Sunday, July 14, 2013

Basic Solar Light for the Front Door

So for some time now my wife has been complaining that when we get home there is no light at our front door. Well actually that isn't true. There is a light there, but it's not on a motion sensor, so it doesn't come on automatically. And being the green guy that I am I don't like to leave it on when we leave the house.

Of course I have a CFL in there so it's only drawing watts in the teens, instead of 60+, but I still don't like wasting electricity. Less electricity is good, but none is better. Why light up my front step for 6 hours, when I really only need it to be lit up for the 20 seconds I'm out there looking for my house key?

The trick is that the light fixture that is installed out front is basic and doesn't lend itself well to a motion sensor. I actually totally agreed with my wife that we need a light. The trick is that I need to run a line through the walls, install a switch, etc. That isn't a 10 min project. It's not terrible expensive (probably $10-$30 worth of materials). It's just that it's going to take a number of hours to do it. And depending on how I find a path to run the lines through the wall, I may have to cut some holes. Then I have to putty, and it'll take a day to dry. Then I have to paint over the putty. Now this whole thing is really sounding like work. It's all stuff I know how to do, I just didn't feel like doing it, so I procrastinated for quite some time.

Then one day I was walking through Home Depot with my sons and found the solution. I tend to be in Home Depot quite a bit. If I'm not in a total rush I'll usually make a quite walk through the main aisles of the store to see if anything is on sale. I've found some really crazy deals doing this. Sometimes they are just looking to get things off the shelves.

So I see on sale, an exterior solar powered LED flood light. It comes with a small solar panel to mount on the roof (or anywhere that will catch the sun with in the 10 feet or so of wire that came with it). Inside the light unit there was 4 rechargeable AA batteries. I really liked that they were basic rechargeable AA batteries. At some point they are going to wear out and they will be very easy to replace.

Saving Green
$44.97 - Not bad!

So out my sons went to install the light. The whole thing to about 20 mins (keep in mind my sons are 7 and 6, so if I had done it myself it might have taken 10 mins :). With three screws I installed the solar panel on the edge of the roof, and pointed it to the sun. Then I put the batteries in the light and installed it up under the eve, and pointed the light down. Bingo.

The only pitfall I ran into was the first night I came home the light came on but was VERY dim. At first I was thinking that that was as bright as it was going to be and it had been a waste of time. Then I realized that since I had the motion sensitivity turned all the way up it was going on every time a car went by the house. It was doing this as soon as it got dark and was draining the batteries. I adjusted the sensitivity so it just came on when I stepped onto the front step. The next night the light was great!

It's called a flood light, but it shouldn't be confused with a halogen floor light like you would like up a large area with. It's just not that kind of bright, but what do you expect from four AA batteries right. It is however, plenty bright for finding you key and opening the front door. The whole thing cost be about $40, and 20 mins. My wife is happy and so and I ;)

Small Solar Panel Facing the Sun

Light Installed to Cover Area When we are looking for house key

The best part is that it doesn't use any electricity from the grid. All the power is created from the sun. Some day I'd like to save up and cover my roof in solar panels. But until that happens, this is a great start and great example of what can be done.

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