Solar powered lights in the garden at St James Catholic Church, Coorparoo.

pbw

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Hi. Peter here. Nothing ambitious from me. A number of us have added solar powered lights to the garden and the Marian arbour at St James Catholic Church, Coorparoo. I'm here looking for information about extending the display time of some of those displays.
 

Mark_M

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First off; welcome to ACL @pbw ,

It what sort of way are you wanting to "extend" time of "those" displays? Are you referring to extending run time of solar lights?
 

Katekate

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some solar lights you can get better life out of them just by adding a better battery, but the panel only generates so much.
 

Mark_M

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some solar lights you can get better life out of them just by adding a better battery, but the panel only generates so much.
I've soldered up many Bunnings lights Solar panel units.
I'd just place one or two more Ni-MH cells in parallel to the current ones. As Kate says, it definitely degrades charging ability and takes far longer.

Most of the batteries I've taken out of these solar panel units are AA size, 400-800mAh 1.2v.
If you parallel batteries, they must be the same rated voltage.
 

TerryK

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Hi Peter. Welcome to ACL.

Kate and Mark already mentioned the solar cell and battery. I have a few colored solar lights I put out at Christmas and keeping in mind the shorter winter Ohio days, I obtain about 4 or 5 hours from them. I have in a couple installed a larger battery (1200mah) and cannot see any significant difference in those. My opinion is, for better performance one would need to up both the photo cell and battery capacity.
Without knowing a bit more about the solar cell lights you have, the LED driver in the ones I have (a YX8050) seem to drive the battery to a full discharge condition. As such, the photo cell has to try to complete a full recharge during daylight hours. Dead ones I have disassembled almost always have a leaking battery (from the recycling deep discharging I suspect).

If you or someone in the parish is good with electronics, something you may try is to exchange out the battery with something larger and add to or replace the existing photo cell to obtain an increased recharging capacity. Something like this perhaps?
 

Notenoughlights

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I find that solar lights degrade highly quickly in the sun, the heat kills the batteries within the first year, if you are looking at upgrading batteries like Mark said, you could extend the wires and put the battery in a separate box to help keep it cooler during the day
 

pbw

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Hi Peter. Welcome to ACL.

Kate and Mark already mentioned the solar cell and battery. I have a few colored solar lights I put out at Christmas and keeping in mind the shorter winter Ohio days, I obtain about 4 or 5 hours from them. I have in a couple installed a larger battery (1200mah) and cannot see any significant difference in those. My opinion is, for better performance one would need to up both the photo cell and battery capacity.
Without knowing a bit more about the solar cell lights you have, the LED driver in the ones I have (a YX8050) seem to drive the battery to a full discharge condition. As such, the photo cell has to try to complete a full recharge during daylight hours. Dead ones I have disassembled almost always have a leaking battery (from the recycling deep discharging I suspect).

If you or someone in the parish is good with electronics, something you may try is to exchange out the battery with something larger and add to or replace the existing photo cell to obtain an increased recharging capacity. Something like this perhaps?
Sorry it's taken me so long to reply. (Is it possible to get an email reminder when someone responds to a post?)

What I've been thinking about is running everything off a 12v battery. There are cheap solar controllers that are designed to charge 12V batteries, with "street light" control, like this one: https://www.jaycar.com.au/miniature-12v-3a-pwm-solar-charge-controller/p/MP3762 .

That particular controller is not very weatherproof, so some tinkering would be needed, and a suitable battery box that could be fairly securely attached to an existing arch frame in the garden.

My initial idea is to mount a solar panel on an aluminium pole about 6 feet up so that it doesn't interfere with the gardening and then provide a series of distribution points at 1.2 and 3.6 volts, as the lights seem to come mainly in single or triple 1.2v series, and multiples of 1.5v for the common non-rechargeable battery-powered lights which are cheap and readily available. The existing lights I would rewire to attach to those distributions.

I'm starting from scratch with the electronics, although I have done a bit of soldering now and then, and I'm refreshing my high-school electricity formulae.

We've just been through a La Niña summer with lots of rain and overcast. I would like to run the garden lights all night, and have sufficient stored charge to be able to keep the lights going for at least some of the time during such periods.

All suggestions gratefully received.
 

pbw

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First off; welcome to ACL @pbw ,

It what sort of way are you wanting to "extend" time of "those" displays? Are you referring to extending run time of solar lights?
Yes, I am. See my reply to TerryK.
 

Notenoughlights

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My initial idea is to mount a solar panel on an aluminium pole about 6 feet up so that it doesn't interfere with the gardening and then provide a series of distribution points at 1.2 and 3.6 volts, as the lights seem to come mainly in single or triple 1.2v series, and multiples of 1.5v for the common non-rechargeable battery-powered lights which are cheap and readily available. The existing lights I would rewire to attach to those distributions.
I would avoid dropping the voltage to 1.2/3.6V you'd be better off putting a slice of 12V led strip into each light (Usually 3 LED's and a small resistor), saving you having to drop the voltage down and incurring losses while doing that. You will also get more light than the little leds that most solar lights come with and any repairs if needed are simple and there is less to fail and have to keep waterproof.

