Three Letters Re: Battery-Powered House Interior Lighting

I enjoy your blog and support you in a small way with the 10 Cent Challenge.  After reading your response to the Battery-Powered House Interior Lighting letter, I want to add some information that I learned at a FAA seminar that I attended.  The FAA is now endorsing blue or green lighting in the cockpit of all aircraft (general aviation and commercial).  The green and/or blue takes less energy output for the eyes to see details.  Also, red lighting can be seen from further away than blue/green (red is used to designate towers and tall buildings at night, where blue is used for taxiway lights because it stands out less at a distance).  I would strongly advise the use of controlled blue or green lights for interior lighting and keep the bulbs/LEDs out of direct line of sight of windows.  – Carl


I wanted to add a few tips.

We recently purchased a set of low-voltage,solar-powered LED string lights from a Target chain store.  They are similar to Christmas lights, but the bulbs are of various shapes/designs (we opted for a set that looked like little snow globes or disco balls.)

These lights don’t have any sort of connector (12 VDC nor 110 VAC.)  Instead, they only have a small solar panel, that’s [directly] attached to a sealed battery pack.

During our first camping/outing with the lights, we read the instructions, which said that they required five hours of full sunlight before they would be ready for use.  (We had arrived at our campsite about an hour before sunset, so we had no hope that they would work…)

Much to our surprise, they worked perfectly.  Initially, their light source seems pretty weak.  But, as the skies grow dark,and your eyes adjust, they actually begin to seem pretty bright.   We strung them above/around the opening of our tent, and they functioned like some sort of “street light” of sorts (making entry/exit of our tent safe & sure.

We attempted to sleep with the lights still on, to see how long they would last.  (A mistake.)   At 2 a.m., they were still so bright, that we were having trouble sleeping.  So, I turned them off.

The next day, we angled the solar panel to face the sun.  (The panel/battery has a clip,which we attached to an external tent pole on our dome-style tent.)  We then departed for the day (which turned out to be a windy day.)

When we returned,the little solar panel had spun on the pole (due to the winds,) and was now face-down in the tent (instead of facing the sunshine.)  We still had an hour of sunlight before sunset, so there was still hope…

After sunset, when we turned the lights on, they (again) worked like champs.  We wondered, though, if they would still hold-up as long as the night prior?…

About an hour later, as we were building our campfire, they died…  (We assumed they just didn’t get enough sunlight, and we were regretting that they didn’t have a 12-volt plug or alligator clips.)

Later, however, as the fire dimmed, the little lights sprung back to life!!!

Go figure — they also have a built-in light sensor/switch.  They automatically turn off, when there is sufficient light (to save their battery.)   We had light from them all night (again.)

I have been disappointed by so many “solar yard/path lights” in the past.  I almost didn’t buy these.  But, their LED functionality got the best of me — and I’m so very glad that I bought them!

Granted, they are not “high beams.”  These are essentially “super” night lights (or minimalist emergency lighting.)
They are enough light to “get the job done” — and not much more.  But, they are kind of cute, too!
As outdoor lights, they are also water-resistant.  As low-voltage, they are also safe to the touch (even if/when wet.)

This essentially-free lighting was enough for 90% of our tasks in/around our tent and camp site.  Only a few times did we need to turn on a lantern, or flashlight for specialized tasks (like cutting in our kitchen area.)

On that note, this was also the first time we tried using one of the new LED-style Coleman lanterns.  We still brought our Coleman-fueled lanterns, as well as our propane lanterns along, too.  We are life-long campers,and Coleman-powered lamps just seem to be as natural as S’Mores over a camp fire.  But, the sensitive mantles, and glass lenses, plus the Coleman white-fuel cans, and the propane bottles, and the small funnels, and such add up to a lot of possible “points-of-failure.”  I was pleasantly-surprised by the amount of zero effort light that our new battery-powered LED Coleman lanterns provided!

One of them was powered via a pack of four D-cell batteries.   The other had an integrated battery pack, which you could wall-charge (or hand-crank!!!)  I’m somewhat sorry to say, that our old-school lanterns will be moved to the bottom/back shelves of our garage now — because we now favor the newer, lighter-weight, easier & safer to operate LED lanterns.

We have also purchased a roll-up solar panel to charge any/all of our batteries, too.

Granted, there isn’t always a sunny sky.  But, one full charge of these little lights, seems to last for multiple nights.

We also bought a hand-crank handheld LED flashlight, too.  Again, it’s not as powerful as our Mag-Lites. (I think someone on the Moon could see our Mag-Lites!)   But, they are much lighter and a quick crank of the handle for 30-60 seconds or so, provides us with hours of lighting.  (Whereas dead batteries in the Mag-Lites provides zero light.)

Peace & Preparedness, – J.H.

Another option that has worked well for me is the use of marine-type [low votage DC lighting in the house.

I have a LED chart light set up as a reading light on the back of the head board that I use day to day for my reading and as a bed side lamp. It is powered off of a deep cycle battery in a battery box under the bed. (Yes batteries make hydrogen gas while charging and anyone who is not a big boy and understands this should probably not do it.)

This combo will run many days without a charge and makes a great bed side light as well. One of these days I am going to run the numbers and see exactly how many hours this thing will run, but the battery is so ridiculously over-sized for this application I have not bothered yet. – S.D. in W.V.