7 Questions you need to ask before you start a commercial public lighting project
When you install a traditional commercial light, you don’t often need to be concerned with whether it will be “bright” enough or will operate continuously because there is an expectation that it will work as specified. You trench, lay cables, connect to the utility, and bam—you have light!
However, if you’re looking to avoid the costly and time-consuming trenching option and you’d rather not pay any on-going power costs, then a properly-sized solar lighting system is a fantastic option. While a solar-powered commercial light can achieve the same lighting results as a traditional light, there are a few specific things you will need to evaluate to ensure you get the right results.
Why are we asking these questions?
- Avoid overspending: ensure the lighting system will use properly-sized components for your project needs vs. having an unnecessarily large and expensive system to compensate for poor design.
- Avoid battery replacements or auto shut-off: install an efficient system that will be able to sustain your light requirements over the long term vs. one that dims the lights, leads to premature failure of the battery, or shuts the lights off completely.
Q1. Ask about the Project Location
What is the exact location of the project? Try to get an accurate street address and site description whenever possible.
Why? This allows the manufacturers to factor solar insolation data into their system design.
Different areas receive different amounts of sunlight each day. For example, a solar light specified for sunny, southern Los Angeles would be smaller and therefore wouldn’t be able to generate enough power to provide continuous light for Anchorage, Alaska. And a solar light specified for Anchorage would be unnecessarily large for Los Angeles.
Knowing the project location allows the manufacturers to build and specify their systems for your exact location and to avoid proposing a system that’s too small or too large for your area.
Also, a street address can allow for the assessment of potential shading hazards—like trees, buildings, or other obstructions—which could block the solar panel from the sun and decrease your system’s performance.
Q2. Ask about the Project Application
What kind of area are you trying to illuminate? Knowing the basic type of street vs. pathway will change the lighting output requirement.
Why? The application may affect pole height, pole spacing, and light levels requirements. A street, for example, will probably require higher light levels than a trail or park. Here are some possible applications:
- Shared Pathway
- Residential street
- Recreational Reserve
- Car Park
- The entryway to a building
Q3. Ask about the Project Dimensions
What is the length of the street/pathway or size of the general area (for a parking lot, etc.)?
Why? The size or length of the area will affect the number of lighting systems required, and uniformity of the light hitting the ground, which all factors into the overall project cost.
Q4. Ask about the Pole Details
Is there a specified pole height? What type of pole is required?
Why? Pole height may affect the number of lighting systems required for the project. Pole type may affect the installation costs.
Q5. Ask about the Required Light Levels and Uniformity
Is there is a state/municipal standard for light levels for the project, what are they? What light levels need to be met on the ground (measured by foot candles or lux)? What uniformity requirements are there if known?
Why? Different applications will require different light levels, which plays a large role in determining the overall project cost.
Q6. Ask about the Operating Profile
How long does the light need to be on each night? When the light is on, do the light levels need to be met throughout the night or just at certain times? If you’re unsure, a good manufacturer should be able to help.
Why? The operating profile is a key aspect of a solar lighting project. Manufacturers will “tune” their systems differently for power management, based on these profiles.
Here are some examples of operating profiles:
- Dusk to dawn (all-night operation): the light will run at the same light output level all night.
- Dim in off-peak hours: for example, the light will run at the required light output level for 5 hours after dusk, then dim to 30% of the required light level. 2 hours before dawn, the light levels will return to 100% until sunrise.
- Off or dimmed at an exact time: for example, the light will run at the required light output level until 11 p.m., then will turn off.
Q7. Ask about the Color Temperature
What color of light is required—warmer (3000K) or cooler (6000K)?
Why? Color temperature affects the fixture power output, and can factor into the project cost. While light color temperature may be more of a preference than a requirement, cities are leaning more towards lights with warmer color temperatures as they seem to be better for our health and the environment.
Asking these questions can ensure you’re specified a solar light that will meet your project requirements over the long term at no extra cost. You can also be confident that your lighting system won’t die prematurely or become unnecessarily large and expensive.
Contact us for learn more about common specifications of solar lighting systems and how they can affect the overall performance and cost.