Solar light for garden/storage shed

Fardringle

Diamond Member
Oct 23, 2000
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I have a moderate sized storage shed (8'x12') that has one small skylight window that doesn't let in anywhere near enough light to see clearly when looking through boxes and other items in the shed even in the middle of the day and with the door open. I've been carrying a flashlight with me whenever I go to the shed, but the lazy part of me wants a better option. I want to put a light inside the shed but running electricity to the shed is not a realistic option.

I've looked at a bunch of solar lights that say they are designed to be used for this purpose, but most have the power switch ON the light so it's hard to get to if the light is hanging from the ceiling (my shed is about 10' tall), and the vast majority are extremely wimpy lights rated between 40 and 150 lumens (equivalent to a 3-15 watt incandescent bulb) which seems totally inadequate even for a relatively small shed.

I found a few that do have a wireless remote or a pull cord that is separate from the bulb so turning them on won't be a hassle, but they are still very low brightness and almost all have poor to mediocre reviews online.

So...I'm considering the option to use a motion sensor security light for the double benefit of a much brighter light and with a motion sensor attached to the light inside the shed and the sensor aimed toward the door, it will just turn on automatically whenever the shed door is opened and stay on as long as there is movement inside the shed. The main problem with this idea is that I haven't yet been able to find any with the solar panel separate from the light (connected by a wire) and that will let the light turn on while there is sunlight on the solar panel. I've found many that have separate solar panel and light, but I'm having trouble finding one that meets the second requirement. I need one that either doesn't have a light sensor and lets the floodlight turn on any time motion is detected (or where the sensor can be disabled or covered), or that has the sensor on the light instead of on the solar panel so it will always register as "dark" since it will be inside the dark shed. Pretty much any light will work for night visits to the shed, but I'd love to have it work to light up the inside of the shed during the day as well.

Any suggestions on lights that might work for me? I'd like to keep it as inexpensive as possible - less than $50 is preferable since it's not something that I really "need".

If there aren't any motion sensor lights that will work, suggestions for brighter better quality "shed" lights that don't have the on/off switch on the light and that are in that price range would also be appreciated.
 

Red Squirrel

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May 24, 2003
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www.anyf.ca
I just ran some normal 120v light sockets in mine and put LED bulbs. Runs off a 350w inverter. Right now the solar panel is just on the ground but I bought some bigger ones that I want to roof mount. Just trying to figure out the best way to go about it. It's hard to buy solar stuff here as there's not really any place to buy it so I have to custom make everything.



Downside with this setup is that the inverter does use power even on idle so you need to size the battery decently and account for overcast days. I think what I'm going to do is put a switch for the inverter near the door too, so I can just turn it off completely if I don't have any other electrical loads that need it. I eventually want to get an electric lawnmower then I can just set it to charge in the shed. Carbon neutral lawn mowing. :D

If you don't have any 120v loads you can also use RV lighting and just run it all off 12v.
 

Fardringle

Diamond Member
Oct 23, 2000
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That's actually a really good idea for a larger shed as yours appears to be. Mine is just 8'x12' so the cost of a proper solar panel, battery, and inverter aren't really an option since "the boss" (wife) says I can only do it if I can make it happen for less than about $50...

Decent RV LED lights straight to a 12v battery would probably work really nicely, too, but there's still the cost of a battery that would go well beyond my planned budget.

I did find this light today and think it might work for what I want since a couple of the reviews specifically say that it has a switch that changes it from always active (so it lights up even during the day) or dusk to dawn so it only lights up at night. If that's true, it'll do what I want, and it's certainly cheap enough. The only question is the quality, or possibly the lack thereof...
https://www.walmart.com/ip/Westingh...5035&wl11=online&wl12=381025572&wl13=&veh=sem
 

Ken g6

Programming Moderator, Elite Member
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Dec 11, 1999
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Decent RV LED lights straight to a 12v battery would probably work really nicely, too, but there's still the cost of a battery that would go well beyond my planned budget.
Get an old battery from a junkyard? Maybe a motorcycle battery?
 

Fardringle

Diamond Member
Oct 23, 2000
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That's the general idea. There are lots of options similar to that one that _might_ work. The question is where the daylight sensor is mounted and/or if it can be disabled so the light will activate inside the shed during the day. I read through a bunch of the reviews on that one but don't see any mention of the daylight sensor location so I'm not sure if it will work. That's the problem I'm having with almost every light I've found online so far, but at least with the Harbor Freight light, I can stop by the store to look at it to see if I can tell where the sensor is located. Thanks.
 

Fardringle

Diamond Member
Oct 23, 2000
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I saw that one. It looks nice, and the separate pull cord would definitely work for what I want to do, but the seller said in one of the QAs that the light is only rated at 40 lumens, which is about the equivalent of a child's bedroom night light. It would probably be OK for a small closet light, but not nearly bright enough to adequately light up a garden shed. Some of the reviews said they are using it in a shed and while it sort of works, it's really not bright enough. :(
 

lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
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That's the general idea. There are lots of options similar to that one that _might_ work. The question is where the daylight sensor is mounted and/or if it can be disabled so the light will activate inside the shed during the day. I read through a bunch of the reviews on that one but don't see any mention of the daylight sensor location so I'm not sure if it will work. That's the problem I'm having with almost every light I've found online so far, but at least with the Harbor Freight light, I can stop by the store to look at it to see if I can tell where the sensor is located. Thanks.
I may have misread, but I think it's a motion sensor, and can be set to stay on for a maximum of 2 minutes before turning off. That's a possible downside imo. Waving your arm around to turn the light back on gets old quick.