All this is assuming you are using the "solar lights" that you would get in the garden section at any hardware store and not strings of christmas lights.
 

Mark_M

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My initial idea is to mount a solar panel on an aluminium pole ... and then provide a series of distribution points at 1.2 and 3.6 volts, as the lights seem to come mainly in single or triple 1.2v series, and multiples of 1.5v for the common non-rechargeable battery-powered lights which are cheap and readily available. The existing lights I would rewire to attach to those distributions.
You're wanting to use the 12v battery to directly power the lights, with a voltage step down to take 12v to 1.2v/3.6v?

Sounds familiar to my own Christmas lights.
View: https://youtu.be/bo3bPXVVwMU?t=205

I use voltage regulators to take 12v/5v and lower down for solar/battery powered lights.
In that video I connected an input of 5v, but in previous years I had 12v.
The regulators I use take the voltage down to 3v for lights.
I'm naughty in that regard, I just shove 3v through every string of solar/battery powered lights. But these have the circuit board removed.
 

Mark_M

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Quting to myself and NotEnoughLights.
I would avoid dropping the voltage to 1.2/3.6V you'd be better off putting a slice of 12V led strip into each light (Usually 3 LED's and a small resistor), saving you having to drop the voltage down and incurring losses while doing that.
Yes. Taking 12v down to such a low voltage like this is very inefficient.
I do like @Notenoughlights 's idea to use the series principle to minimise wasted power.
It's not bad in my scenario because I have a mains power adaptor, but solar needs to be as efficient as possible.


I just shove 3v through every string of solar/battery powered lights. But these have the circuit board removed.
Writing this bit made me think of yet another variable.
I don't think you're aware of this @pbw . There exists to the '2 wire multifunction controller'. This makes the operation of flashing the lights my reversing the polarity. If these solar lights use this principle then the circuit boards will have to stay with them.


[My 500th post btw, woo!]
 

Notenoughlights

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Quting to myself and NotEnoughLights.

Yes. Taking 12v down to such a low voltage like this is very inefficient.
I do like @Notenoughlights 's idea to use the series principle to minimise wasted power.
It's not bad in my scenario because I have a mains power adaptor, but solar needs to be as efficient as possible.
Not quite series, I was assuming solar lights being similar to these View: https://i.imgur.com/sJB1bcg.png
so bringing 12v up to each one on a bit of speaker wire etc to a slice of 12v led strip would be easier than converting voltages. DC as it is, sucks to transfer over a long distance as you require large wires for long distances due to voltage drop.
 

i13

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If the current draw of the solar strings is the same, you might be able to connect them in series with each other so that they add up to 12V. This would avoid the loss in dropping the voltage.

I really like notenoughlights's idea. I don't think you'll need large (thick) wires for this because you're only powering single sections of strip. These aren't enough to draw much current and therefore cause voltage drop.

Mark_M makes an excellent point about the reverse polarity. It will limit your options if the light sets are strings that rely on reverse polarity to produce flashing/twinkling patterns. These can be identified because they have flashing/twinkling patterns AND only two wires between the blinker unit and first LED.

It would help to know what type of solar lights you're using.

It is possible to get email notifications for replies to a forum thread. Click the 'Watch' button at the top.
 

Mark_M

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Mark_M makes an excellent point about the reverse polarity. It will limit your options if the light sets are strings that rely on reverse polarity to produce flashing/twinkling patterns. These can be identified because they have flashing/twinkling patterns AND only two wires between the blinker unit and first LED.

It would help to know what type of solar lights you're using.
I went off solar powered lights when they came to this reverse polarity nonsense. I buy battery powered lights because they're all steady on.
For this very reason in using a separate power supply.

Great tip too; "seed lights" are very good for outdoors. Unlike the standard LEDs, these seed lights are dipped in resin and don't corrode out.

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Not quite series, I was assuming solar lights being similar to these View: https://i.imgur.com/sJB1bcg.png
so bringing 12v up to each one on a bit of speaker wire etc to a slice of 12v led strip would be easier than converting voltages. DC as it is, sucks to transfer over a long distance as you require large wires for long distances due to voltage drop.
Oh sorry.
I thought you were meaning to effectively wire the standard solar strings in series to each other, like a 12v strip with 3 LEDs in series to across 12v.
Taking a small section of 12v lights and placing them into garden lights or something is a great idea.

I'm thinking that if @pbw has standard fairly lights, with each LED in parallel, max of 3v could be sent through the string (like mine run at 3.3v).
 

Notenoughlights

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I went off solar powered lights when they came to this reverse polarity nonsense. I buy battery powered lights because they're all steady on.
For this very reason in using a separate power supply.


I'm thinking that if @pbw has standard fairly lights, with each LED in parallel, max of 3v could be sent through the string (like mine run at 3.3v).
Some of the reverse polarity ones run at 31V and work on the Hanson's DMX2-18/DC2811-2 controllers

I also am a bit naughty and run my "solar" strings directly on 5V. Hasn't done any damage yet, they're just nice and bright and I limit them to say 70% on the controller.
 
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