Tags: solar light

Solar Shed Light

08/13/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: Lighting, MoHo/RV, Solar Power

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com/HFRreviews.html

Solar-Powered Shed Light
Item: Solar Shed Light
Item number: 95573
Retail price: $29.99
Frequent sale price: $19.99
Best price: $17.99 (with coupon)
Target price: $19.99
Item Link

This is another one of Harbor Freight's solar products that looks well designed but fails in implementation. We were initially very excited about this solar-powered fluorescent light. The solar panel is separate from the lighting fixture and attached by a 10 ft cord which helps optimize positioning of the solar panel. The mounting is pretty easy unlike their solar-powered quartz security light that was a challenge. The bracket holding the solar-panel is well thought-out, designed to attach easily to a vertical structure while providing flexibility in positioning the solar panel. The specifications claim it will run around 50 minutes on fully charged batteries which would make it suitable for some RV applications (e.g., bathroom light for nighttime relief ;)).

If you're using this to light a dark area during the daytime such as a shed interior, the 4-watt fluorescent light is woefully inadequate; the contrast between the daylight and the dimly lit interior will leave you in the dark for the first 30 seconds to a minute after you enter the darker area. If on-the-other-hand you are using this for nighttime illumination, the small fluorescent light is sufficient to find your way about and put up your evening tools. There are probably numerous other applications besides 'shed' lighting; the solar-powered light could be very useful in the RV as well -- it provides just the right amount of low-level illumination many RVers are use to when enjoying their evening coffee or a nightcap.

Now comes the problem: it doesn't work. Our test unit failed within the first year. After surviving our Buffalo Winter Test (the lighting unit was located inside an unheated storage area, the solar panel on the roof), it failed during the spring. We never really tested how long the light illuminated even when it was working properly. Our application required short cycles of only a few minutes with each use. It seemed to work well until one night, nothing.

Good luck if you decide to purchase this item. We have yet to disassemble the unit and determine the cause of the failure. Perhaps it's only substandard batteries in the original light; perhaps it's another water leak such as that which plagued Harbor Freight's solar-powered quartz security light. We'll revise our evaluation if we determine it's simply the batteries, but other reviewers have reported similarly failed units suggesting the problem is more serious.

Bottom line: Nice idea, poorly implemented. Harbor Freight strikes out again with this inferior solar product. Our recommendation is to leave this in the store.


Two-Pack Solar Spotlight Set

08/08/10 | by theprofessor [mail] | Categories: The Junk, Outdoor Living, Lighting, Solar Power

Link: http://HarborFreightReviews.com

Solar Spotlight
Item: Two-Pack Solar Spotlight Set
Item number: 95745
Retail price: $19.99
Regular sale price: $14.99
Best price: $9.99 (yes, for the pair)
Target price: $12.99
Item Link

They 'sound' good -- solar lights that not only provide spotlighting where needed without running wires but do so while saving-the-planet. But alas, "if it sounds too good to be true it probably is," and this is certainly the case with this solar spotlight set. They performed marginally the first few months and then gradually dimmed until finally failing completely.:( This earned them a position on our short list of "The Junk" sold by Harbor Freight™.

The solar spotlights never did work very well. At their best they provided only dim illumination through about half of the night. Well positioned, their initial light intensity was sufficient to provide some faint highlighting to the evening garden. "Spotlights?" Yes, technically -- they provided lighting to a 'spot' but never provided the type of accent lighting normally associated with the word "spotlight." This shouldn't be surprising; after all, they are LED lights, and LED yard lights generally provide much lower levels of illumination than do conventional garden lights.

They worked mid-way through the first Buffalo winter test. One of the pair even provided dim illumination through the spring. Inspection revealed that water entered the battery compartment causing corrosion which eventually led to total unit failure. It is unclear whether the water entered directly through the battery compartment's seal or entered through the lens. It seems most likely that the water accumulated in the lens area and drained down through the unit into the battery compartment. Because they are LED spotlights which emit only dim illumination, they have to be close to the object they are highlighting and this usually leads to angling the unit sharply up to provide the proper light pattern (Closer to a vertical object increases the angle of inclination.). The plastic shroud which projects outward from the lens therefore retains rainwater and other moisture possibly subjecting this area to internal leakage. This most likely is responsible for the water accumulated in the battery compartment.

Both lights are now queued up on our repair bench. If the damage is restricted to the battery compartment, then some cleaning along with a new set of batteries should get the units working again. We'll try to determine whether the water entered through the upper lens or more directly through the lower battery-compartment seal and then make the necessary modifications. The worse case scenario is that the LED circuitry is destroyed by corrosion and the units are therefore headed to our scrap pile (yes, we recycle the parts; click here if you would like to know more about our lifelong commitment to recycling). We'll update this post when we've had time to more thoroughly inspect the lights. Meanwhile, if you do purchase these solar spotlights you should probably apply some silicon or other sealant around the lens.

Bottom line: Great idea but bad implementation -- died after the first Buffalo winter test. Without some user re-engineering, this item is best left in the store.

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This review and discussion forum was created for those of us who love Harbor Freight(tm). It's well known to those who frequent the store that the prices are always cycling up and down, and most of us usually accept it as a personal challenge to get the lowest price possible. It's also well appreciated that some products at Harbor Freight are good, even very good, but that many others are also substandard, yes, even junk. This review and discussion forum is dedicated to the savvy Harbor Freight shopper and is intended to provide some guidance to the best and the worse buys. Similar products from other retailers will also be reviewed from time-to-time. Please be advised that everyone's experience is unique, and what works well (or doesn't work at all) for the reviewers here may or may not suit your personal needs. With this caveat and with notification that Harbor Freight Reviews assumes no liability for the accuracy of information provided here for educational purposes, enjoy the forum and good 'sa(i)ling' at Harbor Freight!


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