sun.
There are also table-top items such as the solar glass mosaic pot light (blue) that can be charged in the sun and placed anywhere in your patio or indoors at night to add a pleasant light feature to your evening dining settings. Solar lighting works all year long when they are placed in direct sunlight during the day. Don’t forget to change out the rechargeable batteries for your solar garden lights when the time comes (solar light rechargeable batteries last about 2 years under daily operation). If you are not sure if it is the battery, be sure to go through the checklist to troubleshoot possible problems in order to get your lights back up and running.
Affordable with a number of design styles and purposes, solar lighting for your home and garden is a great way to illuminate your garden with exterior lighting and save on installation costs, avoid dangerous high voltage wiring and help out our environment with using a renewable resource (solar panels) in 2014.
Mario @ Your Solar Link
Ever wonder what is the true cost for lighting your garden and landscaping? There a several factors to consider:
1. The type of fixtures to be installed (this includes quality, brand name, etc.).
2. The amount of light required for your project.
3. The location of lights to be installed throughout your landscaping.
4. Your budget to get all of this done.
5. And this is important, what will it cost in the long run to maintain and operate the system?
There may be other factors, but these definitely top the list. A hidden “cost” of installing and operating a lighting system is that of the environment. In other words, if you choose to use grid-tied electricity, then you are at the mercy of your local utility company and what electricity generation methods they employ. You may opt to have your electricity be from renewable sources, which is a noble effort. However, people who choose to “get” their energy from renewables may be charged a higher rate than if they use the coal-based generation plants. Now that just doesn’t make any sense, does it?
With all of these points listed above, a viable, progressive and realistic solution is to go off grid with solar garden lights that are equipped to produce enough light for your project. Now, we are not talking about the run-of-the-mill solar lights you get at the big box stores. We’re talking about solar lights that are designed to produce lots of light and last throughout the night. From solar bollard lights to solar spot lights to solar security lights, options are available and ready to go. One thing to keep in mind is to not be afraid of the initial pricing for higher-end solar lights. By paying just a little more in the beginning, you will be saving more in the long run. Costs do not end after installation when using grid-tied lights. And for landscapes that are large and have many lights, this cost will show up every month on your electric bills. With solar lights, the savings start the second you install them. Period.
Solar garden lights require no outside source to collect, store and deliver energy to their LED luminaires once night falls. We’ve heard that solar lights for the garden are unreliable and produce very little light, certainly not enough to illuminate your plants and landscaping. Well, that is true, to an extent. This is where the big box store lights have created a false sense of market availability. Their lights are designed to be inexpensive, have a fairly attractive housing and are accessible. What they don’t say is that their lights will use only 1, 2 or even 3 super bright LEDs. This is fine, but it is not going to give off the light you would expect with conventional, grid-tied lights. At www.yoursolarlink.com, you will find lights that are suited for given situations. Some are designed for accent lighting, some are designed for walkway illumination and others are designed for larger area spot lighting and security lighting. In this progression, the amount of LEDs and battery capacity (number, type and rating) increase to give you the light that is reasonably expected from an exterior light.
To correlate solar lights with our points listed above, you could say that 1) options are available for types of fixtures for each application, 2) shop around for brighter lights, they are out there and are comparable in their output and foot-candle rating, 3) they can be placed just about anywhere in your garden/landscaping as they require no connection to the utility grid system, 4) they are affordable, because you buy the fixture, you install the fixture (no electrician or service to install lights around your home), and 5) there are no ongoing operational costs (you will need to replace the rechargeable battery every couple of years, but www.yoursolarlink.com sells packs of 10 starting at $20 delivered, $2 a battery every 2 years is a pretty darn good operating cost). And let’s not forget the environmental cost of solar garden lights. Sure, every light fixture has impacts, even grid-tied lights. But once it is purchased, there are no ongoing demands from dirty energy companies. Last time we checked, the Sun is a pretty clean source of energy.
Now, keep in mind that what we are proposing here is that there are alternatives to conventional grid-tied lighting. Don’t be swayed by people saying that solar lights are unreliable or that they don’t produce enough light. As we mentioned above, buying from the big box stores is potentially going to give you a product that is short-lived and disappointing. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. Your Solar Link tests their lights for longevity and output so you won’t have to. If you have any questions, just email them at email@example.com to get some input before your purchase. They are there for you and want nothing more than a happy solar light customer.
Power on, solar friends!
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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