The solar lighting technology has evolved considerably and been constantly changing since its initial formation. Research and studies on solar energy usually cover photovoltaic, CSP (concentrating solar power) and solar-grid integration. The energy conversion efficiency of solar panels has improved significantly with the breakthroughs in technology.
Solar street lighting system has benefitted remarkably from these technological advancements and overall performance of each component has been getting better. The focus is mainly on producing compact solar street lights with prolonged backup while making them cost effective. Be it to save monthly utility bill or to save the environment, solar street lights have gained a lot of popularity recently.
Solar street lights consist of solar panel, lighting source, battery and charge controller. Over time, solar street lights have changed markedly in their design and functionality. At present, there are two types of solar street lights available namely all in one and integrated solar street lights. Before investing on solar street lights, it is essential to understand the difference between the new-age solar lights and the traditional ones.
Modern solar street lights – All in one and Integrated
All in one solar street lights are a contemporary outdoor lighting solution and have become famous in the recent times due to their compact, stylish and lightweight designs. All the components of all in one solar street lights are integrated together into one single unit. These street lights are available with and without motion sensors. The lights without motion sensors work at maximum brightness from sunset to sunrise. All in one solar street lights with infra-sensory motion sensors dim down their brightness 30 seconds after switching on at dusk and automatically glow up to maximum brightness when any motion is detected. The dim mode is reverted back if there is no movement in the area. This feature helps to save energy and is useful in areas where there is not much people movement.
Integrated solar street lights have solar panel as a separate unit and controller, LED and battery are integrated into another unit. Since the panel comes as an independent unit, it can be adjusted according to the direction of the sunlight to absorb maximum heat. One of the integrated models operates at consistent 100% brightness from dusk till dawn and this can be the perfect choice of solar street light for areas where night-long illumination is required. Another type of integrated light works at full brightness for a few hours and later at a lower level for the rest of the night. This application extends battery life and the solar power system can continue to run using this energy during overcast weather.
- Both all in one and integrated solar street lights use environment-friendly, long-lasting lithium-ion or LiFePO4 batteries that promise enhanced product life and are maintenance-free.
- These lights are sleek, lightweight and compact which make transportation and installation effortless.
- Installation of all in one and integrated solar street lights is relatively simple and straightforward and can be done with minimal manual assistance and basic equipment.
- Due to their small size and integrated design, both the lights can be installed onto poles or walls.
- Energy-efficient and intelligent control system used in all in one as well as integrated solar street lights help to extend the life of the solar lighting unit by way of motion sensor and dimming features.
- LED technology is used to deliver brighter light consuming lesser energy.
- Poly-crystalline or mono-crystalline solar panels and PWM or MPPT charge controllers are used in modern day solar street lights and multiple styles are available in the market.
- All in one and integrated solar street lights can be installed everywhere and anywhere such as gardens, decks, driveways, highways, perimeters, pathways, playgrounds, gazebos, parks and even remote areas as long as the chosen area receives sufficient direct sunlight throughout the day.
- While the panels used in all in one solar street lights are limited to the size of the light fixture, solar panels with larger capacity can be used for integrated solar street light installation to last longer during winter nights.
- Many of the recent modern solar street light designs are reasonably priced making them affordable to everyone.
- Risks of thefts and accidents are comparatively lesser since all the components of modern solar street lights are placed on the upper side of the pole and there is no likelihood of overheating since there are no external wires or cables used to connect the components.
- All in one and integrated solar street lights are resistant to adverse weather conditions and are waterproof, shock proof, rust proof and maintenance-free.
Traditional Solar Street Lights:
Traditional Solar Street Lights
The components in traditional solar street lights are the same as the modern lights, i.e., solar panels, controller, luminary and battery. Unlike their modern counterparts, the battery used in traditional solar street lights is lead acid. Lead acid battery usually requires a battery box that needs to be fixed on the pole as a separate unit or buried underground near the pole to protect it from overheating. The luminary and solar panel are fixed towards the top of the pole and the battery towards the bottom; therefore, long cables are to be used to connect these two.
- Traditional all in one solar street lights function the same way as the modern ones. One of the major differences is traditional lights use SMF lead acid batteries, which are not as eco-friendly as the lithium batteries and the average life of these batteries is only a year or two.
- Since lead acid batteries are heavier, traditional solar street lights cannot be installed on walls. Only all in one light can be fixed on strong walls but should be secured properly.
- Transportation of traditional solar street lights is a bit difficult as the lead acid batteries used are bulky, especially when they need to be carried to remote areas. In addition, these batteries require regular maintenance, which is an additional expenditure.
- The cables used must be long enough to connect the battery at the bottom of the pole to the panel-luminary unit at the top of the pole and in fact, they need to be longer than the height of the pole itself.
- Installation of a traditional solar light is relatively time consuming and complicated and demands some amount of professional expertise.
- The overall installation cost of a traditional solar street light is around 40% to 60% more when compared to their modern counterparts.
- Risks of damage and theft are possible if the battery box is placed towards the bottom of the pole.
- Loose or broken external cables can cause overheating and lead to serious injuries and accidents if not secured properly.
Understanding the pros and cons of traditional as well as modern solar street lights will help you determine which one is worth your investment. Considering the extended lifespan that modern all in one as well integrated solar street lights can offer, the long-term, multifold benefits of these present-day solar lights seem exemplary and will only keep multiplying in the coming days.