12V Solar Lighting System

For the last six months, I’ve used a solar powered lighting system for a reading light and mood lighting at home, storing sunlight for later usage. This is all about resilience rather than energy saving as such – with this and a wood-fired stove I won’t immediately want for heat and light in a power cut. In addition, LED lighting gives an even light field which is very good as a reading lamp, even if only about 2W.

controller and fuses of system

This has managed to keep powered purely from the sun even through the shortest day around the Christmas period, where the lighting demand was highest and the solar energy lowest. Constructional details are here for anybody who may be interested.

I have described the principles and options so that this could be adapted to things like allotment sheds and the like. There are some trade-offs to be made in terms of running time and what time of year the main usage would be

12V solar powered lamp

The solar panel used is one that Maplin in town occasionally has on offer for about £40, though the article describes some of the trade-offs with sizing the solar cell, some applications could use something smaller.

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4 Responses to 12V Solar Lighting System

  1. Joanne says:

    We’re hoping to organise a skillshare session where Richard will show you how to put all this together, along with how to use a couple of electricity monitors to reduce electriticy usage at home. We’ve got the solar system set up here at home and it has worked really well, even through the dark days of winter, and we’ve really reduced our electicity bill too!

    Join in the forum discussion about this skill share session!

  2. Lucy says:

    I can’t see myself putting together a 12v lighting system, but a session looking at energy monitors (and how to use them) would be good. May be people could bring along any they have so we could compare them.

  3. alex says:

    is the energy meter connected to the output of an inverter?

    I’ve just measured some of the kit in my house – its amazing how much small gadgets draw, the router and network switch alone uses 20W of power. in fact there is about 110W of permanently energised comms/IT equipment in my house.

    Now this is also because I run a miniature digital telephone exchange in the stairwell using an old PC – this sort of kit which isn’t normally found in most houses (its linked to similar kit at work and enables me to work remotely, and also provides me with a lab/test bed for the larger phone systems I design and work on but I suppose its offset by the fact I rarely if ever watch TV, and most lamps in my house are the energy saving ones.

    I think I would need a lot of solar panels to power the phone system, that said a system which can provide 20W-30W constant would keep me online via my blackberry and netbook. Its still a fair bit of power if you are trying to design for renewable sources!

    I could do with a good light for reading/writing/drawing so may investigate these LED lamps anyway…

  4. Richard says:

    Hi Alex,

    yes, that is on a Maplin 150W inverter. The energy meter doesn’t like the quasi squarewave ouptut of that so it reads low on voltage, but kit I’ve tried seems to work fine. That is really mainly of use in the summer when I’ll have power to spare, at the moment it’s not enough. I may use a direct 12V to laptop PSU anyway to reduce the number of stages of power conversion.

    Beware of those energy meters on small loads, I don’t really trust mine for anything < 50W. They hate reactive loads – I had a phone charger than read 15W off load, no way was that sucker drawing 20W, it wasn't getting hot enough.

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