Tag Archive: Solar Lamps

As of spring of 2013, I’ve seen hundreds of Westinghouse solar lamps (item number 577105-08W) being sold at my local Wal-Mart for .97 cents apiece. The value of the components (battery, solar cell, LED) well exceeds the cost of the product, so I decided to pick up a few of them and see how well they perform.

When night fell, I noticed that the Westinghouse lamps were not as bright compared to my existing lamps, and for .97 cents, I really shouldn’t complain. I removed the light cap from the Westinghouse and from one of my existing lamps and laid them side by side for comparison. Both lights were outputting the same brightness. When holding the Westinghouse lamp over my existing fixture, the brightness was comparable to the other existing lamps that I had in my yard.

I believe I had the same problem with my existing fixtures when they were new. What happens after a couple years is that the plastic lens deteriorates from being in the hot sun. When it does, the lens develops a foggy look. The fogginess of the plastic acts as a diffuser and evenly distributes the light in all directions. LED’s shine in one direction, and that direction is down when used in most solar lighting applications.

So what is this all coming down to? Well, if you read my post about the Compaq Presario Power Light, you already know that I placed a piece of matte finish Scotch tape in front of the extremely bright power light to act as a diffuser. So why not try it with the Westinghouse solar lamps and see if it helps improve their visibility.

The lamps have a small amount of “neck” below the LED. This neck is perfect for applying some matte finish Scotch tape around it. I wrapped the tape around the neck twice making sure the tape completely covers the LED. (2/3 of the tape should cover the LED). When done, the tape resembled a straw with a LED in the middle. All I had to do now was wait until nighttime.

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The tape definitely helped, and the light looks brighter and can be seen from farther away. I was happy with the results, but the bottom-half of the lamp was still not well lit. I decided to improve the lamp by adding a straw inside the lens in order to help carry the light towards the bottom of the lamp. What I used was a clear wide straw from a fast food restaurant. (The Arby’s straws seem to work the best). I measured and cut off about 1¾ inches of the straw and then wrapped matte finish Scotch tape around the entire length of the straw in sections. Then I used some tape to hold the straw onto the base of the lamp, just below the LED.

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When night came, I was surprised at what I saw. Although the straw allows some light to reach the bottom of the lens, it does give the lamp a cool fade effect, kind of like a flame. The straw makes the solar lamp look almost like a bug zapper with a long thin line in the middle of the lens. Overall, the modifications were worth the time and effort.

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Outdoor LED Solar Lamps

You may have notice your local Wal-Mart store selling those small outdoor LED solar lamps for about $3.00 a piece. You can’t beat that price since the rechargeable battery, LED and solar cells included in the lamp probably cost more than its price tag. We bought several of these lamps and so far we’ve been pleased.

If you don’t know how these lamps work, here’s a short description. The lamp charges a rechargeable battery connected to a solar cell located on top of the unit. As night falls, the lamps are automatically turned on by a photocell. When morning arrives, the lamps automatically turn off.

Don’t expect a whole lot of light since the lamp only contains a single white LED and one rechargeable nickel-cadmium AA battery.  Although noticeable from across the street, the lamps are useful for marking a walkway or just adding light to your yard or garden. Because the lamp contains one LED, the lamp may not provide enough light to light up the ground.

The rechargeable battery will last for a few days in cloudy weather. If the lamp is located in a constantly shady area, the battery may weaken and turn the light off in the middle of the night. This also brings me to the point on how well the solar cell recharges the battery. After popping out the 1.2 volt rechargeable battery and attaching a multi-meter to the lamp, I discovered that the solar cell puts out between 1.6 – 1.8 volts to the battery when it is in the shade. After moving the lamp into full sun, I found that the solar cell outputs a maximum of 2.2 volts to the battery, enough to recharge the battery if the lamp constantly receives full sunlight. During cloudy weather, the solar cell will charge the battery enough to last a few days if conditions persist.

The nickel-cadmium batteries can be replaced with nickel metal hydride batteries, which will give you better performance and will last longer from constant recharges.

In conclusion, you get a good deal with these outside solar lamps. The lamps will provide you basic all night lighting when installed in locations with continuous full sun lighting and a good quality nickel metal hydride battery.