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Understanding Solar Lights and What They Do

May 19, 2008
Solar powered lights operate according to a very simple principle. They take the light from the sun and convert the energy it contains into electricity which is used to charge a battery. When it gets dark a light sensitive switch causes the solar light to come on. The light is powered by the electricity stored in the battery and will continue to be illuminated until all the charge in the battery is used.

This is simple in concept but the technology required to make this happen is not so simple and only recently has it become possible to produce solar lights that are small, efficient and cheap enough to be affordable by most consumers. Each light or set of lights will have a very small solar panel to catch the rays of the sun. The solar cells in the solar panel use the photovoltaic effect to convert the light they receive into electricity. Special electronics then uses this electricity to charge the battery, which is usually part of the solar panel or light unit.

The solar cell is the most important part of the technology used in all solar panels and it is continually being research to find better and more efficient ways to convert sun light into electricity. Over time this will definitely be improved upon and solar lights will then become much brighter and illuminate for much longer. The light sensitive switch and the electronics which controls the release of the battery's electricity are fairly standard components although over time they too will be improved to provide more efficient solar lighting for everyone.

The solar panel, whether a separate mini panel or integrated into the light unit, must be installed so that it receives sun light during the day. If it is located in the shade it will not work. However the solar panels on most outdoor solar lights will now work on cloudy days though not quite as well as on a day with a clear sky. The ability of solar lights to be fully charged on cloudier days is continually being improved.

Science and technology and improved construction processes means that development of solar lights will continue far in to the future, so expect to see more and more innovative uses for solar powered lights especially when the power and intensity of the light beam is improved beyond what it is now. Whichever way you look at it solar powered lights are here to stay and will only get better with time giving us all the opportunity to light areas outside our home with zero electricity costs, which has to be a good thing.
About the Author
Dave Joa is publisher of the Outdoor Solar Lights blog, where you can find details on How to Protect Your Home with Solar Lighting and other useful articles.
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