Friday, February 13, 2009

Motion-Activated Solar Security Lights

In case you're like me and don't have an electrician in the family, solar powered security lights can be useful to shed a little light in an otherwise dark corner. I'll warn you that these aren't the prettiest of lights to look at, but for a cost-effective security tool, they can't be beat.

The only major requirement for installation is choosing a location with access to direct sunlight. All the models that I've looked at, attach the PV (photovoltaic) panel to the battery with a 10-20 foot extension cord, giving the homeowner a little more flexibility in maximizing the sunlight. A couple of screws to hold down the PV panel and a couple more to mount the light and you're done! Well, almost done. The manufacturer may ask you to turn the light off for at least a day to charge the battery, so rather than climbing on a ladder twice, you may find it easier to charge the light before you install it. You may also want to hold off on the final installation until close to dusk, since it facilitates positioning the light and PIR (passive infrared) motion sensor.

I've purchased models from OSH and Home Depot and didn't have a problem with either. New models are coming out all the time and many appear to be migrating towards using LEDs instead of halogens. If you have experience with either one, please leave a comment. The prices tend to fall around $60, and I can only speculate whether paying a premium really provides you with a superior product. Certainly the brighter the better, so more LEDs or more watts will probably yield the better resort. Of course, "a candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long", so the increased illumination may influence the battery life or cycles between charges. As for longevity, I'd recommend that you choose the location of the PV panel carefully. In addition to facing south, a location that may allow an occasional shot from the hose to clean it off, may not be a bad idea. In case you didn't know it, bird poop and dirt is detrimental to PV output.

My only warning is that these lights are not for high traffic areas, but if you're looking to illuminate an alley or side of your house, these are wonderful.

Next time, I'll look at wireless remote motion sensors.

1 comment:

  1. Pride in Garfield ParkFebruary 14, 2009 at 5:58 PM

    We installed one of these in August. I love it -- it is mounted above the garage and kicks on as soon as we pull into the driveway. The electrician in the family lives in Nebraska, so I needed the solar option :)