Thursday, July 17, 2014

Solar lights

Last week, I mentioned solar sidewalk marking lights as a possible source of lighting. Here's a bit of an expansion on that idea.

While walking through Wally-world the other day, I saw these on the clearance rack for $0.97 each.

Since that price is within my budget to throw away on toys, I bought a few. If they don't work out as emergency preps, I'll give them to my grandkids to play with.

I may be tearing into this one and seeing if I can replace the LED with a flashing LED to make it more useful as a marker light. A flashing light draws more attention and usually draws less power, so it should last longer than 8 hours.

These come with a tiny solar cell on the top, a rechargeable battery (2/3 AA), and a single 1 Lumen white LED. Testing is currently underway, but the display claims that they will give light for up to 8 hours. They come with a charged battery and a plastic tab that has to be removed to activate the light (the more expensive ones come with an actual switch, but cost $3.00 each).

How bright is 1 Lumen?

This is a hard one to explain, since there aren't many hard references to use as a base. A standard candle puts out about 12.57 Lumens of light, so this 1 Lumen LED is only about 8% as bright as a typical candle. Not a whole lot of light, but enough to dispel the night, especially in a small area.

What the heck is a 2/3 AA battery?

Batteries come in a variety of sizes, mostly standardized. The AA is a standard size used in games and small electronics. a 2/3 AA is a non-standard battery made for a specific application and is 2/3 as long as a standard AA cell. Another example would be the battery for an Aimpoint sight - it is a 1/3 N battery.

Solar cell? What's that?

A solar cell is a device that captures light and converts it into DC electricity. The one on this light also acts as a light detector and turns the light on when it's dark.

Possible uses:
  • Marker lights. This one's a no-brainer: you can use the stake that is either built in or attached to the light to stick it in the ground around your campsite. Cheaper than a glow stick, and it'll keep you from tripping over tent ropes and let you know which end of the tent has the door on it.
  • Tent light. Since it has no open flame, it is safe to bring into a tent and can be placed either on the ground or hung from the ceiling.
  • Night light. Regardless of where you're staying, if the lights go out some people have a hard time dealing with the dark. Any light is better for them than no light, and 8 hours of reusable light for a buck is a bargain. The low level of light will also be a blessing for anyone trying to sleep, since it isn't bright enough to keep you awake.
  • Guide light. A lot of hunting is done at daybreak, and a serious hunter will be in position in his stand or blind before the sun comes up. Having marker lights that can show you the path to your blind will make this a lot easier and safer.

Let me know if you can think of any other imaginative uses for a small, self-contained, reusable light source.

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