Several of the areas where we work are near the equator: Uganda, Ethiopia, Cambodia, and Ecuador. That means that their 24-hour days are evenly split year-around between daytime and nighttime. Since it starts to get dark around 6 pm, we’ve wondered about adding solar-powered lights.
We recently installed a double-wide swing set at St. Christopher’s Mission near Bluff UT. We decided to to beta-test a 12-VDC lighting system there. While lighting is less important in North America, this gave us an opportunity to beta test and improve our system.
The unit we are testing has: 2 Goal Zero 12-VDC lights; a 10 amp-hr battery, and a 10-watt solar panel. The lights are daisy-chained and connected to the battery system with a standard lighter plug. (We installed a second plug for use with additional features.) The battery is protected by a controller equipped with voltage regulation and low-voltage disconnect. The system is turned off and one with a manual switch.
A present concern with the solar unit is the weather resistance of the lights. Possible future enhancements include a nighttime sensor and a motion detector. The white battery box also needs to be moved to a more appropriate spot. In the future, we will be adding rope lights.
The nice thing about the solar unit is that it can be used for additional purposes including: more lighting (including spotlights), charging cell phones and other small electrical devices, charging larger batteries, etc.