[Welcome to Arild as our first guest post! If you are interested in adding your original content on genverters.com, just email and I'll get you the details - M]
Along with Solar power; LED have been getting a lot of media attention lately.
The old complaint of color quality have largely been solved. Early white LED were admittedly not so great compared to a halogen light or fluorescent. They tended to be dimmer .
Recent developments in camping lights, flashlights, and even hand cranked battery-less flashlights offer off-grid users plenty of choices.
One downside to using these as permanent lights in an off-grid solar home would be the need to run DC wiring. Although LED does use less current, practical consideration and mechanical fitness suggest a wire size no smaller than 16 Ga be used. Since this is not a normal household wire size you end up going with more expensive automotive, RV or marine wiring products. This tends to increase installation costs.
There are a number of applications where LED make perfect sense. Outdoor safety / security lights that have a solar panel for recharging and a pair of high intensity LED with a motion detector added. Make a great installation for an out building not normally wired. LED stair lights draw so little you can safely let them run overnight without killing your battery.
If your have a recently built solar house chances are good the system is run from an inverter and conventional home wiring is used throughout the building. This makes it easier to get inspector approval and thus make any mortgage holder happy. Conventional house wiring is a known factor to many people besides residential electricians and equipment is available in most local hardware stores .
My suggestions for using LED throughout a solar house is to distribute the power from an inverter by way if the 120V wring which lowers line losses for a given wattage then use a step down transformer at point of use to provide 12V to the LED lighting. This is the preferred approach for almost all systems including the new home LED lights now being sold in electrical supply companies.
In the past month I have seen six different suppliers with LED lights on display in their showroom or sales counter.
If you have an older home and are converting to solar and want LED for power saving the same applies.
In a nutshell the solar panels charge a battery bank. An inverter pulls power from this battery bank and converts it to 120V AC .
The biggest issue is how to deal with the conventional split phase arrangement but this is beyond the scope of LED Lighting. Wait for a future article.
Ever wish you could use all those nifty camping LED lights but power it from the battery bank in your solar home?
Battery powered portable LED lights use 2 or 4 alkaline AA cells. Each cell is 1.5V so these devices use 3 or 6 volts which is not compatible with the 12V or greater voltages in your solar house.
AS I rummaged through a collection of power cubes at a garage sale the solution dawned on me. Most cell phones, IPods and what have you have chargers designed to deliver 4.5 -5 volts or sometimes 6 V Some of the newer ones I have seen deliver 3.6V Perfect for powering these portable LED lights.
If your solar home is already distributing 120V AC to parts of the house its easy to install one of these cell phone chargers and wire the LED light to the charger output wires. Just pay attention to polarity.
If you need an inverter a 300 watt inverter is around $30 or less. That is plenty to power a whole bunch of LED lights.
About The Author, Arild Jensen
Built wind generator controls back in 1978 and have been interested in
alternative power ever since. Met a wife 10 years ago who grew up on an
off-grid homestead . We are now living in a high latitude ( 53’ 30” North)
area where some people still live off grid to this day. Spent last ten
years designing electrical system for off grid applications.
Want to explore alternative fuels for generators and also micro hydro
power development. There are in fact several alternatives to oil even in
high latitudes where solar is not always effective during the six months of
Do you use LED lighting in your home? Do you have suggestions on how to make it work well? Tell us in the comments below!