How to Create a Solar Lighting System Using a Single Solar Panel

What You'll Need
Solar panel

Installing a solar lighting system isn’t especially difficult. Much depends on the kind of light-mostly a solar lighting system will be for outdoor lights. You can buy solar lighting kits but you can also piece everything together yourself. The important thing is getting a solar panel that’s powerful enough to power the solar lighting system.

Step 1 - Solar Panel

The big problem with a solar lighting system is that most solar panels don’t generate much electricity. To have a viable system you need to have the best solar panel you can afford. This means not only in size, but also in material. It needs to have plenty of silicon.

The solar panel, or photovoltaic cell as it more properly known, converts sunlight into direct current electricity. The more of efficiently the panel can convert sunlight, the more electricity you’ll have for the solar lighting system.

Step 2 - Installing the Panel

The panel for the solar lighting system needs to be installed on the roof, preferably facing south, so it gets as much sunlight as possible. It can either lay flat on the roof, or can be angled upward to get more of the sun.

Taking extra time to ensure that the solar panel receives the maximum possible amount of sun is an investment, as you’ll be able to produce more electricity for your solar lighting system.

Step 3 - Wiring

You need to run the wiring from the solar panel to the battery. The electricity produced by the cell is DC, or direct current, and the current in the battery is also DC.

The battery should be in a convenient place for the solar lighting system. If possible, run the wiring inside the house so it’s not at the mercy of the elements. This can create more work as you’ll need to go through the roof or wall and run the wiring inside the walls.

Step 4 - Battery

The wiring will attach to the battery, which is essentially a storage unit. The electricity generated during the day by the sun on the solar cell is collected in the battery. When the solar lighting system is switched on, it begins to deplete the battery. The battery will only charge when there is sun on the solar panel.

Step 5 - Lighting

Appliances in your house are all alternating current, or AC. Outdoor lighting is DC. If you want an indoor solar lighting system you’ll need to use an inverter than can change direct current to alternating current, and the power will have to be added to the grid in the house (it can go straight in via the inverter, bypassing the battery).

Using low power light bulbs will reduce the amount of electricity needed, so the electricity generated will last longer. For outdoor lights you can connect the battery directly to the lights to power them; a good, modern, option for low wattage outdoor lights is LED lights. A single solar panel isn’t going to power indoor domestic lighting, but it will be able to power a series of outdoor lights.