1. How do solar panels work?
2. What are LEDs
3. Advantages and disadvantages of LEDs.
4. How bright are LED light bulbs?
5. What is Lumens?
6. What is the difference between Lumens and Lux?
7. Does the number of LEDs in a bulb affect the brightness?
8. What is Color Temperature?
9. How do Lithium-Ion batteries compare to other rechargeable batteries?
10. How bright are your solar lights? How long will they light on a full charge?

1. How do solar panels work?
Solar Panels use light energy (photons) from the sun to generate electricity through Photo-Voltaic effect (not to be confused with photo-electric effect). The majority of modules use wafer-based crystalline silicon cells or a thin-film cell based on cadmium telluride or silicon. Crystalline silicon, which is commonly used in the wafer form in photovoltaic (PV) modules, is derived from silicon, a commonly used semi-conductor.
In order to use the cells in practical applications, they must be:

  • connected electrically to one another and to the rest of the system
  • Protected from mechanical damage during manufacture, transport and installation and use (in particular against hail impact, wind and snow loads). This is especially important for wafer-based silicon cells which are brittle.
  • Protected from moisture, which corrodes metal contacts and interconnects, (and for thin-film cells the transparent conductive oxide layer) thus decreasing performance and lifetime.

Module performances are generally rated under Standard Test Conditions (STC): irradiance of 1,000 W/m? Solar spectrum of AM 1.5 and module temperature at 25C.
Electrical characteristics includes nominal power (PMAX, measured in W), open circuit voltage (VOC), short circuit current (ISC, measured in Amperes), maximum power voltage (VMPP), maximum power current (IMPP) and module efficiency (%).
In kWp, kW is kilowatt and the p means "peak" as peak performance. The "p" however does not show the peak performance, but rather the maximum output according to STC.
Solar panels must withstand heat, cold, rain and hail for many years. Many Crystalline silicon module manufacturers offer warranties that guarantee electrical production for 10 years at 90% of rated power output and 25 years at 80%.
("Photovoltaic module", Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

2. What are LEDs (Light-emitting diodes)?
A light-emitting diode (LED) is an electronic light source. The LED was first invented in Russia in the 1920s, and introduced in America as a practical electronic component in 1962. Oleg Vladimirovich Losev was a radio technician who noticed that diodes used in radio receivers emitted light when current was passed through them. In 1927, he published details in a Russian journal of the first ever LED.
LEDs present many advantages over traditional light sources including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved robustness, smaller size and faster switching. However, they are relatively expensive and require more precise current and heat management than traditional light sources.
Applications of LEDs are diverse. They are used as low-energy indicators but also for replacements for traditional light sources in general lighting and automotive lighting. The compact size of LEDs has allowed new text and video displays and sensors to be developed, while their high switching rates are useful in communications technology.

3. Advantages

  • Efficiency: LEDs produce more light per watt than incandescent bulbs.
  • Color: LEDs can emit light of an intended color without the use of color filters that traditional lighting methods require. This is more efficient and can lower initial costs.
  • Size: LEDs can be very small (smaller than 2 mm) and are easily populated onto printed circuit boards.
  • On/Off time: LEDs light up very quickly. A typical red indicator LED will achieve full brightness in microseconds. LEDs used in communications devices can have even faster response times.
  • Cycling: LEDs are ideal for use in applications that are subject to frequent on-off cycling, unlike fluorescent lamps that burn out more quickly when cycled frequently, or HID lamps that require a long time before restarting.
  • Dimming: LEDs can very easily be dimmed either by Pulse-width modulation or lowering the forward current.
  • Cool light: In contrast to most light sources, LEDs radiate very little heat in the form of IR that can cause damage to sensitive objects or fabrics. Wasted energy is dispersed as heat through the base of the LED.
  • Slow failure: LEDs mostly fail by dimming over time, rather than the abrupt burn-out of incandescent bulbs.
  • Lifetime: LEDs can have a relatively long useful life. One report estimates 35,000 to 50,000 hours of useful life, though time to complete failure may be longer. Fluorescent tubes typically are rated at about 10,000 to 15,000 hours, depending partly on the conditions of use, and incandescent light bulbs at 1,000-2,000 hours.
  • Shock resistance: LEDs, being solid state components, are difficult to damage with external shock, unlike fluorescent and incandescent bulbs which are fragile.
  • Focus: The solid package of the LED can be designed to focus its light. Incandescent and fluorescent sources often require an external reflector to collect light and direct it in a usable manner.
  • Toxicity: LEDs do not contain mercury, unlike fluorescent lamps.

