This article was originally published in the May/June 1996 issue of Home Energy Magazine. Some formatting inconsistencies may be evident in older archive content.
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Home Energy Magazine Online May/June 1996
Small PV Grows in the GardenSmall, freestanding, photovoltaic lights are becoming more popular, as both contractors and do-it-yourselfers are attracted to their simplicity. According to Phil Lerch of Alpan, the world's biggest solar lighting manufacturer, last year's sales were up 40% over 1994 for what they call garden lights, which includes driveway and walkway fixtures, security lights, and portable solar-powered lanterns.
The lights consist of an integrated solar panel, battery, and lamp. To produce light, the fixtures use low-wattage light-emitting diodes (LEDs), compact fluorescents, or halogens. Different applications call for different details-the portable lantern has a lighter-weight battery, while the security light has a motion sensor. Lights will burn as long as nine hours per night under optimal conditions, although without sun during the day, the lights won't burn at all.
Two manufacturers are behind the growing popularity of garden lights. Alpan, in San Diego, and Brinkman, in Dallas, have both pushed solar fixtures in the home market, selling many of their units at buyers' clubs and through mail order. According to Lerch, the units range in price from $30 to $70 and cost almost nothing to install. This makes their initial cost lower than that of plug-in fixtures, which require outdoor-grade electric supplies, and the solar lamps' operating costs are negligible.
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