Saturday, January 22, 2011

Solar Care/Solar Keyboard Light

These are a few things that make life a lot easier here at night. Note the Windex, Paper towels and Paintbrush first because these are just maintenance tools. The 4 inch paint brush is used to keep the solar panels (Including the solar cells on the lights) dusted off. Usually required at least three times per week to keep the solar charging at the most. Dust around here just collects on them and can degrade the electricity made. After a heavy dew there will be dust cobwebs on them to boot. Occasionally because of bird poop and when the brush doesn't work too well its time to go for the big guns. Paper towels and Windex to clean them. (Maybe once per month.)

The solar lights I put out each morning to charge and move them inside at night and they are almost as effective as candles. That means not having to use the inverter to supply lighting unless I rally need a lot of light (which is seldom)

Also note the Rayovac AA battery pack. Those are standard batteries, BUT they will recharge and discharge daily for months before needing to be tossed. They are much cheaper than NiCad batteries and there is much less garbage footprint by using them for a long period of time instead of once and chunking them. I don't know if the same goes for any other brand of batteries, but I have used the same batteries in the spotlight in the next picture for 5 months straight with them being charged and discharged daily for that length of time. Its a fact that the Chinese NiCad batteries that come in the cheap solar lights don't have a very long life span in most cases and American NiCads can get pretty expensive so why not take the cheap way out for cheap Chinese lights?

Note the cheap Harbor Freight solar spot light sitting upside down on the top keyboard. All I did with it was to remove the spike from the bottom because it lays on its side during the day to charge and sets on the solar part at night so it can be pointed at the keyboard I use on the laptop. With no other light on in here at night it lights up the keyboard well enough to easily type so cuts having to run the big litght off of the inverter which uses the battery bank. Those lights are designed with a ball joint under the solar part so the light can be faced in any direction, but the solar module can be turned to face the sun. That makes for a great base at night because it allows pointing the light downward like I have it to illuminate the keyboard. It will last well over night (I think I've forgot to charge it at least 2 days in a row and it was still working on the third night) That was with two of the Rayovac batteries in it. Those solar spotlights can be had at Harbor Freight for under $10 when they are on sale. Under $18 if they aren't on sale. Next time I'm around a HF store when they are on sale I'll likely buy another three to really help out with lighting. They are 3 LED lights.

As for the new battery bank configuration it is working very well. For one I have stopped using the 22 inch monitor to watch movies at night and don't use the sound system, but I still watch them on the laptop screen which can still be seen and heard pretty well from the couch. I watch movies until 10:30 or 11:00 each night and then shut down everything. The bank still has a decent charge in the morning when the sun is high enough to start charging again and I can use the laptop to be online in the mornings now without ever running the charger. I can run the laptop all day if I care to and the bank is still fully charged by noon. The other solar lights in the first picture supply enough other light in here to make it comfortable and they also get charged during the day.

Oh and just wish'in



  1. Your Falcon just needs a little paint! It rides like a dream and all the border patrol had their eye on us yesterday!

  2. Nothing like having the border patrol watching you. ;:

  3. The white keyboard would not take as much illumination to use as the black one would.

  4. I have some of the old cheap chinese HF solar lights but was debating whether or not to buy Ni-cad batteries for them. It never occured to me to use regular Rayovac batteries. I think I will give that a try. Great tip, thanks :)

  5. DD, the white keyboard is a PS2 and the laptop doesn't have a PS2 port. Has to be USB as the black one is.

    MsB, its a cheap fix. Try it.

  6. Here we use rechargeable 2500 mAh AA batteries which get charged in our solar lights - last for ages.

    Have you considered that with your faulty batteries out of the battery bank, your wind jenny may now work? Or have you checked your wind jenny with a volt meter? Such a pity to loose it...

    We use a 12volt globe in our standard light stand - works a treat off the 105Ah battery and draws very little energy. One globe gives more than enough light for an 48 mtr2 room. Also saves on schlepping solar lights in and out every day :-)

  7. Dani, I've checked the wind genny and it has an internal short so it is out of the picture as is. Doubt that I'll get it fixed or try to fix it. I've been wanting to build an S-Rotor wind generator so I may get serious about that now.

    I've got a 13 watt florescent light that runs off the inverter and it puts out 60 watts of light. As of yet I haven't tried using it at night with the new battery bank configuration, but will when we have a warm night. It may do fine and if it does I'll go back to using it, but for now I don't mind putting the solar lights out each morning and bringing them in at night. When I first moved in the dungeon that was my only option if I wanted light.

  8. David - the 12 volt is run straight off the battery with no inverter required.

    What is an S-Rotor wind generator?

  9. Dani, I may use the other two batteries with a couple of panels for that, but incondescent lighting takes a lot more power to operate than florescent. I'd rather stick with that.

    For the S-Rotor it would do you well to do a Google search on Savonius Rotor if you really want to know. There is too much involved for me to explain it. They can be made out of everything from 55 gallon drums, coffee cans and about anything else you can imagine. They start in low wind and can produce lots of power all depending on what you use to build them and do it both in low and high wind.