Solar panels are fantastic renewable energy sources on bright, sunny days. But when there’s little sunlight and the weather is rainy or overcast, these systems can quickly begin to fail. So, can you charge a solar battery with a light bulb?
You can charge the lithium battery connected to a solar panel by exposing the panel to high-lumen LED light bulbs. These emit enough light to trigger a reaction throughout the solar panel’s cells, creating an electrical charge. But charge times vary.
This article will explore whether it’s possible to emit electrical charges from solar panels by exposing them to light bulbs.
How Solar Batteries Charge
Batteries connected to solar panels aren’t very different from the ones used in electric vehicles (EVs), golf carts, or child-sized electric toy vehicles. Most are made of lithium, feature a negative and positive terminal, and are rectangular in size.
These batteries charge when their terminals receive an uninterrupted stream of electricity, either from at-home battery chargers plugged into wall outlets or solar panels.
So the real question is, “Can you use a light bulb to generate power via a solar panel?”
We need to understand how lightbulbs affect solar panels to discover the answer.
How Light Bulbs Affect Solar Panels
Light bulbs have something solar panel cells are looking for—light energy. The tiny cells in each panel absorb light energy, so sunlight and artificial light sources can trigger solar panels to generate energy.
But a single ceiling light bulb in a bedroom probably won’t be a strong enough light source. If you’re hoping to charge a battery attached to a solar panel via light bulbs alone, you will need enough to ensure your panel is fully exposed to high-lumen light.
How a Light Bulb Could Charge a Battery
A light bulb (or several light bulbs) could charge a battery, but only if you use them to generate a self-sustaining indoor solar power system.
In this scenario, the light bulbs provide energy to the solar panels, sending the energy to the batteries that power the bulbs. This power loop can continue until the light bulbs blow out.
But if the only thing such a system could power were itself, it wouldn’t ever build up a charge on the attached battery. That’s why you’d need to create a system that generated at least a bit more wattage than it consumed.
By using low-energy-use bulbs and maximizing panel light exposure, you could eventually enjoy a surplus of power. Naturally, you can use this stored power for almost anything that requires electricity.
Benefits of Bulb-Powered Solar Panel Systems
Solar power is a renewable energy source, but it’s not consistent. Solar panels may struggle to produce even a little energy when the sun sets or seasonal changes result in cloudy, rainy days.
For this reason, it might be wise to create an indoor solar power system using light bulbs, especially if you live in an area prone to cloudy weather or short daylight hours.
After all, if lightbulbs can replace sunlight, they could be a comparatively low-cost source of artificial solar energy for those living in the northernmost and southernmost portions of the hemisphere, where sunlight hours can be incredibly short (or non-existent) during the winter.
Bulb-powered solar panel systems are also an interesting experiment and one that’s not too challenging for the average person to try. You only need a solar panel, a lithium battery, and a cluster of high-lumen, low-energy light bulbs.
Choosing the Best Light Bulbs for Indoor Solar Power
It’s easy to assume that floodlights would be the best choice for such a solar power system. But these bulbs tend to consume more power than 60-watt equivalent LEDs.
They’re also far less common than traditional 60-watt bulbs, making them pricier. So the best light bulbs for charging indoor solar power systems are low-energy-use 60-watt replacement LEDs with a daylight hue.
EcoSmart A19 LED bulbs (available on Amazon.com) are a fantastic example. Each can last up to 578 days of continual use, making a simple four-bulb system cost less than $10 per year to maintain.
And because they’re sold in packs of four, they’re easy to stock up on, making them ideal for bulk buying. They have a lumen rating of about 800, which makes them just bright enough to activate a solar panel, especially when used simultaneously.
Note that you’ll need to position these bulbs close (within one to four feet or 0.3 to 1.2 meters) to the solar panels for maximum power generation. But, of course, the ins and outs of building a working solar power loop indoors is a topic for another occasion.
Drawbacks of Light Bulb Solar Power Systems
Though you may be able to charge a solar battery by exposing a connected solar panel to a very bright light bulb, allowing solar panels to absorb natural sunlight is a far more effective way to generate energy.
Besides, maintaining an indoor-only, light-bulb-driven system requires many lightbulbs, especially over time. This expense can add up, especially if relying on a bulb-driven system for power.
These systems also require in-depth room planning skills. You’ll need to position your lightbulbs at a specific distance from your solar panels for maximum energy production. Determining the most productive distance and height can take days or weeks.
Creating one of these artificial solar power systems might also mean giving up precious living space. After all, a light-bulb-powered solar panel system isn’t a tiny thing, even if kept in a specially-made wooden box in a closet, garage, or basement.
Overall, keeping your solar panels outdoors in sunny areas is a simpler and more affordable choice.
Light bulbs use electrical currents to activate and emit light. But they don’t store electricity.
So you can’t link a light bulb to a solar panel’s battery and expect the bulb to charge the battery. If anything, the battery would instead cause the bulb to turn on!
But you can use high-lumen light bulbs to generate energy from solar panels, thus charging a solar panel battery via artificial light. It might even be possible to create an indoor solar power system using light bulbs, but only if you have enough (potentially hundreds or thousands).
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