The reason I looked at harborfreight was to see what they had in solar panels. My idea is a little hacky, and I haven't tried it myself, but I thought an interesting idea would be using a harborfreight jump box, a solar panel to charge the box, and some kind of 12v led array. If you aren't constantly using the lights, the jump box will give plenty of power, and the recharge time should be fine. Bonus is you have access to a jump box when needed, and harborfreight's is pretty good. I use them every day, and recommend them without reservation.
 

Fardringle

Diamond Member
Oct 23, 2000
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I may have misread, but I think it's a motion sensor, and can be set to stay on for a maximum of 2 minutes before turning off. That's a possible downside imo. Waving your arm around to turn the light back on gets old quick.

The reason I looked at harborfreight was to see what they had in solar panels. My idea is a little hacky, and I haven't tried it myself, but I thought an interesting idea would be using a harborfreight jump box, a solar panel to charge the box, and some kind of 12v led array. If you aren't constantly using the lights, the jump box will give plenty of power, and the recharge time should be fine. Bonus is you have access to a jump box when needed, and harborfreight's is pretty good. I use them every day, and recommend them without reservation.
I actually like the idea of it being a motion sensor so that the light turns on inside the shed as soon as the door is opened. The problem I'm running into is finding motion sensor lights that will light up at any time, whether there is sunlight on the solar panel outside the shed or not. Most I've found have the daylight sensor built into the solar panel so the light will not activate inside the shed during the day, or they don't say where the sensor is so there's no way to know without physically examining the light.

Is the "jump box" you mentioned an emergency jump starter for cars? If so, that could potentially work as an intermediate power source between the solar panel and the light(s) as well as being a good emergency backup for other things, but I have to wonder how durable it would be getting a constant charge from the solar panel even when it is fully charged...
 

jmagg

Platinum Member
Nov 21, 2001
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That's pretty much what I'm doing now. But I want to have a more permanent light in the shed so I don't have to remember to grab the flashlight when I go out there, or have to hunt around to find a flashlight if I leave it in the shed.

Buy another flashlight?
I'd probably run a 12v from the nearest outside outlet. Then you have lights and an outlet at the shed.
 

Fardringle

Diamond Member
Oct 23, 2000
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Buy another flashlight?
I'd probably run a 12v from the nearest outside outlet. Then you have lights and an outlet at the shed.
Flashlight is easiest, but I'm bored with that and want a 'real' light in the shed. Running power from the house isn't a reasonable option. Even if I wanted to dig a trench, put in conduit, and run electrical wiring from the house to the shed (which I don't), the instant main electrical power is available in the shed, I have to get it inspected by a licensed electrician to comply with local building code. I really don't want to do that. I could drag an extension cord out there every time I go to the shed, but I can't leave it plugged in that way for the same reason. (HOA building code requirements stink!).

Separate solar is fine, though, as long as it doesn't feed back into the main electrical grid in the house, which is why I'm leaning in that direction. Once the shed is built, I'm going to look at the Westinghouse light that I linked from Walmart, and it looks like Harbor Freight also has a solar security light with the daylight sensor attached to the motion sensor on the light so it should work as well. The benefit of getting them locally is I can easily return them if they don't work. If not, I found a few security lights that run off of batteries that will also work, but I'd really prefer to have it use solar to charge itself so I don't have to deal with swapping batteries.
 
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jmagg

Platinum Member
Nov 21, 2001
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Flashlight is easiest, but I'm bored with that and want a 'real' light in the shed. Running power from the house isn't a reasonable option. Even if I wanted to dig a trench, put in conduit, and run electrical wiring from the house to the shed (which I don't), the instant main electrical power is available in the shed, I have to get it inspected by a licensed electrician to comply with local building code. I really don't want to do that. I could drag an extension cord out there every time I go to the shed, but I can't leave it plugged in that way for the same reason. (HOA building code requirements stink!).

Separate solar is fine, though, as long as it doesn't feed back into the main electrical grid in the house, which is why I'm leaning in that direction. Once the shed is built, I'm going to look at the Westinghouse light that I linked from Walmart, and it looks like Harbor Freight also has a solar security light with the daylight sensor attached to the motion sensor on the light so it should work as well. The benefit of getting them locally is I can easily return them if they don't work. If not, I found a few security lights that run off of batteries that will also work, but I'd really prefer to have it use solar to charge itself so I don't have to deal with swapping batteries.

There is direct bury UF cable so conduit shouldn't be needed just saying. The kero idea is a good one, there are also propane lamps.
 

NutBucket

Lifer
Aug 30, 2000
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I hate the idea of direct burying a cable like that. I know it will last but one ill-placed shovel or something.

At my parent's house I ran a direct bury cable from the house to the garage to replace some supremely dicey overhead wires. The parts that were in the planting beds I put in conduit but not the part under the patio. In retrospect I should have probably run conduit the whole way in case I ever needed to replace it. Oh well. They'll be 6ft under before that happens anyway.
 

jmagg

Platinum Member
Nov 21, 2001
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I have minimal experience with UF cable, but the stuff that was used in my latest (now) house is very tough stuff. I don't know how long it's been buried. Maybe modern UF isn't as tough. Modern Romex shield is, or seems more flimsy.
 

lxskllr

No Lifer
Nov 30, 2004
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Is the "jump box" you mentioned an emergency jump starter for cars? If so, that could potentially work as an intermediate power source between the solar panel and the light(s) as well as being a good emergency backup for other things, but I have to wonder how durable it would be getting a constant charge from the solar panel even when it is fully charged...
Yea, the jump box is a car starter, The ones I use are lead acid, so as long as it isn't overvolted, keeping it on charge shouldn't be an issue.