Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lights !

Given all the emphasis on safely lighting the karmabox so it is not a nighttime playa danger, I first started thinking about lights and not the box itself. Solar powered LED lights are the obvious choice because I was not going to need a lot of light (just enough for safety) and their automatic self-contained nature is great.

I poked around the local bigbox and hardware stores looking at lights. I was immediately attracted to these guys for few reasons - small form factor, a metal stake and omnidirectional visibility. The small form factor is key. A lot of LED garden lights are made of flimsy plastic that seems ripe for blowing away in the wind. These are more compact and made of tougher material. The metal stake should give me several mounting options, including drop them onto a piece of rebar. The omnidirectional visibility is key as well because they whole point is to see them far enough way not to hit them. A lot of lights don't have this type of lens and are more of the "soft glow" variety.

My biggest concern way the claim of "up to 8 hours" of lighting. Or was it 6 ? Anyway, I sure didn't want the lights to crap out at 4AM! I decided to buy one for experimentation. That was $4. I think I will start keeping track of the project costs too.

Turns out this light (and almost all LED garden lights) are powered by a cheap rechargeable AA battery. The battery was only rated for 350 mAh. Not much. So I popped in a fully charged 2100 mAH rechargeable. I covered the light sensor to force the light on. Guess how long it ran ? Over 5 days (24 hours a day). So if the light is off and the battery recharging when the sun is out it should last the entire week of Burning Man no problem.

We also took the light out to the park on a moonless night just to check the brightness. It was plenty bright for the intended purpose.

On the next visit to the bigbox I bought a couple more lights on the theory the 3 lights should be plenty for safety. I even picked up a few extras to have on hand (you never know).

My buddy Steve also thinks we may want to light a sign or something so we got a pair of solar LED floodlights. These guys have are really bright (3 LED's), have an adjustable neck, adjustable solar panel, and take 3 AA batteries. However I don't think we will put the high capacity AA's in the floodlights because they are not critical to safety.

Hirez pics can be found on Flickr.

Total project cost:
$12 (3 LED solar garden lights)
$20 (2 LED solar flood lights)

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