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Solar power for your shed

Solar power is an ideal solution for bringing electricity to a shed, outhouse or stable. The cost of safely running a mains extension circuit from your house to the shed can run to hundreds of pounds, which is a bit excessive if you just want to be able to see where your tools are in the dark. 

solarmate solar shed lightSo the basic idea is that a small solar photo voltaic panel is mounted somewhere on the shed to maximise the amount of solar energy falling on it (usually on the roof).  This is then connected up to a standard 12v battery (such as one from a car) so that it will trickle-charge up the battery during daylight hours.

Then, come evening, you will have a ready solar-charged battery sitting there that should be enough to run a light or two for as long as you're likely to need it.

We've got a range of SolarMate solar panel shed kits, from ones to run a single bulb (all bits included in the kit), right up to ones for running a laptop or PC. Visit our online shop to find out more: SolarMate solar power kits for your shed. We've also got a little solar lighting case study that follows us installing one of these kits recently on a big shed. 

Solarmates indoors

We've been wondering recently, what other applications could there be for a SolarMate lighting system apart from a shed or stable? The obvious, and appealing idea is to think about powering internal lights from solar power.

IKEA 12v halogen lights It just so happens that in our office, we've got some cheapo IKEA spot lights that run on off a 12V plug in transformer.

They're the kind that clip across two parallel wires, and have those little halogen bulbs. Anyway, it seems kind of daft to have the whacking great mains transformer humming away (and no doubt wasting loads of energy), when we could find a better way of running them.

Enter the SolarMate II. We reckon the 10W, high-efficiency solar panel included in the kit should be enough to keep a car battery charged enough to run a few of these lights every evening when we're working late in the better generation office.

Wiring up the SolarMateWe connected up the panel to the wiring as per the kit's instructions, which was all fairly straightforward. Then Toby went off and scrounged a second hand car battery from a car repair shop around the corner (why pay 50 at Halfords when you can get one for free?). If you do this, best take a voltmeter to check it isn't completely dud before you lug it home. Ours was at 12.6V, which seemed reasonable enough.

Setting up the solar panel

First we thought about putting the panel on the inside of our office windows. They are slanted (a good start), but are mainly north-facing (not so good). So instead we climbed up on the flat roof and found a good angle to position the panel. Ideally, we should mount it properly with the screws and everything, like in the instructions, but well, we'll get around to that soon...

SolarMate on roofThe wire from the panel drops down the side of the building and in through our office window. This is connected to our car battery. In daylight (but not sunlight), the panel produced 0.01 Amps at 12v (so that's 0.1 Watts). Once we took it up to the roof in the weak November sunshine, we were getting 0.5 Amps at 12v (which is about 6 Watts). We should get up to 10 Watts in summer when the sun is stronger and more directly overhead.

SolarMate with car batteryIt's a bit of a Heath Robinson setup, but it works great - we now have half of the lights in the office on solar power!

comments (21)add comment

senthilkumar said:

Please send the estimated price of the following

A. Subject to compliance with project requirements provide solar energy collectors and rack
mounting system of one of the manufacturers on the QP Approved Vendors List. See
Appendix A of these specifications.
A. Modules shall have minimum 4 bypass diodes.
B. Provide surge protectors with at least 5 kA peak current rating for inverter protection.
C. Basis-of-design product: The design of the Photovoltaic Array is based on the Sanyo HIP
190BA2 190 Watt module. Other modules may be utilized with redesign provided by
manufacturer and guarantee of equal kWh output throughout year within area indicated for
installation. 7.5% of total building kWh must be provided and proven by manufacturer.
The following is the minimum kWh solar must produce.
1. RCC: 65,105 kWh.
2. Apartment: 100,145 kWh.
3. Residence Hall: 100,145 kWh.
D. Modules must be flat and mounted no higher from PV platform cover than 8 inches to
bottom of module.
E. Array shall be configured as shown on drawings unless approved by engineer, Qatar
Foundation, and Authority Having Jurisdiction.
F. Array equipment above PV platform shall not be located closer than 3000 mm to beginning
of parapet.
G. The completed photovoltaic array for each type of building shall be as follows:
RCC: 50.16 kWp - (25,080 on FM) (25,080 on Carport).
Residence Hall: 79.4 kWp.
Apartment Building: 60.8 kWp.
H. Each series string shall have an open circuit voltage of 549.6 V at STC, and a Short Circuit
current of 3.83 ADC at STC.
I. Photovoltaic module wiring, connections, and terminations:
1. Modules shall be equipped with 4 mm2, single core, XLP USE-2 cables with lockable
quick connect terminations for module string connections.
February 14, 2009

Dr Terence Lewis said:

I have advocated for years that all homes should have an indipendant 12volt circuit for LED lighting,
running low voltage appliences (Cut the transformer off to asve energy) charging phones why not even
run caravan TV & Video etc. solar PV could also be suplimented by a small wind turbine.
January 01, 2009

Candy Spillard said:

imonly joking you guys suck u loooooooooooosers
September 24, 2008

kelly rowland said:

u all are losers to be talking about this trash lololo loser geeks..!$ peace out
September 24, 2008

bill chu said:

we are a prefesion solar factory in china ,we produce many many kind of solar garden lighting,we think maybe there are chance we do busienss together ,can you reply me mail,i can send our lastest catalouge to you,price is realy
good day for you
bill chu
September 16, 2008

Gareth Williams said:

I've two dogs who live out in day (and one is out at night). They have access to a double garage via a dog flap. Even though it seems a bit odd I'm going to build a shed inside the garage to cut down on the space I need to heat but was wondering if I could run a heater via a battery on the same lines that your lighting system works? If so could you tell me what components I'll need?
September 01, 2008

Lisa said:

Dear Sir,

we are professional suppliers of wind turbines ,solar panel,solar lights .if you need any accessories about these products,please let us know.

