You can see there are many different lights using solar energy. All of these lights are from my house in New Zealand. I try them out. The ones used most are the torch that is used every night and the small black light because it can go all night. Two lights have solar panels on top and charge the internal batteries. I put them in the window to charge. We do not need to use these solar lights because we have electricity and it is not expensive.. But if it was expensive I know I could easily light the whole house with lights charged up by sunshine. Soon I will have simple plans to show how to make a small torch from cheap parts.

Every thing is good when the sun is shining but not so good when it is pitch black in the middle of the night. People like to have light. You can buy a modern light unit that has a solar panel on top to charge the internal battery and maybe a hand winder in case there is not much sunshine . The new lights all use LED bulbs. this is the initials for L ight E mitting D iodes

LED bulbs are very good they use a small amount of electricity to make a strong light, they are very strong, do not get damaged easily and last many years.. Also the type of battery inside these lights is changing from AA type batteries to a new high energy battery called lithium. The lithium batteries last a long time. There are so many different types of solar charge lights in the shops it is hard to decide on one to buy but the first light to have is a torch that charges the battery during the day from sunshine and you can use it at night. It should have an on - off switch on it. Most large strong torches use batteries that can be replaced but some smaller torches have batteries inside the torch and charged up by the sun..

This can be done by using rechargable light units that have their own charging solar panel built in for example a lot of torches are available with built in solar panel and internal battery. just put them in a sunny window to charge the built in light battery during the day and they can be used at night ..

Some of these lights not only have their own solar panel with built in battery, but some models also have a hand crank to charge the battery by winding the crank for several minutes.. Lights like this that do not rely on a solar panel on the roof are very good. They are low price and do not need to be connected to the main solar electrical system. You can take the lights anywhere since they have a built in battery and a wind up handle in case it is raining or the light fades out at night just when you need it..

Many solar lights have their own solar charging panel.. these are good and very useful. at night turn it on and there you have light at the dinner table for evening meal.. also several of these types of lights with their own solar panel have a built in radio and can also charge your cell phone.. They are very useful and not very expensive.

This one has solar panel on top that charges internal battery, has a very stong light, a socket to charge cell phones, a hand winder to charge the battery if no sun, and AM FM radio,

There are other types of lights that need batteries to operate but have no solar panel.. These lights you have to use rechargable batteries either AAA or AA and charge the batteries using a small solar panel in the window about 6 inches square. During the day the rechargable batteries are charged by sunshine on the small solar panel

Here are two small 6 volt solar panels not very expensive the one on the left charges a night light that can run all night. The small solar panel on the right charges 4 AA rechargable batteries that can power a big light for 4 hours then at night you fit the charged up batteries into a large table lamp Or you can put the charged up batteries into a torch or radio or small TV.

Using solar power for lights is easy. Just use a small solar panel to charge the batteries. See the large red light below. During the day the batteries are charged up and at night powers the light for four hours.

These big table lanterns use 4 size D batterys which are expensive. You could use 4 size D rechargable batterys which are very expensive but you can use a small 4 pack rechargable AA batteries powering a big table lamp for 4 hours.

Or you could use one of these lanterns on the right which have built in battery and a solar panel on top keeps the battery charged. Both have outlet for charging cell phones and both have wind up handle in case not enough sunshine..

A torch you dont use it all night so the charged up batteries can run it for days or weeks.. Same with small radio. The battery charge can last for several weeks or a month without needing to recharge the batteries. Unless you use the radio a lot...

You can also buy very useful battery lights that detect a person and switch on by themselves so you could have three or four around the house. If you walk past usually within 3 meters the light will be activated and stay on for a short period usually 20 second to one minute (selectable) but by that time you have activated the other light and as you walk around the house these detector lights will come on all by themselves to give you light to see your way.. then when you have passed by they turn off.
The power used when the lights are off is very very small so you find the batteries last for several weeks before you have to replace or recharge them.. There are two main types One type uses 4 AAA batteries. The second type uses 2 AA batteries.

A very important point, these types of lights can be used to detect visitors or burglars or intruders or warm blooded animals that may have entered your property or outbuildings or your house and can warn you that a person or an animal is on your property or in your house especially at night..

This warm blood animal or people detector can detect movement day or night. it is especially useful at night twin lights come on for a preset period of time can be one minute up to 60 minutes. Can be set to short range or long distance. This one on my garage can detect a moving person wearing normal clothing at 30 meters distance in pitch darkness,, then the lights come on.


The best night torch I have is a solar torch that has 6 led lights and a solar panel and charges the internal batteries by sunlight and gets used every night. I have had it for years. It is the one in the middle below. I use this torch every night to make sure all the doors and windows are shut and locked and maybe the bathroom but only needs put in the sun about once a month to charge the batteries. Definitely worth having..

Squeeze handle torch back left. Solar torch in the middle. People activated lights on the right

So now using these modern types of lights with light emitting diodes (LED) instead of the old fillament type light bulbs you get very efficient and long lasting lights all powered by rechargable batteries. You can get a large bright light for the dinner table or small torch to see your way at night or the special lights that turn on when a person passes by...These lights will look after all your lighting needs at very low cost considering what they do..

.....6 led night torch with on-off switch and solar panel to recharge internal batteries. This one has lasted me about 5 years. Still works well.. Once a month put in the sun to recharge the batteries.. Very useful and reliable torch.