  • High initial price: LEDs are currently more expensive, price per lumen, on an initial capital cost basis, than most conventional lighting technologies. The additional expense partially stems from the relatively low lumen output and the drive circuitry and power supplies needed. However, when considering the total cost of ownership (including energy and maintenance costs), LEDs far surpass incandescent or halogen sources and begin to threaten compact fluorescent lamps.
  • Temperature dependence: LED performance largely depends on the ambient temperature of the operating environment. Over-driving the LED in high ambient temperatures may result in overheating of the LED package, eventually leading to device failure. Adequate heat-sinking is required to maintain long life. This is especially important when considering automotive, medical, and military applications where the device must operate over a large range of temperatures, and is required to have a low failure rate.
  • Voltage sensitivity: LEDs must be supplied with the voltage above the threshold and a current below the rating. This can involve series resistors or current-regulated power supplies.
  • Light quality: Most cool-white LEDs have spectra that differ significantly from a black body radiator like the sun or an incandescent light. The spike at 460 nm and dip at 500 nm can cause the color of objects to be perceived differently under cool-white LED illumination than sunlight or incandescent sources, due to metamerism, red surfaces being rendered particularly badly by typical phosphor based cool-white LEDs. However, the color rendering properties of common fluorescent lamps are often inferior to what is now available in state-of-art white LEDs.
  • Area light source: LEDs do not approximate a "point source" of light, but rather a lambertian distribution. So LEDs are difficult to use in applications requiring a spherical light field. LEDs are not capable of providing divergence below a few degrees. This is contrasted with lasers, which can produce beams with divergences of 0.2 degrees or less.
  • Blue Hazard: There is increasing concern that blue LEDs and cool-white LEDs are now capable of exceeding safe limits of the so-called blue-light hazard as defined in eye safety specifications such as ANSI/IESNA RP-27.1-05: Recommended Practice for Photobiological Safety for Lamp and Lamp Systems.
  • Blue pollution: Because cool-white LEDs (i.e., LEDs with high color temperature) emit much more blue light than conventional outdoor light sources such as high-pressure sodium lamps, the strong wavelength dependence of Rayleigh scattering means that cool-white LEDs can cause more light pollution than other light sources. It is therefore very important that cool-white LEDs are fully shielded when used outdoors. Compared to low-pressure sodium lamps, which emit at 589.3 nm, the 460 nm emission spike of cool-white and blue LEDs is scattered about 2.7 times more by the Earth's atmosphere. Cool-white LEDs should not be used for outdoor lighting near astronomical observatories.

  • ("Light-emitting diode", Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

4. How bright are LED light bulbs?
LED bulbs available in the market today differ in brightness. Generally, for LEDs used in standard light fixtures, the brightness varies from 30 lumens to 1200 lumens. The brightest LED for regular light fixtures is usually the floodlight or spotlight. The brightest LED spotlights use approximately 25W, compared to a 120W incandescent. When comparing LED bulbs with the same shape and size of an incandescent bulb, the LED produces about 600 lumens. Due to their nature, LEDs are usually directionally and thus are more effective if pointed to the desired direction for better quality illumination.

5. What is Lumens?
The lumen (symbol: lm) is the SI unit of luminous flux, a measure of the perceived power of light. Luminous flux differs from radiant flux, the measure of the total power of light emitted, in that luminous flux is adjusted to reflect the varying sensitivity of the human eye to different wavelengths of light. The lumen is defined in relation to the candela by 1 lm = cdsr = 1 lxm2 That is, a light source that uniformly radiates one candela in all directions radiates a total of 4? lumens. If the source were partially covered by an ideal absorbing hemisphere, that system would radiate half as much luminous flux-only 2? lumens. The luminous intensity would still be one candela in those directions that are not obscured.

