Tuesday, October 09, 2018

A tiny step into renewable energy

No, I'm not going to go all "green" on you, even though I was turning off lights and changing out bulbs before it was cool. I'm cheap, and saving energy saves me money. Not running 125' of electrical circuit also saves me money; a rather substantial amount when you consider the cost of trenching, conduit and so on.

Let's set the scene: About 125' from my back door sits a 12'x14' extruded plastic outbuilding. I love the thing--no painting, just hit it with a pressure washer occasionally. We use it for storing the lawn tractor, various flammable liquid fuels, lawn tools and the like. It was put in the second year after we moved.

I didn't have any electricity ran to it, because dollar$. I can't see spending a weekend of my time and several $hundred just to have power out there on demand. The demand isn't there. It's a storage building. If I need power for a short-term project, I have many extension cords and a generator.

However, it would be handy on the odd occasion to have a little light, basically just enough to find things without holding a flashlight in my teeth. A while back I bought a solar shed light at Harbor Freight, similar to this one. It's sat on a shelf for some time, waiting for me to do something with it.

I finally did, after needing to put things up one night after dark and being annoyed about holding my flashlight in my teeth. To whit:

The "solar panel"

Light off

Light on. Note disconnected plug. Click to embiggen if necessary.
 Yes, I need to hit the building with a pressure washer. After Hurricane Michael passes, maybe.

Installation was simple, some screws and a 1/4" hole to pass the power cable through the building wall, which was sealed with silicone caulk. The panel doesn't get much direct sun, but it gets enough sun to keep things charged.

It isn't the brightest light in the world, and it won't run forever on a 600 mah AA ni-cad battery, but that's cool. It doesn't need to. But I do wish it would work without having to unplug the panel before switching it on. That's a bit annoying. Some other time when that annoys me enough I'll take it down and take a look into it. Given the building is Plan C in case a real need for a place to sleep shows up and the house (Plan A) and the camper (Plan B) are both out of commission for some reason, I'd probably better do that sooner than later.


Robert said...

Wait, whut? It won't light if there is power to it? Why, it's almost as if the engineer who designed it knew no one would ever need light inside a building during daytime. And the user can't be trusted to turn it off after using it. Jeez.

The Freeholder said...

I doubt there was that much engineering thought given to it. The Chinese outsourcer probably had their equivalent of an unpaid summer intern design the thing. I do plan on trying it in the dark at some point, but I figure that it will still exhibit the same "feature". I guess I can hold a flashlight until I find the light and unplug it.

Robert said...

Good luck. Please report on whether it works "properly" when dark.

I bought a bunch of those little solar-light-on-a-stake to mark tent stake locations after tripping too many times at night. 90% failed after a year. Good 'ole Chinese engineering.

Robert said...

Any progress?

The Freeholder said...

I haven't fiddled with this any further. Right now, it does what I need it to do. I have gotten a set of the Harbor Freight Thunderbolt solar panels. If we ever get any sunny, warm weather I want to try them out. I'm hoping to use them with the RV. It has a prewired "solar in" port. Should keep the battery charged if we're boondocking.