Best regards
August 06, 2008

Matt said:

Hey peter.

You can stop your battery feeding your solar panel by: - Disconnecting the solar panel at night, Using a bypass diode at the correct value in between the battery and solar panel, on the positive side, Or by buying a charge controller which will look after your battery by stopping it from over charging/discharging the battery.
I dont know anything about your system but from the sounds of it a steca solsum 6.6 or 8.8 will do the trick hope this helps.

oh and by the way there r two different types of inverters (mod sign wave and true sign wave) true sign wave can power any electrical appliance, but mod sign wave "SHOULD NOT" power advanced electrical goods e.i. TV's, microwaves, dvd players and so on. As they can damage the electronic components.
May 20, 2008

peter sung said:

It is nice to hook-up the solar panel directly to the battery, but can I prevent the revise drain when the sun is down?
March 16, 2008

carl said:


we have a small workshop for fixing cycles for kids and is about 20 ft long by 16 ft wide,about 8 ft at the eaves and 9 ft in the middle. what can you surgest to light it for 2 x 2 hours sessions per week.thanks Carl
February 03, 2008

Toby Hammond said:

Solar lights in stables questions...

Several people have recently emailed about solar powered lighting in stables - and whether they would be bright enough to muck out horses etc for an hour or so each day - now that the nights are drawing in.

It's worth mentioning you can always use brighter/more lights on the same system - it'll just mean they will run for less time before the battery runs down. Unfortunately its hard to tell exactly what will be suitable for your situation, as its depends a lot on the size of the area you need to illuminate.

But if you find the light is inadequate, you can always add on extra lights, batteries and solar panels to the existing system to extend its capability.

Hope that helps somewhat.


Toby @ better generation
October 11, 2007

andrew. young said:

Id like to keep my driveway lit at night with a form of fairly strong lighting. Is this possible to do with solar lighting? And if so, what would be needed?
September 19, 2007

Alan@Camtion said:

How about getting the kids to power the TV themselves by rigging up an exercise bike to a generator - you can use solar too of course but this would let them top up the battery in the winter - and keep warm...... (be a bit like The Matrix for real too)....????
September 13, 2007

jane said:

hi could i run a heater with a thermastat,through a battery via a solar keep a greenhouse frost free if so what would i need regards jane.
August 06, 2007

toby @ better generation said:

Hello Sharron,

Thanks for the note.
A cheap inverter, such as those available on ebay or at Halfords for 20-30 should be enough to run a TV or CD player from a battery (some TVs flicker a little with cheap inverters, but it would probably be OK)

The inverter would convert the 12V from the battery into 240V AC. Lights would be best run directly off the 12V battery, using DC 12V bulbs such as those included in the solarmate kits sold in our online shop.

The important thing will be to ensure that your solar panel and battery are appropriately sized for the equipment you want to run. It is possible to calculate this approximately, once you know the Wattage-rating of the appliances you want to use, and have decided what would be an acceptable amount of running time each day. Obviously, the longer you want to run these things, the larger the battery reserve you will need, and the larger the solar panel you will need to maintain charge in the battery. The latter could get quite expensive!

Please let me know if you have any more questions


June 27, 2007

Sharron said:

I've just built a new shed for my teenage kids to hang out with their pals and I'd like to try solar power. I would need enough power to run a light and small TV, or light and CD player. Can you tell me what I'd need to buy? What would a TV plug into? Is that what the invertor is for, i.e. plugging things into? I've seen some quite cheap boat stuff on ebay but know nothing about wiring things up. I'm a total novice so some step by step, (or item by item) info would be greatly appreciated.
June 26, 2007

Andydis said:

Nice article, i have taken my setup abit further by adding an 150watt invertor to the battery, i can now plug most things into this and it even powers the TV for 3 Hours!

does anybody know any websites where i can get information on wiring the Whole house up on solar?

I was thinking of converting the attic, putting a few car batterys on a parrerll circuit. The only part i am stuck on is how to wire it into the exisiting mains.
April 03, 2007

lloyd fairweather said:

these are available on ebay which is the cheapes soo far
January 10, 2007

lloyd fairweather said:

just a quick note about led lights as I am hoping to replace my perents house very lights soon

2 x 36 white light LEDs spot lights (1 pair)


20,000 mcd per each LED

size: 2" in diameter

energy saving design and low power consumption

power consumption: approx 2.7-3.0 watt, save up to 90% energy.

light output comparable to a 30 watt standard light bulb

low heat generating

brand new
January 09, 2007

toby @ better generation said:

thanks Candy, very good point - we're getting some of the LED-equivalents in soon, having been testing different versions to see which are the best! Watch this space...
November 21, 2006

Candy Spillard said:

All good clean stuff and did you know you can now buy LED lights (including LED equivalents of those 12V halogens) over the net for*under a tenner, and they use about 1/20th the energy so keep burning 20* longer!

Will also save on your car-battery's life: they don't like deep discharge apparently.
November 21, 2006

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