..... Very simple solar panel torch . Has three led light bulbs that give a good night light. There is a solar panel one side to charge the internal battery and an on-off switch on the other side but needs pressed all the time. It is not very convenient because you have to press the on-off switch all the time. Very inexpensive.


......This is a wind up torch to charge the internal battery by squeezing the handle.. With two led lights. Complex mechanism inside Could be damaged by rough handling. I have one unit. I never use it.

......Automatic lights that turn on when a person is within 2-3 meters of the light. These can be useful in a cupboard or a hallway to provide lighting without needing to carry a torch. This unit uses 4 AAA batteries. They are a little bit expensive.


........ Automatic light same as the one above but uses two AA batteries.




.... Small 6 volt solar panel can charge up four AA rechargable batteries in 1-2 days in the NZ sun which is nowhere near as powerful as the Kenya sun. With these batteries you can power a large electric lantern for 3-4 hours which is very good for placing on the dinner table for the evening meal and/or a room light for watching television

... This is a very useful small bedroom light. It works on three AA rechargeable batteries which are charged during the day by a separate small solar panel and can go all night if required.







... This is a bank of ordinary garden lights intended to light up a pathway in your garden or look good lighting up a part of your garden.. They charge up during the day and come on automatically at night. Instead of using them in the garden you can put them inside your house at night. You can make any desired quantity. One bank of lights can go in the bathroom. One bank can go in the lounge. Or anywhere you wish. If there is good sun during the day they go all night. These are very good and simple night lights. Charge up in daytime and use indoors at night A very simple way to get low level lighting inside your house.

The best type of AA or AAA rechargable battery is Nickel Metal Hydride... NiMH.... Other types of rechargable batteries have a memory effect which stops them being fully recharged..

You can also buy litium AA batteries for your camera. These are not rechargable but they last a very long time



One of the most important lights is a good torch

The old glass torch bulb is easily broken and uses a lot of power to make the light so you have to buy new batteries often. The new LED type of bulb are not glass they are plastic and last a long time many years and do not use much power. You can make a torch that uses disposable batteries or you can make a torch that uses rechargable batteries charged up by sunlight. But batteries are expensive. even for one LED. One LED needs 3.2 volts to make it light up. One rechargable AA battery only gives 1.2 volt. Two battery gives 2.4 volt still not enough you need three rechargable batteries so that will be expensive and you also need the small solar panel to charge the batteries.. Plus a switch and resistor and diode and the LED. It adds up quite a lot but we need to have a torch so what to do..

In my country New Zealand I see these very nice small torches with
three LED and battery and solar panel. These are good little torches but the switch you have to hold it pressed so no good if you put the torch down.. it stops working. We need a torch like that but with on-off switch. They do not make one so have to make it. I have made this torch I call it the Hellen torch for the lady who does much work at the Ukunda children's orphanage. .








Adjustable foot stand .... gives up or down any angle very useful to light an object

Hanging from a shelf .........................................Screw at the back to install or remove light unit

Scew to finely adjust light turn on...............Turn black clip to push light down onto adjusting screw

This makes a very good little solar torch with lithium battery built in three led and battery charging solar panel. Using cheap wood make a shape, bend wire to give up, down, adjustable feet . make cutout for the light, fit nail on left, fit screw at back, fit light turn on switch that presses light down onto adjusting screw. The light is not scewed down tight has some up/down movement so black clip or anything similar can push light down on to adjusting screw. Only very small down pressure on the light turns the light on.. Makes a good low cost solar torch with good features.

Say your house is wired for 230 volt electric lights and you want to convert from mains electricity to solar electricity. First add up the wattage of all the lights in your house.
Bedroom one ....................100 watt light
Bedroom two ......................40 watt light
Bedroom three ...................40 watt light
Bathroom ...........................40 watt light
Toilet ..................................40 watt light
Lounge .............................100 watt light
Kitchen .............................100 watt light
Dining room .....................100 watt light
Outside lights....................200 watt light
Garage .............................200 watt light
Total wattage 960 watts.

For 12 volts this is 80 amps. if you leave all your house and garage lights on from 6:00pm to midnight when everyone has gone to bed that is 6 hours so we need a 12 volt battery that can give 80 amps for 6 hours. Plus we make it 7 hours if people get up at night to go to the bathroom.

According to the on line calculator 80 amp/hour battery for 7 hours is 1286 amp/hour rated and approximate cost for deep cycle 1300 amp/hour lead acid battery 45,000 kenyan shillings. plus you need the solar panel on the roof large enough to charge the battery plus you need 1000 watt 12 volt to 230volt voltage inverter which is approximately 30,000 Kenyan shillings. These prices I am converting from New Zealand dollars to Kenyan Shillings at the rate 50 Kenyan shillings to one NZ dollar so your buying price in Kenya may be more or less depending on the currency conversion rate.. . Plus you will also need an electrician to come to your house and give access to the light wiring so you can plug into the inverter and run your lights off the battery at night. All up, well over 100,000 kenyan shillings . And it is very wasteful of energy because your 12 volt to 230 volt inverter has to be running all the time in case someone needs to turn on a light

You can make the costs of the battery and the inverter a lot less by reducing the wattage of all your house lights... or by using modern LED light bulbs which only use half the energy of ordinary house lights. Unfortunately at present led lights are quite expensive..

Or a much better method you can use solar lights which are charged up by sunshine each day so you dont need a solar panel or a battery or an inverter you just put your solar light in the window each day to be recharged by sunshine. A lot less cost to buy and more flexible.

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Richard Williams
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Richard Williams