Converting Low Voltage lights to Solar Power
Several People have left comments on my site about how to convert low voltage lights to solar power. This post will discuss the pros and cons to this switch. Saving money or the planet will not be the reason that you make this switch. Need to have another reason, like the remote location of the lights or you want to be different.
What do you need
You will need several items to start with at least one Solar Panel, a Rechargeable 12 volt battery, a diode to keep the current running in one direction and a controller for your lights. I will break down the specks on what to look for and give you kit information. Lets get started with the solar panel.
How big of a Solar Panel
The solar panel will need to charge the 12 volt battery below to the point it will have enough energy to keep your lights on for the desired time. You will need to determine the amount of amp hours that you will need. This is determined by multiplying the number of fixtures by the wattage of the fixtures, then multiply that figure by the number of hours you need your lights on.
This sounds complicated, not really if you look at this example. If you had four 7 watt fixtures and one 10 watt spotlight that would be a draw of 38 watts. If you wanted five hours of lighting you would have a draw of 190 watts for each day. This would be multiplied by two to get the total watts used to 380. You always have to have double the power in case the sun does not shine very brightly.
Now you know how much solar energy that you will need daily. Take your average daylight hours and divide that by the 380 watts you need and the size of the solar panel will be determined. In this case if you had 7 hours of sunlight per day you would need at least two 30 watts 12 volt solar panels. There are a lot of solar panels that charge for 12 volts, most are used to charge camper or boat batteries while they are in storage.
What size of Battery
You will need to purchase a large 12 volt battery that will hold enough energy to power your lights all night long and not poop out quickly. A marine or RV type of deep cycle battery will work the best, they are not cheep or small. You could see if you can get a used one on one of the resale networks. Having a place to store it out of the weather will be next on your list. Several Battery boxes are available.
How will you control your lights
You will have some options here, you can have a dusk to dawn or a timer. The dusk to dawn will let you have light until the battery power goes to a level that no longer powers the lights.
The timer can be set to power the lights when you need to use them. A dual timer will be able to light the lights at night and again in the morning if you have to get up and go to work before the sun does.
Motion sensors can be used also, these will allow you to illuminate you area only when needed.
What kits are available
There are some kits available, most are only the Solar Panel and wire to connect to the object that needs power. These kits are made to operate some kind of feature that will only operate during the day light hours. You can buy bigger solar panels for you house and convert to 12 volts for your lighting system, this seams like over kill.
My ruling on this is to buy a set of Solar Lights and do not convert the Low Voltage lights. This process is time and money consuming and it will take years of use to get your investment back. Solar Lights are a good investment, just keep the Solar Panel clean from dust/dirt and make sure you get plenty of sun.
I know this is not what a lot of you were looking for, this is my opinion. Any questions or comments about this post, please use the form below.
Thanks for reading,