Recently I undertook a small outdoor project that included some LEDS. I considered a number of possibilities for power, including the existing outside power that runs my irrigation system and my current safety lighting. After some thought and review, I decided to utilize small solar panels with light emitting diode outdoor lights. As I dove deeper into the project, I realized that utilizing a solar power option in conjunction with LED was not as simple as I originally thought.
Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are not the best option for every project. For my small outdoor lighting endeavor, however, LED were the most complete option: they use the least power and they work nicely with solar panels. I’m not saying that all exterior lighting should be Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs). When working with outside lights, the purchaser must keep in mind the type of Light Emitting Diodes to be utilized. Lamps that are rated for interior use only will most likely not be rated for the outside or correctly sealed for use in a damp area such as a garden or beneath trees. For my outdoor project, I chose to use lights that are rated specifically for outdoor use, are weather sealed, and do not expose the LEDs chipset or driver to the elements. The lights I selected are globe lights. The base of the PAR Globes are sealed to the lamp with a gasket to ensure that they remain watertight. It’s important to look for a water resistance rating of IP4 or better.
After some small design work and some trial and error in my yard, I found that I prefer PAR30 Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) for up-lighting in trees, and globe lamp Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) as accent lighting around the base of bushes and in the garden because of the wide beam angle and the flood effect. Again, this is a personal choice. I also like warm colored light to complement the dark tones of the mulch and the tree bark. I used a small PV array with a converter converting DC power from the Photovoltaic storage battery into AC current to be utilized by lights running on 120V AC. I made the decision based on availability and convenience. It was easiest to acquire and accommodate the best household LED lamps that I could find, and run them on AC rather than DC current.
So is there one answer that makes more sense for everyone in every situation, or even the majority of people in the majority of situations? The answer is a resounding no. What makes sense is what works best for you. Know your project and the material. Use a standalone option if possible. Generally speaking tying into a pv system and battery is a less risky option than tying into a primary power line or circuit breaker. Use free advice from local experts whenever possible; don’t be afraid to ask questions.