Solar panels are photovoltaic devices that absorb photons from sunlight and convert them into direct-current (DC) electricity. When many modules are wired together and pointed toward the sun, we can run our homes using clean energy
To generate as much power as possible, solar panels should be pointed directly at the sun. When it’s cloudy or nighttime, they can’t do their job. In those instances, we use other energy sources.
Here are some key points I’ll cover in this article:
- How do diode LEDs and solar panels work
- Can You Charge Solar Panels with LED Lights
- How long would the solar panels last with LED lighting
You’ll be surprised how much you can achieve with LED lights. Read through to the end to find out.
Can You Charge Solar Panels with LED Lights?
The short answer is, yes, you can. Several LED products on the market are designed to trickle-charge batteries, which includes solar panels.
The trickle charge will keep your cells topped up so they’ll have full power when you need it – even if the sun isn’t shining.
Usually, these chargers use 1% of the available power from an outlet or USB port to top-off 1% of battery life every hour. But what about direct sunlight?
If one were to leave their panel in direct sunlight for 8 hours straight, would that be the same as constant charging?
No, because solar panels won’t output more than 1% of their overall potential per hour due to maximum power point tracking (MPPT).
What artificial lights can be used to charge solar panels?
LED lights are a popular choice for this charging. These lights use a fraction of the wattage required by standard lights but still output enough to trickle-charge your solar cells.
The charge rate will vary greatly depending on the panel’s size and energy capacity.
Most panels don’t have all their cells connected, so if the panel’s rated capacity is 10 watts, but only half of the cells are hooked up, that will cut the output in half.
This means you’ll need more than one LED light to get the desired wattage – keep adding until it reaches 10 watts.
How long would the solar panels last with LED lighting?
LED lights are not nearly as powerful as direct sunlight, so it will take much longer to charge your panel in this manner – but don’t worry, it won’t damage anything.
You’ll need to leave the light on for several hours (likely all night) before you start seeing an output, and it could be weeks before you fully replenish your cells’ power.
This isn’t a problem, though; if your panel is fully charged when it’s sunny out, there’s nothing wrong with having low output during shady or dark periods. Even the highest-capacity batteries will eventually go flat.
Are there any disadvantages to trickle-charging solar panels with LED lights?
Yes, many people are concerned about the effect that constant charging will have on the life span of their batteries.
A little bit of charge here and there is okay, but you don’t want to overcharge them or leave them plugged in for too long at a time.
It’s also important to note that most panels aren’t meant to be charged off of USB or AC outlets, so using them as such is considered an “unsafe use.”
This power source doesn’t trickle-charge the panels properly, and it can lead to undercharged batteries.
Unless you have a special charger that can handle USB or AC power, the LED lights will only output 1 amp of current. This is fine for trickle-charging batteries but not enough to run appliances.
It is recommended that you use a panel designed explicitly for trickle-charging, as it will ensure the solar cells are charged safely.
Can LED lights be used to power appliances?
Yes, for the most part. LED bulbs are usually 12 volts or less, so they won’t work with standard household outlets, but you can find inverters that will convert DC power into AC for powering small devices.
Some even have USB ports so you can charge your phones and other mobile devices.
Panel’s rated output is not to exceed 5 watts in direct sunlight conditions. To avoid overcharging the battery, the charging cannot occur for more than 4 hours per day and should be terminated when the battery voltage reaches 14V (21V for gel batteries).
Charging current is equal to 1% of open circuit voltage = 0.01 x (Nominal Output V oc)
Charging time = Battery Capacity (Ah) / 1% of Voc
So, our 10W panel would charge at 1.0A for 10 hours, or the 5W solar panel would charge at 0.5A for 19 hours. This is just an example calculation that you can use to estimate the charging current and time.
You can also use one of these USB power adapters: 5V, 3.1A output via a USB port that will quickly charge your cell phone or tablet.
You will need something like this if you want to recharge your devices with solar panels during cloudy weather when there’s not enough sunlight falling on them directly.
How Do you connect LED lights to solar panels?
It depends on the LED lights you are using. Some may not have any means of connecting to your panels; others may have an extra port for charging (usually labeled “charge”).
But in most cases, you won’t be able to directly connect them because LEDs require an input voltage much less than the panel outputs.
This is where the inverter comes into play. You’ll need one that can handle at least 3 watts or 5 volts if it has USB ports, but bigger is better.
Our 10-watt panel would work best with one capable of handling 20 volts and 3 amps (60 watts) or more.
Be aware that there are two kinds of inverters – AC-DC and DC-AC. Make sure you get the right kind for your needs, or you may end up with a useless piece of equipment.
But this leads to another question – does it matter if my panel isn’t as efficient as some other model? The answer is no. It doesn’t matter because many factors go into determining how much power you can
Can you hook up multiple solar panels together in series to power LED lights?
Yes, it is possible to connect solar panels in order to deliver more voltage and current. This is very common if the panels are being used to power larger appliances such as TVs and mini-fridges – they’ll need much more than 12 volts to run correctly.
But in this instance, we’re just talking about a single light bulb, so you would have no reason to connect them in series.
The only benefits from doing so would be slightly higher wattage output but at the cost of much higher prices and increased complexity (more cables & connectors to mess with).
Can you hook up multiple solar panels together in parallel to power LED lights?
Yes, you can connect multiple solar panels in parallel to increase amperage (current) while maintaining the same voltage output.
Parallel connections are an easy and cost-effective way to extend your wattage without having to purchase a bigger/more expensive inverter or panel.
For example, if you have three 6V 100mA LED lights, all of them will get a total of 6 volts even though they’re running simultaneously.
All the panels must be the same model because it would not be safe; otherwise, due to differences in the current draw – different currents mean different voltages, which could cause some of the LEDs not to work appropriately, burn out, or even catch fire.
Is charging solar panels with LEDs efficient?
No. Even though LED lights are considered “energy-efficient,” they still require a lot of power to run correctly, which means that charging them with solar panels will take much longer than you expect.
This is because LEDs have extremely low wattage requirements compared to conventional light bulbs – they only need about 20-25% of the energy required by an incandescent bulb to produce roughly the same amount of light.
That’s why they last so long when compared to other lights because you’re not wasting all your electricity powering something that doesn’t need it.
But even though LEDs are more efficient, the standard 12V DC batteries used in solar systems typically have about 125-150 watt-hours (Wh) worth of energy storage (measured in amp-hours (Ah)).
This means that even if you were using a massive LED light like our 20-watt model, it would take over two days of charging to fill the battery back up again.
Not only that, but the process would be highly inefficient and wasteful – your panels will use up a ton of their stored power to charge the battery.
How do diode LEDs and solar panels work?
Diode LEDs are far more energy-efficient than regular light bulbs because they only use about 20-25% of the power for the same amount of light (lumens) vs. incandescent systems at 100%.
But like their smaller cousins, diodes come in different forms and shapes with other materials used to make them perform better under certain circumstances.
Some diode models are specifically designed to emit infrared (IR) light, which is not visible by humans but can be picked up by other devices such as TV remotes or mice that rely on IR technology to do their jobs properly.
And some advanced diode LEDs can even produce ultraviolet (UV) light, which has tons of applications ranging from curing plastics quicker to detecting counterfeit money.
But they’re most commonly found in household items such as DVD players, flat-screen TVs, and even some special applications like remote control vehicles or ultra-bright torches.
If you want to learn more about these types of unique solar-powered systems, check out our article on diode LED flashlights.