If a light source emits one candela of luminous intensity uniformly across a solid angle of one steradian, its total luminous flux emitted into that angle is one lumen. Alternatively, an isotropic one-candela light source emits a total luminous flux of exactly 4? lumens. The lumen can be thought of casually as a measure of the total "amount" of visible light in some defined beam or angle, or emitted from some source. The number of candelas or lumens from a source also depends on its spectrum, via the nominal response of the human eye as represented in the luminosity function. A 23 watt compact fluorescent lamp emits roughly 1500 to 1700 lm, which is comparable to a general-service 100 W incandescent light bulb designed for use at 120 V. Incandescent light bulbs designed for operation at higher voltages are generally less efficient. For example, standard 230 V bulbs listed in one online catalog include models that emit from 1200 to 1400 lm. The number of lumens produced per watt of power consumed is the wall-plug luminous efficacy of the source.

6. Differences between lumens and lux
The difference between the units lumen and lux is that the lux takes into account the area over which the luminous flux is spread. A flux of 1000 lumens, concentrated into an area of one square meter, lights up that square meter with an illuminance of 1000 lux. The same 1000 lumens, spread out over ten square meters, produces a dimmer illuminance of only 100 lux. Achieving an illuminance of 500 lux might be possible in a home kitchen with a single fluorescent light fixture with an output of 12000 lumens. To light a factory floor with dozens of times the area of the kitchen would require dozens of such fixtures. Thus, lighting a larger area to the same level of lux requires a greater number of lumens. ("Lumen (unit)," Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

7. Does the number of LEDs in a bulb affect the brightness?
No. The number of LEDs in a bulb does not determine the brightness of the bulb. This is due to the fact that there are several types of LEDs that vary in sizes and light output. The best way to measure brightness is by lumens and lux (Refer to Q#5 and #6)

8. What is Color Temperature?
Color temperature is a characteristic of visible light that has important applications in lighting, photography, videography, publishing, and other fields. The color temperature of a light source is determined by comparing its chromaticity with that of an ideal black-body radiator. The temperature (usually measured in Kelvin (K)) at which the heated black-body radiator matches the color of the light source is that source's color temperature; for a black body source, it is directly related to Planck's law and Wien's displacement law. Counter intuitively, higher color temperatures (5000 K or more) are "cool" (green-blue) colors and lower color temperatures (2700-3000 K) "warm" (yellow red) colors.

9. How do Lithium-Ion batteries compare to other rechargeable batteries?
Lithium-ion batteries have a higher energy density than most other types of rechargeable batteries.? This means that for their size or weight they can store more energy than other rechargeable batteries. They also operate at higher voltages than other rechargeable batteries, typically about 3.7 volts for lithium-ion vs. 1.2 volts?for NiMH or NiCd. This means a single cell can often be used rather than multiple NiMH or NiCd cells. Lithium-ion batteries also have a lower self discharge rate than other types of rechargeable batteries.
This means that once they are charged they will retain their charge for a longer time than other types of rechargeable batteries.? NiMH and NiCd batteries can lose anywhere from 1-5% of their charge per day, (depending on the storage temperature) even if they are not installed in a device. Lithium-ion batteries will retain most of their charge even after months of storage. (GreenBatteries.com 2009)

10. How bright are your solar lights? How long will they light on a full charge?
The solar lights come equipped with a standard screw base for any DC light bulb the user prefers. Sunmia however recommends LED light bulbs. The brightness of the solar light depends on the type of bulb being used, for example a 1W LED bulb or a 3W LED bulb (used in our Yosemite series). The Sunmia LED lights are Warm White in color and closely comparable to a CFL light color. Generally, brightness of the 1W LED bulb is likely comparable to a 10W regular incandescent bulb. Specifically it has a Lumen of 42 with a color temperature range of 29000-35000 Kelvin.
Technically, the 1W LED light can stay on for approximately 36 hours on a full charge given the fixture is using a 3Ah battery. However, it really does differ according to your local weather patterns. If the battery is able to complete its charge cycle, then the bulb will be able to light for the calculated period of time. However, if the battery does not complete its charge cycle it will not be able to provide full charge thus reducing the time length that the bulb lights. Our solar lights come equipped with a switch that allows users to choose how long they wish to have the light on, either from dusk to dawn or just 10 hours.

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